Cookbook Review – Food 52 Genius Recipes

Cut to the chase – I like this cookbook very much.  It has a high concentration of recipes that I want to cook for dinner.  But are they genius? 

The tagline is “100 recipes that will change the way you cook.”  Here’s my breakdown: some of the recipes are those you’ve seen or heard about a million times and probably already have pinned to your Pinterest.  Like Jim Lahey’s no knead bread.  Not only do I have that recipe but I’ve also pinned a food blogger’s attempt to simplify this already simple recipe.  Other famous recipes are included like Marion Cunningham’s yeast waffles, Rao’s meatballs, and Barbara Kafka’s roast chicken. Other recipes seem to have been included so the author could cover the bases on making sure every famous chef was represented.  Pretty much every chef you can think of has a recipe in this book and does it really make sense that all of them would have a genius recipe that changes how we cook? 

Some of the recipes are genius. The cooking method for Chicken Thighs with Lemon produced crispy, juicy chicken with practically no effort. Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion? You literally combine canned tomatoes, butter, an onion that has been halved (no chopping!), and salt and simmer it for 45 minutes. That’s it. You ditch the onion, which has given its life to the sauce and you end up with thick, oniony, buttery tomato sauce. There’s an eggplant pasta dish where you cook the heck out of the eggplant with some stock until it’s soft enough to mash and you end up with this creamy eggplant pasta sauce.  Salt-baked herb salmon — kind of genius, kind of weird. Genius in that the salmon cooks on a bed of salt – it stays moist, has a lightly salty flavor, and very easy clean-up. But then how hard is it to cook salmon – why this weird method?

Other recipes are not so genius. Rao’s meatballs call for the secret ingredient of…..water. The meatballs were very moist, but tasted bland. The Spicy Tomato Soup, with just onions, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and basil was meh. The Caesar salad dressing that calls for mayo instead of raw eggs was pretty genius but I came up with a very similar recipe on my own that’s simpler and which I like better. Crispy-skinned fish sounded promising but was definitely not genius.  It called for dusting the fish with Wondra to get it crispy.  Maybe I’m just lazy but I can’t get my fish dry enough for the Wondra to not get gummy. You know what’s a genius way to get crisp skin on your fish? Heat. Sear at high heat and then finish cooking in the oven.  That has always yielded me crisper skin than the Wondra method did.

Other recipes are not genius in that they’re not changing the way I cook, but they were just tasty recipes that I would make again. Mushroom Bourguignon was deliciously hearty, Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut – yum. Gratin of Zucchini, Rice, and Onions with Cheese was good although used way too many dishes, including: a grater for the zucchini, a pan to boil the rice, a pan to fry the onions and the zucchini, a pan to warm the milk, and a baking dish.

Critiques aside, I like this book alot. It gives me lots of dinner options and I like that it includes many vegetarian recipes. This has become one of my go-to books for weekly menu planning.