Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito has made a valiant attempt to illustrate that flavorful cooking does not have to involve expensive ingredients, hours of preparation, or a mastery of culinary techniques. To this end, in Rocco's Five Minute Flavor, he presents an entire collection of recipes that minimize the preparation time and effort without minimizing the taste.
First, you should know that the title is a bit misleading, since DiSpirito’s recipes specifically exclude certain ingredients, namely, salt & pepper, sugar, vinegar, and fat and flour, from the five-count tally. He justifies this by labeling them as “pantry” ingredients that you should have readily on hand. (Clearly, this chef has never seen my pantry, but that is an entirely different matter). I do, however, recommend moving beyond this initial clarification, since it is tempered by the added bonus that every recipe can be prepared for less than five dollars per person.
The breakdown of this cookbook is very user-friendly since DiSpirito presents quite specific categories, making the process of selecting what you want to cook an easy task. His inclusion of numerous pre-planned full menus simplifies the process even further. Since the recipes cover a wide range of tastes, it is likely that everyone will find something please their individual palates. For example, appetizers range from a quick guacamole, to garlicky lemon shrimp, to puffy chicken with green curry basil sauce. The chapter dedicated to soups includes a basic mushroom creation as well as more exotic choices, such as a Vietnamese Beef and Basil Soup. There are also chapters that focus on fondues, salads, sandwiches, paninis, sides, vegetarian and pasta, fish and shellfish, poultry, beef, pork and lamb, and desserts.
What I love about this cookbook is that it “dumbs down” each and every step of the cooking process. Too often cookbooks that advertise their recipes as simple based on the use of only a few ingredients end up requiring equipment or skills that make the preparation impractical for novices to prepare. Further, this cookbook works to make every detail user-friendly, including the use of large fonts (so readers can see the instructions with ease), numbering the preparation steps (for each reference), and limiting the steps to three or four (to prevent overload for us novices!).
Some of the recipes do take shortcuts to limit the ingredient list. For example, the recipe warm brownies with a salty peanut sauce uses commercially prepared brownies as one of its five ingredients. Similarly, the recipe for “doughnuts and hot chocolate” calls for half and half, chocolate, and sugar (to prepare the hot chocolate) along with four powdered sugar doughnuts. Despite this tactic (which evidently almost feels like cheating), overall the cookbook does serve its intended purpose of illustrating that sometimes it really can be that simple to prepare a delicious home-cooked meal.