cover image Best American Side Dishes: A Best Recipe Classic

Best American Side Dishes: A Best Recipe Classic

. America's Test Kitchen, $35 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-936184-85-2

Sweet three-bean salad, creamy coleslaw and cheese straws shine under the scrutiny of America's Test Kitchen in this latest addition to the Best American cookbook series. Most of the book's recipes offer variations on potluck basics- like deviled eggs, stuffed zucchini and potato salad-but all go through the same ""scientific"" taste panel test that made Cook's Illustrated famous for producing simple, agreeable (though sometimes a tad boring) flavors. For example, after determining that the best way to cook broccoli is by steaming (boiled broccoli absorbs too much water and becomes ""soggy tasting and mushy""), the editors perfect the techniques of uniform floret cutting and offer a series of variations on the theme: e.g., Steamed Broccoli with Sesame Vinaigrette, Steamed Broccoli with Balsamic-Basil Vinaigrette, Steamed Broccoli with Spanish Green Herb Sauce. Next they perfect the techniques of Stir-fried Broccoli, Sauteed Broccoli, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole, and Broccoli Rabe. Each side dish presented in the book benefits from this meticulous step-by-step method. A few more unusual recipes are also included in the volume, like Savory Noodle Kugel with Caramelized Onions & Cauliflower, and Pissaladiere, a kind of French olive tart. But there's no snobbery here: the Pissaladiere is followed by a four-page discussion of nachos, including the results of a tortilla chip tasting. Insets with illustrations examining different equipment, techniques and ingredients get down to the nitty-gritty of cooking. What can of beans to use? How to cut up butternut squash? Like a mini-cooking school, the detailed instructions and illustrations insure that even the most inexperienced cook can follow these recipes with success.