Dave Lieberman is a cheerleader for cooking at home. In Dave's Dinners ($27.50, BN.com) the Food Network star promises that anyone can cook tasty, affordable, fun dinners a group of friends. Dave's blue eyes and Hollywood smile encourage everyone to get into the kitchen.
The philosophy of this book is right on target: interesting meals -- everything from meatloaf to chicken tikka masala -- can be cooked using grocery store ingredients and accessible techniques.
Dave's book starts strong with a smart chapter on drinks and finger foods, a section that many cookbooks skimp on. He gives recipes for five infused syrups and enthusiastically explains how cooks can play with them create many cocktails.
Dave shares some supermarket-smart advice. "Chicken thighs are one of the great supermarket finds. They are one of the most inexpensive pieces of meat in the market and one of the tastiest" he says in the note above the Cream Chicken Thighs and Mushrooms Over Gemelli.
The book forgets its focus on the home cook as it rolls on. For example, some of the salad recipes do not say how many people they will serve. When I made the Red Wine Pot Roast with Honey and Thyme, I had to go to the Food Network site to find out the oven temperature for the braise.
TVFoodFan picked up on the same problem when he tested the recipe for problem with the Roasted Chorizo and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Over Rosemary Black Beans: "The book's attention to details when it came to techniques was at times strong and at other times a bit lacking." An index by ingredients would make the book more helpful too.
These errors and omissions are a bummer because the cookbook has the potential to be something special. My guests on Sunday asked for the amazing Fennel, Baby Arugula, and Green Apple Salad recipe. This is a smart winter salad since, as Dave promises, "you can get these ingredients consistently all year-round."
Dave could have included some suggested menus to help readers knit together a complete dinner from the recipes in the book. I wonder what Dave would pair with this fresh and slightly sweet salad.
Let's hope for a future edition -- perhaps combining his first and second cookbooks -- that cleans up the recipes and expands on the techniques and tips and keeps the inviting food photos and all Dave's energy.