One of the main reasons why I decided to start a food blog was so that I could finally get around to cracking the spines on all those cookbooks that were weighing down the Overburdened Bookshelf. Needless to say, the burden on the bookshelf has increased significantly over the past seven months as I’ve added quite a few new members to the cookbook family. Happily, I’m thrilled with all of them and look forward to more cooking and baking ahead.
But I was slightly taken aback when I was asked, by some wonderful food blogger friends, to review a copy of a new cookbook and that in the process, I would be receiving my very own copy. A copy of a cookbook just for me?! How could I, cookbook addict that I am, turn down an offer like that?
Of course the fact that my dear blog buddies Cath of A Blithe Palate, Ali of Something So Clever and Sara of I Like to Cook were the ones asking meant that I couldn’t possibly say no. And I’m certainly glad that I agreed to participate in this unique event involving 25 food bloggers all reviewing a copy of the newly published Kitchen Sense by Mitchell Davis.
I’m a bit late with my post, which was supposed to be up by July 10th. Cath, Ali and Sara will have to forgive me but the past 48 hours have been consumed with celebrations after Italy’s win in the World Cup final. Much food, Prosecco, grappa, food and … oh yes … food was consumed. Strangers were kissed and hugged, flags were waved and in general, a good time was had by just about everyone in Toronto who decided to make their way to either Little Italy or Corso Italia. But the celebrations have come and gone and it’s time to get on with the business at hand!
Having never heard of Mitchell Davis, I was intrigued by the cookbook and upon its arrival at my door step, pleasantly surprised. While he may not be a household name, Mitchell Davis is a good writer who very clearly loves his food. And his book is a testament to that love.
With 600 recipes and a wealth of tips, Kitchen Sense is an excellent all-round cookbook for both the beginner and the more experienced home cook. The book is divided into sections that cover every type of dish including Soups; Sandwiches and Pizza; Vegetables, Beans, and Potatoes; Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings; Poultry; and Desserts. Each section is marked by an introduction to the recipes ahead. As well, each section is dotted with useful hints and tips to help the reader along.
Clearly written and precise, the recipes are fairly straightforward. Mitchell ends each recipe with suggestions for variations, as well as notes on how much advance preparation is required and what to do with leftovers.
Every now and then, a shaded section entitled "Kitchen Sense" or "Basics" will appear. These entertaining paragraphs are like mini-essays within the cookbook that explain food topics such as whether to use fresh or dried pasta; how to clean squid; how to prepare a turkey; the ins and outs of meat terminology; and how to peel soft-skinned fruits like peaches and tomatoes. The "Basics" section offers the basics of foundation foods like pizza dough or pie dough.
Like most people, one of the first things that will usually attract me to a cookbook are the photographs. If a cookbook does not have pictures, it has to be that much better so that readers can visualize what they’re making. As a result, the cookbook author’s writing skills are key. Fortunately, Davis’ writing style is easy to follow and flows well. This is important because Kitchen Sense does not have any photographs or illustrations.
What Kitchen Sense does have is a collection of quality recipes that are current and tempting. But for me, the true test of a cookbook is in the results. So, tempting fate, I flipped the book open to a random page and prepared the first recipe that I saw. On page 419 I found a recipe for Roasted Figs with Mascarpone Mousse. Serendipity. I had some mascarpone left from my Strawberry TiramisÃ¹ and just this past weekend I’d picked up some California Black Mission figs.
Mitchell’s recipe was very reliable. The instructions were clear and the recipe turned out exactly as the recipe indicated it would. The cooking time was accurate. The only inaccuracy was the tip about leftovers because there were no leftovers. These delicious figs were consumed quickly as was the mascarpone mousse!
You know this Cream Puff well. You know that I don’t recommend cookbooks lightly. So believe me when I say that Kitchen Sense is a worthy addition to your cookbook family.