By Liz Rogers
It's 6 o'clock on a Wednesday evening.
Do you know what you're serving for dinner?
You're in good company if you answered no. Lots of time-crunched folks return home from work and stare blankly inside the refrigerator, in search for a shred of inspiration.
That's where a good, hard-working cookbook comes into play, one like "The Best of Relish Cookbook," says Jill Melton, editor-in-chief of Relish Magazine, a monthly food supplement that is distributed monthly in newspapers across the country, including the Observer-Reporter.
Melton, along with Relish food editor Candace Floyd and author and recipe developer Nancy S. Hughes, collaborated on the cookbook released this year.
"The recipes are simple and for everybody," Melton said in a recent phone interview from the magazine's offices in Franklin, Tenn. "I don't care how much of a foodie you think you are. Everybody's got to get dinner on the table at 6 on a Wednesday night. We were trying to actually hit on that and introduce people to a new spin on something but not overwhelming them with something exotic."
The book features 150 color-illustrated recipes, all of which have been published in Relish Magazine or on the magazine's Web site. All have been vetted multiple times in the magazine's test kitchens.
Recipes range from comfort dishes like macaroni and cheese, pot roast and cobblers, to newer fusions featuring such ingredients as tofu, phyllo and quinoa. There's a section dedicated to vegetarian dishes along with some recipes for gluten-free breads and baked goods. Sprinkled throughout are helpful cooking tips.
Melton, former food editoral director at Cooking Light Magazine, counted recipes for Cilantro Chimichurri, Quick Okra Sauté and Grilled Shrimp with Orange and Habanero Mojo as personal favorites. And the Orzo Veggies recipe is perfect for any potluck occasion.
"This is a reader recipe," Melton added. "We loved it. It's just all sorts of vegetables tossed with orzo and cheese and baked. It's great at room temperature. It just stands out."
Asked what makes this cookbook different from the hundreds of others jockeying for position on bookstore shelves, Melton replied: "To me, this is more of a hard-working cookbook, with a comfortable, familiar note, which I think people still want and will always want. It gives them a splash of something new.
"It's easy to digest and not overly complicated. It doesn't make you work too hard."
Liz Rogers is editor of the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa., where this article was first published. The Best of Relish Cookbook is available at bookstores nationwide, online and through Relish and American Profile magazines, distributed in the Observer-Reporter.