This piece contains excerpts from ‘Radically Simple’ which you can find here.

I cook a lot. I love it, but like most people I occasionally find myself getting bored, or feeling like it is a chore. When I find myself feeling this way, sometimes I just need a new cookbook. It doesn’t always do the trick, but when I bought Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold it definitely helped get me out of my cooking funk.

Gold’s concept is to keep the ingredients and instructions to a minimum without losing out on flavor or elegance. This does not mean, necessarily, that the recipes are the kind that you can throw together in 15 minutes. With that said, there are some recipes, like her Linguine with Pesto Rosso, that are both quick and delicious. And the Asian Chicken with Scallions takes only minutes to put together — an overnight marinate in your fridge and then it’s in the oven for about 15 minutes. You can put it together one night after work and serve it the next without very much effort at all.

What I like best about the recipes I’ve tried so far (and I’ve tried a good chunk of them) is that they are innovative, exciting and clearly written. The first recipe I tried was Salmon with Lime Leaves, Poppy Rice and Coconut Sauce. The instructions are three short paragraphs, but they are so clearly written that even though this isn’t one of the easiest or quickest recipes, it was very easy to follow. I’d never have considered taking the flavors of Korean bulgogi and putting them on salmon, but it works perfectly. Thinking of breakfast for dinner on a cold night? Try the Runny Eggs on Creamy-Scallion-Bacon Grits. It will do the trick. Love BLTs but want to serve something with a little more wow factor? The BLT Chicken with Cumin Seed Lime Mayonnaise is wonderful. Ever think to yourself “how did all that spinach turn into so little?” Try her sheet pan spinach recipe. Basically, you roast spinach and give it a couple spritzes of water and end up with much more spinach than you’re used to. This is easy and economical too.

There are quite a few pictures in the book, although not for everything. But reading through it will get your mouth watering. There are chapters on brunch, salads, soups, pasta, fish, poultry, meat, vegetables/side dishes and desserts. The book covers cuisines from around the world. You could easily make an Italian vegetarian pasta one night, an Asian fish dish the next, try something from the Middle East, Africa or India a few days later. Because of this, there are some ingredients that will be new to most people (za’atar, lime leaves and ras el hamout come to mind), and that you won’t find at your local grocery store. But, I haven’t come across an ingredient yet that wasn’t available at either Whole Foods or Southern Season.

To introduce what you can do with this book, I’ve picked out what I think of as a typical French homemaker’s dinner for four. It’s a fairly simple menu: Salade Normande and Poulet au Crème Fraiche. I can vouch for both these recipes being delicious, and if you add a baguette (my local favorite is from Weaver Street Market) you’ve got a really nice and fairly easy meal. The salad has become my daughter’s favorite. As Ms. Gold says in her headnote, the dressing is improbably good.

As with all recipes, don’t let these scare you so much that you don’t make them. Here are some thoughts on ways to make these two dishes even easier: The salad recipe calls for Boston lettuce, but I think any soft lettuce will do. If you’re in a rush, go ahead and buy a bag or two of baby greens. And I won’t tell if you use bottled lemon juice. However, I do think it is important to use the fresh herbs. As for making the dressing, instead of whisking I usually just put the stuff together in a washed out jar and shake it up. For the chicken I’ve had great luck substituting light sour cream for the crème fraiche (and a friend mentioned that she’d had good luck with plain low fat yogurt). Use whatever you can find. Any Dijon mustard is probably going to be tasty, so don’t stress about that word “strong.” Go ahead and use whatever pieces of cut up chicken you want to use. I’ve even used boneless, skinless thighs and had it be wonderful (the cooking time will be a bit less). I’ve also left it in the fridge overnight with no problem. Line your baking sheet with tin foil and it will be easier to clean up, or use a roasting pan.

Salade Normande

  • 2 large heads Boston lettuce
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Tear the lettuce in large pieces and put in a large bowl. Whisk together the cream and lemon juice. Toss the dressing with the greens and add salt and pepper. Add the chives and tarragon and toss again

Poulet au Creme Fraiche

  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup strong French Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Stir together the crème fraiche and mustard in a large bowl. Add the thyme, garlic pushed through a press, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and mix well. Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours or up to 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400. Transfer the chicken, with some of the marinade still clinging, to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme.

This piece contains excerpts from ‘Radically Simple’ which you can find here.

You can follow Kari on Twitter @NoshSpiceNC.

image by wickenden via flickr