Review: “The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh,” plus two recipes

Mocha muffins with chocolate chips and pecans

When I buy a new cookbook, I usually sit down on the couch with it, sometimes with a cup of coffee and a snack, and I read it. Yes, I read it like a novel, then it goes back on my bookshelf where I’ll use it to reference recipes in the future. However, my latest acquisition created a bit of a challenge: “The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh” is HUGE.

With 1,100 recipes, there was no way I could sit and read it cover to cover. But I was curious about its claims of “quick dishes for everynight cooking” and  “you can create a delicious, fresh meal that takes minimal effort to prepare,” so I decided to test a few and see if the claims held true.

The first recipe I chose was a present to my sweet tooth: mocha muffins with chocolate chips and pecans (p. 538). I tried really hard to stay true to the recipe and only changed one ingredient out of necessity (subbed butter for vegetable oil), plus added a pecan garnish simply because I had some toasted ones leftover. The muffins were tasty although not quite as decadent as the heading implied. But the best part was that they were easy to make – it took just ten minutes to make the batter! I cooked them in two batches, each for 25 minutes. The muffins themselves turned out a little dry, which can probably be attributed to my last-minute substitution, but the chopped pecans and chocolate chips added some much-welcome texture variation.

Creamy bean soup with fresh herbs and spinach

In choosing the second recipe, I was aiming for something warm and healthy: creamy bean soup with fresh herbs and spinach. This was a real winner as it was fast (for a soup at least), used a combination of canned and fresh ingredients, and was very simple to follow. The texture was thick and creamy but without the addition of any dairy products (I didn’t use the cheese to garnish) and I loved how fragrant it became after adding the minced fresh rosemary and sage. The final step in preparing the soup was to stir in fresh baby spinach which would wilt/cook simply from the heat of the soup. Because I was planning on saving most of the soup for another day, I added a handful of leaves to a cup of room temperature soup and then microwaved it to heat both together.

Based upon the two recipes I tried and my full-page list of ones to make in the near future, I’d definitely recommend this cookbook for anyone who enjoys fresh, home-cooked meals. Plus, the 1,100 recipes make it a good buy – you won’t need to add a new cookbook to your collection for a long time (although somehow I doubt that’ll stop me).

Mocha Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans from “The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh” (p. 538) – Makes 12

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups AP flour

1 cup (packed) brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

“Preheat oven to 375F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Stir buttermilk and espresso powder in medium bowl until espresso powder dissolves. Whisk in oil, eggs and vanilla. Whisk flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Add buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped pecans.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake until tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack and cool.”

Creamy Bean Soup with Fresh Herbs and Spinach from “The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh” (p. 77) – Makes 8 first-course servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups chopped onions

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

6 ounces fresh baby spinach

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Grated Parmesan cheese

“Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic; saute 15 minutes. Add rosemary; stir 1 minute. Add broth and all beans. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in blender until smooth; return to pot. Mix in the spinach and sage; stir until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into the bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with more oil, if desired.”

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