Almost without my realizing it, in the last week I made three dinner recipes from the same cookbook. This is almost a personal faux pas, since I typically make my best effort to keep things interesting by selecting meal ideas from a wide variety of sources--food blogs, recipe websites, magazine clippings, old standards, and yes, of course, cookbooks. But this little revelation of my own predictability led me to a happy conclusion: that this particular cookbook is just really freaking awesome. I have consistently used it ever since I purchased it a year or so ago. So allow me to share it with you in all its foody glory. Yea, verily, it is……
Real Simple Easy, Delicious Meals
by the Editors of Real Simple Magazine
I wish I knew who the "Editors of Real Simple Magazine" are, because they really deserve a heartfelt thanks. This cookbook knocks it out of the park, and here's why:
--Simplicity, as the name implies. I don't subscribe to Real Simple magazine. Though I really like its content, I have (ironically) been annoyed by the overwhelming amount of ads in the magazine every time I've picked up a copy. The philosophy, though, bears repeating in a world of too much choice: simplicity is good. Granted, when I first think of "simple" food, the images are not particularly appealing--baked chicken, maybe, or a very plain pasta. Basically the stuff you'd feed your toddler or your highly sensitive Midwestern grandma. But the recipes in this cookbook are simple in the most flattering sense. More and more, I'm becoming the kind of cook who believes that simple, limited-number-of-ingredient recipes truly can be the best ones, especially when made with high-quality ingredients. Simple does not have to equal boring. Samosas, for example, or chicken souvlaki, or chocolate croissant bread pudding are dishes from this cookbook that may be simple but certainly seem interesting and different in my kitchen.
--Appealing pictures for every recipe. Must be a product of my technology-addled, information-overloaded generation, because I need a picture to make a recipe worth making. You can tell me "Potato and Leek Flatbread with Greens" all day long and I'm still not gonna get it (though this also has to do with forgetting what leeks actually are).
--Variety. Again, to me, cooking dinner is a game of keeping it interesting. I get it when people "cook by numbers" with Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, etc., but meal planning is (seriously) one of the highlights of my week because it gives me a sense of perpetual innovation. (Hey, it's the little things.) I want to be continually improving as a cook and expanding our family's palate. I love that this cookbook offers options of varying time/difficulty from the cuisine of various cultures.
--Nutrition Information for every recipe. Always helpful.
--Beyond my expectations, this cookbook has taught me a lot. Though it doesn't have an instructional section and offers only a few charts, the recipes themselves, by nature of their simplicity and frequently overlapping ingredients, have taught me a lot about creating my own recipes. Don't get me wrong, I am not Giada-ing it up whipping up new inventions for ricotta or anything, just able (now that I understand some basics) to maybe make a decent salad dressing without a recipe, or a tasty chicken rub. I like being able to do that.
--Last, every recipe I have tried from this book has been delicious! I would (and have) make all of them again.
So now that I've shown you mine, you show me yours--what's your favorite cookbook, and why? Which one do you return to year after year? Which one has taught you the most? Which one would you run back for if your kitchen was burning down (not that you and your cooking had anything to do with starting the fire…)? Let's hear it!