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The first edition of the Food Lovers Companion took her three years to research and write, and was published in 1990. The three editions printed thus far have sold more than a million copies. I bought two of them for myself and others for foodie friends. The current edition contains nearly 6,000 entries, organized alphabetically, like a dictionary or encyclopedia. Several on-line food sites use The Companion for their definition of terms sections. The fourth edition is due out in September.
Tara Duggan, the reporter who wrote Sharon’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, noted, “Part dictionary, part encyclopedia, the current edition of the book defines almost 6,000 food and wine terms. Many publications use it as a reference, including The Chronicle, for answering such questions as whether to capitalize Caesar salad or what goes into devils on horseback, for which the book provides two definitions. One is ‘wine-poached prunes stuffed with a whole almond and mango chutney, then wrapped in bacon and broiled.'” I sense that Duggan wrote that both with awe and admiration.
Her husband, Ron, wrote The New Wine Lover’s Companion. Individually and together, the Herbsts wrote 16 books on food and drink. They lived in Bodega Bay, CA, in the northern reaches of Marin County, but Sharon was born in Chicago, grew up in Denver and met her husband when they both worked at Denver hotel restaurant. She attended Colorado State University.
The Joy of Cooking, the first cookbook for many of us and a standby for foolproof recipes of all sorts, is celebrating its 75th birthday — if a book can have a birthday, that is. I have shelves full of cookbooks and cooking magazines, and one of my pleasures is riffling through them when I need a recipe for something. I find that I go in waves when it comes to finding recipes — specific ethic cookbooks aside. At one point, the first book I pulled off the shelf was one by James Beard. At other times, compendiums of a year’s worth of Sunset recipes or one of the hefty volumes with a collection of recipes from Gourmet. Still at other times, it was something by Julia Child. When I’m in a Mediterranean mode, I rely on one of books by Franco and Margaret Romagnoli or Martha Rose Schulman. I mark up my cookbooks and my recipes, noting the date that I made the changes, any modifications that I made and whether the dish was particularly good or disappointing.
One volume that I use over and over is my own compendium of clipped recipes that I have organized, cookbook-like, by category in a large ring binder. I spent all of yesterday at REI in Denver for a snowshoeing promotion (I have written two snowshoeing books). It was after 4:30 when I got home, and I still had to whip up something a dish for a potluck that started at 6:00. I paged through my trusty noteboook and found a chicken recipe that did not call for anything I did not have in the house.
I previously made it on Aug. 31, 1989, and if I could identify the magazine I clipped it from, I’d credit it here. The recipe follows with my slight modifications. The original calls for heavy cream; I used more marjoram than called for, and I sliced the chicken differently from the original, because I didn’t want to bring anything that needed a knife to a potluck. Preparing this dish took only about half-an-hour, making it the perfect busy-day dish.
Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 cup white wine
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 tsp. dried marjoram (or fresh, if available)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes (I used jarred tomatoes, packed in oil, and drained them lightly)
Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. Cut chicken on the diagonal into about 1/2-inches slices. Cut longer slices in half. In a heavy skillet over moderately high heat, melt butter. When the foam subsides, add chicken pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to turn the chicken pieces until they are opaque on all sides (about 5 minutes). Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon. Add shallot and saute, stirring, about 1 minute until softened. Whisk in wine, cream and marjoram until blended and smooth. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.
Yield: If not making for a potluck where people tend to take a small portion of (almost) everything, I estimate that it would serve 6 as an entree, perhaps accompanied by rice or noodles.