Sidebar 1: FYI to my faithful Momoverettes: If you’re ever reading, and thinking to yourself: Oh my lordy, today’s blog post is positively strewn with typos and MIA words, come back later. I often fix stuff after the fact. Because even though I foist them on the public from time to time, je deteste typos.
Sidebar 2: I hope to make “Momover Lady’s Library” a running feature, à la Beauty Armoire Monday and DRIVEN, my quest to re-learn how to drive after 30+ (gack!) wheel-less years in Gotham. The idea behind MLL is that I extract something super-useful for you guys from whatever non-fiction book I currently have my nose jammed into. This will help both of us. I figure that if I can’t chisel-out good intel for you, I can’t chisel-out good intel for me. And that means bye-bye. I have hundreds of books and I need to clutter-bust in the most major of ways.
Okay, enough with all the sidebars. Allez-y. On y va. Let’s go.
REASONS I LOVE THIS BOOK
1. It’s physically adorable. Have you met me? I live for surface gloss. This is Jessica Seinfeld’s third cookbook, and it is, in my opinion, the hands down cutest of the lot. I didn’t buy her first book – Deceptively Delicious – the one that helps you hide pureed veggies in virtually everything you whip up for your tiny tater tots. (I’ll just come clean here – we were seriously nanny-d up when the Wee Lass was a wee lass, so I didn’t cook for her, or have a need for honing my pureed-veggie hiding skills.) But I do own Double Delicious, which features kitschy, 1950s-era art direction and not-great still-life imagery. The photography in The Can’t Cook Book is roughly a billion times better. Listen, I worked for Condé Nast for almost 20 years; I’m a photography snob.
2. It’s organized really well. Seinfeld doesn’t get into actual recipes until Page 45. The lead up is all incredibly useful – and yes, sometimes incredibly basic – info on tools you need (“Gear Up”); equipping your pantry (“Stock Up”); the best way to prep your work station before you dive in (“Set Up”) and core kitchen skills, like zesting lemons and smashing garlic cloves (“How-to”).
3. The writing is peppy, and encouraging, and funny. I think I’ve met Seinfeld once or twice in my editor travels – I certainly don’t know her. But from interviews I’ve read in the New York Times and New York Mag, she just seems really witty, and hilarious, and happy. That vibe comes through in this book, big-time. It’s clear and concise, but very zingy.
4. The recipes are unspeakably yummy. And easy. A win-win for nervous newbies. I know this because I’ve made several of them in the last three weeks. Wanna know which ones? Let’s find out…
STUFF I’VE ACTUALLY MADE WITH THIS BOOK
Chicken + Fish + Pasta
> Roasted Chicken Drumsticks w/ Mustard & Rosemary Sauce
> Fast & Juicy Herb-Grilled Chicken
> Crispy Shrimp
> Succulent Lemon-Thyme Salmon
> Roasted Stripe Bass* & Tomatoes (*The Publix by me was out of bass, so I swapped-in salmon)
> Baked Egg Noodles & Cheese
> Green Beans with Almonds
> Sautéed Spinach & Garlic
> Broiled Honey-Nut Bananas
Before we move on to take-away tips, I have to insert visual proof that I’ve been whipping up these recipes. Behold the raw, pre-oven beauty of last night’s Roasted Salmon & Tomatoes entrée:
5 GREAT TAKE-AWAY TIPS FROM THIS BOOK*
(* This stuff was all news to me; if you’re already an accomplished cook, this isn’t the book for you.)
1. Moving the oven racks around makes all the difference. I know, I know – this is soooo basic. But before attempting the Broiled Honey-Nut Bananas dessert recipe (words can’t describe how tasty it is!!!!), I didn’t realize that you need to move the rack to the top slot first. Easy peasy – you are broiling!
2. If you’re swapping-in dried herbs for fresh, use half the amount. This tip came in handy when I’d forgotten to nab fresh rosemary at the supermarket. Still, go fresh whenever you can. It greatly enhances the flavor of anything you’re cooking.
3. To remove garlic’s papery shell, pummel it with the side of a chef’s knife. But don’t stand there pounding away like a lunatic; find some other way of alleviating life’s many frustrations. (“Use one quick pounding motion,” says Seinfeld.)
4. Speaking of knives, you only really only need three. 1) The aforementioned chef’s knife – Seinfeld recommends an 8-inch blade, or 6, if you have tiny mitts, like Momover Lady; 2) A paring knife, and 3) An offset serrated knife. I have to say that the offset serrated number looks a little ominous. But I’ll get one nonetheless.
“The scalloped blade lets you glide through crusty breads and delicate tomatoes alike, slicing them instead of sliding off or crushing them. The offset handle keeps your knuckles out of harm’s way.”
5. Pinch and sprinkle salt from your paws, not from the shaker or spoon. When you’re working so intently on delivering sheer yumminess to your family, the last thing you want to do is screw it up at the end with too much salt. Seinfeld wants you to measure the salt (she swears by kosher, so I now swear by kosher), then put it in your palm and dispense, sparingly, with your pinched fingers. Oh, and more great thing about this book: She doesn’t really expect you to painstakingly measure fresh pepper. Instead, many of the recipes recommend a specific number of pepper-mill turns, i.e. (“…about 12 turns on a pepper mill”…). So helpful. J’adore.