Sim­ply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Com­fort Food

  • Review
By – April 14, 2021

Read­ing and cook­ing out of Sim­ply Julia, Julia Turshen’s newest cook­book, feels some­thing like receiv­ing a warm hug. The book, which Tur­shen describes as her most per­son­al to date, wel­comes us into the writer’s home kitchen with one-hun­dred-and-ten nour­ish­ing, no fuss recipes.

While the book does not pre­scribe to a spe­cif­ic dietary need, the recipes includ­ed run the gamut. There is an entire chap­ter on chick­en, eighty-sev­en veg­e­tar­i­an, forty-two veg­an, and a whop­ping one-hun­dred-and-six gluten-free recipes. Sim­ply Julia is a wel­come reprieve from the dozens of diet-spe­cif­ic cook­books cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket, devel­oped, instead, based on a con­cern for both com­fort and health. Tur­shen is care­ful to define what she means by health, and, thank­ful­ly, her def­i­n­i­tion avoids plac­ing moral judge­ments onto ingre­di­ents or force-feed­ing the vir­tu­os­i­ty of greens and beans. Rather, she writes: I describe every sin­gle recipe in this book as healthy and encour­age a per­son­al def­i­n­i­tion of the word. After all, what does healthy’ even mean? […] I believe it has a wide, gen­er­ous def­i­n­i­tion that’s all about free­dom. To me, it’s as much about what I’m eat­ing as it is how I feel when I’m eat­ing.” For Tur­shen, healthy food is as much about nutri­ent dense ingre­di­ents as it is about how the food makes you feel, who you eat it with, and the mem­o­ries spe­cif­ic dish­es spur.

Turshen’s recipes are thought­ful and intu­itive. She invites mod­i­fi­ca­tion and is refresh­ing­ly aware of cost pro­hib­i­tive ingre­di­ents. While some recipes act as loos­er guides (like the recipe for stewed chick­peas with pep­pers and zuc­chi­ni, which offers mul­ti­ple routes for serv­ing and sug­gests addi­tions with a con­fi­dence boost­ing gus­to), near­ly every recipe includes ingre­di­ent alter­na­tives and tool sub­sti­tu­tions. While many cook­book writ­ers are fierce in their require­ment of fan­cy ingre­di­ents like fin­ish­ing salts, Tur­shen pro­vides reg­u­lar kosher salt as a suit­able alter­na­tive in her recipe for kate and mush­room pot pie. Although a small mat­ter, as a cost con­scious grad­u­ate stu­dent myself, Turshen’s care for her read­er is evi­dent through­out: she includes weight and cup mea­sure­ments on all recipes, as well as both Cel­sius and Fahren­heit temperatures.

One of the final sec­tions of the book — Sev­en Lists — includes addi­tion­al recipes, such as sug­ges­tions for what to do with left­over egg yolks, whites, and but­ter­milk. There are also quite a few Ashke­nazi Jew­ish recipes in the book, includ­ing gefilte bites and matzah meal pan­cakes, per­fect for Passover.

Over­all, Sim­ply Julia is a cel­e­bra­tion of that which nur­tures and is sure to be a cook­book you return to again and again.

Han­nah Kres­sel is a cur­rent fel­low at the Pardes Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. She holds a Mas­ters in Art His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and a Bach­e­lors in Art His­to­ry and Stu­dio Art from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Her research exam­ines the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, food, and reli­gion. She is an avid bak­er and cook.

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