Let’s take the pressure off — the kitchen isn’t a place where we have to perform (7)
There is entirely too much truth in what Meike Peters says in the open lines of her latest cookbook 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking. Day in, day out it feels as though, as home cooks, we’re always “on” — 365 days a year. There’s that popular Benjamin Franklin quote about how the only things that are for certain are death and taxes and, if I could add to this, I would attach eating. Once one meal is cooked, I find I’m already thinking about what I’ll be cooking the following day, the cycle of eating and cooking, cooking and eating continuing ad infinitum. So, if I can be certain that I’ll need to feed my family then why is it that I sometimes get caught without a plan, cursing my lack of foresight? After cooking from Peters’ 365 I’m reminded that everything about cooking — from being in the kitchen, choosing ingredients, consulting recipes, singing along to the radio — is all about enjoying. Home cooking isn’t my job and, Peters’ reminds us that each and every day of the year is about celebrating mealtime.
365: The Cookbook begins on interesting premise — offering the home cook 365 recipes. This year-long cooking odyssey reminds me a bit of one of my absolute favourite cookbooks — Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. An entire year of delicious recipes which follow a seasonal rhythm. All the recipes are organized by month and, each month contains an index where each week is broken down into seven days with each day having a corresponding recipe. I was feeling rebellious and made the Cauliflower Soup w/ Tahini and Gremolata from week 4 day 28 of the January menu. I found that this delicious and hearty soup worked just as well on a cool November evening as it would in January. While a person could follow 365 and cook from day one straight through until day 365, I’ve used Peters’ cookbook when I’m looking for easy recipes or inspiration. This is due, in part, to the fact that while there are vegetarian recipes there are many meat/seafood/poultry-based recipes as well. With an abundance of wonderful recipes, I feel as though 365 can be used any way you want to use it and, I think, Peters’ intention is that the home cook discovers the simple pleasures of celebrating humble ingredients, at home, in completely delectable ways.
It wasn’t even on a busy weeknight that I went in search of some inspiration, in fact, it was a lazy Saturday lunch that needed help. It was more like I needed the help — to be honest I just didn’t feel like cooking — so I had started the oven to bake up some of my daughter’s favourite (store-bought) mini quiches. When I saw the recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes w/ Coriander (271/week 39/Friday) it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the quiche. My daughter loved the coriander-sweet potato combo and I really found that using EVOO instead of dairy really made the texture of the mashed potato seem so lush and fluffy. Anything that can be made in a half an hour using minimal ingredients are always welcome in my kitchen. The recipes for days 86 (Cucumber Carpaccio w/ Dill, Ginger, and Lime) and 87 (Herb-Fried Egg on Toast) are proof that home cooking never need to be an arduous task. There is something deeply satisfying about serving a fresh dish that’s full of flavour like the carpaccio or a gorgeous fried egg that can be topped in myriad ways. As you can see from the photos these dishes look so inviting — even if you’re a novice home cook, Peters offers recipes like these as a great way to build your repertoire. These are great examples of how easy some of the recipes can be in 365.
Some of the more involved dishes I tried were the Spinach and Gorgonzola Quiche (335/week 48/Saturday) and the Dutch Honey Cake (111/week 16/Saturday). From what I’ve noticed in the book is that baking activities are left for the weekends, presumably when there’s a bit more time to devote to recipes that may take a bit more time. A thoughtful way to organize a cookbook! My daughter and I baked up the Dutch Honey Cake on a Sunday afternoon and froze the leftovers to enjoy during the coming week. I preferred to enjoy a slice slathered in butter with my morning coffee, while my daughter asked for hers as an afterschool snack with a gorgeous dollop of whipped cream. As a side observation, after storing the leftovers the pearl sugar on top of the loaf absorbed much of the spiced goodness of the cake leaving such a wonderfully crunchy (and tasty) texture on top of the loaf.
Breakfast for dinner is totally our thing! Looking to the recipe for day 77 — Crepes au Citron — I cooked up a batch of crepes one night for dinner. From the delicate, lacey edges of the crepe to the dusting of powdered sugar and huge squeeze of lemon juice this breakfast for dinner was an enormous hit! Often a traditional pancake can feel a bit heavy, which makes crepes such a great alternative. Peters may have indicated that this recipe would make a great dessert, I can tell you that while that is true it was such a treat for dinner.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I live with a pack of cauliflower haters. Most unfortunate considering I actually kind of like it (but, don’t tell the others lest they vote me off the island). Always looking for opportunities and recipes to change their minds, the Cauliflower Soup w/ Tahini and Gremolata sounded so delicious. Cauliflower has a very distinct flavour which is complemented by the rich tahini and, any heaviness of the soup is brightened by the punchy, green gremolata (as she explains “an Italian condiment made with parsley, lemon, and garlic”). Upon her first bite, my daughter only mmmm’d her appreciation! The moral of the story: if your family hates cauliflower “rice” or “mock” pizza crust made only from cauliflower then find other recipes using cauliflower that they will enjoy.
Not only are the recipes delicious in 365, Peters offers interesting connections to the food through the wonderful recipe notes. At times I found myself lingering over 365 the way I would with a good book. I love how her cookbook encourages us to cook at least one thing for ourselves each day, and in doing so we may find more reasons to enjoy home cooking with beautiful, seasonal ingredients. Whether you’re into cooking, baking, or both her incredible range of recipes are sure to satisfy. If you’re curious to see how I’ve been enjoying Peters’ book, then checkout my dedicated Facebook post or custom Instagram hashtag #365iseatworthy.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Meike Peters and Prestel 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.