Being creative with what's fresh and available is the pleasing principle behind the 40 fabulous menus 10 for each season included in Maria Helm Sinskey's new cookbook, The Vineyard Kitchen. Sinskey, an award-winning California chef, cooking teacher and culinary director of the Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley, makes sure that the recipes 145 in all respect and reflect the merits of the seasons. Right now, golden sweet corn could highlight a savory September supper that starts with rosemary-scented corn soup served with warm buttermilk biscuits, and late-season purple plums can star in an elegant Roasted Italian Prune Galette made with cream cheese tart dough. Soon, rustic root vegetables will be front and center, cooked with comforting Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs, or Braised Lamb Shanks, then it will be spring again and time for Baby Leeks Vinaigrette and Asparagus and Lemon Risotto. For me, the real fun and fascination of menu cookbooks is to see how the pros construct a meal, how they mix tastes and textures. Sinskey often starts with salad or a tempting vegetable-based tart; her main courses rarely need a side other than good crusty bread; and the desserts, from a dreamy Fallen Chocolate SoufflÅ½ Cake to golden Brandied Pears, offer sweet, balanced endings. You can vary these three-course meals depending on your appetite and what's available at your local market. Wine suggestions, as you might well expect, are offered with each marvelous menu.
e-crazed cook cross the road? To get a rotisserie chicken. Ah! One of life's lingering riddles has finally been solved.