The concept is appealing– learn a technique and then create your own riffs– and many of the recipes are appealing. Titles like “Cool Meyer Lemon, Basil and Olive Oil Sauce for Slow Roasted Fish” and “Porcini-Onion Soup with Grilled Cheese Toasts” jump start my appetite. How can you go wrong if you start with caramelized onions? Everyone should start at least the occasional recipe with caramelized onions, and Sally Schneider will tell you how.
You’ll find plenty of unconventional ideas— oregano as a dominant flavor in jam, edamame with rosemary– along with the classic basics. Be prepared to search for less common ingredients and to spend time in the kitchen and adjust the recipes to your needs. One of the frustrating elements of the book is that the “improvisation” recipes are not laid out in the classic ingredient list followed by text directions. It’s an extensive and interesting book for brainstorming, but not one for the “plain Jane” cook or for someone looking for a basic all-purpose resource.
A curious cook might enjoy reading it for ideas, and a hungry curious cook would have to go find a snack. It is definitely a fantastic resource for preparing a meal to impress your foodie guests or loved ones, and also a good resource for food gift ideas. Try some flavored vinegars, oils, cheese crisps, jams, or fruit melanges in spirits. The last part of the book also contains a brief review basic techniques like roasting nuts as well as a chapter listing the aromatics and flavors used in various cultures across the world.
The photography (by Maria Robledo) is truly beautiful. Parnsips and celeriac are not typically visually attractive, but artful arranging and a few added flecks of color from some herbs can do wonders. The photos combined with a minimalist layout help keep the overall style of the book firmly in the “elegant” and perhaps even close to the coffee table topper section.
Summary: Check it out from the library before deciding to purchase. There are many who would enjoy it, but it has the potential to become a dust collector.