How to escape the cooking routine of the same old dishes, meal after meal.
Many home cooks are stuck in a food routine that includes preparing the same 10 or 15 recipes over and over again, week after month after year.
2500 Recipes, the ideal guide to escaping that routine, offers 50 recipes each for foods ranging from snacks and sandwiches, to chicken and ground meat; from shellfish to grains; from winter vegetables to summer fruit. There's also a special section of dishes for special occasions.
Consider this common scenario. There is a chicken waiting to be roasted for dinner. Stop. Go the chapter that has 50 recipes for roast chicken. Each one is different. Most important, there are sure to be a few that are more interesting than that old reliable one prepared out of habit -- too often a bad habit. Without doubt, there will be dozens of recipes based on ingredients commonly on hand to please cook, family and guests. There's even a chapter with 50 scrumptious recipes for burgers and hot dogs. Each one is sure to delight.
All the recipes are quick, and most use just a small number of ingredients. But each recipe includes a "power flavor" that's easy to obtain and easy to incorporate into cooking routines. Examples include oils, herbs, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
There is also an entire section on basic cooking techniques and preparations, featuring seasonings, marinades, sauces, dressings and machines.
Andrew Schloss is a well-known teacher, writer and food industry consultant. The author of 10 cookbooks and countless food articles, he is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Ken Bookman is a writer and editor as well as the former food editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is also the co-author of six cookbooks.
This is one cookbook you'll use constantly. It won't be like so many others on your cookbook shelf, those that make you feel you've gotten your money's worth if they add just a recipe or two to your occasional repertoire. Mark our words: a couple of years from now, this book will bear the scars -- dog-eared pages, marginal notes, food stains -- of a cookbook used often. That's because it's geared not for special occasions but for every day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack time, bedtime. You'll find dozens of recipes that talk to you. We're confident that you'll talk back.
Give the book its first test right now. Flip at random to any page, and once you're there, place a finger randomly on any recipe. With so many recipes in this book, we're not going to guarantee that the one you're pointing to will appeal to you. But we will say that, if it doesn't, the one above it or below it probably will. And that's our point. If you're like most home cooks, you're probably stuck in a food rut that has you preparing the same 10 recipes over and over again, week after month after year.
Does anyone need 2,500 recipes to get through life? Of course not. The reason we've put together a book containing so many recipes is to show you how easy it can be to introduce variety into your meal planning. After all, the more ways there are to escape a rut, the more likely you'll be to escape it.
Here's a common scenario: You've just bought a pound of chicken breasts, several fish fillets, a couple of pounds of ground beef or a few baking potatoes. And you wonder what you might do with them tonight. All too often, the decision takes only a few seconds, and then you prepare dinner the same way you've prepared it for years. Will it be good? Maybe. Will it be inspiring? Probably not. Will it be boring? Almost certainly. Can we help? Absolutely.
Here's how. Say you've got a chicken that's waiting to be roasted for dinner. Stop. Turn to page 271, where you'll find a full chapter of recipes for roast chicken. Fifty recipes, to be exact, and just about every one will be different and more interesting than what you might prepare out of sheer habit. If some don't appeal to you, if others appeal but call for an ingredient you don't have, if a few involve extra time that you can't spare tonight, you'll still find a few dozen recipes that can get you out of a cooking rut. You'll end up with a dinner that will have you eagerly looking forward to your next roast chicken, and that chicken will be different from this chicken.
Or take some other part of your cooking repertoire. You've got a nice fire going in your grill. Could you make the same hot dogs and hamburgers you've made for years? Sure you could. But you don't have to. Instead, turn to page 128, where you'll find 50 recipes for burgers and hot dogs that are well within your reach.
What's the secret? Thought. Here's an exercise that will take almost no time but that can reward you for years to come. The next time you order pizza, ask yourself why you got the toppings you got. Here's a possible answer: "I like the way pepperoni works on a pizza. I like how the soft, melted cheese contrasts with the crispy pepperoni." That answer reveals more than just your favorite pizza topping. It also reveals your feelings about contrasts and textures, and that information can be used on many other foods. So do it -- and put this book to work.
This book has a parent. The parent book, Fifty Ways to Cook Most Everything: 2500 Creative Solutions to the Daily Dilemma of What to Cook, was published way, way, way back in the early 1990s. The parent-child metaphor is not perfect, since we are both the parents and the kids. But it's pretty good in that, just as in real life, the parent magically gets wiser as the years go by. We've made a huge number of changes since Fifty Ways was published, but we also recognized that some things shouldn't change.
The most significant constant goes to the premise of both books: that everyone has cooking ruts to overcome, that a vast number of easy recipes is the best way to conquer them, and that those recipes have to be written with the kind of brevity that will fit a reader's life.
But the changes are significant too. We've updated almost every recipe, we've tinkered with just about every one, we've expelled a bunch, and we've added new ones. Nasturtium blossoms are gone. Canola oil is in. And while we still steer clear of the granulated cardboard ingredients we've come to abhor, we've recognized and used the many fine and convenient products that have come into the food markets
Almost all of the recipes are still quick, and therein lies another of our secrets. When recipes use just a small number of ingredients, each of those ingredients has to work harder than normal. You'll see recipe after recipe that relies on what we call "power flavors" -- oils, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, olives. These ingredients are easy to obtain (you probably already have a lot of them) and easy to incorporate into your cooking. This book will show you how. You'll find common ingredients, but in unexpected places. And you'll understand that the central point of this book is not the 2,500 recipes we've given you. It's number 2,501, which we think you'll be inspired to create.
Part 1: The Toolbox
Basic Techniques for Cooking Anything
Part 2: Cooking Basics
Part 3: Everyday Cooking
Part 4: Cooking for Special Occasions