Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Entertaining
by Jane Brody

W.W. Norton & Co., 1990. 612 pages, 500 + recipes.

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"I'm no gourmet ...simply a person who likes to eat and cook. I enjoy good food. And good to me means food that tastes good, looks good, and is good for you."

Marvelous Muffin Rolls

Hot Diggity Slaw

BestBlack Bean Soup

Salmon inRhubarb Sauce

Lentil soup with collards

Herbed Quesadillas

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Look of the Book

Good Food Gourmet will never win any design awards. Still, it's laid out in a clear, if workman-like fashion. Brody is a precise and concise explainer. I like the way she heads each recipe with its "bio" -her recipe sources range from Bon Appetit magazine to a reader in Minnesota, from the chef on a cruise she took to her own imagination. Like Siskel and Ebert, she's a little too free with gushing two-thumbs-up recommendations when describing numerous recipes; some dishes simply don't live up to her raptures.

This is a big, comfortable, unintimidating book. It doesn't require you to track down arcane ingredients or perform advanced culinary feats. It's the kind of book you don't feel you've defiled when you spill a little soy sauce or egg white on it.It's is filled with over 500 unpretentious (but not uninteresting) recipes.

The author Jane Brody writes a weekly column on health issues in the New York Times, so it should come as no surprise that gobs of butter, vats of cream and slabs of well-marbled beef do not figure into her recipes. What I like about her approach is that she keeps the fat content on the low side and downplays the role of meat without getting fanatic about it. Here's a good example: her Lentil Soup with Collards, light in the fat department, contains a modicum of pork as a flavor enhancer; the result is one of the most satisfying lentil soups I've tasted.

Maybe one reason this book seems so unintimidating is that Brody does not set herself up as a culinary expert. In the introduction she announces that she is "no gourmet...simply a person who likes to eat and cook..." Sounds like a lot of us.

The main premise of the book is to give us recipes for "delicious and healthful entertaining". Although there are many recipes that make great company dishes (Chicken with Yams is one of my favorites), there are just as many I wouldn't consider for entertaining. Broccoli Pizza with Potato Crust and Herbed Quesadillas made for great family meals at my house but they wouldn't be dishes I'd serve at a dinner party where I'm putting out my best dishes and wearing a glittery outfit like the one the author is wearing on the front cover of this book.

If I were to use a political metaphor to describe the recipes in this book, I would say they're "liberal democrats": neither ultra-traditional nor revolutionary. There's mainstream multi-culturalism in dishes ranging from gazpacho to focaccio, chutneys to chilis, as well as updates of "family-values" types of dishes such as Cranberry Applesauce or Black Olive Pasta and Tuna Salad. I've only hit the occasional lackluster recipe (Applesauce Nut Bread comes to mind).;

Brody thought of just about everything: besides the expected appetizer/entree/dessert categories, she has sections on yeast and quick breads, main dish salads, barbeque, fruit desserts, gifts from your kitchen.....just to name some. On the other hand, she could have done some recipe pruning; some of her recipes (such as her two cole slaws) seem too similar to warrant inclusion of both.

GoodFood Gourmet was written in 1990 but the recipes don't seem dated like many from that era of raspberry vinegar and blackened redfish. I think this is a good, reliable cookbook to have around, and one that you'll use long after you finally toss out that dusty bottle of raspberry vinegar in the back of your kitchen cupboard.