BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: ALEXIS ROTHENBERG

One of my oldest and dearest friends, and the brilliant mind behind my uniform of the past three years (yes, THAT jumpsuit!) is sharing the foods, rituals and acts she's relied on to create some sense of normalcy in a very abnormal world this past year. Expect to find loads of leafy greens, Cadbury Eggs and a side of therapy. She's also sharing a recipe for Shakshuka that was on repeat during the first half of quarantine, and one I'm planning on trying out this weekend. Meet Alexis.

What is your food philosophy?

Everything in moderation. 

How do you start the day? 

15+ years in New York made me a true morning person – I need the quiet before the city erupts, and the opportunity to move slowly. We moved to LA five years ago, and while things are much slower in general, we have a four-year-old daughter and one year old dog, so the same sentiment applies. These days I rise around 5, and stay in bed to decompress from whatever Covid anxiety rattled me throughout the night, respond to emails, read the paper and do all the things people tell you not to do immediately upon waking!  I get out of bed shortly after 6, and let the dog out. I make his breakfast, take my probiotic, warm some oat milk and brew the coffee. My husband comes in and we do all the weird shit we’ve trained ourselves to do in hopes of not waking our daughter, which never works. We whisper about the day ahead and sip our coffees. Our daughter emerges, fully and proudly dressed, at 7am and I make her breakfast. She loves food and cooking, so any meal prep with her is a bonus.

What is your first food memory?

I grew up in Minnesota on a steady diet of microwavable bagel pizzas, mashed potatoes and mustard sandwiches. I visited my neighbors after school most days, they had four daughters and a tight ship Catholic sensibility that both confounded and excited me. They made a sort of bastardized Minnesotan queso from a brick of Velveeta and a can of mild salsa, served alongside a bag of Tostitos that was entirely crave-worthy to my childhood self. 

What's always in your fridge?

Greens and herbs for me, bell peppers (exclusively orange!) and Persian cucumbers for our daughter. Then whatever we get from the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or farm box. Eggs, Parmesan, whole milk, oat milk. Condiments! Hot sauces, beurre de baratte, Meredith dairy marinated sheep’s milk cheese, jam, Dark Horse mustard for me, and Heinz ketchup for my husband.

What’s always in your pantry?

My in-laws are retired tax lawyers from the Upper East Side who now make olive oil in New Zealand, because they are amazing! Our shelves are stocked with oils from their company, Weka. Chicken stock, tinned fish, dried beans, bunny shaped graham crackers, assorted vinegars, hot sauce, spices, Zia hatch chile salsa, Sabor tortilla chips and Bub and Grandma’s sesame loaf. Oh, and Cadbury mini eggs. Feel free to judge, but I highly recommend the French Canadian ones. 

What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

Exercise, therapy and leafy greens.

Lypo-spheric Vitamin C daily, and Woodstock C&F formula plus oil of oregano when I feel a cold coming on. 

Favorite kitchen tool?

The Veji-Bag is the workhorse of my kitchen. They keep my greens and vegetables fresh for the entire week (or longer). Wash your vegetables (salad greens included), then store, still wet, in the damp bag. Easy, efficient and life changing! 

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Anything Nigel Slater, Whole Food Cooking Every Day by Amy Chaplin, Ruffage by Abra Berens.  Where Cooking Begins (Carla Lalli Music) for pie. I love the way that Ruth Reichl writes about food, Save Me the Plums was one of my favorite quarantine reads.  

Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?

I am a big proponent of family dinner. I didn’t grow up with it, but it’s deeply important to me now as a parent and partner. My husband Jason is a beautiful, thoughtful cook. He workshops recipes to fine-tune them so that they work for our palates as well as our daughter’s, or can be easily modified as we both love a lot of spice. It’s winter, so he’s making a lot of Japanese curry and heartier meals. When left to my own devices, I always make salad from whatever vegetables are on-hand, plus the aforementioned Meredith dairy cheese and some avocado. Or Paul Bertolli’s cauliflower soup. 

Who do you dream of sharing a meal with during these days of quarantine?

My closest friends, all together at one long table.

How do you end your day?

In bed with my husband, drinking a glass of reposado or bourbon.

 

SHAKSHUKA

My husband made this for me 1x/week for the first half of quarantine. While it's delicious with eggs and/or sweet potato, I skip that in favor of sauce only, piled on top of greens.  

SAUCE

(adapted ever-so-slightly from Honey Hi)

1 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 tsp turmeric

1.5 tsp paprika

1.5 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

8 oz bone broth or veggie stock

1/2 tsp salt

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 date, chopped

 

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Sauté onions, olive oil and garlic until soft.

2. Add tomatoes, broth, dates and spices and simmer until water releases and reduces, around 30 minutes.

3. Pile on top of some leafy greens, top with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley. 

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