Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: Great Menus, Seasonal Recipes for Entertaining by Patricia Lewis Mote

Author: Patricia Lewis Mote
188 pages, Trade paperback with heavy stock cover, 52 four-color photographs, Index, Conversion Chart, 9.25 x 10.5
ISBN: 978-0-933165-17-5 $25
Pub Date: February 5th, 2011
Published by: Dicmar Publishing
Distributed by: Midpoint Trade Books


A "little black dress" -- that simple, elegant dress that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion -- is considered by most women to be essential to a complete wardrobe. Similarly, home cooks -- especially those who entertain a lot -- should have the equivalent in their culinary repetoire.

Patricia Lewis Mote has a few recipes she considers her culinary LBDs and they were put to good use over the past 25 years. From 1998-2010, as wife of the President of the University of Maryland, Mote hosted an average of 4 - 5 dinner parties and other events each week. For each event, she created menus featuring seasonal produce and decor. And, for Mote, an artist, the look of the table is as important to her as the food.

Among Mote's "little black dress" recipes are chicken stock, roasted almonds, Mushrooms a la Grecque, and meringue. There are also the guaranteed palate-pleasers like Chicken Pot Pie, Onion Custards, Chili Heaven (a combination of rice, cheese, sour cream and chopped chilies), and Harvest Tart.

Mote has gathered her seasonal menus and supporting recipes to create a beautiful new cookbook, Great Menus: Seasonal Recipes for Entertaining. The book is arranged in 9 sections with each section having 4 seasonal menus. There are more than 200 supporting recipes.

Great Menus's main premise is that entertaining should be fun. There are menus and recipes for brunches, luncheons, picnics, dinners and more. There are special sections with menus for "Fast Fridays" -- dinner parties in an hour after coming home from work; "Frugal Fests" -- for times the wallet is thin; and "Diva Dinners" when you go all out.

In Great Menus: Seasonal Recipes for Entertaining, the first of a trio of cookbooks, Mote has concentrated on menus for small events for no more than 16 guests. All of the recipes are designed to be prepared by the home cook, not a chef. Most of the menus also suggest flowers and decor for the meal, all have beverage/wine suggestions and many include lively stories about the food and where the inspiration came from. All of this will make it easy for anyone to recreate the whole meal to share with family and friends.

As the wife of an academic, Mote has had the opportunity to visit, live and cook around the world. She has lived in 5 countries. The results are that the menus and recipes highlight ingredients from many cuisines. There are also many vegetarian recipes and options, and kid-friendly menus that are appropriate for family activities.

The book is enhanced by more than 50 mouth-watering photographs that will make you want to start cooking -- the sooner to savor the dish! 

Mote and her husband Dan have entertained Heads of State, Nobel Prize winners, Congressmen, authors, and other notables; but her desire has always been, no matter how large the event or who is coming, to make it personal. Her passion for the best ingredients, for creating a truly beautiful plate and table setting and for sharing her love of entertaining comes through. With Great Menus: Seasonal Recipes for Entertaining, anyone can entertain with ease.  

My Review:

I was waiting to write up and share my review of this cookbook until I was able to try a variety of the recipes.  And, with summer here and family cookouts and get-togethers, I had an excuse to try out some great seasonal recipes.  One of the reasons why I loved this cookbook so much was that it included photos.  I don't like to get cookbooks that don't contain pictures of the dishes.  It makes me wonder if the food is not good enough to photograph and share, then why should I waste my time trying to make it.  But, the photography of the dishes in cookbook were mouthwatering and nicely done by David Harp.  

Broken down into the following chapters, you are bound to find a recipe just right for a special dinner or a cookout or potluck dinner dish.

Chapter 1: Basics
Chapter 2: Brunches
Chapter 3: Luncheons
Chapter 4: Picnics
Chapter 5: Kitchen
Chapter 6: Fast Fridays
Chapter 7: Frugal Feasts
Chapter 8: Around the World
Chapter 9: Seasonal
Chapter 10: Diva Dinners

I tried a few recipes from each of the chapters above, but have to say that the following were my favorite and crowd favorites as well:

Sourdough Toast with Fresh Nectarine Jam
Grilled Jerk Chicken with Corn and Red Pepper Jubilee
BBQ Turkey
Harvest Tart
Chicken Pot Pies
Black Bean Dip
Tomatillo Salsa
Turkey Meatballs

These are the dishes I had people asking me for the recipes and where I got the recipes from.  Did I get your mouth watering just by reading the dish names?  My was, just typing them!

If you love cookbooks, collecting cookbooks, or just want to try out a few great dishes this summer, then you should check out Great Menus by Patricia Lewis Mote.  You will not go wrong, and I promise you will be making these dishes over and over again, as well as be the hit at your next get-together.

Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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