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Aida Mollenkamp's Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook Hardcover – October 24, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Recipe: Broiled Swordfish with Pomegranate-Mint Agrodolce

Broiled Swordfish with Pomegranate-Mint Agrodolce

Agrodolce means "sweet-sour" in Italian and refers to a sauce with those predominant flavors. Normally made simply with onions, vinegar, and sugar, this one adds pomegranate, pine nuts, and mint for a more colorful—in both looks and flavor—version.

Difficulty: Easy

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Hands-on time: 40 minutes

Takeaway: How to broil fish.

Recipe Within a Recipe: The agrodolce sauce can be used as a condiment for grilled meats, sandwiches, or on toasts with goat cheese as an impromptu appetizer.

Pomegranate-Mint Agrodolce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 lb/455 g shallots, halved and cut into 1-in/2.5-cm slices
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup/240 ml red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup/120 ml apple juice
  • ¼ cup/50 g packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup/135 g pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup/70 g toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup/55 g thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • Four swordfish steaks (about 2 lb/910 kg total)
For the Pomegranate-Mint Agrodolce

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, juice, brown sugar, the 1 teaspoon salt, the ½ teaspoon pepper, and bay leaf. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are very tender and the liquid is thick and syrupy, about 40 minutes. Stir in the pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

For the broiled swordfish

Heat the broiler to high and arrange a rack 6 to 8 inches from the heating element. Pat the fish dry, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the fish under the broiler and cook until the fish is flaky, opaque throughout, and has a 135°F/57°C internal temperature, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve topped with agrodolce sauce.

Notes

Check out Seafood Watch online for current information about purchasing seafood.

When you add the vinegar to the agrodolce, open a window or turn on a fan because the vinegar fumes released may sting your eyes or make you cough.

The agrodolce can be made without the mint up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Heat over low heat before serving and stir in mint.

About the Author

Aida Mollenkamp is California-based food expert, TV host, writer, and culinary curator. She studied at the Cornell Hotel School and Le Cordon Bleu Paris before joining CHOW.com where she worked behind the scenes as Food Editor. Eventually, she moved to television where she hosted her Food Network show Ask Aida and later the Cooking Channel show, foodCrafters. Over the years, she has authored more than 1,000 original recipes and continues to publish new recipes on her site, aidamollenkamp.com. Through her work, she aims to inspire creativity in the meals you craft, the gatherings you design, and the food adventures you embark upon.

Alex Farnum is a San Francisco-based food and lifestyle photographer whose previous work for Chronicle Books includes Chicken and Egg and Cake Simple.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452101299
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452101293
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.5 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Aida Mollenkamp is California-based food expert, TV host, writer, and culinary curator. She studied at the Cornell Hotel School and Le Cordon Bleu Paris before joining CHOW.com where she worked behind the scenes as Food Editor. Eventually, she moved to television where she hosted her Food Network show Ask Aida and later the Cooking Channel show, foodCrafters. Over the years, she has authored more than 1,000 original recipes and continues to publish new recipes on her site, aidamollenkamp.com. Through her work, she aims to inspire creativity in the meals you craft, the gatherings you design, and the food adventures you embark upon.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This cookbook is designed for someone with a lot more commitment to food than I have. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat and I appreciate good, flavorful dishes. This book will certainly get you there. But, I want it to happen easily and this book is more involved than I will probably ever get. It's filled with tips, many of which are obvious, and the recipes often call for specialty items that take shopping time and money. It's a good cookbook, well laid out, with some good sounding recipes. But, frankly, I doubt that I'll ever make a dish from it. It's too involved for me.
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By Erin on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this for my boyfriend for Christmas, as he's been spending more time in the kitchen after I got a new job. He's turned out to be a really good cook, but there some basic stuff he could learn to be a lot better, and this book has it all. This is really not JUST a cookbook, it's an amazing guide to most things that you need to know before you even go into the kitchen (where to shop, what to buy, how to break down larger pieces of meat into portions, what cuts of meat come from what part of the animal and how they are best cooked, etc). This is a lot of the reference stuff that I haven't learned just because, honestly, it's always presented in really dry text. I have to say though, I might be a little biased just because I'm a graphic designer and this book is just beautifully designed. Definitely makes it more fun to read. This book is great for anyone just learning to cook, or anyone that's been cooking for a long time but wants to up their game by brushing up on some basics.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just what I needed - a well organized, resourceful cookbook to help me navigate and enjoy working in my kitchen. Great references and descriptions of "how to". This is so much more than just recipes! Your creativity will be unlocked with these "Keys to the Kitchen".
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Format: Hardcover
When I first saw this title in a book catalog, I was grabbed by the subtitle "the essential reference ..." and thought this was a book I must have. But then I got a grip and asked myself if I really needed yet another cookbook. To answer this question, I checked the book out of the library and looked through it. I decided no, I did not need another cookbook, at least not this one.

The book does in fact have a lot of basic information about cooking techniques and food, but it was nothing that I as an experienced cook did not already know, or did not know where to find in the cookbooks I already have. Moreover, the information part took up only about a quarter of the book; the rest consisted of the recipes. These tended to be rather unusual and eclectic - Braised chile chicken with raisins and almonds, anyone? What about Roasted carrot soup with toasted coconut? If you like such things, this book will certainly help you become a more adventurous cook, as the title promises. But if you're looking for familiar, down-home recipes that won't cause your kids to say "Ee-ew, what's that?" you won't find many of them here. There is, for example, only one recipe for pie. For a cookbook that has a lot of familiar American recipes plus a nice selection of ethnic-style (but not experimental) dishes, and that also has lots of basic information about cooking techniques and foods, a book already on my shelf, namely "The Good Housekeeping Cookbook," 2010 ed., can't be beat.

In conclusion, the basic reference information can be found in many cookbooks, so there's no point in buying it just for the reference part. If you like unusual, experimental dishes, this is a good book for you. However, if you prefer a more familiar cuisine and established recipes, it's probably not worth spending your money on.
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Format: Hardcover
Keys to the Kitchen is a book filled to the brim with information that makes being in the kitchen infinitely easier! It's basically the modern day Joy of Cooking. Aida's recipes are outstanding and you can see her passion for food shine though each page in the book. Even as a trained chef, I learned so much for this cookbook and will keep it with my in my kitchen forever!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book says "how to become a more accomplished, adventurous cook" but even IF you think you are already pretty much accomplished and you love adventurous food, this book has a lot to offer. I was bowled over immediately by the first page I randomly turned to, tacos with charred corn and zucchini. It turns out, this is one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant in New Mexico (Blue Corn in Santa Fe) and I am just thinking how great it's going to be to fire up the charcoal grill in summer and make these for guests. Then there is a recipe for brussels sprouts with a horseradish-lemon dressing. The bitter of the horseradish works with the bitter of the sprouts, and the lemon makes it balanced--great idea.

In fact, the recipes that appeal to me the most in this book are vegetables. There ARE a lot of meat recipes (spare ribs, lamb roasts, Peruvian-style beef steak) but the vegetable course appeal to me more. And that means that if you are not a big meat eater, you can find something to perk up your repertoire in this book.

The dessert course is equally adventuresome: mango custard pie, dulce de leche-lemon cheese cake and a chai-flavored coffee cake.

I found many, many things to bookmark for entertaining or for even just to make more out of a haul of vegetables from the farm stand. It also looks like a pretty decent gift for friends of mine who are enthusiastic cooks. Highly recommended.
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