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Desserts 1-2-3

Deliciously Simple Three-Ingredient Recipes

By Rozanne Gold
(Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Desserts 1-2-3

Little did Rozanne Gold know that her pantry was a dynasty waiting to happen.

When I first met her almost a decade ago, she told me how she and husband Michael Whiteman spent lazy Sunday afternoons in their Manhattan apartment trying to one-up each other coming up with the most spectacular dishes possible based on the last scraps of food they had left in their pantry.

At that time, Gold certainly had made a culinary splash---but not yet so much in the cookbook world. She had been New York mayor Ed Koch's personal chef and was chef-director (still her title today) of the company owned by Whiteman and Joseph Baum, which was behind the creation of the famous Rainbow Room and Windows on the World (demolished September 11). She just had written Little Meals, her first cookbook about a lifestyle of glamorous grazing.

But those Sunday pantry raids were to become her real bread-and-butter in cookbook publishing. Since then, she has taken that philosophy and turned into the queen of three-ingredient chic cuisine. Desserts 1-2-3 is her latest effort, on the heels of Recipes 1-2-3, Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook, Entertaining 1-2-3 and Healthy 1-2-3.

There's good reason that most of the other authors who had one-, two- or three-ingredient books during the rush-to-print of such fare about the time Gold's first such book was published are now down to zero---not in the form of ingredients, but in their cookbook output due to little interest in what were mostly uninspired, insipid recipes.

"Inspired," though, is just the term that best fits Gold.

You simply will not believe what you can prepare quickly and easily with three ingredients. Unlike many of the other such authors who conveyed that working with a small number of ingredients is a handicap, Gold---like the world's greatest chefs in locales such as Italy and Hong Kong---does just the opposite: proves that this is the way superb cooking is supposed to be, unencumbered and uncluttered.

Following in the tradition of her earlier books, "Desserts 1-2-3" is vivid proof of that. Here are some of the wonders of Gold's world: Nectarine Tower with Honey-Glazed Wontons; Warm Plums in Ruby Syrup with Whipped Mascarpone; Eggnog Flan with Sun-Dried Cherries; Meringue Nests with Lime Custard; Marzipan Raisin Cookies; and Pineapple Carpaccio with Roasted Grapes and Cinnamon Jus.

Gold achieves her goals with ingenuity that probably will inspire you to think outside the breadbox when it comes to creating culinary shortcuts.

To create her heavenly Hazelnut Angel Cake, for instance, Gold uses finely ground hazelnuts in place of flour and then needs only powdered sugar and eggs to complete the feat. In Glazed Pear and Lychee Tarts and a number of other dishes, she uses the syrup with canned fruit (in this case lychees) as the foundation for her glaze. The bittersweet chocolate sorbet that accompanies her Warm Chocolate Souffle is created solely from a portion of the bittersweet chocolate the recipe calls for and vanilla-flavored sugar. The coconut sorbet that is served with her Coconut Rum Custard utilizes part of the cream of coconut and rum extract needed for the overall dish (like in the aforementioned chocolate souffle, eggs are the only other ingredient).

Never before has so little equaled so much, and, as if that wasn't enough, Gold packs the chapters with pages of additional tips.

But, if this can be a one-complaint column, mine would be that the price of the book, too, equals so much. You probably will feel you got your money's worth as you stare at these glossy pages filled with many full-color photographs of Gold's gorgeous grabbers. However, I can't help feeling that many potential readers of "three-ingredient" books might be as economical with their cookbook budgets as they are with the use of ingredients. The design-savvy Stewart, Tabori & Chang upscale boutique publishing house in some ways seems an odd choice (earlier books in the series cost less from Viking Press and Little, Brown & Co.) for a book that price- and design-wise might have been more appreciated by its target audience in a somewhat scaled-down form.

(Updated: 11/11/08 SB)

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