Rachael Ray has become one of those celebs who people love to hate, so in a sort of perverse way, I wanted to like this cookbook. I wanted Rachael Ray's Book of 10 to charm me and win me over. I figured it might fall under the category of "cookbooks to actually use" -- after all, it is billed as "more than 300 recipes to cook every day" -- rather than "cookbooks to daydream over."
I hoped it might come out on top in the way that The Pioneer Woman Cooks bested Thomas Keller in Jennifer Reese's fried chicken cookoff. Mentally I had it pitted against David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, which I've been enjoying, but I admit I'm never going to make most of the recipes in it. Of course, a reader can enjoy Chang's book, which tells the story of his development as a chef and the opening of his restaurants in a chatty, over-a-few-beers sort of way, without needing to cook any of the dishes in it.
Book of 10, on the other hand, is impossible to read for pleasure. Each recipe is introduced with a brief bit of text that functions as a kind of cheer or sales pitch for that dish and reminds you clearly of just why people dislike Rachael Ray. Lots of Yum-o and EVOO and sammies and delish! And the exclamation points! My god!
Is it my imagination, or is EVOO in practically every recipe? Is this normal? Also, in the ingredients lists, it is sometimes referred to as "Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)" and sometimes as "EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)." Okay! Got it! It was such a relief when I later picked up a Marcella Hazen cookbook to read recipes that used the product, yet remained miraculously acronym-free.
I also object to a cookbook that includes a recipe for "Angel Food Cake With Sorbet Sauce and Berries" with an ingredient list that calls for "2 store-bought Angel Food Cakes." I mean, just buy some Chips Ahoy if that's what you're up to.
Yet a lot of the recipes looked good, and I'm sure that if they were surrounded by the narratives penned by some of the better food blog writers, they would have appeared even more intriguing. So I tried to divorce the recipes from the pep rally and started cooking.
The stuffed cabbage stoup (unclear if this word is a Ray coinage or just a dearly adopted word), a cross between a stew and a soup, is for people who are too lazy to make stuffed cabbage rolls. This is not me all the time but it is me recently, so I gave it a whirl. And yes, it was a hit with the family, and I liked it too, with its discernable notes of allspice and little bursts of coriander. Visually, though, it looked like glop. When the question "What is this?" came as forks were poised over bowls, I found myself unable to call it a "stoup." I found myself reduced to describing it as: "It's something I made."
Still, the ultimate verdict was "You can make this again any time."
I was less fond of a chorizo-cod-potato stew, which turned out as not even a stoup but as a regular soup, and the recipe called for cooking times that seemed far too short. This one was again a fair hit, though.
Book of 10 contains a noteworthy number of burger recipes, made from many of the proteins -- chicken, turkey, lamb, salmon, "gyro," mushroom, pork and "meatloaf," so if you're looking for invention on the grill this summer, this book could come in handy.
Vegetarians will find one chapter devoted to their needs; vegans will want to avoid the volume. Ditto if you are either and object to being referred to as a "veg-head," (although it was probably meant to sound convivial).
In fact I will try more of these recipes, because they are generally easy to make, even after coming home from a full day at work, and because they do mostly encourage use of fresh ingredients and good spices.
As I was flipping through the front matter, though, I spied a caveat that the recipes in this book have been drawn primarily from previously published Rachael Ray cookbooks.
After reading that, I felt better about not really liking this cookbook!