Photo Credit: Copyright (c) 2013 by Jessica Seinfeld from THE CAN'T COOK BOOK published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Jessica Seinfeld -- mom of three, author, philanthropist, and wife of Jerry -- pretty much does it all. And despite her wealth and celebrity, she has a way of seeming so totally down-to-earth and relatable that we're inclined to take all the advice in her new cookbook, The Can’t Cook Book: 100+ Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified. (We also kind of want to invite ourselves over to hang out with her awesome family at dinnertime.)
We might not be chowing down with her and the fam anytime soon, but she did share her top cooking tips with us -- and a bit of gossip about Jerry, too.
What have you found that people who don't cook panic about most in the kitchen?
I don’t think there’s one thing. Every person is different. There are people who have specific fears, like something bad happened when they were cutting, and other people who are just afraid to buy the wrong ingredients and waste money.
What’s the one thing you want all those fearful people to know most of all?
With anything you start new, especially as an adult, you risk shame and humiliation. But failing at food is the least awful and horrifying thing you can fail at -- because you're going to eat [again] a few hours later. There's not going to be a crisis. One of the things I’m fascinated by is you have all these amazing people who are afraid to fail in this area because it is a public humiliation in a way. But just take it down a level. It’s just food.
Also, one of the things that holds true for anything new you start is that it requires organization and preparation. I talk a lot about ways to set yourself up for success in this book.
What are your must-have staples in the kitchen -- things that everyone should have?
I love a nice, big cutting board so you have different areas where you can work. I love my knife; I have a really wonderful small Japanese chef's knife -- it’s perfect for women. A lot of Japanese knives are more petite, and women feel more comfortable when they don’t have a knife that overwhelms them.
I finish with a high-quality olive oil, but I cook with a medium-quality olive oil. I also have a nice kosher salt and whole peppercorns. I have a few pots and pans that I use over and over again.
So you’d say people don’t really need a whole big collection of stuff, right?
I don’t use a huge collection of knives or cookware -- I try to keep it pretty simple. Especially if you’re just starting, the last thing you want to do is go out and overwhelm yourself. Start simple, start small. The more you get into it, the more you can purchase, if you want to and feel you need to, but you also can really make do with a knife that you love and you’re comfortable with and just a few different pots and pans that you like.
What's one of your easiest recipes that will make us look like an amazing cook?
The chicken wings are really easy. The pasta with cherry tomatoes and ricotta is really, really simple. The marinated strawberries I serve with everything. I serve them with ice cream because it seems really fancy. It’s just such an elegant, simple dessert.
What would you say are the easiest meals to make overall?
Pasta’s one. There’s so many different, really simple preparations for pasta. Peasant food is really the way to go, always. Italians are brilliant at that: They just use a few simple, high-quality ingredients and make the most delicious meals that feel sophisticated, but require very minimal experience or preparation.
What are the meals your kids love most?
They love every single thing in this book, which is why these recipes made it into the book. For Julian, it’s the peppercorn steak. For Sascha, it’s the cherry tomato pasta. For Shepherd, it’s the -- well he loves everything. He’s such an amazing eater.
Does Jerry ever cook?
No, he never cooks. Why should he ever cook? He says, "I can’t do it better than you, so why should I bother?" And he’s working hard and travels a lot, so for me it’s a pleasure.
And did that start to change as you worked on the book?
He’s just in love with this book because I found a way to simplify a process that people are intimidated by, including him. It’s something he’s always been afraid to do -- and he’s a guy who’s competent at a lot of things. With him as my muse and my litmus test, I figured out a way to break it down. He’s definitely on the road to becoming someone more interested and able to cook.
Feeling inspired to conquer your kitchen? Try Jessica's easy recipe for Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts from The Can’t Cook Book for dinner tonight. "This recipe has only a few ingredients," says Jessica. "It takes no time, the preparation is minimal, and you can really get the meal on the table in very little time."