Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining

By Cornelia Guest
New York, Weinstein Books, 2012
256 pages   Nonfiction

We love entertaining. We have a huge family and a nice home to entertain in, so most weeks we have guests for dinner at some time or other. In the summer with a pool and a grill, we can expect to see family and friends nearly every day. The kids have come to expect chocolate chip cookies and lemonade after their swim, and the adults know where to find beer and sodas. My husband loves that the house and pool are being used, and I love seeing my grandchildren and their friends.

Nothing we do matches the entertaining that celebrity Cornelia Guest does, but I loved reading her beautiful book, Simple Pleasures, and trying out the vegan recipes that fills its pages. For those of us who read cookbooks for pleasure, this one is a delight; the commentary is charmingly egocentric, the recipes are delicious, and the photos are wonderful. 

My first clue that I was going to enjoy Simple Pleasures came from the cover. There is a picture of tulips arranged in an old silver polo trophy. Not that I have any old polo trophies lying around, but it reminded me that I had a beautiful old silver vase from my grandmother. I seldom ever use it because it takes so much polishing—but wait—the trophy on the cover was tarnished. AHA! I brought out my tarnished but graceful vase and filled it with flowers from the farmer’s market. If Cornelia Guest can do it, so can I. 

And then, I loved the commentary. Here are some of my favorite lines: “Our house was always filled with extraordinary people, from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Rudulf Nureyev, from Truman Capote to Yves Saint Laurent.” (I wonder if they would have liked my chocolate chip cookies and my pool-soaked grandchildren.) And then: “When I made my debut…” (Probably they didn’t serve salsa and chips like I do.), and finally: “Though my parents didn’t cook, I grew up spending time in the kitchen, where I watched their French chef, Roger, prepare wonderful food.” (Did she lick her fingers with every dollop of frosting like my 9-year-old granddaughter?)

Interspersed throughout the recipes is commentary and notes from her influential friends as well as advice about vegan eating, and animal rights, which are some of Cornelia Guest’s causes. The photographs are striking, utilizing serving pieces from her family home, Templeton, as well as cute pictures of her dogs.
Most of all, I enjoyed the recipes, which are divided by seasons and use seasonal fresh vegetables. There are suggested menus, and all the recipes are vegan. One of our favorites was asparagus slaw (p. 141). We live right in the middle of asparagus country so our springs are filled with farm-fresh asparagus. I am always looking for new ways to fix it. We will make this recipe frequently. You will be able to find the recipe for Asparagus Slaw at the end of this posting. Tonight we are having bulgur roast vegetables (p. 111) to use up some of the pounds of zucchini that I bought at the farmer’s market last Saturday.

I would give Simple Pleasures as a hostess gift, to a vegan friend, or to anyone who enjoys farm fresh cookbooks or celebrity books. I read Linda Evan’s celebrity cookbook, Recipes for Life, which is much more memoir than it is cookbook. Simple Pleasures is pretentious and simple all at once and really fun to read.
Asparagus Slaw
By Cornelia Guest,
Author of Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking and Easy Entertaining
Serves 6
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
A delicious twist on standard.
3 carrots, grated
1 ½ pounds asparagus, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup sliced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Combine all ingredients and serve.
© 2012 Cornelia Guest, author of Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking and Easy Entertaining

Here is Cornelia Guest’s website:

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