Picks and Pans Review: Simply Ming

updated 11/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm

In his second cookbook, Ming Tsai, the host of Food Network's East Meets West, elaborates on the old chef's technique of using only a handful of basic sauces and marinades to create all kinds of dishes. It's the secret behind those seemingly endless Chinese menus, but Ming's basics, like Asian Pesto or Soy-Dijon Marinade, are not your average takeout fare. Take Roasted Pepper-Lemongrass Sambal, his version of the ubiquitous spicy pepper paste of Asia. The recipe calls for roasted red peppers (a Spanish concept) and aromatic lemongrass (a Southeast Asian staple); when he uses the sauce to braise chicken, an "Asian coq au vin" is born. The same sauce fires up Italian-style sausages served over orzo—the European pasta that, of course, looks like rice. This is more fission than fusion, and purists might be left bewildered. But the recipes are easy, and the food actually looks like the glossy photographs.

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

With so many cook-books promising the new, the exotic or the fused, it's a relief to find one with a recipe for White Bread 101. This encyclopedic guide to baking also covers everything from Indian roti to Quiche Lorraine, with an emphasis on basic principles. Don't let the title fool you: Although compiled by a well-known flour company, this is not one of those cheesy supermarket promotions where every recipe features the preferred brand in BIG TYPE. It's an authoritative study, decades in the making, from the pros in King Arthur's test kitchen. Clear illustrations help you master techniques and understand baking equipment, while sidebars like "Storing Yeast" and "Rolling Rolls" get down to the nitty-gritty. And throughout, troubleshooting tips come to the rescue: If your pitas don't puff, turn up the oven.

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