I was lucky enough to get sent an advanced, not-for-sale copy of Cat Cora's new cookbook, Cooking From The Hip. Cat Cora is the executive chef at Bon Appetit magazine and Food Network's only female Iron Chef. She believes in "cooking from the hip" (a phrase that I still don't fully understand, I keep picturing her in a kitchen doing Shakira style hip motions while she cooks...) which is her term for creating dishes from fresh ingredients and pantry staples. Cat advises stocking your kitchen with a variety of oils, vinegars, and canned goods so you can create simple, delicious, and healthy meals at all times. Her book isn't laid out like your normal cookbook, instead she organizes her recipes into five interesting categories: fast, easy, fun, phenomenal, and good to know. I especially enjoyed her praises for the importance of adult time which she celebrates with daily happy hours (a girl after my own heart!) and the cocktail recipes she includes: sake margaritas, mint juleps and mojitos to name a few. I used a few of the recipes to pack a picnic lunch (perfect a blog party) for YumSugar and I to enjoy at work. The pasta salad was very light and fresh and the sandwich uncomplicated elegance. However the best recipe by far was Cat's lemonade cookies. These cake like cookies were a hit at the office and while many people believe I spent hours zesting lemon after lemon, all of the flavor comes from frozen lemonade concentrate...genious! Cat Cora's cookbook doesn't hit the book shelves until April 10, but you can enjoy a sneak peak of a few of her recipes, and pack yourself a perfect picnic, just

Farfalle and Herb Salad with Peas
Reprinted with permission from COOKING FROM THE HIP by Cat Cora, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007

3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound farfalle pasta or orzo
3/4 cup peas (blanched if fresh)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
3 garlic cloves minced
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt to the boiling water, then add the farfalle. Cook for 7 minutes, or until the past is done but still firm. Drain the pasta in a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  2. In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, peas, herbs, garlic, lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Toss and mix well.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes, drizzle with the oilve oil, and toss gently. Serve or cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Serves 6.

Make Ahead: the salad can be prepared a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Cat Cora says: a pasta salad is a good dish to have in your repertoire, and this one, with its butterfly-shaped pasta, shines-just be sure to choose fresh, bright herbs. For pasta salads, cook the pasta a little less than you would for a hot pasta dish.

Parmesan, Prosciutto, and Arugula Sandwich
Reprinted with permission from COOKING FROM THE HIP by Cat Cora, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007

2 ciabatta loaves, 12-14 inches long
2 tablespoons best-quality-extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced or shaved
2 tablespoons truffle oil

  1. Cut the ciabatta loaves in half lengthwise. With a big spoon or your fingers, hollow out both halves of each loaf, leaving a shell approximately 1 inch thick. (Stash the ciabatta innards in a resealable plastic bag in your freezer and use them when you need bread crumbs.)
  2. With a brush, very lightly coat the insides of the hallowed-out loaves with olive oil. Or, if you don't have a brush, pour the oil into a small bowl and use a spoon to dribble it onto the bread.
  3. Layer half the proscuitto, arugula, and cheese in each hollowed-out loaf. With a spoon, drizzle the truffle oil over the meat, greens, and cheese. Replace the top half of each loaf and slice into rectangular sandwiches, each about 2 inches wide.
  4. Serve or wrap in foil for a picnic.

Serves 6-8.

Cat Cora says: This recipe is fast and easy and luxurious and satisfying. For me, it's a fallback dinner-something I can make much faster than the time it takes to have a pizza delivered. It's also perfect picnic food, packed in a basket with a bottle of wine, and terrific at a tailgating party, or as an appetizer. If you leave out the truffle oil, the sandwich is still delicious, but doesn't have the same flair. Long, flat ciabatta loaves can be hollowed out quite easily. Before I start layering, I divide the ingredients into two equal amounts, so neither sandwich is shortchanged.

Lemonade Cookies
Reprinted with permission from COOKING FROM THE HIP by Cat Cora, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007

1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus extra to sprinkle over the cookies
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (optional)
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Fill a large bowl with warm water, and plop in the unopened can of lemonade to thaw while you make the cookie dough.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and the sugar with a hand mixer.
  3. Add the lemon zest, if desired.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is light and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes, then set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking soda and salt.
  6. Measure out 1/2 cup of the thawed lemonade, and set the rest aside.
  7. Add about one third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Stir, then add about one third of the 1/2 cup lemonade. Continue adding the flour and lemonade alternately, stirring after each addition, until the mixture shows no streaks of flour.
  8. Beat on low speed with the mixer just until all the ingredients are combined.
  9. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the ungreased baking sheet.
  10. Bake the cookies, checking them after 8 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown, remove the cookies from the oven. (The centers will still look soft.) Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the top of each cookie very lightly with a little of the remaining lemonade, then lightly sprinkle with sugar. Transfer the cookies to a rack, and allow them to cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen.

Make Ahead: If you want to make the cookie dough ahead of time, it can be refrigerated for several days if you seal it in two layers of plastic wrap. Dough straight from the refrigerator should bake for about 12 minutes; dough at room temperature bakes for 8-10 minutes.