My Perfect Pantry
By Geoffrey Zakarian
Published by: Clarkson Poter
304 Pages HB

Back Cover: Chef, restaurateur, and Food Network Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian knows that the pantry is the backbone of any kitchen and the place from which every great meal starts.

Forget exotic condiments and specialty foods. With a working base of 50 readily available ingredients, from oats and honey to almonds and canned chickpeas, you will always have the makings of a delicious home-cooked meal. Whether cooking in his world-class restaurants, onIron Chef, or judging the offerings on Chopped, Geoffrey knows every great meal starts with a trip to the pantry first for inspiration. In My Perfect Pantry, Geoffrey shows you how to use your pantry to jump-start any meal. When you bring home your fresh produce and proteins, you’ll have 150 recipes at the ready, and many of these can be made with pantry ingredients alone.

You’ll see a simple can of beans as a Smoky Black Bean Bisque or coconut milk as Spicy Coconut Tempura Shrimp. Standard back-of-the-cupboard fare like almonds become crispy crust on a broiled pork chop; peanut butter lends itself beautifully to a spicy slaw, cider vinegar gives great flavor to a chicken main as well as to donuts, and mustard transforms a a pot roast. Throughout, you’ll find quick but ingenious tips for each of the 50 ingredients, like how to use Earl Grey teabags to infuse ice cubes or a syrup for French toast

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that allowed me to peek into how Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian sets up his kitchen. Here is what he says about pantries, “The pantry is the backbone of a kitchen-the place on which every meal hinges. Serving as the tireless workhorse that supports the creation of all dishes. And the unsung hero that allows fresh seasonal ingredients to sing; the pantry has a very specific character, size and even scent in each and every home. No two are alike. But no matter, each pantry is the starting block for any meal. And all starting blocks need a solid foundation.”

The Chef suggests stocking up on specific essential spices in small quantities and replacing them at least once a year; to keeping things fresh. He first lists nineteen essential spices in alphabetical order, starting with Allspice. I liked that they included a two page color spread of all the spices he mentions pictured in small containers with the names of the spices bolded underneath the container. I found this helpful to see what the ingredients looked.

The Chef then goes on to list fifty basic essential items everyone should have in their pantry. They too are listed in alphabetical order starting with Almonds and ending with yeast. Chef Zakarian tells about the item first one is  Almonds – where it comes from, how they are sold in the store listing the different forms you might encounter (he did the same with the spices). Tips on storing and other helpful tips. Then there are three very different recipes that have almonds in them. They are 1. Almond-crusted pork chops with apples 2. Grilled Salmon with Almonds Tarragon Romesco 3. Chocolate Almond Bark. Ingredient number 42 is Tea – Earl Gray 1. Earl Grey Iced Tea with Iced tea cubes 2. French Toast with Earl Grey Syrup 3. Bomboloni with Earl Grey Cream. (there are so many creative and fun dishes inside this book there are three for each item mentioned).

I really like how this cookbook is set up. I love the fact that each ingredient listed has three recipes and a color picture of the finished product. I also appreciated that the three dishes are all pictured – it’s visually appealing to have them all together - then he goes on to the next essential ingredient and recipes. I like how he gives each ingredient and recipes their time to shine.

This reminded me of the show chopped where they have the Chef’s open a basket to reveal all the ingredients inside – then they have to be creative with the ingredients in thirty minutes. I feel with this book I might have a chance to create an amazing meal with each ingredient Chef Zakerian lists and do it at my leisure – not under the pressure of 30 minutes. I feel with this book I can begin to think outside the basket; and use every day ingredients in fresh and creative ways my whole family will love.

Chef Zakarian goes on to say, “I find that having a well-stocked, well-cared-for pantry makes all the difference in the end result. I have a saying, “I would rather be looking at it then for it.” …you don’t need a large pantry to have success in the kitchen…I have a strong belief in the basics. I like natural ingredients prepared in ways that enhance their inherent flavors…I don’t keep an overly stocked refrigerator and freezer, and I try to get to the grocery a few times a week for anything fresh…you can definitely cook without a refrigerator, but it is nearly impossible to create a meal worth eating without a pantry.”

I can’t wait to try ALL 150 recipes. They have easy to find ingredients, the recipes are eye appealing and the instructions are easy to follow with not a lot of steps.  My husband looked over this book (since we both like to watch Chef Geoffery Zakarian in the cooking channel) and said that he wants to make (not just try) several of these recipes (a win win for both of us). This book is a keeper! I’m excited about the cooking and eating fun my family will have in the months to come! This books a keeper and one I’ll be referring to often.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


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