“One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two”
by Carla Snyder, photos by Jody Horton
One Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder is a creative, handsomely photographed cookbook that delivers reading satisfaction and excellent cooking results. Recommended for empty-nesters or perhaps for a couple just starting out, the scaled back dishes (both in serving size and time required) are simple to execute and fresh tasting. The author has worked as a culinary teacher for many years and possesses an appealing, lighthearted style that is woven through the book. In the back of the book she has thoughtfully categorized her recipes by speed of preparation, seasonality, and meatless or those easily adapted to vegetarian. Her cooking tips, such as zipping up the remaining beans from a partially used can in a freezer bag to freeze for up to 3 months, are useful. Another practical tip suggested using a 1/4 cup incremental measure (Oxo and Pyrex both have versions of this) to measure teaspoons or tablespoons of liquids instead of measuring spoons, which can be awkward and messy.
Less helpful for me was her suggestion to use microwave steam in the bag rice pouches as a time saver. I’m able to cook white and brown rice easily enough, in 12 and 45 minutes, respectively. I’d prefer to use one more pan for what I gain in flavor and economy. For the most part, though, I enjoyed her pointers very much. Her wine and beer pairing suggestions are often interesting and encourage experimentation. She gets you thinking beyond the familiar reds and whites. For example, she suggests Albarino, a crisp white, or Rioja Crianza, a full bodied red, both from Spain, reliably good and good values, too.
One Pan, Two Plates has recipes that sound so much better than what is likely to be on offer at one’s default “too tired to cook” local spot. That they are designed to be made in less time than the round trip (to mine) made me eager to try them. Turkey Chili with Poblanos and Queso Fresca, a white chili variation, provided great flavor. I loved using poblano chilis here; their deeper color and flavor helped build a more interesting dish. This is where that half can of beans came into play, mashed and used to thicken the stew. The author had suggested farmer’s cheese as a substitute for the Queso Fresca. I actually substituted mild goat’s milk feta, which worked well. Chicken Stew with Tomatoes, Oranges and Olives was delicious served over brown rice. The citrus note from the orange juice and zest complemented the other Mediterranean flavors beautifully, giving the stew more complexity than you’d think possible in 30 minutes of simmering. Buffaloed Chicken Legs with Roquefort Smashed Potatoes and Braised Celery was my favorite meal of those that I tried. The drumsticks, moist and just spicy enough, combined with the Roquefort smashed potatoes and the braised celery sticks delivered a new take on the classic pub food combination brilliantly. Another personal favorite was Scallops and Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Lime Sauce. This main course salad was so tasty, even delicious seared scallops didn’t outshine it. Easier to make than Pad Thai (only the scallops are cooked), and possessing a similar flavor profile, this combination of crunchy vegetables with fresh basil and cilantro and aromatic dressing earned a “Wow!” at the table.
I also liked the author’s pairing suggestion of a German Spatlese Riesling with its medium body and acidity. Salade Nicoise was already part of the summertime rotation at my home, but the rendition in this book is an especially good one, with streamlined directions. Sliced potatoes are simmered in a skillet, joined after a few minutes by green beans. After cooling briefly, the vegetables are dressed in a lovely herb vinaigrette, infusing the creamy new potatoes and the tender-crisp green beans with wonderful flavor. The salad was completed with mostly pantry items which provided great Mediterranean flavor effortlessly. Paired with a dry Rosé wine, as suggested, this quick meal was light but satisfying.
I have become more and more selective about cookbooks that rate shelf space in my home. I want interesting recipes that have great flavor and are well seasoned to begin with. I prefer recipes that use fresh ingredients, but sensible convenience items are ok, occasionally. I enjoy books where recipes for side dishes, especially vegetables, are given equal attention as I think they can often provide as much pleasure as the main course. I want a book that has some new things to try, backed up by solid, consistently good results. One Pan, Two Plates delivers all of this. It has definitely earned its place on my cookbook shelf.
First published February 2014