One, two, three, four–and even five ingredient cookbooks have been around for quite a while, now. The reason I know this is because I bought a bunch of them. Similarly, food magazines and women’s magazines have frequently featured this kind of recipe in their articles, often, I suspect, as fillers. That’s not to say that one, two, three, four or five ingredient cookbooks aren’t valuable–they really are
A type of cookbook that I am greatly enamored with is the trend of cookbooks that offer recipes using as little as seven or eight ingredients – or even as few as two or three. Obviously, I’m not the only one who appreciates and enjoys using this type of cookbook – even many famous chefs, such as Rozanne Gold, have latched onto the ease of these recipes. (One chef pointed out—why spend the time putting together something like a salsa to add to a recipe, when so many really good salsas can be found in the supermarket?).
One of the cookbooks in this genre is something called “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” by Gregg R. Gillespie, published in 2001 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, but distributed by Workman Publishing Company.
In its Introduction, Gregg explains, “I love cooking and eating great food but, like everyone else, I don’t have the time to juggle complex, multi-ingredient recipes on a daily basis…”
Gregg decided he could have his cake and eat it too, so to speak, and the quick and easy way of cooking would be using a minimum amount of ingredients. He writes, “One day, I went into the kitchen and didn’t come out until I’d devised the absolutely simplest way to prepare great homemade foods,. I stood at the counter, tossing and turning chickens, potatoes, pasta, pork, and any of the basics I could get my hands on, along with wonderfully prepared (store-bought and homemade) sauces and seasonings. Fewer ingredients mean more time at home and less time at the market; more time with family and friends and less time washing, peeling, cutting, chopping, slicing, and dicing….”
In the end, Gregg created more than a thousand dishes, using only four ingredients—and not sacrificing any flavor.
“How can such great food be made with only four ingredients?” he asks. “Easy. Cooking great food is never dependent on the quantity of ingredients you use. In fact, the simpler the cooking, the better the food. The main ingredient in simple and quick cooking is knowing the basics abut how to create flavor and texture….”
Gregg believes that once you realize how well garlic imparts great taste and bacon adds moisture, once you understand the versatility of poultry, and how olive oil yields more taste than vegetable oil, how vinegar and lemon can perk up a sauce and how flour thickens it, you will be able to cook with less because you know how each ingredient contributes to making a balanced recipe.
Gregg points out what I’ve discovered, what other famous chefs have noted -–our grocery stores and supermarkets stock an enormous variety of quality dressings, easy to use canned beans, zesty salsas and sauces.
Gregg goes a step further with the 4-ingredient pantry and provides lists of what he calls the Basic Pantry and the Optional Pantry. The Basic Pantry contains such products as sugar, salt, dried herbs, seasonings, soy sauce and a few other non-perishables; foods you should try to keep in stock at all times to simplify your cooking life so that you don’t have o run to the store every time you cook a meal. These pantry items are not counted as any of the four ingredients, however; they’re items you should always have readily available. Water is not listed as an ingredient; it is indicated in the directions.
However, the Optional Pantry lists items which would be convenient to keep on hand but not necessary to have around at all times, such as canned beans, bottled salsas, seasoning blends. Gregg says that, if your local store doesn’t carry something like a Honey Soy Sauce or Ginger Dressing, with this list in mind you will be alert to picking up these items whenever you do come across them.
Your Basic Pantry contains everyday essentials such as butter, milk, mayonnaise, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and garlic; vinegars such as distilled white vinegar, red or white wine vinegars. Your Optional Pantry will have a selected of beans which includes chickpeas, black beans and white beans, an assortment of dressings, sauces such as barbecue and chili sauce, chutney and pepper jelly, staples such as rice and various types of pastas. Gregg also lists a variety of seasoning mixes with recipes so that you an put together your own All-purpose seasoning mix or Cajun Seasoning Mix. He offers recipes for mixing together your own curry powder, fine herbs, herb blend seasoning mix and five spice Powder, Oriental Spice Mix and Poultry Seasoning Mix.
(And, while Gregg doesn’t say this, I’ve found that you can save up a wide variety of little jars and bottles when you use up the last of a seasoning or a bottle of dressing; scrub the bottles and jars, remove the old labels and you will have the perfect containers to store your homemade seasoning mixes. Lacking this, I’d suggest buying a box of half-pint-size (8 ounce) or some of the four-ounce canning jars to store your homemade seasoning mixes).
One of the greatest features of “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” is that every single recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the finished product. Say what you want—I consider myself a pretty good cook—but I like to see a picture of the finished dish.
What a fabulous cookbook! You can make dishes as elegant as chicken breasts wrapped in bacon, Chinese Style Stew, or Chinese Pot Roast
Orange-Glazed Corned Beef or Hawaiian Roast Pork. You can put together Huevos Rancheros or Eggs Baked in Sour Cream, Eggs Florentine or Hawaiian Ice Salmon – four ingredients! Imagine – Zucchini Pie, Stir-Fried Celery or Tiny Corn Casserole – four ingredients! As a matter of fact, “1001 4-INGREDIENT RECIPES” has a complete table of contents, ranging from Appetizers and Snacks to Eggs and Dairy, Salads, soups, Poultry, Meat, Pasta, Vegetables and Desserts – plus more. As an added bonus, Gregg has even included a chapter devoted to Sauces, Dips, Condiments and Dressings—this section alone would be worth the price of the cookbook. You can learn how to make all sorts of basic dipping sauces, relishes, your very own Chinese Mustard, Cilantro Pesto, Homemade Zucchini-Pineapple Preserves, Parmesan Cheese Sauce, Mushroom Sauce or Mornay Sauce – not one recipe takes more than four ingredients. I’m impressed.
Gregg Gillespie, the mastermind behind the successful 1001 series of cookbooks, has owned, operated, and managed retail and commercial baking establishments in New England and California. He lives, cooks, and collects recipes in Reno Nevada
It was more than a decade ago that I purchased my copy of 1001 4-ingredient cookbook at a Costco sore. That being said, I checked on Amazon.com and they have a bunch of copies of Gregg Gillespie’s cookbook starting at .80 cents and up for preowned copies; while I was on that page in Amazon, I noticed a lot of similar titles playing off the 1001 4-ingredient. They also have other copies of Gillespie’s cookbook
As you and I both know, cookbooks can now be found for a fraction of the original cost (most of the time—except when you are searching, as I was recently, for the Vegetable cookbook by the Browns and the only one available was $25.00. Yes, I bought it—it completed my collection of their cookbooks).
Once you get hooked on these “X number of ingredient cookbooks, you won’t want to stop. I have an entire shelf of them now.
Happy cooking! Happy cookbook collecting!