Picks and Pans Review: Too Busy to Cook?

updated 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A better title might have been Cooking With Cornstarch. Three of the four recipes for an "Oriental Light" dinner call for that powdery thickener: Hot and Sour Soup uses three tablespoons, Chicken Stir Fry another three and Ginger Shrimp with Pea Pods calls for one tablespoon. Only the dessert of Spiced Fruit on Skewers is mercifully spared the gluey additive. If that menu seems hard to swallow, the tape, inspired by Bon Appétit magazine, includes simple recipes for orange-and-apricot-marinated chicken, Mediterranean pilaf with vermicelli and coffee-dusted ricotta. Instructions for grilled peppers with basil chiffonade, cappellini with crab sauce and chocolate chip meringues are included on index cards but not demonstrated on-camera. Given the chopping, dicing, peeling and marinating required by these dishes, none of the suggested dinner menus seems either quick or easy. As gastronomic guides, Los Angeles chef Mark (Spago, Ma Maison) Peel and "food enthusiast" Susan ("Zucchini is such a wonderful color!") Arnell have all the rapport of two strangers on a Greyhound. Tighter direction would have helped. Filling a tablespoon with sesame oil, for example, might have taken place off-camera, and all that playful banter can only grow tiresome with repeated viewings. Buyers should be warned that this 60-minute video comes with a built-in commercial for a California vintner known for its jug wines, and its name is shamelessly flashed before the camera no fewer than 12 times. (Karl-Lorimar, $14.95)

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