Top positive review
43 people found this helpful
phenomenal thoughtful recipes (and oh yes, healthy too)
on December 26, 2014
This is a really, really good cookbook. Really. If you're a cook with some ability and an affinity for simply prepared, boldly flavored food, this should be on your cookbook shelf. The fact that it also happens to be fantastically healthy and a decent roadmap to a way of eating that will result in lower weight and better health is gravy....well, maybe a light viniagrette, come to think.
As I said, these are simple, rustic dishes with big flavors and not a lot of screwing around. Just about any home cook with a decent mastery of technique could cook anything in this book without worry. There's a lot of Mediterranean and east Asian influence here, with a few detours through southeast Asia and Scandanavia (!) for variety. The ingredients shouldn't be hard to find in most decent-size cities with a good supermarket, but you may not have heard of a few and some may require a bit of searching in the ethnic foods aisle or at Whole Foods. Don't panic; they're all tasty. There's a fair number of vegetarian and fish-centric entrees, and when meat is called for it's often used in conjunction with other ingredients. Red meat shows up, but not often, and usually in moderation. These centerpieces tend to get big shots of ginger, garlic, chile, and herbs, and often feature a mix of textures and temperatures. Fans of soft, bland food, beware.
I was especially appreciative of the fact that there's food for all meals here - solid, tasty breakfasts, quick lunches and light dinners, a few big celebratory meals, and lots of light dinners. Most recipes have taken me about 30-40 minutes of active cooking time, with 20-30 minutes of cooking when I could do something else - maybe an hour or so all told, a few more, many less. With a hyper dog and an 8 month old in the house, I find these recipes doable in real life.
There's a fair bit of discussion of health and diet here, but it's from a gentle, pragmatic, science-based perspective that isn't necessarily pushing a particular dogma, named diet plan, diet guru, or technique. I'm reminded strongly of Michael Pollan's work - eat food, not too much, mostly plants. It's written from the perspective of a reasonable, intelligent person who loves food but doesn't love bulking up and feeling poorly afterward, and it's less fussy and dogmatic than most books that deal with, say, the "paleo" diet or other trendy foodways. This is just good, thoughtful food featuring big flavors and diverse ingredients, textures, spices, and techniques....and very few empty, processed carbohydrates.
I do want to mention something that's not so much an issue as it is a peculiarity. Many recipes call for the use of a ridged grill pan. And if that's what you have, well, ya dance with them which brung ya...but many if not all the recipes Ms. Henry calls for a ridged grill pan would be better prepared on a charcoal grill (or gas, if you must.) Enough so that this is almost a stealth grilling cookbook, really - I have lost count of the number of recipes that call for the grill pan. However, Ms. Henry lives in the UK and I live in Texas, so I assume that a grill on the patio and weather fine enough to enjoy its year-round use may be more a feature of my lifestyle than hers. However, if you're a decent hand with live fire, you could cook much of this book outside to outstanding effect.