Books for cooks

Barbara Burke


"Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking: Wine Country Recipes for Family and Friends,"
by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2002, $35, hardcover)

Star Star Star Star

Chiarello’s ‘Casual
Cooking’ is on target

Review by Barbara Burke
Special to the Star-Bulletin

I have to admit I'm always a little leery of cookbooks written by renowned restaurant chefs offering quick recipes for feeding family and friends. Generally, I find that these recipes require too many ingredients and too much preparation time for everyday meals. Don't the authors understand that sipping a glass of chardonnay while spending an hour or longer in the kitchen to prepare a midweek meal just isn't in my scope?

Michael Chiarello got it right, however, with his cookbook "Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking: Wine Country Recipes for Family and Friends." The ingredients are minimal. Preparation time is reasonable. And, if the food tastes half as good as the mouth-watering photographs, we're in for a treat.

Chiarello was recently awarded the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award for this book. It is brimming with inspiring recipes, master techniques and time-saving tips that help to make creative home cooking easy and fun.

Chicken Cacciatore Pronto, Tomato Steak with Baked Goat Cheese and Herb Salad, and Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese are examples of sophisticated yet simple recipes that have his signature blend of Italian cuisine and the fresh flavors of Napa Valley.

The cookbook also provides an entire section on stocking the kitchen pantry with store-bought, homemade and garden-grown items that make cooking easier and more satisfying.

Invite your guests for brunch dish consisting of crisp toast, silky prosciutto, soft poached egg and a splash of basil oil.

Green Eggs and Ham

About 1-1/2 quarts water
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 slices country-style bread, each 1/2-inch thick
2 thin slices prosciutto
4 teaspoons basil oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a broiler or a lightly oiled stove-top grill pan.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Salt the water, add vinegar, then lower heat so water barely bubbles. One at a time, break eggs into a custard cup or small bowl, then slide gently into the water. Allow eggs to cook 30 seconds, then, with a slotted spoon, gently lift and shape the whites around the egg yolks. Continue to cook until whites are just set and yolks are glazed but still liquid, about 2-1/2 minutes longer.

While the eggs poach, toast bread slices on both sides. Put a slice of toast on each of 2 plates. Immediately top with prosciutto, so it softens from the heat of the toast.

Lift eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon, then place an egg on each toast. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons basil oil, then grind a little black pepper over each. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 220 calories, 11 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 220 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 12 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate

Rating Scale: StarStarStarStar Best in its class / StarStarStar Highly recommended / StarStar Recommended / Star Not recommended

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Contact her at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail her at:

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