Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: Desperation Dinners

This is my favorite cookbook! Most cookbooks are too involved for me, but not this one.

The sub-head reads: "Home-cooked meals for frantic families in 20 minutes flat." Well, there are very few times I can actually manage it in 20 minutes. It seems that someone (usually someone small) always needs a little assistance just when Mom is getting dinner together. Or perhaps I am just slow. Nevertheless, most nights I can have the entree prepared in around 30 minutes. Not bad, considering that my "pre-Desperation" meals, with the exception of pasta with red sauce from a jar, usually ran 45 minutes to an hour. Or more.

The basic concept is simple: the authors have taken a variety of recipes and pared them down to simplify and speed up preparation. For example, they use products such as bottled minced garlic or bottled ginger rather than fresh. However, they do stick to products that still convey a decent flavor. The other key is the word "meanwhile": the recipes nearly universally call for the chef to be doing something while a part of the meal is cooking and does not need direct attention.

I do tweak the recipes a little to fit our family, for example upping the spice or seasoning level on some dishes, using brown rice cooked in my rice cooker rather than the "instant" type they call for, and using canned tomato sauce rather than stewed tomatoes to suit the "chunk-free" preferences of certain family members. One adjustment I have had to make on most recipes is increasing the quantities. Maybe we are just hearty eaters, but I find that their recipes that "serve 6 generously" are too small for our family of 5.

With a variety of recipes from soups and stews to meatloaf, pasta, and pizza, most of us will be able to find a good selection of foods our families like. Sections at the end cover sides, salad dressings, and desserts. I haven't made many of these, but our standard salad dressing has become the balsamic vinaigrette from this cookbook.

Meals made from Desperation Dinners recipes appear regularly at our table, as do other recipes that I have adjusted to suit the "Desperate" style of cooking.

No comments: