One might expect Caprial Pence, award-winning chef and cooking teacher extraordinaire (she's a fixture on the Learning Channel and PBS), to serve up a more exotic subject than soups and sandwiches. But her most recent cookbook, "Caprial's Soups & Sandwiches" (Ten Speed Press, $17.95, 133 pp.), has nothing to do with chicken and noodles in broth or PBJs.
Creativity is the name of the game with Ms. Pence and her co-writer, Mark Dowers. At Caprial's Bistro in Portland, Ore., the two of them have cultivated quite a following with such innovative sandwich specials as roast turkey on sun-dried tomato and basil challah with arugula or Asian-style barbecue pork served with grilled onions on a French roll. And Mr. Dowers is well-known for his soups, having earned the nickname "Soup god" after coming up with such unusual but flavorful creations as onion soup with scallion-roquefort croustades, fall squash soup with chorizo and spicy cinnamon croutons, or lima bean soup with saffron.
Pence warns her cookbook readers not to be turned off by fussy-sounding recipe titles. "Don't think that homemade soup or an interesting sandwich equals too many hours in a hot kitchen - I don't have that kind of time either!" she says.
You also don't have to have a chef's degree to make soups like the 25 included in their book. But you do have to be willing to experiment a bit.
"Whether we're developing a new menu for the Bistro or coming up with something different to cook in our homes, Mark and I both like to go about it with a sense of adventure," says the woman who is sometimes called the Pacific Northwest's culinary ambassador.
Perhaps the best part of that adventure is looking for and cooking with the freshest ingredients they can find. Pence has always been a champion of eating locally grown, in-season foods, even before this approach caught on among chefs nationwide. She is now reveling in the bounty of Oregon's fall harvest.
"Our favorite way to create a recipe is to look at everything the season holds," she says. "Mark even gets calls at the Bistro from local farmers.... It might mean changing the menu he planned to prepare, but he quickly comes up with a new dish that takes advantage of the fresh ingredients."
Pence, always the teacher, adds, "Enliven your own creativity by shopping at your local farmers' market, where the produce is fresh from the farm and you can talk face to face with a grower.
"You'll come home and want to head straight to the kitchen."
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society