We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.
Today: Lukas Volger tells us about his new app, why you should cook at home, and his favorite weeknight staples.
Lukas Volger has started a veggie burger business, created an eponymous quarterly app, taught cooking classes on two coasts, and written two cookbooks. You can also find the "Ultimate Vegetarian Dinner Party Mixtape" on his website. If jams for a meatless fête and multimedia authorship do not a modern Renaissance man make, well, we're a little scared to hear what does.
In the latest issue of Feast by Lukas, our title character tackles weeknight dinners from a refreshing angle: He argues that the beauty of weeknight cooking lies precisely in the process of taking time, of standing over a pot and stirring, of making risotto on a Tuesday with a glass of wine or a book in your free hand. Shortcuts are a happy bonus, but not a crutch.
In the interest of convincing Lukas to invite us over for risotto on a Tuesday (this is not a hint, but maybe it is?), we asked him a few questions about what's behind his app, what's in his freezer, and what's on his bookshelf.
Read on, weeknight warriors. And then make his biscuits tonight -- we've snagged the recipe, just for you.
What was the biggest challenge in creating your own app?
I didn't build the app itself -- 29th Street Publishing, a terrific company, did. But my challenges are ones that I happily signed up for: maintaining a publication schedule and keeping my creative juices flowing in the kitchen, trying to get better at food styling and photography. Come to think of it, the photos are the biggest challenge. I'm in awe of people who are good at food styling and food photography and I'm mildly resentful of how easy they make it seem.
In this "Weeknight" edition, you advocate for weeknight cooking that doesn't necessarily rely on making large batches of grains ahead of time, or rely solely on leftovers. But do you have any shortcuts that you swear by for weeknight cooking? Anything you always keep on hand, in the freezer?
I love having leftover rice on hand -- fried rice is a meal I always look forward to. I usually have a few quarts of soup and chili in the freezer. I put a recipe for marinated greens in this issue, and I find that having those in the refrigerator is such a blessing for quick meals -- it saves me from cleaning and trimming them every night. As much as I love my greens, cleaning and trimming them is one of the most tiresome kitchen chores.
I also always have eggs, several different types of vegetables, and a good selection of pastas and grains. These ingredients are the basis of 90% of my meals, and one can go a long time without getting bored by keeping them around. Fancy salt and finishing olive oil are nice to have, just to make a simple meal feel more special.
Food52's Tournament of Cookbooks is about to kick off -- do you have any favorite cookbooks that you picked up in the past year?
The Tournament of Cookbooks my absolute favorite sporting event of the year! I love it. Two favorite books I picked up in 2013 are David Tanis's One Good Dish and Simon Hopkinson's The Vegetarian Option (the latter may not have come out last year, but that's when I got it). Both are a total delight to read and cook from. All of Alice Waters' books are among my favorites, and her new The Art of Simple Food II is as wonderful as I expected it to be.
More: Get Alice Waters' recipe for Colorful Carrots with Butter and Honey.
How did you decide on the quarterly app format? Were there other iterations of Feast by Lukas that you considered before landing on this one?
I've written two cookbooks and I'm working on another one now, and those projects are a long and slow process. I love how rapidly one can publish and engage with recipes online, but I just don't have the discipline to blog properly. I'm an old soul; I need time to mull. The quarterly format allows me to delve into a topic or theme and to flesh it out much more than I would in a blog post, but much less than I would in a book. I also really like that I have as much creative license as I want to give myself. So far it's very fun.
In your opinion, what is the most compelling way to convince others of the value of cooking at home?
I realize there are people out there who don't like do cook, and they're a tough sell, but: Cooking at home is such a wonderful way to treat yourself. As I write in the opening essay to this Weeknights issue, making a proper meal for myself is usually how I recover from a bad day. The food is nourishing, of course, but so is the deliberate act of cooking it.
cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
A few grinds black pepper (optional)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup cold buttermilk
Photo of Lukas by Cara Howe; Carrot photo by James Ransom; Biscuit photo by Lukas Volger