Simple Meals for The Novice or Experienced Cook

By Anna Dantoni –

easygourmetThis time of year if you can prepare something fast and it’s a delicious crowd pleaser, you want the recipe. Here’s a whole book full. The book is Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le, a food blogger with considerable talent. Her paperback book is not really an instruction for cooking gourmet dishes. That’s just marketing hype. But, the dishes she offers are quite appealing, varied and her instructions are easy to follow.

Novice cooks could work their way through the tempting array of breakfast dishes, meat and seafood entrees, soups, stews salads and desserts with success on every page. Ingredients are common and accessible and nothing takes too long in the oven or on top the stove. There are plenty of color photos so you know exactly what the finished dish should look like. And there’s a bit of a global reach to her recipes, stretching especially to Asia and Mediterranean countries. Easy Gourmet is a useful housewarming gift for someone moving into their first home. One could easily master half a dozen recipes in this book in short order and then host a fine dinner party. Here are a few recipes from the book to get you started.


Garlic Thyme Chop

pchop(Serves 2)

2 cups apple cider

1 cup hot water

1 tablespoon salt

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons mustard powder

bone-in pork chop (1 ¼ pound)

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 sprigs fresh thyme

In a container with a cover, stir together the apple cider, hot water, salt, sugar and mustard powder until the salt and sugar dissolve. Chill in the fridge. When cold, place pork chop in brine, making sure it is submerged. Brine overnight in the fridge. Preheat over to 400-degrees. Rinse off the chop and pat dry. In a cast-iron skillet or stainless steel heavy-bottomed pan, heat the over over medium-high heat. Sear chop until dark golden brow, about 4 minutes per side. Place skillet in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, flipping at the five minute mark. Place the skillet on the stove top and turn the heat to medium-low. Add the butter, garlic and thyme and baste for 2 minutes,  then flip and baste for another 2 minutes. Check to make sure the internal temperature is 145. Rest the chop for 15 minutes, slice and enjoy.


Dijon Oven-Roasted Mushrooms 

rmushrooms(Serves 2)

1 pound whole mushrooms

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup shopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Crusty toasted bread


Preheat over to 450-degrees. Clean, trim and half the mushroom. Toss the mushrooms, garlic and shallots in the oil and place in an ovenproof dish. Top with the butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and deeply browned, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, parsley and Dijon. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy immediately with crusty bread.


Spicy Salmon Dill Chowder

salmonchow(Serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon oil

1 carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

6 cups chicken stock

2 ½ cups cauliflower florets

12 ounces salmon filet but into ½-inch chunks

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

¼ cup fresh dill, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 jalapeño, diced

1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

Salt and pepper to taste


In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrot and celery and cook about 8 minutes. Add the stock and cauliflower and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 10 minutes and then add the salmon, green onions, dill, Dijon and jalapeño. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the potato flakes, season with salt and pepper and serve warm.


(Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le. Paperback. Page Street Publishing. $21.99)


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