Simple but wonderful cooking, please!

4 Jan ’08


I can buy cookbooks with good intentions, I can follow food sites thinking that I will also one day share great tips. If I had TV I’m sure I’d be Tivo’ing shows (Nigella for sure), too. But I must confess that I have never been, nor do I think I want to, be a cook.

Though I adore great food I’m a simple eater and most recipes always seem too lavish for my tastes and style. Also, I’m not one for kitchen gadgets (I don’t have a microwave, I hand wash things, I like chopping and whipping by hand) so I need the recipe to reflect that. And although I enjoy the pleasure of food, I can’t eat gluten and most recipes aren’t always gluten free and eating out has become tricky because of this. But it seems like everyone and their mama is into cooking or has written a cookbook and I’ve felt slight guilt at not either being able or wanting to gush over food like everyone else. Pretty things? Yes. Ponies? Sure! But cook books and hours of eating? Not all the time, thanks.

Living in Santa Monica I have access to a twice weekly farmers market where I can get all my fresh, local, organic produce and food for my simple style eating. I also have access to Real Food Daily which has become one of my thrice weekly habits and sip the can’t-compare Spanish Latte from Urth. And of course, Whole Foods is a quick bike ride away. So eating here is easy with little thought put into it. Whatever craving I might have I can just walk a few blocks and satisfy it. No need to pour over recipes, figuring things out.

However, eating in Carmel by the Sea is a different story; we have but one very tiny market that doesn’t sell organics (and this is a must for me) or gluten-free products. There are no quick-bites or takaway places like Urth or Real Food Daily and the nearest Whole Foods is a 15 minute drive away and I do not have a care whilst here.

Knowing that I have to adjust how I eat from Santa Monica to Carmel, I’ve been looking to gather more recipes in the style of eating that I do so that I can stock up and prepare more at home – but the recipes must be simple but still flavorful, good looking, and did I mention simple?

One of my favourite sites, 101 Cookbooks, has thankfully tagged over 30 recipes gluten free! Also, Real Food Daily has their own Real Food Daily Cookbook so I can get my Mexicalli Chop fix just as often. Elana’s Pantry has fantastic (and easy) recipes and Michel Roux’s Eggs has given me great ideas, too.

I tend to eat a lot of eggs, fish, chicken, soups and vegetables though if I can get a good steak I will (and often do). I’m also a pretty avid baker of chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes with butter cream frosting and I do use and enjoy my juicer (that’s the most complicated machine I have!). So as you can see, my lack of complicated cooking or food gushing isn’t due to being a purist in one area or some kind of diet (except for the having to be gluten-free part), it’s about wanting great tasting, enjoyable food that’s easy, pleasing and healthy without being boring or bland.

So hopefully more sites or books will pop up where cooking doesn’t seem so overwhelming or intimidating but isn’t about quick cooking from mixes and soups in cans – often that stuff isn’t healthy and is full of allergens. There has to be more out there on great tasting, easy, quick, simple food thats organic, healthy and also accessible (I can tell you after living in Austin TX and Nashville TN for a bit that finding fresh, local, organic fare is hard and eating the way a lot of people now recommend can seem impossible in BBQ Heaven!).

Do you know where these sites, books, or places are?

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  • Reply KerisNo Gravatar 4 Jan ’08 at 6:23 pm

    “and I do not have a care whilst here”

    This made me happy. Freudian slip? :)

  • Reply ChelseaNo Gravatar 4 Jan ’08 at 6:31 pm

    Donna Hay’s recipes seem to be fairly simple with not too many ingredients. I am not a cook either and am always looking for simplistic but healthy recipes.

  • Reply RachelNo Gravatar 5 Jan ’08 at 12:09 am

    Alex, I think you give yourself less credit as a cook than you should. You enjoy food and enjoy preparing it simply. To boot you want to know that food is safe to eat. There’s certainly no shame in that, honey! First, I would suggest a noncommital avenue of checking out cookbooks by checking some out of the library if possible. I absolutely love the Moosewood Restaurant books. Their Low Fat Favorites is one of my go to books. The recipes are not fussy and always delish. I justt bought their Simple Suppers for Weeknigt Dinners as a Christmas gift. I got the Nigella Express book as a gift. Haven’t tried any recipes yet but I’d suspect Nigella isn’t going to do me wrong ever. The Everyday Food magazine is a nice way to be inspired to use seasonal ingredients and to cook several meals from one shopping trip. Those recipes are all short and simple. Happy Cooking! I’ll be coming to San Francisco later in the month and I’m excited to tour the Ferry Market stocking up on California made goodies to bring home to NJ.

  • Reply athenaNo Gravatar 5 Jan ’08 at 1:10 am

    i really like the everyday food mags and the accompanying that was published last year. they have great easy recipes of real, honest food. some recipes might use shortcuts (already prepared things), but most have few ingredients and easy preparation. and almost all are for 4 servings, which is easy to halve or even quarter.

    also, i really love “the unplugged kitchen” by viana la place. it’s out of print, but still has copies. this book is great for simple easy to prepare fresh food. my family is european, and this is how my mom cooks. it has the best recipe for tabbouleh ever! (i’m not sure you can eat that, though? can you have bulgur?) there are other many delightful recipes, too.

    well, that’s my 2 cents. hope you find it helpful. :-)

  • Reply LaurieNo Gravatar 5 Jan ’08 at 7:07 am

    Hi Alex,
    first of all, I too am in California…and would far rather be in Carmel than Merced, CA….talk about HOT in the summer and cold in the winter….and I am allergic to wheat, and rarely eat out….no Whole Foods for over 50 miles, and a mini farmer’s market that runs a few months out of the year….I make treks to the SF Bay area to stock up on organic goodness….you and I would make a great team. :) I am always on the lookout for new gluten free recipes, but when it all comes down to reality, I basically cook what is simple. (scuze the pun) ;) Isn’t it fun eating out and asking the waiters/waitresses about the ingredients on a menu?! I just love it when I ask if there is flour in a sauce and they say, no….and you ask again and find out that there is bread crumbs in something, but that was NOT flour? My husband and I and our kids eat at home 99.9% of the time. We’re used to it….it’s healthiest, right?!! I figure if you have to get an dictionary out to read a food label, then it’s not worth eating….who really reads recipe books every night and actually follows them time after time….i just read them over once and adapt…..So, if you’re ever in the area, c’mon over for dinner. ~ Happy New Year. Love reading your blog, Laurie
    PS…at least you have Anthropologie in town. :))

  • Reply KathyNo Gravatar 7 Jan ’08 at 3:21 am

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it might be perfect for what you’re wanting. It’s Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Cooking. I have a cookbook of hers and it’s really lovely, so I think this one might be worth taking a look at.

  • Reply AlisonNo Gravatar 7 Jan ’08 at 2:49 pm

    I was watching the food network this morning and caught “Good Deal with Dave Lieberman”. the episode was Light n Healthy and the dishes he was preparing made me think of your wishes: simple, few ingredients, healthy, gluten free. At least I think they are gluten free. Anyway, here’s the link:,2661,FOOD_21436_40590,00.html

  • Reply MeghanNo Gravatar 7 Jan ’08 at 5:17 pm

    I love “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters. She gives you the fundamentals you need to get cooking on your own with fresh food.

  • Reply mauraNo Gravatar 11 Jan ’08 at 12:32 am

    You have a few suggestions already, but I’ll throw mine in to. You should check out

    She likes, and posts, very simple recipes, but everything I’ve tried is very flavorful and delicious. Good luck!

  • Reply JenniferNo Gravatar 11 Jan ’08 at 10:12 pm


    Not a book suggestion, but italian food focuses on simple but fresh ingredients and tastes, you might want to check out Italian cookbooks (like Giada DeLaurentis’s books) and alter them to suit your dietary needs.

  • Reply JessicaNo Gravatar 6 Feb ’08 at 4:23 pm

    Ooh! You will LOVE the Gluten-Free Girl. her blog is fantastic, talking about life and food and love and being alive.

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