Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals Review


Original Cookbook Review by

Something for Every Cowboy

Face it. The best way to enjoy a healthy diet is to stay out of restaurants, and cook at home. Unfortunately, after pursuing this course, it is very easy to fall into the trap of simply cooking the same couple of things over and over again.

Dave Lieberman, the smart chef from the Food Network who penned the 2005 cookbook Young and Hungry, offers an impressive new volume of fusion food that spans a wide range of tasty food selections. (Read the additional Texas Cooking Dave Lieberman interview) Running at just over 200 pages, Dave's Dinners emphasizes innovate home cooking using fresh ingredients from the grocery store.

When Jack Lemmon cooked dinner for Shirley MacLaine on the night of their date in The Apartment, a simple plate of spaghetti was sufficient. Over the years, the bar has risen steadily higher. And Liberman's cookbook offers lots of rich dishes that are bound to impress today's modern guest.

The book moves through all the standard types of recipes, although Lieberman emphasizes dinners. Not counting appetizers, soups and desserts, well over half of the book's pages are evening meals, ranging from poultry to meat, pasta and fish.

Lieberman believes that chicken has dropped to such a low level of respect, it has quietly become the "forgotten meat" by chefs around the world. Lieberman uses the space of an entire chapter to prove the experts wrong. "There's really no end to how you can cook a chicken. Whole, in pieces, chicken will go in whatever flavor direction you want to take it.

The very first recipe in this chapter is, oddly enough, a turkey dish. He fronts with the tantalizing Braised Dark Meat Turkey Over Egg Noodles where he writes that dark meat turkey is "way underutilized even though it is so readily available, inexpensive and delicious" After cooking the meat in the savoury brew, it just falls apart and melds to the source, topped by egg noodles.

Innovative Recipes

Innovative suggestions such as this are one of Lieberman's best strengths.

Another impressive dinner recipe is Roasted Chorizo and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken over Rosemary Black Beans. By tucking the chorizo sausage and the sun dried tomatoes underneath the chicken, dinner will be a truly succulent feast. Lieberman also gives directions on cooking the black beans from scratch in a pot. Canned black beans, with some seasoning, would reduce the prep time for this dish significantly, and still taste fine. However, going all out making a pot of black beans, cooking with the onions, chicken stock and rosemary, would richly impress any guests over for dinner.

As the holidays are approaching, Lieberman includes a great meal suggestion: Lemon Brined Turkey with Sourdough Bread Stuffing and Orange-Fennel Cranberry Sauce. Many of you may have read Patricia Mitchell's informative article on brining a turkey. We've never eaten sourdough bread dressing, but it sure sounds very good, especially if you want to try something different then the classic cornbread dressing.

Keeping with the dinner theme, Lieberman devotes separate chapters to fish, pasta and meat recipes. These contain a very wide range of fish, from tuna, haddock, snapper and tilapia, which is an inexpensive seafood staple in Mexican restaurants.

Lieberman hits the jackpot in the comfort food category with his down-home Bubby's Meat Loaf with Red Pepper Sauce and Tangy Green Beans. Buddy is his personal nickname for his grandmother. The dish has a very nice bite, when you combine the tomato sauce with a chopped red pepper. Similar to the above tomato chicken dish, he explains how to make the "tangy green beans" from scratch. Fresh and crisp!

From Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals

Bubby's Meat Loaf with Red Pepper Sauce and Tangy Green Beans
Lieberman writes: "I was addicted to this meatloaf as a little kid. Bubby had to cut me off after seconds.

For the Meat Loaf

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 t salt
  • 15 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 lbs. ground beef, 85% - 90% lean
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed

For the Red Pepper Sauce

  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 15 grinds fresh black pepper

  • 1 1/2 lb. small red potatoes, halved

For the Green Beans

  • 1 lb. string beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the eggs, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and work together completely until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place the meat mixture into a baking pan and shape into a loaf about 11 inches long and 4 inches wide. The loaf should be in the middle of the pan.

Make the red pepper sauce by placing all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pureeing till smooth. Cover the meat loaf with red pepper sauce and allow the excess sauce to pool in around the meat loaf. Cover the pan with aluminum foil but avoid contact with the meat load by leaving at least a couple of inches of space between the top of the meat loaf and the foil.

Bake 45 minutes, then uncover, scatter and submerge the potatoes in the pan juices and bake 45 minutes longer, until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Make the string beans: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for just 1 to 2 minutes, until the beans turn bright green. Strain them and run under cold water to stop them from cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few pinches of salt and the vinegar and let cook down for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the beans to coat them thoroughly and evenly with the dressing.

Not everything has to be a big meal. The chapter on appetizers contains a wide range of quick eats perfect for entertaining guests, or simply served as simple meal starters. He fronts the chapter with Baby Backs in Two Ways. First is Dry-Rubbed Baby Backs, the rub sweetened with sugar and just a touch of cayenne. As an alternative, he offers Sweet-And-Sour Ale Baby Backs, accented with soy sauce and vinegar.

Just as impressive and perhaps a little less time consuming for a Texas party would be Mini Flank Steak Tortillas with Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream. Very nice.

Lieberman carefully follows an import rule of life: Don't forget dessert!

His apple crumble with vanilla ice cream looks simple, and it is perfect for the Fall. Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with white cream cheese utilizes Guinness stout for a distinct taste. The lemon blueberry cheesecake with shortbread cookie crust looks to die for.

* * *

Lieberman is one of the new generation of chefs that want people to have fun in the kitchen. Some of the recipes will require shopping for some ingredients at a high end grocery store, Whole Foods or the like. And this is fine. It is all part of how rewarding the cooking experience can be.

Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals
224 pages
Hyperion (January, 2003)
Purchase Book on Amazon.Com