Taste of Home, which produces a magazine, website, and cooking school events, has assembled an all-purpose cookbook, Taste of Home: Cooking School Cookbook. The book is decidedly directed for the beginner cook, including instructions for items such as how to measure ingredients properly, what ingredients are found in a well-stocked kitchen, and what all those knives are for.
This is not a Julia Child or Marcella Hazan type book where the reader is extensively instructed in technique, although there are helpful sidebars throughout the book with tips that are helpful for the recipe at hand - for example, in the bar drinks section, a callout explains how to muddle fruit in a drink, and also lets the reader know that you can use an ice cream scoop - useful advice as the reader the book is geared to may not have a "muddler" handy. Even though I'm not a novice, I appreciated the tip on how to make meatballs of uniform size. Some of the ideas for dressing up basic foods were clever; there was a section on livening up a basic barbeque with flavored ketchups and mayos that I thought was quite clever (as well as very simple).
The book is well-organized and the recipes are presented clearly and with nice photography. Many recipes can be made in a very short amount of time or with just a few ingredients, and I didn't run across anything that was exotic or referred me to an appendix for a list of places I could order it. Although part of me didn't really care for a few recipes that included condensed soup mix, I have to admit, it was nice to see a recipe for calzones that called for a tube of refrigerated pizza crust; it looked good and we can't all cook from Mario Batali's cookbooks every night. Throughout the book, some recipes are highlighted with a note to "Cheat It!" - and the recipe that follows is basically instructions for dressing up prepackaged food.
The recipes are straightforward and could be followed by anyone. I think it would make a great gift for someone setting up their first home, or even a teenager who likes to try their hand in the kitchen.
I went ahead and tried "Lick the Bowl Clean Hummus," because a) I like hummus, and b) my father left me a lifetime supply of organic chick peas when he last visited. The recipe was easy to make, although I found it a bit garlicky for my taste. That may have been my fault, though, as I used four fairly large cloves of garlic. I ended up adding about a cup of extra chickpeas to make it a milder dip. My 12-year-old daughter, who generally prefers more bland food, liked this recipe and helped herself to it. I made my own pita chips to serve with it.
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 can (15 ounces) chick peas (I ended up using 3 cups chick peas)
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp each salt and pepper
In a large skillet, saute onions in 1/4 olive oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low, cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.
Transfer to a food processor and add remaining ingredients. Cover and process until smooth. Serve with pita chips.
I made my own pita chips to go with this: Cut plain whole-wheat pita into wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until lightly coated. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Bake at 400 degrees until crispy - about 10-15 minutes in my oven, depending how cooperative it is feeling.
This post is being linked up with Food on Friday over at Carole's Chatter. This week's theme is Lemons and Limes.
This is also my contribution to this week's Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Be sure to check out the other entries this week!
FTC Disclaimer: I received an advance copy through netgalley.