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Snap Judgments: Book

Tasha DeSerio: Salad for Dinner (Taunton Press)

Tasha DeSerio has some serious salad bona fides. The Berkeley cooking instructor, caterer, and writer not only cooked at Chez Panisse, she contributed to the restaurant’s books Chez Panisse Fruit and Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, as well as Alice Waters’ In the Green Kitchen. In her recent cookbook, she makes a case for putting salad at the center of the plate. The main-course dishes are organized by genre: leafy, vegetable and fruit, grain, pasta and bread, and legumes. About two-thirds are vegetarian, with suggestions for meat additions in the margins for flexitarians and omnivores. Throughout, DeSerio weaves in helpful tips—subtle improvements like soaking sliced shallots in ice water to tame their gas-inducing compounds, or bruising basil leaves before adding them to a vinaigrette to release more flavor. The downside of such a strong focus on the Mediterranean is that the recipes begin to feel repetitive (arugula and frisée show up a lot). And the proportions are sometimes off, as with a salad of raw brussels sprouts that supposedly serves 4 to 6 but made enough for 8 to 10. Leftovers are no great sin, but the book works better as a collection of smart ideas than as hard-and-fast recipes. B