Simple Fare: Spring and Summer by Karen Mordechai
|Simple Fare: Spring and Summer by Karen Mordechai|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A collection of recipes for the seasonal food we all love to eat. On the face of it, 65 recipes might not seem very many, but there are variations given which extend the scope of the book considerably.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: April 2017|
|Publisher: Abrams Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Karen Mordechai's family history has its roots in the Jerusalem of the 1950s, when people from around the globe were coming together in a young country and forming their own way of living. When the family then emigrated to the United States they brought this way of cooking with them, along with the tradition of sharing and enjoying food. Mordechai believes that food's ability to bring people together is unparalleled and that the food you make is a compilation of the way you have lived. Thinking back over the food we eat, that is so true and for the first time I looked on a recipe book as an elegant way of seeing someone else's history.
Initially I was worried about the sheer size of this book: it's 33cm by 25cm (I don't think I've ever measured a recipe book before) and I've no idea where I'm going to shelve it. I don't have a lot of worktop space in the kitchen and certainly not enough to accommodate a book of this size whilst I'm cooking. It ended up propped on an open drawer! Pleasingly the book stays open at the page you're using - there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get back to your recipe when you've got food on your hands and an urgent need to know how many meatballs you're expected to get out of the mixture. The cover is an elegant cream and I'm afraid that it's not going to stay like that for long: the best of my cookbooks have a 'lived-in' look. Talking of the cover, the flaps are the index, which is a very clever idea. But it's not the book you want to know about, is it? It's the food.
Mordechai recognises a common dilemma faced by cooks the world over. You set off for the shops with thoughts of a particular dish but the reality of what's on offer rapidly changes your mind. You need to be flexible: a mushroom, sage and Pecorino risotto might have to change to fennel, Parmesan and thyme and that's the (almost) unique selling point of this book. You get a recipe - plus two or three variations which can usually be cooked in the same manner. The obvious sixty five recipes in the book can therefore be multiplied several times.
We start with some building blocks and recipes which you can make up at the weekend to save time during the week. There's even a guide to cooking eggs properly. The pickles, I found, are inspirational and quick to prepare. Once we get onto the meals, we start, as everyone should, with a decent breakfast. I loved the idea of a poached egg with mixed grains: it's so sensible when you think about it - what better way to make certain that you get all the egg yolk? I'm a big fan of fruit salad for breakfast and I can't help but think that those two recipes together would make a splendid brunch, out in that sunny spot in the garden on a summer's morning... Sorry - I'm getting carried away! One you must try though is the soft-boiled egg with labneh, breakfast radish and pine nuts - and the smoothie bowl tastes wonderful (try the date, yoghurt, banana and vanilla bean variation).
Avocado toast has long been one of my go-to lunch dishes, but I'd never before thought of trying it with chive blossom and I have so much of that in the garden that I never know what to do with it all. Poached salmon on toast makes a wonderful midweek supper and I like the suggestions for cooking it in such a way that you don't smell it in the kitchen the next day! I've only recently been converted to bowls of food - and I can tell you that the quinoa, onion, asparagus and pecorino is delicious. 'Plates' come, we are told, somewhere between a salad and a main course and I loved the spring salad of courgettes, mozzarella, lemon balm and almonds: the combination of flavours is delightful. The deconstructed Nicoise salad is fun too - but I'm afraid I mixed it all up to eat it!
In the main courses, the lasagnette appealed as does the gnudi. I was expecting 'snacks' to be the food you grab on the go, during the day, but was pleasantly surprised to find dishes like cheese board. I couldn't track down some of the cheeses in the UK but used as inspiration you have the start of an excellent lunch, or cheese course after a main meal. I don't usually indulge in desserts (I've just about completely lost my sweet tooth!) but the burnt apricot was tempting and I'm sure my husband would love the banana bread (the dark chocolate won't harm the flavour at all). I'm not certain about the roasted vegetable ice cream though...
At the back of the book you'll find cooks' notes and space for your own notes. The recipes are supported by hundreds of photographs and each and every one of them is stunning, but then Mordechai is a photographer by profession. It's a stunning book with something for just about everyone. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Recently we've enjoyed Five Ways to Cook Asparagus (and Other Recipes): the Art and Practice of Making Dinner by Peter Miller and if the ideas in Simple Fare appeal then we're sure that you'll enjoy that book too.
You can read more book reviews or buy Simple Fare: Spring and Summer by Karen Mordechai at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Simple Fare: Spring and Summer by Karen Mordechai at Amazon.com.
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