2005_01_food_roccopic.JPGFlavor, by Rocco DiSpirito (Hyperion, 2003)

We understand that Mr. DiSpirito has been the target of much derision lately, from the apparent "trainwreck" of his reality-tv show (we never saw it) to his ouster from his kitchen at Union Pacific. But here at Gothamist Cooks (Kind Of) By the Book, we care only about one thing: recipes. Are the recipes worth their while? Do they make sense? Do they result in making suprisingly good food for shockingly little effort? Are there things we would make more than once? This is what we care about, and in the case of Flavor, Rocco meets with our approval.

Flavor is not just a pretty vanity cookbook, although Henry Leutwyler's photos are gorgeous. The suggested menus are well thought out, and each recipe is rated by difficulty and given an estimated cooking time and a wine recommendation. But most importantly, the recipes are inventive and, for the most part, simple; Gothamist plans to add quite a few to our repertoire. Recipes with estimated times of an hour or less include Chicken Wings with Apricot-Truffle Vinaigrette; Dungeness Crab with Avocado and Sauce Vierge; Tuna Tartare with Yuzu and Wasabi, and Roasted Miso Salmon with Cubanelle Peppers. This book has 120 recipes, most of which look delicious (although there is no way Gothamist is going near sea urchin). Every recipe is well-explained; the more complicated recipes are illustrated with photographic instructions, and the hardest recipes are set off in a chapter of their own.

Photo Courtesy DreamLG.comGothamist is having some friends over, and while we know they'd be happy with our usual offering of brownies, Manhattans, and salty snacks, we want to try something a little different. These shrimp skewers are easy to make and delicious, Gothamist's favorite combination. The rosemary skewers up the impressiveness factor, but if you use wooden skewers your friends will still be impressed by the tangy-sweet taste. Serve with lemonade or a tangy beer (Wine drinkers, Rocco recommends a Chenin Blanc.)

Dispirito is also the author of Rocco's Italian-American (Hyperion, 2004).

Sweet & Sour Tamarind Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers
Serves 4
35 minutes, low difficulty

6 thick, woody branches fresh rosemary
18 large or 30 medium raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 cup liquid tamarind concentrate, or 1 tablespoon tamarind paste mashed with 3 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste
1 bunch arugula


1. Pick off the rosemary leaves near the base of each branch. To skewer the shrimp, place shrimp on their sides on a cutting board so that they look like letter Cs. Insert a rosemary branch throughthe tail end of the first shrimp (the bottom of the C) and push it through to pierce the head (the top of the C). Continue skewering the shrimp, dividing them evenly among the skewers. Place skewers in a baking dish or on a large plate.

2. Place tamarind concentrate or softened paste in a small bowl. Add orange marmalade and olive oil and stir to combine. Brush skewered shrimp with mixture. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for
15 minutes.

3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan over high heat. Season marinated shrimp with salt and pepper. Place as many skewers as will fit on grill. Cook until shrimp are firm to the touch and opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining skewers.

4. Spread arugula over a large serving dish. Arrange shrimp skewers over arugula and serve immediately.