Daily Herald
These top chefs can do their meals in 30 minutes, too
By Deb Pankey | Daily Herald Food Editor
Published: 2/20/2008 12:14 AM

Rachael Ray has built an empire out of 30-minute meals, but she certainly hasn't cornered the market on paring down time in the kitchen.

In "Fit and Fast" (Hatherleigh Press, $16.95), Ellen Haas presents 150 recipes that come together under the half-hour mark. The cover touts recipes from award-winning chefs including Gale Gand and Charlie Trotter, but don't grab this book thinking you can make Gand's Blueberry Hazelnut Frangipane Tart or Trotter's Roasted Squab Breast With Hazelnut, Pearl Onion & Cocoa Nib in the allotted time.

Gand's contribution is a fruity sorbet, while Trotter and a handful of other top toques contribute heavily to the vinaigrette and marinade chapter.

Still, there's a lot to like in this paperback edition, especially the nutrition analysis that accompanies each recipe. (Ray promises healthy meals on her TV show, yet never addresses nutrition on set or in her books. The numbers on today's recipe were calculated by us.)

Haas' recipes cover vegetarian meals (Spinach Fettuccine With Artichoke), casual meals (Turkey and Corn Tortillas With Chipotle Salsa), and ideas for entertaining (Gingered Tuna With Orange-Fennel Slaw), as well as veggie and grain side dishes, soups and salads, and desserts.

You won't find glossy color photos, but the recipes are straightforward enough that you shouldn't need an illustration to convince you that you cooked it correctly.

I've also had success pulling dinner together in less than 30 minutes using recipes from "Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's" (Brown Bag Publishers, $29.95).

The book wasn't written by the Trader Joe's folks, but rather by two East Coast moms who started experimenting with the store's unique ingredients.

I've been a Trader Joe's groupie since the first store opened in the area and love exploring the aisles and picking up interesting stuff, such as Mojito Simmer Sauce and frozen appetizers. Just knowing that I can open the book, flip to any page and get the ingredients in one stop scores points with this busy mom.

The Shredded Pork Enchiladas Verde were a hit at my house -- the frozen roasted corn did it for my husband -- as was the Korean Bool Kogi on Rice Sticks. The referenced refrigerated beef has been discontinued, so I used a similarly seasoned frozen product with outstanding results.

More than cherries: Sure, Michigan is known for its cherries -- Traverse City even hosts the National Cherry Festival (July 5-12 this year), but there's more growing in the state than these delicious stone fruits.

Join Justin Rashid, co-founder of American Spoon Foods Inc. in Petoskey, Mich., as he shares his entrepreneurial insight and then cherry picks his way through his state's sweet and tangy history. The program, which takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the dining room at Robert Morris College's Institute of Culinary Arts, 401 S. State St., Chicago, will cover the state's fruitful history, its distinguished fruit varieties and recent culinary history.

Of course, samples of American Spoon's products will be available.

Cost of the lecture program is $5, $3 for students and free to members of the Culinary Historians of Chicago. To reserve, call Barbara Olson at (708) 788-0338 or e-mail your

reservation to rsvpchc@yahoo.com.

Lunch, sponsored by ChicaGourmets, immediately follows at Copperblue at Lake Point Tower, 580 E. Illinois St., Chicago. The four-course meal costs $79. Reserve at www.chicagourmets.org.

Cool tool: Kudos to Woodridge-based Trudeau Corp for its Flipper 4-in-1 Measuring Spoon. The gadget took top honors in the kitchen hand tools division at the Housewares Design Awards held earlier this month in New York City.

Made from flexible thermal plastic rubber, Trudeau's measuring spoon "flips over" into four various standard measurements, allowing for efficient and space-saving meal preparation. And it comes in cool colors.

The Housewares Design Awards, the Oscars of the housewares industry, are presented by HomeWorld Business, a housewares trade publication.

I couldn't find this cool tool in any stores around here, but I did see it on www.amazon.com for $4.95.

-- Deborah Pankey