Item: The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods by Erin Gleeson
Overall Impression: Vibrant recipes for any day of the week
Erin Gleeson's recipes in The Forest Feast are so beautifully presented that you might mistake them for being complicated. That is, until you realize that most of them require only a handful of ingredients (in some cases just three or four) and minimal preparation. All vegetarian, these recipes are fresh, vibrant, and equally fitting for a weeknight supper or a cocktail party with friends.
I have long admired the vibrant, nature-filled aesthetic of Erin's The Forest Feast blog (as well as her recipes here at The Kitchn). Like the blog, the cookbook is filled with colorful watercolors and photographs taken at her woodland cabin. Yet I had never actually cooked any of her recipes, so I was curious to give them a try. The book has 100 mostly new recipes encompassing appetizers, cocktails, salads, vegetable dishes, and sweets. Much of it would be considered seasonal and CSA box-inspired, and above all color-driven.
Recipes I Made
- The Skylonda Cocktail - p. 76
- Bay Potatoes - p. 134
- Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino Collards - p. 146
- Peanut Butter-Coconut Balls - p. 204
I chose these recipes based on what I had available and what met my gluten-free, dairy-free, and other food allergy needs. Vegans might want to note that many of the recipes in the book call for yogurt or cheese.
How It Went
Each recipe gets a two-page spread — one page featuring the recipe and the other page showing the finished dish. Everything is in full, gorgeous color. Rather than a traditional recipe format with the list of ingredients followed by the steps, the style here is a mashup, with the ingredients listed as they are used. Ordinarily this would not be my preferred format. Yet because these recipes require so few ingredients and steps, it is easy to taken all the ingredients needed for a recipe at a glance.
One thing I did find initially puzzling was that very few of the recipes indicate the number of servings. However, this is taken care of in the front of the book and in some of the chapter introductions — Gleeson writes that most recipes serve four.
The Skylonda Cocktail was actually one of the more involved recipes in that it called for soaking cinnamon sticks in bourbon for three days. (I actually took them out after two days, as the cinnamon flavor was strong enough for me.) Still, it was an easy-peasy cocktail that one could make without any mixology skills or special equipment.
Next I made the Bay Potatoes, a clever dish of roasted sliced sweet potatoes, red onions, and red potatoes. Besides slicing the potatoes, it was mostly hands-off and tasted good both just out of the oven and cold the next day. My testers found the bay flavor a bit overwhelming, but I'd definitely use this general idea again.
The Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino Collards were even easier to make and were a good example of how the dishes in this cookbook really fall into that sweet spot of being easy and healthy for a weeknight dinner yet pretty enough to serve while entertaining. One note, however: in the case of this collards dish the recipe most definitely would not have served four people, but more likely two. (Perhaps my collards were smaller than the ones used to test the recipe?)
Most of the sweets recipes were off-limits to me due to my dietary restrictions but I did make the no-bake Peanut Butter-Coconut Balls. They made an easy dessert as well as hiking snack.
Gleeson writes that many of the dishes are equally good warm or at room temperature and can be made ahead. This, coupled with the fact that the recipes are so pretty, makes them great for stress-free entertaining. The book also proves that healthy food can be enticing and simple food can be beautiful. It's beautiful, functional, and inspiring — a great book to have in the kitchen as well as on the coffee table.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Emily Han)