Side Dish: “Home Cooking Basics”

If the number of cookbooks about Southern cooking stacked on my desk is any indication, publishers have decided one doesn’t have to be a Southerner to want to learn how to cook the region’s great food. One just needs inspiration and information.

That’s the opinion, anyway, of the editors of “Southern Living Home Cooking Basics: A complete illustrated guide to Southern cooking.”

The hefty — it’s 416 pages — book is filled with more than 200 recipes and lots of full-color photographs, including many step-by-step illustrations.

Like a Southern grandma would, it starts at the beginning with information on what tools and equipment are needed, and how to set a table, set up a bar and stock the pantry and refrigerator.

Next comes a section on how to prep food, from how to peel and cut an apple, seed a cucumber, beat egg whites to stiff peaks and how to butterfly a shrimp.

The section called “The Methods” offers step-by-step explanations of fundamental cooking techniques: no cook, bake, boil, braise, fry, grill, roast, sauté and steam. For example, readers can master braising by making braised short ribs, learn how to sauté shrimp for shrimp and grits, or get tips on deep-frying turkeys.

The book’s second half is devoted to recipes, such as lemonade iced tea, pork chops with pepper jelly sauce, fried green tomatoes and pickled grapes with rosemary and chiles.

Suggested menus, a handy ingredient substitution list, tips for baking at high altitudes, and info on fresh produce and herbs complete the book.

This would be a good book for both novice and more experienced cooks.

Cookbook signing

Cynthia LeJeune Nobles will be signing copies of her cookbook, “The Delta Queen Cookbook” (LSU Press), from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the LSU student union.

Nobles writes the Bites of History column in The Advocate’s Food section and is a member of the Newcomb College Culinary History Writers Group.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

Easy Asiago-Olive Rolls

Makes 8 to 10 servings. Recipe is from “Southern Living Home Cooking Basics” (Oxmoor House, September 2012).

1 (13.8-oz.) can refrigerated classic pizza crust dough

1/4 cup refrigerated olive tapenade

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tbl. melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll pizza crust dough. Spread olive tapenade over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle with cheese and rosemary. Gently roll up dough, starting at one long side. Cut into 10 (11/4-inch-thick) slices. Place slices in a lightly greased 9-inch round cake pan. Brush top of dough with melted butter.

2. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

Testing note: I found the refrigerated olive tapenade on the olive bar at Whole Foods Market.