Erin Gleeson’s new cookbook, The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods, is a gorgeous hard-cover spread containing colorful, earthy, and — as promised — simple dishes. In her introduction, Gleeson explains that she hopes the book will find its way somewhere between “your coffee table and your kitchen counter.” A food photographer by trade, her beautiful visuals of recipes inspired by farm fresh produce and set against the backdrop of her California cabin in the woods are pleasing to flip through. The photographs are splashed with watercolors and illustrations. These are images that will also compel you to try the recipes. Take, for example, “Accordion Zucchini” — a dish that calls for cutting up the vegetable and slotting garlic through thin slices. For “French Radishes,” you halve the root vegetables and top them with butter. Many of Gleeson’s recipes work well for those who love the look and taste of fresh produce but sometimes need to be lured by a slab of cheese, a coat of butter, or an olive oil, salt, and garlic finish.
The dishes are all vegetarian, but some, like “Roasted Veggie Gnocchi” or “Eggplant ‘Tacos,’” could stand alone as a satisfying entrée. The photographer-turned-chef writes of having been inspired by her love of entertaining others and hosting dinner parties, a delight shared with her husband. As such, the recipes are meant to please the eye and the palate (not to mention the wallet), sometimes in unexpected ways. “Strawberry Salsa” is a striking red concoction involving, among other ingredients, cilantro, lime, and strawberries; “Purple Mashed Potatoes” speaks for itself.
My favorite section of the book contained Gleeson’s sampling of cocktails. In her “Blueberry Sparkler,” she uses frozen blueberries instead of ice and garnishes with a lemon slice. Her “Lemon Basil Mojitos,” which include lemon slice, basil, and mint ice cubes, are mild enough to complement a savory meal, but flavorful enough to stand on their own. For a “Chai Hot Toddy,” you’re meant to push whole cloves into an orange slice to garnish the drink. It’s Gleeson’s eye — and taste — for detail that makes this cookbook one to return to, for easy inspiration.
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