A bento box is a lacquered square divided into four equal compartments. Japanese cooks use the bento box for serving carefully orchestrated, beautifully arranged meals composed of four dishes. While Ellen Greaves and Wayne Nish designed their 12 seasonal menus to be offered in the elegant setting of bento boxes, the food is still remarkable served conventionally, so do not let the idea of using an authentic presentation keep you from enjoying their book. As long as you present the four dishes in a menu simultaneously, the choreography of flavors, textures, and colors will come through. Equally important, the recipes really are simple and easy, and most require familiar ingredients. The fall menu of Arugula Salad with Parmesan and Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms; Ratatouille; Pasta with Raw Tomatoes; and Poached Shrimp with Beans, Celery, and Saffron proves the point. It also shows the heavy Mediterranean influence in Greaves's and Nish's fusion cooking. Short-grain Japanese rice is probably the only Asian ingredient you'll have to pursue. Perhaps the one caution is that high-quality ingredients are essential for optimal success in this kind of minimalist cooking. If this is a problem, you can always feast your eyes on the exquisite pictures in this slim volume. They may even inspire you to contact the mail-order sources provided so you can collect some of the tableware lovingly photographed by Nish. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
The Japanese shokado bento (boxed meal) is a gustatory treasure chest: open the lid and discover a meal of four highly flavored, complementary dishes, artfully arranged. New York City chefs Ellen Greaves, of Takashimaya's Tea Box Cafe, and Wayne Nish, from the restaurant March, have collaborated on a truly unusual cookbook, managing to focus closely on presentation while keeping flavor and ingredients of primary importance. Each of the 12 seasonal menus features four mostly American dishes of about half the usual entree size, with no designated first course, main or side dishes. The winter dinner pictured on the cover, for instance, includes sauteed Spinach with Sesame Seeds, a pyramid of tiny Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, triangles of Herb-steamed Swordfish, and Roasted Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Soup. Most of the 48 recipes can be prepared ahead, leaving time for the all-important assembly and presentation. Over 75 color photographs (taken by Nish) illustrate the effect of attentive composing: chives and creme fraiche stripe Sweet and Snow Pea Soup; the sticky rice in Japanese Rice with Salted Peanuts and Scallions is pressed into a flower shape. Instructions are straightforward and will please any home cook who relishes the processes of cooking and plating. While the authors provide a source list for boxes themselves and suitable serving plates and cups, recipes for such dishes as Lobster on Leeks with Fennel and Carrot to Arborio Rice with Goat Cheese and Tomato can also be served on conventional dinner plates.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.