The New Basics Cookbook

THE NEW BASICS COOKBOOK is written by two women who have been in the field of food long enough to see the trendy become the standard. Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ latest cookbook takes the new and old and explains what to do with it and how. Chapters include handy guides to different varieties of whatever the chapter covers (from the many kinds of apples in the fruit chapter to the varying appearances of squash in the vegetable chapter) and hints on how to store and prepare them. There are also invaluable wine charts, which offer detailed matches of wine to individual foods, such as Chardonnay with swordfish. Another useful guide is the roasting charts included in the meat and fish chapters, especially helpful to the first-time cooker of venison, goose, grouse, or squab.

The book is arranged by courses, starting with cocktails and their accompaniments, and going on through desserts. Finally, there is a chapter of basic recipes (such as mayonnaise and other sauces), a chapter detailing the equipment needed for the “basic” kitchen (which is not at all basic, in fact, and definitely not for those to whom moving is a way of life), and a chapter on those food items needed for the basic pantry. Just as Jeff Smith has brought a whole new meaning to the word “frugal,” so Rosso and Lukins have expanded considerably on what can be considered “basic.”

The recipes themselves range from the simple and quick, including microwave recipes, to the gourmet hours-long-to-prepare, full-of-butter-and-cream type. Despite the authors’ avowed “concern for health and fitness,” readers will find that many of the recipes follow Julia Child’s philosophy that a dish just is not really special without the addition of butter and cream. The sheer quantity of recipes, however, ensures that devotees of low-fat cooking will find plenty of delicious dishes to try, as well as dishes for those special occasions when diets go out the window.

Rosso and Lukins have included a glossary of cooking terms (including which is a wine dictionary), an invaluable conversion chart for those who use the metric system, and a bibliography, which is thorough if a little forbidding. Overall, THE NEW BASICS COOKBOOK could become the cooking bible of the 1990’s.