In an attempt to use whatever remains of my birthday powers, I’d like to make a short plug for an unjustly forgotten cookbook: Great Food without Fuss, edited by Frances McCullough and Barbara Witt. Amazon does not even supply a cover photo, so I will:
You may not think you need this book, but you do. When I received it as a gift over ten years ago, I though its premise was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard. The authors have taken recipes from famous cooks (James Beard, Julia Child, and Deborah Madison, among others) that are relatively easy to make, and they’ve slapped them together into their own book. Who does that sort of thing? Isn’t it stealing?
As is all too often the case, I was wrong. Here’s the reason.
These are my cookbooks. Now, if you were to peruse these shelves you’d probably unearth–eventually–most of the recipes in Great Food without Fuss. But I certainly hadn’t bothered to do that by the time this little book took its place among the giants piled up here. (If you look carefully you can see it on the top shelf, nearly in the center, sandwiched between the two volumes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Lidia’s Italy.) So this book has served as kind of index for me, a wonderful compilation of go-to recipes that I might never have discovered otherwise.
The recipes are indeed simple, and their strength lies in using fresh ingredients, for the most part. The Pasta with Vodka is the best version of this dish I’ve ever had. The recipe for Shredded Brussels Sprouts–chopped brussels sprouts, butter, and lime–is so simple and perfect that I was astonished I’d never come up with it myself. And how else would I have discovered James Beard’s ridiculously easy Cream Biscuits, in which you just stir whipping cream into a mix of flour, leavening, and sugar? Other favorites are Pasta with Gorgonzola, Julia Child’s Roasted Onions with Sage, Cape Scallops Sauteed with Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Beef Braised in Coffee.
Only one recipe, Pork Slices with Prunes, has ever steered me wrong, and I really should have known better anyway.
I think the strongest testament I can offer is the the torn, grease-splattered back cover
and the greatly abused page containing the recipe for Pasta with Vodka.
Perhaps if we all buy a copy, they’ll put it back into print.