While the holiday season inspires everyone to dust off their favorite cookbooks to wow guests, the next best meal might actually be in the newly released Simply Sarasota: From Fresh to Fabulous.
The cookbook is the highly anticipated sequel to Simply Sarasota: Creatively Casual Cuisine, both published by the Junior League of Sarasota. When the first cookbook was published in 2007, it was an instant hit. More than 17,000 copies have been sold, generating over $100,000 in proceeds that the League then shuffles back into the community.
In 2015, the Junior League partnered with All Faiths Food Bank to provide slow-cooker classes to under-resourced area families. The League gifted a slow-cooker to each family, along with a set of recipes for them to try at home. Following the success of these events, the idea of creating another cookbook seemed to just make sense to Chair Lea Graf.
"It was sort of right person, right time with where I was at in my life," Graf says. "We were about a year into our hunger initiative and those slow-cooker classes."
From Fresh to Fabulous isn't a diet cookbook, but it is filled to the brim with recipes that use fresh ingredients, it's heavy on the citrus fruits and vegetables found in Sarasota.
"We have a very eclectic, or varied, taste where we eat a variety of foods, often on the light side with fresh flavors," Graf says.
The cookbook groups recipes into chapters focused on appetizers, entrees and, of course, seafood. Regardless of whatever recipe it may be, each deserves a shout out for having gone through a grueling selection process by the committee.
"We submitted a request to all of our members, over 700 people, to submit their favorite recipes," Graf says. "The committee then tested the recipes, that went through multiple rounds, before they were whittled down to just over 200."
What remains clear is that this cookbook is big on giving back, in more ways than one. The League was even able to supply a recipe from their cookbook to Sarasota Magazine. This Watermelon and Tomato Salad is a deliciously light meal. From Fresh to Fabulous can be found everywhere books are sold, including the League's website.