I admit it without shame: I take every cooking shortcut known to man. Repurposing leftovers, ingredient substitutions, packaged mixes or jarred sauces wherever possible, using the microwave a little too frequently…anything to simplify the recipe and (hopefully) shave off a bit of prep time. Sometimes that means an easy one-pot dinner or five-minute chicken meal; sometimes I completely indulge my sloth tendencies and cave to the temptation of takeout!
Even though I like to cut corners with recipes, especially when I’m short on time and patience, I still want it to seem like I spent hours in the kitchen while my guests ooh and ahh over my beautiful-looking and delicious-tasting meal. Occasionally, I feel a twinge of guilt that I’m not attempting these elaborate restaurant-worthy recipes, but ultimately, the simple yet tasty philosophy works best for me. Call me lazy, but I have plenty of company!
In The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy, authors Robin Donovan and Juliana Gallin have packed their cookbook with 125 easy recipes that easily disprove the assumption that preparing an elegant meal requires spending hours in the kitchen! Among their words of wisdom is a saying I’d love to hang on a plaque in my kitchen: “Cooking a great meal can be just as easy as cooking a crappy meal!”
The Lazy Gourmet is a great companion for any novice home chef, but even the most skilled cooks will appreciate the fresh, seasonal dishes that can pass for both sophisticated party fare and family-approved last-minute dinners. Donovan and Gallin devote Part I to The Basics: cooking tips for experienced and inexperienced cooks, culinary tools that are essential to Lazy cooking, and the key ingredients in a well-stocked pantry. These include over 30 kitchen staples to keep on hand to help transform a normally mundane recipe. I was happy to discover that cheese is one of the most important items on this list – and not just one cheese, but blue, chevre, feta, marscapone, and hard cheese like Parmesan and Pecorino. Cheese is ALWAYS in my fridge!
Part II jumps right in: the recipes, divided in to Snacks and Starters, Salads, Soups, Sandwiches, Small Plates and Main Dishes, Sides, Condiments, Sauces and Extras, and Desserts. What I found incredibly useful about the range of recipes in this cookbook is that you could pick one recipe to build dinner around (Chicken with Lemon and Olives, for example) or plan an entire dinner party using Lazy Gourmet recipes. Suggested menu pairings make it even easier to put together a cohesive, elegant meal for friends and family, plus the authors offer ideas for changing recipes to suit your tastes. Many of these recipes – even those in the Small Plates and Main Dishes section – are great for sharing, so if you’re cooking for a crowd in the near future, try a variety and serve them as small plate options. The Snacks and Starters section has plenty of creative appetizer ideas, including Basil Leaf and Goat Cheese Wraps, an unbelievably simple appetizer that lets your guests do all the work!
Recipe: Basil Leaf and Goat Cheese Wraps
- 30-40 big, fresh-looking basil leaves
- 5 ounces chevre
- 1 dry pint (30-40) cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- Place basil leaves on a serving platter.
- Serve the cheese, tomatoes, and pine nuts in small serving dishes, with a spreading knife for the cheese and a small spook for the pine nuts.
- Direct diners to take a basil leaf and wrap it around some cheese, a tomato, and a couple of pine nuts.
Makes 30 – 40 wraps.
Four ingredients, three steps – how deliciously lazy! For more recipes, articles, and interviews about the book, don’t miss The Lazy Gourmet blog tour: