“Cook good food so that you can always enjoy good food.” Good advice from chef Tanorria Askew. She shares more gems in her debut cookbook, “Staples +5: 100 Simple Recipes to Make the Most of Your Pantry,” which features dishes in five categories—Appetizers & Snacks, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Condiments & Fixin’s, and Desserts—inspired by her family’s southern and midwestern roots.
“Staples +5” means 35 essential ingredients plus five outside the pantry staples such as produce, proteins and perishable products. Askew provides a pantry list that I find helpful with ideas on what to stock in your cupboards to get started cooking.
Each recipe includes prep time, cook time, yield and serving size. Unfortunately, some lack a corresponding photograph. However, the existing vibrant images attract my attention, such as the bourbon pecan pie, the homemade chicken stock, bacon balsamic Brussels sprouts, the collard green & sweet potato salad, and the chicken, mushroom, & rice skillet casserole.
I admit the font size in this paperback makes navigating the pages easy. My eyes aren’t a fan of small print. Furthermore, the cooking instructions are straightforward. Also, I’m a fan of chef’s talent to develop a fusion of well-seasoned foods from both regions, having lived there myself. It expands what her ancestors have left for her. Home cooks get the opportunity to experience something flavorful and create their own traditions.
How It Started
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Askew was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, where her dad worked. Her family visited The Volunteer State (nickname for Tennessee) often to celebrate holidays with family and to feed people. She learned how to cook from scratch by watching her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. They relied on pantry staples. Those items allowed her mom to adapt to the unexpected guest(s) for Sunday dinners.
When Askew got older, she started cooking for friends. They loved her cuisine and encouraged her to cook as a career. So, in 2016, she left her 15-year career in banking at the Teachers Credit Union to pursue her dream of empowering people through food.
Mastering Shrimp and Grits
In this same year, Askew appeared as a contestant on MasterChef season 7, hosted by Gordon Ramsay. She finished as the fourth-best cook in America. Ramsay deemed her shrimp and grits the best he ever had coming out of the MasterChef kitchen. A huge compliment.
I’m disappointed that the recipe was not mentioned in this culinary book. However, Askew auditioned with the maple-bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, which you can find on page 106. It must have impressed the casting agent or producers. I have added it to my list.
How It’s Going
These days Askew considers cooking not only a career but her gift. She owns Tanorria’s Table, a personal chef company based in Indianapolis. She offers virtual cooking classes and dinner parties and works to amplify the intersection of food, social justice and racial justice activism.
She continues these conversations on her podcast, Black Girl Eating, that she hosts with her friend, Candace Boyd. She enjoys relaxing with her partner and their three dogs in her spare time.
I highly recommend “Staples +5” for the novice cook or those looking to prepare quick and easy fare. It helps you examine what you have on hand to put a tasty dinner on the table. Learn how to make something out of nothing as Askew intended and you will never run out of meal options.
For more information about the personal chef and MasterChef contestant Tanorria Askew, go to www.tanorriastable.com or follow her on Instagram @Tanorriastable.
Ready to see what magic you can make from your pantry? Get your copy on Amazon.