Donna Connolly’s blog Retirement Reflections,https://retirementreflections.com, is an excellent source of writing that resonates with me. I’m particularly intrigued with her approach to cooking and recipe analysis too. Cooking can be such a joy, and yet sometimes, we need a little guidance to make a recipe work or to help us understand where we might be going wrong. It’s always great to have a knowledgeable and clear voice to guide us through the process. I know you will enjoy Donna’s thorough and interesting review.
Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman
Alison Roman’s ‘Nothing Fancy’ is a highly readable cookbook. I enjoyed her writing style and applauded her sage advice, especially “ask for help, pick your battles, embrace your quirky imperfections without apology.” I appreciated that it covered everything from snacks to cleanup (but sadly, no soup and no breakfasts). I trialed two salads from this book, not for company, but to accompany some leftover roast chicken. When my husband saw me prepping, he quipped, “fancy, fancy” (and he had no idea about the book’s title)!
Fancy or not, Roman’s recipes offer a level of sophistication and creative flavour combinations. (Both salads featured here are great examples of this). A drawback for me was that many recipes contained an ingredient or two that I would not have on hand. For my two sample salads alone, I needed to look up ‘Castelvetrano’ and ‘watermelon radishes.’ However, if the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the leafy greens, the salads were both excellent and perfect companions to our roasted chicken. Would I make them again for ourselves or guests? Definitely, yes and yes! Overall, ‘Nothing Fancy’ is an inspiring cookbook for those looking to add simple elegance to their dishes. Although some ingredients may be hard to find, the recipes are easy to follow, and the results are impressive. While I won’t permanently add this book to my already overcrowded cookbook collection, I am glad I read it and had the chance to cook from it. It offered many solid takeaways.
Citrusy Cucumbers with Red Onion and Toasted Sesame, p. 96
This recipe is available on Alison’s website (here). Simply add 3 tbsp. of tahini mixed with 1 tbsp. of sesame oil and 3 tbsp. of water to your serving plate and top with the remaining ingredients as listed in the link.
Salted Citrus Salad with Fennel, Radish, and Olive, p. 92. Complete recipe available on Parade.
Salmon with Asparagus and Brown-Butter Peas (Recipe is here.)
I thought I would sneak in one additional recipe. I had every intention of splurging on a good piece of halibut, but I could only find pre-frozen, so fresh salmon was my substitute. This dish is truly ‘nothing fancy’ (other than the quality piece of fish). But, I love Roman’s philosophy that when she has “a special ingredient, e.g. a large piece of gorgeous halibut, extremely in-season tomatoes, a perfect peach,” she does “just about nothing to it.” She wants to taste that ingredient that she’s “paying half a month’s rent for” and not fourteen other things piled on top. This is excellent advice!
Nothing Fancy, Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman
Hardcover 320 pages.
Gorgeous food photos throughout.
Also available on Kindle.
My rating: 4 Stars (4.6 Amazon, 4.05 Goodreads)
Published by Retirement Reflections
Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own. View all posts by Retirement Reflections
Thank you Donna for this excellent review and for sharing Alison’s recipes. I know I will be making that Citrus Salad soon!