the cookbook I can’t put down: Genius Recipes


This post goes out to all my fellow cooks: those of us who read through entire cookbooks for fun, who can’t resist a new recipe from Smitten Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated, who consider cooking dinner to be the best chore in the house (or no chore at all.)

A few months ago, I checked out a new cookbook from the library: Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.  It’s a collection from the archives of’s Genius Recipes column, which itself is a collection of recipes from all over (from restaurants, cookbooks, and online sources) that present a twist on a classic recipe, or a new way to look at a humdrum ingredient.  

If you’re a Smitten fan, you may already have heard from Deb about Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion: those are literally the only three ingredients in the sauce.  Tomato, butter, and onion.  As Genius Recipes curator Kristen Miglore puts it, the sauce makes the grade as a “genius recipe” because “the full, true tomato flavor is a revelation, as is finding out you don’t need to cook in layers of garlic and herbs to get there.”  Deb Perelman’s own Mushroom Bourguignon is also featured in the book, with this succinct description of its genius: “This version of boeuf bourguignon will do everything a bourguignon needs to do and will do it in time for dinner tonight.  There is no beef in it.  You won’t care.”

The first or second day that I had this cookbook, I happened to have “lentil curry” written down on our meal plan.  We already have a tried-and-true lentil curry recipe that we love, but when I saw “Spiced Braised Lentils & Tomatoes with Toasted Coconut” I had to change my plan.  It was splendid.  Only a day or two later I had to try my hand at April Bloomfield’s “English Porridge,” which directs you to cook rolled oats and steel cut oats together – my new favorite version of oatmeal.  The green beans I picked up at the Farmer’s Market found their truest calling as Penelope Casas’ “Garlic Green Beans.”  I’ve made each of these recipes at least twice now, and plan to keep them in regular rotation!

I also enjoyed trying “Yogurt with Toasted Quinoa, Dates & Almonds” for lunch one day and using up some leftover strawberries inside a “Brown Butter Tart Crust.”  (I was slightly disappointed in the latter, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t brown the butter enough.)  And since I’ve been wanting to diversify our diet a bit and have meat now and then, I even tackled “Simplest Roast Chicken,” which I was mostly pleased with – I probably would be more pleased if I knew how to carve a simple roast chicken.

That’s six recipes that I have already executed from a single cookbook, and there are about ten more in there that I’d like to try.  I’ve put it on my Christmas list so I can stop checking it out from the library.

One note, since this is a parenting blog … these are not “easy meals to feed your kids” kind of recipes.  Not all of them are necessarily kid-UN-friendly; there’s nothing kid-offensive about tomato sauce or roast chicken, and my kids won’t turn up their noses at chocolate chip cookies even if they are 100% whole wheat.  But the cookbook is pretty heavy on “grownup recipes” like the aforementioned lentils, which are seriously amazing, but sadly require a side of cheese & crackers so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.  If you have non-picky kids, or if you are more stubborn than they are, or if you don’t mind occasionally making two meals, definitely give this cookbook a try; but if you’re currently drowning in the challenges of Meal Planning With Children, maybe come back to it in a few years.

If you give this cookbook a try, let me know.  I’d love to hear how you like it!


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