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March 10, 2011 Edition
Once Ramineni was out on her own with a job and a family to cook dinner for, she realized she didn’t know how to efficiently cook the foods she loved. Thus was born this delightful book, full of both northern and southern Indian recipes and truly mouthwatering photographs. Ramineni has streamlined cooking methods and ingredients for American kitchens and in most cases has whittled recipes down to 30 minutes or so from stove to table. She notes traditional ingredients and their substitutions (for health, such as vegetable oil for ghee, or for ease of purchase, like lime juice for powdered mango) and shows step-by-step photos for several of the recipes. Ramineni offers suggestions for rounding out the menu and notes refrigerator and freezer life expectancies and reheating methods for each recipe.
If you could leave just one recipe to your family, what would it be? This is the question O’Neill asked cooks across America, and here are the recipes she got in return. Some are a part of the cook’s personality (check out the ranch dressing on page 164), others are tried-and-true highlights of the cook’s repertoire (really fresh coconut cream pie? page 731), while still others have been passed down through the family “from God” (lasagna, page 664). Chapters divide this vast compendium into appetizers, condiments, soups, meats, and desserts, and cultures and stories mingle freely. Plenty of photos and illustrations grace this book, but – warning to those who like finished-product photos – most are not of the completed recipe. While this looks like a hard book to get into, try browsing for just a moment or two – you’ll be hooked and itching to cook!
Based on Robinson’s television show, this features a photo per recipe and the promised 5 ingredients (though sometimes seasonings aren’t counted). There’s a nice mix of family-friendly and adult-oriented recipes: Lemon-Tarragon Chicken Soup and Polenta “Fries” with Roasted Tomato Sauce, are side-by-side with Cheesy Penne (that’s macaroni and cheese to the kids) and Brown Butter Banana Muffins. Each recipe offers a few suggestions of ingredients to add if you happen to have them on hand, but Robinson assures readers that the recipes are terrific as written. There’s a complete index in back, and also a handy double-spread of menu ideas for various occasions to help bring everything together.
Organizationally, these two cookie books are very different, but you’ll find cookies for every eater inside both. As you might guess, Medrich’s book is divided into Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, and Melt-in-your-mouth chapters, so pick your favorite texture and dive in. Got an occasion coming up? Castella’s book is divided into brunch to everyday to holidays to Christmas and several points in between. There’s a standard index in both, but Medrich comes out slightly ahead with an added index of specialty cookies that is really handy: wheat-free, dairy-free, whole grain, quick and easy, less fat, make ahead, and long-lifers, where Castella offers less for those with special considerations. On the other hand, Castella’s the one with tons of photos, while Medrich’s are fewer but stunning. Sweet-toothed bakers can’t go wrong with either book for discovering new twists to old favorites (and rediscovering some of the old favorites!).