Celebrity chef makes appearance in Milford

>Toadstool Bookshop hosts signing with Sara Moulton

MILFORD – Sara Moulton is the petite blond host of public tele­vision’s "Sara’s Weeknight Meals," and dozens of her fans packed the Toadstool Bookshop’s cafe recently to listen to her talk about cooking.

And if any of them imag­ined she spends her lei­sure hours hosting glam­orous dinner parties for celebrity-chef friends, they had to think again.

Moulton said she cooks for her family, but never gives dinner parties.

"My husband and I both work at home, and it’s cluttered with stacks of newspapers and maga­zines," she said. "And I would have to take a day off" just to clean and tidy up.

Moulton was at Toad­stool’s Bookside Cafe re­cently to promote her lat­est book, "Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101."

The size of the crowd surprised her.

"In my experience, no­body comes to book sign­ings," she said.

New Hampshire is far from her Manhattan home, but the trip was practical because her parents have a farm in New Ipswich.

Moulton called the book "very, very personal" be­cause it reflects the seven years she worked in res­taurants, including Har­vest in Cambridge, Mass., as well as a commitment to home cooking and mak­ing meals tasty and easy to prepare.

It has more than 150 new recipes and hun­dreds of tips she guaran­tees will make anyone a better cook.

"I know it’s really hard to come home and cook," she said, "and we all tend to make the same 10 bor­ing dinners."

Moulton studied at the Culinary Institute of America, working with Julia Child, and served as executive chef at Gour­met magazine.

Those who were disap­pointed she didn’t give a cooking demonstra­tion have something to look forward to. Moulton said she would return to Toadstool and show how to make a French Apple Tart.

And for anyone who doesn’t want to wait, her book has step-by-step il­lustrated instructions.

Her audience seemed hungry for advice, and she obliged.

"A good cook pays at­tention to details – get­ting the pan hot enough, seasoning well and at the right moment, and balancing the five compo­nents of taste," Moulton said.

The book starts with tips for putting together a pantry and instructions for making homemade chicken, turkey and veg­etable stock, as well as marinara sauce. There’s basic information on preparing grains and beans, and recipes for 10- minute pizza dough and homemade ricotta-style cheese.

But the bulk of the book is recipes, and they are nearly all entrees – because who has time for multiple courses on weeknights?

They include Tortilla- Crusted Tilapia, Spicy Miso Chicken Wings, Quick Texas Chili, Spicy Greens Ravioli and Veg­etable Fritters. There are vegetarian recipes, as well as plenty of meat.

Along with the French Apple Tart, the book’s desserts include Baked Summer Fruit and Apri­cot Souffle.

10 cooking tips from Sara Moulton

1. Shake hands with your stove. She uses an electric one and tells how it can be used effec­tively.

2. Buy a good knife – spend money on it.

3. Plan ahead for shop­ping.

4. Follow the recipe exactly the first time you make it.

5. Dispense with mise en place (setting up all ingredients before cook­ing). Instead, take advan­tage of lulls in cooking time.

6. Reach for the salt and use it at the begin­ning.

7. Balance flavors – sweet, salty, bitter, acidic and spicy.

8. Build umami, the fifth taste, and "the rea­son Italian food is so good."

9. Don’t waste food. Save all vegetable scraps, chicken bones and fat rendered from cooked meats.

10. Save leftover grains, pasta, etc., and artisanal bread. Combine leftovers with fresh ingredients for a second meal.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.