Weeknight cookbooks: two approaches

The days may still be long, with a hot still afternoon and crickets in the middle, but the pace of school and work is picking up for everyone.  Cooking's more of a crunch.  And though you sometimes get an inspiration for dinner, it's usually not at 5:45pm when you walk in the door from work or driving your kid back from soccer practice.

A couple new fall cookbooks aim to serve the busy family cook.  America's Test Kitchen, as usual, takes the maximalist approach with The New Family Cookbook, a tenth-anniversary reissue of The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  (Is it my imagination, or are cookbooks considered "classic" getting younger and younger?  If you find yourself suddenly needing a straight-ahead recipe for muffins or a stir-fry or chicken breast, you can be sure you'll find one here.

One Pot, from the Martha Stewart Living team, is just a little over a tenth the size (120 vs 1100 recipes), but some may be drawn to its focus.  It's got stews, roasts, pastas, casseroles - all sorts of dinners you can throw together in a single cooking vessels with a little finesse.  And if the vegetables sometimes get short-shrifted?  It's not too hard to throw some salad greens on the side and call it healthy.

One thing that's kind of funny to me is that both jackets feature a cast iron skillet.  That's a theme these days.  The 21st-century cast iron skillet has somehow transformed from rustic icon into shorthand for "capable home cook".  Plus, it photographs better than non-stick and looks artier than stainless steel.  Who knew?

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