I’ve been waiting at my doorstep for this cookbook – Home Cooked by Anya Fernald. The title itself should appeal to everyone who loves to cook at home – it’s simple, homey, and to the point.

Right from the start, I was captured. I love the introduction. Honestly, I wish it was longer. I find Anya Fernald’s life story fascinating and I wish I could have traveled along with her as she learned about cheese-making and how Europeans (and the like) made organic farm living so effortless and natural. I currently feel as if I barely have time to take out something to thaw for dinner and I’m always scouring recipes, looking for something different but not terribly complicated. From the sound of it, it’s a simple way of life for many and I’m envious.

I love the Building Blocks concept she describes in the book. I realize it’s not a new thing, but in today’s world, at least in the States, it seems so foreign with most people barely having time to eat a home cooked meal, let alone spend hours preparing and cooking for that meal. That’s why I love this chapter. It’s about spending a little time making a lot of base ingredients when the produce or products are abundant to then freeze/can/save to use at a later date when there isn’t necessarily as much time. Such things include broths, canned vegetables, and lots of sauces that can be used for a variety of meals. I have two refrigerator/freezers and one chest freezer…why am I not doing more of this!?

Welcome is full of little delights that are served as guests arrive or as they chat at your home before the big meal is served. Anya says snacks and starters should be special, but not work intensive. You should do more than throwing a bowl of nuts together, but not too much as to fill up your guests before the main event. Making fresh ricotta is something I’ve always wanted to do and since she makes it look so easy, I am definitely going to finally do it. You can see the Italian influence in these recipes: the fresh cheeses, offal dishes like lamb hearts and chicken hearts (not sure I or my family are that adventurous yet), sardines, and fresh breads like focaccia. With a few cocktail recipes thrown in, you can have a delicious and quickly prepared cocktail party ready at your fingertips.

Fernald gives her successful tips on throwing a party. While I’m a veteran party-thrower myself, I am still honing my skills and I am constantly working to reduce my menu sizes. My husband always says that if I’m cooking, we could feed the entire city AND an army. Like I said, I’m still working on it. I do like that she says no matter how elaborate her dinner parties become, she still remains unstressed. That is a lesson I could learn from over and over again. That and delegating.

 The way she eats is very representative of the way she lives her life and runs her business. She’s made a commitment to use the whole animal and says that she eats offal at least once a week for that reason (that and it’s rich in iron). Once she’s decided which meat she’ll be serving, she rounds out her menu with seasonal vegetables from the farmer’s market. Homemade pastas are something special. I’m pretty confidant that only professional chefs make it at home for themselves so when it shows up at a dinner party, you know it’s a meal you’ll remember for a long time. There are lots of recipes involving homemade pasta with different sauces or toppings such as ragu, cheese, olive oil, or butter.

I’m always looking for new ways to use well-known vegetables in different ways and there are plenty of recipes to help you mix it up. The Fish and Meat recipes will keep you and your guests full. There are enough recipes for an entire month’s worth of dinner parties so get to planning!

Ah, the sweet spot…dessert. You can truly wow and amaze your guests by ending with a dessert they’ve never had before. Trust me. You can get creme brûlée anywhere, but no one in my family will eat it anywhere but at my house. Yes, it’s that good. From ricotta cheesecake to a walnut tart or panforte, you’ll make something everyone will like.

While the recipes are quite rustic and definitely not anything like the fancy, chic plates you’ll find at the most expensive restaurants, those down-to-earth recipes are the ones people make at home anyway. While some of the ingredients may be part of an Italian or European culture, most dishes are made with ingredients you’d have in your home or that you can quickly run to the store to pick up. A few recipes may take some practice (pasta, cheese, sausage), but others should be simple to pick up (sauces, vegetable recipes, desserts).

I can see my family gathered around the table for hearty meals served family-style. Laughing, smiling, enjoying each other’s company over fresh, organic foods truly made with love.

Home Cooked at Penguin Random House

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.