If it weren’t for the complicated things, you would have no appreciation for the simple things.
We’ve all paged through some pretty intimidating and intense cookbooks in our lives. Some maybe more than others. You stare at the table of contents waiting for something to spring from the pages that might be close to your culinary skill level. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed and totally inadequate (in a culinary way), I’ve been there too.
Why does life have to be that way? It should be easier to know what’s about to be thrown at you before it whacks you in the face. Maybe we should go to a color coded system for our cookbook releases. Green for beginner and double red X’s for expert only. “Warning, do not attempt at home, experienced chef in closed kitchen”. You get the gist.
I’m sure that you’ve noticed the uptick in celeb penned cookbooks. Every major/minor/wannabee star is committing their favorite childhood recipes to paper. A trend that has yielded some successes and also it’s share of major fails.
Enter Sheryl Crow and her personal chef, Chuck White. Yes, that’s right, rock star Sheryl Crow. OK, what gives? Does this super busy activist and performer really have what it takes to crank out a cookbook as great as her music. In short, the answer is YES.
Sheryl and “Chef Chuck” have put together a nice collection of simple dishes inspired by her lifestyle. For the most part, the recipes can be executed successfully by cooks of all experience levels. That’s what a lot of this is really about. You see something you would like to make for you and your family AND you can actually do it! Collecting recipes is great, cooking them is so much better.
It being summer and all I thought I would try my hand at Sheryl and Chuck’s Caprese Salad.
Caprese’s are a great warm weather food. Light and flavorful, just right for that beautiful summer evening. It’s a casual dish that still has a certain amount of elegance to it. This one is no expectation. I love the addition of the cucumbers!
Here’s How To Do It
1 lb. ripe heirloom tomatoes (2 or 3)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 to 8 cucumber slices
6 to 8 basil leaves
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. Balsamic Reduction
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Ingredients –Balsamic Reduction
1 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
In a small saucepan bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil. Drop heat to a simmer. Simmer until the vinegar is reduced by three quarters. There should be about 1/4 cup left in the pan. Transfer the remaining liquid to a container with a lid. Chill for a minimum of two hours. It will keep in your fridge for up to three weeks.
For the salad, cut the tomatoes into slices about 1/4 inch thick. On a serving plate arrange the tomato, cucumber slices and mozzarella. (I peeled my cucumber before I sliced it. I’m not a big fan of the waxy skin. You can do what you like with yours). Tuck the basil leaves between the sliced ingredients. Or, you can chop the basil into small pieces and sprinkle over the salad.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Right before serving, drizzle with olive oil and Balsamic Reduction. Serve.
Here’s what mine looked like.
Recipe Adapted From Caprese Salad, Sheryl Crow and Chuck White, If It Makes You Healthy, St. Martin’s Press.
(Apology ahead, I was somehow separated from my good camera. Had to use my phone for the photos. Shame on me. I’ll try not to let it happen again.)
This was a big hit at my dinner table. A great starter or side dish.
Here are a couple of more thoughts on the book in general. It is divided into sections entitled, “On The Road” and “In The Studio”. Cute designations given the authors background. Both major sections contain recipes ranging from appetizers through desserts.
Most of the recipes included have a healthy bent as you would guess from the title. That is almost expected given that Sheryl is a breast cancer survivor and leads a health conscience lifestyle. The nice thing here is that the benefits of healthy eating aren’t presented in a preachy or in your face way. They have taken a softer approach which I appreciate. The message is obviously still there, but, it’s not the sole reason for the book to exist.
The Bottom Line
If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons, is a fun, healthy and delicious read. It contains easy to execute recipes for all lifestyles. The emphasis on fresh seasonal ingredients help the recipes really shine. If you have a nice collection of healthy eating cookbooks, this one would make an excellent addition.
Author: Sheryl Crow, Chuck White and Mary Goodbody
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press