The Jew And The Carrot

Taste Testing: Erin Gleeson's 'Forest Feast'

By Alix Wall

  • Print
  • Share Share

On a recent spring evening, as I put the final touches on a vegetarian feast of kale caesar with polenta croutons, asparagus and brie tart and beets mashed with sweet potatoes and apples, my dinner guests couldn’t stop ogling my newest cookbook (two of the three wanted to run to the store to buy a copy). The recipes for the entire meal came from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods.” The book is a collection of simple recipes illustrated with stunning photos and whimsical water colors.

The idea for the book grew out of Gleeson’s blog of the same name, which she started in 2011 to display her food photography skills. Gleeson had recently moved with her rabbi husband from New York, where she was shooting for such high profile publications as Gourmet and the New York Times, to a woodsy cabin in the Bay Area’s peninsula. Unfortunately, her New York photo style didn’t translate to Bay Area editors, the photos were too sleek and well-lit.

Gleeson had done watercolors as a child, and something about being back in natural surroundings with space and time to figure out what was next, led her back to her old hobby for the first time in many years. With a weekly farm share, she began creating recipes out of whatever was in season like a butternut caprese salad, or “accordion zucchini,” stuffed with slivers of garlic and baked. She created The Forest Feast as a way to show her work to California editors, using a watercolor illustration for the title, and then a photo of a diagram-like recipe with the raw materials laid out on a piece of natural wood or other surface, and then a stunning photograph of the finished dish on a vintage pattered dish, shot the natural light that fills her home.

The recipes are simple, with minimal ingredients (sometimes as few as three), and are well-suited for entertaining; Gleeson says one thing that brought her and her husband together is their mutual love of hosting, and numerous photos of their gatherings appear in the book. Given this, in addition to appetizers, mains and desserts, there is a cocktail section as well, making use of such things as frozen blueberries and ice cubes with fresh mint, basil and lemon slices frozen into them.

The book is vegetarian and there are a few Jewish recipes including challah, sweet potato latkes, and an apple and honey galette. (More Jewish content appears on her blog, with an especially charming menorah made out of citrus halves.)

The combination of Gleeson’s photography and watercolor recipes are indeed some of the most stunning work I’ve seen in a cookbook. However, the minimalistic directions require some prior kitchen knowledge. The book is geared towards those with less experience in the kitchen, but some may find that detailed directions are lacking at times in order to maintain the minimalist aesthetic for instance a two page spread in the book of eight salad dressings, dips and spreads, leaves out salt and pepper. One dinner companion said the book felt “less procedural and more impressionistic,” while another friend called it “inspirational,” in that even if you don’t follow her recipes exactly, you may see a gorgeous photo of beets, and realize you haven’t made them in awhile.

The success of the book’s recipes also relies on easy access to high quality in season produce — something that’s plentiful near Gleeson’s home but may be a challenge for some readers to find.

Still, the book is a feast for the eyes, part artwork, part culinary inspiration, it beckons readers to the kitchen — and the farm stand.

Kale Caesar with Polenta Croutons

Mashed Beets With Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Asparagus Tart with Brie

Recipes, art and photography from Erin Gleeson’s “The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from my Cabin in the Woods” used by permission.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.