Two words: LOVE IT!
I got this cookbook for Christmas, as I have become a fan of anything from Cook's Illustrated (also known as America's Test Kitchen). I have never watched their show on PBS, but I subscribe to their online recipe database and have borrowed their books from my local library. There has never been a recipe from them that has flopped (well... maybe once, but it wasn't their fault). There is so much I love about them that I could (and probably will someday) write a blog post on it.
But today I am writing about this cookbook. For the last three days, my family and I have enjoyed delicious dinners that have been prepared in approximately 30 minutes. I still haven't recovered from my trip, so a 30 minute meal is a real sanity preserver!
300 recipes are divided into 11 chapters, featuring egg dishes, salads, soups. stews, stir-fries, skillet meals, baked, etc. Intertwined are their helpful tips as well as the background to developing the recipe.
The techniques are fairly simple, given that simplicity is a major time saver. Even recipes with many ingredients come together pretty quickly. They also have "Got extra time?" segments that will give you make scratch alternatives to some of their store-bought short cuts. Now, I must admit that it took a bit longer than 30 minutes from start to finish, but this has more to do with my lack of organization skills. I don't think it has taken longer than 40 minutes. But the following tips will help you get it done in 30 minutes:
- Start with a clean kitchen. Make sure any equipment you need is clean or not already in use.
- Do any prep work before hand: If you still have to pit and chop the olives, then the meal probably won't be ready in 30 minutes. Also, my baked pork chops were delayed about 10 minutes because I took 10 minutes crushing the pita crisps (the store were out of Melba Toast so I had to improvise) for the crunch coating. Crushing it in a clear bag probably would have helped too ;-)
- Set out the ingredients first or ahead of time (especially the seasonings)
- Read the recipe carefully. I am notorious for skimming through a recipe, only to find out I skipped a step or left out an ingredient. It still turned out good, though.
Nutritionally speaking, their recipes tend to avoid highly processed foods, so you are making the foods mostly from scratch. However, they don't post their nutritional analysis so you need to educate yourself on the ingredients. For example, I don't think I'll be making the recipes with heavy cream often (if at all, mainly because some of us are lactose intolerant). And I won't add as much salt if I think there is enough of it in the dish. Still, as a rule of thumb, cooking from scratch offers much more control over the nutritional value of the food than premade food.
Now, they don't compromise taste because of cost either. So, the skillet beef pot pie calls for filet mignon because it is the only cut of meat for this dish that will be tender enough in 30 minutes. At $10+/lb, I don't think I'll be making this one. But I can apply their technique to the slow cooker.
So here's to another great resource. Thanks to KM for the gift, it is worth a whole lot more than you will ever know.
The Best 30-minute Recipe by The editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. ISBN: 0936184981