Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cook Tomato Salad with Jamie

At the top of my list of things I love are food and books. Therefore the natural combination of the two is a real treat. I like books that aren't only cookbooks but tell you a story for the recipes or are the recipes that a person gathered on a trip of some sort. Two books of this sort I'd been eyeing recently were given to me by my mother-in-law for Christmas. I got both Kylie Kwong's My China and Jamie Oliver's new book Cook with Jamie.

The basic principle of Jamie Oliver's book is that this celebrity chef's cooking program through his restaurant Fifteen is here presented to the general public as a sort of cooking textbook. I haven't seen recipes so far that are just slapped onto a page without any context or story or explanation. For example, the first recipe I prepared from this book was for a tomato salad. The introduction to the recipe is actually longer than the recipe itself and there are gorgeous photos to go along with all of them. And then you get to the recipe for the tomato salad and you're not just given steps to follow but little explanations that clarify why it is you're being asked to perform such and such an action. In the recipe in question, once you've cut you're fresh mixture of different tomatoes into odd sized pieces, you put them in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle them generously with sea salt. But the instructions don't just say do 1, then 2, then 3 and so on. They say that the reason why you're doing this is to draw out some liquid from the tomatoes to concentrate the flavour. It also explains that he's not expecting you to eat all of that salt...the salt will, for the most part, run off with the excess liquid of the tomatoes.

I've done basic tomato salads like this before. Tomatoes + olive oil + balsamic vinegar. All that's different here is the preparation of the tomatoes and the expected additions like garlic, fresh marjoram and basil and the not so usual addition of a hot red pepper. The recipe's additions were good. But it's the preparation and the learning that went along with the preparation that makes this book worthwile. Now I know that if I draw some water out of a vegetable that I'll be able to concentrate it's flavour. Simple in retrospect but it's one of those millions of little things that need to be learnt in the kitchen.

Cook with Jamie is a recipe book that reads like a cooking show. You get all the information that can be delivered in live action but in a format that allows you to move at your own pace. Isn't learning fun?!

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