Monday, June 25, 2007

Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: Cookbook

When it comes to food, I don't believe in secrets. Secret restaurants, secret menu items, or secret recipes are all bad ideas. Food should be enjoyed and keeping it secret just gets in the way of that. I used to work with a Southern gal who told me her aunt made the best biscuits but she wouldn't share the recipe. Someday that aunt will die and the recipe will too. That's a shame. Sharing that recipe would be creating a legacy for herself instead of just memories that one day will die too.

So I would like to share with you a little secret of sorts. It's a book I've been inspired by quite a bit lately but I've kept the relationship to myself, until now. When I got a copy of Sara Foster's Casual Cooking I had never heard of Sara Foster. It turns out she has two other cookbooks and been featured in a number of national magazines. She started her culinary career as a chef for Martha Stewart's catering company and now runs a take-out business in Durham, North Carolina. Her cooking is casual, and the book is filled with main dish salads, quesadillas, pasta and even egg dishes. The recipes are not fancy, but great and sometimes healthy twists on the classics like a creamed corn that has no cream in it.

My copy of her book is filled with little sticky notes and while I may not be following her recipes exactly, they have been inspiring and intriguing me. I have played around with a couple of recipes, starting with Ricotta Tartlets with Spring Greens and Sauteed Onions. I experimented with my own version of this and it came out great! Mixing ricotta with a little egg and baking it turns it into a lovely starter. I used a muffin pan instead of tart pans and I flavored mine with green onions. Her recipe for Grilled Shrimp and Goat Cheese Tostada with a drizzle of cilantro chimichurri sauce was the impetus for my post on unorthodox quesadilla combos.

Here are the recipes I've bookmarked but haven't tried yet. The first recipe is Rigatoni with Sausage, Cannellini Bean and Swiss Chard Ragu. I have been looking for something new to do with Swiss chard for a long time and the picture of this dish is mouthwatering. Another recipe I have yet to tackle is Warm Sourdough Bread Salad with Chicken and Pine Nuts. This salad is like an Italian bread salad but with peppery watercress, golden raisins and pine nuts. Genius! Next time I have leftover chicken I am sure I will make a version of it. You can follow the recipes to the letter or just be inspired by them, either way, this book is a keeper.