Cookbook Reviews:

How to Cook Without a Book : Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart

"Give a man a recipe, he eats a meal.
Teach a man to cook, he eats for a lifetime!"
--Pam Anderson

by Pam Anderson
ISBN:  0767902793
Broadway Books/ $25.00/ 320 pages
Publication Date:  April 4, 2000

Where was this cookbook when I was a new bride?  This is a terrific guide to basic techniques with variations on the theme.  Just the kind of cookbook I have longed for!  (Like a whole cookbook of recipes similar to my ABC muffin mix!)

Like many of us, Pam Anderson struggled with figuring out "a simple way of getting dinner on the table, night after night."   Fortunately, Pam discovered that we simply need a well-stocked pantry and mastery of a few basic cooking techniques.

This culinary guide helps cooks of every level build a repertoire of dinner potentials by providing a list of essentials for stocking the pantry, fridge & freezer then teaching the cook the techniques necessary to combine ingredients into a fabulous dish.

In her quirky way, Anderson begins each chapter with pithy rhyme to help you remember the basics of the technique.  She then gives a step-by-step guide to the technique, the basic recipe, and then variations on the basic recipe.  She concludes each chapter with an "at-a-glance" box which sums up the technique.

I especially love the soup formula -- one easy formula, many supper soups; simple ways with simple sides and her menus at a glance chapters.

With ingredients in your pantry and methods in your head, you'll have the energy and ingenuity to get weeknight dinners on the table  and  the pizza-delivery boy will have to visit his OTHER families more often!

Order How to Cook Without a Book

hardcover  $17.50

 Sample Recipes:

Simple Tomato Sauce

Heat fat and garlic, then cook it for two.
Add canned tomatoes and simmer for a few.

Enough for 1 pound pasta, serving 4 to 6

Some brands of tomatoes are more acidic than others, so you may want to add a pinch of sugar or even a pinch of baking soda at the end of cooking to neutralize the acidity.  If you prefer a lower-fat sauce, use the lesser amount of fat.  If you cheat the sauce of too much fat, however, your sauce will lack body and taste like warmed-up tomatoes.  Grated Parmesan cheese passed separately goes well with all except for the fresh seafood sauces.

3 to 4 Tbsp. fat (extra-virgin olive oil, butter, or rendered meat fat such as sausage or bacon)

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes packed in puree (Muir Glen Organic Ground Peeled Tomatoes, Red Pack Crushed or Progresso Crushed)
(If using whole canned tomatoes packed in puree, ad the tomatoes to the pot and crush them with your fingertips, a masher or food processor before they've had a chance to heat up)

Ground black pepper and Salt

2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)

3 medium garlic cloves, minced or 1 small onion, halved and sliced thin or chopped fine

In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, heat garlic and oil together over medium-high heat until garlic starts to sizzle.  If using onion, heat oil, add onions, and sauté until soft, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, bring to a simmer; continue to simmer over medium-low heat until sauce thickens and flavors meld, about 10-15 minutes (cooking time varies based on added ingredients).  Taste the sauce and season with pepper and salt, if necessary.  Stir in optional parsley.  Add about 2/3 of the sauce with cooked pasta and toss.  Serve, topping each portion with remaining sauce.


Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce

You can substitute  1 tsp. of dried basil for the fresh, but add it along with the tomatoes.  This sauce is best served with fettuccine.

fat:  3 Tbsp. butter

aromatic:  1 small onion, halved and sliced thin

extra ingredients:  1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. shredded fresh basil leaves

Follow the Simple Tomato Sauce recipe, adding cream and basil to the fully cooked sauce.  Continue to simmer until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes longer.


Tomato Sauce with Artichokes and Olives

Minced fresh parsley particularly enhances this tomato sauce.

fat:  3-4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

aromatic:  3 garlic cloves, minced

extra ingredients:  1 can (14 oz.) artichoke quarters, drained

16-24 piquant black olives, such as Kalamatas, pitted and chopped coarse

Follow the Simple Tomato Sauce recipe, adding artichokes and olives along with the tomatoes.

Tomato Sauce with Bacon, Bay Scallops, and Basil

I am not a bay scallop fan, except in tomato sauce.  If you don't want to use bacon, butter can be substituted.

fat:  3-4 Tbsp. rendered fat from 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

aromatic:  3 minced garlic cloves

extra ingredients:  3/4 pound bay scallops, sprinkled with salt

2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil leaves

In the pan used to make the sauce, fry bacon over medium-high heat until most of its fat has rendered and it is almost crisp, 4-5 minutes.  Add scallops; sauté until just opaque, 2-3 minutes.  Remove pan from heat; transfer scallops to a plate with a slotted spoon. Once oil has cooled slightly, return pan to heat and add garlic.  Follow recipe for Simple Tomato Sauce, adding scallops and fresh basil to cooked sauce; simmer to blend flavors, 1-2 minutes longer.


other variations given in cookbook:

Tomato Sauce with Wild Mushrooms
Tomato Sauce with Fresh Mushrooms and Oregano
Tomato Sauce with Aromatic Vegetables
Tomato Sauce with Sweet Onions and Thyme
Tomato Sauce with Zucchini and Basil
Tomato Sauce with Capers and Black Olives
Tomato Sauce with Tuna and Olives
Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Red Pepper Flakes
Tomato Sauce with Mussels and Garlic
Tomato Sauce with Clams and Parsley
Quick Meat Sauce
Tomato Sauce with Sausage and Peppers
Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Olives
Tomato Sauce with Chicken and Red Peppers
Tomato Sauce with Ground Turkey and Oregano

Simple Tomato Sauce

  • Select a large (4-quart) saucepan or a 6-quart Dutch oven to make the sauce.
  • Figure on 3-4 Tbsp. of fat -- butter, olive oil, or bacon or sausage drippings.
  • Heat garlic and fat together.  When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the canned crushed tomatoes.
  • If using onions (or a combination of onions and garlic), add them to the hot oil and sauté until softened.
  • Add extra ingredients -- vegetables, meats, seafood, pantry ingredients, and diced and fresh herbs -- at the appropriate time.