Best Summer Weekends Cookbook
by Jane Rodmell
Published by Cottage Life Books
352 pages, 2004
Reviewed by Monica Stark
The covers sums the sentiment up quite nicely. A slice of watermelon. A perfectly grilled shrimp. A citrus slice. And all of a background of a cool, deep blue. If any cover ever wanted to whisper summer to a reader's tastebuds, Best Summer Weekends Cookbook manages it quite nicely.
The reality, however, is that the cover isn't quite accurate. Sure: there's much in Jane Rodmell's new book to tempt the hot-weather chef but there's more here, as well. A lot more. For instance, while the art of barbecue is explored in-depth, a lot of other techniques are covered too. Would, for instance, a strictly summer book include a recipe for White Bean Dip? Or Thai Noodle Salad? Or Crispy Calzones? Or Beef Braised in Beer over Egg Noodles? Or... I could go on, but you get the point: Best Summer Weekends Cookbook might at first glance look like a book best left near the outdoor grill but, in reality, this weighty tome can take pride of place with the best of your generalist cookbooks.
There are two reasons for this and they go together. 1. Most modern home chefs are busy. They need to save time. 2. The author thinks that summer is at least partly about great food that's easy to prepare. In her own words:
All things considered, I would rather spend my weekend lazing on the deck with a good book than wrestling with grocery carts at the store, or dicing for hours in the kitchen. The cook wants to relax, too!
One could just as easily have said, "The cook has to go to work," or "The cook has to drive the kids to practice," or -- perhaps most accurately -- "The cook doesn't have time to spend a lot of time cooking!" In this way Rodmell's book will appeal to anyone who appreciates good food but doesn't want to spend a lot of time preparing it. Her ingredients lists are mostly short, her instructions clear and concise, the photos are large and color and stunning.
Though the hot weather classics are here -- Citrus-Glazed Salmon and Guacamole and Barbecued Peaches and "Salsa from the Cupboard" -- there is a great deal here that many of us would feel happy to serve to friends and family year round. Grilled Eggplant Soup. Mushroom Ragout. Chocolate Raspberry Terrine. Shrimp with Feta and Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce. I'm doing it again, but it's just too tempting. Best Summer Weekends Cookbook is filled with easy to prepare food that is too wonderful not to share.
Don't let the fact that the author is the food columnist of Cottage Life magazine put you off. Though, as the title suggests, the magazine has a regional focus and readership, the food, handling and serving included in Best Summer Weekends Cookbook, survives the continental divide. | April 2003
Monica Stark is a January Magazine contributing editor.