The Naked Chef Takes Off

By Jamie Oliver
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Affable Essex boy Jamie Oliver continues the British culinary invasion with The Naked Chef Takes Off, the smashing follow-up to his bestselling The Naked Chef. For Oliver, the young Food Network import, food is all about "passing the potatoes around the table, ripping up some bread, licking my fingers, getting tipsy, and enjoying the company of good friends and family," and cooking up "what real people at home really want." The thing is, "real people" picking up cookbooks are often seeking easy-to-follow recipes. But that's not Oliver's bag. The layout of many of his recipes may frustrate traditional-cookbook readers--instructions often appear as one big chunk of conversational text with nary an ingredient or measurement in clear view--but that's part of the charm of Oliver's cookbooks. His commentary, tips, and cooking steps come across in a very approachable, colloquial style and leave plenty of room for individual flair or improvisation. Oliver's enthusiasm for cooking is infectious; the recipes and chapter introductions spill out like a best mate who just can't stop talking about food and how much fun--and simple--it can be to whip up these spectacular dishes.

Oliver kicks things off by stocking your pantry with best-quality ingredients, and he's an apostle for fresh herbs, raving on about growing and drying your own at home. "Morning Glory" is a chapter full of dishes like Midnight Pan-Cooked Breakfast (bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages, and eggs brought together in the "biggest nonstick pan available" and sopped up with buttered toast--a rustic one-dish cure for any oncoming hangover). "Tapas, Munchies, and Snacks" brings Slow-Cooked and Stuffed Baby Cherry Chili Peppers to the table (when you're done snacking on the chilies, you're left with a jar of terrific flavored oil, perfect for salads or pasta). There's Squashed Cherry Tomato and Smashed Olive Salad, and a Fragrant Thai Broth, infused with lemongrass, ginger, and lime leaves. Once you've mastered his basic risotto recipe you can turn out Shrimp and Peas Risotto with Basil and Mint, and likewise his basic bread recipe is the foundation for Chocolate Twister Bread. "Easy peasy" dessert ideas like Strawberries Marinated in Balsamic Vinegar or Malted Milk Balls and Ice Cream (bash a big bag of Whoppers into bits and sprinkle over quality vanilla ice cream) are a refreshing end to any meal. Now, be a "right little tiger" and get cooking--Seared Scallops and Crispy Prosciutto with Roasted Tomatoes and Smashed White Beans and other fabulous dishes await. --Brad Thomas Parsons