Cookbook review: A crash course in creative cooking

"Cook this Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat" by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50)
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"Cook this Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat" by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50)

‘Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes To Repeat’ by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50)

As a rising chef eager to prove her dexterity in a professional kitchen, Molly Baz considered cooking “extremely un-cool” recipes.

That attitude shifted after she began developing recipes for mainstream publications such as Bon Appetit, and offering video tutorials for home cooks. She took note of how friends and family navigated the kitchen as they cooked and the issues that tripped them up, and incorporated those observations into her instructions.

“Recipes now course through my veins,” writes the Los Angeles-based food editor and video blogger. “I go to sleep thinking about them, occasionally have night terrors about them, and almost always wake up thinking about them. If that sounds intense, it is. But mostly in a good way.”

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She channels that intensity in an entirely good way in “Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes To Repeat” (Potter, $32.50), a cutting-edge crash course on how to become a more confident and efficient cook.

Ingredient lists are broken down by grocery department (i.e., produce, dairy) for easier shopping and listed in pre-prepped form (1 whole lemon rather than 2 tablespoons lemon juice) to train us to pull out every ingredient at the outset. Procedures account for the time it takes to slice, zest and squeeze. Extra tidbits of context and helpful hints appear in footnotes. And if you need a visual refresher for a basic technique, such as how to chop an onion, a QR code will take you to a video demo via your smartphone.

Minty Lamb Meatballs with Crispy Cabbage and Tahini Sauce is a recipe I’ll be repeating, as is Coconut Shrimp with Crushed Chickpeas and Basil. Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad lived up to its lofty title thanks to revelatory tips that helped me produce the juiciest chicken breasts I’ve ever tasted (sear and roast skin-side down, baste in garlic-and-anchovy-infused melted butter).

Each reinforces Baz’s conclusion that, while culinary improvisation is a great skill to have, “recipes are actually the coolest.”

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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