(Portrait and dish) Ksenija Hotic
TM: Yes, we continue to learn and also continue to bring age-old practices back into our lives. Simple and quick isn’t really different; rather, we are now spending more time cooking or, at least, taking more care with our purchasing decisions. We are eating seasonally and locally whenever possible. That seems ancient, but it’s actually back and in the mainstream. Seasonal and local is now understood as the easiest, least expensive way to cook — and the best way to eat. I think sweets are still an important indulgence, but we are now learning how to bake with far less sugar and we’re using natural alternatives. We’re also continuing to embrace shortcuts for ease but cooking with more knowledge and consideration.
Easy to me means I can hand the recipe to anyone, including my kids, to prepare and no one gets stressed. Delicious means the whole table has to love it. My life is a test kitchen. This book was a slow birth — almost 10 years of collecting recipes. There were a lot of rejects. My mom, sisters-in-law, aunt and friends who are great cooks tested for me. I’d say these recipes are family-approved.
We can’t really say, “If you don’t want it, don’t eat it” anymore. So, I have an arsenal of the flexible, adaptable dishes and menus, and a pantry with the options — say, yogurt that’s lactose-free and gluten-free pasta. It’s always family-style and it’s just as cheap and easy to throw a steak and a trout fillet on the barbecue for the same meal. And, for risotto, cheese can be added on the side at the end.
It was an incredible decade, but I don’t miss working 24/7. I miss the gathering place and the energy and the buzz. I miss being in my 20s with endless energy. I don’t think I could pull that off again. I did two seasons of Food Network, two cookbooks and had three babies! But I am thinking through the next venture, perhaps something lifestyle-oriented.