By the Book: Cooking With Gwyneth and Loving It

By: Kirsten Vala

When one of my favorite actresses started to chum around on TV with my favorite Food Network and Cooking Channel chef, Mario Batali, the world seemed to tilt uncomfortably on its axis, and I wasn't sure how I liked it. But this didn't stop me from signing up for the newsletters from Gwyneth's lifestyle web site, GOOP. And it certainly hasn't stopped me from pouncing on her new cookbook, My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness

Gwyneth begins the introduction to her book "Okay, I wrote a cookbook." — then goes on to explain the title as a chronicle of her personal food journey: She learned to love food from her father who passed away in 2002, she spent some time as a vegan and vegetarian, and has, as a mother, dedicated her efforts to feeding her own family responsibly

Gwyneth's recipes and family pictures are deeply personal and charming — an intimate look into her life through the lens of food — and tell her story far better than a memoir ever could have. Her recipes are a mixture of well-loved family favorites, kid-friendly fare and dishes meant to share with friends. Most are somewhat healthy and all are  refreshingly simple

I was drawn to the Burgers & Sandwiches section. In a headnote for her  Grilled Tuna Rolls, Gwyneth writes "I basically love anything that comes in a hot dog bun. . . except hot dogs (sorry, Dad)." And sure enough, Gwyneth's miso-coated grilled fish served with Shallot & Cilantro Vinaigrette is one of the most delightful things tucked into a hot dog bun I've ever eaten (and I love hot dogs). It's sweet, tangy and fresh, and the Asian flavors meld  perfectly. She advises to "serve with lots of napkins" — I'll use bigger buns next time I grill these up, which I hope is very soon.

The pastas are simple, tasty and do-able, and the Macaroni and Cheese (4 Ways) is an Italian take on an American comfort food classic, using creamy mascarpone cheese and Parmesan as the base (no roux). It bakes up with a nice crunchy top and rich, cheesy flavor. Gwyneth offers a few variations for extra gooey goodness. 

Not surprisingly, her mains are mostly chicken and fish, with a duck and a surprise brisket thrown in as homage to her heritage. Gwyneth's grilled fish tacos are a lime-heavy, fresh and flavorful treat, topped with pico de gallo, salted cabbage, guacamole and lime crema. I remember Mario Batali mentioning in an interview that he had a standing fish taco night at his house, and with this recipe I'm tempted to borrow the tradition. Her tangy-sweet Best Stir-Fried Chicken served with Fried Brown Rice with Kale and Scallions is a healthy meal worth buying the book for alone, even if I had my doubts adding a half-cup of brown sugar into the wok. 

For dessert, try slimmed sweets like Gwyneth's better-for-you Spelt-Flour Brownies to indulgent faves like Granddad's full-fat Peanut Butter Cookies. Blueberry Pavlovas caught my eye — a light meringue dessert topped with whipped cream and berries. This recipe makes eight individual mini-Pavlovas — an elegant option that allows them to keep their beautiful shape even after they're served.

I was completely charmed by this cookbook, bragging about it to friends and family. Gwyneth tells compelling, personal stories, and I'm truly inspired by how she cooks and eats — her responsible-eating ideals, her style and her food sense. 

Start cooking from My Father's Daughter with these recipes: 

More cookbooks to try: 
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