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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weekend Cooking- Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062270306
Hardcover, $26.99, 304 pages

When chef Cal Peternell was getting ready to send his son off to college, he decided to create a small cookbook of the twelve recipes that he felt were most important for his son to have. They were for food he had made for the family, his son's favorite dishes, things everyone should be able to make.

The book turned into Twelve Recipes, simple but standard dishes that everyone should be able to make and enjoy. Each chapter also has variations on those recipes, something that you can add to the repertoire to kick things up a notch.

Peternell is a chef at Alice Waters' famed Chez Panisse, so his food is clean, fresh and flavorful. He divides his twelve categories in this way:

  • Toast
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Salad Dressings and What To Dress
  • Pasta With Tomato
  • Pasta Otherwise
  • Rice, Polenta, and Mashed Potatoes
  • Only The Best Vegetables
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Braises
  • Sauces
  • Cakes
In addition to recipes, Peternell shares his best tips- when cooking in a skillet the pan should be dry until hot then add the oil, have two kinds of olive oil on hand, use sea salt, when cooking with garlic add something wet (wine, chopped tomatoes, stock) to prevent it from burning.

Twelve Recipes is a wonderful book not only for the new cook, but even as someone who cooks often, I found it very enlightening. I made many notes from the book, got great tips and recipes that seem simple and flavorful. 

His recipe for Shallot and Sherry Viniagrette is a terrific example:
1 small shallot
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
good pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Peel and mince the shallot, like you would an onion. Mix with the salt, vinegars, mustard and pepper and let sit for 5 minutes to marinate and temper the shallots. Stir in the olive oil with a fork or whisk. If it thickens and emulsifies, fine. If not, also fine- just stir before using.

Peternell also sprinkles some family stories throughout, and you can feel the love he has for his family in this wonderful book. It makes a terrific gift for a new cook, and yet the experienced cook will also get some great recipes to add to their collection.

Cal Peternell's website is here.


  1. This would make a great gift for two of my daughter, but I'd definitely read it before wrapping!

  2. Oooh. I love books that teach me things. My niece is getting her first apartment this fall (yikes! How did she get so old?) and is just getting into cooking. I bet this would be a great back-to-school gift.

  3. What a cool book and easy for a beginning cook, especially one who is off to college. I really like the cover.

  4. Would be a good present for youngsters. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  5. Homemade salad dressing is always impressive and so much better than the bottled stuff!

  6. A good one for my granddaughter, who likes to help me cook occasionally.

  7. Sounds like an excellent cookbook - might make a terrific gift for a student leaving home or even a bridal shower gift for the newly weds.