I'll admit it. Pouring over photos from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. I need Wikipedia to learn where her exotic ingredients come from, and a small loan to buy them at my local supermarket. But you know what? Not this time. Ms. Paltrow's newest cookbook, IT'S ALL EASY is telling the truth. It only takes a few minutes to whip up a breakfast bowl "too strikingly beautiful to eat" (see page 17). The same is true of the crepes in this book, called out in the cooking instructions as "fast food".
Co-authored by her food blog editor, Thea Baumann, the book reminded me of a VOGUE Photo shoot, some 270 pages long, give or take an elegant arrangement of spices and dipping sauce. The images of the authors enjoying reeaaallyyyy good food with Parisian and countryside backdrops, lived in my dreams all night last night. That's what I get for reading it, with a little nightcap just before bedtime.
IT'S ALL EASY made me rethink gluten-free recipes. The polenta dishes, prettily plated throughout the book, look super easy to make. A lot of us, especially the gluten-free crowd, know about polenta already, and maybe you aren't all that jazzed about it. Until now. Prepared just right, polenta can be quite yummy. Ms. Paltrow must know this because her cookbook offers polenta both crispy and soft, with toppings like roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus and gorgeously caramelized shitake mushrooms.
My hunt and "peckish" through this cookbook (I already made and ate the cashew cream) yielded the surprising information that a lot of Paltrow's more obscure ingredients are really just gluten-free versions of things we all know and love. For instance, her "socca pizzas" look an awful lot like personal pan pizzas; it's just that in this cookbook they are made from gluten-free chick pea flour. Does that sound too weird to lay your hands on? Not to worry. Almost all the major baking brands offer chick pea flour. Paging through the rest of the book, one will note a repeated call for tamari. What is that? Basically, it's just gluten-free soy sauce.
I was also delighted to find that this book is up front (literally! It's within the first few pages) about the grocery list you need to pull off its recipes. Ms. Paltrow favors a lot of oils and vinegars, seems to LOVE coconut, and apparently has the same pantry you'd find at a P.F. Chang's. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism. In fact, I have already bookmarked page 76 because I want to make Congee: a traditional breakfast in China that I sampled when I visited Bejing last year. I remember the jasmine rice swimming in garlic, and chicken-y ginger broth. It was soooo yummy!
Yes, Ms. Paltrow's recipes circle the globe in this book, but they go home to America quite often. I loved her ideas for a simple tomato soup and turkey meatloaf. It's recipes like these that come off as love letters to whom this book addresses in its subtitle: the "Super Busy Home Cook". When Ms. Paltrow shares that she polled all of her friends on what they wanted in a cookbook, I nodded my head in solidarity at what the answer was. "They wanted to find themselves in the kitchen at the end of their overextended day and be able to prepare something delicious and quick."
Can I get an Amen!
So, what do you say? Are you interested in making gorgeous roasted beets, with a cilantro hummus dipping sauce? Do you want to sink your teeth into the same beautiful tuna niciose sandwich Ms. Paltrow learned how to make when she lived in France? Well, here's how you can win a free copy in my Amazon giveaway. Just follow me @jorjmorgan and get all my tasty recipe tweets. One lucky new Twitter follower will be selected, and receive a copy of Paltrow's book, shipped from Amazon!
Good luck, everybody!