“Keep calm and follow the recipe.” That was the motto behind the new book, Unforgettable, featuring the life story and best recipes of legendary cookbook author Paula Wolfert.

Still, while in the kitchen preparing her egg salad, I wasn’t so sure. It calls for a whopping 1 to 2 cups of mint and 1 cup sliced green onions for only 4 hard-boiled eggs. I thought to myself, “Really, Paula?” But I did as instructed and discovered that the fattiness of the eggs, which are grated so they look like confetti, mellows the assertiveness of the mint and scallion. The result is a salad that tastes light and bright but is ultimately very filling.

With the abundance of herbs and the sprinkle of fruity Marash pepper, it also feels quite modern. That’s the story of Paula’s work: She was always ahead of her time.

My friend and former coworker, Emily Thelin, edited Paula’s stories while we worked together at Food & Wine. For years, she hoped to write a biography about Paula, and she eventually pulled together a proposal. Paula’s work is lesser known than some of the other grandes dames of cookery writing, including Julia Child and Marcella Hazan. This is perhaps because Paula’s recipes seem intimidating, and she called for many obscure mail-order ingredients in the days before Amazon Prime. (Or the Internet, for that matter.) Now that these ingredients are more accessible, and in many cases, easy to find, Emily thought it was time to introduce a generation of cooks to Paula’s work and showcase the influence she’s had on what we cook today.

Twelve publishers rejected Emily’s proposal, feeling Paula’s time had passed. When Emily learned in 2013 that Paula had Alzheimer’s, she felt an extra sense of urgency to tell her story. She pulled together a dream team including cookbook author Andrea Nguyen to project manage, Eric Wolfinger to photograph, and Toni Tajima to design. Together, they raised money for the project on Kickstarter to self publish it.

The resulting book, which took about two years to create, is stunning. Cookbooks as travelogues are common, but gorgeously photographed cookbooks as biographies, less so. I have to say, I love the format. I knew the broad strokes of Paula’s career, but I loved reading the stories in between, the sort of connective tissue that makes up a three dimensional life.

For example, Paula fled her conservative upbringing in Brooklyn to hang with the Beats in Manhattan, and later, in Tangiers. It all sounds so glamorous as a bullet point, but ultimately the sexism in Beat culture started to wear on her after a while.

I also loved reading about how Paula did some of her most intrepid traveling as the mother of school-aged children. As a mother myself, I often feel like these types of projects don’t fit into my life anymore. With her first book, Couscous and Other Good Food From MoroccoPaula proved, when there’s a will, there’s a way. With this book, Emily and team did, too.

Mint and Egg Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This salad is wonderful with the onion tart from my last post or a simple green salad. And yes, I'd totally bring this to a potluck. 🙂
Serves: 4
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups slivered mint leaves (depending on the intensity of the mint)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons mild red pepper flakes, preferably Marash
  • 2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Flaky sea salt
  1. In a saucepan, combine the eggs with water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and place under cool running water to cool. Peel the eggs.
  2. Using the large holes of a box grater, and working over a large bowl, grate the eggs. Add the mint, green onions, and red pepper flakes and mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice to taste, then drizzle over the egg mixture and toss to coat lightly and evenly. Season with salt. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.


Eggs baked in squash

As I mentioned in my previous post, Cooking Secrets of Adulthood, roasted vegetables make for an excellent breakfast. One of my favorite such breakfasts are roasted halves of small squash, like acorn, delicata, and buttercup. The squash are tasty enough on their own with a little maple syrup, or they can serve as a bowl for more substantial fillings, like porridge or yogurt and granola. I find warm squash in the morning to be a soothing start to the day and often easier to digest than my usual toast.

Because I could never hack open a squash pre-coffee, I tend to roast a few small squash on Sundays and refrigerate them to use through the week. Then I simply rewarm them in the toaster oven as my coffee drips into the Chemex. If I have a little extra time, I’ll bake an egg right in the cavity. (Think of this as a gluten-free egg in a hole.) I wrote up my method for the baked eggs below, but first, a few more topping and serving ideas for your squash halves.

  • Brush with maple syrup and dust with sesame seeds.
  • Put some wilted greens or other cooked mushrooms in the squash halves under the egg before you bake them.
  • Grate Parmigiano-Reggiana cheese over the squash before you re-warm.
  • Fill with warm lightly buttered farro, quinoa, or millet and top with sliced almonds and berries or crumbled bacon.
  • Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios.

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This easy take on a Spanish tortilla uses tortilla chips instead of potatoes.

Since I handed in the manuscript for Modern Potluck last year, I’ve been helping birth other people’s books in one way or another, including acting as a ghost recipe developer. The creative energy I’ve used for those recipes has zapped me of energy to write my own recipes or even to cook anything new. Now that this project is winding to a close, I’ve been spending some time with my nose buried in new cookbooks, which, if I were truly to live my best life, I would do every day.

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