The idea of Gwyneth Paltrow writing a cookbook of “quick easy recipes” sounds like a hacky late-night skit. This is a woman who, every day of her life, drinks a smoothie with ingredients that cost more than a person with a living wage makes in a full day, before getting her vagina steamed. Her entire #brand is living in a glorious, upper-crust bubble for people to drool over (or us to be endlessly amused by).
So, yes, I was skeptical of It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook (Hachette, $35). The title alone has three bold claims, coming from a woman who thinks she has it harder than working moms. But I am a “super-busy home cook” and, I’d like to think, a human being with a decently open mind. Also I could get a copy for free due to some byzantine rewards scheme or other, so basically I got a free book in exchange for my credit card company selling my private spending habits to the highest bidder.
The funny thing? Gwyneth delivers. Or, rather, her taste in website staff delivers, as the heavy lifting is done by Goop’s food editor, Thea Baumann. Paltrow handles the parts of a cookbook you flip past to get to the recipes and they are, to be charitable, “on brand.” Baumann, however, is the exact opposite, a no-bullsh*t food writer who was handed a reasonably tough job and sticks the landing. These recipes really are delicious and fast.
I decided to start with a basic recipe, “Lemon and Herb Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes.” Here’s what’s in it: Salt, olive oil, garlic, chili flake, a lemon, linguine, cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil, chives, pepper, Parmesan, in other words “all stuff you can find at a grocery store.” The instructions fit on one page, and it promised to be done in less than thirty minutes. I clocked it at just under 25 (I could be on Chopped!).
Among the several recipes I tested, they all stood out for being pretty quick, almost consistently under half an hour, and fairly easy. Some might be a bit exotic in the sense that you’ll have to hit the Asian spice aisle: For example, the Schezuan Green Beans really do benefit from toasted sesame oil and sambal olek, but you can sub another flavorful oil and a pepper sauce like sriracha with minimal effect.
Going through the book, pretty much every recipe is like this. If there’s an expensive or difficult-to-prep ingredient, the introduction will recommend a cheaper or easier alternative. This kind of practicality is, I’ve found, rare in even the “easy” cookbooks, which very often will assume you have, for some reason, a f*cking pasta extruder in your cabinet. There is the occasional recipe that calls for something like saffron threads, and to be fair a lot of the recipes might seem overly basic if you’ve been cooking for a while. But for the most part, you can knock any recipe in this book out with a pot, a pan, a chef’s knife, and a cutting board.
True, you’ll probably want to quickly flip past the opening essays and the Instagrammy photos [unless you happen to LOVE instagrammy photos –ed]. But surprisingly, the lady who recommended a gold sex toy with a straight face has written a cookbook the peasants can use. And better yet, enjoy.