The art of cooking is the most ephemeral of them all. Created on the spot and intended for immediate consumption, it’s appreciated in the moment and then it’s just … gone.
Except when it’s captured forever in a cookbook.
With recipes artfully laid out in clean, simple fonts and mouthwatering food photography on nearly every glossy page, cookbooks can fit as easily on a coffee table as in a bookcase.
Chef Jeanie Roland’s new “Butter Love & Cream” is such a cookbook.
In it, Chef Jeanie cheerleads even the most timid of home cooks, encouraging them to abandon their fears, improvise, substitute and make recipes their own, just like she does.
Chef/co-owner of sister restaurants Ella’s Food & Drink in Westerly, Rhode Island, and The Perfect Caper in Punta Gorda, Roland is seven-time James Beard Foundation nominee for Best Chef: South and nine-time Florida Trend Magazine Golden Spoon Award winner. She’s risen to Food Network challenges on “Beat Bobby Flay,” where she did just that, and “Iron Chef Gauntlet,” Season 2.
Her newest challenge is more personal.
Self-published through her cousin Anne’s Kachergis Book Design, “Butter Love & Cream” pays homage to Roland’s belief “that love is an essential part of cooking, because if you haven’t cooked with love you can taste it.”
It also pays homage to a great deal of butter. One would expect no less of a youngster who horrified her parents with her consumption of butter-sugar cookie dough and whole pats of butter smeared with peanut butter.
Not only does her cholesterol remain astonishingly low, she embraces the human need for fresh, unprocessed, humanely raised fat.
“Like, last night for dinner I had a salad and a huge batch of duck-fat popcorn with butter and truffle oil on it,” she said. “It’s all about balance and moderation.”
Don’t look for a category for this cookbook, though. The chef still doesn’t like to pigeonhole her cuisine as keto, French, southern, coastal or anything. She didn’t even write down her recipes until the cookbook project taught her to.
“I’ve always tried to make stuff up based on whatever feeling I’m getting from the food. If I think something pairs well, I’ll take an item in a direction and keep things fresh and different for myself every day.
“Now, as I create something, if I’m not writing down what I do, my chefs at two restaurants, north and south, can’t duplicate it. So, in the course of writing this book, I made sure to write things down and not just do a pinch of this and a smidge of that.”
Those in search of favorite dishes from Ella’s and The Caper will find them — from Momma’s Chicken and the Flay-busting Curry Mussels, to Coconut Cake and Chief Joe’s Spice Ice Cream.
There are crowd pleasers that anyone can handle — Clams Verde, Cheesy Gouda Bread, Classic Onion Soup — but there are also dishes of restaurant-size proportions, which Chef Jeanie assures us can be easily adapted.
She advised, “Never feel boxed in by a recipe. I think people sometimes get afraid of things they don’t know, but you can always improvise. If something like shallots isn’t in your kitchen or budget, substitute onions and move on. Same thing with truffle oil; it can be skipped. No panko? Crumble a few crackers.”
You might think the difficulty level of Yolk Ravioli with Double Truffle Sauce would be beyond anyone less than a professional chef. But Chef Jeanie is having none of your timidity.
“It’s really not that hard!” she exclaimed. “How much fun would it be to have guests come over and put that together?”
There are enough vegetarian and vegan dishes, including The Perfect Caper’s wild mushroom Vegetarian Terrine, to seduce the fiercest carnivores.
There are no-nonsense tips for selecting and searing fish, for roasting, grilling and handling proteins. (“Careful, people,” said Chef Jeanie.)
Here, too, you’ll finally learn how to make the Perfect Scrambled Eggs (with lots of butter, of course).
And for this chef who’s often her own harshest critic, this is more than just a book.
“I’m genuinely happy with who I am, with the product I put out at two restaurants, with this book, with what I do professionally and personally,” she said. “It takes a long time to reach this kind of comfort level with yourself. I’m really excited going forward because I think this new confidence is going to bring out great things and a lot of creativity.”
All are invited to Copperfish Books, 103 W. Marion Ave., on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m. for the launch of “Butter Love & Cream.” After her talk, Chef Jeanie will sign copies. To RSVP, call 941-205-2560 or email email@example.com.
And at 11 a.m. Jan. 19-20, The Perfect Caper launches weekend champagne brunches at 121 E. Marion Ave. That weekend and the next (Jan. 26-27), you can buy or bring in a copy of Chef Jeanie’s book for signing, photo opps and personal tips from the chef herself.