In the name of full transparency, I need to be honest with you guys for a minute. When I was starting this blog, one of my hopes and goals for it was to eventually receive “review copies” of cookbooks (aka FREE) to talk about on here. Cookbooks are one of my favorite things in the whole world (have you seen my collection?), so the idea of someone sending me a copy of a cookbook I wanted in the first place to have me read it, cook from it, and eventually talk about it on here is a dream come true.
I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but I went out on a limb back in the spring (yes, wedding planning + a wedding + a honeymoon has pushed this post back more than I would have liked), and contacted Erin of The Forest Feast to see if I could get my hands on a copy of her book. I received a response the same day and within 3 days I had her lovely book in my hands. I’m so glad I reached out to her. With Erin’s fun and easy, color-inspired recipes, as well as her watercolor illustrations, could there BE a more perfect cookbook for my first official cookbook review? I think not. This makes me giddy.
This book of hers has quickly become one of my favorites. It appeals to me on a visual level, first and foremost. (And honestly, visuals happen to be a dealbreaker for me when it comes to cookbooks. If it’s not aesthetically pleasing to my eye, I probably don’t want any part of it. Consider it a fault of my creative, artistic brain.) As a hard-core book design nerd, I practically squealed when I saw her endpapers (the very inside covers) which are dotted with her whimsical watercolor illustrations. Not utilizing a traditional cookbook layout, all of her recipes are shown as full or double-page spreads that incorporate photography, interesting typography, and hand-drawn sketches and watercolors (just like her blog). This is not too difficult for her to do because most of the recipes incorporate no more than 4-5 ingredients with very simple instructions.
All vegetarian, the dishes in this gem of a cookbook are mostly inspired by her CSA (which, as a California resident, she receives year-round with avocados in it every week #jealous), and they are fresh, flavorful, seasonal, and require minimal effort. This is another reason why I instantly fell in love with the book. While reading through her recipes, I found myself responding to them with thoughts like, “Oh, yeah! Of course! Why would you do this any other way?” While remaining exciting and interesting, her recipes also seem so straightforward and almost like common sense – as in, “Why would I NOT put these ingredients together like this?” It’s pure genius.
One of our closest “couple friends,” (recently engaged!) Dave and Kelley, are kindred spirits when it comes to making food at home in a way that is low-key and relaxing. They are blessed with a little backyard that is perfect for having BBQs when the weather permits, and they live about three blocks from us. Luckily for us, Dave is what I would refer to as a “grill maestro.” He likes nothing better than to spend an entire day tending to meat in his smoker, while Kelley usually puts together the makings of an interesting cocktail and a few sides. We show up later in the day, often hauling some kind of dessert, a salad or appetizer of some sort, and some booze to add into the mix. Then we spend the rest of the evening enjoying the weather, Dave’s amazing ribs, some nice drinks and whatever other tasty food we threw together. It’s the best kind of party. They’re always relaxing, usually only planned the day before, and it’s one of my favorite times to try out recipes I’ve been dying to make so that I can share them with friends.
This book is perfect for those occasions. It is actually designed with dinner parties in mind, because Erin and her husband enjoy throwing casual dinner parties on their amazing back deck that overlooks a bunch of redwoods. (I should probably just move in, right?) Most of the dishes can be served at room temperature, and a lot of them work well as “finger foods.” One of my favorite things that I made so far was her asparagus tart. Our dog, Gilmour, happens to love asparagus (is this normal?). He’s not typically a begging dog, except for when he’s at my parents’ house (aka the grandparents’) with his BFF Jefferson, my brother’s beagle – a dog who happens to be a champion beggar. But I took this asparagus tart to a [somewhat] recent BBQ at Dave and Kelley’s, and Gilmour tried to charm every person into giving him some of it. He did all but take it out of their hands. It was that good.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is adapted from Erin’s recipe in the book for rosemary shortbread. Have you ever experienced anything like that? It was my first time having rosemary in a buttery, sweet, dessert dish, and I didn’t know what to expect. But oh boy – Robert and I couldn’t get enough of it! It was so interesting and refreshing. The scary part is that it’s too easy to make and too easy to eat. I had eaten almost a quarter of the pan before I realized that also meant I had just consumed about a quarter of a stick of butter. Oops. Oh well. But you should try it – I’ll include notes below for how to make Erin’s rosemary version.
I loved the fresh herb flavor in the shortbread, so I wanted to play around with that. I decided to go for basil, and since I’m obsessed with anything strawberry-basil flavored, I added some strawberry jam to the top of it. (By the way, have you seen Cookie and Kate’s recipe for Strawberry Basil Pizza? It’s one of our favorites.) I’d like to think that Erin would approve of this adaptation and that it fits in with the mission of her book.
I can’t wait to continue to use this book in the years to come; I’m sure it will become a real staple on the bookshelf, and eventually be splattered with lots of tasty things (ew?). In addition to the rosemary shortbread and asparagus tart, I also made the peanut butter coconut balls (so easy!), and a friend made an adaptation of the persimmon salad (for the previously mentioned BBQ). Some recipes that are high on my list of things I still want to make? The guacamole deviled eggs, lemon basil mojito, and butternut caprese. Trust me – you want this book.
PS – If you want to know more about Erin and her cookbook, you can listen to a great interview with her right here.
- ⅓ cup (65 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (125 g) all purpose flour
- handful of fresh basil (about 15 medium-sized leaves)
- 1 stick (4 oz.) salted butter, cold and cut into chunks
- ½ cup strawberry preserves
- To make the rosemary version, swap out the basil for 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, and leave out the preserves
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease a pie or tart pan and set aside.
- Using a food processor, pulse together the sugar, flour and basil until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly.
- Press the mixture into your prepared pan, giving it a bit of a crust up the side if you can. Spread the preserves on top, leaving space around the edges. (If you are making the rosemary version from the book, just press the mixture flat into the pan and leave out the preserves.)
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges turn slightly brown.
- This is delicious warm, but it will slice better if you let it cool first.