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Ready When You Are

A Compendium of Comforting One Dish Meals
by Martha Rose Shulman

Ready When You Are

Martha Rose Shulman is lighting up the world again. This time she treats us to more than 200 homey recipes—one-dish meals—in her latest cookbook, Ready When You Are: A Compendium of Comforting One Dish Meals. Don't pass on this one. It won't gather dust.

In case you don't know Shulman, she is the Los Angeles-based author of more than twenty books—useful, worldly and delicious titles like The Vegetarian Feast, Mediterranean Light, Mexican Light, and Entertaining Light. Don't get the wrong idea. She's all about hearty food and eating well. She lived in Paris for a dozen years and eats meat. Make just one of her recipes and you'll know that she does not sacrifice depth and flavor to a healthier approach. She knows how to cook sensibly: just where and how to cut (or cut out) the fat, lose the sugar and still turn out a robust meal.

Ready When You Are, like its author, is multi-dimensional. On one hand it is a cookbook loaded with worldly meals like Last of the Summer Vegetables Cobbler, Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and Catalan Chickpeas with Sausage. On the other, it's a thoughtful effort to get you to cook and eat at home. "Yeah, right," you say. "I'm gonna throw together Martha's Basque-Style Chicken after a day of work and kids." Shulman not only makes this possible, she does the thinking for you. In nearly every recipe she provides advance preparation notes so that you can prepare entire meals, or most steps, days ahead. Her notes on leftovers help stretch or transform last night's dinner. Really, who is going to complain about Provençal Fish Stew one night and a Mediterranean jambalaya the next?

Ready When You Are has nine chapters filled with soups and stews, gratins and casseroles. Remember, these are one-dish meals so, chances are, whatever it is will taste even better on day two. There's less active time in the kitchen and fewer dishes to wash. And we are talking about feasting on the likes of Tuscan White Beans with Sage and Sausage, Turkish Summer Vegetable Stew, Spinach and Fish Gratin and a great Chocolate Pudding. The rest of the book is devoted to good eating while reducing your time in the kitchen. Shulman will also help you stock your kitchen with cookware and gadgets, teach you how to make basic stocks and cook rice.

You will find butter, cheese, sugar and sour cream in this book-what you won't find is their overuse. You need not feel guilty after eating Shulman's Braised Pork with Red Cabbage, Apples, and Chestnuts. Or, opt for Catalan Chicken with Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes. Since this book is all about comfort food, it wouldn't be fair to exclude Macaroni and Cheese (don't skip this delicious, albeit lighter, version), but don't expect tuna noodle casserole. It's more about Tuna Daube and Chicken Pot Pie with porcini mushrooms.

There are a lot of shortcut recipe books out there. This is not one of them. Shulman is a class act. So is her food and so is Ready When You Are. Follow her advice this year and spend more time on the things that matter.


Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler

(Updated: 12/18/08 SB)

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