COOKBOOK REVIEW: The essence of good cooking

‘Milk Street: Cookish: Throw it Together’ by Christopher Kimball (Voracious, $35)

It always amazes me how the smallest adjustment to a recipe can produce some of the biggest revelations. This is not lost on the team at Milk Street, the cooking school and media company helmed by Christopher Kimball.

Ground Pork with Ginger and Miso, a recipe from their latest cookbook, “Cookish: Throw it Together” (Voracious, $35), is a case in point. I made it upon realizing that I already had everything I needed to “infuse ground pork with deep, umami-rich flavor” in the time it took to cook some rice and toss together a salad. The key was in the “small handful of high-impact ingredients” that included a tub of red miso and bottle of mirin (the subtly sweet Japanese rice cooking wine) hiding in my cabinet. The recipe ably fulfilled its promises, with only a few dishes to wash, and saving me from a run for takeout.

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Like Milk Street’s award-winning “Tuesday Nights” and “The New Rules,” the team’s latest volume "relies heavily on a “powerhouse supermarket pantry” of global ingredients for speedy solutions to weeknight dinner dilemmas. What distinguishes “Cookish” from these previous titles is it that every recipe is limited to only six ingredients (aside from salt, pepper, oil and water).

Each begins with an idea that makes it special, whether it’s the surprising marriage of briny olives and carrot strips for a Moroccan salad, or the trick of lining a steamer basket with orange slices or mushrooms to impart flavor to fish while also keeping it moist.

Master the method for Crisp-Breaded Chicken Cutlets, then dress it up with one of five different dipping sauces. Roast a whole head of cauliflower, varying the seasonings for a curry-like profile or a Sichuan stir-fry.

These recipes, explains Kimball, are designed to teach us how to confidently cook without recipes, so we can “walk into the kitchen and simply throw dinner together.”

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

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