“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
 
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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. 🙂
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.

 

This easy salad requires little more than pantry ingredients.

I have a little game I play with myself called “How Long Can I Wait Before I Go to the Supermarket?” Sure, I pop into the little local health food store every few days and hit the farmers’ market once a week. But the sprawling grocery store? I try to go as little as possible, which unfortunately, is still way too often.

You see, when I lived in New York City, there weren’t many massive suburban-style supermarkets. A year after leaving the city, I’m still adjusting to the doublewide aisles and the overwhelming selection of junk food.

Earlier this week, I scanned my crisper drawers, empty except for apples reserved for my daughter’s lunches and a few leftover stalks of celery. (Why, oh why, is there always left over celery?)

Since I had used up the last of the bread that morning, I thought, this is it. I’ll be heading to the Giant before dinner. But first, I did a quick inventory of the cabinets and found a lazy cook’s treasure: A can of chickpeas and a can of tuna.

Heidi Swanson once wrote a post about being nice to your future self and this was an example of my past self helping me out. She knew this moment would soon come.

At lunch time, I quickly popped open the chickpeas and tuna and drained them, then transferred to a mixing bowl. I added three stalks of sliced celery and (another score!) five sliced radishes. I tossed that together with equal parts lemon juice and olive oil along with generous pinches of salt and pepper. I also added a little caraway seed in honor of Heidi, because it felt like something she might do.

Finally, I tore a few salvageable leaves off an otherwise rotting bunch of cilantro.

If I had had a shallot or a scallion lying about, I would have diced it and tossed it in, too. Oh well. Who knew I’d ever be so grateful for leftover celery?

Chickpea-Tuna-Celery Salad
 
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This protein-rich salad is great for make ahead lunches or casual office potlucks because it holds up in the refrigerator for a day after it's made. The dish is also the perfect excuse to use up some of that orange-flavored olive oil, grape leaf pesto, or other curious condiment you might have received once in a gift basket or bought on a whim. Take this combo and make it yours.
Author:
Recipe type: Easy
Serves: 2 to 3
Ingredients
  • 1 small shallot (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • One 25-ounce can of chickpeas
  • One 5-ounce can of tuna
  • 3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 5 red radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of caraway seeds (optional)
  • Torn cilantro or parsley leaves (optional)
Instructions
  1. If you're using a shallot, combine it with the lemon juice and let stand 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, tuna, celery, radishes, and olive oil and toss. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the caraway and herbs, if using. Serve.

 

With romaine hearts, cucumber, jicama and pumpkin seeds, this crisp green salad is insanely refreshing.I have a confession to make: I went all the way to Mexico and fell in love with a pretty basic green salad. Sure, I ate tacos (twice a day), some fantastic grilled chicken and some pretty incredible ceviche. But it’s a salad, at a hotel restaurant, no less, that I can’t stop thinking about.

You see, my trip was to Tulum, which, in the last 10 years has gone from being a backwoods, electricity-at-night-only kind of beach spot to one where half of the people on my Instagram feed go when New York temperatures start demanding boots instead of clogs. These days, Tulum is more bobo than boho, with a relaxed haute hippie vibe (don’t be surprised if you awake to seeing people shooting yoga videos on the beaches and rocks) and, of course, hotels with WIFI signals. (How else could people upload those photos, leaving everyone in Brooklyn drooling?)

Because of restaurants like Hartwood, Gitano and Posada Margherita, Tulum has also become a bit of a food destination. I didn’t go for the food, however. I went for a wedding and a pretty incredible one at that. It was my first real vacation since my daughter was born three years ago and my first long vacation without her.

I’m ashamed to say that, on this trip, I neither visited the famous Mayan ruins nor did I do much obsessive chow hounding. The wedding kept us pretty busy (if you call drinking margaritas in designated spots busy, that is), and in my down time, I was happy to just float in the Caribbean or swing in a hammock with a used copy of Blood, Bones and Butter.

I did, of course, get hungry at times. Unless I was eating a meal hosted by the bride and groom, I often went to the restaurant at my hotel, El Pez. The food there was quite tasty if not groundbreaking, with plenty of good fresh ingredients, including eggs with yolks the color of sunflower petals. On the first night, my friend and I ordered a seafood platter, which included a whole fish covered with octopus, clams and shrimp, all grilled and well-seasoned. Nothing wrong with that! With it came a salad, the salad. A tumble of romaine hearts, pea shoots, large chunks of diced jicama and cucumber and a bracing lime dressing, this salad was so refreshing; hydrating even. I couldn’t stop eating it and remarking, “This salad!” which earned me a few funny looks.

I later had a more substantial version of the salad, this one made with caramelized onion and avocado. There might have been pumpkin seeds as well or I might have imagined them. No matter. I think that the secret to this salad was generous use of lime juice and salt along with a lot of crisp vegetables. I loved the way the cucumber and jicama were cut into large pieces (about 1-inch chunks), giving you delicious contrast between their well-seasoned outsides and plain, juicy interiors. My market sells jicama pre-diced, so you’ll see that the pieces in my photo are a bit smaller.

Ok, enough salad analysis. Here’s the recipe! (Plus, bonus photos from a wedding that looked like it was straight out of a Pinterest board.) continue reading