A couple weeks ago I got into a conversation with another blogger about the internet and cooking. What he told me really shattered my optimism: people who cook are cooking more and more often but those who can’t cook aren’t even starting. I always hoped/thought that more and more people were joining the ranks of home cooks (the Insta food world certainly gives this impression) but after some quick googling it seems that he is correct (this article from the Washington Post I think sums it up). So if less people are cooking at home then when you read the recent Grub Street article by Mark Bittman and David L. Katz where the take away (at least for me) was that home cooking and whole foods are the key to improved health then why aren’t more people cooking? I think it’s about charting a new course and with cookbooks like Pretty Simple Cooking by Sonja and Alex Overhiser (A Couple Cooks) it’s becoming much easier to start cooking.
Pretty Simple Cooking started as a premise — a way for the Overhisers to cook beautiful vegetable-based dishes together. If you read about them from the introduction or their website you’ll know that 10 years ago they decided to start cooking at home because they wanted to know how to cook so what better way to introduce yourself to new culinary adventures? And, if you’re already a home cook like me this book offers so much in the way of delicious recipes that you can add to your growing arsenal of family-favourites. It should be said that although this cookbook is classified as “vegetarian” it’s really for anyone who eats vegetables. With their “you do you” attitude their recipes are flexible enough to enhance or compliment anyone’s dietary preference/needs. While the book does use dairy and eggs those ingredients are most often easy to substitute for if you’re vegan.
Since I received this book I’ve tried so many recipes from it and there hasn’t been one disappointing meal in the bunch. Their version of simple cooking is one that is mindful — recipes that can be quick to prepare or ones that take a bit more time and care — always keeping in mind that the end result is food worth enjoying. When I decided to make their Pizza Dough I was surprised that it took 3 days before it is oven-ready. It’s not that you actually spend three days actively making the dough; you first begin as you do with all pizza doughs and then after the first rise you divide it and put it into the fridge. Now you can always use the dough immediately but if you’re patient the dough develops a more complex tasting crust (I found it very sourdough-esque). My husband and daughter (the pizza crust dough bubble connoisseurs) weren’t disappointed either! It’s recipes like this that if you’re new to cooking will definitely teach you some skills but also give you confidence as a home cook because let’s face it: you made a totally rockin’ homemade pizza.
One of my daughter’s favourite recipes from this book is the Strawberry Lime Chia Jam (pictured here as the filling in a mini tart topped with yogurt). She enjoys it on/in anything she can, although on toast and waffles is her number one choice followed closely by using it as a topping with granola on a yogurt parfait. What I really appreciated about this recipe is that it calls for frozen, not fresh berries making it much more economical in these berry-bare winter months. Not unlike the chia jam the rest of the recipes in this book include ingredients that are accessible and easy to source. No trendy powders or of-the-moment ingredients all of my grocery shopping takes place at the local shop or farmer’s market. There were even ingredient crossovers — take the Glazed Tempeh from the Turmeric Rice Bowls once I made a batch I could also enjoy it in their Rainbow Soba Noodle Bowl as well.
Pretty Simple Cooking is divided into ten chapters where you can find recipes for any meal and even the ones in between. I appreciated that each chapter started with a list of recipes found in that chapter along with time guidelines, so that if I’m perusing the Baked chapter I can see at-a-glace that the Crusty Multigrain Artisan Bread takes 24 hours from start to finish. This feature is really helpful to the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of cook that I am — I hate getting caught short on time (because someone is probably hangry). Other helpful features include gluten free (gf) and vegan (V) notes and a metric conversion chart. I feel like this is one of those cookbooks where you could open to any page and find a gem of a recipe. Additionally, if you’re a meal planner this cookbook really lends itself well to the job with common ingredients that can carry you over several recipes and recipes that can be made in that short window of time between the end of work and dinner.
I think the ideals at the heart of Pretty Simple Cooking are heavily influence by people like Michael Pollan and Alice Waters (not to mention Julia Child) who encourage and champion using whole food ingredients to make dishes at home because they understand that somewhere along the way we’ve collectively lost our culinary skills and abilities. What Sonja and Alex Overhiser have done is to write an accessible guide on how to enjoy cooking because it’s not complicated, stressful, or even expensive — it’s all in how you approach it (the approach should be as enjoyable as the end result!). If you’re curious to see what I’ve been cooking up from PSC (it’s been a lot!) then checkout my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthyprettysimplecooking or my dedicated Facebook post.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hachette Book Group for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.