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Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens
By Jennifer Schaertl
ISBN: 0757313655
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.
Publication date: April 2010
Number of recipes: 136
List price: $18.95
Type: General; Small kitchens
Sample recipe: Citrus Peach Upside-Down Cake
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: We had a little trouble wrapping our heads around this book. More often than not, cookbooks are categorized by level of difficulty – it's clear if a book is meant for a novice or a good home cook, etc. This book seems as if it's for the beginner cook, but that is not the case. Even though the title makes it very clear, we had to keep reminding ourselves that this is for people who are limited by their kitchens, not their cooking skills.

The recipes, many of which are fairly ambitious, are divided into appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, one-pot dinners, side dishes, sauces, and desserts. Recipes run the gamut, and can be variously classified as gourmet, fusion, comfort, unusual, and nouvelle, and include Tahitian-Style Corn and Crab Soup, Poblano Slaw, Rum-Infused Caramelized Pork Chops, Goat Cheese Soufflé, Bread Pudding with Bourbon Crème Anglaise, Bloody Mary Relish, Moroccan Lamb Chops, Seafood Risotto, and Mushroom Tamales.

There are also sections on outfitting an undersized kitchen, stocking a pantry, organizing an undersized kitchen, preventing cooking mishaps, "nine gourmet rules," and – the theme of the book – thriving in a crappy little kitchen. There is lots of information about ingredients, techniques, and equipment scattered throughout the book.

There was a printing flaw in our copy of the book, at least, that made it hard to read certain sidebars. It did not affect any critical information. There are also a few "cheffy" issues that have found their way into this chef's cookbook. The peverada sauce, for example, is to be drizzled over fish because a little bit "goes a long way," but the recipe makes a whole quart. Finally, some of the recipe titles are truly bizarre (or perhaps we're not clever enough to get the joke). Snake Charmin' Moroccan Lamb Chops, anyone? Or Lasagna Love Affair to Remember? Or Call the Po-Po on This Polenta? – what does that even mean?

We all know people who have grand kitchens but never use them. This book is for folks on the other side of the divide – who want to cook, who love to cook, who do cook, despite the limitations of their kitchens.


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