Here''s my interpretation of what’s happening in this cookbook--the rhyme and reason, the practical and logical, the science and intuition of it: It''s a beautiful, easy, exciting cooking style that Alison Roman has developed, and she walks us through that unique style in...
Here''s my interpretation of what’s happening in this cookbook--the rhyme and reason, the practical and logical, the science and intuition of it: It''s a beautiful, easy, exciting cooking style that Alison Roman has developed, and she walks us through that unique style in these recipes. With her excellent communicative writing, she has graciously offered us the insight into how her cooking style develops: Dish by dish, dish after dish, ingredients are paired to get a balance of textures: Meaty, creamy, crunchy, crispy, chewy. Hot and cold, raw and cooked, dimensions are utilized to help create interest and excitement. Roman''s recipes exhibit how to keep pairing to get a balance of flavors: Savory, sweet, salty, bitter, bland and intense umami. She uses herbs and spices, plus home-made condiments (recipes included), to help complete the dish and bring it all home. When plated, tweak for a pleasing look.
Most importantly—Alison Roman shows us how easy this all can come together. Shows us how all this can be accomplished with a minimum of effort and short ingredient lists. It seems to be her nature to do things in an easy way. And isn’t it grand that she is willing to show us her way? She says her kitchen is unorganized, but it is obvious to see that her thoughts and ability to plan are anything but. Her intuition and thoughtful planning combines to give us perfect, easy-going, stress-free recipes.
Her writing is so personable: Her logical, quirky, laid-back attitudes are touched with a sense of humor, and I sometimes found myself chuckling while I read. Not only are the recipes accessible and very do-able, straightforward and easy to understand, the book is very pleasing to read, too.
She uses a lot of vegetables, but does not shun meats, chicken and seafood. She uses a lot of greens, lemon and lime, nuts and seeds. She does not hold back the salt or the butter. It’s up to you to cut back, if necessary. Don''t let me scare you off, talking about butter. I think she is likes to act the playful temptress. She is set on eating healthy, it''s obvious in her food choices. And for those few butter-heavy dishes, well, there is plenty of kale, too!
Her vegetable dishes shine brightly and I love them best (because there can only be one “best”.) But all the chapters shine, and I’ve marked so many to try that I may as well have not marked any! Her salads are fun and full of themselves, not dainty and perfectly composed. She loves veggies and has incorporated them effortlessly into many, if not most of the dishes. (This is NOT a vegetarian cookbook, but vegetables are very prevalent.) Her fruit salads are really exciting and different, playing up more heat than sweet.
I was very pleased to see the large chapter "Grains and Things" and besides grains, includes fresh and dried beans, and a few pasta dishes. There is a unique and very pot-luck-able Four Bean Salad with a green romesco sauce, a split pea salad with both fresh and dried peas, "Kinda-Sweet" and "Not -Sweet granolas, There is an amazing baked bean recipe without ketchup, without BBQ sauce, and NOT sweet.
My husband, the biscuit and scone maker in the family, picked up the book and went directly to the back of it, where he got excited about her biscuits—both the recipe and her two-page essay on biscuit making. (There are many essays in this book—all of them fun to read, and you will come away with valuable and interesting information.) Then he got excited about the refrigerator chocolate chunk shortbread slice cookies. Then I had to see what he was so happy about, butted in, (sorry dear), turned a page, and got excited about the banana bread. All gems, all keepers. Many of her baking recipes are everyone''s old time favorites, but her take on them will have us rethinking, tweaking, or even replacing those old recipe cards.
By the way, the biscuit recipe alone is worth the price of this book.
She also loves pickles, and adds them to many dishes for crunch, tang, variety and visual appeal. She offers a brine and ideas for simple refrigerator quick pickles.
And she loves boiled small potatoes and stores a bowl of them in the frig. Since the cooking chore is completed in one big batch of potatoes at a time, taking them out of the frig and creating something with them, (a page full of ideas, essay form), is easy-peasy. (We love boiled potatoes, too… and I usually cook a big batch, skin on with a belly band peeled off, in a bath of heavy salt and Zatarans’s shrimp boil)
Her ideas are the kind that make you think, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?!” For instance, I have already made the move to roasting my winter squash whole, then removing the seeds, and if necessary, the skin. Then I read this idea: Slice raw acorn and delicate squash—and leave the seeds attached to the slices. THEN roast the slices with their seeds. Tried her technique yesterday, about two hours after reading the tip. Gives an extra textural and visual feature to the dish, without any extra effort—actually it’s all less of an effort. Don’t want the seeds inside the slice on the plate? Fine, leave them in the pan and pick out just a few of the choice crunchy seeds and crispy-wispy threads to top each slice.
As a further interpretation/description of this book: I think “Dining In” is nestled in comfortably somewhere right between one of those approachable, well-thought-out-but-uninspiring “5-ingredient” cookbooks and those inspiring, but somewhat unapproachable, restaurant-chef exhibits of self-love. This book works exceeding well to get the creative juices flowing. You will want to set the book aside and head to the kitchen. Yet, as you are walking to the kitchen, you realize the book is still held tightly in hand.... You''ll find you just don''t want to let it go.
Here are some examples of how easy her style of cooking can be:
--A spicy hot honey browned butter recipe for drizzling over roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash. It can be made days ahead. It’s a recipe that can be doubled or tripled. It can be stored and reheated. It takes five minutes to make.
--Roasted Broccolini (or broccoli) with Lemon: Sound too easy? Or like something you’ve made before? Maybe. But there are a few other simple ingredients, and a roasting temperature and time that make it special. And easy.
--A toasted coconut gremolata for winter squash or sweet potatoes. I think it might work for other winter veggies, too. Like a mélange that includes parsnips and carrots and rutabaga and turnip and beets.
--Her favorite dish in this book is similar to one of my favorite vegetable braises: Radishes in butter. Except she does a quick cook of her radishes with tops on, and she adds fresh Za’atar.
And there''s so much more to get excited about in this book. I love it. Do you remember Rozanne Gold''s cookbook "Radically Simple"? Back in 2010? I can''t really pin down exactly why, but this book somehow reminds me of that one--maybe the excitement that rumbles through it like an undercurrent?. I still use that book by Gold, and I still wax poetic about it and urge people to buy it--even at almost 8 years old. If you liked Gold''s book, I''m pretty sure you will like this one.