Cooking One on One
by John Ash
(Clarkson Potter, March 2004)
many reasons, we were lucky to catch John Ash during his
recent swing through town. One, because he put together
the dinner menu and we feasted on six courses that included
radicchio soup with apple wood-smoked cheddar and rack of
lamb with sun dried cherry sauce and parsnip chips. The
cheese course was an impressive assortment of California's
best, including Triple Crème Brie from Petaluma,
Bandage Cheddar from Modesto, Northern Gold from Orland,
and Gouda from Winchester. Another reason was that Bonterra
Vineyards paired each course with great organic wines, including
a spectacular Muscat conclusion with the cheeses.
was superb and the wines were delightful, but with Ash in
attendance, new cookbook in hand, the evening was perfect.
It’s always interesting to hear the latest from this
influential chef—he’s been culinary director
at Fetzer since 1990 and now at Bonterra, which practices
both biodynamic and organic farming; it’s a natural
match to his “taking care of mother earth” philosophy.
His calendar is filled with teaching, training and consulting,
television, radio, and an ongoing role with his eponymous
Ash & Company, located in Santa Rosa. It’s
a dizzying list and a lot of work but someone’s got
to do it—and we’re glad it’s John Ash.
title of his new cookbook is a mouthful, but aptly named—John
Ash: cooking one on one: private lessons in simple, contemporary
food from a master teacher. And that’s what
it’s all about. The tome follows his award-winning,
definitive wine country cooking book, From the Earth
to the Table (1995), and American Game Cooking,
first published in 1991. We’re glad to have John Ash,
epicure, oenophile, and teacher back for another lesson.
Ash: cooking one on one instructs in a most pleasant
form—self-contained lessons that yield delicious,
successful results and culinary accomplishment for anyone
who takes this book for a spin. Ash says, “it is not
a kitchen primer and it’s not ‘the only cookbook
you’ll ever need.’ It is my highly personal
take on the very contemporary food that you already love,
approached in the most unintimidating way possible.”
It is also about fresh ingredients and foods that are deep
in both flavor and character—a John Ash trademark.
provides three types of lessons, themed around flavor makers
(such as salsas and marinades), techniques and variations
on main ingredients. So, you’ll learn first how to
make a simple salsa fresca, then variations like smoked
salsa; and finally, how to extend the sauce into a dish
like Grilled Marinated Shrimp with Salsa Fresca. Sure, Cucumber
and Mint Salsa sounds fabulous, but it’s divine when
paired with Grilled Lamb Chops.
same approach goes for vinaigrettes (Roasted Eggplant Salad
with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette), pestos (Mussels baked
with Asian Pesto--based on basil, mint, cilantro and cashews),
marinades and sauces. The possibilities are endless when
the foundation is strong and the pairings, wise. A corn
puree, nothing too complicated, takes on new meaning when
expanded into Seared Scallops with Corn Cream—a rich
and sensuous dish.
Lessons begin with stocks, progressing to soups, then on
to oven-drying, which includes useful charts for drying
fruits and vegetables as well as recipes for dishes like
Oven-Dried Cauliflower, Corn and Red Pepper Risotto, and
Oven-Dried Pineapple and Plums with Rosemary Syrup and Cardamom
Ice Cream. We get compelling reasons to learn Pot-Roasting
and Grilling, along with the tools and incentives to spend
time perfecting our soufflés (everyone should have
a solid chocolate soufflé in their repertoire).
Ingredient Lessons cover chicken, dried beans, seafoods
and even soy foods. Ash’s Sauté of Chicken
Breast with Vinegar is a flawless take on a bistro favorite;
Salmon Steamed with Black Beans is a hit; and his Tofu and
Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce is another reason we’ll
eat meatless more often. Desserts, as promised, are simple
and sophisticated…Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry
Sauce is luscious and, again, Ash’s Individual Molten
Chocolate Truffle Cakes are another must-have in your repertoire.
Ash: cooking one on one contains more than just lessons
and recipes. It is infused with the author’s passion
for food and wine, respect for sources and quality, and
reverence for the earth itself. You’ll want to read
every introduction, every headnote and every recipe note.
Otherwise you might overlook some new tidbit of learning—did
you know that the color of miso is directly related to its
flavor intensity? White miso is milder and sweeter whereas
darker varieties are more robust. The pages devoted to wine
provide useful information for both cooking and pairing.
even Ash himself has said this is not the definitive kitchen
manual. But this is definitely a book to keep around the
kitchen. The food is classy, interesting and delicious;
the instruction is expert and, from cover-to-cover, John
Ash: cooking one on one is a friendly book that your
guests will thank you for using.
by Kevin Schoeler