Books That Cook: 'Make It Fast, Cook It Slow,' 'B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style,' 'The Comfort Table'

TITLE: Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea (Hyperion, $19.99, 464 pages).

Generally speaking: The recipes in Make It Fast, Cook It Slow are truly family-friendly. Kids will enjoy the applesauce chicken and Rice Krispies treats; adults will want to try the Philly cheesesteaks and creme brulee. The timing is right for this book as the slow cooker is making a comeback in these economic times. Less-expensive cuts of meat sometimes work best in the slow cooker, and often you can have enough leftovers from the slow cooker for another meal.

For: Slow cookers once were for those who worked all day or worked late; now everyone can benefit from cooking this way.

Bonus: All recipes are gluten-free.

Recipes: French dip sandwiches, fajitas, Korean ribs, chicken Parmesan, Jamaican pumpkin soup, harvest stew, gumbo, garlic baked potatoes, acorn squash and apple butter.

TITLE: B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style by Barbara Smith (Scribner, $35, 336 pages).

Generally speaking: By looking at the recipes in this cookbook, you would never know B. Smith wasn't originally from the South. Her family has strong Southern roots, but she is from southern Pennsylvania. Smith has been compared to Martha Stewart, but this book is all about food, no table settings or menus.

For: Anyone who loves Southern food. There are many familiar Southern ingredients (okra, chitterlings, collard greens) and Southern dishes (ham steak with red eye gravy, chicken fried steak).

Recipes: Seafood gumbo, root beer barbecued pulled pork sliders, coconut pecan cupcakes, tomato bread pudding, Guinness tartar sauce, red velvet cake roll with peanut butter frosting, deep dish apple pie, sweet maple barbecue chicken.

TITLE: The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions by Katie Lee (Simon & Schuster, $26, 272 pages).

Generally Speaking: The recipes are mouthwatering, but there is nothing really new or unusual in this collection. We've seen recipes for fried chicken, shrimp cocktail, Mexican wedding cookies, even sage buttermilk biscuits. It feels more like a collection of other celebrity chefs' recipes rather than something new and fresh.

For: Novice cooks who don't have essential recipes in their repertoire and are not comfortable with entertaining. Lee does have some good ideas about entertaining and offers some cocktail recipes too (though, again, nothing special: mai tai, "perfect" Manhattan, dirty martini, etc.).

Recipes: Nutella French toast sandwiches, sweet potato casserole, chocolate banana cream pie, tomato, Vidalia onion and cucumber salad, pineapple coconut sundaes, iceberg wedge with bacon and blue cheese dressing.

>>EASY

Cranberry Pork Roast

2 ½- to 3-pound pork loin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 cup raisins

1 garlic clove, chopped

½ cup cranberry juice

½ small lemon, thinly sliced

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the meat in a resealable plastic bag. Add the ginger, mustard, salt, pepper and cornstarch. Shake to coat. Pour the contents from the bag into the slow cooker. Add the cranberries, sugars, raisins and garlic. Pour in cranberry juice and top with lemon slices. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Serve with rice or pasta.

Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Make it Fast, Cook it Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea (Hyperion)

>>MODERATE

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups whole milk

1 cup yellow or white cornmeal

4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a round 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Pour the milk into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal to avoid any lumps. Continue whisking; as the milk heats to steaming, the mixture will thicken, about 3 to 4 minutes. Allow to come to a gentle boil and cook for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add the butter, whisking until it melts.

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed sweet potatoes and baking powder. Stir in the warm milk mixture and mix until smooth. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, blending well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style by Barbara Smith (Scribner)

>>EASy

Chinese Five-Spice Kettle Corn

¾ cup popcorn kernels

¼ cup canola oil

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large pot or stockpot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat, combine the popcorn, oil, sugar, five-spice powder and salt. Shake constantly. When the popcorn begins to pop, lower the heat to medium low. Continue to shake until the popping begins to slow. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with the melted butter.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions by Katie Lee (Simon & Schuster)

Books That Cook: 'Make It Fast, Cook It Slow,' 'B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style,' 'The Comfort Table' 12/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 3:30am]

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