I just finished browsing the cookbook section of a local bookstore, searching for something inspiring and unusual for a wedding shower gift. Linda Carucci's "Cooking School Secrets For Real-World Cooks: Tips, Techniques, Shortcuts, Sources, Hints, and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, Plus 100 Sure-Fire Recipes to Make You a Better Cook" came out recently, and after thumbing through it pretty thoroughly, I decided this was the one. In fact, after reading more over coffee, I decided to go back and pick up another copy for myself.
Two major attractions, for me, are the recipes - more than 100 exciting and interesting dishes, from soup to sweets. Since the author is of Italian ancestry, the emphasis here is on Italian food - but not every recipe - there's a wide variety. Many of these I don't have in my own extensive collection. And, the most unique aspect of the cookbook, and second major attraction, is the information included under tips, shortcuts and gourmet cooking secrets. I consider myself a good cook and have been creative in the kitchen for many years now, yet many of these tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, are new to me. In fact, for cookbook lovers, much of "Cooking School Secrets For Real-World Cooks" reads almost like a novel. You have to love cookbooks to understand what I mean!!
The book is divided into three major sections. The first is Cooking Basics, and while I am familiar with much of the information, I found the sections on Creative Cooking, How Cooking Changes The Texture And Flavor of Foods,. Cooking With The Seasons, and Understanding Your Palate to be of particular interest. The page layout is attractive and well organized, and there are helpful illustrations throughout.
The recipes are in Part Two, and there are many sensational suggestions from stocks, ("What is a chinois and why will this make homemade chicken stock better?"), soups, ("Why are Turkish bay leaves preferable to the California variety?"), and broths, to risottos, pastas, seafood, poultry and meat, ("Why is a marinade essential when grilling a flank steak?"), mouth-watering side dishes, special salads and desserts. There are some wonderful versions of favorite comfort foods, like: Tomato Cheddar Soup; Spaghetti and Meatballs; Chicken Cacciatore; Baked Macaroni with White Cheddar Cheese and Buttered Breadcrumbs; Turkey Mole from Mexico; and Braised Calamari in Red Sauce. And then there are dishes worthy of the most special occasions and guests: Grilled Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate Marinade and Muhammara; Pork Loin Roast with Vanilla Scented Applesauce; Risotto Primavera with Wild Salmon; Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto, Taleggio, and Pesto; and a fabulous paella. And the desserts - Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding with Kahlua Sauce; Zabaglione with Fresh Berries and Peaches; Grilled Peach Ice Cream Sundaes with Short-Cut Caramel Sauce, a chocoholic cake....and so many more.
The last part, Part Three, deals with seasonal recipes, sources, and includes twelve special menus for casual and special occasions.
Linda Carucci has worked in the food industry for over 20 years. She is dean of the California Culinary Academy, has been awarded Cooking Teacher of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, (IACP), and is the Julia Child Curator of Food Arts for Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa, California. You cannot go wrong with this cookbook! It's terrific!