Let me introduce you to my newest friend.
Her name is Jessica, and in the few months since I’ve gotten to know her, she’s already bailed me out–in the kitchen, at least–more than once.
She’s down-to-earth–especially for someone who lives in New York–has a great sense of humor and owns scads of gorgeous sweaters. Like me, Jessica also has two sons and one daughter, although hers skew slightly younger than my crew. And we both worked our tails off as waitresses during our high school and college years.
I met Jessica because….well, she’s married to comedian Jerry Seinfeld (handy to have connections!) and she’s a whiz when it comes to food. She’s written a few cookbooks, the most recent being her 2017 gem, “Food Swings: 125+ Recipes to Enjoy Your Life of Virtue & Vice.”
For the more concrete among you, let me clarify that I don’t really KNOW Jessica; I happened to snag her cookbook at the library one day and, having read it cover to mouth-watering cover, can now recite from memory certain anecdotes about her life and readily share her philosophy about food.
Despite having acquired at least three dozen cookbooks over the past 30 years (including “Cooking A to Z,” “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook,” “The NEW Good Housekeeping Cookbook,” Betty Crocker’s “SmartCook” and, ah yes, “The Joy of Snacks”), my pattern of use is discovering one or two recipes in each volume to revisit while the remainder of the pages sits untouched.
Enter Jessica. Whether it’s because she’s a busy mom, a retired waitress or a sensible soul, her ingredient lists are largely free of unusual or highly exotic items (something one might otherwise expect from a worldly Manhattanite married to an international celebrity).
Jessica tends to keep her recipes simple, or clearly explains the “how-to’s” needed to get from start to finish. Plus, she both explicitly and implicitly grants the reader permission to take whatever liberties (whether with ingredients or cooking methods) they must to whip something together and put a satisfying meal on the table before one’s family gives up and runs out the door to Arby’s.
In addition, Jessica won my heart by not taking herself too seriously and employing liberal doses of self-deprecating humor throughout. For instance, preceding her recipe for a do-able, delectable Chicken Parmesan is this funny phrase: “I’ll be making this for the rest of my life if I want to stay married.”
Within the space of only a few weeks, I’d concocted more recipes from “Food Swings” than I’d ever attempted from any other single cookbook in my personal library–and each met with resounding family approval.
Here’s the short list: “Rigatoni Alla Vodka,” “Sweet and Sticky Short Ribs,” “Jalapeño Corn Bread,” “One-Pot Mocha Brownies,” “Carrot Cake,” “Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting,” “Chocolate Fudge Cake,” “Green Enchiladas,” “Pepper Jack and Zucchini Quesadillas,” “Creamy Mushroom Pasta,” “Pineapple Chicken Stir-fry” and “Grand Marnier Oven-Baked French Toast.”
So what if more of those came from the “vice” section than the “virtue” pages? And yes, maybe the call for a few tablespoons (to a quarter cup!) of various types of alcohol or liqueurs adds to the flavor profile.
Either way, it didn’t take long to determine that Jessica had me from the word “food.” A friend who makes cooking so easy and entertaining, and allows one to achieve a previously unrealized level of popularity and appreciation within her own family, is always valued.
Stop by to try out one of my latest favorites from Jessica–but please, pick up a pint of heavy whipping cream on your way. We’re gonna need it.