Beth Hensperger, author of a long list of very successful Not Your Mother’s cookbooks, has the answer to your back-to-school, back-to-reality cooking quandaries. Beth is a true believer in the wonders of the slow cooker for solving that persistent how-do-super-busy-families-get-to-eat-homemade-meals problem. With 125 recipes for everything from drinks and dips to soups, sandwiches (just the fillings, don’t worry), sides, stews, pasta and more, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites is her latest contribution to the craft of muss-less and fuss-less meals. Beth starts off with “Slow-Cooking 101,” a fast way to learn all you need to know about getting the best results from your cooker. If you’re already up to slowcooking speed, you can go directly to the assembled homey and comforting food that harks back to what Beth calls our “American cooking roots,” and some inviting takes on contemporary chow, like Mini Turkey Meatball sliders. Corned Beef, a St. Paddy’s day treat, nicely spiced and cooked in beer; sumptuous eye-round braised in Barolo; cornbread stuffed Rock Cornish hens, plus a batch of ever-popular chilis, are just a few of the main courses that cook safely while you carry on with your overscheduled life. Do the easy prep, turn the cooker on and turn your dinner worries off.

Pronto subito
“Meals in minutes,” “good food express” and all the variations on that theme are a mushrooming cookbook subgenre, matched only by the sustainable- seasonal-know-who-raised-that-chicken-orgrew- this-radish category (I’m a fan of both and sure they’ll soon be combined, sprouting titles like The Loping Locovore). Giuliano Hazan, heir to his mother’s great talent for spreading “the gospel of pure Italian cookery,” and a master teacher and cookbook author himself, has thrown his chef ’s hat into the fast and fabulous ring with Guiliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes, loaded with luscious full-color, full-page photos. These recipes are simple, sometimes simply elegant, truly doable in a short time and come in pairings of shapes and sauces that range from vegetarian to seafood and meat, not to mention a selection of super-comforting pasta soups. Just savor a sampling: subtly tangy Fettuccine with Lemon or rich, creamy Fettucine with gorgonzola dolce; Spaghetti with Mussels, plus fresh tomatoes, garlic and white wine; Linguine with a Pink Shrimp Sauce; Rigatoni with a Veal Roast Sauce; Fusilli with Sausage and Zucchini; Penne with Spinach and Ricotta; Farfelle with Fresh Salmon. Grazie, Guiliano, you’ve made busy weeknight dinners pasta perfect.

Cookbook of the month
Cobblers, crisps, crumbles, bettys, buckles, pies, pandowdies, grunts and galettes—every single recipe in Rustic Fruit Desserts is a turn-on, a true tempter that makes you want to stop everything and cook. James Beard Award-winning chef Cory Schreiber and small-batch bakery owner Julie Richardson have teamed up, pooled their special talents and produced a fruit-filled fantasia for all seasons, with treasures to brighten a cold, snowy day or celebrate a sultry summer evening. Right now, you might want to whip up an easy, elegant, no-cook Raspberry Fool made with creamy mascarpone, a caramel-drenched, biscuit-topped Peach Grunt, or an irresistible Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake. When cranberries show up, use them in a Buckle with Vanilla Crumb or with apples in an Oat Crumble, and don’t pass up the Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust, a new treat for the holidays. A Fresh Strawberry and Ricotta Tart and a yummy Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake herald spring and then we’re back to summer and all the glory of berries, blue and otherwise, and stone fruit of every variety. Excellent header notes, detailed instructions, storage tips and asides on technique ensure that nothing is left to the imagination.

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