Secret Recipes from the Corner Market
by Carol Ann Kates
Penny Lane Press

"My father taught me my most valuable lesson about cooking. Great food begins with shopping. The quality of the ingredients used when preparing the meal is just as important as the recipe."

Transporting the reader to an era in which a pound of apples cost a dime, and market owners personally inspected ingredients for quality, Kates offers both a tribute to fresh, family meals and a versatile how-to guide for food lovers of all backgrounds. The work opens with the engaging history of Steele's Market—the Colorado-based food chain started by her father, Merrill Steele, in 1940—and continues to showcase the value of family in charming, educational asides that appear on nearly every page. Even the recipes that appear throughout Kates' pages are derived from those she perfected for the family business.

Yet, for all of its beauty and nostalgia, Kates' work is also a practical cookbook, with recipes divided into fifteen categories. These include appetizers, soups, sandwiches and pizza, beef and lamb, fish and seafood, one-dish meals, desserts, and a bonus section from Carol Ann's Deli. Each chapter offers an average of 20 recipes, and while the ingredients used for these recipes are exactly the types of foods one can find at a quality corner market, they are by no means monotonous. On the contrary, Kates offers recipes ranging from the traditional, such as "Gourmet Grilled Cheese" and "Sesame Chicken," to the elegant, such as "Artichoke and Langostino Bisque," "Crab Salad Sandwiches with Gruyere Cheese," and "Kiwifruit and Banana Sorbets with Raspberry Sauce." There are even whimsical options, such as "Back to the Seventies Taco Salad" and "A Fancy Feast for Fisherman." Beyond these recipes, however, Kates offers a significant amount of educational content, including guidance on the selection and storage of foods, such as cheese, chicken, pork and fish, as well as a highly detailed discussion of produce selection, advice on buying and storing herbs, servings for meal planning, and helpful hints about food safety.

Replete with lovely illustrations, as well as fun, fascinating historical details, Kates' work offers a uniquely immersive take on the modern cookbook. However, while the focus on family and familial wisdom bring depth and context to the recipes, Kates' offering stands on its own as an excellent contribution to the cookbook genre. The author explains her recipes with an easy-to-understand style that makes intimidating ones, such as "Herbed Yorkshire Pudding," seem simple. She is also careful to define cooking terms and ingredients, such as crème fraiche, to take the guesswork out of preparing a quality meal. Furthermore, bordering on a compendium, the work offers a tremendous amount of practical information throughout its 400 pages. And while it may seem like the era of the published cookbook is gone, it is precisely this volume of information that provides lasting value by helping readers answer questions they never knew they had. The result is a cookbook that helps readers feel a new sense of confidence about shopping, cooking, and food preservation. Kates' work will offer something for cooks of all abilities, but it is also a must-read for novice cooks who, uncertain of where to start, never start at all. Thus, the author opens the door of culinary art to the Door Dash generation, while offering a heartfelt and enduringly relevant cookbook that anyone can enjoy.

A 2007 Eric Hoffer Book Award Home Category Honorable Mention

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