By Sue Perkins
I've seen many cookbooks on the subject of cooking a meal in a half-hour or less, and most have a great deal of merit. Nevertheless, Sam Gugino's book is in a class by itself. Perhaps because Gugino was a restaurateur before he turned food journalist, the recipes have an elegance that one would expect to find in a fine restaurant. Yet the recipes are casual - perfect for weekday meals as well as for entertaining - and the preparation is a snap.
Gugino doesn't hesitate to use prepared ingredients to save time, but because he choose them judiciously - canned beans, artichokes and tomatoes and frozen vegetables, for example - the flavors in each are clean and bright.
Gugino, a proponent of home cooking, has a serious mission to accomplish. He wants his recipes to inspire you to develop a life-long strategy for fast, home-cooked meals. To this end, four principles are developed which form the foundation of Cooking to Beat the Clock: Flavor, Organization, Focus and Creativity. If you've never wanted to attempt a classic cassoulet, you'll be seduced by Gugino's Quick Cassoulet. Warm Shrimp and White Bean Salad with Red Potatoes, and Asian Sesame Chicken Salad are great for the warm weather to come, and (Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Parmesan) is wonderful right now with in-season asparagus.