by Sybil PrattApril 2008
A tale of two cultures
Ingrid Hoffmann, born in Colombia and based in Miami, is truly and happily a cross-cultural girl (or, as she puts it, "a bit of a mutt") in the way she lives, the way she cooks and the audiences she cooks for. This gorgeous girl (watch out, Giada!) stars in "Delicioso," a hit Spanish-language cooking show, and on the Food Network's "Simply Delicioso." Her debut cookbook, Simply Delicioso, is collection of 125 Latin-laced recipes for everyday meals that reflect "la vida Spanglish." Hoffman starts off with a tour of the pantry items she considers indispensable, from adobo seasoning to dulce de leche, queso blanco, and masa cornmeal, before she steps into la cocina to work her multicultural magic. Whether it's Huevos Rancheros for breakfast; light, fresh 'Shroom Ceviche with cocktails; chili-zinged Latin Caesar with Shrimp and plantain chips for lunch; classic Arroz con Pollo or Chipotle Beef Noodles for dinner; comforting, super-rich corn pudding or mango and red cabbage slaw as sensational sides; or super-silky Cheesecake Flan for dessert; you're in for a fiesta of flavor. And her lively "chica tips," tricks and shortcuts, make it muy fecil and much fun.
Here's a new entry in that ever-growing, fast-fresh-easy-efficient cookbook category. Robin to the Rescue: Quick & Simple Ideas for Delicious Home Cooking serves up a variety of strategies for getting a delectable dinner on the table with as little hassle as possible. Robin Miller, Food Network host, cookbook author and nutritionist, knows that every day is busy in a different way, so she offers alternative prep options you can use to customize your meal planning. Each of these 200 recipes has a quick-fix feature - usually two or more - to expedite and jazz it up. The "Make It a Meal Kit" strategy tells you how to partially prep meals in advance when you have some extra time. You can make the three components of Chicken with Pistachio-Parsley Pesto in advance, store them in the fridge, then simply pop them in the microwave. "Bank a Batch" advises you to double the recipe and store the extra in the freezer for next week. "Morph It" transforms extras (intentional or otherwise) into distinctive new meals - just double that pesto, serve it over shrimp and rice, and presto! "Have It Your Way" plays with ingredients, swapping tofu for shrimp, shrimp for chicken, chicken for salmon, salmon for flounder, snow peas for broccoli. Solid savvy for savory suppers.
NO FRILLS, NO FUSS
Sam Zien has a good helping of attitude, never shies away from shortcuts (something that can make me shy away from a cookbook) and a vocabulary that might shock great-aunt Nelly. Sam is not a chef, he tells us that upfront. He started doing "Sam the Cooking Guy" on a San Diego TV station because he was annoyed by cooking shows with "millions of complicated steps and crazy-ass ingredients" - and he'd quit his day job. Eight Emmys later, he's still the same Sam insisting that anyone can make great stuff that's "big in taste and small in effort," without over-the-top ingredients. To back up his claim, Sam has written a cookbook, not surprisingly called Sam the Cooking Guy: Just a Bunch of Recipes, with his signature super-easy dishes and a dose of his quotidian culinary philosophy, including such principles as measuring is a waste of time and heat should be hot, and the basic tenet that frozen shrimp, rotisserie chicken, tortillas, pre-baked pizza dough and good olive oil are a cooking guy's manna from heaven. There's a little bit of everything in these 125 recipes, from a gorgeously gooey Cinnamon Pull-Apart to salads, soups, sandwiches, mains, veggies and even desserts.