Photo Credit: Mollie Katzen
Two of the first cookbooks I ever owned were Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. These approachable, illustrated manuals continue to enjoy strong sales and hearken back to a simpler time, when cookbooks quietly charmed rather than blared with a bullhorn. Katzen's newest book, Get Cooking, focuses on familiar classics and basic cooking techniques. I caught up with her by phone from her Berkeley home.
Cheryl Sternman Rule: How did Get Cooking come about, and who is its primary audience?
Mollie Katzen: My son (who is now 25) and his friends were graduating from college and getting their first apartments. They really loved good food, but they didn't have the time, skills, money, or knowledge to really cook. They wanted a handbook – how to roast a chicken, how to make some appetizers. As much as they'd have liked to spend all their money in restaurants, they would have blown their entire entertainment budgets if they'd done so.
CSR: How would you describe the book's culinary focus?
MK: I made it very simple. I wanted to teach new cooks, and I wanted to meet them where they lived. So I asked, What is it you want to know how to do? What are the foods that make you comfortable and happy? The answers were roast chicken, spaghetti carbonara, polenta with ragu, quiche… I tried to make a book that gave everybody a few recipes that they know and love. This is also the first book I've written (aside from one I co-authored with Dr. Walter Willett) that includes meat.
CSR: It's still summer. Do you think summer is the easiest time for novices to learn how to cook?
MK: I do, because with a lot of fresh produce, you just cut it up and combine it. Plus, there's not a lot of wait time – it's instant gratification. Out here, we tend to turn our farmers' market haul into a salad. We cut raw corn off the cob, and I love when the summer bell peppers are really thin-fleshed and tender. You just throw it all together.
CSR: Any final tips?
MK: I'm a big proponent of sharpening kitchen knives.
To learn more about Mollie Katzen and Get Cooking, and to see the book's companion videos, visit her website.