Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cookbook Review: Everyday Food - Fresh Flavor Fast

From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living
Everyday Food
Fresh Flavor Fast

250 easy, delicious recipes for any time of day
softcover, 384 pages

This book was a joy to review. The recipes are simple, healthy and straightforward with no hard-to-find ingredients or fussy steps to getting dinner on the table. There is a great variety of recipes in the book, arranged by type of meal rather than by seasons. From breakfast to dessert, the emphasis is on making good, fresh meals at home for good value without sacrificing flavour.
Nothing is too "out-there", these are recipes you can confidently feed your friends or family, even on a weeknight. Maybe especially on a weeknight, as most of the recipes can be made with fairly easy prep-time.

So, what recipes did I test?

Starting with the Breakfast chapter, I made the Walnut and Dried-Fruit Granola. I am no stranger to homemade granola, but was intrigued by the use of condensed apple juice as the bulk of the sweetener for this classic breakfast dish. I also appreciated that it was made in a baking dish, rather than a sheet pan, so I ended up with a delicious, mildly sweet granola with no burnt bits. My favourite way to eat granola? Mixed with plain Greek yogurt and chopped fresh fruit. A great way to start the day.

I could not resist making this Pan Bagnat from the Sandwiches, Burgers and Pizzas chapter. It is insanely huge. And I couldn't resist showing you a split screen view. That whole sammie on the bottom is bigger than my head. Using my homemade NY rye from the BBA, (go ahead and use store-bought bread!) the sandwich is layered with tapenade, Italian tuna, eggs, fresh basil leaves, marinated onions and cucumbers. Pressed and refrigerated overnight, it is a delectable treat for the next day. Perfect for a game day, you'll get 8 wedges from it - I loved it paired with salt and vinegar kettle chips - my weakness.

From the Main Courses chapter, I made the very healthy Brown-Rice Bowl with Shrimp, Snow Peas, and Avocado.
First of all, I know, those are sugar snap peas. I couldn't find snow peas but sugar snaps are kissing cousins to the snow and equally delicious.
This was a delightful and healthy dinner, made especially easy as I made the brown rice in my rice cooker (love that machine!). A layer of fluffy brown rice, then the sautéed shrimp, ginger and snow peas, topped with fresh cubed avocado and drizzled with a delicious citrus-Asian sauce. Yum!

And one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes from the Pasta chapter, Spaghetti Puttanesca. I can't resist the classic pairing of anchovies, capers, red pepper flakes and Kalamata olives. Nothing out of the ordinary in this recipe, just simple and delicious. They do commit one sin though - somebody has decided to put the word "optional" beside the anchovies! Anchovies are not optional in a puttanesca, in my opinion, they are pivotal. Ok, speech over.

From the Desserts chapter, I made Hazelnut Espresso Cookies for my coffee-loving husband. These are delicious crisp and nutty cookies with an adult flavour. The instant espresso powder gives a deep and earthy coffee flavour. As I was just baking for the two of us, I was happy that the recipe divided easily too.

And lastly, also from the Desserts chapter, I made Creamy Lemon Squares for my daughter. She has a weakness for them and the last batch I made for her traveled to Cuba with her and her friends. Shhh, don't tell airport security.
We loved the sharp lemony flavour that these had. They were a little messy, I don't know if that is something I did or the way they are supposed to be. No matter, they tasted wonderful regardless. I love bold lemon flavour.

In conclusion, I find Fresh Flavors Fast to be an excellent cookbook for a working couple, single, or small family. The recipes are simple and varied and tasty and easily divided or multiplied depending on how many are in your household. Some of the chapters that I didn't sample from include - Appetizers, Salads, Soups and Stews, and Side Dishes. In the back of the book there are also sections on Tips and Techniques, Basic Recipes, Cook's Guide, and Nutritional Information.

For the accomplished and daring chef, this isn't the book that will push your boundaries, but for the everyday busy person it is a great tool for getting good flavour, variety and nutrition on the table in good time.