Explore the world's markets, peek into home kitchens across the globe and you'll find cooks everywhere making great food, fast. "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh" by Paulette Mitchell (Thomas Nelson Press, $24.99, 320 pages) tells how surprisingly speedy flavorful, home-cooked meals can be.

Mitchell of Edina provides recipes from her extensive travels. She plumbs local markets and the wisdom of great home cooks for recipes, techniques and secrets for fast, fresh fare. No short cuts or quick tricks, no prepackaged cheating here. As Mitchell notes, "Fast and easy does not make a dish less desirable, nor does it mean sacrificing complex flavors and beautiful appearance."

Author of 13 cookbooks, cooking instructor and TV personality, Mitchell offers a practical, engaging, well-written and instructive book. With authority and flair, she puts the world in our hands and dinner on the table in 15 minutes or less.

Spanning a range of cultures and flavors, the book's focus is on soups, sandwiches, salads, wraps and stovetop dinners. It also includes a guide to pantry ingredients and, of course, fast desserts.

Mitchell's enthusiasm is contagious, her invitation irresistible: "Wander with me through noisy markets in Vietnam. Observe noodles being meticulously prepared by soba masters in Japan. Watch fishermen unload the catch of the day at dawn at a picturesque fish market in Valparaiso, and ride in a long-tail boat alongside vendors at the floating market in Bangkok."

Soon we're at our cutting boards as Mitchell cheerfully reminds us that good home cooking is simpler (and always fresher and tastier) than any packaged "convenience" foods. The dishes are "substantial enough to anchor a menu with little or no accompaniment."

The tips, hints and suggestions for garnishing and serving make last-minute entertaining a snap. "Be known as a great cook who can get a superb meal on the table with little fuss," she says. For me, such last-minute spontaneous gatherings preempt those preparty jitters (no time to fret).

Chapters by protein

Organized by protein source -- poultry, seafood, beef and pork, vegetarian and desserts to finish up -- the chapters include tips and hints and useful information about ingredients. There are plenty of ideas for simple accompaniments and serving suggestions are scattered throughout along with illustrative color photos.

This 15-minute approach makes sense for several reasons. When cooked quickly, fresh food retains its nutrients, color and texture. "One of the joys of going to market," Mitchell says, "is experiencing the fabric of a culture. It's here I get to see what excites people, hear them talk about the food they grew and love, glimpse their social and economic engagements."

Through her 25 years of visiting markets, Mitchell has come to know the vendors, seen their children grow up to join the family business. She appreciates the pride they take in their work and community. They share their recipes and explain traditional techniques and how to boost flavors.

For more information about her books and cooking tips, see her website: www.paulettemitchell. com.

Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis author and cooking instructor.