What is your food philosophy?
Keep it simple. Spend the money on ingredients, it’s less work in the long run. My food is a celebration of the raw materials I start with; I try to keep ego and showmanship on the back burner while always challenging myself to think outside the box.
What do you always keep in your fridge?
Miso paste, fish sauce, eggs, chicken broth, tahini, plain full-fat yogurt, fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, green onion, thyme) and lots of vegetables.
Let's take a tour! Can you give us a look around?
Jus Jus: my recently launched collaboration with natural winemaker Martha Stoumen. This is my answer to loving wine and entertaining, but also wanting to drink less. It’s a low alcohol sparkling verjus, at only 3.4% ABV (⅓ that of wine), so I keep it on-hand for whenever I entertain. I love to make a spritz with it, pouring it over ice with a splash of soda and a squeeze of citrus like grapefruit or Meyer lemon.
Bone broth: I am pretty much always making chicken or veggie stock. I drink it, I cook grains with it, I braise veggies in it and I make a lot of soups. It’s a flavor booster and nutritional powerhouse. Keep a baggie with scraps in the freezer and you are always ready to go (ends of carrot, nubs of celery, stalks or herbs).
Grape radishes: I keep these in a container in water to keep them super crispy. I serve them with crudité and love the crunch in salads.
Kimchi: A welcome probiotic, I add it to rice bowls or brothy soups. Good for lazy days.
Rose syrup: I make a lot of poached fruit for dinner parties, it’s easy and great to make ahead. There’s always syrup leftover, so I use that to make mocktails.
Honey Dates: These are God’s gift to California. I get them at the farmer’s market and dip them in rich almond butter with a sprinkle of sea salt for an easy sweet.
Guava shrub: I have been walking around my East Los Angeles neighborhood pilfering fallen fruit. Everyone here grows guava, so I have been preserving them as a shrub. Having delicious additions to my water makes me hydrate much more throughout the day.
Eggs: Easy protein, great for the baby too.
Sarawak: That’s the large grapefruit looking thing. My new favorite citrus, it’s a hybrid of a grapefruit and a lime, but not sour at all. Magic (goes well with Jus Jus too).
Avocados: I found an abandoned Pinkerton avocado tree in my neighborhood, and now it’s like Christmas every day. They are thin skinned and buttery, so much better than a conventional Hass.
Herb box: The green plastic tub is an OXO greensaver box, and it really works - it has a carbon filter. Amazing. It’s full of herbs from the Persian market. I use a lot of herbs in my cooking, and always need to have a range on hand for sauces and salads.
Miso: Can’t live without it. I have been using this brown rice miso lately, but classic white miso is my go-to.
Sheep’s milk feta: Love it as it is in salads, or whipped until smooth and creamy. Labneh: I serve that with the poached fruit, it’s tangy and rich, better than Greek yogurt.
Plain Bulgarian yogurt: My baby inherited my love of sour and tang. I can get her to eat ANYTHING as long as it is in a pool of this tart yogurt.
Nut butters: I love to make my own nut butters. I have pistachio butter in the fridge right now, and sunflower butter.
Yuzu: I grow rare citrus, and yuzu is one of my favorites. It’s incredibly floral, and all you really need is the zest.
Raw goat milk: I drink a lot of CAP Matcha, and I like to have it with rich raw goat milk over ice.
I just moved to LA, so I am starting my pantry over again! I am trying my hardest to focus on ethically sourced spices. It’s an industry that is rife with problems and lacks traceability, but there are a few companies that are doing a really good job: Burlap and Barrel is one of them, and Daphnis and Chloe. I am addicted to their smoked chile flake and oregano. From Burlap, I love their cinnamon, whole nutmeg, Urfa chile, silk chile and sumac.
I always have a fancy sherry vinegar on hand, and for olive oil, I use Libuellula.
Homemade granola. I always have a bag of my own granola in the pantry. I riff on my own recipe every time, but always include Dandelion cacao nibs, olive oil, goji berries, cardamom, moringa, oats, buckwheat groats (low glycemic index and so good), flax and chia.
I am pretty sparse when it comes to supplements. I take vitamin C, and I love to use elderberry syrup (immunity building that tastes great) in my fizzy water with a spritz of lemon. I take a multivitamin, and a fermented probiotic, and that’s it!
I make an all-day elixir that I drink to stay hydrated. I boil dried jujubes (Korean remedy for blood building and energy), cinnamon stick, fresh ginger and hibiscus, and add a squeeze of lemon at the end. I always have these ingredients on-hand.
What are your thoughts on how food relates to beauty?
As someone who fails to maintain any kind of beauty regimen, I can 100% trace the way I look to the way I eat and drink. When I am traveling and indulging in food and wine, I see it in my face right away. Since having a baby, I actually look better! The only thing I can attribute that to (since it is definitely not related to sleep), is that I cook for myself pretty much all the time, and I drink much less. All that wine is replaced with water or herbal tea, and it shows.
Your book, Salad for President, is a journey into the homes of artists and how they eat. What is your interest in the intersection of art and food?
Artists have a unique relationship to food, it tends to be their treasured pursuit outside of the studio, a place where they can create and share easily, without a middle man, without the gallery or any sort of barrier in the way. I am trained as an artist, and worked in the art world exclusively until about 6 years ago. I love spending time with artists, I love the way they think, and I still consider myself an artist who cooks, but I don’t have any interest in selling my art work commercially. Cooking, writing and photography exercise the same parts of my brain, but in a much cleaner, more gratifying way. It all feels pretty seamless.
You recently launched a low alcohol wine called Jus Jus (congratulations!). Can you share why, and how you made this come to life?
Jus Jus is the first ever low-alcohol sparkling verjus with just 3.4% ABV (one-third the alcohol in most wine). Since the middle ages, Verjus has been used in French kitchens as a delicate substitute for lemon. Verjus (pronounced vair-ZHOO) translates to “green juice.” Early in the growing season, farmers prune the vines of excess grapes, and press the unripe fruit to produce a fresh, tart juice that–unlike wine–is never fermented.
In 2017, I was cooking at Scribe Winery in promotion of my cookbook tour for Salad for President: a Cookbook Inspired by Artists. I eased the cork from a bottle of homemade verjus and a curious fizz materialized. The living, breathing juice, with all its natural yeasts and sugars, had accidentally fermented, making it slightly alcoholic and refreshingly effervescent. I guzzled it down.
At the same time, I was trying to get pregnant and wanted to reduce my alcohol intake as a result (I had tried everything, this was my last resort). I wished there was something beautiful I could drink, something festive and storied like wine, but less alcoholic. The happy accident of that fermented verjus was the perfect thing. So, I approached Martha Stoumen, a natural winemaker in Sebastopol, CA, to see if she wanted to collaborate.
We met for the first time at 5am in a Sebastopol parking lot, and drove North to Martha’s vineyard where we picked 1,000 pounds of organic grapes. We made our first batch of Jus Jus that very day. The result is a playful twist on traditional verjus.
Please share a favorite recipe.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SPREAD
1 large butternut squash (1 ⅓ cup cooked)
3 garlic cloves
3 T tahini
1 ¼ teaspoon whole cumin seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 small shallots, minced
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Urfa Chile, plus more for serving
Toasted sesame seeds and pomegranate seeds for serving
Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove and discard seeds. Drizzle the open faces with olive oil and place cut side down on the tinfoil. Drizzle the garlic cloves (skin on) with olive oil, place them on the baking sheet, and bake for 40 minutes.
While the squash and garlic are roasting, heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high flame. When hot, add the olive oil and the cumin and stir for 10 seconds. Add the shallots and the Kosher salt, lower heat to medium, and cook until translucent and soft, about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to a food processor with the tahini and the Urfa Chile.
Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool. Scoop 1 1/3 cups of squash into the food processor. Blitz until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with a pinch tsp of Urfa Chile, pomegranate, and toasted sesame seeds.