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How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart [Hardcover]

Pam Anderson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 4 2000
Pam Anderson grew up watching her parents and grandparents make dinner every night by simply taking the ingredients on hand and cooking them with the techniques they knew.

Times have changed. Today we have an overwhelming array of ingredients and a fraction of the cooking time, but Anderson believes the secret to getting dinner on the table lies in the past. After a long day, who has the energy to look up a recipe and search for the right ingredients before ever starting to cook? To make dinner night after night, Anderson believes the first two steps--looking for a recipe, then scrambling for the exact ingredients--must be eliminated.  Understanding that most recipes are simply "variations on a theme," she innovatively teaches technique, ultimately eliminating the need for recipes.

Once the technique or formula is mastered, Anderson encourages inexperienced as well as veteran cooks to spread their culinary wings.  For example, after learning to sear a steak, it's understood that the same method works for scallops, tuna, hamburger, swordfish, salmon, pork tenderloin, and more. You never need to look at a recipe again. Vary the look and flavor of these dishes with interchangeable pan sauces, salsas, relishes, and butters.

Best of all, these recipes rise above the mundane Monday-through-Friday fare.  Imagine homemade ravioli and lasagna for weeknight supper, or from-scratch tomato sauce before the pasta water has even boiled.  Last-minute guests? Dress up simple tomato sauce with capers and olives or shrimp and red pepper flakes. Drizzle sautéed chicken breasts with a balsamic vinegar pan sauce. Anderson teaches you how to do it--without a recipe. Don't buy exotic ingredients and follow tedious instructions for making hors d'oeuvres. Forage through the pantry and refrigerator for quick appetizers. The ingredients are all there; the method is in your head. Master four simple potato dishes--a bake, a cake, a mash, and a roast--compatible with many meals. Learn how to make the five-minute dinner salad, easily changing its look and flavor depending on the season and occasion. Tuck a few dessert techniques in your back pocket and effortlessly turn any meal into a special occasion.

There's real rhyme and reason to Pam's method at the beginning of every chapter: To dress greens, "Drizzle salad with oil, salt, and pepper, then toss until just slick. Sprinkle in some vinegar to give it a little kick." To make a frittata, "Cook eggs without stirring until set around the edges. Bake until puffy, then cut it into wedges." Each chapter also contains a helpful at-a-glance chart that highlights the key points of every technique, and a master recipe with enough variations to keep you going until you've learned how to cook without a book.

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How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart + How to Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food -- With 1,000 Photos
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From Amazon

Learn what makes a recipe tick, says How to Cook Without a Book author Pam Anderson, and you'll serve great food fast. Recognizing that most cooks feel challenged in the face of daily meal making, Anderson provides a game plan: prepare dishes based on available ingredients and simple cooking techniques you've mastered--not on recipes you've got to look up and ingredients you'll need to shop for--and you maximize the potential of kitchen ease. Cooks looking for a way to address the what-will-we-have-tonight quandary definitively, or those who feel they lack the energy or know-how to tackle cooking every night, should find the book essential. In chapters such as "Simple Stir-Frys" or "Weeknight Ravioli and Lasagna," Anderson presents a particular cooking procedure, provides a recipe that embodies it in its basic form (the protein-adaptable Weeknight Stir-Fry, for example), then offers simple variations (such as Stir-Fried Chicken with Asparagus and Mushrooms or Stir-Fried Shrimp with Pepper and Scallions). Chapters conclude with an at-a-glance review of key technique points. Following Anderson's tips and innovations, lasagna, for example, becomes a weeknight option (use egg-roll wrappers for the pasta, Anderson advises, and forgo the baking); she also shows how, once mastered, her Big Fat Omelet, which serves four, can become the basis for a wide range of lunch and dinner entrées. With a comprehensive pantry section and a dessert chapter that puts frozen puff pastry to work in imaginative ways, the book is a trove of information that cooks can use and depend on. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

Former executive editor of Cook's magazine and author of The Perfect Recipe, Anderson wants to teach Americans a new way to cookAwithout relying on recipes. It's somewhat surprising, then, to discover that this book is full of recipes. However, readers may cotton to Anderson's method: each chapter consists of a simple technique, basic recipe, variations, key points and a little mnemonic device used to recall the technique. The techniques are, for the most part, terrific time-savers, such as cutting out the back before roasting a whole chicken or making one giant omelet to serve four people so that everyone can eat together. Variations are good, too, although many are so similar to one another that it seems a little repetitious to include a recipe for each (in turn, many of the recipes refer back to the original, resulting in a lot of page-flipping). A chapter on tomato sauces, for example, includes the basic Simple Tomato Sauce, as well as Tomato Sauce with Dried Porcini, Tomato Sauce with Sweet Onions and Thyme, Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Red Pepper Flakes and many others. A chapter on pan sauces is a winner, encompassing Red Wine-Dijon Pan Sauce, Port Wine Pan Sauce with Dried Cranberries and Balsamic Pan Sauce with Pine Nuts and Raisins. In the end, this cookbook is a solid collection of simple, quick recipes, but with its sometimes scattered format, it is unlikely to free everyday cooks from the tyranny of recipes. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I read an article by Pam in Cooking Light magazine that highlighted a few recipes from this book. After trying the saute and pan sauce methods with the ingredients I had on hand, I was sold on her approach and had to buy the book!
I consider myself to be a fairly adventurous cook, but I'm also partial to quick recipes that don't require numerous or exotic ingredients. Pam provides a wonderful "theme and variations" style, and most of her recipe suggestions require only a handful of ingredients. She lays out the chapters based on techniques (saute, sear) rather than main ingredients (meat, fish, chicken), which will help me master the techniques more quickly and stop relying on recipes as much. I'd like to saute, but don't have pork or chicken on hand? Use fish! And I can vary the same meat with dozens of pan sauces and relishes - the combinations are endless. Last night we had a delectable Sauteed Tilapia with Mustard-Cream Sauce, along with a Crisp Potato Cake. Tonight perhaps we'll have Seared Marlin Steaks with Horseradish Pan Sauce and Orzo with Lemon and Parsley. I can't wait to try the Lo Mein, Stir Fry, Quick Ravioli, and Supper Soup techniques, as well as the Tossed Salads and Steam/Sauteed Vegetables. So many possibilities!
I'm done paging through cookbooks to find the one recipe for which I have all the ingredients. With this book on my shelf, I can buy any available fresh and seasonal ingredients and know that I'll be able to put together a fast, healthy, and nutritious meal without a problem. This cookbook is a must-have - perfect for you, your best friend, your mother, and any bride-to-be. Thanks for this newfound freedom and creativity, Pam!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a wonderful book! While previous reviews claim that the book states the obvious (oil and vinegar make a good dressing), this book gives the correct formula for dressings, sauces, soups, omelettes, etc.
While I have cooked for years, this book has renewed my confidence in experimenting myself, following her basic formulas. The truth is, most of us have a limited amount of time to cook during the week. This book is just for that - a quick way to use what you already have to serve delicious, healthy meals quickly. This is a sharp contrast to "quick-cook" books that either (1) have you use a jar of grape jelly and the microwave or are (2) quick only if you already have the heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil available.
I attended a class taught by Ms. Anderson where she demonstrated her techniques from this book and found that she seems to have used her wealth of experience as a test kitchen chef and editor to reduce a lot of information down to these simple formulas and techniques.
My meals from this book have turned out perfect every time - thank you Pam Anderson!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is, simply, a boon to someone like me who was never taught how to cook. Now that I have a family it has become important to me to be able to make great tasting homecooked meals--and Pam Anderson's book lights the way. She doesn't just give you recipes and tell you how to make things; she inspires confidence, even in a novice such as I! I hadn't had this book for very long when I made a wonderful stir-fry dinner for my sister and her husband, both of whom were dutifully impressed by what they thought were my culinary skills (but I give all credit--at least for now!--to Pam Anderson). My husband is a picky Pad Thai eater, but even he had to admit that Pam Anderson's quick "weeknight" Pad Thai was flavorful. I could go on and on ... I feel grateful for this book and the impact it has (and will continue to have) on my family's life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The no flaw best ! June 24 2003
I am a cajun and thus was raised within a strong cooking tradition that emphasizes cooking skills as much among men as women (my father and two brothers are professional chefs, another is a pastry chef and still another is a seafood merchant). Although I too began in professional kitchens I am now a college instructor but remain an avid home cook (a little catering on the side) and own over 1500 cookbooks Though this book does not have the homestyle long cooking black pot dishes cajuns are famous for; the details of seasoning and other ingredient proportions offered in this book are so accurately delicious that this information would be of value to any cuisine!
Even though I have an extensive cookbook library, I have never written a cookbook review. Why now? Because this is simply the best cookbook I've ever used! Within the stated limitations of the book (ie. quick , midweek night cooking for family; the kind all of us are forced to do.) this cookbook is without flaw. This is the only cookbook my wife and I keep on our kitchen prep table.
Because Ms. Anderson(a former "Cook's Illustrated" magazine editor} has taken the trouble to have each recipe taste tested by a panel before finalizing the selection of the best recipe version (The "Best Recipe" is the title of a previous volume by Ms. Anderson and is also fabulous} success is guranteed. This research is her secret to success and something that you or I or even professional chefs simply will never have access to.
I would call Ms. Anderson a professional cook rather than chef but this is to her advantage since she doesn't have to waste time on food presentation and plating technique.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Helpful Book
Just what I needed. Wonderful concept of how to teach someone to cook. I made one soup and family and friends loved it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nels thompson
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title
Although this had a few nuggets of great advice and techniques, I was disappointed with the failure to follow through on actually how to cook without a book - it would have been... Read more
Published on April 26 2012 by Bea's Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but not perfect, cookbook
I bought this book because I liked its basic premise- learn a few core recipes that you can make relatively easily and that are adaptable to different flavors and sauces. Read more
Published on March 17 2012 by A. Volk
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have
In my opinion this is a must have book for anyone who wants to learn to cook with out having to follow a recipe every single time. It's full of really useful tips and information.
Published on Feb. 5 2010 by Amanda Slack
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is full of ideas
I have gotten a lot of ideas from this book. The recipes are simple and easy to make. I have so many cook books that I rarely use because the recipes are too long and complicated... Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars don't buy it
you get what you pay for it
Published on Oct. 24 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars More recipe, not enough food science
I gave two stars because I was looking for a book filled with food science and basics that can be embellished. I found less than half of what I wanted. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2003 by Nikola Tesla
5.0 out of 5 stars The no flaw best !
I am a cajun and thus was raised within a strong cooking tradition that emphasizes cooking skills as much among men as women (my father and two brothers are professional chefs,... Read more
Published on June 24 2003 by Richard W. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Very liberating
Reading this book has liberated me.
* No more hours of making menus and transcribing ingredients from recipes to shopping lists. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars For a vegetarian who needs cooking explained.
Being a vegetarian, this book is quite heavy on meat preparations, however, I came from a pre-packaged and pre-prepared family. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2002 by Angela Shroyer
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