One of the biggest challenges I knew I was going to face when I officially moved out was cooking for myself. As much as I love going out to eat (hello foodie guides!), it's not something I can afford to do for every meal. Over the past year, I either stuck to simple things I know (pasta, tacos, protein with rice), something I totally make up on the fly with whatever I have on hand, or I turned to the internet for inspiration.
But when Ayesha Curry came out with her own cookbook, The Seasoned Life, I found a new source of inspiration. One of the best things about the book is that a lot of the recipes are very approachable and not too complicated. This is right up my alley because those are the type of recipes I like to pin on my recipe-heavy Pinterest account.
To promote her new book, Ayesha has been doing a book tour and I had the pleasure to go one of the best ones! Rather than a simple signing, it was a conversation with Chef Michael Mina, who has been playing a significant role in her new career (like having International Smoke at his test kitchen). It was really inspiring to hear them talk about food, family, faith, career, and more.
Although the actual meet and greet is fairly quick, as most are, it was so nice meeting her again. She's down-to-earth, genuine, and you just get a great vibe from her when you're talking to her, even if it's not a long conversation. (Side note: I don't know why I look like I'm glowing orange here, but I'll blame it on the sun (this was during a heat wave) and the lighting that clearly didn't help the cause.)
Of course, I couldn't get a cookbook and just let it collect dust. The following weekend, I bookmarked a few dishes that seemed most approachable and gave them a whirl.
MAMA ALEXANDER'S BROWN SUGAR CHICKEN
The first one I tried was Mama Alexander's Brown Sugar Chicken. During the conversation with Mina, she mentioned this dish like 2-3 times, saying how it's her favorite dish, ever, how she loves it, and how it's the one recipe to try. Heck, Ayesha even put in the book, "If you only try one recipe in this book, let it be this one."
And? This dish was delicious! The sauce shown in this picture certainly wasn't enough. It was so good that I had to go back at least three times for more. The only change I'd make to this recipe is to cut down on the dark brown sugar just a little, as one packed cup is a bit too sweet for me*. Otherwise, this dish was perfect. Now, when you nail the first one you try and it tasted this good? It only makes you want to keep going.
*Note: Many of the recipes in the book are written for at least four servings. Unless I'm having guests over, I'll be cutting the servings in half, which will be reflected whenever I mention ingredient measurements.
POWER COFFEE + SMOKED SALMON SCRAMBLE
The next morning, I tried Ayesha's Power Coffee, which uses an unusual ingredient -- butter. She says, "it might sound crazy to put butter in coffee, but don't knock it before you try it." If you're anything like me, and like your coffee fairly sweet, I would definitely increase the natural cane sugar by at least half to one tablespoon more. I don't see myself making my coffee this way all the time -- perhaps every once in a while! Or if I don't happen to have my go-to half-and-half on hand, but do have butter.
To make it a complete breakfast from the book, I also made the Smoked Salmon Scramble. This one is very easy, as it's essentially scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, corn, and cherry tomatoes. Ayesha uses heavy cream in her scrambled eggs, but she noted in the back of the book that she's "not a fan of nondairy, ever." I typically make my scrambled eggs with a splash of milk (water works, too!) and don't always have heavy cream on hand, so that'll be my adjustment to this recipe when needed. I also followed her suggestion to "dab a bit" of crème fraîche on top -- I may or may not have put just "a bit" though... but nonetheless, it was a nice addition!
STEPHEN'S FIVE-INGREDIENT PASTA
According to Ayesha, Stephen's Five-Ingredient Pasta is her husband's go-to recipe whenever he's in charge of dinner. It is probably the lightest pasta I've ever made. And? Even without any cream, butter, or sauce of any kind, no flavor is lost -- it's tasty and refreshing. Steph uses egg noodles in this dish, which is something new to me. When you say egg noodles, I immediately think of the type that's used in Chinese cuisine, but that is definitely not it! I ended up finding limited stock of store brand versions at both Target and Safeway after having no luck at Trader Joe's. Given that it's not a very popular type of pasta used at home, I feel like these noodles may be on limited stock often the next few months, especially in the Bay Area.
The Seasoned Life, which is now a New York Times Bestseller(!), is 200+ pages long, with tons of recipes, lovely photos of the dishes (all created and plated by Ayesha for the most part), beautiful photos of the family, and even two Q&A's with her daughter, Riley, and Steph. Ayesha shares a personal story and/or tips for nearly every recipe, which really makes you want to make the dish even more.
I'm four recipes deep so far, with a lot more to go. I'm excited to share how they all turn out with you!