I have a little secret to share with you. Ok, so it’s not a secret to anyone who knows me, but, I happen to be obsessed with Jamie Oliver. It started in 1999, right around when we first got cable television, I discovered the Food Network, and then I discovered the Naked Chef. It was one of the first cookbooks I cooked through. I should have blogged about it. Oh well. When Jamie married Jools, I put his photo up next to my bed (which I had clipped from my grandmother’s People Magazine) and cried a little bit.

I can’t believe that it was over 10 years ago. Now, 14? 15 books later? He has come out with a new one – except it isn’t out in the states yet. Jamie Does is another brilliant book from Jamie Oliver that I encourage you to get your hands on. Don’t be put off by his media presence – he is legit – I assure you this man can cook seriously good food.

I took home a copy of ‘Jamie Does‘ about a month ago from Omnivore, and could not be more excited about it. It’s a fantastic cookbook. The premise is based on Jamie’s travels across Europe and North Africa (Lucky Bastard!) : he heads to Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France, searching for the flavors, techniques, and recipes of each country.

There are so many reasons I love this book (aside from the fact that everything Jamie Oliver does is wonderful,) but my favorite part are these beautiful spreads of the main flavor components and ingredients of each country. The tagline of ‘Jamie Does’ is “Easy twists on classic dishes inspired by my travels”. So many people are afraid to cook new types of cuisines, but as long as you have the flavors and the general cooking techniques, you can fiddle around and make things taste delicious and fairly authentic.

Each page of this cookbook is filled with beautiful spreads and photographs by David Loftus – real food that you want to eat, and feel empowered to prepare. You don’t have to go to these places to eat, you can travel right in your own kitchen. (Although, frankly, this cookbook makes me yearn to whip out my passport and my credit card and make reckless financial decision…) And yes, there is a tv show. I’ve been watching the grainy version on youku, because British networks are cruel, cruel people and will not stream online to the U.S. audience.

Here are links to more of Jamie’s recipes: head over to his website to access hundreds of his recipes . An incredible resource!! And of course, he’s on twitter, too. Now if only we could get him to Omnivore Books for a signing….

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Last night I put together a quick summer minestrone soup with some of the contents of my farm box. I also had a loaf of bread that our neighbor baked, which needed to be eaten, and I decided that soup would be the perfect accompaniment. After searching for the proper treatment for my veg,  I was inspired by the ‘Spring and Summer Minestrone’ in ‘Jamie Does

Spring Minestrone with Pesto

adapted from ‘Jamie Does’

Serves 2-3, 25 minutes

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat a glug of olive oil. Saute an onion, a couple of chopped carrots, a few cloves of garlic, and a few slices of really good thick cut bacon, chopped. After those have been going for about 5 minutes, add in two chopped zucchini, and cook for a few more minutes. While that’s going, chop up a tomato, and a bunch of parsley, and whatever greens you have in the fridge, and stir it all in. Swiss chard? Kale? All I had was lettuce. It worked just fine. Add a handful of peas if you have them (I didn’t.) And then cover with some good organic chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and add a small handful of pasta (I used 1/2 cup israeli cous cous). Season with salt and pepper, and turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.

While the soup is going – you make your pesto. A classic pesto will have fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil. I had basil, garlic, walnuts, Kerrygold Dubliner with Irish Stout, and olive oil. It worked out just fine. I dumped a large handful of the basil into my mortar and pestle with a pinch of coarse salt, and bruised them well. I added a few cloves of garlic, a couple of walnuts, and made a paste. I grated in about an ounce of cheese, and loosened it all up with a few good glugs of olive oil.

When the pasta was cooked, I ladled it into bowls, and topped with a dollop of pesto. I toasted thick slices of the bread, and topped them with a pat of Kerrygold Butter.