When I was contacted by Waldorf Publishing to review a cookbook written by an upcoming celebrity chef called Domestic Chic: A Fashionably Fabulous Guide to Cooking & Entertaining by the Seasons I was apprehensive at first, unsure if it was a good fit for this blog. I had to think about it, but after further research on the author and the cookbook I was really excited to get the book and dig in. So who is Kristin Sollenne? As much as we watch Food Network, I am shocked I hadn’t heard her name sooner. Then again, Netflix and Parenthood has taken over our lives of late. She is a rising culinary star, Food Network Judge, and one of Zagat’s 30 under 30 to watch. According to the About section of her website, “Chef Kristin Sollenne has been making headlines for her contemporary food philosophy, lightened-up Italian fare, and approachable cooking tips, with regular appearances on WCBS’s Morning News and WLNY’s “Live from the Couch,” as well as a feature on NBC’s “Today” show, Fox5 Good Day New York, Fox Business and guest judge on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and Kitchen Casino. In 2014, she was featured on season ten of Food Network Star as a mentor to finalist Lucca Della Casa.” She has cooked for Taylor Swift, Seth Rogan, Ed Sheeran and the entire SNL cast. She oversees the three kitchens of the New York City Restaurant Group’s (NYCRG) Bocca Di Bacco, her food philosophy is farm-to-table with a focus on clean ingredients and keeping it simple, and the 28-year-old chef says. “I think simple dishes speak a lot louder than over complicated ones. Simplicity actually enhances the flavors.”Her cookbook is designed around the flavors of each season focusing on produce at it’s peak. There are chapters for Winter through Fall and within each seasonal section are menus to help you entertain for each and every occasion throughout the year. What a fabulous idea for a cookbook!!The intro page to each chapter has a short story to help us get to know Kristin a little better from a personal perspective and then a seasonal produce guide to help you know what ingredients would be best to cook with that time of year. First of all, I love any cookbook that includes personal anecdotes to help you not only find value in the recipes provides but to connect with the chef and author behind them. We find so much emotion and nostalgia behind food that having that personal connection is important when cooking a meal. It brings the recipe to life and you can really imagine the author enjoying that same food over a shared meal with family and friends or as a child growing up. Second, I absolutely adore that she has created a seasonal produce guide for us!! I am constantly googling produce in season this month or that month because I know just how different a tomato can taste when it’s at it’s peak versus not or a cherry or apple or zucchini or whatever it may be – you are guaranteed that the true flavor of the ingredient will be enhanced when it’s in season. This is why it is so important to cook by the seasons, shop local farmers markets, and then freeze whatever is left so you can savor those flavors throughout the remainder of the year. I will be using these guides as a bible for fresh cooking!This cookbook is an entertainer and party planners dream! Kristin has outlined menus for every occasion and holiday you might throw a party for during the year from New Year’s Eve and Father’s Day to Football Parties during the Fall and everything in between. Her menus are unique and thoughtful with a focus on simple, fresh ingredients. She ties in the seasonal produce by using them in inventive ways like pumpkin gnocchi or carrot, squash, and ginger soup or cucumber bisque. The other great thing for party planners is that most of her recipes are for a crowd so that when you are preparing a meal for a large group you have plenty for everyone – no need to think about doubling or tripling a recipe. While this is great for hosting events, it’s not so great when you are just two people cooking up a simple dinner. While we were testing out some of the recipes, we found that we had to carefully cut the recipes down to better accommodate just the two of us. I say that to be a warning that her recipes can make a TON, so be careful if you aren’t cooking for a crowd since they don’t specifically say how many servings they make. That’s probably my first complaint – no where does she list a serving size or number of servings on her recipes – so you only realize that they make a lot by looking at the volume of ingredients.We had to test out some of the recipes to give an accurate review of the cookbook, right? Of course. I wish we could have blazed through all of them, but alas we managed to try out four different items. First up, we tried her Salmon Filet with Sauteed Spinach recipe from the Fresh Start menu in the Splendid Spring chapter. She calls for a lemon pepper blended crust, then for the salmon to be grilled and served over a bed of lightly sauteed fresh spinach – a perfect dinner to serve to guests or to have as a healthy weeknight treat when it’s just the family. The first thing I noted was that she calls for salt and pepper in the seasoning blend even though lemon pepper is a blend of spices that usually includes both of those. Had we read more carefully before seasoning up the salmon, I would have left out the extra salt for sure because while the flavor was good, the salmon did end up a bit too salty for our taste. It wasn’t inedible or anything, but a little too much for anyone like us who regularly maintains a lower sodium diet. The recipe calls for 4 large 6-8 ounce salmon fillets and we had one large 20 ounce filet, so we should have cut down the seasoning blend a bit and didn’t think to, which may have added to the salty flavor. In spite of that, the seasoning on the salmon was really delicious. My favorite part was how it gave the top of the salmon a crunchy crust. And the spinach was perfectly wilted with a hint of garlic flavor and olive oil.Then we tried the Asparagus Oreganata, which is fresh asparagus baked with a Parmesan bread crumb coating with garlic, parsley and olive oil. Again, great idea and flavor, but the execution needed a bit of editing just from my experience. She calls for two cups of bread crumbs per pound of fresh asparagus. We actually had two 12 ounce packages of asparagus so 1.5 pounds, but had a TON of topping for that amount of asparagus and we did not increase the recipe at all. I also thought it was different that she calls for mixing the olive oil in with the bread crumbs rather than drizzling the olive oil on first and then sprinkling with the bread crumb mixture, but it did work. I learned a new method for coating veggies in bread crumbs that I never would have thought of before. On top of that, I tried something completely new to me. I had never before prepared asparagus this way – baked with bread crumbs. I love learning new recipes and methods. I cannot wait to try some of her other twists on Italian classics. From Kristin’s Summer BBQ – Galore menu, we had to make the BBQ Chicken with Peter’s famous BBQ sauce. Anything with the word famous in it is promising. The famous sauce has pretty typical ketchup and vinegar based ingredients in it – garlic, chili powder, white and brown sugar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, olive oil, and onion. Again, this recipe made a TON of sauce, but that’s great because BBQ sauce is something that can be stored in the fridge and will keep for a while. And it was a really good traditional sauce – slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and a little smoky. She doesn’t say to season the chicken with anything – even salt and pepper. Just grill and baste. And yes the sauce has a ton of great flavor, but my personal preference is always to add a simple seasoning of salt and pepper on grilled chicken – I think it goes a long way. Finally, we of course wanted to try the Chicken Satay with Peanut Coconut Sauce. With our recent trip to Thailand and love for Asian cuisine, we were really excited to have an easy chicken satay recipe in our back pocket. The peanut coconut sauce called for peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. You save part of the sauce for dipping and use the rest as a marinade. This sauce was delicious – it had an amazing peanut and coconut thing going on – a great Asian inspired taste to it. I honestly wanted to drink that sauce. Yum!
So again, wonderful flavors going! Personally, I would have seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper. She says to broil the chicken with the rack set four inches from the broiler on medium-high heat – this is not always possible in the average home cook’s oven like ours. So we set ours on high and put the pan as close to the broiler as possible. The above image is how it turned out when it was done – so it didn’t really crisp up like you’d expect. The second time around we lightly sprayed the chicken with olive oil spray before broiling and that really helped. Much, much better – the chicken browned up nicely!
I love her idea of broiling the chicken for a quick way to cook up satay – it’s a great method for it – you just might have to hone the method for your specific oven at home. 🙂The final thing I would add is that as a very visual person, I was incredibly surprised by the quality / variety of the images in this cookbook, especially for a cookbook. They say you eat with your eyes first and that is so true for me. I want to see stunning images of the food I’m going to cook; in fact, a really vivid picture will entice me to make a recipe I might not have considered. Domestic Chic was filled with a mix of stunning visual displays of the recipes really portraying the food that had me nearly licking the page, but also included photos of lesser quality that might cause someone to skip over what could be a great recipe. I was surprised by the inconsistency.
But to sum it up, Domestic Chic is an AWESOME concept for a cookbook. I absolutely love her idea of eating and entertaining by the seasons with pre-planned menus ready to help you tackle the most challenging of events without a second thought. Overall, the recipes have classic flavors with simple, fresh ingredients and are easy to prepare! Kristin has done a fabulous job at pulling together menus that will get you through a year of partying with recipes that you will keep coming back to over again. However, I think the cookbook and recipes needed a bit more tweaking to really just make it sing. While it might not be a good fit for a novice in the kitchen, a seasoned cook would be able to utilize the recipes with great success not getting tripped up over small details like always seasoning your meat with salt and pepper or how to scale recipes for the number you are preparing the meal for. A beginner who relies on following a recipe to a T might be frustrated when things are too bland or they end up making a dinner that could feed an army without realizing it. I personally would have loved it if the recipes provided the size and number of servings and the nutritional information since Kristin is also a nutritionist just for additional ease of use.
Domestic Chic: A Fashionably Fabulous Guide to Cooking & Entertaining by the Seasons is being released this Friday, September 4th, 2015. With 16 pre-planned menus and over 100 recipes along with her personal stories and decor tips, you definitely want to get your hands on your own copy! Order it here from Amazon or you can order it direct from Kristin Sollenne’s website here.
This is a “sponsored post.” We received a copy of the cookbook in order to write-up this review. As always, all opinions are our own and we are honest in our reviews. If we don’t like it, we will tell you. Regardless, this blog only recommends products or services we use personally and believe will be good for our readers.