When Caroline Wright was an overworked, underpaid 20-something in Brooklyn, her friends were all overworked, underpaid 20-somethings, too.
Invariably, they all ended up at her apartment, where she'd cook them something delicious in about 20 minutes. They appreciated good food, but they didn't have the time or the money to cook food that would traditionally be considered gourmet. So Ms. Wright translated their tastes into dishes that worked for their schedules and pocketbooks.
Eventually, she turned those recipes into a self-published, small cookbook -- "sort of like a 'zine," she explained. At the time, she taught cooking classes and sold the booklet at Brooklyn Kitchen, a popular cooking store.
It wasn't long before she got "discovered." Workman Publishing found the booklet and offered to expand and publish it.
The result, "Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals," comes out May 7, but Pittsburghers can get advance copies at the annual food show, "GoodTaste! Pittsburgh," from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 20. The show, which used to be held in Monroeville, is being moved this year to the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry.
At the show, Ms. Wright will demonstrate three recipes from the cookbook: Fava, Mint & Ricotta Crostino; Grilled Chicken Cutlets with Grapefruit & Watercress Salad (see recipe); and Sweetened Whipped Cream with Smashed Strawberries & Crushed Shortbread (see recipe).
Her recipes don't look like traditional ones. There's no ingredient list at the top, and the instructions aren't separated into steps. Instead, the instructions are written in a sort of breezy, conversational style, with ingredients highlighted in yellow. Occasionally, an arrow directs the eye away from the yellow highlight to a suggested substitute ingredient that appears to be hand-written in the margin. Below, two of her recipes have been reproduced, with boldface type substituting for yellow highlights.
Ms. Wright was afraid traditional recipe style would scare people off. "A broken-out ingredient list and steps might make a recipe seem long when it's really not," she explained.
Meanwhile, she now lives in Dallas instead of Brooklyn, and she's a wife and the mom of a 7-month-old. She develops recipes and photographs dishes for magazines, including "Cooking Light," "Every Day with Rachael Ray," "Women's Day" and "Southern Living." She also contributes a new $20, 20-minute meal each week to food52.com. After cooking and photographing food professionally all day and caring for a baby, she cooks the same kind of food for her family in the evenings that she used to cook for her Brooklyn buddies -- fast, inexpensive and upscale.
Other chefs doing demos at "GoodTaste! Pittsburgh" include Lindsey Smith, author of "Junk Foods and Junk Moods," as well as local chefs Kevin Watson of Savoy and Keith Fuller of Root 174.
The show also will include demonstrations of how to repurpose olive oil bottles, arrange flowers, interpret restaurant wine lists and more. There will be a children's corner, wine tastings and sales, and exhibitor booths.
Tickets are $12 per person online at goodtastepittsburgh.com or $15 at the door.
For more on Caroline Wright, go to carolinewrightfood.com.
Taste of the Town: Enjoy cuisine by Batter & Dough Bakery, Country Style Pizza, Cucina Bella, Piccolina's and other area restaurants, plus wine, beer and live Beatles tribute music. 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Bridgeville Fire Hall. $50 per person; proceeds benefit Bridgeville Public Library. Tickets available at the library. Information: 412-221-3737.
A Taste of Market Square: Experience the renovated and reinvigorated Market Square, Downtown, by sampling specialties at more than a dozen restaurants. 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday in Market Square. $50 per person; proceeds support the Downtown YMCA and the lunchtime summer concert series held in the Square. Information or tickets: marketsquarepgh.com.
Tanger Taste and Style Experience: Pittsburgh-area food trucks, wine and beer vendors, children's activities (1 to 3 p.m.), fashion shows (1:30 and 4 p.m.) and more. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Tanger Outlets, Washington, Pa. tangeroutlet.com.
Community spaghetti dinner: Spaghetti, salad, roll and beverage, plus basket raffles and bake sale. 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Beechview Senior Center, 1555 Beechview Ave. $10 for adults; $5 for children 12 and under. Benefits community activities through Community Leaders United for Beechview. 412-341-8768.
Bread for Books: The Polish Pierogi Truck serves up a parking lot pierogi fundraiser. 2 to 6 p.m. today at the Northland Public Library, McCandless; fifteen percent of sales will be donated to the library.
First-commandment baking demonstration: Learn about baking wheat-free by using ancient grains. 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, McMurray. 724-942-5800.
Grilled Chicken Cutlets with Grapefruit + Watercress Salad
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat or a grill pan over medium-high heat.
Peel and segment 2 grapefruit and set aside. Squeeze 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice from the remaining membranes; set aside.
Using a flat meat mallet, pound 8 chicken cutlets (about 2 pounds total) to 1/4-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly oil the grill grates, then grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
In a serving bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger, and the reserved grapefruit juice in a serving bowl. Toss with the reserved grapefruit segments and 2 bunches watercress, thick stems trimmed. Serve the grilled cutlets with the salad.
Sweetened Whipped Cream with Smashed Strawberries + Crushed Shortbread
Combine 1 cup ripe strawberries, halved; 2 tablespoons sugar; and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a potato masher, crush the strawberries until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, clean bowl, whip 11/4 cups chilled heavy cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
Fold the strawberry mixture into the whipped cream and spoon into glasses. Divide 1/2 cup crushed shortbread among the glasses and serve immediately.
-- Recipes from"Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals" by Caroline Wright (Workman, May 2013, $12.95)
Rebecca Sodergren: email@example.com or on Twitter: @pgfoodevents.