From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cookbooks - The book of LOVE

Aah, how the mind and world works in circles, even at a distance of 1335 miles...

Kim and I were discussing just a few minutes ago what we should be doing for meals for the upcoming week.  I said that I wanted to do some more of the recipes that I have been writing about, but of course we would make some sort of compromise and do a little of each: 4 meals that I choose and 1 that she chooses.

The discussion wound its way towards us having to look through our cookbooks, and I just figured that "what the heck, let's just wing it again," because I hate poring through cookbooks to find a recipe that SOMEONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN that may or may not be good. 

How is it that others can get PAID for writing recipes for those who don't dare try to create their own?  Heck, throw me on a deserted island with nothing but a coconut tree and I will show you how to make a delicious flaky fish with coconut milk. 

(duh...catch the fish, evaporate some sea water for salt, crack open a coconut, saving the milk, grind or mash the coconut meat and coat the fish in it, smoke it over your fire that you slaved hours over to light, sprinkle some salt and coconut milk on it and enjoy.) But I digress...

Plus, we have SOOOOOO many recipe books, even after having pared the collection down some...

So I decided to take a break from thinking about what to do for dinner and read up on what Nancy Wolter had to say for the day.  (Sadly, she has gone to a two-a-week format, from the three posts that she had been doing, leaving me REALLY looking forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.)  And guess what Nancy had to write about today???

 The same nightmare that befell me today was what Nancy was musing about...

As a general rule, there are only a few cookbooks that we now keep in our library.  We used to buy every cookbook that piqued our curiosity.  After a few years of that, we had a cabinet literally overflowing with cookbooks, of which we maybe referrred to 2 or 3.  So, we have literally resorted to tearing out the pages that we use on a regular basis and disposing of the rest. 

There are a few exceptions to that rule.  Gordon Ramsay, Martin Yan (for traditional Chinese Cooking) and Rachael Ray (even though on tv she annoys the heck out of me) hold a hallowed place on my bookshelf, and I have no qualms about referring to their recipes in the event I am looking for inspiration.  I am not keen on having to follow a recipe, but I usually end up using their literature as a foundation for whatever it is I end up making.  (unless I don't feel like perusing through an index looking for a Ground Beef recipe...)

When I entertain at home, I prefer to cook easy to make but tasty recipes. I try to come up with a meal that allows me to enjoy the company of my guests, instead of spending a bulk of the time slaving away in the kitchen.  This is why I like Fast Food by Gordon Ramsay.  Don't let the title deceive you.  It is not a culinary take on the drive through restaurant.  It is a quick, healthy way to cook for the family when time is not on your side.  One of my favorite sections in his book is the list of essential ingredients for every cook's pantry.  Who ever thought that olive oil, which is one of the staples in our pantry, would be held in such high regard?

“However amazing a dish looks, it is always the taste that lingers in your memory.”  Ramsay's most important advice.  Don't worry so much about how the dish looks.  Edible?  Appealing?  of course, but if it tastes better than it looks, you have succeeded. 

 Yes, all good hosts should make an effort on food presentation. But we must accept that we are not all Chefs either.  My priority for easy entertaining is to design a stunning tabletop, cook a delicious meal and after, try to plate the food more beautifully.

I follow Gordon Ramsay on TV somewhat religiously.   He has a kindred spirit that I can relate to.  I also feel for him when watching him have to battle testosterone-gifted alpha dogs who can't handle a line station on Hell's Kitchen.  I enjoy watching his antics on TV because he exhudes the same energy and passion while in the kitchen that I feel I have to contain.  I enjoy Fast Food because his cookbook provides tasty recipes built around menus and types of food plus some essential cooking tips.

You get recipes for fast soups, appetizers, antipasti, salads, sandwiches, eggs, working lunches, pasta, shellfish, fish, meat, vegetarian, side dishes, fruity desserts and creamy desserts.

The pan-fried hake with tomato relish sounds delicious. In fact, they are plenty of tempting fish and shellfish recipes. I prefer eating fish instead of meat in the summer time.

 Half the menus are for everyday meal while the second half is filled with menus for casual entertaining. Be creative with your d├ęcor and you can throw memorable parties around these mainstream themes:
  • A taste of Morocco  
  • Viva Italia!  
  • Outdoor Eating  
  • Tapas Spread
Summer Special – I really want to taste the avocado and cucumber soup followed by the Salmon with Mediterranean flavors (stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaf, an olive and a sliver of garlic)

 Thai Feast

 Fast Drinks Party – nibbling food and large serving drink recipes

 My only complaint about this book relates to the poor choice of fonts on certain sections. The extra-bold font used for the ingredient list makes them harder to read. Graphically, Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food felt short of being a beautiful cookbook. Nonetheless, due to the recipes and good advices, Fast Food makes a nice addition to my cookbook collection.

For now, Good Eating Friends... I think I know what I am doing for lunch today...  (Sorry, Jenn, they are not going to Florida any time soon...)

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