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Minus One

Dear friends, Margaret is going back to school this summer and so will not be working on 2 Takes.  I’m going to soldier on as bravely as I can.

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Diana Henry
Pure Simple Cooking:
    Effortless Meals Every Day
Ten Speed Press, April 1, 2009

The word “simple” gets used in cookbook titles with two different meanings.

One is the master chef’s version of simple: a simple ravigotte au huitre en brioche with sea beans en gelée.  (An open-face oyster sandwich on rich bread with tartar sauce and a side of savory green jello, sounds scrumptious.  No, really, it does sound scrumptious.)  “Simple” here means classic, clean, uncluttered.

The other is the family cook’s version of simple: simple roast tomatoes with herbs and lemon crumbs, 2 minutes prep, 40 minutes in the oven, with rice-cooker rice and a green salad.  Sit down, put your feet up, ask the children how their day went, get the youngest to set the table.  “Simple” as in easy, unaffected, basic.

Diana Henry’s Pure Simple Cooking is the second kind of “simple.”

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Sonja Lee
Sauce
Gold St. Press, 2008

For May we’re going to try something a little different, a cookbook about just one element of a dish, the sauce.  Sonja Lee, the author of our sauce book, is a Norwegian cook, restaurateur, and TV star, who has worked in France with the legendary chef/head-case Alain Ducasse and in London at the legendary restaurant/violator-of-the-Medicines-Act-of-1968 Pharmacy.  (She must be a mighty strong person to hold her own in two such different, and extreme, environments.)

Sauce, however, is the soul of calm.  With breathtaking minimalist overhead photographs by Morten Brun — everything circular, everything on a white tablecloth — and a restrained, amiable text design by Therese Jacobson, the book is gentle and upright, like the very best kind of teacher, and Scandinavian to boot.  We’re looking forward to learning some new stuff.

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In honor of our friend Clotilde, our cookbook of the month for April will be:

Sri Owen
The Indonesian Kitchen:
Recipes & Stories
Interlink, 2009

Clotilde is moving to the Netherlands and asked us about Indonesian cookbooks. The Dutch, who held Indonesia as a colony for 350 years, love Indonesian food, and lucky Clotilde is going to be able to get Indonesian ingredients with no trouble.

In looking for books to recommend to her, we found a brand new one by Sri Owen so wonderful that we’re going to make it our cookbook of the month for March. The cuisine is mostly new to us, the organization of the book is novel (let’s hope the index holds up), Sri lives in London, so ingredients are available to her that won’t be to us — in short, the whole thing is a great adventure.

If you’d like to cook along with us, run out and buy a copy at your local bookstore or, if you’re not lucky enough to have a local bookstore, buy a copy from amazon.com or ecookbooks.com. For orientation, be sure to read the Wikipedia article on Indonesian cuisine and our friend Janice’s comment on the Indonesian cookbook post.

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Coming March 1, 2009

For various reasons, neither of us has been able to cook many recipes from our cookbook of the month for February, Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian, but we’re still enthusiastic about the book.  We had been planning to have Sri Owen’s The Indonesian Kitchen as our cookbook of the month for March, to celebrate our friend Clotilde’s moving to the Netherlands, where Indonesian food is popular.  But we realized that Clotilde won’t be moved and ready to start cooking till April, and we’d love to cook along with her.

So all things considered, we’ve decided to make Urban Italian our cookbook of the month for the March (as well as February), and The Indonesian Kitchen our cookbook of the month for April.

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Our cookbook of the month for February will be:

Andrew Carmellini
Urban Italian:
   Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

Bloomsbury USA, 2008

Italian, sure.  But “urban” Italian?  What’s that?  Fried artichokes … with yogurt-mint sauce.  Seafood risotto … with chorizo.  Pasta with sausage and red wine … and grapes.  This could get interesting.

If you’d like to cook along with us, run out and buy a copy at your local bookstore or, if you’re not lucky enough to have a local bookstore, buy a copy from amazon.com or ecookbooks.com.

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Our cookbook of the month for January will be:

Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics:
   Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
Clarkson Potter, 2008

Ina always has that little twist that takes something from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Sweet potato fries, roasted plum tomatoes, lobster corn stew, shrimp cocktail, lemon mousse — what’s she going to do with them?

If you’d like to cook along with us, run out and buy a copy at your local bookstore or, if you’re not lucky enough to have a local bookstore, buy a copy from amazon.com or ecookbooks.com.

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