Last year, I reviewed “Bringing it Home”, and I called it “smart and funny”. Here’s what I had to say:
In recent years as one of the judges on Top Chef, Gail Simmons has most definitely enjoyed “a life of adventurous eating”. But as she says in the introduction to Bringing it Home, since having a family of her own, she’s struggled with “the same issues as any home cook. Most nights, like most people, I want to put a nourishing meal on the table in as little time as possible”. This book is the beautiful marriage of a life of culinary inspiration with a practical focus (i.e. feeding a family). Gail’s trick for accessible, delicious meals? A little planning ahead, a smartly-stocked pantry and smart navigation of the grocery store. As well as delicious recipes, Gail includes tips and tricks to help you succeed in the kitchen and (I LOVE this!) “Snippets” – fun facts and trivia about some of the ingredients or dishes themselves. The book also contains home cook-friendly versions of professional techniques to make your meal prep easier. While the recipes are not complicated at all, they are a little more-so than those in the previous three books and I’d say there are some more unusual ingredients that are called for. But, as Gail says, with a well-stocked pantry (and recipes which use the ingredients over and over again, so you’re not buying a spice just for using 1/4 teaspoon in a recipe you’ll make once or twice). I made the Shaved Zucchini Salad with Harissa Citrus Dressing and Mint and the Roasted Zucchini with Coriander Vinaigrette with my 7-9 year old boys’ cooking club and they LOVED both dishes (making and eating them!) – so, a little more than five ingredients and perhaps not what you’d call “unfussy” but definitely doable (we made both recipes in an hour) and delicious. Two absolute musts in my kitchen. I loved this book, as much for the stories (and trivia!) as for the recipes. I’ve been a Gail fan from way back and this book did not disappoint. I met her in 2012 when she was on tour for Talking with my Mouth Full – she was at the Coach store in Toronto for a book signing (!) and I spent a good while chatting with her about food, life and cooking with kids. She’s genuine and sweet and smart and funny. And this book is all that too.
For this week’s recipe, I chose a simple pasta dish – Orecchiette Pasta with Swiss Chard and Burrata. We used fresh Mozzarella in the place of Burrata (we’re cooking for 14 here!) but other than that, the ingredients were easy to find and we just about followed the recipe to a T.
The boys chopped the chard leaves like experts:
They also: minced garlic, chopped and tore pieces of fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan and chopped basil. No photos here because when you have five stations of boys working away in an awkwardly designed space, it’s hard to get around to get pictures when you’re stopping to help them every now and then. The boys work FAST once you show then what to do and it was just too busy for me to get to everyone (this is a sign of a great cooking club, though!).
We got cooking – our garlic and about half of the chard to which we eventually added lemon juice and zest…
Meanwhile, I’d cooked the orecchiette (and we had a discussion about what they looked like until someone guessed “ears” – orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian) and we mixed everything together, adding our chopped and torn mozzarella at the last minute along with some fresh basil to garnish.
The boys looked at the image in the book (you can see a version of it here!) and decided their version looked “pretty close”. No matter what it looked like, boys were excited to eat Swiss Chard. So I’d say that’s a win, right?
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of Bringing it Home myself. I was not asked to write about these books, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions my own.
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MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids releases July 31, 2018! Click here for pre-order details!