Hors d'Oeuvres: Simple, Stylish, Seasonal
Hors d'Oeuvres: Simple, Stylish, Seasonalby Gillian Duffy
William Morrow, 144 pp., $23
Gillian Duffy's book Hors d'Oeuvres is aimed primarily at the cook with plans of entertaining, although the majority of the recipes could be portioned larger to serve as entrees, or combined and served together to form a dinner of little meals. The main criteria for the recipes included here are that they must be easy to produce in the home kitchen, that they can be prepared in advance, and that they require a minimum of last-second preparation -- all valuable assets for today's do-list-laden cook.
Perhaps as important is the fact that Duffy has taken pains to arrange the recipes in a seasonal format. She has selected 57 dishes that utilize ingredients for each season that are readily available and at the peak of flavor, and has emphasized heavier and heartier dishes for the cooler months, and lighter and cooler dishes for the summer. The reader will find a wide range of dishes from around the world, with something for every taste and cooking ability. The book is spectacularly illustrated, with full-page color photographs of the majority of the recipes. Duffy recognizes the rebirth of the cocktail party as a social event, so she has included a section of cocktails at the end.
The recipes are well-written and easy to follow, even for the neophyte cook. Single men in particular would find this book a godsend as a simple, effective way to impress someone with their ability in the kitchen. Duffy's prefatory statements are extensive, offering the reader background information on the dish, tips on substitutions, buying tips for shopping for the ingredients, and serving and garnishing ideas. If I had one complaint about the recipes (and I'll admit I'm a real stickler for things like this), it would be that Duffy failed to give the reader foreign names for the dishes, where they exist. It lends something to the authenticity of the dish when the cook is able to recite the real name (although the pronunciation usually suffers).
Duffy, the culinary editor of New York magazine, is in the perfect position to cull recipes from top chefs and catering companies, and she definitely uses this to her advantage. They are all well-represented by the recipes Duffy chose to use. I selected some of the more appealing to test at home. Ginger Roulade was splendidly fresh-tasting with Lavash bread wrapped jellyroll fashion around a filling of cream cheese, pickled ginger, and watercress, then sliced into eye-catching rounds. Ginger Tuna on Rice Crackers with Wasabi Aioli was as simple as marinating and flash-broiling tuna triangles, placing them on tamari-flavored rice crackers, then topping with a beautiful green mayonnaise spiked with wasabi horseradish. Both dishes were incredibly simple, and appealing to the eye as well as the palate. Gillian Duffy has created a cookbook that should be in the arsenal of anyone who entertains, or, for that matter, anyone who cooks and eats.