When The Forest Feast (Anthropologie, $35), a new cookbook from Erin Gleeson, landed on our desk, we thought we'd died and went to a very Pinterest-worthy heaven!
The innovative cookbook is laid out in double-page spreads: one page is an artful collage of ingredients and hand-lettered directions; the other is a mouth-watering photo of the finished product.
"When I look at a recipe, I want to be able to scan the ingredients, see the picture of the finished dish, and have a basic idea of how I could make it,” Gleeson says. “My goal with this book is to present accessible recipes in that way: visually, beautifully, simply."
Gleeson first created The Forest Feast as a blog, when she and her husband uprooted their New York City lives and headed westward. Mossy woods replaced concrete streets and Gleeson, a food photographer by trade and watercolor enthusiast by choice, was inspired by the change in scenery.
“When I started showing my work to San Francisco magazine and cookbook editors, it became increasingly clear that the West Coast sensibility was far removed from my minimalist/slick/well-lit work, shot in high-end big-city restaurants,” Gleeson writes in the book's foreword. “My prospective Bay Area clients wanted less beet foam and more kale chips … so I started cooking and shooting, and I started a blog, calling it 'The Forest Feast' mainly so I’d have a link I could send out to editors. ‘They want earthy, I can GIVE them earthy!’ I thought.”
As her blog grew in popularity, Gleeson was able to create her dream cookbook. A self-taught cook who is a devotee to fresh produce—whatever is in her CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery is usually what’s for dinner—she created an archive of healthy vegetarian recipes that are just as gorgeous as they are easy to make.
The Forest Feast is beyond beautiful. It is transformative. Paging through the book is like being whisked away. Suddenly, you're in Erin's West Coast cabin, buried deep amongst the towering redwoods, footsteps muted by moss. As the golden light drifts through the early evening, Erin produces a spread of drool-worthy goodies that are bursting with color and simple flavors.
As a sneak peek into her book, Gleeson curated the perfect Memorial Day weekend meal for us! From cocktails to dessert, get ready to throw the most beautiful dinner party you’ve ever had.
1. Appetizer: Asparagus Pastry Straws
Author of The Forest Feast Erin Gleeson has an uncomplicated philosophy when it comes to veggies. "Colorful produce is the main inspiration for my dishes and I prefer to keep things simple to really highlight the natural flavor," Gleeson writes in her cookbook. "It's amazing what just a little olive oil and salt can bring out in a vegetable!"
2. Appetizer: Asparagus Pastry Straws
1 bunch asparagus (about 30 stalks)
1 sheet of puff pastry (2 sheets come in a 17-oz. or 480-g box)
Cut puff pastry into ¼-inch strips
Wrap 1 pastry strip around each asparagus stalk
Arrange on a greased baking sheet
Then?sprinkle with Parmesan, salt & pepper
Bake at 375° F for 15 minutes or until golden
3. Cocktail: Cucumber Spritzer
"We always serve beer and wine at our parties, but it's fun to have one 'special' drink to share," says Gleeson. For Memorial Day, she loves toasting the oncoming summer with this crisp and refreshing cucumber spritzer.
4. Cocktail: Cucumber Spritzer
Use a peeler to make a long cucumber "ribbon" to line a wine glass
Add ice to the glass, then add equal parts white wine and seltzer
Garnish with fresh mint
5. Entree: Spicy Feta Lettuce Wraps
"We hosted (parties) constantly, which is where many of these recipes were born," said Gleeson of her and her husband's hopping social life. "And since I didn't often have much time to prepare, the recipes were ideally quick, easy, affordable, and pretty."
A perfect example of her low-maintenance, high-flavor dishes are these yummy spicy feta lettuce wraps.
6. Entree: Spicy Feta Lettuce Wraps
Peel leaves off 1 head of butter lettuce (about 8 leaves)
Fill each leaf with: 1 tablespoon feta, 3 cucumber spears, 2 avocado slices
Dressing: 3 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, pinch of salt (enough for 8 wraps)
7. Dessert: Chocolate Ricotta Mousse Cups
"No matter how big the meal, I am one of those people who always has room for dessert," says Gleeson. Us too! Especially if dessert means we get to indulge in one of these creamy, dreamy mousse cups.
8. Dessert: Chocolate Ricotta Mousse Cups
Melt 4 oz. (115 g) dark or milk chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water (about 1 bar)
½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 cups (500g) ricotta
Blend everything in a food processor for 30 sec, then spoon into four 3-inch cups & chill 1 hour
Before serving, top with whipped cream & chocolate shavings (Erin uses a peeler to make shavings)