BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: CHRISTINE MUHLKE

Wildly talented food writer and author of Signature Dishes That Matter, Christine Muhlke, is an influential voice in the world of food, travel, fashion, culture, and design, as well as a longtime friend of CAP. Her uncanny knack for knowing what's cool and endless curiosity for food is why we consistently turn to her for inspiration. More recently drawn to whole foods, herbs, adaptogens and naturals, Christine is passionate about the power of plants to transform our overall wellbeing. Today she invites us into her kitchen to share a potential winning beauty food combo(!?), a concoction of health amplifying powders, and a delicious recipe for Hazelnut Cacao Nib Granola. This is nourishment on all levels from the queen herself. Thanks, Christine.

What is your food philosophy? 

Food has so much power and the potential to bring so much joy. It’s the one thing that still brings us together. I try to eat as locally and seasonally as possible and to support good farming practices. My health and mood have changed so much since I stopped eating processed food (except, of course, pasta).

 

How do you start the day?

As soon as I wake up, I work out with the Future app. A neighbor gifted me a month during lockdown and I’ve been hooked since. On weeks I don’t have my son and can spend a few days upstate, I try to add in a hike and write in the amazing Moon Lists Workbook. Then there is tea — either matcha with oat milk and tons of health amplifying powders: tocos, ashwaganda, reishi, schisandra berry. Or Fortnum & Mason's Smoky Earl Grey, followed by more tea like Té Company’s Oriental Beauty.

 

What is the first meal that you remember? 

My mom making salmon mousse in a copper fish mold when I was three. Not that I ate it!

How did you get into cooking? 

My mom always cooked and she gave me a kids’ cookbook when I was five or six. I got into baking in middle school, when I would visit my dad and spend time looking in Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook for cookie recipes that used only butter, eggs, sugar and flour (what I could get my hands on). I think I was the only 12-year-old in San Diego making langues de chat.

 

What's always in your fridge? 

Matcha, miso and Moussamoussettes, yogurt, Rhea Liquid Sunshine, vegetables from my Farm to People box, homemade granola, homemade syrups for sodas for my son, homemade kimchi, sourdough starter. All the clichés, basically.

 

What’s always in your pantry? 

Good olive oil, flaky salt, Daphnis and Chloe smoked chile flakes, a million kinds of flour and beans, chocolate for baking, kombu and bonito flakes for dashi, and togarashi for all-around sprinkling.

What do you look for in a recipe? 

Inspiration. A dish that makes me start dreaming up a dinner party or offers me educational tips that will make me a better (or at least more efficient) cook. Lastly, to be honest, I also look for a recipes that helps me use up what I have on hand.

 

When you hear "beauty food?" What comes to mind? 

Avocado and tocos. Not together, but hey, you never know…

 

What are your airplane travel essentials?

Earplugs, eye mask, Aesop hand sanitizer, Muji room socks worn over compression socks (sexy, I agree), T2 matcha travel flask and CAP Matcha Sticks.  

 

Tell us about Signature Dishes That Matter and how it came to be. 

Emily Takoudes at Phaidon asked me to be one of the international committee suggesting dishes that changed gastronomy, from the 1300s to today. It was such a fun exercise connecting the dots that later, when she asked if I knew any writers, I erased the list of people I was about to recommend and asked if I could do it. The whole book was researched and written in three months. I wish I’d had a week for every dish! I learned so much. Now I want to do Signature Desserts! (Emily??)

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

Healthy food, exercise, yoga (been taking with these beauties for over 20 years!) and quality time with friends. In the last year, I’ve also gotten into breathwork, which is incredibly powerful.

 

Favorite kitchen tool? 

An investment knife. I used to make fun of fancy knife bros. And then I tried one. Otherwise, I can’t stay anywhere without a Microplane!

 

 What would we be most surprised to find in your kitchen? 

The Yonanas machine I bought my son for Christmas. It instantly turns frozen fruit into creamy sorbet. I’m not a fan of single-purpose gadgets, but this is so much fun!

What ingredient are you most excited about right now? 

I can’t get off this buckwheat kick.

 

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? 

I’ve probably gifted Six Seasons and The Violet Bakery Cookbook more than any other and all the River Café books. Right now, I’m happily cooking my way through new books written by friends and former colleagues, including Carla Lalli Music, Ali Slagle, Andy Baraghani and Rick Martinez. Super proud of them!

 

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

Japanese breakfast rice: You stir an egg into warm sushi rice for a minute until it becomes light and foamy — totally transformed. Topped with nori, it’s comforting and filling.

 

How do you end your day? 

Stretch a bit, read a bit, think of people and things for which I’m grateful.  

 

Please share a favorite recipe.

I’ve made the hazelnut cacao nib granola from the excellent cookbook Whole Grain Mornings for years. It’s my go-to hostess gift! I’ve modified it a little bit to suit my taste, adding egg whites to get those clusters and reducing the maple syrup a tad. Play with it to make it yours.

 

HAZELNUT CACAO NIB GRANOLA

Adapted from “Whole Grain Mornings” by Megan Gordon

 

3 cups rolled oats

1⁄2 cup raw sesame seeds

1⁄2 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 to 1⁄2 cup maple syrup

1⁄2 cup olive oil or coconut oil, melted

3⁄4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1⁄2 cup raw hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1⁄4 cup cacao nibs

1/3 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped (or your favorite dried fruit, such as apricots or golden raisins; optional)

1-2 egg whites (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, sesame seeds, walnuts, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, oil and egg white (if using) and stir to combine. Try using your hands to make sure everything is evenly mixed.

Turn the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer, using a spatula to press down firmly. Bake for 15 minutes. 

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and scatter the coconut flakes and hazelnuts over the top. Return to the oven and bake until the granola is fragrant and light golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. (Note that you don’t want it to get TOO golden, or the nuts will burn. Keep an eye on it: It goes quickly!) Let cool completely. The granola will firm up considerably as it cools. Stir in the cacao nibs. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to 
6 weeks. The granola also freezes for up to 3 months. 


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