I'm appreciative, these days, when anyone takes the time to do anything "other directed!" Whether it's a hand-written thank you note, an email from a fan wanting to connect, or an unsolicited book review (especially the positive ones!), I think of the thought and effort proffered. "Doing onto others as you would have them do unto you," is a notion that generally informs my life and would probably modulate all of our behavior towards kindness. Aside from niceties, however, I get a major kick out of learning what recipes people choose to make from my books! I even enjoy the considered "critical" comments from someone I intuit knows their way around the kitchen. Now that Radically Simple has been out for not quite three weeks, there are 21 reviews on Amazon and a handful of other reviews on various sites. Out of 325 recipes contained in the book, those initial recipe choices not only reflect the personal preferences of the cook, but reveal other phenomenon of who we are, where we live, our skill sets, taste preferences, our general curiosity about new things, and our steadfastness for the familiar.
But perhaps other factors are at play. One's attraction to a particular photograph or to a title (many people like "The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake"); a penchant for learning something new and making the effort to find an unfamiliar ingredient like za'atar (an intoxicating spice mixture from the Middle East made from dried hyssop, sumac and sesame seeds. It smells like Jerusalem and looks like marijuana and is available in many spice stores and online), Sriracha hot sauce or smoked paprika. Maybe it's the desire to be inventive, try a new combination of flavors, evoke a memory from another time or place, or daring to keep-it-simple, which is, after all, the philosophy of the book.
So here are some of your favorites so far -- beginning with breakfast and marching towards dessert -- Homemade Cream Cheese and Carrot Marmalade; Runny Eggs on Creamy Scallion Bacon Grits; Smoked Salmon, Basil & Lemon Quesadillas; Eggless Caesar Salad with Green Apple "Croutons"; Seared Salmon on a Moroccan Salad; Golden Fettuccine with Sardines, Fennel & Saffron; A Recipe from 1841: Macaroni & Tomatoes; Silver Packet Flounder with Miso Mayo; Salmon with Lime Leaves, Poppy Rice & Coconut Sauce; Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes & Grape Demi Glace; Chicken with Za'atar, Lemon & Garlic; Big Juicy Sundried Tomato Burgers; Pork Loin in Cream with Tomatoes, Gin & Sage; Creamy Potato Gratin; Sweet Potato Puree with Fresh Ginger and Orange; and..."The Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake."
Equally interesting is what the print journalists choose: Food & Wine Magazine loved the Salmon en chemise (wrapped in smoked salmon) with its fresh tomatillo sauce; the Washington Post chose Crunchy Crumbed Cod with Frozen Peas; the Cleveland Plain Dealer selected Sauteed Chicken with Roasted Grapes; the Oregonian singled out Broccoli Soup with Lemon-Pistachio Butter, Chicken with Chorizo, Peppadews & Fino Sherry; Lamb Chops with Smoked Paprika Oil, Cumin & Arugula, and French Yogurt Cake with Nutella. The last recipe was also referenced by Faye Levy in the Jerusalem Post.
Perhaps we are what we cook.
French Yogurt Cake with Nutella This is very moist thanks to the yogurt and butter, but it is especially delicious thanks to the Nutella! Serve with raspberries, cherries, or whipped cream, or plain. Or dust the entire cake with confectioners' sugar pushed through a sieve.
1 stick unsalted butter 1-1/2 cups flour 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder 3 extra-large eggs 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt 1/4 cup Nutella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter in a saucepan; set aside to cool. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and a large pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until thick, 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture, yogurt, and melted butter; mix until smooth. Pour two-thirds of the batter into the pan. Add the Nutella to the remaining batter and beat until smooth. Pour atop the plain batter. Run a rubber spatula through the batter to make a marbled pattern. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until just firm. Cool on a rack. Release the side of the pan and serve. Serves 8