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Gifts for Cooks: 'Get Cooking'

November 30, 2009 | 12:06 pm


Mollie Katzen’s new book is aimed at young people who know precious little about how to cook – which doesn’t mean they’re ignorant about food. Quite the contrary.

“They know what spaghetti carbonara is but they don’t know how to get the scrambled eggs into the pasta,” she said.

“Get Cooking”speaks to people who “have grown up without seeing their mom in the kitchen or their dad making dinner” and who now want to cook, Katzen said in a telephone interview.

There could hardly be a more understanding guide to the kitchen basics than Katzen, who as a young person herself decoded the world of vegetarian cooking with her iconic Moosewood books.

“Get Cooking 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen” (the title is longer than some of the ingredient lists) was inspired in part by her 25-year-old son and his friends who are living on their own and trying to eat well and on the cheap.

“’You should write a book for me and my friends,’” he told her.

And so she did. The book is accompanied by a websitethat has more of the basics, plus video how-tos. She also hopes to scratch out the “imaginary line in the sand between healthy food and delicious food.”

“Other cultures don’t have that,” she said. “The Italians think we are crazy.”

But whether you can’t quite articulate the difference between braising and roasting, or you’re an accomplished cook looking for recipes that are straightforward and appealing, “Get Cooking” works. There’s a whole chapter of “burgers,” some of them actually vegetables, with plenty of suggestions (a feature called “get creative” that’s in the margins throughout the book) for making them more complex.

The “gingery gingerbread” is light and rises high, and the “delightfully spiced carrots” are in fact delightful as well as super-simple. There is a standard roast chicken, and a delicious roasted butternut squash and apple soup. You can find that recipe here.

But Katzen is on a trajectory to even simpler: Her next book will be recipes with no more than five ingredients.

"Get Cooking," by Mollie Katzen, HarperStudio, $24.99. (Photograph accompanying recipe and cover illustration by Mollie Katzen.)

-- Mary MacVean