on September 8, 2006
First the superficial: I got my copy in the mail a couple of weeks ago and was immediately taken by how striking the book is. The luminescent orange popping out of the cardboard box really was like a sun coming from behind the clouds. It brightened my day. And now the substance: Over the past ten days or so, it has filled my family and friends' stomachs. I've always loved the magazine, so I knew the type of recipes I would be getting--easy to follow, interesting, varied, and, most importantly, delicious. The breadth of the book is staggering. This weekend I was at a farmer's market and saw some beautiful cherry tomatoes (orange, yum, and red). I didn't hesitate to buy them because I knew that there would be a delicious recipe using them in the book. Of course I was right. There were four different recipes calling specifically for cherry tomatoes. The recipe I ended up making was Spicy Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Marjoram (though I replaced the marjoram with thyme...still was amazing). It was so easy to make and so good. It will certainly be a new summer staple for me. I could have just as easily picked up any other ingredient at the market and found similarly interesting recipes. I've made 6 or so recipes from the book so far and haven't been disappointed yet. Some of the things have been idiot-proof, like the BLT & G(uacamole), and some more involved, like the the Grilled Baby Back Pork Ribs with Mustard-Bourbon Sauce (which was perfect for an end-of-summer bbq). With both recipes, the ingredients and instruction were precise and the flavors flawless.
Look, I've always loved the magazine, so I'm not exactly unbiased, but to have all of the amazing recipes in one place (don't even compare this to the annuals...this is about 10x bigger), and in such a classic, beautiful package, is such a joy. I read Gourmet and Cooks Illustrated, and like them as well, but I've always thought of Bon Appetit as the magazine that you can actually cook from with great results. In other words, it's approachable. That approachability and sophistication have translated wonderfully to this book. The fact that I get to extend my subscription to the magazine for a year (for FREE!!!) is just the proverbial icing on the cake. This is certainly a new classic for my library and I look forward to years of culinary bliss. I've definitely found my gift for the holidays.
on September 30, 2008
The categories are vast, the suggestions enormous --- pizza for days, soups for years, salads for decades, burgers and dips for eons. Most have fewer than a dozen ingredients, and although the recipes have an international flair, few call for trips to specialty markets. Preparation times aren't offered, but nothing I saw looked as if it would take more than half an hour of preparation.
There are smart suggestions along the way. Grate garlic or ginger into your vinaigrette dressing; for a new sensation, warm your salsa in the microwave. And, happily, the editors have not been locked in test kitchens with no input from the world; among their many smart suggestions is to avoid buying out-of-season produce. It may taste fine, but it's traveled so far that its carbon footprint should make you gag.
I was particularly impressed by the All-American recipes --- there's a lot of comfort food here to help you through the slog of weeknight dinners. For example: a recipe for iceberg lettuce wedges, topped with warm bacon and blue cheese. And chili that cries out for a mug of beer.
`The Bon Appetit Cookbook', with `Bon Appetit' editor in chief, Barbara Fairchild credited as author, is about as predictable as night following day, given the publishing of the `The Gourmet Cookbook' about two years ago, edited by a star of culinary journalism, Ruth Reichl. Not only do the two magazines have almost identical readerships, they are both owned by Conde Nast. They even share a common web site for access to their recipes online. So, we are waiting to hear which of these two great tomes is better.
For starters, both reflect the style of the respective magazines. `Gourmet' aims for more high-end recipes, meaning there is more use of basic rather than prepared ingredients. `Bon Appetit' claims to aim for easier recipes, of course `easier' is a highly relative term. They do NOT mean they are the model for Rachael Ray's '30 Minute Meal' mantra. Rather, they cover the widest range of recipes, but tend to go for the easier recipe with a few `prepared' ingredients.
A comparison of the recipes for New England Clam chowder in the two books is a perfect example. While `Gourmet' calls for live clams and includes in the recipe the steps required to steam the clams, retrieve the clam juice, and shell the clams. In `Bon Appetit's otherwise very similar recipe, we use bottled clam juice and canned clams. On the other side of the coin, where the pork of choice in the traditional recipe is salt pork (See Jasper White, '50 Chowders'), both recipes call for the much more common everyday bacon.
A second example on this same theme is a comparison of the two recipes for Gazpacho. While `Bon Appetit' asks us to use canned tomato juice, canned salsa, and prepared croutons, `Gourmet' starts with fresh tomatoes and a loaf of country bread. `Gourmet' is also a bit truer to the original Spanish recipe in that it calls for sherry vinegar (a Spanish product) while `Bon Appetit' calls for balsamic vinegar (a strictly Italian product).
Another symptom of the differences between the two books is how they treat their recipes for the great Spanish dish `tortilla Espagnole'. For starters, neither book gives us the unvarnished traditional recipe which you may find in a good book on Spanish food (such as Penelope Casas' `The Food and Wine of Spain'), and both freely state that they are presenting a variation on the classic. However, when you look at the procedure for making the dish, it is clear that `Gourmet' is closer to a traditional recipe. While `Bon Appetit' would have us boil the potatoes before dicing, `Gourmet', like every Spanish cookbook I have read, dices the raw potatoes and sautes the potatoes and onions together. Similarly, `Gourmet' uses the traditional method of combining the raw eggs and the cooked vegetables before the final step of cooking the dish, while `Bon Appetit' cooks the egg separately, almost like an omelet, before adding the potato mixture on top of the egg tortilla and folding the eggy disk over, exactly as if it were an omelet. In fact, `Bon Appetit' names the recipe an omelet, but still claims it is a version of the classic Spanish dish.
Another symptom of where each book falls on the scale of culinary sophistication is the fact that while `Bon Appetit' has no references whatsoever in their index for making stocks, `Gourmet' has at least eight (8) stock recipes.
A fourth symptom is in the way the two books describe the technique for blind baking a pie or tart crust. The salient difference is that while `Bon Appetit' calls for docking the bottom after first baking and after removing the pie weights, `Gourmet' follows what I believe is the better method of docking the unbaked crust before adding the pie weights. This is a small point, but in a book with 1200 recipes, these little points add up.
This brings me to the important point of the way the two great volumes are laid out. This is especially important considering the literally disastrous light yellow fonts used to state the names of the recipes for every single one of `Gourmet's 1000 or more recipes. Needless to say, `Bon Appetit's pages are simply a lot easier to read, and not only because they use black and a very legible dark tan to label the recipes. They also use different fonts for ingredients and procedures, with very nice leading procedure words for each paragraph of the procedure. The Table of contents of both books show us 20 (`Gourmet') or 21 (`Bon Appetit') chapters of recipes, with remarkably similar groupings, albeit in a somewhat different order. There are things I like and things I don't like about both, so I'll call it a tie, except that the `Bon Appetit' Table of Contents is all on a single page and is easier to read.
Both books have simply monstrous indices, so that is also a tie. On organizing `sidebar' procedures, the two books take very different strategies. Where `Bon Appetit' collects all its mini-tutorials in the front of the book in `Notes from the Test Kitchen', `Gourmet' scatters them about throughout the volume. And, I believe `Gourmet' is generally superior in this department (see piece of piecrusts).
I have to give a major credit to both books for the attention both pay to preparing their recipes for entertaining. Since most readers of both magazines probably use the recipes for just that purpose, it is not surprising that both books shine in this department. `Gourmet' however does a much better job of providing time required to make each dish.
Last but not least, `Gourmet' lists for $40 for 1000 recipes and `Bon Appetit' lists for $34.95 for 1200 recipes. I suggest that both books are great if you use lots of recipes to entertain and you don't want to own 50 cookbooks. But, neither is a replacement for basic cooking manuals such as `The New Making of a Cook, The Art, Techniques, and Science of Good Cooking' by Madeleine Kamman.
on December 17, 2008
This is a really great book for anyone who wants a good tasting, not-prepackaged, relatively healthy meal - FAST. I've made quite a few of these dishes and they are really wonderful. Even my children (6 and 8) enjoy them and can help prepare the meals. Nearly every recipe can be made in less than 30-45 minutes. Those that take longer do so only because they need to be baked. The book reads to me like how I imagine actual chefs cook for themselves at home. Quick, fresh, tasty food in innovative combinations. The ingredients aren't obscure and often utilize time-saving ingredients like store roasted chicken and boneless/skinless chicken strips. I really enjoy and use this book and would highly recommend it to anyone.
on November 2, 2006
This book is definitely worth the price. The setup is easy to follow and read, and there's even a full year's subscription to the magazine included! The recipes are well-written and plenty of options for a single item are included - for example, instead of just one or two cheesecakes, a whole line of cheesecake recipes is included so you can prepare one for all occasions.
The accompanying photographs are gorgeous (of course) and make you want to cook immediately. Like other reviewers have mentioned, the recipes are a lot less complicated than the ones in the Gourmet cookbook; however, it'd be nice if the active time and cooking times were listed alongside each recipe, as they are in the Gourmet book. On the other hand, it's wonderful to be able to make dinner with only a few ingredients that you already might have on hand - the braised greek chicken with lemon and artichokes is particularly good for weeknights!
All the recipes I've prepared from the book have been good, some better than others. Because the included recipes are all relatively simple and many are easy enough to cook for a weeknight meal, I'm really looking forward to trying them all.
Overall, I have to say that while I like the setup of this cookbook better, I find myself liking the Gourmet cookbook more - even though they're more complicated, the dishes for me have turned out better. However, for everyday meals, the Bon Appetit cookbook is the way to go. If you're a beginning cook, after buying a cookbook for beginners, this is the book you want to expand your repetoire. If you're confident in your kitchen abilities, get both cookbooks to have on hand; they're worth the money.
on December 9, 2008
This cook book is full of great recipes. I have only been using it for about three weeks now but I love most every recipe so far. As a mom who likes to make homemade meals I am always looking for new and easy recipes that are nutritious and yummy. I would have given it 5 starts but I did try one pancake recipe that came out much too runny. Other than that one recipe though it has been a fantastic cook book and I would definitely recommend it.
Bon Appetit is really known for turning a few ordinary ingredients into something more extraordinary. This book delivers on pulling together many of their most popular recipes over the years. The book is filled with all sorts of recipes for just about anything you desire. What seperates Bon Appetit from other cookbooks is that their editors really pull together an excellent best of collection.
If you are considering this book, you are not likely a cook that is just starting out. You are the person who is refining their cooking skills, and this book provides you with a little more challenge, and less discussion of technique that other books may provide. I feel this is a good combination as it is likely that you want a book filled with high quality recipes, rather than recipes and text that focus primarily on technique and education.
I like that this book has many different sections with all sorts of recipes that will please you. Recipes are given for just about anything you can imagine. The recipes are imaginative, and turn out well. Their directions are extremely clear, and easy to follow. Some of my favorites have been: Braised chicken in sun-dried tomato cream, Baked Salmon stuffed with mascarpone spinach, Whole baked yams with spicy molasses-orange butter, and the chocolate chunk orange and hazelnut cookies.
Once again if you are a cook that is looking to build up a solid collection of recipes that will please many, this book is for you. Ingredients are not any more exotic than your local mega mart would carry, and the extra ingredients really do provide you with excellent results in taste. I highly recommend this cookbook!
on January 12, 2009
I love cooking, but my dinner routine was becoming ho-hum: some sort of meat, some sort of vegetable, some sort of starch. Boring!
Enter Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh. I was always a fan of the magazine, but was a little intimidated by the size of the book. Once I looked inside, though, I was intrigued, and once I bought it and took it home, I was hooked.
Macaroni and cheese made more healthy with the addition of whole wheat bread, and more interesting with Wisconsin cheddar? Jerk pork with yellow rice and beans? Halibut with capers and olives? I haven't been able to find a dud in the book. Best of all, it mostly uses pantry staples and supermarket basics, and pretty much everything takes less than an hour. The author doesn't shy away from using things like dried spices, but always throws in something to make it interesting and, well, fresh.
This book is a monster of organization, too. Each chapter has a list of recipes contained in the beginning of the chapter, helpful when you have, say, a flank steak, and are wondering what to do with it. (Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Shallots and Goat Cheese, in case you were curious.) There are two indexes, one organized by serving size and one by recipe name. Also, those terrific photos I love are there too, in the form of 4 color inserts.
I haven't started working through the desserts yet, but prospects like the Banana Cake with Sour Cream Frosting and Frozen Meyer Lemon Cream with Blackberry Sauce make me excited for the prospect.
Bon Appetit certainly is my pick for finding inspiring new recipes to try. They easily excite me to try more than Gourmet or Food & Wine.
Here is celebrative collection from their 23 years of over 1200 recipes. Think of it, one has to decide likely from over 50,000 recipes which only 1/5th will make it in. In seeing which of my favorites from the magazine I saved and continue to make to the joy of my diners, few of them made it in the cut.
However, surveying those that did, there are many one will like to try, e.g. Crab and wild mushroom cheesecake; Escarole and orzo sop with Turkey-parmesan meatballs; Salmon Burgers with hoisin and ginger; Sausage, cheese and basil lasagna; Wild rice and jasmine rice pialf with apricots and cashews; Roast Tenderloin of beef with mushroom-port sauce; Braised lamb shanks with winter squash and red chard; Chianti-braised stuffed chicken thighs on egg noodles; Grilled red snapper and mango with cilantro-lime vinaigrette; Pan-seared tuna with ginger-shitake cream sauce; Potato, leek, Gruyere, and oyster mushroom gratin; Maple and tangerine-glazed carrots; Roasted Vegetables with balsamic-lemon vinaigrette; Stilton and hazelnut drop biscuits; Mascarpone cheesecake with roasted cashew crust and passion fruit caramel sauce; Pear Crostada with late-harvest Riesling; Pineapple, mango and papaya squares.
What many reviewers have said comparing this giant collection to cousin's Gourmet's cookbook is true to this reviewer: this one seems more targeted to more basic recipes with some twist, while Gourmet's is more creative. The magazine doesn't always sqauare up like this, but seems majority of this recipes chosen for cookbook do. However, as my sample hopes to demonstrate, there are still many worthwhile ones here to try.
on April 22, 2011
I bought this cookbook over a year ago (before it had the new bargain price) and it remains one of my favorites. I love to cook, but I don't want to spend all afternoon preparing dinner. But so often, cookbooks with fast recipes are just plain boring. Merci to Bon Appetit for finding those one or two ingredients that add a fresh twist to their recipes. This is a fabulous cookbook. I've been cooking out of it for over a year and have yet to repeat a recipe or have one not turn out. And for this price, it's truly a great bargain.