Behind Closed Doors: Colu Henry

Colu's approach to food is one of ease, elegance and humor. As a long time food writer and recipe developer, she's cultivated an exuberant passion for life's simple pleasures: good food, good people, good conversations. Colu sits at the sweet spot; she both honors the practices that support her health and makes space for a little fun along the way. Her vivacious joy for all things delicious is as contagious as her light-hearted approach to living well. Read on to discover how she finds balance in all things nourishment. The way Colu Cooks reflect her style — beautiful, bold and effortlessly chic.

What is your food philosophy?

I love food that is sophisticated and elegant, but not too fussy. I like to eat seasonally and source locally as much as possible, as well as support the farmers in my area. My recipes are uncomplicated and simple to execute, but also beautiful enough that you feel proud to share them with friends and family. I want everything to feel special, but not overthought. And I believe the conversations around the dinner table is where the magic truly happens.


What is the first meal that you remember?

Eating a bowl of Cheerios in my high-chair. 


Tell us about your new book Colu Cooks: Easy, Fancy, Food and how it came to be.  

The book was originally supposed to be called, “Please Bring Dessert,” because I don’t love to bake. But my publisher was concerned people would think it was a dessert book. Fair! Like my first cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta, I knew this book was going to be very personal. I wanted it to convey simply what I do. I cook! I had only recently launched a newsletter with the title, “Colu Cooks," and it just stuck.

Easy, Fancy, Food sums up what I’m all about and ties everything together. I did convince my editor to title the dessert chapter “Please Bring Dessert," which was written by my dear friends Peter Som and Ali Stafford, as well as my next door neighbor and baker extraordinaire Kelly Marages.

For the visual aesthetic of Colu Cooks, I had a strong idea for what I wanted the book to look like and took inspiration from my grandmother's 1970's Gourmet Magazines. I loved the style, and it was also the decade I was born. 


How do you start the day?

I start every morning with a quart of lemon water, which I continue to drink throughout the day.  Since giving up coffee, I now drink a cup of PG Tips tea with a big spoonful of CAP's The Coconut Butter stirred in. Then I'm off to Pilates! Right now, I aim for about three times a week.

When I get home, I take a long hot shower and heavily moisturize my face with both Drunk Elephant's Protini and Marula Face Oil mixed together. I slather my lips with an Olio e Osso lip balm. It is my absolute favorite! Then I head to the kitchen to make myself something small for breakfast, such as a salad topped with a fried egg and a sprinkling of CAP’s Pink Mountain Salt. I try to push my first meal as late into the day as possible to give my body some time away from digesting.   

What's always in your fridge?

Crispy chili oil, hot pickled peppers, Vital Farm eggs, preserved lemons, regular lemons, anchovies, radicchio, harissa, ginger, grated pecorino cheese, kimchi, miso and lots and lots of greens. 


What’s always in your pantry?

Rancho Gordo beans (I’m a club member!), a few different shapes of pastas, canned tomatoes, lots of Scout and Fishwife tinned fish, Maille mustard, long and short grain rice, a variety of rice noodles, and coconut milk. I could go on, but no surprise, I have a very well stocked pantry! 


Favorite kitchen tool?

My Joyce Chen kitchen shears. I use them for absolutely everything, both in and out of the kitchen! 


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

A butane torch. 


Who is inspiring you in the food world right now? 

I am deeply inspired by Chef Charlotte Langley, who founded Scout, a sustainable tinned fish company. She’s smart, scrappy and gets it done right. Also, Jing Gao who founded Fly By Jing, which has expanded from chili oil — to insane dumplings — to who knows what's next! And, Shaina Lowe, who opened Cafe Mutton with their wife Bettina. It’s right down the street from my house and they make everything I want to eat.  


What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Stories told through food speak to me the most. Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking  opened up my world! I also love anything Ruth Reichl writes. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia Wells, who wrote one of my favorite cookbooks, Bistro Cooking. I also love The Silver Palate Cookbook. When I was 12 years old, I borrowed it from my aunt and kept it until I was old enough to buy my own copy. The authors, Julee Rosso and Sheila Luckins share such beautiful narratives and give the best menu party suggestions. It's still a favorite of mine all these years later!


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

I make a big pot of beans every Sunday. When they’re done, I serve myself a bowl, drizzle generously with good olive oil, a touch of flaky salt and eat them with a spoon. I store the rest in the fridge and work them into meals throughout the week.


How do you end your day?

A very big glass of red wine and cuddles with our 19-year-old rescue dog, Joshie.


Serves: 4

By Colu Henry


2 pounds (910 g) mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, or maitake, torn roughly into pieces

¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup (120 ml) plant based sour cream, or make your own: blend cashews, lemon juice, salt, touch of vinegar and water (option to sub cashews for silken tofu)

¼ cup (13 g) mixed herbs, such as mint, chives, parsley, and tarragon, torn or roughly chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Flaky salt, for serving


Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

On a large rimmed sheet pan, toss the mushrooms with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through until the mushrooms have lost their liquid and they become brown and golden in spots, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the "sour cream" onto the bottom of a wide shallow-mouthed bowl or platter and season with salt. When the mushrooms are finished roasting, gently spoon them on top. Top with herbs and lemon zest and season with flaky salt. Drizzle with chili or herb oil, if using. Serve right away.

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