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The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life Hardcover – 28 Jul 2010


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Review

If any of this year's cookbooks is headed for dog-eared longevity, complete with tomato- sauce splatters and flour-dustings, it's Tom Hudgens' "The Commonsense Kitchen." ...As appropriate for beginning cooks as it is for those with more experience, this one will stick around your kitchen for years. -- Denver Post, Best Cookbooks of 2010

About the Author

Tom Hudgens attended and cooked at Deep Springs Ranch, Chez Panisse, and Liberty Cafe in San Francisco. He teaches at College of Marin and lives in the San Francisco Bay area."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 27 reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Delicious home cooking 9 Sept. 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I received this cookbook for my birthday recently, and, while I have not gotten very far into the 500 recipes, what I have tested so far has been, for the most part, extremely good. The meatloaf is a revelation-- best recipe I have ever tried, and my new staple. It displaces the Martha Stewart meatloaf I've been making for years by a mile-- who knew yogurt (yes, yogurt) would be so awesome in meatloaf?

Just last night, I tried the egg pizza, which isn't even a recipe, really, just a suggestion. Try cracking eggs on top of a pizza (I used a Kashi roasted vegetable one) in the last six minutes of cooking. It creates a "soft boiled" effect, where the white is just set and the yellow is still runny. Takes a fork (messy!) but oh my goodness, it is delicious. The parsnip soup with toasted almond olive oil is also delicious.

I didn't give five stars, on account of the spoonbread. Again, I haven't tried many things yet, but the spoonbread was a crashing disappointment. It looked lovely, but was completely bland. I have a Southern Living recipe that is considerably better.

The book itself is lovely to look at-- no food pictures, but the typeface is appealing and the quality of paper is very nice in the hand. I realize that's not important to everyone, but I enjoy having a good quality book. Also, the anecdotes throughout are very interesting. There is also information about soapmaking, and how to make butter.

There are several recipes for chili, including a couple of vegetarian versions. I think perhaps the black bean chili will be next on my list to make...or perhaps the wonderful sounding buttermilk pie.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Simple, Careful, Mindful, and Delicious 28 Sept. 2010
By S. Max Edelson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an astoundingly good book. Hudgens has put together a group of stellar recipes, but the book is so much more. It is a story about working and living on a remote ranch and interacting with its stark, beautiful environment. It offers a philosophy of cooking, eating, and living that urges you to pay attention as you put forkfuls of food in your mouth. Above all, it is a book that believes in taking care with ingredients, but it is not at all fussy or pretentious. The "Big Pink Cake" is already a family favorite at my house, as are the pancakes, the best I've ever made at home. My son and I harvested a zucchini from our garden, and followed a simple but delicious recipe for fried summer squash that added the crunch of cornmeal. You have to love a cookbook that has a whole chapter called "Gooey Desserts." This is the kind of book that makes me want to break my food routines and reinvent the way I eat. It is guided by the author's beautifully written introductions and genial, funny advice. A real pleasure!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous Food! 19 Sept. 2010
By Aggie B - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love to cook and I love to read cookbooks, and The Commonsense Kitchen more than satisfies in both categories. The book is beautifully laid out, recipes are easy to read, and the items I've tried so far are delicious (Ginger Peach Crisp was terrific). I love the background notes on many of the recipes -- they make me feel as if I was in the kitchen cooking with Tom Hudgens. A great addition to my shelf of cookbooks, although this one hasn't left the kitchen counter yet!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Beautiful, Modern Basic 12 Nov. 2010
By dannyboy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for either the the following two things: 1) a basic cookbook with a very wide range of sensible recipes for the modern palate, 2) an adventure for someone who wants to learn about food from a very specific, very interesting chef's point of view.

There are no pictures, which is a shame, but Tom makes up for it with beautiful prose that elucidates not only what you are going to taste when you are done, but also something more about the food, its history, or his relationship to it.

The book is beautifully produced, with the kind of hard cover that falls open and stays open on the kitchen counter. My only regret is that there isn't some type of plastic coating on the cover, but that just makes it nicer for reading on the couch, or in bed. This is a cookbook that even non-cookbook-o-philes can enjoy reading outside the kitchen.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Great General Cookbook 26 July 2011
By Books and Chocolate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a cookbook from an unusual source. The author attended and cooked at Deep Springs, a two-year college program that only admits 12 students each year that is also a working organic farm and cattle ranch in the high desert of the Sierra Nevada. This is a general cookbook with more than 500 recipes plus lessons in life skills, from the proper way to wash dishes to how to make homemade soap.

The recipe chapters include breakfast dishes, breads, lunches, beans, vegetables, all kinds of meats and seafood, salads and dressings, pasta, soups, sauces and relishes, all kinds of desserts and sweet treats, plus chapters on kitchen tips, menus, and cleaning (washing dishes, getting out stains, etc.). There are some illustrations and antecdotes throughout, although no photographs but somehow the absense of photos fits with the down to basics, commonsense approach of this cookbook.

In reading through the recipes and instructions, they seem to include enough information for novice cooks as well as the more experienced. The only recipe I tried so far was the buttermilk ranch salad dressing which was wonderful. I also appreciated the tutorial in the salad section of the cookbook on how to properly prepare greens and toss a salad, along with suggestions for ingredient combinations. This is the kind of good, basic background information that can be found throughout the book. I also like that the recipes call for fresh ingredients readily available in my local grocery store.

There are so many recipes I'm looking forward to trying, including the glazed meatloaf, green chile enchiladas, sweet potato bread, black bean chili, cayenne-rubbed chicken with potatoes and garlic, and a fresh salsa recipe that seems very easy to make. Although I am a somewhat experienced cook, I tried to look at this cookbook from the view of a novice and there really isn't anything intimidating in it. With a good combination of traditional recipes along with those that have an updated twist in the ingredients, I think it would be a welcome addition to any kitchen as a go-to general cookbook that would get a lot of use.
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