cover image Cooking from the Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals

Cooking from the Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals

Cat Cora, with Ann Krueger Spivack. . Houghton Mifflin, $30 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-618-72990-6

Cora, the lone woman to be anointed an "Iron Chef" in the Food Network's American version of the series, aims to translate the fast, flashy style of that high-pressure kitchen into recipes that home cooks who have similar time constraints but comparatively modest gadgets and pantries can enjoy. The results are generally pleasing and more accessible than many of the concoctions presented on TV by battling chefs. Four sections break the food into "fast," "easy," "fun," and "phenomenal" categories that are a welcome change from the traditional progression through each course and show Cora's spontaneous, easygoing yet stylish way to its best advantage. Simple variations on classics stand out, as in a Curried Broccoli Salad ("fast") and spiky, flavorful Watermelon Gazpacho ("easy") even when some recipes' placements are questionable: a silky Potato-Celery Root soup is nice, but hardly phenomenal, and beginning or busy cooks may find recipes like hand-rolled Dolmathes or sushi more frustrating and time-intensive than fun, even if friends help. Fortunately, Cora's sunny, can-do attitude and the boxed tips on ingredients and preparation sprinkled throughout will help to dispel many doubts. Home cooks will appreciate the way they expand the repertory of recipes that are upscale enough to impress company, but simple enough to encourage use throughout a busy week. Color photos not seen by PW . (Apr.)