Top positive review
71 of 75 people found this helpful
on May 22, 2013
I love to cook, and love to read cookbooks as if they are novels. Shelf space being at a premium, over the years I've learned to be discriminating about what books I actually add to my collection. Too many purchases made with high expectations only to be disappointed by the reality. So now I first check the public library to actually evaluate a new book before buying. After giving this one a test run, I definitely plan to buy this cookbook.
Art Smith came to fame by being Oprah Winfrey's personal chef, and watching him on her show is how I first became aware of him, although he clearly has expanded his own celebrity chef status. I don't own any of his other cookbooks so I approached this one without any knowledge of past published work. I was curious about this particular volume because it isn't a diet book, but rather a guide for sensible cooking created by a cooking professional rather than a fitness specialist. So, while there is no diet plan, there is a group of well-crafted recipes that are both healthy and tasty. Meals so good it isn't obvious they have incorporated healthy ingredients.
The book contains 117 recipes and is divided into eleven chapters plus an introduction along with a well-designed index in the back of the book so recipes can be quickly located either by name or main ingredient. There is also a motivational note to his readers. The remaining chapters are: You Can Reclaim Your Health, Too! (8 pages;) How I took the Plunge (3 pages;) Breakfast Start the Day Right!; First Courses and Snacks' Soups; Salads; Vegetarian Main Courses; Fish and Seafood Main Courses; Meat and Poultry Main Courses; Vegetable Side Dishes; and Party Day Foods: Treats Big and Small.
Within these chapters are helpful hints about salt and sodium, exercising without a gym, finding a balance, benefits of oatmeal, exercising while traveling, the best snacks, not drinking your calories, running marathons, being carb smart, what makes an oil healthful, the benefit of standing, and more. These are all reasonably short essays that can be quickly read and depending upon the reader, provide useful bits of knowledge. Additionally, there are personal notes which help flesh-out the author's personality and provide an element of warmth to the book. While not a necessity, when I see extra steps like this in a cookbook the desire to help and connect with the reader is blatantly obvious. It is human and most welcome.
Continuing the attention to detail, nutritional information is provided at the end of each recipe. Although incredibly useful, finding this data is surprisingly uncommon in cookbooks, even though it can be crucial for those on special diets. Specific details include calories, grams of protein, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, fat (saturated is separately indicated) and mgs of cholesterol, calcium and sodium. All are crucial for a variety of special diets.
I tried three recipes and was very pleased with all of them. I belong to a produce co-op so my choices were based on what I had on-hand. Also, this is a good place to note that very few recipes contain ingredients that won't be readily available either in any home pantry or easy to locate in most markets. Further, note that some recipes use Stevia, something I don't buy, but is easy to replace with other sweeteners, both artificial or natural.
The Oven-Dried Kale Chips are delicious and provide a great snack. I love kale and am always happy to find recipes for its use. The Purple Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Coriander made with oil, wine vinegar, fresh ginger, lime juice, golden raisins, fresh cilantro and a jalapeno pepper created an amazing burst of flavors -- fresh and new. And finally I prepared Sweet Potato Waffles with Lemon Ricotta - and the dish was amazingly good.
Specifics about the book construction: This is a hardback book so it will lay open in most positions, but since the quality of paper used isn't very good, protecting the pages with a cookbook holder would be wise. I inadvertently spilled a drop of coffee on a page while reading and it immediately soaked in and warped the sheet.
There are color photographs of 42 of the dishes contained in four groupings throughout the book. So, since the pictures aren't aligned with specific recipes, some searching is required to locate a photograph of a dish, if one has been taken.
I don't care for the medium blue and chartreuse green ink that is used throughout the book. These are decisions usually made by the book designer, but because cookbooks are also tools, being user friendly should trump design considerations.
The book will most likely be viewed from a standing position while it rests on a kitchen counter top. Almost anything other than black ink will not aid in reading the text even for those with excellent vision. Thankfully, the font size appears to be about ten, which is larger than what I usually see. The nutritional information is printed in light green and is a smaller font size (looks like nine) than the rest of the text. The pale color and small font conspire, making it difficult to read.
I am impressed with the balance between engaging narrative and delicious recipes, along with the obvious care used to create the book. Recommended.