Cookbooks are tricky to try to write about. You need to work through a few recipes before you can really get a feel for whether it’s a good one, and that takes time. There are other factors too… does the cookbook teach the essential techniques or assume you’re a chef? Does it stick to it’s goal or theme? Is it authentic or convenient? I’ll try to answer all that.
I picked up the Williams Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast (Amazon*) cookbook to use as specified: easy after-work meals.
This is a cookbook of recipes that are, presumably, quick and easy to prepare. The book has about 100 recipes arranged by season, mostly themed around the available produce in each season, though summer definitely favors more grilling. Most recipes use ingredients that are easy enough to find year-round that you don’t need to stick to the recommendations, but who wants to make a roast or a heavy stew on a 100-degree summer day? It’s a medium-sized book with beautiful pictures of every recipe, and plenty of room in the margins to write in. I love this format.
I’ve worked through about a half-dozen of the recipes in the book so far, and some of them multiple times. For the most part, the recipes are things you can do after work, but aren’t 20-minute wonder dishes. They take a little chopping and prepping. Add in cook times, and I’ve found I typically need an hour to put together a full meal. Most recipes are meant to by a one-dish wonder, though we add a separate veggie dish most of the time. They just need a starch like rice or bread to accompany them. The recipes tend to be a bit strong in use of some flavors, especially citrus. I usually had to cut back on fresh lemon or lime juices or the citrus was overpowering the other flavors. So far I think our favorite was the broiled leg of lamb, just be judicious with the orange zest. We paired it with a red kale sautéed in ginger, garlic and olive oil, and it made a great compliment. The wine below is a Chateau Ste. Michelle sweet Riesling. It’s not a great pairing, but it is one of my favorite wines. Light, sweet and refreshing.
As for technique, most of what you need to know to use this cookbook should be pretty basic. The book doesn’t have much in the way of explanations of technique or food handling, but the recipes don’t call for anything too fancy either. If you can sauté, grill, and use a kitchen thermometer, you’re in good shape.
Bottom line: this is one of my favorite weeknight go-to cookbooks now, though like any well-used cookbook, you’ll want to write plenty of notes in the margins as you find the perfect mix of flavors to match your own tastes.
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