I’ve admired Melissa Clark’s recipes for years now, mostly through her contributions to the New York Times’ Dining section. That led me to Greenlight Bookstore last week to a reading to celebrate the release of her latest cookbook, Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.
Cook This Now is a great cookbook, plain and simple. It’s full of great recipes, and they’re at once stylish and simple, easy to put together on a weeknight (though special enough to serve to guests), and from what I’ve tasted, really delicious to eat. Clark’s recipe writing style is concise and informative, and the format of these recipes, with its “What Else?” bulletpoints, allows her creative mind to run of in all directions in the kitchen. On top of that, there’s a focus on farmer’s market shopping without overdoing it on the locavore dogma. The book is organized by month, though I’ve been assured that these are only suggestions–feel free to cook from “December” in October.
Take the Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Lemon for example. The squash gets shredded in the food processor, and sauteed with leeks and garlic. Rice is added along with a sprig of rosemary, then the risotto is cooked like any other. Then lemon is stirred in and its served with some chopped pistachios on top. You end up with creamy risotto, soft shreds of squash, the earthy perfume of rosemary, and rich pistachios for crunch. It’s a simple recipe, slightly dressed up but still pretty damn easy. The recipe itself is followed with bulleted points on how to vary the recipe, how to take some shortcuts (just chop up the squash instead of grating), and other thoughts on risotto method. You can simply read and execute the recipe, or you can go a bit deeper with the “What Else?”
Cook This Now doesn’t look particularly exciting at the outset; there’s no shortage of recipe books out there that claim to contain fast, easy dinners made from seasonal ingredients. What sets this one apart is the staggering quality of the recipes within.