Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget

The stated purpose of this cookbook is to show people how to cook good meals on a budget, but the title is misleading. Food blogger turned author Amy McCoy, head of the Rhode Island Slow Food Network, advises her readers to buy humanely raised meat and then exhorts them to "always be on the lookout for 99 cents/lb. chicken"-impossible; free-range chicken is never that cheap.

The use of the word gourmet in her title is similarly questionable, unless your idea of gourmet involves sprinkling chopped, fried bacon over a can of undrained beans (what happened to slow food?), as in her overly salty recipe for "Quick White Beans With Bacon." The Veal Stew-in which I subbed beef for veal-was bland and underwhelming, and I've found better basic collard greens recipes elsewhere. A few recipes call for herbs, but most are disappointingly devoid of spice or seasoning. Additionally, I found McCoy's prose too chatty and awkwardly self-conscious, with a high TMI factor (in contrast, her writing in the book's wine section is more polished and poised, revealing a greater level of confidence and expertise). Although she offers recipes for berry preserves and vegetable scrap stock, more informed tips on preparing inexpensive legumes such as lentils, and advice on how best to store fresh produce in order to maximize its lifespan, are lacking from the "basic techniques" section of the book. Not a worthy investment.