Stay-at-home that I am, I rarely get to be ahead of the zeitgeist. But about a month ago my DH picked up a copy of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cook book as we were on our way out of the library. Something about it appealed to Chris. Jamie's mission is to get people to cook real food instead of eating processed prepared food. He also has this sweet idea of people "passing on" the recipes they like, which appeals to me because it's a way of building community. I looked through it and decided that because the recipes are well presented and easy, (with a photo for each one--love that) it would be a valuable resource for Mettlin when she goes off to school. I remember so clearly that I had a copy of the Silver Palate when I went to college, and I was so pleased to be able to cook for friends when we spent weekends at the coast.
Thinking that I should try a few recipes before buying the book for her, I turned to the section on "Family Roast Dinners". I can't even count up all the roasted chickens I've served over the years, but the number must be high. I've even got (and have made) the recipe for Zuni's Roast Chicken, which is widely acknowledged to be the best restaurant roast chicken in the state of California and maybe the world. There, in this book, was yet another recipe for roast chicken. Jamie's take is quite different though--you roast the chicken on a bed of vegetables, you put a whole lemon in the cavity, and he assumes you'll make gravy from the veggies after the chicken is cooked. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, the chicken was unbelievably tasty. And so easy!
He also has a whole section on chopped salads, which for me seemed ridiculous at first glance--how could anyone possibly need a recipe for a chopped salad. Then I remembered his mission and my idea that this would be a helpful book for someone just learning to cook, and I thought I'd try one. He has a page of general rules for making a delicious chopped salad and then several actual recipes. I made the Mediterranean chopped salad and even the teenagers ate it with gusto. My DH & parents loved it too, and I now often take the extra few moments to chop the salads--although I devour unchopped salad with glee, it turns out that chopping it makes all those veggies more palatable for those who are not vegetable freaks.
A few weeks after that, I started seeing ads on the TV for his show and set the Tivo to record it. Jamie's show features a town in Virginia (or is it West Virginia?) and his efforts to give the people in it the skills they need to feed themselves real food instead of processed convenient crap. The channel didn't change for the first episode, but the second one was recorded, and it was eye-opening. One scene showed Jamie visiting a kindergarten class and the children being unable to identify tomatoes and potatoes, let alone eggplant. It's so easy for me to forget how privileged we are here on the west coast of California, with fresh local produce available abundantly year-round and the produce section placed near the entrance of every grocery store. During a radio show interview the host told Jamie that the town didn't want to sit around eating lettuce all day. Jamie's response was to say "I'm not gonna cook you a lettuce", but actually, for my family, that's just what he did! He makes the act of preparing food simple and satisfying enough for very beginning cooks and veterans alike. And yup, I bought the book.
p.s. I can't recommend the Empire kosher chickens available at Trader Joe's highly enough. They are expensive, but my family eats every single morsel when I use them, usually the day I cook them, but if there are leftovers they get gobbled up too. So no food waste.
p.p.s. You can find both these recipes at
And now I've passed them on to you!