Cover image for How to cook without a book : recipes and techniques every cook should know by heart
How to cook without a book : recipes and techniques every cook should know by heart
Anderson, Pam, 1957-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
290 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX833.5 .A46 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Pam Anderson grew up watching her parents and grandparents make dinner every night by simply taking the ingredients on hand and cooking them with the techniques they knew.

Times have changed. Today we have an overwhelming array of ingredients and a fraction of the cooking time, but Anderson believes the secret to getting dinner on the table lies in the past. After a long day, who has the energy to look up a recipe and search for the right ingredients before ever starting to cook? To make dinner night after night, Anderson believes the first two steps--looking for a recipe, then scrambling for the exact ingredients--must be eliminated.nbsp;nbsp;Understanding that most recipes are simply "variations on a theme," she innovatively teaches technique, ultimately eliminating the need for recipes.

Once the technique or formula is mastered, Anderson encourages inexperienced as well as veteran cooks to spread their culinary wings.nbsp;nbsp;For example, after learning to sear a steak, it's understood that the same method works for scallops, tuna, hamburger, swordfish, salmon, pork tenderloin, and more. You never need to look at a recipe again. Vary the look and flavor of these dishes with interchangeable pan sauces, salsas, relishes, and butters.

Best of all, these recipes rise above the mundane Monday-through-Friday fare.nbsp;nbsp;Imagine homemade ravioli and lasagna for weeknight supper, or from-scratch tomato sauce before the pasta water has even boiled.nbsp;nbsp;Last-minute guests? Dress up simple tomato sauce with capers and olives or shrimp and red pepper flakes. Drizzle sautéed chicken breasts with a balsamic vinegar pan sauce. Anderson teaches you how to do it--without a recipe. Don't buy exotic ingredients and follow tedious instructions for making hors d'oeuvres. Forage through the pantry and refrigerator for quick appetizers. The ingredients are all there; the method is in your head. Master four simple potato dishes--a bake, a cake, a mash, and a roast--compatible with many meals. Learn how to make the five-minute dinner salad, easily changing its look and flavor depending on the season and occasion. Tuck a few dessert techniques in your back pocket and effortlessly turn any meal into a special occasion.

There's real rhyme and reason to Pam's method at the beginning of every chapter: To dress greens, "Drizzle salad with oil, salt, and pepper, then toss until just slick. Sprinkle in some vinegar to give it a little kick." To make a frittata, "Cook eggs without stirring until set around the edges. Bake until puffy, then cut it into wedges." Each chapter also contains a helpful at-a-glance chart that highlights the key points of every technique, and a master recipe with enough variations to keep you going until you've learned how to cook without a book.

Author Notes

Pam Anderson is the former executive editor of Cook's Illustrated and author of the bestselling The Perfect Recipe: Getting It Right Every Time--Making Our Favorite Dishes the Absolute Best They Can Be .nbsp;nbsp;She lives with her husband and their two daughters in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and makes dinner (almost) every night.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former executive editor of Cook's magazine and author of The Perfect Recipe, Anderson wants to teach Americans a new way to cookÄwithout relying on recipes. It's somewhat surprising, then, to discover that this book is full of recipes. However, readers may cotton to Anderson's method: each chapter consists of a simple technique, basic recipe, variations, key points and a little mnemonic device used to recall the technique. The techniques are, for the most part, terrific time-savers, such as cutting out the back before roasting a whole chicken or making one giant omelet to serve four people so that everyone can eat together. Variations are good, too, although many are so similar to one another that it seems a little repetitious to include a recipe for each (in turn, many of the recipes refer back to the original, resulting in a lot of page-flipping). A chapter on tomato sauces, for example, includes the basic Simple Tomato Sauce, as well as Tomato Sauce with Dried Porcini, Tomato Sauce with Sweet Onions and Thyme, Tomato Sauce with Shrimp and Red Pepper Flakes and many others. A chapter on pan sauces is a winner, encompassing Red Wine-Dijon Pan Sauce, Port Wine Pan Sauce with Dried Cranberries and Balsamic Pan Sauce with Pine Nuts and Raisins. In the end, this cookbook is a solid collection of simple, quick recipes, but with its sometimes scattered format, it is unlikely to free everyday cooks from the tyranny of recipes. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



The Right Stuff Stocking the Refrigerator, Freezer, and Pantry Cooking without a book starts with a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry. One of the signs of a successful businessperson is how few times she handles the same piece of mail. To me, one of the signs of a successful working cook is how few times she shops for food. For want of any meal planning, many cooks end up repeatedly running to the store. Since most American family schedules are erratic and unpredictable, long-term meal planning can be frustrating, but running to the grocery store every day or two also takes time and energy that most people just don't have. On vacation, I shop every day because I enjoy it. When I work, however, I try to stock up once a week, running back maybe once more if I'm entertaining or I've left something off the list. Every few weeks I go to my gourmet store for olives, cheese, oil, vinegar, and other pantry items. I also stop at a good bakery for French and Italian bread, which I freeze. I take time to shop because if I find myself with an empty refrigerator at 6:00 on Wednesday night, I'm more likely to grab the family and head for a restaurant. Surrounding yourself with good food is the first step in effortless cooking. In stocking my freezer, refrigerator, and pantry, I'm neither frugal nor extravagant. Sometimes I get hit with sticker shock at the checkout, but when I think of what I would have spent if our family had gone out for dinner even once during the week, I quickly realize that food shopping is a bargain. The following pantry, refrigerator, and freezer lists may look long. Although many of the items are necessities (e.g. canned tomatoes, chicken stock, salt, onions, garlic, oil, vinegar), others are not. Simply pick and choose from each list what looks good and makes sense for you. Besides, you probably have many of the ingredients in your kitchen now. And, once you're stocked, it's just a matter of replenishing the supply now and again. As time goes on, you will internalize the list and automatically know what's missing from week to week. Poultry, Meat, and Fish Depending on your preferences, keep the following in your refrigerator or freezer. Unless you plan to use it within a day or two of purchase, freeze all meat, poultry, and fish. They can be defrosted in the refrigerator or microwaved to room temperature at the last minute. Poultry * Boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) * Whole chickens * Chicken wings * Turkey cutlets (or boneless skinless turkey breast that can easily be sliced into cutlets) * Ground turkey * Turkey or chicken sausages * Duck breasts Beef * Boneless New York strip steaks * Boneless rib-eye steaks * Filet mignons * Ground chuck Pork * Thick-cut boneless pork chops or boneless rib-end pork loin roast for cutting into chops * Pork tenderloin for cutting into medallions * Raw and cooked sausage (Italian, chorizo, andouille, or kielbasa) * Bacon * A hunk of deli-style baked ham (or turkey). After letting package after package of sliced-to-order deli meat spoil within a few days of purchase, I've started buying larger pieces of these meats. This way the meat lasts much longer, and I can cut it the way I want--slices for sandwiches, julienne for salads, small dice for omelets, and large dice for soup. If you can't use what you've bought within a week, divide it and freeze one half. Fish and Shellfish * Shrimp * Any fish fillet, such as thick flounder, catfish, snapper, tilapia, grouper, or other thin, white-fleshed fish * Any fish steak, such as tuna, swordfish, or salmon * Jumbo dry scallops * Littleneck, top neck, or small cherrystone clams, eaten within a day or two of purchase * Mussels, eaten within a day or two of purchase Food for the Freezer * Frozen green peas, spinach (two 10-ounce packages of spinach serve four people), and corn. On the nights when the vegetable bin is low or you need an instant vegetable, it's nice to look in the freezer and find something. It's also good to have corn on hand for soups and chowders, and for freshening up quick polenta. * Good-quality bread. Well-made bread can turn a good meal into a great one. I shop for bread once every couple of weeks. I buy and freeze at least four baguettes, some crusty rolls for soup, and often a loaf of raisin bread or challah for breakfast. * A quart of premium vanilla ice cream. Having a quart of vanilla ice cream in the freezer is like having a little black dress in the closet. Adorned or not, it's the ultimate quick dessert. * Two packages of frozen fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries. With frozen fruit on hand you can have a cobbler in the oven in ten minutes. They're also handy for baking a batch of muffins on the weekend. * Frozen puff pastry. This is one of my favorite convenience products. If I've got a sheet of puff pastry, I can whip out turnovers, tarts, and quick cookies with very little effort and no recipe. Food for the Refrigerator * Buy fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits that keep well, then store them properly. * In addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables, I almost always have the following on hand: Carrots Cucumbers Celery Red or yellow peppers Parsley and other fresh herbs on occasion Cabbage Lemons Romaine hearts and other lettuces Limes * Although the following vegetables are not stored in the refrigerator, they are included in this section. For extended life, keep them in a cool, dark place. Baking potatoes At least one red onion Red boiling potatoes A couple of heads of garlic A bag of yellow onions Gingerroot Besides low-fat milk, I keep the following dairy items in the refrigerator: * Milk * Eggs * Butter * Buttermilk. Since it has a relatively long shelf life, I use it for pancakes, muffins, biscuits, and corn muffins * Heavy cream. Like buttermilk, heavy cream has a long shelf life and it's great to have around for impromptu entertaining and simple pan sauces * Three or four cheeses of your choice. A good sharp cheddar, some sort of blue or goat cheese, a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a bar of cream cheese are my favorites. * Low-fat plain yogurt for making yogurt cheese and desserts. If not used for those purposes, it can always be sweetened and eaten for breakfast. Food for the Pantry General Pantry * Large and small cans of low-sodium chicken broth * Bottled clam juice * Cans of crushed and whole tomatoes packed in purée * Canned tuna * Canned clams * Anchovies or anchovy paste * Evaporated milk * Peanut butter * Honey * jam and/or jelly * Dried mushrooms * Oils: olive, sesame, and vegetable * 1 jar roasted red peppers * Pastas: spaghetti, macaroni, egg noodles, and couscous * Grains: long-grain white rice, instant polenta * Dijon mustard * Capers * Vinegars: red and white wine, balsamic, and rice wine * Ketchup * Barbecue sauce * Bottled horseradish * Soy sauce * Asian fish sauce * Marinated artichokes * Canned beans: black, white, and chickpeas * Mayonnaise * Dried breadcrumbs * Dried fruit: raisins or currants and cranberries * 1 jar each: piquant black olives such as kalamata and green olives Baking * All-purpose flour * Salt * Cornmeal * Granulated sugar * Light or dark brown sugar * Baking powder * Baking soda * Unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate * Chocolate chips * Unsweetened cocoa powder * Vanilla extract Herbs and Spices * Basil * Bay leaves * Ground black pepper * Ground cinnamon * Ground cloves * Ground cumin * Curry powder * Herbes de Provence * Ground nutmeg or whole nutmeg for grating fresh * Oregano * Hot red pepper flakes * Sage leaves * Dried thyme leaves Excerpted from How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
The Right Stuff: Stocking the Refrigerator, Freezer, and Pantryp. 7
Whack and Toss Saladsp. 13
Paired Salads: Hold the Lettucep. 25
Vinaigrette: The Single Vegetable's Best Betp. 29
One Easy Formula, Many Supper Soupsp. 35
Quick in a Cup, Pureed Vegetable Soupsp. 48
The Big Fat Omeletp. 53
The Big and Bigger Frittatap. 65
Simple Tomato Sauce, Scores of Possibilitiesp. 76
Pasta With Vegetablesp. 90
Firm Vegetablesp. 92
Leafy Greensp. 97
Tender Vegetablesp. 101
Weeknight Ravioli and Lasagnap. 106
Quick Raviolip. 107
Quick Lasagnap. 113
Weeknight Stir-Friesp. 121
More Asian Fast Food: Lo Mein, Fried Rice, and Pad Thaip. 134
If You've Made One Saute, You've Made Them allp. 144
Chicken Cutletsp. 145
Turkey Cutletsp. 146
Boneless Pork Chopsp. 149
Fish Filletsp. 151
Duck Breastsp. 155
Pan Saucesp. 158
Relishesp. 171
If You Can Saute, You Can Searp. 174
Steakp. 177
Hamburgerp. 180
Pork Tenderloinp. 182
Salmonp. 184
Fish Steaksp. 186
Scallopsp. 188
Flavored Buttersp. 191
The No-Hassle Roast Chicken Dinner: ... and Quick Chicken Saladp. 193
Steam/Sauteed Vegetablesp. 202
Steam/Sauteed Tender Greensp. 215
One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Fourp. 220
The Cakep. 221
The Bakep. 224
The Mashp. 225
The Roastp. 227
Simple Ways With Simple Sidesp. 229
Ricep. 230
Orzop. 236
Polentap. 240
Couscousp. 243
Spur-of-the-Moment Appetizersp. 246
The Simplestp. 247
Fruit and Vegetable Basesp. 260
A Little Something Morep. 264
Just Dessertsp. 270
Puff Pastry: Your New Best Friendp. 271
Assemble-and-Serve Dessertsp. 276
Menus At-a-Glancep. 281
Indexp. 283