Pros: full of wonderfully fresh recipes and mouthwatering pictures
Cons: not a lot of recipes for beef and red meat lovers, might have trouble finding a few ingredients, although not many
According to the calendar, summer is just around the corner. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell that to the weather up here in Wisconsin. It might be early May but it still feels like March here in the Dairy State, with its gray, leaden skies, biting winds, and rain that feels like it is on the verge of turning back into snow. Into this cold and dreary weather a small ray of sunshine has pushed its way through in the form of "fresh happy tasty," a cookbook by Jane Coxwell.
Jane Coxwell has spent a number of years as the personal chef to designer Diane von Furstenberg aboard her yacht, EOS. Her travels have taken from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia, from Latin America to New Zealand, and beyond, and her first cookbook reflects the fresh, vibrant flavors of these sun soaked destinations. While "fresh happy tasty" is not a vegetarian cookbook. like many of the cuisines in these parts of the world, proteins tend to take a backseat to fruits, vegetables and grains. As a die hard carnivore (who occasionally tries to change his ways) I have to admit that my first, quick glance through the book left me a little hesitant. Yes, the photographs were beautiful and the food looked delicious, but it all just seemed a little to "light" for my tastes.
Upon a deeper read though, my mind was quickly changed. Sure, the recipes were "lighter" but light doesn't have to mean boring or tasteless and Jane quickly reminded me of that fact. I was barely through the first chapter, on breakfast when I came across my first, must try recipe, "Rhubarb Poached with Vanilla Bean, Ginger and Cardamon." Being a huge fan of rhubarb I knew that as soon as my rhubarb was up (I'm hoping sometime before September this year!) I would be trying out this recipe. I'm just disappointed that I will have to wait longer than normal for a chance to try it out.
From there I discovered many other wonderful must try recipes, ranging from salads to new ways to prepare fish. I was even intrigued by a few of her recipes that feature quinoa, a grain that I not the biggest fan of. In fact, quinoa plays a roll in what I consider to be the most intriguing recipe in the book, "Green Quinoa-Crusted Bass," in which Miss Coxwell blends cooked quinoa with pinenuts, garlic and fresh herbs to make a "pesto" style crust for sea bass, which then gets quickly baked.
What impresses me most about Jane Coxwell's food is the fact that she seems to blend various cuisines so seamlessly, creating a uniquely global cuisine. While you see the influences and can pick out the Asian bits vs. the Mediterranean bits very few of her dishes scream, "I am a Thai dish," or "I'm obviously a Spanish dish," She's a master of combining these various cuisines and making them work. Not an easy job, and one that I've seen go astray so many times and so badly, but not with Miss. Coxwell.
Of course, no review of this book can be complete without mentioning the beautiful photographs that accompany the recipes. I find it hard to imagine that anyone could skim through this book and not be tempted and drawn in by the wonderful photography that not only does justice to the recipes, but helps to bring Jane's adventures to life for the reader.
This may be Jane Coxwell's first cookbook, but I look forward to seeing more from this author and chef.