Cookbook Review: Alison Roman's Nothing Fancy
Hey Friends, a quick note before we get into the review. I remain a massive fan of Nothing Fancy and Alison Roman's unfussy approach to food, but the past few days have been tough. Her comments about two talented and hardworking women of color were disappointing. Alison has since issued public apologies that I believe to be genuine, but all of this is messy and reminded me that words matter. This article is a summary of what happened and where things stand. In the meantime let's all try to be nice to one another, celebrate success even if it's not our own and practice gratitude.
Nothing Fancy is the cookbook I always knew I wanted and am so happy to have found. A few months ago I was at dinner at a friend’s house. The hosts had recently moved in together and as we sat in their living room, Katie introduced me to Alison Roman’s latest cookbook.
Flipping through the pages of stylized and saturated images, I was struck by how familiar the books contents felt. The recipes featured my favorite ingredients – sumac, turmeric, fennel seeds – and the how to’s were written for me: A home cooks with just enough time to plan dinner parties and rarely enough time to grocery shop.
A few weeks later, a smaller group of friends gathered for a cookbook club potluck. We were back at Katie’s house, cooking together and sharing stories of Alison's recipes. The general take away was that the recipes were approachable and fun. As we sat down at a very full table it was clear everything paired well and we had way too much food!
That night’s menu:
- Sumac and Sesame Slightly Sticky Walnuts
- Creamy Sesame Turmeric Dip
- Roasted Citrus and Avocado Salad
- Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple and Sour Cream
- Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon
- Sardines Pan Fried with Fried and Salted Lemons
- Lemony Turmeric Tea Cake
The recipes in bold are in Nothing Fancy and the rest can be found online thanks to Alison’s work with NYT Cooking and Bon Appetit.
Since that dinner, I catch myself reaching for Nothing Fancy weekly. The Spicy Pork Meatballs in Brothy Tomatoes with Toasted Fennel is one of my favorite weeknight meals and the Citrus Chicken on Herbs is a go to for dinner parties. As I type, there are Tomato-y Beans with Preserved Lemon and Breadcrumbs in the kitchen and I’m eyeing the Sweet and Salty Cream Cheese Tart recipe. Do I happen to have a pound of cream cheese in the fridge? Yes. Should it turn into a tart that only my husband and I will eat over the next few days? Also, yes.
The brilliance of Alison’s recipes are their lack of fuss and the bold blend of flavor and color. The book's Pantry Essentials and Ingredients sections are filled with basics (a loaf of bread, nuts, seltzer) and staples we may have only ever seen in the backs of our grandparent’s cabinets (tinned fish) that she manages to make new through unexpected pairings. Turns out, hibiscus petals add rich hues and a subtle bitterness to roasted peaches and the combination of cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes on roasted squash makes for a sweet and savory dish packed with aromatics. Cooking from Nothing Fancy is engaging and expansive while being home cook friendly.
Katie, looped me in on Nothing Fancy and now sharing recipes from the book is 80% of our text chain. So, take it from me: If you’re looking to add a book to your kitchen collection or searching for the perfect housewarming gift, look no further. Nothing Fancy is the cookbook you always knew you needed and will be so happy to have found.