RECIPES 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold is one of those cookbooks that will surely knock your socks off (or your oven mitts, at least).
There have been, you must have noticed if you automatically scan all the cookbooks in book stores and in particular, the flurry of cookbooks devoted to just a few ingredients—there are many great cookbooks on this topic. Rozanne Gold was one of the first to take this concept a step further. First of all, RECIPES 1-2-3 is a beautiful hardcover cookbook by Viking Press, with photographs by Tom Eckerle.
“Time is not on our side,” explain the publishers. “Not only don’t we have time to cook, we often don’t even have time to shop for food. Imagine being able to choose from more than 250 dazzling recipes that contain only three ingredients.”
Rozanne Gold is the author of the award-winning “LITTLE MEANS: A GREAT NEW WAY TO EAT AND COOK”. She is also consulting chef to the Rainbow Room and the new Windows On the World. First chef to New York City mayor Ed Koch, she is now Culinary Director of the world-renown Joseph Baum and Michael Whitman Co., and if that were not enough, she is also culinary counselor for Dunnewood Vineyards in California.
In the Introduction to 1-2-3, Gold writes “Think of the transparent sound of a small chamber orchestra; or the compressive clarity of haiku. When it comes to the senses, less is often more. So it is with our palates and the way we taste. The Western vocabulary contains only four descriptors for how we experience a morsel of food: salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. The Japanese posit a fifth sensation, called umami, a beeflike essence of wild mushrooms.
It was this realization, she says, that led her to develop RECIPES 1-2-3. She says that in her twenty years as a professional chef, she has “imposed dozens of ingredients onto a single dish, used paintbrushes and squeeze bottles to decorate plates; piled food so precariously as to challenge gravity…”
“Turnabout,” explains Ms. Gold. “Today I’m convinced that we really can create delicious food and orchestrate wonderful meals by combining recipes with just a few ingredients.”
She also tells us that an important goal of her book is to make cooking more user friendly, without taking shortcuts.
She has also set out to demonstrate to use the various (and better) ways of cooking things—showing us how a roasted asparagus stalk differs from one that’s steamed, and why baked squash makes a better soup than one that’s boiled. Information such as this is invaluable to novice cooks who are often stymied and left at an impasse when the cookbook tells them to “braise” without giving them a clue exactly what braise means.
Ranging from appetizers (simple. No? Only three ingredients) to sumptuous desserts (simple, yes? Only three ingredients) and in the middle you will find a wide variety of entrees, each one more wonderful sounding than the last…check out the Mahogany short ribs with the secret ingredient (this one I can experiment with since we have our own grape vines—one of the surprises, for me, is a recipe called Coffee and Vinegar pot roast…now many years ago, in the mid 60s, I believe, I had this recipe – and lost it. I have searched through thousands of cookbooks for this particular recipe, so imagine my surprise – voila! It’s in RECIPES 1-2-3. The author says that she has collected a stack of wacky and wonderful recipes from a variety of odd sources (haven’t we all?) and this one was from as community cookbook, and was originally known as Lutheran Ladies Peking Beef Roast.
In addition to many other suggestions, Gold provided a 1-2-3 pantry list to help you get started.
There is a recipe for Beer Bread which reminded me – that was the FIRST 3-ingredient recipe in my collection; at the time, I wondered if I could present enough 3-ingredient recipes for a magazine article. The Beer Bread is one of those that crops up here and there and is a great bread to serve hot with a bowl of soup. Gold presents a simple recipe for tortilla strips but she fries hers in oil – I cut mine into thin strips and dry them in the oven—because I have an auto pilot and my oven stays warm all the time. This is a wonderful addition to a bowl of Tortilla Soup. Gold presents recipes for Fennel, Leek, and Orzo Soup, Curried Lentil Soup and “Fire and Ice” Gazpacho. Gold’s recipe for Beer and Stilton Soup would also be a great soup and beer bread dinner on a Friday night.
I’m almost certain that the recipe called Coffee and Vinegar Pot Roast is the very same one I made in the mid 60s but I would have sworn the recipe came from a I-Hate-To-Cook-Cookbook by Peg Bracken – but what do I know? After cooking and collecting recipes for over fifty years, I’d be the first to admit I don’t remember where all of them came from – unless the recipe was written on a card with the name of the person who gave me the recipe written on the back of the card.
RECIPES 1-2-3 BY ROZANNE GOLD was originally reviewed by me in 1996 for The Cookbook Collectors Exchange. Inside my copy of RECIPES 1-2-3 was a full page review in the Los Angeles Times, dated May 30, 1996, presented side by side with Andrew Schloss’ COOKING WITH THREE INGREDIENTS. In my collection of cookbooks, I have a full shelf of cooking with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, – even 7 ingredient cookbooks—it was a concept whose time had come. Coffee and Vinegar Pot Roast is in the newspaper article as well!
If you are a busy cook with little or no time to cook for your family, books such as RECIPES 1-2-3 can be lifesavers. Keep the book handy; go over the pantry guide and you can astound your family and friends with quick and easy meals.
Amazon.com has copies of RECIPES 1-2-3 starting at 1 cent for a pre owned copy and $4.27 for a new one. Rozanne Gold is also the author of Healthy 1-2-3 and RECIPES 1-2-3 MENU COOKBOOK, as well as RADICALLY SIMPLE, 325 INSPIRING RECIPES, EAT FRESH FOOD; AWESOME RECIPES FOR TEEN CHEFS and KIDS COOK 1-2-3. All are available on Amazon.com.
–Review by Sandra Lee Smith