Getting dinner on the table can be easy, but it can also be hard. It takes time. People have to sort out a recipe, head to the grocery store and then come back home and make the thing. Hudson-based cookbook author Carla Snyder knows the challenge — she’s been hearing about it for years from students in her cooking classes — but she refuses to sit still as we’re swallowed up by a pit of restaurants and quick-fix frozen meals that promise to sustain us without much effort.
“I’m on a mission of helping people to cook dinner and have a healthy life,” Snyder says from her home. “I think it’s sad that people are eating out and feeding their children that way. Finding the simple pleasure in eating a nice warm meal that you prepared, there’s nothing better.”
That’s why Snyder has written yet another
Cookbook cover courtesy Chronicle Books
cookbook about how to make delicious, healthy food in minimal time. The third book in a series about cooking in one pan for minimal cleanup, One Pan, Whole Family: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals,
works to help take a major stress out of people's lives.
The previous pair of books, One Pan, Two Plates
, and a vegetarian version, were made with people cooking for two adults in mind. This new book, her ninth overall, which came out in late summer, opens up the concept to serve four to six people while being kid-friendly. A devoted grandmother, Snyder says that it’s important to make meals for all.
“I kind of write books that make sense to me,” Snyder says. “I’ve been teaching cooking for 30 years and I’m around people who are regular home cooks who want to have success in the kitchen. Even in my cooking classes people don’t like to cook. They’re desperate, they’re looking for an answer to the daily dilemma.”
What helps set this series apart from other cookbooks is they’re entirely full of dinner recipes, rather than huge sections devoted to breakfast, desserts and or appetizers. Each recipe (see one below) is broken down into easy-to-follow instructions with Snyder’s warm introductions willing you on to succeed. The accompanying photos, naturally, look good enough to eat, and it takes less than an hour to make something that looks similar. In the margins she also includes ways to make recipes more filling or also add more adult-friendly tastes (like hot spices or olives).
This one was a quick turn around, just four months, so Snyder says she holed up at her Florida condo to do the work.
“I was cooking two or three recipes for four people a day and had all this food,” she recalls. “I was feeding quite a few people around me, a homeless person and a neighbor. I joked to my husband this could have been a movie, everyone I shared my food with all have such interesting stories.”
And that’s what she hopes making dinner most nights at home can do for families of all sizes — create memories. Although not a trained chef, Snyder was always fascinated by her father’s Bon Appétit
magazines growing up. Later in college, a study abroad trip to Europe opened her eyes to the idea that well-made food paired with tantalizing conversation could make life better. Finding success as a teacher first at the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, and later Gervasi Cucina in Canton, she also co-authored the best-selling The Mixer Bible
, now in its fourth edition.
Even with so much experience, Snyder says she prefers to keep meals simple at home and in the classroom.
“I enjoy making more challenging recipes too, of course, but I have found I love pulling the flavors from more simple things and focusing more on quality ingredients,” she says.
Another way Snyder understands the common cook? She doesn’t like leftovers either, which is why her recipes are made to be eaten in one sitting.
“Leftovers don’t get eaten, and then you feel bad when you throw them away,” she says.
Find out more about Carla Snyder and her next Heinen’s cooking demonstration, at her website http://ravenouskitchen.com
Asian Style Fish Taco with Wilted Cabbage Slaw
Photo courtesy Chronicle Books
Start to finish: 40 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes
A sautéed fish taco is just as delicious as fried, plus it’s faster and easier to get done on a busy weeknight. I’m really into the toppings on tacos and this warm slaw with Asian flavors is one of my favorites. Rice vinegar, soy, honey and sesame oil season bagged slaw to a T and the zippy lime mayo and avocado add richness and depth to what might be my favorite dinner in the book. I’ve kept it simple here but feel free to add pickled red onions (see below), jalapenos and sliced bell peppers to jazz it up if you have the time.
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup [10 g] cilantro
2 green onions
1 clove garlic
1-lb [455 g] tilapia, snapper, catfish or other white fish
1/2 tsp salt plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1/3 cup [80 g] mayonnaise
8-oz [230 g] packaged cole slaw mix
8 to 10 corn tortillas, warmed
Roasted peanuts as an accompaniment
On a large cutting board, peel, pit and slice the avocado and transfer it to a small plate. Chop the cilantro and slice the green onions and transfer them to a medium bowl. Mince the garlic, halve 1 lime and quarter the other. Cut the fish into pieces about 4-in long and salt and pepper them.
Combine the vinegar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, soy, honey and sesame oil in a small bowl.
Combine the mayonnaise and the juice of 1/2 lime in another small bowl.
Heat a 12-in [30.5 cm] skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, add the seasoned fish to the pan in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the fish for 3 minutes, turn it over and cook the other side for another 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fish in the same manner.
Add the garlic to the hot pan and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the vinegar mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the coleslaw mix, stirring to combine it well. Immediately transfer the warmed slaw to the bowl with the cilantro and green onion, mixing well. Taste and squeeze in the remaining halved lime and a sprinkle of salt and pepper if it needs it.
Warm the tortillas, covered with microwave-safe wrap in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Serve the slaw, avocado, fish, tortillas, quartered limes, lime mayo and peanuts at the table for the family to assemble their own tacos any way they like them.
Extra Hungry Kids?
Double wrap the tacos with two tortillas instead of just one.
Adult Taste Buds?
Pickled onions, anyone?
In the Glass:
I like beer with tacos and just about any beer you want to drink will be terrific with the fish. Why not try something local you’ve never tried before? Any IPA will work beautifully.