Pros: Nice Kale Chip Recipe
Cons: Lacking in Photographs, Overuse of salt
The much anticipated arrival of a new cookbook reminds me of getting presents. Will I like it? Will it be what I think it will be? Will I be able to use it? So many things to think about, then it shows up. I anxiously get my little brown package from the post man. I don’t open it right away. Instead, I wait until the timing is just perfect. After all I waited so long for it to get here, why rush? This book, “The Busy Mom’s Cookbook, by Antonia Lofaso” arrived late in the afternoon so I decided it would be a dessert time book.
Settling in with my evening coffee I perused my newest cookbook. It is obviously geared towards a young family, which mine is not. I have two grown sons, and one teenager. However, who doesn’t want dinner to be quick and delicious? I flip through the pages, and am disappointed by the lack of photographs. So few in fact that I wanted to know how many there really was. Out of the 104 recipes presented there is only a small sampling of 18 photographs. I decided to start with the featured recipes, or the ones with photographs. The recipes all matched up except the “Grilled Lamb Chops” featured on page 138. The photo shows chops cut from the rack after cooking; however the recipe calls for them to be grilled for 3 minutes on each side. This is fine, mistakes happen with photographs and recipes. I was just surprised considering how few photographs there are. Another thing to note is the paper for the photographs is nice and durable. However, the rest of the cookbook is written on pretty absorbent paper, which will easily absorb any spills that come into contact with them. Feisty cooks beware. Keep this cookbook well out of the splash zone. I gingerly moved my coffee away from the book.
I continued on with my journey into the heart of this cookbook. I am now ready to tag my pages for recipes I want to make. Post it notes ready, check. Pens, and hi-lighter ready, check. As I read the recipes I am surprised at the inconsistencies when it comes to salt use. I mention this because it was a very big concern for me. Why would a chef use 1 teaspoon salt for Grilled Lamb Chops that serve 10-12, and a ½ teaspoon salt in Grandma’s Lasagna that serves 6 to 8, then turn around and use 1 tablespoon in a pasta dish that serves 4? At first I was inclined to believe it was a mistake, surely she didn’t mean to use that much salt. I was wrong. A full twenty-four recipes use more than one tablespoon of salt. Others that I didn’t count use more than 1 tablespoon of seasoning salt. I tried a couple of the recipes hoping that somehow the salt must mellow. Again, I was wrong. When trying the “Quick Pasta Sauce,” page 71, the salt overwhelmed the simple dish. It ended up being very flat. I can’t recommend that dish at all, at least as the recipe is written. I also tried the “Old-Fashioned Meatloaf,” page 101. This recipe was also overwhelmed with a whole two tablespoons of salt in a dish that serves 4 plus. At this point I tried to make contact with the author to see what was going on with the excessive salt use. I never heard back. I did find a couple recipes that were fun, and good. The “Kale Chips,” page 114 were a huge hit with all of us. Even my picky teenager munched happily on them. The recipe I shared with you is the “Curry Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Pine Nuts (serves 4)” which was actually really good.
Unfortunately I can’t recommend this cookbook. The reasons are because most of the recipes I tried, ten total, did not work. They were either bland, or too salty. I believe if the salt were tapered down then the herbs and other seasonings would come through more, but as written they will disappoint. This book is geared towards the beginner cook. Some of the ingredients you need you will have to go to a specialty store to find. Overall it was a disappointment, and I am sad that what looked to be such a promising and fun cookbook ended up on my “not recommended” list. As good as the Kale Chips, and Curry Chicken Salad are they aren’t enough to redeem the whole book. Remember, this is just my own opinion, and it is ultimately up to each cook what they like to prepare for their families. I highly suggest if you are interested in this book to check it out from the library before you buy it.
Curry Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Pine Nuts (serves 4)
4 tablespoons raw pine nuts
2 cups (1 pound) chopped cooked chicken, a mix of white and dark meat
1/3 cup mayonnaise
8 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons chopped red onion
2 teaspoons curry powder
¼ cup dried cranberries
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
8 cups mesclun greens
1 lime, halved
Heat a sauté pan on low. Add the pine nuts to the pan and let them toast, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden brown.
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, mayonnaise, cilantro, red onion, curry powder, cranberries, and toasted pine nuts. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and spoon the chicken salad over the mesclun greens. Squeeze the lime over the salad just before serving.