If, like me, you have a few holes in your cooking knowledge, then some recipes and techniques are a mystery. Unlocking the mystery to cooking is Aida Mollenkamp with her Keys to the Kitchen.
published by Chronicle Books, 2012, $35 (US)
Aida Mollenkamp is a food expert from sunny California where she has been a former food editor for Chow.com and is now a TV host on the Cooking Channel.
The layout of the book is sensibly done in a way that makes you start thinking about your ingredients long before you start deveining the prawns.
With a heavy focus on the why and the how, the author strives to give you all the key information you will need in order to raise your game in the kitchen. With my cooking knowledge resembling Swiss cheese (some holes larger than others), I have been surprised at the level of useful detail given that will make a big difference to the outcomes. For example, have you ever stopped to think about the difference between woody herbs and tender herbs? Me neither. But the point where you add them to your cooking can affect the flavor of your food.
Once you get your pantry organized and hone your chopping skills, then it's time to move on to the recipe section with is full of "West Coast eclectic" tastes and flavors. With all of the fresh produce available in California, it's easy to see how it works its way into the recipes of adventurous Californian cooks like Aida.
The final chapter is one that is unusual and most welcome. It's about "Cooking from the Hip" or in other words - finding your wings in the kitchen. It's about how to take a few ingredients and make something without relying on a recipe. The author gives you so many good points to think about as you're pondering over what to do with that tin of tuna that's looking up at you.
If you have kitchen mysteries to unlock, then Aida's keys will help you on your way. You'll go from peering through the keyhole to throwing the pantry door wide open.