by Cal Peternell
A very interesting book, originally recommended by Michael Ruhlman, whose superb Twenty this echoes. Notionally, Cal Peternell provides twelve general recipes with two things in mind:
- To show how easily and rapidly one can go from not cooking to cooking quite well.
- To show how readily and broadly a recipe can be varied, once you understand the idea behind the recipe rather than simply repeating the specified steps.
The first chapter, for example, is “toast” and runs from plain toast properly done through salad croutons, gratin topping, and more. The second, “beans,” points out that there’s really pretty much one way to make beans: you soak them, you cook them in water with some aromatics, and then you eat them alone or with something else. That takes you from pasta e fagioli to refritos, from lentil dahl to Boston baked beans. I don’t much like beans myself, and that chapter alone has led me to place two orders with the redoubtable Rancho Gordo.