Pros: wide variety of recipe types, celebrity writer
Cons: condescending tones, basic recipes, lacked challenging recipes
Reviewed by Pamela Grant
I have never been a huge fan of TV cooks, nor have I been a huge fan of those cooks who use to many shortcuts (canned items or pre prepared items) to make a “unique” signature dish. I am from a bygone era, where making wholesome homemade food from scratch with the best possible ingredients is a natural easy thing to do. Sure everyone makes an occasional quickie dish using canned items when time is short or resources are low, but as a rule I much prefer to make things the old fashioned way lovingly made from scratch using fresh wholesome ingredients. Today’s TV cooks seem to make a habit out of making things with not only as few ingredients as possible ,but, I believe, there is a secret contest to see which one of them can make the most dishes using only canned or prepackaged prepared items. Rachael Ray’s book does nothing to change my opinions of either TV cooks or shortcut cooking.
The book starts off innocently enough with a table of contents which lists a variety of things from 30 minute meals to holiday menus, and kosher meals to vegetarian meals , and even an entire section dedicated to burgers (we will get to that section later). The list goes on and my hopes were high this would be an exception to the “normal” TV cook cookbook. Then it happened, the cuteness factor kicked in.
I hate to be talked down to and perhaps this is one of the reasons I do not, as a rule, care for Rachael Ray. I have never in my life attended an English class where the word “Sammies” was used as a synonym for sandwich. To be quite frank, I have never attended a preschool where it was used either. I can deal with the “EVOO” thing she uses for extra virgin olive oil, but “Sammies” is a bit much. I think it puts me on the defensive right away when she talks to her audience as you would a child. Can you say “ANNOYING”?
Ok, now that I got my rant out of the way, the recipes contained in this book are lack luster for the most part. There are 16 different ways to make deviled eggs and almost 40 pages on nothing but burgers. The burgers, although delicious I am sure, are nothing but different variations on the basic burger. Most of the “recipes” for this section could have been contained in a note which named various variations of vegetable or type of condiment. The rest of the book is mostly pasta dishes that are simple and rather unexciting.
The recipe for ‘Winter White Lasagna’ was far from the traditional lasagna. Mushrooms are the only vegetable used in this dish where quite a few others could have been added easily. The chicken sausage used, while no doubt was an attempt to make the dish healthy, provided little flavor to this dish which could of used some. The 4 cups of liquid was more than enough to hydrate the noodles and the end result was a runny sloppy mess. This dish will not grace our table again to say the least.
We had a bit better luck with ‘The Must-Have Minestrone’ soup. The list of ingredients was a long one, but that included quite a bit of can opening. The end result was a filling soup that was fairly tasty. The choice of whole wheat elbow pasta was unfortunate as a smaller type of pasta would of made it a more enjoyable soup to eat. This simple soup would have been a good introduction to soup making for a younger inexperienced cook.
In short, this book failed to ignite my spark to get into the kitchen and cook something. A novice cook might need a recipe for ‘EVOO Mashed Potatoes’, but I do not. However, Tina Rupp the photographer did a very nice job. The pictures of the food are bright and vibrant and, although her subject matter lacked pizzazz, she managed to make most of the dishes look glamorous.
If you are a Rachael Ray fan or an inexperienced cook looking for a good starter to intermediate cookbook, buy this book. If you consider yourself even a decent cook, pass this book by.
Recipe: Ginger Garlic Fish in Parchment
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons tamari
1 bunch scallions, toots trimmed, cut into 3 inch pieces on an angle
¾ pound shiitake mushrooms stemmed and sliced
3 to 4 inches of fresh gingerroot, peeled and thinly sliced
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 sea bass fillets, 6 to 7 ounces each
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Rip off 4 pieces of parchment about 12 inches long to form packets. In a small bowl combine the honey, vinegar, and tamari.
Place a piece of parchment in a shallow baking dish for stability, then stack one quarter of the scallions and shiitakes in the center of the paper. Layer with slices of ginger and garlic and top with a fish fillet. Pour one quarter of the tamari mixture over the fish fillet. Season with pepper, then bring the parchment together over the fish and fold the top down twice to seal. Roll in the sides to form a sealed pouch. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Arrange the parchment pouches on a baking sheet and roast for 12 to 14 minutes. Serve with lemon chive noodles as a starter or a side.