Bonnie Stern is a mainstay of the Canadian culinary landscape. She ran a cooking school in Toronto from 1973 to 2011, worked on a weekly newspaper column for thirty years, helmed her own television shows, and has written twelve bestselling cookbooks. Don’t Worry, Just Cook: Delicious, Timeless Recipes for Comfort & Connection is Stern’s latest culinary contribution, and the first written alongside her daughter, Anna Rupert, with whom she has been cooking for years.
The cookbook is organized in a clear, non-intimidating way. After a foreword by the London-based chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi, the first chapter features the ingredients, spice blends, and tools that should take the stress out of preparing Stern’s recipes. It continues with appetizers and spreads, including a delicious-looking pumpkin chirshi. Stern then moves on to soups, salads, all-day breakfast, and baked goods before ending with drinks. Particularly delightful is the Aperol spritz with fresh herbs, as inspired by Tel Aviv’s Café Levinsky.
Stern has led ten culinary tours to Israel, and her Jewish heritage seems to inform much of the book. She cooks for occasions such as Shabbat dinner, Hanukkah, and Passover; and she prepares both Jewish American classics like rugelach and challah and lesser-known Middle Eastern favorites like harira and Yemeni chicken soup. Keeping with this mixture of comfort and adventure, Stern also provides two recipes for latkes: the more traditional variety that her mother Ruthie used to make, and, for those who’d like to try something new, sweet potato latkes.
The idea of saying “it’s okay, don’t worry” in the face of any cooking mishap is perhaps a wise lesson for life. As Rupert highlights in her closing notes, if you’re cooking for others and something doesn’t work out, “Don’t apologize. You just cooked dinner for everyone!” Besides, it’s quite possible that no one will notice anyway.