The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 30, 2012

Lisa Brown: Cookbooks filled with tasty ideas

JOPLIN, Mo. — I have a weakness for cookbooks.

The colorful pictures, recipes and reliance on fresh ingredients call to me, so much so that nearly every evening you will find me in the kitchen making dinner from scratch. A vegetarian for 19 years, I want to know what’s in my food, and to be able to pronounce its ingredients.

Although I am fond of my own cookbooks, the Joplin Public Library offers an excellent and diverse collection that encompasses multiple cuisines, techniques and special diets. The new cookbooks I’ve highlighted below are just a few of the many you will find on our shelves.

“Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao” by Bee Linn Low

“Easy Chinese Recipes” is basic and approachable Ñ perhaps too much so for me. I was hoping to find inspiration within its pages, but I’m afraid that wasn’t the case.

In an attempt to make the recipes simple, I fear the author dumbed them down to the point that more serious cooks won’t bother. It seemed almost everything was made with oyster sauce, soy sauce and chicken bouillon.

What about black bean paste, hoisin sauce and garlic chili paste? These ingredients add depth of flavor, and are available in most stores.  

However, “Easy Chinese Recipes” offers variety for people new to Chinese cooking, from restaurant favorites such as sweet and sour pork to the more exotic salt and pepper squid. And the photos adequately demonstrate the steps required for more labor-intensive dishes like pot stickers or green onion pancakes.

I’m sure many people will get something from this book. It just wasn’t for me.

“Weeknights with Giada” by Giada de Laurentiis

Giada de Laurentiis has never been one of my favorite Food Network personalities. I find her perfect teeth, low-cut shirts and less than stellar knife work distracting. Yet I always seek out her cookbooks because I find them accessible and full of good ideas.

Her latest book, “Weeknights with Giada,” doesn’t disappoint. Although she still features several traditionally Italian dishes such as pizza, risotto and pasta, she really branches out here.

The salads, such as couscous with watermelon, watercress and feta cheese, sound scrumptious. For the meat eaters, the filet mignon with rosemary and mushroom gravy might hold some appeal. I’m intrigued by the ricotta cheese, lentil, and brown rice rolls, served wrapped in Swiss chard.

Overall, the recipe selection is impressive. “Weeknights with Giada” is one of the more vegetarian-friendly mainstream cookbooks I’ve seen in a while, and I think readers will find it particularly useful this summer, when gardens and farmers markets overflow with fresh ingredients.  

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