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August 23, 2011 > Cooking Basics For Dummies

Cooking Basics For Dummies

By Denny Stein

You've seen the Dummies Consumer books. There's one for just about every kind of dummy out there. Even with a sense of humor, you walk into the bookstore and come out with your how-to book in a plain brown paper wrapper; or order it on-line for real anonymity. One friend swears by Knitting for Dummies, another can't live without Photoshop for Dummies. After reading Cooking Basics for Dummies, I am glad to add it to my kitchen shelf. Not because I don't know how to cook, but because it's clear definitions and instructions reinforce what I know and clarify techniques that have often confused me. And if I didn't have a clue about cooking, here's the book I need to start.

Cooking Basics for Dummies, despite its amusing name, is a thoughtful cookbook, clearly written, in a genial and reassuring tone. Its authors, Bryan Miller, Marie Rama, and Eve Adamson are all writers and cooks. They know whereof they eat. The very first chapter of Cooking for Dummies is entitled Cooking with Confidence; this is the ultimate goal of the book - giving you confidence in the kitchen to read a recipe and produce an edible meal, without having a nervous breakdown.

The authors take you by the hand and walk you through your kitchen, providing advice on counter space, clutter, efficiency, lighting, appliances (and how they work!), pantry organization, and elementary cooking techniques. At the end of the first chapter, there's a recipe for scrambled eggs. That seems pretty basic, but you'll have to find your bowl, a fork or a whisk, your eggs, and a skillet. You need to know how to break eggs into a bowl, measure ingredients, and control the heat under your pan. If any of this seems too hard, then skip the eggs and read on. You know you need this book!

There are color photographs of dishes and meals, illustrating the expected outcomes, with reassuring captions: "Many dishes that look restaurant-fancy are surprisingly simple to make," and "Sensational sauces can be a snap to make." The Rich Tennant cartoons are a hoot and provide a much needed laugh if you are stressing over vinaigrette salad dressing or basic chicken noodle soup. Simple illustrations show step-by-step instructions for everything from lining a pan with foil to trussing a chicken.

The menus cover meals for special guests, everyday family feeding, seasonal recipes, and finally, using leftovers. Healthy cooking and healthy eating are addressed, as is saving money: "Making More (and Better) for Less." Desserts have their own chapter, as does Grilling. For some reason, Southern Fried Grits turned up in the middle of the grilling chapter proving that even the experts can make a mistake. Or perhaps it is just to see if you are paying attention! (And they sound delicious.)

Two of the most important assets in a good book, of any kind, are the glossary and the index. Cooking for Dummies provides a glossary (explanations/definitions) of over 100 cooking terms, from al dente to zest. When I have an ingredient at home that I want to use, whether it is cabbage or lamb or bananas, I like to find it in the index. That means I really appreciate it when the index includes a listing both for marinated vegetables, and vegetables, marinated; you will find beer-braised beef under both beef and beer; and Fresh Tomato Quesadillas turn up under Cheese, Tomatoes, and Special Meals.

Finally, one of the most helpful attributes of a cookbook is the listing of all the nutritional information. Cooking for Dummies gives you the calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, fiber and protein for each recipe. Thus, whether you have diabetes, heart disease or are just watching your weight, you can make an educated and healthy choice about what to cook, and eat. The last chapter provides cooking for good health suggestions, and an appendix provides information on substitutions and equivalents. If you want further information or demonstrations, the website is available.

Cooking Basics for Dummies would be a thoughtful gift for any new cook: college graduate, bride or groom, or even a budding teen-age chef. Just be sure the recipient has a sense of humor.

Cooking Basics for Dummies, 4th Edition
Bryan Miller, Marie Ramie, Eve Anderson
ISBN: 978-0-91388-8
January 2011
For Dummies, Paperback
U.S. $21.99
ISBN: 978-0-91388-8

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