Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking American
John Ash: Cooking One on One : Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
ASH, JOHN T.
Published: March 23, 2004
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For John Ash, author of the award-winning From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine, the lines that separate chef from teacher from cookbook writer from consultant blur and fade into insignificance. In the end, it's about
ingredients and flavor and the meal at hand. "After twenty-five years of teaching," Ash writes in the forward to John Ash: Cooking One on One, "I know that you don't have to perfect all the basic kitchen skills in order to make great food." What John Ash
likes to see coming his way is a good eater, because there's a person who as likely as not will want to taste and eat at home what he or she has tried out on the town.
The trouble, of course, is time. Or you are single and aren't cooking for more
than yourself. It's all so daunting: eating light, eating well, eating responsibly. And ordering take-out is so easy. Cooking One on One, in chapters constructed like lessons, dispels all that. Part One is devoted to flavor-makers--salsas, vinaigrettes,
pestos, world marinades, and simple, savory sauces. Learn to make the cucumber and mint salsa, Ash instructs, then use it to maximum advantage with grilled lamb chops. No muss, no fuss.
That which begins at a simple level grows more complex as you
master technique and ingredient and apply layers of flavor. Ash leads the way with flair and confidence. Part Two covers basic cooking techniques--learning about soups, learning about oven-drying ingredients like tomatoes or cauliflower for maximum
effect, learning about braising, grilling, creating soufflés (they can be assembled and frozen ahead of time!), learning about pasta in the West and the East. Part Three covers lessons in main ingredients: chicken, dried beans, mushrooms, salmon, shrimp,
soy foods, desserts. The straightforward recipes reflect the nature of the lessons, the ingredients, the flavor profiles. This is a California chef with deep respect for culinary roots, whether they reach back to the Colorado barnyard or the French farm.
John Ash teaches cooking here, not recipe recreation. He creates good cooks out of good eaters. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
"Home cooking is not an all-or-nothing proposition," urges Fetzer Vineyards culinary director Ash in
this persuasive appeal to home chefs to incorporate a few new flavors and basic methods into their repertoires. Ash's chatty, straightforward subject lessons on techniques, ingredients and "flavor-makers" (as he refers to sauces like pestos and
vinaigrettes) elucidate recipes that are unusual and appealing, like flatbread cooked on the grill, brisket braised in coffee and a salad of oven-dried vegetables to top fried risotto or polenta. As in his previous books, From the Earth to the Table and
American Game Cooking, Ash supplements typical Mediterranean-inspired California cuisine with refreshingly global fare, drawing on Asian, Caribbean and Latin sources. While these recipes' wide range of flavors and cultures will appeal to sophisticated
eaters, many readers will find Ash's clear introduction to unfamiliar methods and ingredients useful. Ash also suggests fat- and time-saving variations for most recipes, asserting that delicious results can be achieved even if cooks skimp on a few steps
or ingredients. Designated for bookstores' "natural foods" shelves because of its emphasis on local produce and pasture-raised meat, the book discusses American agricultural practices and how they immediately affect our food choices, which should be
eye-opening for those encountering these issues for the first time. But that discussion is too cursory for readers eager for a serious, mainstream cookbook to incorporate considerations of sustainable agriculture into everyday cooking.
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