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Book Review: Ming Tsai Rocks East-West Simplicity with One-Pot Meals

1/25/2011 2:49:30 PM

Tags: K.C. Compton, Samurai Sage, Ming Tsai, Cookbook, Product Reviews, Book Review, One Pot Meals, Simply Ming, Soup, Health

KCJust when I think I have read my lifetime supply of great cookbooks and probably should turn my mind to hefty literature or useful socio-political treatises, a new cookbook turns up in my in-basket and I’m once more lost to great literature. This week it’s Simply Ming One-Pot Meals, by Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm.

We became acquainted with Ming Tsai in October 2009, when Linda Shockley interviewed the award-winning chef about his food traditions and his love of herbs. Though I don’t have television and therefore miss his PBS television show (“Simply Ming”), I do receive his newsletter from time to time and keep up with some of his new creations. His Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, remains on my list of “Somedays,” though I can’t imagine why the winds would ever blow me to that particular part of the world. Happily, I don’t have to wait for that day to enjoy some of Ming’s wonderful combinations of flavor and texture.

1-26-2011-simply ming
Photo courtesy www.ming.com.

If the name “One-Pot Meals” sounds the slightest bit boring or simplistic, let me assure you, the recipes look anything but. The cookbook includes 80 mouth-watering recipes (with delicious food photography by Antonis Achilleos) and provides details to help the reader master the seven techniques of one-pot cooking: braising, sautéing, roasting, flash-frying, tossing, using the wok and creating soups.

He promises the recipes are hassle-free with minimum clean-up, though I think his definition of those terms might be different from mine. Still, the recipes look do-able and delicious. As my co-workers can attest, my favorite thing to cook is soups, followed closely by pies. One Pot Meals won’t help much in the dessert department, but multiple ideas for soup are to be had between its covers.

I like that he starts with a chapter on basics, with a glossary of ingredients and techniques, as well as a list of seasonings, condiments and “aromatics” that any self-respecting cook of Asian or Asian-fusion food (or in my case, perhaps, faux Asian) must have in her or his pantry.

I’ll probably skip the chapter on braising and go straight for the wok, where a delicious-looking recipe for Kung Pao chicken has caught my eye. He rocks the East-West thing with his French Dip Orange Beef Hoagies that look like a great treat for a Superbowl party, and though his Pork Kimchee with Noodles might not be to everyone’s taste, his Scallop and Bacon Fettuccine with baby spinach leaves and flat-leaf parsley looks like a good excuse for a party, with our without football.

In the sauté section, we have Wild Mushroom Polenta with Thai Basil Salad, and Black Bean Orecchiette with Spicy Pork and Broccoli, and I’m wondering is if he could possibly deliver. Plainly, he earned and deserved his James Beard Foundation award, but a little home-delivery service to the wilds of eastern Kansas couldn’t be all that much of a step down, could it?

Those of you who love reading recipes as much as I do will certainly understand my impulse to put the rest of my afternoon on hold and settle in while I read about Lemongrass-Coconut Chicken Soup and Tea-Smoked Salmon with Preserved Lemon and Fennel-Couscous Salad. Don’t think that would go a long way toward meeting my deadlines, but it sure would be a fine way to spend a cold afternoon.



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