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Learn what makes a recipe tick, says How to Cook Without a Book author Pam Anderson, and you'll serve great food fast. Recognizing that most cooks feel challenged in the face of daily meal making, Anderson provides a game plan: prepare dishes based on available ingredients and simple cooking techniques you've mastered--not on recipes you've got to look up and ingredients you'll need to shop for--and you maximize the potential of kitchen ease. Cooks looking for a way to address the what-will-we-have-tonight quandary definitively, or those who feel they lack the energy or know-how to tackle cooking every night, should find the book essential. In chapters such as "Simple Stir-Frys" or "Weeknight Ravioli and Lasagna," Anderson presents a particular cooking procedure, provides a recipe that embodies it in its basic form (the protein-adaptable Weeknight Stir-Fry, for example), then offers simple variations (such as Stir-Fried Chicken with Asparagus and Mushrooms or Stir-Fried Shrimp with Pepper and Scallions). Chapters conclude with an at-a-glance review of key technique points. Following Anderson's tips and innovations, lasagna, for example, becomes a weeknight option (use egg-roll wrappers for the pasta, Anderson advises, and forgo the baking); she also shows how, once mastered, her Big Fat Omelet, which serves four, can become the basis for a wide range of lunch and dinner entrées. With a comprehensive pantry section and a dessert chapter that puts frozen puff pastry to work in imaginative ways, the book is a trove of information that cooks can use and depend on. --Arthur Boehm

Former executive editor of Cook's magazine and author of The Perfect Recipe, Anderson wants to teach Americans a new way to cookAwithout relying on recipes. It's somewhat surprising, then, to discover that this book is full of recipes. However, readers may cotton to Anderson's method: each chapter consists of a simple technique, basic recipe, variations, key points and a little mnemonic device used to recall the technique. The techniques are, for the most part, terrific time-savers, such as cutting out the back before roasting a whole chicken or making one giant omelet to serve four people so that everyone can eat together. Variations are good, too, although many are so similar to one another that it seems a little repetitious to include a recipe for each (in turn, many of the recipes refer back to the original, resulting in a lot of page-flipping). A chapter on tomato sauces, for example, includes the basic Simple Tomato Sauce, as well as Tomato Sauce with Dried Porcini, Tomato Sauce with Sweet Onions and Thyme, Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Red Pepper Flakes and many others. A chapter on pan sauces is a winner, encompassing Red Wine-Dijon Pan Sauce, Port Wine Pan Sauce with Dried Cranberries and Balsamic Pan Sauce with Pine Nuts and Raisins. In the end, this cookbook is a solid collection of simple, quick recipes, but with its sometimes scattered format, it is unlikely to free everyday cooks from the tyranny of recipes. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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