Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cookbooks for People Without....Time!

There are a surprisingly large number of books out there with a focus on quick home-cooking. Take Ann Martin Rolke's Hands-Off Cooking: low supervision, high flavor meals for busy people as a prime example. Each meal has a preparation component and a 'hands-off cooking' component, during which the chef does nothing but wait. Cooking times are measured from the moment the set-up is complete.

Theresa Albert-Ratchford's Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day takes efficient cooking to another level. The premise is that each chapter lists recipes capable of feeding a family for a week. The meals are designed such that a single, weekly grocery run is all that's needed. The meals are classics and are easily adapted. As well, each week of recipes comes a variety of methods for the use of leftovers. Faster, cheaper, more efficient, and less wasteful!

Similar titles are Once-A-Month Cooking: family favorites by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg, and Cook Once, Eat for a Week by Jyl Steinback.

Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy contains 250 recipes, a number of which are marked as vegan. The categories are standard, but each recipe is marked with an expected duration: 45, 30, and 15 minutes.

Mark Bittmans' The Minimalist Cooks at Home lists a meal's preparation time versus its work time, the serving size, and any particular benefits of the recipe. It also offers suggestions to reduce cooking time even further, or to enhance an already simple meal. Another time saving quality of this book is a separation of theory and instructions; the former guides the cooking where the latter is simplified to its barest.

The 30-Minute Cook, by Nigel Slater, is a more international look at quick foods. Each chapter focuses on a food type (vegetables, shellfish, grains), organized alphabetically by ingredient. When appropriate, the ingredient's quirks are discussed, whether simple chicken breasts or how to serve squid.

Reader's Digest Quick Food: gourmet recipes in just thirty minutes, by Jenny Fanshaw and Annette Forrest, holds over 300 recipes. Every set of pages contains a photo of the finished product and a large-print card. Each lists the preparation time, the cooking time, number of servings, and a 3-point difficulty scale.

Giuliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta seems intimidating when one reads to the recipe titles, but this book also teaches a fair bit about the world of pasta. Once read, the meals aren't all that scary. Page 24 has the best and simplest description of how to cook pasta that I have ever found. The complexity of the meals vary greatly, but are divided neatly by the basics: Soup, Vegetarian, Seafood, and Meat.

Better Homes and Gardens' 3-Step 30 Minute Recipes has the best layout. Each recipe is easy to follow (literally 3 steps), and is marked with nutritional values per serving.

Faster! I'm Starving! by Kevin and Nancy Mills boasts 100 meals in under 25 minutes. They indicate techniques, tools, and ingredients that can shave time off meal preparation. The chapter 'Time Charts' (page 247) lists the meals according to their preparation time; 15, 20, and 25 minutes each.

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