Start Simple, a cookbook review

I know we’re only into February but “Start Simple” by Lukas Volger might end up being my favorite cookbook of 2020.  I know, those are some bold words! But this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve come across a book and I couldn’t find a recipe that I didn’t want to make.

In this book, Volger presents recipes that are realistic for everyday cooking.  Some recipes are for four servings, but there are also a lot of recipes for one serving or two servings to reflect those readers who are not cooking for a family of four.  These recipes are generally great for weeknight cooking. The ingredient list is often 10 ingredients or less, and nothing very exotic.

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

  • Winter squash
  • Tofu
  • Hearty greens
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Tortillas
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower or broccoli
  • Summer squash
  • Dessert (not a primary ingredient but who doesn’t like a little dessert?)


Here is a sampling of recipes:

  • Steel-cut oats with squash and tahini
  • Peanut butter and greens sandwich
  • Spicy beans and greens over polenta
  • Grilled eggplant, scallion, and white bean dip
  • Black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette, avocado, and spinach
  • White bean, tomato, and dill salad with charred romaine
  • Cold sweet potatoes with spiced seeds and yogurt
  • Sweet potato and tahini soup
  • Broken pasta with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, walnuts, and pesto’d Ricotta
  • Cauliflower and kimchi sandwiches
  • Roasted broccoli sauce
  • Savory zucchini beer bread
  • Polenta and pine nut biscotti


For my preliminary recipe, I went with the kale-cabbage slaw with quinoa and brown sugar-dijon vinaigrette.  The recipe is pretty easy (to reiterate, nothing in the books seems to be complicated as the author promised in the introduction).  You make some quinoa. You salt and massage the kale and cabbage. You make a vinaigrette. Finally, you mix it all together.

The vinaigrette was very sweet.  I know… that’s a really obvious thing to say when it’s got “brown sugar” as part of the name.  But I’d say start with half the amount of brown sugar, and then add as needed. The amount you want is going to depend on the punch of your mustard.  I was using a homemade mustard (my first attempt at mustard so it could have been better) that didn’t have much punch, so I only needed 4 teaspoons instead of the full 2 tablespoons.

I enjoyed this.  It preps ahead really well.  Because kale and cabbage are really sturdy greens, this slaw made for great work lunches.  But as much as I liked it, I didn’t love it. Which is totally ok! It doesn’t mean that I won’t make it again.  It just means that I’ll try out some of the other salad/slaw recipes in this book before I go back to this one.

I felt compelled to make another recipe almost as soon as I finished the slaw.  Since I had some cabbage left from the slaw (and I happened to have cheese in the fridge), I made the cheesy cabbage and white bean soup.  I’m glad I did too. It was another easy recipe to put together, and perfect to eat on a February day in Boston. It was really cozy and had a lot of good flavor.  (To be fair, since I’m not vegetarian, I was using a homemade chicken broth for it.) I like it so much that this soup is definitely going into the regular rotation.  

“Start Simple” is available as of this week.  Definitely pick up this book whether or not you’re vegetarian.  (Yes, the book is vegetarian but it doesn’t feel like the intention of the book is to necessarily espouse vegetarianism.)  The collection of recipes here are just great ideas for incorporating more vegetables in your everyday diet without being overwhelming or complicated.


Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Harper Wave for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  


Reference Links:


veggie CSA, no. 5, 2011

Last week’s share:
Salad Mix 0.5lb (split between me and my sister)
Cabbage 1 (me)
Basil 1 bunch (me)
Chard 1 bunch (my sister)
Snap peas (pint) 1 (me)

This week’s share:
Lettuce (head) 1 (my sister)
Carrots (bunch)  1 (me, only because my sister had just purchased carrots)
Basil (bunch) 1 (me)
Cukes (lb) 1 (4 small cucumbers, I took 3)
snap peas (me)
new potatoes (my sister)

I’ve learned that my sister doesn’t like snap peas.  As for the basil, I’ve been getting them because my sister doesn’t think she’ll use it fast enough and she has no place to store it.  Basil cuttings prefer being kept in a container of water, instead of being stored in the fridge.  Our CSA cuttings are really short because they are prunings really, which makes it hard to put in water.  Basil leaves don’t like sitting in water.  They will wither or get blotchy.  Right now, I have some with a longer stem in a used soda bottle.  For my short ones, I’m trying out using an ice cube tray as a plant container.  I have water in every other cube so that the basil leaves can fan out without getting wet (hopefully).  So long as I don’t kill them, my sister can grab some whenever she wants.  Or if too many of them grow roots, out into some dirt in the yard they will go. 

Meal-wise, I haven’t done anything interesting with my CSA so far.  I’ve been enjoying it prepared as simple as possible.  (My only failure so far is letting arugula go to waste.  At least, I think that’s my only CSA “d’oh! moment” so far.)  I boiled my beets from a couple of weeks ago.  From last week, I ate the salad mix straight up.  The cabbage is still in the fridge and looking ok, while the snap peas were boiled for a few minutes and then eaten along side some pasta.

I’m trying to decide what to do with my carrots (I must cook them as I am allergic to raw carrots).  Some recipes under consideration are: need to cook carrots before blending)  
or pickled carrots?

But now I’m thinking about making a soup with the carrots and the cabbage.  Maybe with thyme and white wine?  I do have some old white wine in my fridge.  Hmmm…