21 May 2022

Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry (Weekend Cooking)

cover of Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food by Colu HenryToday’s cookbook made me excited for summer and the prospect of having friends and family over for dining on the deck. Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food, by Colu Henry (which I received from Abrams Books) isn’t just for entertaining, though. I found most dishes will work just fine for the two of us on a weeknight.

The style and feel of Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food is simple elegance. In fact, Henry notes in her introduction that she was inspired by the classic years of Gourmet Magazine. I’m not surprised, since she’s no stranger to food writing. You can find her work in the likes of the New York Times and Food & Wine.

As the title suggests, many of the finished dishes in this cookbook are indeed fancy sounding and plate up beautifully. Still, at the same time, the recipes themselves are true to author's promise: almost all of them are fairly easy to throw together.

It’s interesting that Henry admits she’s no baker, so for the sweets chapter, she called on her friends to “bring a dessert” to the party. I love that she’s confident enough to know her weaknesses as well as her strengths.

overhead shot of cake topped with an orange sliceSome of the recipe and chapter names reflect Henry’s personality: Pretending I’m Vacationing in Italy Salad (cucumbers, mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh herbs, olive oil); Seven Fish, No Feast (the fish chapter); and More Shrimp Than You Think Pasta (shrimp, fennel, chile peppers, herbs, mezzi rigatoni). Others, of course, are straight to the point: Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Charred Scallion-Sesame Salsa, Steak Sandwiches on Buttered Toast with Aioli and Spicy Greens, and Broiled Mussels with Panko and Pecorino.

I’ve made several recipes from Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food, and all were successful and simple to make. For example, we make beans quite often, but found her Pot of Beans, with its fresh herbs and garlic, a welcome change from our usual Tex-Mex versions. We also liked her Sausage, Pepper, and Onions with Melty Caprese, which is a kind of sheet pan dish. Alexandra Stafford’s Orange, Olive Oil, and Almond Torte, which had the perfect balance of tart and sweet, was delicious for afternoon tea and for dessert (see my photo).

The winning dish was the Gingery Lamb Meatballs with Tomato Confit Broth and Seeded Yogurt (though I didn’t make the yogurt; see the scan). I’ll make these meatballs again and again. I used the called-for ground lamb, but I’m sure they’d be just as good with beef or chicken. The Cherry Tomato Confit (see recipe below) was so easy to make, and, according to Henry, it can be popped into the freezer. I plan to make a big batch this summer when the cherry tomatoes are abundant at the farmer’s markets.

overhead shot of meatballs in a tomato brothSome of the recipes I hope to try are the Roasted Squash Soup, Indian-Spiced Yogurt Chicken, Citrus-Braised Short Ribs, Summer Corn Salad with Shrimp, Blistered Green Beans and Tomatoes with Harissa Butter, and Rice Salad for a Screened-In Porch Dinner.

Recommendation: Colu Henry’s Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food is recommended for cooks looking to spark up their dinner table with not too much effort. This cookbook is also great for those of us who like to use recipes as inspiration, tweaking main ingredients or herbs and spices to use what we already have on hand. While the book includes a number of meat-free recipes, I suggest vegetarians and vegans look before buying. Gluten-free eaters will find many recipes to suit their needs.

The following recipe for tomato confit can be frozen for up to 6 months. The author suggests using it as a base for pasta sauce, to enhance soups and stews, to add to beans, to spoon over cheese on toasted bread, and to turn into a broth by adding stock. Note that I cut the recipe in half and used both thyme and rosemary.

Cherry Tomato Confit
Makes about 6 cups (900 ml)
Time: 50 minutes

  • 3 pounds (1.4 kg) heirloom cherry tomatoes, in a variety of shapes and colors
  • 1 cup (240 ml) virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • kosher salt
  • 8 sprigs thyme or rosemary, or a combination of both
Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the tomatoes in two 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking dishes in one layer. Add the oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic and season well with salt. Stir to make sure the tomatoes are well coated in the oil. Nestle in the herbs.

Roast, stirring a couple of times, until the tomatoes begin to burst and the skins begin to look pleasantly wrinkled, 40 to 50 minutes.

Allow to come to room temperature, remove the herb sprigs, and then store in an airtight container, pouring any residual liquid over the top. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Note: The recipe and scan are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photo is my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


gluten Free A_Z Blog 5/21/22, 9:11 AM  

I love the idea of "not too much effort"- although I do like to cook, I'm finding I want it as easy as possible lately. This sounds like a good cookbook. Thanks for the review.

Mae Travels 5/21/22, 9:48 AM  

Lamb meatballs are really tempting, though I haven't seen much ground lamb in the stores lately. Recently, I've found that the new cookbooks I like best are for exotic cuisines with spices and ingredients that are new to me. I don't think this one would get me inspired.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jackie McGuinness 5/21/22, 10:34 AM  

Lamb meatballs sounds good. So does her pretend Italy salad.
I found two of her books at the library, put myself on the wait list.

Jackie McGuinness 5/21/22, 7:05 PM  

I fixed the link!

Claudia 5/21/22, 8:46 PM  

This does sound right up my cooking wavelength! I'd make those lamb meatballs in a flash. Looking forward to getting the book (library first).

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 5/22/22, 9:48 AM  

Easy Fancy Food, is a great way to grab the attention of a busy cook! I will have to take a look at our library, currently with our move on the horizon, purchasing more cookbooks is not an option...

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