Like many people in the media, I have enjoyed making a joke or two at Gwyneth Paltrow's expense. And when I announced on Facebook that I was looking through her new cookbook, It's All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook, one of my friends commented, "Your longstanding gripe with Gwyneth Paltrow is hilarious."
But not so fast, friends. I wanted to give the book a fair chance. After all, Gwyneth and I have so much in common now. We're both consciously uncoupled moms. We both have super hot boyfriends. We both have happening careers. And we're both way too busy to spend hours cooking dinner night after night (especially me). And we're both dark-haired daughters of Mexican immigrants raised in obscurity in middle America. Oh wait, that's just me.
Anyway, I gathered my boyfriend and my son (who happens to be around Apple's age) and asked each of them to pick a couple recipes for us to try out. I picked two as well.
In total, I made six of the recipes and spent about $120. However, I didn't use up all of the ingredients, and I got leftovers on a few of the dishes. So we're not in $200 smoothie territory here. I found the recipes largely accessible in terms of cost.
So! First up was the avocado toast with spring vegetables: an open-face sandwich with avocado, radishes, lemon zest, olive oil and pea shoots "if available." I have none available, but that's OK. I made it right at the office in about five minutes. This sandwich was so transporting I didn't want another taste in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon. It's that lemon zest. I'm putting it in everything for the rest of spring.
On a cold, rainy evening, I made one of my boyfriend's picks, the ginger carrot soup. Let me tell you something about this man. You've heard that there are no picky children in India because they all grow up eating spicy food as babies? It's a lie. There are picky eaters in India, and my boyfriend was one of them. His mother cooked him a separate dinner of potatoes night after night. He is 80 percent potato at this point.
He doesn't even like carrot soup. But he liked this soup. "Wow, this really elevates it!" He especially liked how gingery it is.
My son chose the carbonara, which in It's All Easy calls for bucatino. Go ahead and use spaghetti, though. We made this together, whisking the egg yolks with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and tossing with diced, crisp bacon.
My son and I hadn't cooked together since Christmas, so this was especially fun. And the recipe makes enough for a feast, so he was noshing on the stuff for days after.
We also made his second pick, pan bagnat, together. This is tuna in olive oil, arugula, red onion slices, sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves and eggs, layered on a baguette with mustard. (At his request, we held the anchovies, capers and olives.) Having experienced the exasperation and dismay of falling layers, we recommend using a baguette wide enough for all that stacking.
I wrapped up this baby and cut it into individual sandwiches to pack in my son's lunch through the week. He loved it. "How was your sandwich, son?" "Beautiful," he said. For context, he regularly discards half his lunch, so this is a big deal. Also, what 12-year-old boy describes a sandwich as beautiful? We are so doing this sandwich again, every week, until he's sick of it.
A note: The recipe calls for 16 ounces of that olive oil tuna, which can be expensive. But we found that a 6.7 ounce jar was plenty.
We make bibimbap almost every week because my boyfriend loves it -- surprisingly. He's addicted to the version from Lukas Volger's Bowl cookbook. The goop version is made with cauliflower rice -- or couscous, as she calls it -- and kimchee, but no gochujang sauce. It took longer than 30 minutes to cook because I was trying to get the cauliflower to brown like rice, which was a pretty delusional thing for me to attempt because: cauliflower. However, I am glad I used Trader Joe's cauliflower rice instead of making my own.
I didn't get paid for that TJ name-drop, but if they want to send me a crate of free cauliflower rice for no reason, I am 100 percent OK with that, just so they know.
Is this really even bibimbap? I don't think so. But whatever this is, it's delicious and I'd make it again -- with an egg on it. My boyfriend gamely tried one bite. My son had already filled up on leftover carbonara. Fine. More for me.
And then there were the crispy potatoes with lemon and parsley. Insanely easy. You boil fingerling potatoes for about 15 minutes, drain, smash a bit and cook until crunchy in olive oil. Once again, fresh lemon zest turns something pretty good into fantastic.
Alas, it was a little too easy for my boyfriend, who prefers his potatoes parboiled, then peeled, then thinly sliced, then cooked. That's the dish all of his family members ask if I've made him yet. And the answer is no, I love him but that's some high maintenance potato business there. Can't I just get him to start liking the peelings?
I liked the potatoes quite a bit, though, and quickly packed them up into little packets to freeze for future lunches. Once again, truly easy.
So there you go. I can't make fun of this book. Sorry, friends. I tried. But I like it so much I'm even keeping it for future use. Don't tell Gwyneth.
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