Monday, July 18, 2005

Cooking School Secrets: Book Review

A friend once told me the best way to sell a book is to put "secret" in the title. He's probably right, I have two cookbooks with secret in the titles and they are both terrific. One is Michael Bauer's Secrets of Success Cookbook: Signature Recipes and Insider Tips from San Francisco's Best Restaurants. This book is a gem, based on a long-running newspaper feature. You not only get great recipes from wonderful restaurants, but you also get tips from top chefs, bound to make you a better cook. While you may not find this book in your local bookstore, it is easy to find inexpensive copies on Amazon.

The latest cookbook which promises secrets, really delivers. In the vein of telling stories out of school, it's Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks. And who better to share those secrets than author Linda Carucci, the winner of the IACP cooking teacher of the year award.
Here is a sampling of "secrets" I gleaned from the book:

* Why Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is superior to other brands and actually keeps lettuce from wilting.

* How to correctly salt and season meat before cooking to make it more flavorful.

* Which raspberries make the best raspberry sauce--hint it's not fresh ones!

* That a camomile tea bag added to vegetable stock acts as a flavor enhancer.

* How to fancy up a boring, brown dessert like bread pudding with whipped cream, kahlua and a few strawberries.

* Which fruits and vegetables are most likely to contain pesticide residue--strawberries, raspberries and apples top the list.

Even though I've only cooked one recipe from this book I've already learned a lot from it. The recipes are mostly solid ones, not the show stopper variety, but if you are looking for some great Italian American favorites like pesto, meatballs, risotto primavera or manicotti, this book is full of them. I think this book is best for the novice cook or someone lacking culinary confidence. It would be perfect for newlyweds or someone moving into a new house.