Recently I posted one of my favorite Julia Child's quotes: "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients" on my Instagram page. As I was meal planning that same day it occurred to me that my family isn't looking for a masterpiece, they are craving a family meal. They desire time spent together around our kitchen table sharing our days, laughing and spending time together. Sometimes our family dinners are 15 minutes long and we all talk at the same time as we quickly eat a turkey sandwich before we rush out the door to activities. Other evenings I have time to prepare a dinner that is a little more complicated then putting fresh turkey on bakery bread. What Julia Child made me realize is that it isn't a fancy meal that beckons my family to the table, it's fresh food and time spent together that calls them.
How I can a get back to basics like Julia Child suggested, but at the same time come up with new ideas so I am not rotating the same 12 recipes? Where do I start on this new cooking adventure? Where do I find tips and recipe suggestions for "good food from fresh ingredients"? Many recipes I do come across on the internet and see while browsing cookbooks are masterpieces. It feels completely daunting to embark on making many of these suggested meals and most of them are not basic or easy.
It occurred to me the answer is on my cookbook shelf. I own my mom's Joy of Cooking cookbook that was published in 1964. You will not find any glossy pictures in this book, just simple recipes and tips on how to cook fresh in season food. The pages of my cookbook are slightly yellowed, some pages are falling out and the dessert section is speckled with cocoa powder and my mom's handwriting. My mom is an excellent baker! One of her favorites is page 643, the Buche do Noel: a simply divine chocolate roll cake with whipped cream frosting and a chocolate glaze. You will also find in the Joy of Cooking cookbook over 500 simple recipes, tips on how to pick the perfect cut of beef and nutrition information.
I am all in this summer to put together "good food from fresh ingredients", focus on using in season foods, and not get suckered in to "masterpieces". I am going to embrace Julia Child's motto and go back to the basics. Like the authors of Joy of Cooking ask, "What Shall We Have for Dinner" tonight?
The first new recipe I made out of my rediscovered Joy of Cooking cookbook was "Fish Baked In A Covered Dish", page 352. I determined I couldn't get any simpler than this. The recipe title actually made me laugh out loud, "Fish Baked In A Covered Dish." No catchy name, no fancy words like "au bleu" or "consommé" in this recipe title; just baked fish in a dish. It sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme. I need to tell you it was delicious and very easy. I prepared the fish in less than 2 minutes, watched it bake for 20 minutes and then finished it with a little butter, fresh herbs, lemon juice and capers. It's not a fancy meal, it's not a masterpiece that you could find at a 3 star Michelin restaurant, but it brought my family to the table and gave us an opportunity to spend time together.