Recently, the majority of Italy heaved a sigh of relief because COVID restrictions were loosened, though not eliminated. For the first time in months we are free to travel from region to region (equivalent of state to state) with some restrictions, we can eat lunch at dinner at restaurants only outdoors, we can leave our own city limits. In short, we will be spending less time in the kitchen creating labors of love and more outside. That’s where this month’s book, It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day by Katie Lee Biegel comes in. This is Katie’s fourth cookbook, or fifth book including her novel, Groundswell.
It’s Not Complicated delivers exactly what the title says. The book is divided into six chapters: Cocktails and Nibbles, Salads and Soups, Entrées, Sides, Desserts, Breakfasts and Brunches. The recipes are easy to make, yet appear much more involved, so the book would be perfect for someone new in the kitchen who would like learn to cook a variety of easy meals, or for someone who is looking for an easy entertaining book with some familiar recipes like a Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad or Roasted Chicken with Croutons, and more impressive-looking (though still easy-to-make) Prime Rib with Beef Gravy, Skillet Broiled Shrimp, and Grilled Red Curry Lamb Chops. Don’t worry– There are multiple salads and vegetable driven sides to complement the meat dishes, or to stand alone as part of a vegetarian spread. For this week’s recipe we’ve chosen Katie’s Eggplant “Meat”ball Sandwiches and hope you try them and love them!
Now for the Q & A with Katie
What’s your favorite recipe in the book and why?
It’s so hard to choose a favorite, but the Roast Chicken with Croutons is at the top of my list. It’s just such a comforting dish, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason my husband, Ryan, fell in love with me. I made it for him on a really cold day when we first started dating. We built a fire and drank a good bottle of red wine.
What was the most difficult dish to get right for the book and why?
Honestly, there’s not a single dish in the book that is difficult to get right! I like good, simple food that is really elegant and delicious, but doesn’t take much effort. Take the prime rib for example. It looks like a masterpiece, but it could not be easier!
For someone who’s never eaten your food, what recipe would you tell them to cook first and why?
Do yourself a favor and try the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. It is to-die-for, decadent, and delicious (if I do say so myself). It does take a little patience though because you need to let the croissants soak up the batter for an hour before baking.
A recipe from your book that can be ready to serve within 30 mins
Creamy Spinach Artichoke Pasta. Think spinach artichoke dip with pasta and melted cheese on top. I made up this recipe just as quarantine started and it was all ingredients we had in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. I’m a sucker for anything with ooey gooey cheese.
What is your favorite flavor combo?
Chocolate and peanut butter
Three ingredients that are always in your kitchen?
Pasta, Garlic, Lemons
The one dish you can never say no to?
Spaghetti with Zucchini. This is a dish that is traditional in the town of Nerano, Italy and we got married there at a restaurant called Lo Scoglio. I have a recipe in the book for it that is close, but not quite as good as theirs!
The one dish you will always say no to?
I’ve never been a fan of foie gras or any organ meats.
What’s your recipe development process and how did you choose which recipes made it into the book?
I’m old school and I use a three-ring binder when I’m writing a cookbook. I divide it into sections and then begin filling them with recipes. I need to have something I can touch and leaf through versus doing it all digitally.
And then a ‘lightning round’
Pizza, Pasta, or neither?
This is like asking me to choose a favorite child. If I have to pick one though, it’s pizza.
Cookies with or without nuts?
Beer, Wine, Cocktail or…?
If you could travel one place in the world to eat, where would you go?
Italy. I could go there on every trip for the rest of my life and be very happy.
If you are interested in similar books to Katie’s that provide a marvelous range of accessible, flavorful recipes check out Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson. And the bound first edition of What Katie Ate’s Chopping Bored: The Irish Food Producer’s Issue is available in digital format but only 20 copies remain of the print format. A percentage of proceeds go to help the homeless in Ireland during COVID. As with all of Katie Quinn’s photography, styling and recipes, the magazine will leave you breathless and craving the great food you eat. Just remember– support your local small producers!