I saw a review of this book, Freshman in the Kitchen: From Clueless Cook to Creative Chef, and since I have a daughter about to leave for college I actually wrote and asked for a review copy, a first for me. Max and Eli Sussman were kind enough to hook me up with their publisher and soon enough a copy arrived in the mail.
First, the binding and the book production itself is fantatsic! The cookbook is bound a bit differently than I’ve seen before, with spiral binding along the top third and the bottom third. There are pictures for at least half, and probably more, of the finished dishes and they are inspiring. The ingredients are called out clearly, the directions are clear and just detailed enough. Most recipes fit on a single page or are at least on facing pages (I hate having to turn a page in the middle of cooking!). Aside from all that, they “read” great (I’m pretty good at interpreting recipes by reading them through at this point) and the three I’ve tried have been fantastic.
If all you’re looking for is Ramen noodle recipes, tuna melts, and grilled cheese sandwiches, pick up a different book. But if you’re looking for creative recipes that will be fun to cook and don’t require much special equipment, buy this book or send it to your budding college cook. I had hoped to have my daughter try out a few recipes but somehow summer job and a social life has gotten in the way. I will send her off to college with this book (after photocopying a few recipes!) since she has a kitchen in her dorm and is looking forward to cooking.
I’ve made a few Chinese Chicken Salad recipes before and this one takes the least effort and tastes fantastic. (If you like breaded chicken and are only cooking for one, try this recipe. ) The only change I made to this was to use peanut oil to cook the chicken breast in. Oh, and I had some sate seasoning from Pensy’s, courtesy of a client, so sprinkled some of that on the chicken, but I know it would be good, just different, without. Oh, I also didn’t have any chow mein crunchy noodles. If you like those on your Asian Chicken Salad, use about 1 cup of them. I also added a cucumber.
Oh yum! And you could leave out the chile paste if you don’t have any.
Asian Chicken Salad
- 1 Tbs peanut oil or vegetable oil
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
- 1 head iceberg lettuce
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated
- 1/2 a large cucumber or 1 medium one
- 1 4 oz can water chestnuts, drained
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 Tbs sesame oil
- 2 Tbs rice vinegar
- 1 tsp chili paste
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the peanut oil. Add the chicken breasts and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned.
- Add 1 Tbs soy sauce and cook another 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Cut one in half to check–you’re going to slice them up later anyway. If the pan gets to dry, add some water. Let the chicken cool a bit while you make up the salad.
- Wash, dry and chop the lettuce and add to a large salad bowl.
- Peel and grate the carrot (or use the peeler to cut into thin strips). Peel the cucumber and dice. Drain the water chestnuts. Chop the green onions.
- Make the dressing: Mix together the remaining soy sauce (3 Tbs), sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili paste, brown sugar, and olive oil.
- Cut the chicken into strips. Toss together the vegetables, chicken strips and salad dressing. Garnish with chow mein noodles if you’d like.
I made this along with Sesame Peanut Noodles. The other recipe I tried from here was for chicken breasts marinated in an Asian bbq sauce. (Really, the recipes are not all Asian influenced. Just what my taste has been for the last few days! )
Other recipes in the book include Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Guacamole, Michigan Chicken Salad (with dried cherries, very intriguing!), homemade hummus, Omelets, Turkey Chili, a nice selection of vegetarian dishes, some grill based dishes, and some themed menus (Mediterranean, Italian, and Japanese) plus some nice desserts.