Welcome to my blog! If we’re going to be hanging out and cooking together, let’s get to know each other a bit better. Here is a list, in no particular order, of things I know for sure when it comes to eating and cooking.
1. Perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t obsess over making Martha-Stewart-perfect-food — it will drive you crazy and won’t taste that good anyway. Make real, rustic, messy, playful, authentic, good food. You’ll be happier for it.
2. When trying to choose between one thing and another, choose BOTH — just do so in moderation. If you’re constantly fighting against what you really want you can’t win. Stop fighting, savor your food and enjoy your life. Balance is a beautiful thing; it is just another way of saying “have your cake and eat it, too.”
3. Eat real food. The kind that doesn’t have a list of un-pronouncable ingredients. Pay attention to the food you eat — it’s the single best way to control your health.
4. Don’t follow diets — they will make you unhappy. I know, I know — some people lose weight on diets. But most gain it all back. The truth that no one wants to hear is this: eat real food in sensible portions and exercise often and you’ll be pretty healthy. I say this as someone who has lost 70lbs over the last 10 years and is still a solid 20 away from what professionals would call my “goal weight.” I’m healthy, I’m happy and I don’t subscribe to any particular “diet” — I am not vegan or vegetarian or paleo or low-carb or Atkins — my food just doesn’t fit neatly into any of those boxes. Over time I’ve discovered a way of cooking and eating that is right for me — it’s a hodgepodge of foods that make me feel healthy, happy and full. For instance, I love yogurt, feta cheese and creme fraiche but I don’t drink cow’s milk — I prefer almond milk. I’m not a big steak eater but I always have bacon and prosciutto on hand. It’s been years since I’ve used regular white sugar in my kitchen — I prefer the complex flavor of unrefined options like honey, maple syrup and muscavado sugar as my sweeteners. I love whole grains because they taste nutty, complex and delicious — particularly when tucked in a loaf of homemade bread. I love olive oil and butter equally — don’t ask me to choose — I refuse to make that Sophie’s Choice.
5. Use the kitchen as your playground. Don’t take yourself or your food too seriously. Have fun deconstructing a recipe, learning a new skill, getting strange ingredients at the store and experimenting at home, using your friends and family as guinea pigs. I see my kitchen as part studio, part playground and a place where anything is possible. I hope this blog will inspire you to join me in the kitchen more often. I think we would all be happier and healthier people if we cooked more and shared meals more often.
6. Make unfussy food that is uniquely yours. You’ll enjoy it more than trying to master a “classic” dish.
7. Cooking is not a God-given talent bestowed upon the lucky. It’s a collection of skills that anyone can learn (and everyone should!). Learn the basics and you’ll have an easier time cooking for yourself and your family. That said, in all my experience teaching and eating and cooking I’ve found that the difference between an OK cook and a great cook is that the great ones have a deep understanding of the food the THEY really love. They cook from their heart/gut/instincts and forge their own culinary path.
8. Seasoning your food with salt is not an option, it’s a necessity if you want your food to taste good. If you’ve made a recipe, followed it to the “T” and it still doesn’t taste quite right — add some salt. Nine out of ten dishes are made better with this simple ingredient. My everyday salt of choice is kosher — I use it for all of my cooking and baking unless otherwise noted. I also have a fondness for the crunch of Maldon salt and use it to finish off a bit of roast chicken or grilled vegetables or fresh sliced tomatoes or chocolate brownies.
9. If I could only take 5 ingredients to a desert island, they would be: lemons, extra virgin olive oil, full-fat plain yogurt, yuzu, fresh chilies, harissa and crunchy sea salt. It is my belief that nearly everything tastes better when paired with some or all of these ingredients.
10. The single best way to connect with other people is over a meal. Breaking bread is powerful and can sustain families, nurture relationships and be a much-need pause button in our oft-too-busy lives. Eat with other people, cook together, share stories.