Whether it’s watching him on PBS or thumbing through one of his cookbooks, I never cease to learn something from Jacques Pepin.
A master technician who makes everything look effortless, and a cheerleader who gives the confidence to try any of his recipes handily in your own kitchen, Pepin continues to inspire in his latest cookbook, “Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy.
As the title implies, the book’s 250 recipes are fast and easy, with brief ingredients list. Pepin is not above using frozen pizza dough, canned beans or ready-made sponge cake in some of them, either.
As he states in the introduction, “This book is intended to make your life easier.”
It will, too, with recipes such as “Cream of Pumpkin Soup” that uses canned pumpkin, light cream and curry powder; “Cheese Tart,” made with a frozen pie shell filled with a mixture of eggs, ricotta and Gouda; “Mustard-Broiled Shrimp” that’s coated with honey mustard, dark soy sauce and Sriracha; and “Orange Bavarian Cream” what mimics fancy custard cream but is instead made with instant pudding mix, half-and-half, and melted vanilla ice cream.
Because “Honey-Mustard Sheet-Pan Chicken with Brussels Sprouts” is so easy to make. It’s one of those recipes that requires little exertion mentally or physically. It’s effortless enough to make on a weeknight. And it uses many ingredients that you probably routinely have on hand.
The book showcases 115 recipes that especially speak to young families like hers who are time-pressed to get food on the table for kids and spouses. These are dishes that are simple enough to make day in and day out, such as “Cinnamon Streusel French Toast,” “Sweet Potato Fries with Magic Green Tahini Sauce, ” “Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps,” and “Chocolate-Mint Whoopie Pies.” There’s even a chapter on easy entertaining with recipes to feed a crowd, including “Loaded Nachos Bar” and “Weekend Waffle Bar.”
Sheet-pan entrees are all the rage now in this time-pressed era because everything cooks in one baking pan, making prep and clean-up a breeze. I took that one step further: The recipe says to spray nonstick baking spray on a large baking sheet. Instead, I lined my baking tray with aluminum foil, then sprayed the foil with nonstick spray. That way, only the foil gets dirty, not the pan.
It’s all about the sauce — in this case a syrupy one full of cranberries, balsamic vinegar and honey.
Like so many folks especially in this part of the country, I appreciate being able to eat seasonally — to hone in on what’s best at each time of year to enjoy its peak flavor and revel in its often brief local appearance.
But there’s one item I keep in my freezer nearly year-round, even when its season is long gone.
Cranberries. Frozen ones to be exact.
I know, I know, they’re so fall and winter, you’re thinking. Why in the world would I want to partake of them in spring or summer?
Because their vivid color makes anything special. Because their sweet-sour fruitiness wakes up whatever they’re paired with. And because, how can I resist something that reminds me of the most festive, family-and-friend-filled convivial time of year?