cover image Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home

Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home

Andrew Friedman, Michael Lomonaco. William Morrow Cookbooks, $34.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-06-055562-7

Mahi mahi is on special, kale is fresh, lemons are abundant; what should you make? Celebrity chef Lomonaco's newest cookbook tackles the line between recipe and technique, offering home cooks a window into his world of inspired impromptu dinners. Simple but fancy-sounding dishes--like Marinated Salmon Carpaccio with Green Apple and Dill--act as templates. ""Replace the salmon with sushi-grade tuna and the apple with 1 small mango and 1 small papaya,"" he suggests in a sidebar alongside the recipe. One of these little sections accompanies every recipe in the book, and though they're small, they do help teach readers the logic behind creative cooking. ""If you cannot find blood oranges, no problem,"" he assures in Ceviche of Bay Scallops and Blood Oranges. ""Any orange will be fine. But also consider ruby red grapefruit from Texas."" For a cook intimidated by the creative process (or one who lives in an area with erratic access to vegetables), these recipes nestled within recipes are a great favor. The dishes themselves are an odd mix of restaurant-fancy food from Lomonaco's time at 21 and Windows on the World, old standbys (like My Mother's Italian-American Meatloaf) and a mishmash of Asian and Latin flavors. His use of unusual starches like yuca, quinoa, ""risotto,"" wheat berries and barley will appeal to carb-conscious eaters. There are a few confusing moments--he suggests looking for ginger that feels ""soft to the touch"" and recommends boiling collard greens for a whopping 90 minutes before sauteing--and the dessert section is surprisingly complicated. Overall, however, this strong collection of recipes will be welcome to any cook, and those in Lomonaco's strong fan base won't have any trouble finding a place for it on their shelves.