Simply Fresh : Casual Dining At Home by Jeff Morgan is a cookbook of recipes based on the philosophy and menu of the popular Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain. Food prepared with a minimum of fuss that tastes good. Instead of relying on obscure techniques and hard to get ingredients, the dishes are tasty and hearty fare which rely on good ingredients that are balanced to showcase the fresh flavors.
I live in Alaska, we don't have a Ruby Tuesday up here. But I do have a passion for simply prepared fresh food.
This cookbook is gorgeous. Hardcover with fantastic full-color photos of a lot of the recipes in the book. Mouthwatering images and clear cut instructions. In some recipes, there will be tips so if you're a beginning cook, it can help you learn basic techniques like pan-frying a steak without turning it into leather.
What I like best about this cookbook is the recipes walk the line between gourmet and comfort food very well. Most of the recipes are based in American comfort food traditions and are familiar enough to serve even to my fussy eating Dad. At the same time, they are high quality enough to serve to friends who prefer a more gourmet culinary experience. It's casual food, but it's made with care and good ingredients.
The book starts with drinks, and has an introduction to beer and wine pairings. Then a recipe for making simple syrup and drink recipes. An Arnold Palmer non-alcoholic fruit and tea based drink makes a nice summer cooler. There are also classic alcoholic drinks like a chilled margarita and sangria punch. The Cajun Mary recipe was one I showed to my husband, who said he'd drink it either with vodka as a cocktail, or without vodka as a cold summer soup!
There is some overlap in the chapters, like appetizers has a salad made with chicken that could also go into either the meat chapter or the salad chapter, so if you get this, look through the whole thing and mark favorites.
Appetizers and Side Dishes is full of wonderful vegetable side dishes. There are also variations on traditional appetizers, like fried shrimp made with panko crumbs and dipped in a chipolte aioli. Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon almost tempts me to try brussels sprouts again.
The brunch recipes are appropriate for all sorts of appetites as well. Crepes with sweet and savory fillings, apple and cheese omelettes, and other recipes are perfect for weekend mornings with the family.
Salads and Soups starts with a fantastic mustard vinaigrette recipe. If you haven't tried making your own yet, this is a great start into the world of homemade dressings. A few of the recipes in this chapter have dressing recipes that can work for all sorts of salads as well as the ones suggested. The salmon and spinach salad is one that I know will be a favorite in my house in the summer, and white bean chicken chili is a good winter dish.
Pasta- THIS is the chapter that excites me the most. It starts with Lobster Carbonara with English Peas. That's a recipe that will be too fancy to be a regular part of my family menu, but as a special treat? It's wonderful.
Seafood is another natural in my household, and since we live in Alaska, getting fresh ingredients is easy for some of these dishes like Baked Halibut with Chili-Lime Butter and Asian Glazed Salmon.
Beef, Pork and Poultry has basics like perfect burgers, and the ribeye steak with brown garlic butter (delicious by the way, I made it last night for dinner), it also has more exotic entries like chicken curry with coconut rice and peppercorn steaks with brandy cream sauce and sauteed mushrooms. Great entrees for all sorts of tastes.
Desserts, the final chapter, echoes the theme of the whole cookbook. Comfort food like an apple pie or peach crisp, or more exotic versions of classic favorites like ginger creme brulee.
The final segment of the book is basics, which goes over things like how to make mayonnaise. whip cream and a recipe for barbecue sauce.
The index is very complete, so you can find chicken recipes under "Chicken" that are scattered through the book.
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