Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Saturday October 03, 2015

Carole's Cookbook Picks:
My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness


Gwyneth Paltrow is a woman of elegance and taste, who puts value on involving family with the preparation of meals, understanding its importance from spending time in the kitchen with her father. Following his death in 2002, Gwyneth wrote My Father’s Daughter as a thanks for everything his cooking lessons gave her -- the feeling of connectivity that results from meeting with loved ones around the table.

Paltrow and I share the same food philosophy -- that offering up homemade meals is one of the most direct ways of communicating your love. She admits that the kitchen is where she feels the closest, the deepest connection to her father, and where she recalls the food memories touching beyond a simple taste or smell. They bring to light what a deep understanding of ingredients offers, how it conditions us so that we step away from each meal more present and more aware than before we sat down.

The photos are a treasure trove of archival shots framing the time Gwyneth and her family dedicated to the kitchen. The book progresses from the slightly-faded pictures of her and her father to the brighter images of Gwyneth and her own children in the present, showing that though generational shifts are inevitable, how we express compassion for one another doesn’t have to change.

My Father’s Daughter starts off with simple staple recipes -- everything from stocks to vanilla bean sugar -- homemade essentials which if you keep a steady supply of at all times, you’ll never run short of flavors to heighten your dishes. She moves from here to salads, looking back upon her upbringing in Southern California and the region’s beautiful produce. This sets the precedent for vegetable-dominated meals, plates of varying colors, all vibrant in their wide array of hues. She puts her love of vegetables to work in her Marinated Gigante Bean Salad with Grilled Shrimp. Mixing the delicate watercress with enormous white butter beans and shrimp marinated in olive oil and seasoned with a pinch of both salt and pepper, this becomes a heartier, more substantial dish that would satisfy any eater as a midday meal.

Like a true Californian, Gwyneth can’t avoid dedicating an entire section to burgers. She prefaces this with an explanation of her father’s own insatiable hunger for grilled meat sandwiched between two halves of a golden bun. Gwyneth takes inspiration from the East Coast in updating her father’s favorite hot dogs with her Grilled Tuna Rolls. She makes a vinaigrette that combines the hit of flavors from miso paste, agave, and rice wine vinegar and tops the salad with sliced shallots and cilantro leaves to serve. The recipe is a tribute to the unknown fillers inside her dad’s old favorite -- nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake alone.

Paltrow reflects happily upon the ease, accessibility, and ultimate deliciousness that any pasta dish brings. With a craving for a big bowl of noodles and something crispy to go on top, she developed her Fried Zucchini Spaghetti. The recipe is straightforward and fast, involving simply cooking the pasta until al dente and then tossing with zucchini made crisp in a hot bath of olive oil. Parmesan cheese dominates the sauce, adding creaminess to the bowl and comfort to your stomach.

I love that the final recipe is Gwyneth’s Favorite Homemade Hot Fudge. Dark chocolate, heavy cream, and rice syrup, it is the ideal accompaniment to anyone’s favorite sweet. Whether you want it with fruit, your dad prefers it drizzled over ice cream, or your kids use it as a dip for a not-yet-sweet-enough cookie, follow your instinct. It is always your choice.