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Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food From a Master Teacher

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You love good food. You prefer fresh ingredients, you appreciate lively flavors, you try to eat healthy. So what's keeping you out of the kitchen? Fear? Boredom with making the same old things? In this book, renowned cooking teacher and innovative California chef John Ash says, "Let's get back in there."

Those lucky enough to have learned in the classroom alongside John Ash know that he is an extraordinarily gifted teacher who empowers beginning cooks and kitchen veterans alike ...

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Overview

You love good food. You prefer fresh ingredients, you appreciate lively flavors, you try to eat healthy. So what's keeping you out of the kitchen? Fear? Boredom with making the same old things? In this book, renowned cooking teacher and innovative California chef John Ash says, "Let's get back in there."

Those lucky enough to have learned in the classroom alongside John Ash know that he is an extraordinarily gifted teacher who empowers beginning cooks and kitchen veterans alike to reach new culinary heights. In his celebrated classes, Ash takes the fear out of creative cooking by demonstrating the basics, then encouraging students to dive right in and experiment with the endless possibilities. Now, home cooks can reap the benefits of a private course with John Ash in this enlightening guide to cooking essentials and beyond.

John Ash: Cooking One on One features lessons that focus on specific techniques, ingredients, or flavor-makers--vinaigrettes, pestos, and other building blocks that turn ordinary dishes into something special. With each lesson, Ash presents a handful of recipes--variations on a theme that start simply, then progress to reveal more complex combinations. With clear-cut instructions and a dash of charm, Ash helps cooks build confidence in the kitchen and proves that any dish, no matter how intricate, is based on a handful of simple techniques and troubleshooting know-how.

This unique new collection of recipes--his first since the IACP Cookbook of the Year From the Earth to the Table--offers savory soups, satisfying main course salads, comforting vegetarian and nonvegetarian entrées, and delectable desserts for every occasion. Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Pineapple Melon Salsa. Mojo-Marinated Skewered Beef. Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon, Apple Cider Dressing, and Oven-Dried Grapes. Mushroom-Ginger Soup with Roasted Garlic Custards. Orange Ricotta Cake with Strawberries. Discover an irresistible assortment of extraordinary recipes prepared with global accents and a light touch. As one of the guiding forces behind California cuisine, Ash uses fats judiciously and encourages cooking with seasonal produce. His final lesson, an introduction to wine, rounds out this groundbreaking cookbook.

An unprecedented blend of instruction and inspiration, John Ash: Cooking One on One swings open the kitchen door, stocks the pantry, and invites cooks of all skill levels to dish up fresh, flavorful food at home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Home cooking is not an all-or-nothing proposition," urges Fetzer Vineyards culinary director Ash in this persuasive appeal to home chefs to incorporate a few new flavors and basic methods into their repertoires. Ash's chatty, straightforward subject lessons on techniques, ingredients and "flavor-makers" (as he refers to sauces like pestos and vinaigrettes) elucidate recipes that are unusual and appealing, like flatbread cooked on the grill, brisket braised in coffee and a salad of oven-dried vegetables to top fried risotto or polenta. As in his previous books, From the Earth to the Table and American Game Cooking, Ash supplements typical Mediterranean-inspired California cuisine with refreshingly global fare, drawing on Asian, Caribbean and Latin sources. While these recipes' wide range of flavors and cultures will appeal to sophisticated eaters, many readers will find Ash's clear introduction to unfamiliar methods and ingredients useful. Ash also suggests fat- and time-saving variations for most recipes, asserting that delicious results can be achieved even if cooks skimp on a few steps or ingredients. Designated for bookstores' "natural foods" shelves because of its emphasis on local produce and pasture-raised meat, the book discusses American agricultural practices and how they immediately affect our food choices, which should be eye-opening for those encountering these issues for the first time. But that discussion is too cursory for readers eager for a serious, mainstream cookbook to incorporate considerations of sustainable agriculture into everyday cooking. (On sale Mar. 23) Forecast: Ash is a prominent California chef, teaching at such popular venues as De Gustibus at Macy's, and is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. An 11-city author tour should increase sales. Sophisticated restaurant-goers willing to make a considerable time and ingredient investment are this book's core audience. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Culinary director of California's Fetzer Vineyards, Ash teaches classes there as well as at various other venues. His latest book allows any home cook to enjoy the benefits of his experience, presenting 18 self-contained lessons so that readers can either choose those that most interest them or work their way through the book chronologically. The lessons are divided into three categories: "Flavor-Makers," "Techniques," and "Main Ingredients." While personal by intent, the book provides a vast amount of culinary information, along with an enticing array of fresh, vibrant recipes. The first "Flavor-Maker" chapter, for example, includes a classic New World Salsa, an unusual Roasted Lemon Salsa, and a zesty Grilled Corn Salsa, plus recipes spun off from these basics, e.g., Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Pineapple Melon Salsa. Techniques range from soup-making basics and oven-drying to "Two Approaches to Pasta, West and East"; the ingredients lessons focus on perennial favorites like salmon, shrimp, and chicken. There are also Q&As throughout, a separate chapter on wine, and full-page color photographs of many dishes. With its highly appealing style and thoroughly detailed and approachable recipes, Ash's book is highly recommended. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609609675
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/23/2004
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 7.72 (w) x 10.25 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN ASH is the author of From the Earth to the Table, which won the IACP awards for Best American Cookbook and Cookbook of the Year, and writes a regular column for the Los Angeles Times syndicate. A renowned food and wine educator, he teaches at the Culinary Institute of America and other venues around the world and joined Fetzer Vineyards as their culinary director in 1990. For the past fifteen years, he has hosted a local talk radio show about food. He lives in Santa Rosa, California. For more information, visit www.chefjohnash.com.
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Read an Excerpt

salsas
America's Favorite Fresh Condiment

In most of America today, we take salsas almost for granted. The news that sales of salsa had passed ketchup, making it America's number one condiment, was a major sidebar topic a couple of years ago. It was an indication of both how the ethnic balance in America was changing and how much more adventurous Americans had become in their eating. (Of course, it's also because no one eats a jarful of ketchup in one sitting, but, hey, who's counting?)

But while supermarket salsa is a narrowly defined condiment with limited uses, the wide world of homemade salsas is a great adventure in flavor and texture. The word salsa is Spanish for "sauce" and covers a wide range of recipes, from fresh, raw, chunky salsa frescas, salsa crudas, and pico de gallos to cooked and sometimes vinegared smooth sauces, including mysterious and complex moles of many colors. For most of us, however, salsa has come to mean the chunky, Mexican tomato-based condiment-cum-salad, and that is the focus of this lesson. Salsas are easy to make, can be made ahead, and are the perfect healthy topper to all manner of quickly prepared dishes, enlivening the most unlikely foods-everything from roasted potatoes to seafood cakes, grilled meats, and poultry. They can be used like any relish or served in larger portions like mini-salads. Best of all, salsas give terrific bang for your buck: with minimal effort from you, a salsa can deliver an incredible blend of flavors and sensations-sweet, sour, hot, herbal, cool, crunchy-in one tiny mouthful.

Good salsas are easy to make: generally it's chop, mix, and eat. Great salsas demand little more-the biggest difference between a good salsa and a great one is the quality of the ingredients. A little restaurant that I like puts out the simplest salsa fresca and tortilla chips when they bring the menu. I never leave without having eaten the entire bowl, because they always use the most amazing tomatoes, and the flavor impact of that one ingredient is incredible. Use top-notch raw materials full of flavor at the peak of freshness and you'll have great salsa.

How can I make salsa if chopping onions makes me cry?

If you harvested your own onions, you wouldn't have this problem. "Young" (recently harvested) onions are generally sweeter, with less of the sulfur compounds that make some onions taste funky and set you weeping. Most of us, however, have little control over the age of our onions. You can minimize this problem-and have better tasting salsa-by immediately throwing your chopped onions into a bowl of ice water. Try several changes of water for best results. Unless I've got a Walla Walla or a Vidalia or one of the other super-sweet varieties, I do this soak-drain-repeat process not just for salsas, but whenever the onions are going to be eaten raw.

Is salsa a good "make-ahead" food?

The "freshness factor" means that salsas are at their best soon after they are made, although most benefit from a little sitting time so the flavors can develop. That's not to say that you can't make a salsa today and store it in the fridge for dinner tomorrow or the next day; you can. But long before it goes bad, a salsa will start to wilt, losing that bright, crisp quality that makes it so irresistible. Once you realize how many uses there are for salsa beyond tortilla chips, I doubt it'll hang around your refrigerator long enough for it to be a problem.

basic salsa fresca or cruda
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

The simplest of the salsas (and the most familiar to us all) is the classic New World combination of tomatoes, onions, chiles, and garlic, to which other seasonings can be added as desired. The basic recipe follows, along with some suggested additions. You can certainly eat this straight out of the bowl with tortilla chips, but you can also use it to top various cooked foods. I've given some recipes; I hope they'll open up your mind to the possibilities.

2 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 3/4 pound)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced, seeded serrano chile, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves Drops of lime or lemon juice to taste Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing or serving bowl, and set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Before using the salsa, taste it and add more of any of the seasonings you think are needed. Store covered in the refrigerator. For best flavor, eat within 1 day, but it can be stored for as long as 3. (Use your judgment here.) You can easily multiply the quantities to make more.

note: For more information on serrano, jalapeño, habanero, and other chiles essential to making great salsas, see the Glossary and Pantry.

variations

Charred Salsa: Place a heavy, unoiled skillet over medium heat for a minute or two. Add a whole unpeeled onion, 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, and 1 or 2 chiles, and toast for a few minutes on all sides or until the vegetables have softened a bit and blackened in small spots. Transfer to a plate to cool, then remove the peels from the onion and garlic. Chop these and the chiles following the quantities in the recipe above or adjusting to your taste, and add to the rest of the ingredients.

Green and Red Salsa: Substitute 2 to 3 fresh husked tomatillos (see Glossary and Pantry) for one of the tomatoes.

Smoked Salsa: You can lightly smoke the tomatoes, onions, chiles, and garlic before chopping in a stovetop smoker (available at better cookware stores), or on the grill.

Here are two of my favorite ways to use a a simple Salsa Fresca.

grilled marinated shrimp with salsa fresca

Serves 4 as a main course

These shrimp can be served right off the grill or at room temperature as part of a summer buffet. You can either peel the shrimp as suggested or grill them with the shell on, which adds a lot of flavor. If you choose to grill with the shell on, snip it along the back with a pair of scissors so that you can remove the sand vein.

1 pound large (16-20 size or larger) shrimp
1/2 teaspoon salt Marinade
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons finely minced or pressed garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons white wine, preferably a dry or off-dry aromatic Basic Salsa Fresca or Cruda (page 4)
Garnish if you like with avocado slices, lime wedges

Peel and devein the shrimp (tail on, tail off-it's up to you). Whisk the marinade ingredients together, toss with the shrimp, and marinate for up to 45 minutes in the refrigerator. Skewer, if desired, to facili- tate grilling.

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas or stovetop grill or broiler. Grill or broil the shrimp quickly, 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they just begin to turn pink. Be careful not to overcook; the shrimp should remain slightly transparent in the middle.

Spoon the salsa onto the middle of each plate and arrange the shrimp around it. Garnish with avocado slices and lime wedges, if desired, and serve. I eat this with my fingers.

note: For a more detailed description of peeling and cleaning shrimp, see page 272.Shrimp headed for the grill really benefit from a little time spent in brine. For that procedure, see page 271.

white bean salad with salsa fresca

Serves 4 to 6

This is a delicious, healthy salad that is good both as a stand-alone dish or as a bed for a piece of grilled or broiled chicken or fish.

3 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini (drained and rinsed if using canned)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced red or green onions
3 tablespoons drained, chopped capers
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon roasted or poached garlic (see Glossary and Pantry)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups or so lightly packed tender arugula or watercress leaves
2/3 cup or so Basic Salsa Fresca or Cruda (page 4)
Garnish if you like with freshly grated Cotija (aged Mexican cheese) or Pecorino and lemon wedges

Combine the beans, olive oil, onions, capers, mint, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mound the bean mixture on plates and arrange the arugula around it. Make an indentation in the mound of beans and spoon in some salsa. Sprinkle with a little cheese and serve with lemon wedges, if desired, so everyone can add lemon juice to taste.

note: The bean mixture can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator.

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