For more years than I care to count, I have been an unabashed collector of cookbooks. A recent major move reacquainted me with most of my sizable collection, which had been packed away for several months.

Digging into all those boxes was both daunting and thrilling, and as I arranged them on still-unfamiliar shelves in my new home, I thought about how my cookbooks are loosely organized into a few key genres. There are my regular go-to books (“The Silver Palate Cookbook”), bibles (“Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vols. I and II”), useful niche books (“Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home”), prized possessions (Charlie Trotter’s “Vegetables” signed by the author), and a large group that are charming/pretty/just fun to have.

“A Simple Feast,” by Diana Yen & The Jewels of New York falls into this broad latter category. A nicely bound hardcover, its pretty pages have a vintage feel, with simply yet beautifully styled photographs. (In addition to being a chef, Yen is a photographer and food stylist who has worked with Martha Stewart, Target and West Elm, among others).

In the book’s introduction, which Yen titles “Prelude,” she explains that her business, The Jewels of New York, grew out of her design training and love for cooking seasonally from the farmers market. She archives that experience in the book’s four sections, with recipes organized into chapters like “Apple Picking,” “Pantry Cooking,” “Tea Party” and “Beach Day.”

Since seasonal cooking is the foundation of dozens of current cookbooks, I had to think about what might set “A Simple Feast” apart. The recipes are uncomplicated and would be easy to follow for all but the most neophyte cooks. A few seemed too basic or ubiquitous – dry-aged steak with chive butter, mixed seafood ceviche – while plenty of others intrigued me – black tea scones with citrus curd, maple-braised beef stew.

Yen lets her stylish guard down a little in the “Childhood Favorites” chapter, offering recipes for cherry cola and homemade Cracker Jacks (both of which I’m eager to try). The rest of the book, however, is like its photographs: serene and lovely, if a tad soulless.


There’s an un-captioned photo near the front of the book with four people representing The Jewels of New York – I guessed which one is Yen, but only knew for sure after Googling her. This, together with the fact that her name is in smaller type than the name of her business on the book’s cover, suggests she wants to stay in the background, letting her work – and the collective style of The Jewels – set the tone for “A Simple Feast.” I can’t fault her for that.

As a connoisseur of oatmeal cookies, I was drawn to the book’s recipe, which includes dried figs and walnuts. Those additions, plus just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg, make this rendition of the classic cookie especially memorable. My only caveat: for the first batch I followed the instructions to “drop the dough by the spoonful”; the cookies didn’t spread and were harder than I like. For the next batch, I pressed the dough down slightly and got a chewier result. As Yen suggests, I enjoyed them for breakfast.


Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup light brown sugar


1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

11/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup dried Mission figs, stems discarded, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla to the mixture. Gradually mix in the flour mixture and the oats. Gently fold the figs and walnuts into the mixture.

Drop the dough by the spoonful (I used a small ice cream scoop) onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving a 2-inch space between cookies. Bake until the edges are golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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