Fusion cooking broke the rules first--now Gower's breaking fusion's rules with The Breakway Cook. Despite the explosion of farmers' markets, ethnic grocers, and creative restaurants in America, lots of home cooks remain puzzled by the bewildering array of choices, and don't have the confidence to break away from tradition. Eric helps home cooks everywhere approach unfamiliar ingredients from different global regions and combine them for some amazing results of flavor.
"Breakaway" cooking pays homage to culinary traditions yet uses innovative techniques and ingredients to give home cooks a new approach to their dishes, marrying unintimidating flavors with the old standards. Sample his Miso Orange Pepper Roasted Chicken, or tease your tongue with his take on Fluffy Herby Eggs, and you'll be convinced. It's not fusion--it's fusion that makes sense. And the cardinal rule is to season with authority. Don't be afraid of the spice cabinet anymore, and use presentation to create a simple, appealing meal. Spend less time fussing about the preparation and clean-up, and more time enjoying food and its huge role in our daily lives. To further this quick and mindful approach to cooking, Eric will take us shopping in local and ethnic markets, teach the importance of table setting and presentation, and stress visual aesthetics, especially regarding pottery and ceramics.
Eric helps you reconstruct your approach to the kitchen, highlighting the seasonings and essential ingredients or "Global Flavor Blasts," such as tamarind, pomegranate molasses, miso, yuzu, green tea, Chinese plum sauce, mole, among many others, that will liberate your cooking and provide a lifetime of fantastic eating. Using Gower's recipes as broad outlines, you can be creative as you go, and within his framework you will discover your own genius in the kitchen. We feel better when we eat better, and it's easier to be productive, creative, and relaxed when the food part of life is under control. Enter The Breakaway Cook.
In addition to the recipes, The Breakaway Cook includes stunning, full-color photos by Annabelle Breakey throughout the text; a guide to using flavored salts in your dishes; sidebars on wine, tea and sake; and ideas for even shorter-cuts on Gower's easy-to-follow recipes.
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October 04, 2010
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Excerpt from The Breakaway Cook by Eric Gower
Wednesday, December 20
It was just after five in the evening, the worst possible time to be leaving Boston--no, trying to leave Boston--for destinations north. Add to that the fact that it was only days until Christmas and the weather channels were predicting a fierce snowstorm, and the results were--not good.
Becca Rowan hadn't been able to get out of the office early, as she had planned; as she was walking toward the elevator, her assistant had come charging into the public hallway from the offices of Saville and Co., a mid-size and rapidly growing advertising firm, with a plea for crisis management.
"Can't Ralph handle this?" Becca had asked, knowing, of course, what answer she would get from Mary.
"Well, he could but . . ."
"Fine. Let's go." Better that she solve a problem now than leave it to someone else and be called on to fix what further mess would, inevitably, have been made. Becca had been called that annoying term, a "workaholic," but she preferred to regard herself simply as a professional. And she had a high and accurate opinion of her professional worth. After all, she was Saville's presiding vice president and if things continued the way Becca thought they would, she would be president before her thirty-fifth birthday, less than three years in the future. It was a goal she was pretty confident she had the discipline to achieve.
Later, crisis managed, Mary had wished her boss a happy holiday and asked if she was going anyplace special. It was unlike Becca to take almost an entire week off; Mary's curiosity was justified.
"I'm going to Maine to see my family," Becca had replied tersely.
"Oh, how nice. That should be fun."
What could one say to that kind of standard remark, and still be considered a socially acceptable person? "Like hell it will" would probably not cut it.
"Yeah," she'd said, and then, "Merry Christmas."
As she walked once again toward the elevators, her assistant had called out her thanks for the generous gift Becca had given her that morning. If Becca required dedication from her staff, she also rewarded it well. Becca had raised her hand in acknowledgment, but she hadn't turned around. She was uncomfortable with expressions of gratitude.
Now she had been on the road for half an hour and had only just reached the outer city limits. Under normal conditions the drive from downtown Boston to her parents' house in Kently, Maine, took about two and a half hours. But these were not normal conditions. Snow was falling and drivers were getting tense. And they were getting stupid.
"Merry freakin' Christmas to you, jackass!" Becca leaned on the car's horn. Not that the idiot driver who'd just cut her off would realize the horn was meant for him, but it felt good to make the noise.
Becca drove on, concerned with being hyperaware of the messy road conditions. She wondered if she'd beat the worst part of the storm. The Boston weather reports varied wildly in their predictions about when the storm would slam the part of Maine to which Becca was headed, an inland area about fifty miles north of Portland, almost as if the meteorologists, or at least the superbly styled models reporting the weather news, didn't quite care. This didn't surprise Becca. To many people in Massachusetts, though certainly not all, anything north of Portland was a hinterland better left to its own devices.
And in Becca's grumpy opinion, those devices were not at all sufficient. "The roads probably won't even be plowed," she muttered. "I'll probably crash into a snow bank and freeze to death before morning. Because of course there won't be cell phone service. Or maybe I'll be trampled to death by a rabid moose as I'm trekking along an abandoned road vainly hoping to come across a house with a light in a window. A house that doesn't contain a gun-toting survivalist and his seventeen wives."
As if in response to her nasty thoughts--but in reality due to her inattention--the car slid a bit. Deftly, Becca got it back on the straight and narrow. She had spent a fair amount for the Volvo S80 T6 and its all-wheel drive, but in situations like this one, with snow falling, roads wet and slippery, and drivers in a hurry, she felt the investment had paid off.
Still, the incident had disturbed her. If it had been any other holiday at any other time, Becca would have unhesitatingly gotten off at the next exit and driven straight home. But this Christmas was different. This time, Becca had to be with the Rowan clan.
The Family Rowan. Currently members ranged in age from Nora at eighty-six to the twins, Michael and Malcolm, aged eight. Four generations of the Rowan family were planning to meet under one roof to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Becca reviewed a mental picture of them all.
She didn't care much one way or the other about seeing her younger sister, Lily. Lily was a nice girl, a young woman now, a senior in college, but she and Becca were virtual strangers. Though Lily shared an apartment in Allston with two schoolmates, and Becca had a condo in the South End, only a few T-stops away, they never saw each other except at family gatherings like the one Becca was journeying to now. In fact, it hadn't even occurred to Becca to offer her sister a ride north. Such an offer would have saved Lily bus fare and offered Becca companionship, if indeed she'd wanted any. But Becca rarely wanted companionship. At least, that's what she'd come to believe. Self-reliance had become a deeply ingrained habit.
As for Becca's parents, Steve and Julie, it had been a full year since she had seen them. Not that they hadn't issued invitations to visit them in Maine. They had, and each time, Becca had made an excuse as to why she couldn't get away from the office. The one time in the past year they'd come down to Boston for a weekend and stayed at the Copley Plaza--her father, she vaguely remembered, had said something about seeing a photography show at the Museum of Fine Arts-- Becca had lied to them about being out of town on business. In fact, she'd spent the weekend on her own in Provincetown, trying to relax on a crowded beach and paying inordinate tourist prices for decidedly average meals. All rather than have lunch or dinner with her parents and confront her growing anger toward them. All rather than face her mounting discontent.
Becca registered the fact that she was finally entering New Hampshire. Maybe she would get to her destination before midnight, after all. She wondered if her older sister, Olivia, who lived in Framingham, Massachusetts, would be driving north that night as well, her husband, James, in tow. Poor James. You couldn't help but like him, he was such a--well, such a likeable guy. Not that he exactly suffered being married to Olivia, but Olivia could at times be tiresome. She was a know-it-all and could be bossy and though she was smart-- she had earned a masters degree in marketing--she could be oddly rigid and narrow-minded. But hey, Becca thought, James, who seemed to be eminently reasonable and good-natured, saw something in Olivia, so she couldn't be all that bad. Together they owned and managed a payroll service company that employed about six people in all. From what Becca could tell, they did well; she knew that a few years earlier James and Olivia had taken a two-week trip to Paris. And all those ultimately fruitless fertility treatments couldn't have been inexpensive.
And then there was Nora. Becca hadn't seen her grandmother, her father's mother, since the previous Christmas, either. She and Becca's grandfather, Thomas, had originally owned the farmhouse in Kently. When Thomas died, Nora nominally sold the house to her only child, Steve, and when he retired, he and his wife, Becca's mother, had sold their house in Winchester, Massachusetts, and moved to Maine full-time. Becca was looking forward, in a way, to seeing Nora, but at the same time she knew full well that her grandmother might just be her greatest opponent in what was sure to be a full- scale family battle.
Finally, and most importantly, David and his wife, Naomi, would be there, with Rain, and the twins in tow. David, Becca's older brother, was the only Rowan boy of his generation and, in Becca's opinion, was appropriately spoiled and bursting with self-importance. It was David she was most worried about, even afraid of, but the time had come to act. The time had come to take back what was rightfully hers, and no amount of intimidation or bluster was going to stop her from achieving her goal. She wasn't respected in the advertising world for her lack of determination or drive, that was for sure.
Still, Becca yawned, as if just thinking about the upcoming struggle had exhausted her. The truth was, she had been up almost all night working on a report she'd promised herself to complete before heading out for the Rowan house. It would be one less thing nagging at her conscience, one less thing to interfere with her focus and concentration this last full week in December. Becca realized she would need her wits about her if she were to present her case and convince the family of her rights.
Becca shivered and turned up the heat in the car. She hadn't bothered to change out of her work clothes before starting out. The only concession she had made to the trek north was to change her three-inch heels for a pair of expensive, tan leather driving moccasins. She'd bought them a few weeks before at Neiman Marcus and justified their cost by considering them a much-deserved Christmas present.
Becca's clothes probably--no, definitely--weren't suited to life in rural Maine, but she had done the best she could with preparing a wardrobe for the week. Not that an actual "wardrobe" was necessary. A pair of sturdy, waterproof boots; a pair of flannel-lined jeans; a few pairs of SmartWool socks; a heavy wool sweater; a parka of some sort; and fleece hat, mittens, and scarf would do the trick. Oh, and maybe an ice pick, shovel, and blowtorch for getting out of the front door.
No, the clothing that Becca had brought with her was more suited for life in Boston. Two pairs of wool dress slacks; three cashmere sweaters, one beige, one black, the other gray; a gorgeous, soft-as-butter leather coat in a chocolaty brown; a fashionable faux-fur hat. Her only acknowledgment of the northern landscape she was visiting was a pair of sturdy, waterproof boots she'd dutifully bought at L.L. Bean. Even Becca had to admit that "The Bean" knew what it was doing when it came to footwear for the great outdoors. The great, wet, cold, and sloppy outdoors.
Becca loathed and despised the winter and everything about it. She planned to spend as little time as possible out of doors once in Kently. Assuming, of course, the atmosphere in her parents' home didn't grow to be too antagonistic. If it did, she might be forced to bundle up and get away for a while. Besides, knowing the way her mother and grandmother cooked, it would do her good to get in some exercise this week. Fat was their friend; even vegetables were served with a pat of butter melting on top.
Luckily, at thirty-two, Becca could still be called lanky. She suspected that, like her father, at some point in her forties or fifties she would begin to put on some weight, but right now, it was easy to keep fit, given her high metabolism. And the twice-weekly sessions with a trainer at a local gym didn't hurt. But those sessions were more about maintaining health than watching weight. Becca didn't want osteoporosis sneaking up on her. No amount of designer clothes could make you look good when you were doomed to spend your days staring at your feet.
Becca's hair was a classic chestnut brown, of medium thickness. She wore it in a chin-length bob, which required a reshaping every three weeks. It was an expense that Becca had long ago built into her budget. What fashion guru had said that a good haircut made a woman's look? Whoever it was, Becca believed him, or her.
Although not a particularly popular style with women her age, Becca wore her nails long and carefully polished, and she had been doing so since she was about fourteen. Neither her mother nor her grandmother wore their nails long; in fact, only one other woman in the Rowan family--sixteenyear- old Rain--shared Becca's interest in nails not bluntly cut or bitten off at the quick.
Rain also had what were considered the "Rowan eyes," as did Becca and her father, Steve. They were large, slanted slightly upward at the outer corner, and were a peculiar shade, something like moss on a stone, an arresting combination of green and brown.
A familiar sound brought Becca fully back to the moment. Her iPhone, which was clipped to the wide patent leather belt of her fitted suit jacket, was ringing. It was Mary. Becca checked the time on the dashboard. She wondered what her assistant was doing staying so late at the office when the boss was on vacation. Didn't she have anywhere better to be, or anyone special to meet?
Suddenly, it occurred to Becca that she hadn't asked her trusted assistant where she was spending the Christmas holiday. In fact, she realized in a flash that she knew very little about Mary's personal life, or about the personal lives of anyone at Saville and Co. She wasn't sure if this bothered her or not. She did know for sure that she had absolutely no desire to let any of her colleagues into her own personal life-- what there was of it.
She took the call. "Hey. What's up?"
What was up was that one of their oldest--and most de- manding--clients wanted a major change made to the new print ad before the end of the following day. Becca listened, and then told Mary exactly what the account supervisor should say to the client. It involved the word "no."
"Won't they be angry?" Mary questioned. Becca pictured her mild-mannered assistant with hunched shoulders, as if flinching in anticipation of a blow.
"Yes," Becca said, "they'll be angry. But they're not going anywhere. We've made them more money than they know what to do with. The changes can wait until I get back."
The call ended, Becca glanced in the rearview mirror to assure herself for the tenth time that she hadn't forgotten to bring anything vital. Her laptop rested on the backseat, along with a soft leather briefcase that contained several paper files. Her mother would frown on Becca's bringing work along to what was supposed to be a warm and cozy family vacation, but Julie had never understood the attraction of a career. Her primary goal and function in life had been the raising of her children, and she'd seemed to find great satisfaction in that. Becca had vague memories of her mother dabbling in a pyramid scheme business; she recalled boxes of makeup samples piled up on the kitchen table, and neighborhood women coming over for "parties" that involved homemade coffee cakes, bottles of inexpensive wine, and the sampling of pink lotions and floral-smelling potions.
Finally, Becca spotted up ahead the bridge that crossed over into Maine. The journey to the bridge from Boston was only fifty-five miles, but tonight it had seemed interminable. As a matter of habit Becca read aloud the sign on the bridge, welcoming travelers. " 'Maine,' " she muttered. " 'The Way
Life Should Be.' Yeah, right. A bunch of shaggy moose, smelly fish, and people whose idea of culture is the annual lobster- gorging contest."
On some level Becca knew she was being unfair and prejudicial-- Maine was a gorgeous state; nobody could deny that, and its people were strong, resourceful, and independent-- but on another level she just didn't care. If her parents hadn't retired to the freakin' sticks, then she wouldn't have been caught in that god-awful traffic and facing a treacherous slog through snow that had been falling heavy and wet for the past ten miles.
A monstrous SUV roared past in the left lane. Becca glanced at it with a frown that turned into openmouthed astonishment as the perky blond kid in the backseat gave her the finger.
She was dying to flip the bird right back at him but wasn't stupid enough to get herself forced to the side of the road by the no doubt perfectly coiffed, painfully worked-out soccer mommy behind the wheel of her insanely large gas-guzzling vehicle, who no doubt would defend her pampered little brat of a son from any and all accusations of wrongdoing. And then threaten to sue Becca (her husband would be a celebrity lawyer, of course, or a Wall Street CEO reveling in a recent outrageous bailout) for child abuse.
Becca gritted her teeth--her dentist had been warning her for the past year to stop gritting and grinding; Dr. Olds had said something about TMJ and subsequent surgery--and drove on.
If that kid were her kid, there was no way he'd even think about flipping someone the bird, ever, not a classmate and certainly not a stranger, a female stranger at that. She wasn't a fan of corporal punishment, but there were plenty of other ways to teach a kid right from wrong and to make him aware of the consequences of acting like a deviant.
Aware of her accelerating heart rate, Becca took a deep and she hoped a calming breath--after her last blood pressure reading her doctor had strongly advised she learn and use several calming techniques--and turned on the radio. Some cool jazz would be helpful, she thought, maybe a song by Madeleine Peyroux or Jane Monheit, but all she could find in this unfortunate zone were cheesy Christmas songs. She tried another station. More cheesy Christmas songs, these fuzzy but unmistakably chipper. Again she changed the channel. Again she was disappointed. Damn it for having forgotten to bring her iPod.
What the hell was a reindeer doing with a red nose, anyway? Did it have a drinking problem? And if any kid really did see his mama kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe, Becca was sure he'd be in therapy for the next twenty or thirty years of his life, not singing about it like it was all a big joke.
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen. Becca turned off the radio and glanced at her watch. She still had at least another two hours to go before reaching the dear old family homestead. Just great. Just freakin' great. And now she had to pee.
It could safely be said that Becca Rowan was not in a holiday mood.