Delicious clean food prepared simply

Simple Real Food
Delicious clean food prepared simply

Photos by Herman Blanke

***Be sure to take this book for a test run by going to the end of this article and trying out the Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup with Lemongrass recipe.

What do onions, garlic, celery, carrots, Dijon mustard, ketchup, capers, grated Parmesan, unsalted butter, olives, tomato paste, anchovy paste, sesame oil and chutney have in common? They are the easy breezy ingredients you’ll need to cook the recipes found in Simple Real Food by Amanda Cushman (Price: $24.95). Doesn’t seem too difficult now, does it?

In the pantry, chicken broth, a variety of rice, pasta, flour, canned tomatoes, olive oil, soy sauce, honey and oregano and thyme are staples that will make cooking with Amanda a breeze. I bet you have at least 90% of those items already.

Ginger cake

What strikes me about this book is that a culinary instructor and chef (Amanda Cushman) takes the reader through a few steps making cooking a relaxed and creative experience.  Not too many ingredients in each recipe, not too many steps to master.  Many of the recipes are make ahead friendly and freezable.  You could probably do a whole weeks of inspired global cuisine on a Sunday afternoon and be totally prepared for the whole week or that mid-week pot luck coming up.

I think you’ll like the globally inspired recipes with a tasty leaning towards Asian fusion.   They’re all simple to prepare using mostly fresh ingredients. If you are looking for healthy, simple meals that you can serve to friends and family…or just yourself, you’ve found the right cookbook.

Smoked Salmon Crustini

Many of the recipes are accompanied by photographs. That way you know what success looks like.  My only wish was that there were more in this softback 156 page book.   Recipes run the gamut from appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, sides and desserts.  There’s even a chapter on vegetarian dishes. Again – simple cooking appropriate for any level of cooking expertise.

Brown wild rice salad

Here’s a short list of recipes included in her book so you can see for yourself the recipe variety:

Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche

Hoisin Ginger Chicken with Mango Mayonnaise

Thai Shrimp Salad with Asian Dressing

Seafood Chowder with Cilantro

Tuscan Meatloaf Braised in White Wine

Chicken Souvlaki

Sesame Coated Salmon with Indonesian Soy Sauce

Pork with Honey-Balsamic Glaze

Tempeh Sauté with Miso Dressing

Chocolate Biscotti

Ginger Cake with Tropical Fruit Salad

Be sure to take this book for a test run by going to the end of this article and trying out the Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup with Lemongrass recipe.


Amanda Cushman is first and foremost a culinary educator.  She has cooked professionally for over thirty years – much of it in New York.

She teaches a wide range of cooking classes in NC as well as teaching privately for groups of two to twenty students in their home. Chef Cushman’s cooking lessons are held in locations such as; Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Morrisville, Carrboro. Her corporate team building classes have featured clients such as; Hugo Boss, Experian, Exxon Mobile, Google, Yahoo, Fitness Magazine, DirecTV and Toyota.

Her cooking classes are based out of North Carolina in the areas of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Morrisville, and Carrboro. A complete meal is served at the end of each class and all classes are hands-on. You can sign up for her cooking classes online through her website


Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup with Lemongrass (pg. 60)

Serves 6 to 8


1 Tb. vegetable oil

¼ cup peeled ginger, julienne

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 whole stalks lemongrass, white part only, sliced very thinly

2 shallots, minced

4 small bird chilies, minced

8 cups chicken stock

6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced

2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

4 oz. rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes

1 ¼ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined*

6 Tablespoons fish sauce

1/2 cup lime juice

2 Tb. brown or palm sugar

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

4 thinly sliced scallions

½ cup Thai basil, julienne


  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, shallots and chilies for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock, lime leaves and mushrooms and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer for about10 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
  2. Drain the rice noodles and add to the soup with the shrimp, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and coconut milk. Bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle the soup into soup bowls and garnish with the scallions and Thai basil.

* Any other protein can be substituted for the shrimp such as, pork tenderloin, white or dark meat chicken, strips of beef, scallops or tofu.

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Note: A copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes.

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