From snacks, small plates, and cocktails to relishes and desserts, Sparks makes it clear that good ingredients are all-important. So she offers guidelines on what to buy seasonally, how best to judge freshness, and how to store foods effectively. She loves to combine flavors in unexpected ways, utilizing a wide range of spices and coaxing the essence from fresh herbs and zests.
Whether she is detailing a dramatic dish to start off a special dinner, such as her Oysters in Gewürztraminer Cream (crowned with a nest of crispy fried leeks) or the playful Middle Eastern–inspired creation Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Eggplant “Leaves,” or a simple, satisfying family meal like Grilled Chicken in Marjoram Marinade or Pork Chops Smothered in Lentils, she encourages the home cook to be creative. As she guides you through a recipe, you will learn invaluable lessons: what makes a good soup, ways to keep meat tender and juicy, foolproof methods of grilling a whole fish and roasting a chicken, keys to successful deep-frying. And sidebars like “Leftover Alert” and “Weighing Your Options” encourage you to improvise with leftovers, experiment with interesting substitutes, and create delicious accompaniments.
A pat of one of her compound butters, a splash of her homemade flavored vinegar, or a dollop of her Papaya-Ginger Salsa or Onion-Sage Confit might contribute to the sparkle that makes each finished dish so delicious. Try her Sesame-Roasted Green Beans, Coconut-Simmered Fingerling Potatoes, or Beet Pickled Eggs dipped in Spice-Seasoned Salt for revelations in flavor.
And, if there’s still room, a Sparks dessert is not to be missed. Three different pots de crème, chocolate bread pudding, apple tarts, raspberry tarts, maple tuile cookies, and Mohr im Hemd (individual souffléd cakes drenched in dark chocolate) are among the family favorites gathered here.
Above all, Katy Sparks shares the fun and drama of cooking, interweaving stories from her childhood on a Vermont farm and her odyssey from college dropout to star chef. The kitchen is where she feels most happily at home, and with this book to inspire you, so will you.