Donna Hay, Australia's bestselling cookbook author, understands our pain. The pain, that is, of producing delicious meals when time is tight and we really can't shop--again. Off the Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry presents a blueprint for from-scratch good eating that relies on a thoughtfully stocked larder, a few fresh ingredients, and truly streamlined recipes. The idea isn't new, of course, but Hay finds a better way with it, presenting recipes like Pasta with Pancetta and Peas; Lime, Beef, and Noodle Salad; and Green Olive and Baked Chicken that are truly quick and easy to do. First published in Australia, Off the Shelf arrives here in an edition meant to work for American cooks; if ingredient names, quantities, and some operations aren't always completely "translated" (one recipe calls for English spinach leaves) or given conventional American form, willing readers will still be able use it most productively.
Organized by ingredients and topics, the book offers buying advice throughout, regular recipes, and Short Order sections that distill formulas, such as those for Lemon and Basil Pilaf and Marinated Chickpea Salad, into get-the-drill-quickly paragraphs. Among the fuller-dress recipes, readers will surely want to try Beef and Caramelized Onion Couscous Salad, Crispy Spiced Thai Chicken, and Seared Salmon on Coconut Spinach, among others. Sweets, including Burnt Vanilla Creams and Chocolate Honey Snaps, are also delicious and easily accomplished. With truly useful tips (cut overlong cooked noodles to make them more manageable is one why-didn't-I-think-of-that example), an oversize bravura design, and color photos throughout, the book shows and tells how to cook with the greatest ease. --Arthur Boehm