Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky is a-spicy meatball.
"The art of the cuisine, when fully mastered, is the one human capability of which only good things can be said."—Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Like a lot of busy people, I don't have much time to relax and read magazines like I used to. I subscribe to a couple that I consider "bathroom reading" (an entertainment magazine and weekly news magazine)—and one cooking magazine. When I first started looking at Everyday Food, I didn't know it was a tentacle of the beast known as Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Martha's name doesn't appear in it at all. Her frightening presence leaves little of its raffia-tinged residue in this very practical monthly. I pick through each issue, folding over the corners of pages—poached salmon here (a favorite with my wife and daughter), a crock pot recipe there—piecing together menus that I can make with minimum fuss in between teaching classes and writing up disc reviews. I do all the cooking in our house, so anything that makes life easier for me is welcome.
It does not surprise me that, given the glut of cooking shows on the air these days, PBS airs a television version of Everyday Food. The first compilation disc from this series features five episodes. The first episode targets breakfast food (which, incidentally, is always good for dinner too): blueberry smoothie, breakfast burrito, maple oatmeal, brown sugar-glazed bacon, cottage cheese pancakes, and "eggs in the hole" (eggs in sliced bread). "Family favorites" features farfalle with salmon, mint, and peas, sautéed sugar snap peas, hoisin salmon, cold sesame noodles, and apple cinnamon bundt cake, plus advice for coring and peeling apples. An episode on "homestyle favorites" spotlights thyme-roasted chicken with potatoes, spaghetti puttanesca, spicy cheese bread, and an arugula, beet, and goat cheese salad, plus tips for carving chicken and roasting beets. If, you know, you like beets. The forth show ("Lively Flavors") runs you through Asian salmon patties (which you can make ahead and freeze!), Chinese noodles with sesame dressing, shrimp with garlic and lemon, curried tofu, and coconut macaroons, plus advice on picking out Asian-style noodles and finding the right knife for your kitchen job. The final episode is all about the sweets: flourless peanut-chocolate cookies, jam macaroons, fruit and nut white-chocolate clusters, pistachio-raisin biscotti, and shortbread wedges, plus tips on freezing cookie dough, and picking baking pans. There are also bonus tips on flavoring goat cheese and choosing the right texture of tofu.
Bonus features include a minute-long profile of all the show's chefs, a promo for mistress Martha's own show, and links to Martha's website that require using the dreaded InterActual software on your computer. On-screen recipe cards would be really helpful, but you'll just have to use the reverse button on your remote control to get everything written down.
The perky chefs, none of whom I could really tell apart very clearly, are more Rachel Ray than Alton Brown (my culinary hero!). They all share the same kitchen (and sometimes even help one another out, as when Lucinda's roasted beets turn up in Allie's salad). The show runs like the visual equivalent of flipping through a magazine: interchangeable but affable hosts quickly push you through the recipes. The cooking is more important than the personalities here. In keeping with the magazine's focus on the practical, each recipe takes only a few minutes to run through on screen. Cooking times are noted, but take place off screen. (Compare to most cooking shows, which take place more or less in real time.) Nobody makes a big deal about using canned or frozen ingredients. The hosts throw in helpful extra advice, such as roast two chickens at the same time and use the second for sandwiches later in the week. The only things missing in the episodes are the magazine's helpful shopping lists and the printed recipes I noted above. But on a DVD, these are essential additions, and not including them is just lazy.
As you can see from the list of recipes, the hosts keep it simple and pack a lot of cooking into each 23 minute show. You don't need strange gadgets, just whatever you have around the house. For example, the glazed bacon just requires you to sprinkle brown sugar and pepper on bacon strips lined up on baking racks (to drain off the fat), then pop it all in the oven for half an hour. So easy, I plan to try it this week. The hoisin salmon is four ingredients: hoisin sauce, orange juice, honey, and—you guessed it—salmon. (The cooks on this show sure do love their salmon!) Then you stick it under the broiler. My four year old could follow the directions—not that I'd let her near the broiler.
If you are one of those cooks that needs to see the steps to get the recipe straight (as opposed to reading them on the page), then the television version of Everyday Food will help. Nothing fancy or complicated here, which is exactly the point. These are not recipes for special occasions. This is, per the title, food for your everyday meals. When I watch most cooking shows, I rarely find myself rushing to write down the recipes and try them at home. They are usually too time-consuming, require exotic ingredients (if I only need a tablespoon of some fresh herb or imported mushroom, I am not likely to buy a whole package of it unless I can find another use for it) or equipment, and generally designed for television performance as opposed to actual workaday cooking. When I have time, I get expansive and complicated in the kitchen (as anybody forced to endure one of my dinner parties can attest). But I don't have that sort of time most days. But the best thing I can say about Everyday Food is that I would make nearly all of the recipes I see here—and realistically I actually will probably make half of them at some point. Will you do the same for the cooking shows you watch?
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