In this cookbook, the multi-talented author combines his still-life painting skills with his professional culinary ability, illustrating each of his recipes with a drawing rather than a photo. The recipes are loosely based on author John Nieman’s travels to various worldwide locales. Far from complicated, the recipes generally use just a key ingredient, a particular flavor combination or even a clever recipe title to conjure up a particular place.
This is a very approachable cookbook, given Nieman’s friendly style and amusing notes on each recipe. For example, on Royal Beef Wellington, he writes, “This isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap. So it better be damn amazing. It is.”
Many of the recipes are his streamlined take on dishes that can be found in many other cookbooks: mango salsa for Chilean Sea Bass, for instance, or Chinese Chicken Lettuce Cups. Generally, the recipes have few ingredients and require minimal preparation. He’s not above using products like Cheez Whiz (for Philly Cheesesteak) or a box cake mix (Saint Louis Gooey Butter Cake) if it will simplify the cooking process. (It would be remiss, however, not to mention that there is the odd error in the Colombian Coffee-Marinated Skirt Steak recipe— the key ingredient of coffee is missing; but it shouldn’t prevent anyone from enjoying the rest of the author’s joy of cooking.)
The cookbook is well-suited for the basic or mid-level cook who doesn’t need a detailed explanation of cooking techniques such as grilling or sweating onions. Although some people like a photo of the finished dish, the illustrations and the cookbook itself are attractive and inviting with their restful color palate, and Nieman’s sense of humor adds to the fun: After all, what cook could resist trying Bermuda Triangles or Jackson (Doughnut) Holes?
Reviewed by Blue Ink Review