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The Improvisational Cook

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  154 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In The Improvisational Cook, Sally Schneider helps home cooks declare their independence from recipes and set lists of ingredients and offers an invitation to a fun, more spontaneous way to cook with whatever is on hand. But how do you become an improvisational cook? Once you understand how a basic technique or a recipe works, you can then begin to improvise. Start with on ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by William Morrow & Company (first published October 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 436)
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Inder
Ooooh, I really like this book. Steve made the most wonderful chicken from it (and yes, I ate a little), while I made some gorgeous white beans with crispy sage. Uh, yum!

I've returned it to the library, but I'll probably have to check it out again.

I really appreciate the improvisational approach, but that was my style anyway. I can't remember the last time I faithfully followed a recipe (Steve, on the other hand, is a recipe follower). I tend to just work with what I have, use cookbooks for id
...more
Sasha
I like what she says about improvising, but on a more basic level the dishes she gravitates towards aren't as appealing to me. There's very little about beans, and surprisingly there seems to be much more meat than vegetable dishes. So for a vegetarian or someone who eats more vegetarian food, this is a book worth getting from the library rather than the bookstore.

I also think this book shines when it is systematic, as in the section on ingredient combinations where she basically says "what grow
...more
Bglassman Glassman
Jun 02, 2008 Bglassman Glassman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Serious eaters and occasional hosts, who are not adept chefs.
I suffer from total performance anxiety in the kitchen. This book alters the way I approach a meal, and a set of recipes, and makes it possible to do really interesting things with what is at hand. Most important, it does what PowerPoint does -- it provides templates that you can fill in. Serious chefs, like serious communicators, don't settle for PowerPoint. Nor will they settle for The Improvisational Cook. But for the rest of us, who would like to be able to throw something good together when ...more
Destabee
Jan 21, 2012 Destabee rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cooks with a sense of artistry or adventure.
Recommended to Destabee by: no one
Shelves: cookbooks
I checked this book out from the library. I like that it moves beyond the "science of cooking" to the "art of cooking." Only one thing is holding me back from buying a copy of my own; the book includes too much that is not relevant for my food ideology (little meat and eating local and seasonally).

I would love to find a book like this and this well done that focused more on grains and seasonal produce. With that said if you like to cook in ways that are creative and innovative, you should find
...more
Sarah
So far, I've learned that I am not a lazy cook that just uses what's on hand instead of heading to the store... I'm an improvisational cook! Now I just have to learn more of the techniques in the book.
Ann Quinn
Love it. I've ordered it from Better World Books, to have a keeper copy. Great ideas, great inspiration to get away from recipes.
Kris
"Much of the process of improvising involves cultivating a mind-set - open, associative, resourceful - that spurs ideas and lets them flow. It's being willing to ask: What would happen if? ... Then you just go ahead and try out your idea, experiment with an open mind and without fear of the outcome, the mess you make, and the possibly imperfect results. This flies in the face of our notions of what cooking is "supposed" to be and look like - a stylist setting, an orderly series of events, one fo ...more
May
+ side: detailed explanations on how one can improvise a basic recipe such as almost homemade mayonnaise and salt-roasted trout
- side: no pictures of any of the recipes. All we get are some photos of ingredients which if you were cooking Asian or Middle Eastern, would be necessary but since the author stays safely within the confines of North American/European fare, I would have preferred photos of the dishes themselves. Also, I didn't find many of the recipes all that appealing. For one thing,
...more
Jennifer
I really only skimmed this for recipes, so my review is incomplete, but here goes. I like Schneider's approach of breaking down recipes into (A) methods and (B) flavor combinations. For me, though, there was a lot I already knew and some things that didn't really interest me. I do hope to try some recipes, but I'm already so accustomed to improvising that I'll probably use the ideas just to tweak what I'm already doing. For beginning or less confident cooks, this could be a great way to jump to ...more
Meghan
This cookbook has rocked my world. I read it like a novel. There are very few photos, but my mouth was watering with every page. Despite the fact that there are tons of recipes in this book I wouldn't make, I feel truly inspired by all the possible improvisations that begin within. The entire dessert section is phenomenal. I can't wait to try a bunch of these ideas this summer and fall, when the produce is fresh.
Aguess
This a great cookbook. I hated to return it to the library last week. It has the kind of recipes that can set you off on culinary adventures of your own. And because the basic recipes are so simple, you might not even need the book in the kitchen while you are cooking. it might be the only cookbook in my collection that could avoid the inevitable food stains!
Kate Peckham
This book is in my kitchen, out on the shelf. I refer to it several times a week when I'm cooking. I love it. It has given me permission to be creative in the kitchen. I always thought I couldn't cook until I gave myself permission to fail. This book gave me a whole new perspective. I have a special place in my heart for any book that can do that.
Lisa
Sep 30, 2012 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
Rechecked multiple times from library. Will p/u a used copy soon. Love the creativity this inspired in me. I'm usually much more comfortable cooking from a recipe, but this gave me some "ground rules" and creates a comfort zone where I feel I can safely experiment.
Renee
This cookbook works from my basic philosphy of cooking: understand the basics of a recipe and then experiment with lots of versions. The slow roasted pork is wonderful!! I also love her slaws, and slow roasted tomatoes.
Laverne
This is a great addition to your bookshelf in the kitchen. If you are like me and use recipes as a guide rather than a prescription, this is the book for you. So many great ideas to bring your cooking to the next level.
Debbie


A great concept for a cookbook. Following a recipe and then using the techniques and flavor profiles to improvise with ingredients at hand. I've already tried a few of the recipes with great success.
Stephanie
I LOVE this book. the recipes are simple but taste delicious and aren't boring. I bought this for myself a week ago online and am waiting for it to arrive so I can start cooking again!
Sandy
Jan 20, 2008 Sandy added it
since i refuse to follow recipes but sometimes like to flip through cookbooks when i feel like i have been eating the same thing too often--this woman is smart and creative
Jennifer
Apr 06, 2010 Jennifer marked it as to-read
Shelves: food
Checked out from the library. Barely looked at. Thought M would like it, but he never got around to looking at it before it needed to be returned.
Superkirsten Hudson
yum. what grows together goes together. since i'm a haphazard cook, i love reading about general ideas rather than recipes with no flexibility.
Harley
Several unique recipes and techniques. Will be starting a ferment of Bing cherry vinegar later today so it will be ready for Christmas gifts.
Barb
Great book. Simple, quick recipes. Well-written. Good weekend book. I love the fried egg-asapargus-parmigiano.
Laura
Lots of great ideas in this one by a former Martha Stewart-kitchen cook (I believe, might need to double check that).
Rebecca
Jan 13, 2010 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: experienced cooks
Shelves: cook-books
This is so much fun. It is my new favorite right now. So many new things to experiment with.
Tara
A wonderfully written, eye-opening cookbook about how to cook as well as what to cook.
Nancy
Lots of great ideas - the way we cook, the way we think about using ingredients
Mindy
Interesting to browse through, but didn't really find anything I want to try.
Tara
Aug 13, 2009 Tara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
Makes me really wanna cook. Thats what a cookbook should do.
Veronica
I'm actually reading this cookbook. READING it!
Lori
What grows together, goes together. We know.
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