cover image The Improvisational Cook

The Improvisational Cook

Sally Schneider, , photos by Maria Robledo. . Morrow, $34.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-06-073164-9

As she did in A New Way to Cook , Schneider offers an original, practical and well-executed plan for improvisational cooking—experimenting, cooking creatively, playing with ingredients and recipes, and "relinquishing total control and allowing an idea to develop organically." She presents ingredient-inspired recipes followed by several improvisations, or variations: a simple Herb Salad morphs into Spring Salad with Pea Shoots, Tarragon, and Chives; Cilantro Salas with Fragrant Peanut or Sesame Oil; Salad of Cress, Pine Nuts, Pears, and Chives; and Doctored Mesclun Salad. The Sage-and-Garlic Popcorn precedes derivatives for Brown Butter Popcorn, Caramelized Shallot Popcorn, Rosemary Popcorn, Smoky Bacon Popcorn and White Truffle Popcorn. Each anchor recipe features an "understanding" section that explains key ingredients or techniques. For example, a section within the Crackling Corn Bread recipe discusses cornmeal, fats in breads, buttermilk, flavorings and the basic cornbread formula. Readers can then use the ingredients and techniques—with confidence and knowledge—in myriad ways. Photographs are too few and far between; more images would enhance this volume and inspire experimentation. But overall the format is a creative way to teach readers to think more like chefs. (Oct.)