I started reading several books last week, most of them novels, but the book that got me the most excited was–of all things–a cookbook. I decided to order this book from the library after watching a couple episodes of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” a show where the British chef comes to the American South and tries to reform the disgusting eating habits of the unhealthiest town in the world. Jamie Oliver reveals and rebukes the greasy, processed food that Americans eat, trying to turn over a new leaf in the school lunch program at a public elementary school.
After waiting more than two months for my hold request to be fulfilled (as the 24th person in line at the library), I finally picked up my copy of the cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals. Cookbooks aren’t generally a “read-it-from-cover-to-cover” item, but I found that this was one cookbook I couldn’t put down. Jamie begins by telling the novice chef what tools every good kitchen should contain and what ingredients every pantry should be stocked with. (I made some notes on the latter for my next trip to Winco.) Then he launches into the recipes.
The first section listed off a handful of twenty minute meals for people who are short on time. With names like “Shrimp and Avacado with an Old-School Marie Rose Sauce,” I found that they did indeed look simple and delicious, though maybe not quite as affordable as our usual fare. The next section of the book was even more intriguing: “Quick Pasta.” The pasta dishes I usually make are a last-ditch resort born of empty cupboards and small imagination. Jamie offers exciting dishes like “Broccoli and Pesto Tagliatelle,” containing only a handful of ingredients but looking mouthwateringly delicious in the full color pictures.
The book proceeded with “Tasty Stir-Fries” and “Easy Curries.” I resolved then and there that I was going to make a curry that week, something I had never before attempted. A few days later I produced a passable “Chicken Tikka Masala,” with a lovely sauce and decent chicken (that would probably have been more tender if my stovetop had a more even heat).
The next section contained recipes for salads. This exemplified what I love about Jamie Oliver’s book–versatility. In the salad section, he tries to teach you general rules so that you can whip up your own salad creation. The full-color chart on page 119 has six rows of “kinds” of ingredients: soft, crunchy, herby, veggies, cheese, and toppings. Each of the rows contains four items; for instance, the “herby” row has mint, basil, italian parsley, and arugula. All you need to do is pick one ingredient from each row to come up with an awesome salad! There are literally hundreds of combinations to choose from.
The second recipe that I cooked from this book was the “Beef and Ale Stew,” and I must say that it turned out divine! The portions for most of the main dishes are for 4-6 servings, so we have half of the stew in the freezer waiting for another day. Yesterday, I was sorely tempted to take it out and heat it up for lunch, but I resisted–knowing, that someday soon, I would want to put a delicious dinner on the table without doing any work.
I highly recommend this cookbook to beginner and expert chefs alike. I like it so much that I ordered my own copy from Amazon.com. It should get here later this week.