E-Z Meals? Depends Who's Talking
In this week's chat, a reader asked about a new cookbook on the market, "A Twist of the Wrist" by Nancy Silverton that's getting some attention.
It's important to mention the subtitle here: "Quick Flavorful Meals With Ingredients from Jars, Cans, Bags and Boxes."
When you read that, what comes to mind? Balsamic vinegar, fennel pollen and mostardo, by chance? I know what you're thinking, I must have some of that easy-to-find burrata cheese to make my crostini sing.
All of the above-mentioned ingredients are highlighted in orange and listed in Silverton's "Twist Essentials," a detailed glossary at the book at the book.
Now, when I first heard about this book (and its premise), I thought of basics for the average home cook in need of inspiration and a few shortcuts. Even when I read Silverton's introduction:
The goal of my so-called mission is to show people a way to create satisfying meals with a minimum of effort and time so that they will be encouraged to cook at home more often.
I'm still thinking easy, uncomplicated, middle-of-the-road, but with a smidge of sophistication (after all, Silverton is the original dessert chef at Wolfgang's Spago, the founder of La Brea Bakery and author of four other respected cookbooks). I know I'm not going to find acronyms such as "EVOO" and wade through a sea of "Yummo!" exclamations, for example.
But as I work my way through the beautifully designed pages, I get confused. The very first recipe, "Butter Lettuce and Herb Salad with Borlotti Beans, Asparagus, Artichoke Hearts and Feta" takes 40 minutes to prepare. Is it me, or is 40 minutes a lot of time to make a salad?
For the "Spinach Salad with Lentils and Crispy Warm Goat Cheese," the message is mixed. In addition to a can of lentil soup (she mentions a preference for Progresso brand), the recipe calls for 11 ounces of fresh goat cheese and panko, Japanese bread crumbs. Forget it, Safeway shoppers; you aren't making this tonight. You'll be driving all over town looking for panko, which will take more time than it does to cook up a pot of lentils!
Similarly, for the "Butternut Squash Soup with Sauteed Farro and Pancetta, Wilted Spinach and Pumpkin Seed Oil," Silverton recommends a box of butternut squash puree doctored up with hard-to-find Italian grains and an expensive oil that has limited utility. Last time I checked, a chopped butternut squash can be microwaved or boiled in less than 30 minutes, while I wilt that spinach and sautÃ© the pancetta and farro.
The implication that lies beneath the written word is that everyone shops at Whole Foods or some fancy culinary equivalent thereof, that verjus, passato and saba are commonly used words and -- that money is no object.
What happened to the farmer's markets that Silverton was a champion of (she was one of the first chefs to shop at Santa Monica's market)? Why all of a sudden is that considered inconvenient and timely, particularly when she recommends sourcing locally produced vinegar and chestnut honey?
Hmm. Maybe it's all semantics. It's that darned subtitle again, giving me a headache. Or maybe it was just a great hook that caught the eye of a savvy book editor?
Weigh in, if you so please. And have a delicious, uncomplicated weekend.
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