Monday, November 9, 2015

Cookbooks Gifts Written By Kelsey Nixon and Claire Robinson

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          The holiday season is upon us—this means providing feasts and giving gifts. I find that good cookbooks meet both challenges.

          This year, I’m recommending two: Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything by Kelsey Nixon and 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes by Claire Robinson.

          I discovered Kelsey Nixon on the Cooking Channel hosting Kelsey’s Essentials. The focus of her show was teaching people techniques along with recipes so they could become comfortable with cooking. She makes everything fun and easy. Her new show, Kelsey’s Homemade, begins on November 14th.

          In her cookbook, I enjoyed her introduction explaining how she became a good cook. However, I love her essential lists on pages 12-15. Nixon shares what you should have in your pantry for fresh, frozen, and on-the-shelf ingredients as well as spices. Having your pantry stocked up means quicker meals especially on busy days.

Nixon lists go on to include essential equipment from cookware and cutlery to baking and miscellaneous items. And what makes a good cook? Knowing the ten essential techniques so roasting, pan roasting, stir-frying, grilling, braising, blanching, pickling, baking, frosting, and working with yeast dough are second nature. Once you master these techniques, there’s nothing you cannot create.

Kelsey Nixon gives her readers confidence in the kitchen not only with her recipes and directions, but with personal notes at the top of each page. Her recipes include plenty of comfort foods for every meal—Prosciutto, Mushroom, and Gruyere Strata (page 22); Sloppy Jane Sliders (page 101), Tortellini with Snap Peas and Lemon-Dill Cream (page 129); and Skillet Blueberry and Peach Cobbler (page 211)—as well as some outside my comfort zone—Caramelized Onion-Tomato Jam (page 67), Ratatouille Tart (page 69), and Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onions (page 139).

          I discovered another cook through TV. Claire Robinson’s show and cookbook have an intriguing hook: there are only five ingredients or fewer in every recipe. One caveat: salt, pepper, and water are freebies. How can anyone go wrong with recipes this concise?

          On her show, 5 Ingredient Fix on the Food Network, I’m always amazed at what Robinson can create within this parameter. She makes four dishes on each show including a dessert. 

In her cookbook, Robinson also lists the basics that should be in the kitchen including cooking equipment, small appliances, supplies as well as food pantry items including double-duty ingredients (pages 14-17).

I randomly choose the Ginger and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Braised Fennel recipe from her book. Four ingredients are in the title. The fifth ingredient is butter, plus the three freebies. The key is using ingredients in multiple ways like the lemon. The recipe calls for lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon slices (page 120).

Fresh Pea Ravioli with Crispy Prosciutto sounds delicious. Lemon-infused olive oil sneaks in another layer of flavor to these ricotta enriched, wanton-wrapped ravioli (page 160).

Millionaire’s Shortbread is a three layer dessert that still uses only five ingredients plus salt. Again, there is a double-duty ingredient. This time it’s butter. (See page 212.)

With each recipe, Robinson notes what really makes it sing as well as listing other ingredients you could add for variations like carrots and celery in the roasting pan with the fennel, mint or basil inside the Pea Ravioli, or finely chopped toasted almonds in the shortbread.

Use your writing talents to add beautiful notes to these cookbooks to make them the perfect gifts.


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