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Cooking One on One Hardcover – March 23, 2004
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For John Ash, author of the award-winning From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine, the lines that separate chef from teacher from cookbook writer from consultant blur and fade into insignificance. In the end, it's about ingredients and flavor and the meal at hand. "After twenty-five years of teaching," Ash writes in the forward to John Ash: Cooking One on One, "I know that you don't have to perfect all the basic kitchen skills in order to make great food." What John Ash likes to see coming his way is a good eater, because there's a person who as likely as not will want to taste and eat at home what he or she has tried out on the town.
The trouble, of course, is time. Or you are single and aren't cooking for more than yourself. It's all so daunting: eating light, eating well, eating responsibly. And ordering take-out is so easy. Cooking One on One, in chapters constructed like lessons, dispels all that. Part One is devoted to flavor-makers--salsas, vinaigrettes, pestos, world marinades, and simple, savory sauces. Learn to make the cucumber and mint salsa, Ash instructs, then use it to maximum advantage with grilled lamb chops. No muss, no fuss.
That which begins at a simple level grows more complex as you master technique and ingredient and apply layers of flavor. Ash leads the way with flair and confidence. Part Two covers basic cooking techniques--learning about soups, learning about oven-drying ingredients like tomatoes or cauliflower for maximum effect, learning about braising, grilling, creating soufflés (they can be assembled and frozen ahead of time!), learning about pasta in the West and the East. Part Three covers lessons in main ingredients: chicken, dried beans, mushrooms, salmon, shrimp, soy foods, desserts. The straightforward recipes reflect the nature of the lessons, the ingredients, the flavor profiles. This is a California chef with deep respect for culinary roots, whether they reach back to the Colorado barnyard or the French farm.
John Ash teaches cooking here, not recipe recreation. He creates good cooks out of good eaters. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
"Home cooking is not an all-or-nothing proposition," urges Fetzer Vineyards culinary director Ash in this persuasive appeal to home chefs to incorporate a few new flavors and basic methods into their repertoires. Ash's chatty, straightforward subject lessons on techniques, ingredients and "flavor-makers" (as he refers to sauces like pestos and vinaigrettes) elucidate recipes that are unusual and appealing, like flatbread cooked on the grill, brisket braised in coffee and a salad of oven-dried vegetables to top fried risotto or polenta. As in his previous books, From the Earth to the Table and American Game Cooking, Ash supplements typical Mediterranean-inspired California cuisine with refreshingly global fare, drawing on Asian, Caribbean and Latin sources. While these recipes' wide range of flavors and cultures will appeal to sophisticated eaters, many readers will find Ash's clear introduction to unfamiliar methods and ingredients useful. Ash also suggests fat- and time-saving variations for most recipes, asserting that delicious results can be achieved even if cooks skimp on a few steps or ingredients. Designated for bookstores' "natural foods" shelves because of its emphasis on local produce and pasture-raised meat, the book discusses American agricultural practices and how they immediately affect our food choices, which should be eye-opening for those encountering these issues for the first time. But that discussion is too cursory for readers eager for a serious, mainstream cookbook to incorporate considerations of sustainable agriculture into everyday cooking.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
Learn the basics here, keep your pantry stocked, and you'll be able to go to the farmers' market or super market and buy what appeals to you/what's in season and bring it back home and do something stellar with it, instead of mindlessly following a recipe like a zombie (and let's face it, in the era of photogenic celebrity chefs, we've all followed a recipe to the letter only to be let down with the results). This can save you from all that.
The other book you might want to consider if you like this approach to cooking is Essentials of Cooking by James Peterson.
If you're looking to develop skills, buy the book and read each chapter as neede. Looking to further your current skills that you thought you knew well? But the book! Goodness, there are a number of recipes in this book that are timeless and once you learn the techniques, you'll always know them and replicate them. This is a valuable book that you (or your gift recipient) will cherish and will save when all other books are sent to charity. Enjoy!
On a very glib level, the book is a cross between Alton Brown's knack for explaining with Tom Colicchio's depth of culinary insight. The first stroke of genius is the organization of the chapters into a section on `flavor makers', a second section on techniques, and a third section on important ingredients. Learning about cooking has often struck me to be very similar to learning about chess. For the millions of combinations of ingredients (moves) there are really just a few simple rules one can learn with hundreds of variations posed by the moves of your opponent. One simply cannot learn chess by studying. You can only learn by playing (cooking) and by slowly gaining first hand experience with ingredients and the results of applying techniques. The author has accommodated this analogy by dividing cooking into three areas of discourse, loosely comparable to the opening (ingredients), middle game (techniques) and ending (flavor makers). I am sure this analogy will not bear too much analytical weight. It succeeds if it highlights the fact that you must learn cooking by actually working with foods and experiencing its behavior, smell, and taste.
I have occasionally been disappointed by such promising titles such as Tom Colicchio's `How to Think Like a Chef', but my disappointment has been part of the lesson and not a failure of Colicchio's book. He gives lots of recipes and very few general principles. Ash's book is no different in that there are only a few general principles and plenty of recipes, although the genius of Ash's presentation makes the book satisfying all the way through. While Colicchio and Charlie Trotter and Eric Rippert, great chefs all, have written inspired books about cooking in general, Ash is a professional educator as well as being a talented chef.
One way of viewing Ash's book is to see it as a visit from the Snap-On tool supply truck. Reading the book furnishes your mental toolchest with eighteen (18) tools that can be used in a broad range of applications. My favorite example is the lesson called `Vinaigrettes: Not Just for Salads'. As the title indicates, vinaigrette is one of those `Swiss Army Knife' preparations like a marinara sauce. It can easily be used in a lot of different situations with great results. Ash doesn't limit himself to the olive oil / vinegar / mustard / shallot / salt and pepper classic and it's applications. He brings in citrus as the acid, stocks as part of the liquid, honey, miso, soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, and dried fruits. He extends the lesson to advice on how to pair vinaigrette to the composition of other elements in a dish or a meal. I also welcome his mentioning of a brand of corn oil prepared in a way which calls up the picture of artisinal olive oil production. The oil, he claims, actually tastes like corn. What a concept!
The lessons on the other four `flavor makers', Salsas, Pestos, Marinades, and Sauces all follow the same pattern of broadening our understanding of these preparations. The greatest contribution of all these chapters is not that they show you how to make these specific eight or ten or twelve recipes. The contribution is that they show you how to improvise with these ingredients. I can still remember the revelation I experienced when I realized that pesto / pistu is not just for pasta. I was amazed when for the first time I saw it being used as a garnish to soup. There is a lot of this kind of horizon expanding exposition going on in these pages.
The selection of topics for techniques and for ingredients is equally inspired. In a sense, there is even more illumination in these sections than in `flavor makers' since both sections contain at least one surprising topic. Techniques gives us a lesson on oven drying, a method which I have seen used here and there, now and then, and highlighted as a general tool only in books covering Raw Foods techniques. Ash brings the technique into the main stream as a routine tool for the home cook. The ingredients section includes a chapter on soy foods which has a distinction between Chinese and Japanese tofu, the first time I've seen this distinction made. This section also discusses miso, relatively new to American culinary vocabularies, and Tempeh, which may be quite new to most Americans.
I do not know much about wine, but I welcome it in all sorts of cooking applications. Therefore, I was delighted to find that the final essay was a concise, excellent discussion of wines as they are used in cooking. True to the end, the book's food facts are accurate in it's addressing the question of whether cooking drives off the alcohol. The book's discussion of the issue is deeper than any other I have seen, in that it gives estimates of how much alcohol remains after various cooking techniques heat the added alcoholic ingredient. The discussion is crowned by a clear explanation of what alcohol adds to dishes in language that makes sense to educated lay cooks. There is none of the meaningless statements that alcohol is `a conductor of flavor'.
This book is not a complete text on cooking methods. For that, see, for example, Madeleine Kamman's `The New Education of a Cook' But, this is an exceptional cookbook which really should be read from cover to cover.
Very highly recommended. Intermediate to advanced recipes, but good advice for novices.
Excellent if you want to learn more about cooking as opposed to just having a recipe collection. Technique: Pesto making. The author gives the classic recipe, but then provides a lot of interesting variations through a set of recipes. It shows you how you can go about experimenting yourself. Each chapter use this kind of format to good effect. That is the style of the book and not everything is covered. Just some techniques and some ingredients. That makes it quite joyful to use.
So this book is the perfect gift to somebody who likes this kind of food, but currently doesn't cook. It is a great way to nudge that somebody in the direction of cooking. I would say that this book can be inspirational for this kind of reader. There is no risk of getting overwhelmed by an author who tries to cover everything. And the introductory text is directly targeted to these potential cooks. It is a disgrace that such a marvelous book never seemed to pick up sales.
It really is sad that a great book like this does not sell. The only upside is that you get a copy for $15 which really is dirt cheap.
UPDATE 2012: This is the most underrated cookbook for amateur chefs ever. Why is it out of print? Good thing is that you can pick up a used copy for $4!