Who is Aida? Why, a lovely, vivacious, down-to-earth foodie (you may have seen her on Food Network or being awesome on Chow) I had the chance to meet a few weeks ago at a cookbook event for her new book, Keys to the Kitchen. You know you're off to a good start when you walk in to an event and there are more wine bottles than there are people - that's my kinda lady! We had a great time talking about being food dorks (and commiserating over our triumphs and failures at fontorcheese.com).
So, the cookbook. It's rare that I find a cookbook that would appeal to both Luke and me, but this one did it. The whole first half is for both novices and people just REALLY curious about how/why stuff works (insert why Luke would like here). From all the food staples you should know, to how to tackle grocery shopping, this is a great guide for anyone who claims they don't know how to cook.
Then the second half is all about taking those skills and putting them to work. I love how with each recipe, it includes what skill you're mastering - that's right, each recipe has a purpose! I love that. It's not 5,000 salads with different proteins, dressings and cheeses switched out.
I went a little crazy and tried four recipes in one week of hers. But Lindsay, you hate following recipes all the time - yes, that's true. But sometimes you need a crutch when you're not feeling creative. And ok, I did my own thing on a couple of them, but that's why you love me, right? :)
So what would I rate this book on a 10 point scale? I'd say an 8.5, only because I didn't love all the recipes I made 100% (that may or may not have been because my whole chicken didn't completely thaw before I cooked it - even though I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge for 2 1/2 days!!). Also, I'd like to see more photos, simply because I'm a visual person.
Would I recommend this to a friend? You bet! Would I give this as a gift? Absolutely!
In case you're curious, the recipes I tried were:
Roasted squash pasta with sage brown butter (pg. 223) - OMG this was AMAZING. Helped in large part by the fact that I think I got the BEST BUTTERNUT SQUASH ever. Seriously, it was super bright orange and extra sweet.
Cranberry Bean Ragout with Olive-Citrus Butter (pg. 250) - So, I kind of F'd this one up, but I made it work. That's what happen when you don't follow directions. But, it was a lovely bean soup. And Luke, the soup fan, was all over it. Dunked with lots and lots of Parmesan thyme bread from the Whole Foods Market bakery that we're now obsessed with.
Balsamic Caramel Chicken with Roasted Eggplant (pg. 264) - See previous note on chicken not cooking through all the way. Totally my fault. The sauce was lovely. Also, I was reminded that I hate eggplant. I don't cook it for 2 years, then I try again thinking, why don't I ever cook eggplant? I hate the texture and the flavor - end of story. But, if you like it, try this! Or, be smart and just sub in other veggies to roast.
Prosciutto-sage chicken with pan-roasted figs (pg. 278) - Ding ding ding! We have a winner! This one was DA BOMB. Salty prosciutto, sweet figs - what's not to love? And the addition of apple cider to the pan sauce? Amazing! A+
And, here are some recipe links I CAN share, from her article in this month's Food & Wine! Brussels Sprouts salad with pepitas and dates (LOVED the pepitas and dates, but I think next time I'll roast the sprouts). And, Root vegetable and cauliflower tagine with parsley yogurt (SO good!!!! Made a huge vat and Luke is so excited. Note I didn't do turnips but did extra sweet potatoes and parsnip, and some carrot).
Thanks for sharing Aida - it was lovely to meet you!