I'm not one for glomming on to gurus or taking up fad diets and weight cures de jour, but I am a fan of Andrew Weil. A Harvard trained M.D. who has combined traditional Western medical practice with a deep understanding of nutrition and alternative medicine, Weil has written convincingly about the influence of diet on well-being, health and healing. Now, he and Rosie Daley, Oprah's former chef and author of the best-selling In the Kitchen with Rosie, have teamed up to produce The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life, and Spirit (Knopf, $24.95, 320 pages, ISBN 0375413065). The result is sensational, satisfying (yes, it's possible) spa cooking served up with a philosophy of nutrition that's grounded in science. Rosie's recipes certainly aren't heavy and, don't worry, neither are Andy's nutrition guidelines. And his chatty, informed inserts on everything from milk to the Mediterranean diet, from cheese, chocolate and chicken to salt, supplements, sugar and sprouts (they're out), give you the info you need to make your own choices. As you look through the 135 recipes, you'll realize this is not a "diet" cookbook no fast fixes, no miracles it's about adopting a healthy approach to eating and celebrating the pleasures that healthy food, well prepared, can bring. No surprise, there's no red meat here, but there are inviting entrÅ½es and appetizers ample enough for the big and brawny, great ideas for breakfasts and beverages, soups and salads, sides and sauces and divine desserts that break a few of the rules.
Inn-sightHave you ever been inn-trigued enough to fantasize about owning a country inn or B&andB? I admit I have. Donna Leahy and her husband really did it they "took the plunge" and, with a lot of work and boundless enthusiasm, transformed a dilapidated clapboard apartment building in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country into a luxurious inn. In Recipe for a Country Inn: Fine Food from the Inn at Twin Linden (Morrow, $29.95, 304 pages, ISBN 0060184922), Donna takes us inside the inn, detailing the nuts (guests, sometimes) and bolts of running such an establishment and sharing her most requested recipes. Since she cooks all the dishes herself, the food she serves rarely involves complex preparation; her goal (and probably yours) is to be inventive and practical. Donna starts off with an array of egg recipes and breakfast fare that bring on bravos. A selection of soups and salads, light and hearty, celebrate the seasons. Then come her straightforward, elegant dinner entrees that concentrate on enhancing a high-quality main ingredient a sirloin strip steak served on a bed of leeks with a savory Stilton crust, jumbo shrimp sauced with lemon pesto and sprinkled with extra pinenuts. Teatime at the inn is special. So you'll find a bevy of baked treats like Almond Palmiers and fudge-like Walnut Brownies, plus desserts from a not-so-humble Cinnamon Peach Pie to regally rich White Chocolate CrÂme BrulÅ½e.
Dim sum and then someI had my first dim sum when I was in college (pre-historic times for most of you) and I fell in love with these small, savory pastries, buns, potstickers, pancakes, deep-fried delights, dumplings galore and more. I was lucky enough to live in New York with its large Chinatown and endless restaurants, and even then dim sum was somewhat unusual. Dim sum has grown in popularity and availability, but Ellen Lelong Blonder's charmingly illustrated Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch is the first cookbook I've seen devoted solely to the making of dim sum at home in your own kitchen. These are not dishes you can whip up in minutes, but they are not absurdly complicated and now that potsticker and sui mai wrappers can be found in most supermarkets you can speed up the process. Ellen's prep directions are clear and wonderfully amplified by the drawings and watercolors that accompany each recipe. You'll learn to crimp, pleat and fold the dough, then how to steam, boil and pan-fry. The author explains how to fill tender pancakes with shrimp or pea-shoots, stuff bell peppers and eggplant, and make your own crisp spring rolls and the dipping sauces to go with them. These little parcels packed with flavor prove that the sum can be greater than its parts, and that sum is never dim. Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.