Hi, y’all! It’s me Kristina and we are back with Cookbook Club #23! This edition we have cookbook author and recently turned farmhand Julia Tushen’s latest cookbook, Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food.
Accessible cooking is Julia’s trademark. In this collection of healthy comfort food recipes, she manages to really bring you into her kitchen, as you sit at the counter and chat while she quickly prepares a meal with a great story behind it. I was drawn in by the stories of dishes such as her Palm Springs Pearl Cous Cous and Citrus Salad and the Coconut Marble Loaf inspired by a marble loaf cake sold at the bakery her grandparents owned, but that closed before she was born.
Central to the theme of the book, Julia shares her own lists for making sure that cooking is always a simple endeavour, with as little waste as possible. Julia also candidly writes about her own relationship with food and body image, in one of a handful of personal essays. In her essay titled, On the Worthiness of Our Bodies she concludes with a paragraph that shouldn’t be thought-provoking, but I think caused introspection for many of us: It should not feel revolutionary to say, especially in a cookbook that’s about healthy cooking, that fat does not equal bad or unlovable. But it’s worth saying. There is nothing wrong with being fat. The only thing wrong is thinking that any person, living in any type of body, is less valuable than someone else.
Gaby is going to do an Instagram Live with Julia to talk about our relationship with food and body image. In the meantime, you can pick up or order a copy of Simply Julia from Oblong Books in Millertown and in Rhinebeck, New York so you can dive right into the Roast Banana and Sour Cream Waffles, Sticky Chicken, and the dishes Julia highlights in her Q + A below!
Julia’s Q + A
What’s your favorite recipe in the book and why? This is an impossible question, but the first recipe that comes to mind is the White Pizza-style Kale. It’s just a skillet of garlicky greens that you top with a little ricotta and a little mozzarella and set it under the broiler for a few minutes and then sprinkle some dried oregano, parmesan, red chili flakes, and garlic powder on top. All of the things I would put on a slice of new york pizza, which I’ve been eating for my entire life. It’s such an easy recipe and a fun one and I think it always jumps out to me as one of the best examples of all of the recipes in Simply Julia for those exact qualities: easy and fun. Both of those things are part of how I define healthy cooking and eating.
What was the hardest recipe to get right? How did you know when it was perfect? The Orange + Greek Yogurt Cake started off as a creamsicle brownie recipe, which I still think is a great idea, but I would love for someone else to write that recipe! My wife Grace and I both tried at least 10 different versions of the brownies before I gave up. It was becoming complicated and something I would just never make again. so I thought about which parts of the recipe I liked best and that was the fresh orange zest and juice and the yogurt in the batter so I just turned that into a simple loaf cake. Now I love it and it’s something I make frequently.
For someone who’s never cooked from your book before, what recipe would you tell them to cook first and why? I would first ask them what kinds of things they most like to eat and point them in those directions since you should always cook food you really want to eat! For new bakers, I always suggest the Any Frozen Fruit + Cornmeal Cobbler because it’s so simple and so good and gives you all the satisfaction and pride of having baked something from scratch with very minimal effort. For those new to cooking, I think making one of the salad dressings is a great place to start because you can use them on anything and you learn how to build flavor quickly and easily.
A recipe from your book that can be ready to serve within 30 mins. So many! Llubav’s Green Spaghetti! Ricotta + Potato Chip Fish Cakes With Peas! Stewed Chickpeas With Peppers + Zucchini!
When you find yourself craving food different than what you regularly cook at home, do you go out to eat or do you hit up your favorite cookbooks? TAKEOUT TIME!
You’ve recently started working on a farm. Do you feel that your thoughts about preparing food and how you eat are changing? Yes, big time. My appreciation for the labor and energy that goes into producing the ingredients we all cook with has increased so much and it makes me even more grateful for what I am able to bring into my kitchen. I also feel myself drawn more than ever to very simple cooking and eating, which isn’t really new for me, but I am reminded lately that when you have something really great, like a beautiful head of lettuce or something, you really don’t need to do much to it.
Tell me about your cookbook writing process and how you pick a theme for your books and then which recipes make it into the book? How much time do you have?? My process always starts on the page, for everything. I usually write a draft of my table of contents first. What are the chapters going to be? Which recipes are going to be in each chapter? It feels like drawing the map before hitting the road. And I give myself permission to take detours, to move things around. but I start there. and I start each recipe by writing it first— guessing the amounts of things and writing how I would make it. Then I print those out and head to my kitchen with a red pen and start cooking and troubleshooting and updating. I have friends and family try the recipes in their kitchens and answer questions including things like ‘would you make this again?’ Grace tested every single recipe in Simply Julia before they went out to other people, which was an enormously helpful and generous thing to do. In terms of book themes and the recipes that go with them, that’s evolved for me. It used to be about ‘what do I most want to share?’ and now it’s more about ‘what questions do I get asked most often and what are the most helpful responses I can give?‘ Every chapter in Simply Julia is a response to one of these questions. I seek to be useful.
When did you know that this one was going to touch on something so personal? Before you started writing or as you were writing the book? I knew I wanted to include some extra writing when I started this book, to try my hand at some short essays, but I didn’t exactly know what they would touch on and all of the writing became increasingly personal as I worked on it. I am really glad it turned out that way and just feel super grateful to feel supported by the people I worked with and the people in my daily life who all make me feel comfortable and safe to put myself out there.
Your best/favorite childhood food memory? Oh gosh, so many! One that just popped into my head was going to the Rascal House, this enormous and kind-of hysterical restaurant that was in the Miami area, with my parents and brother and grandparents and great-grandmother when I was a kid. It felt like walking into a movie set and it just evokes so much for me— the food, yes, but also the spirit of the place.
Food jingle or slogan that had stuck with you since you were young? Great Chefs, Great Cities, Great Food Lovingly Prepared By The Best…
Cake or Pie? Cobbler!
Heinz or Homemade? Heinz, 100%
Favorite ice cream flavor? Soft serve in a cone, chocolate and vanilla swirl
Eggs: boiled, scrambled, sunny side up, or poached? Scrambled, preferably made by my wife