Cooking For Two by Jessica Strand

Book Review 2009

Do you cook for just two (or one) most nights? Do you struggle with recipes that are sized for a crowd, or at least for Mom, Dad, 2.3 kids and a dog? Well, Jessica Strand wants to help you in her attractive, friendly, and very well-done cookbook for two.

Title & Publisher: Cooking For Two: Perfect Meals for Pairs, by Jessica Strand. Published by Chronicle Books, 2009.

First impressions: Small square hardback book with a mouthwatering photo on the front. Dustjacket. You have to crack the spine, though, or lay something heavy on the pages to keep the book open.

Number of recipes: About 50.

The angle: Strand organizes her books around the type of meal you're serving: simple suppers, one-pot dishes, romantic meals, and duo desserts. Each section has a well-edited selection of recipes that caters to the couple (or solo diner). She hits the normal individual-portion meals hard: individual pork chops, potpies, burgers, scallops and fish. These are all easy to make in individual sizes and portions. But she also offers scaled-down recipes for other dishes: vegetable curry, for instance. She also does a good job of creating desserts that are easy, special, and yet portioned for two. (Individual fruit crisps, for instance. Perfect.)

The other stuff: Tips for cooking together (i.e. "Give each other enough space to do your jobs."). Wine pairing tips and suggested drinks for each section.

Strengths: This book is not ultimate resource for dining alone or as a couple. But really, who needs hundreds of recipes scaled for two? This isn't necessary. If you're cooking for two, you just need some inspiration to get you going, and some basic recipes. Strand does this and she does it well. She demonstrates how to cook for two with basic recipes that have some flair, and once you master a few of these you probably won't need a cookbook at all to show you how to cook for a small amount of people.

Recipes for right now: Grilled Garlic Shrimp with Mache, Avocado, Fennel, and Red Onion Salad, Antipasti Dinner, Gratin of Eggplant Layered with Plum Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Lemon-Basil Pesto, Meyer Lemon Pot-au-Creme.

Recommended? Yes, if you are cooking for one or two.

• Buy the book: Cooking for Two: Perfect Meals for Pairs, $14 at Amazon

2009 Book Reviews (So Far)

A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
Fresh Food From Small Places, by R. J. Ruppenthal
Picture Yourself Cooking with Your Kids, by Beth Sheresh
Eat Feed Autumn Winter, by Anne Bramley
The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet, by Paulette Mitchell
Heirloom Beans, by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo

(Image: Chronicle Books)