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Before I tell you what's inside the covers, I encourage you to buy several copies: give some as gifts to graduates renting their first apartments on entry-level budgets; give others to newlyweds, who need a stock of go-to, easy dishes for weeknights and for entertaining; and keep one for yourself to add fresh new dishes to your repertoire without straining your wallet.
I love the small size and fun, bright design of Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals. The red-and-white theme is cheerful, and the yellow highlighting and cute "handwritten" margin notes make the cookbook fun to use.
I also love Caroline Wright's kitchen philosophy. Her nightly meals are less influenced by a weekly plan and more on transitory factors, such as what's on hand, what's fresh, what she has a craving for, and even the weather. Although she is a professionally trained cook, Wright's recipes have a foundation in her twenty-something days, when she might not have had much money but still liked to eat well and feed her friends.
She also believes a tasty, from-scratch, casual dinner can be made with a minimum of fuss and in about twenty minutes. To help you develop your skills, she offers plenty of tips for organization, pantry stocking, and substituting on the fly. All of the recipes serve four people, and all (except the desserts) can stand as a one-dish main meal, rounded out with a little something like a salad, bread, or cheese.
Each recipe has a full-page color photo of the finished dish, which I know is welcome news for many of you. In addition, Wright includes ideas for variations and notes on ingredients, when needed. The recipes are written out in paragraph form, but all the ingredients are highlighted, so you can spot them at a glance. Even better news is that no special equipment or arcane chef skills are required. There is nothing intimidating about these dishes. In fact, some dishes are so simple a recipe is hardly needed, such as the traditional dessert of French bread, chocolate, and red wine and a simple dinner of linguine with fresh garlic sauce.
So if the meals are quick, inexpensive, and easy to make, what must they taste like? Well here's the thing, the flavors will bowl you over. The meals are based on classic combinations with good depth of flavor, and even the pickiest of eaters will readily dig in. You won't find unusual ingredients or hard to find spices. Even the fish recipes are accessible for everyone, calling for shrimp, salmon, catfish, and other common species.
Although vegans will find Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals difficult, vegetarians will discover plenty of meals to satisfy their tastes. There's even an entire vegetarian chapter, and only two recipes call for tofu.
In chapters ranging from salads and sandwiches to soups, pasta, and pizzas along with meats, eggs, and desserts, you'll find classic flavors as well as fresh, modern combinations. Here are just a few that caught my eye:
- Spring Green Salad with Poached Chicken + Buttermilk Dressing
- Red Lentil Soup with Browned Spice Butter
- Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fresh Aioli
- Steak + Arugula Pizza
- Sage-Rubbed Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches + Onions
- Butternut Squash Curry with Bulgur
Caroline Wright's Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals is casual dining at its finest. Serve these meals on a busy weeknight, before or after a Saturday night movie, or for a lazy holiday brunch. Feeding your family and friends has never been so simple and stress free. I bet you anything, your guests will want a copy of this cookbook for their very own.
To the right is a scan of one of the recipes I tried (more or less). I used hot sausage, didn't have anchovies, and substituted chick-peas. I think Caroline Wright would have approved. [NB: Do not judge the quality of the cookbook by my poor scan. Click the image to enlarge.]
Workman Publishing, 2013
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com