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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.
When we caught wind of Molly Wizenberg's new book, a collective cheer echoed through the office. When it arrived, we considered taking sick days to plow through it (we didn't, but we still finished it in record time). When Molly planned a visit to our offices while in town for a book tour, we reluctantly left our autograph books -- you know, those ones you carry around at Disney World with puffy covers wrapped around pages holding curlycue names like Cinderella and MICKEY! -- at home.
Instead, she and Amanda made a noodle salad, which we all devoured while chatting her up.
Delancey, Molly's new book, picks up where A Homemade Life left off, and tells the story of how Molly and her husband, Brandon, opened a pizza restaurant, with minimal resources and much scrappiness: There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but also recipes, and pizza talk, and the warm, inviting writing that makes Molly such a delight to read and such an ally in the kitchen.
And here's something new: We crowd-sourced some questions for Molly -- from you -- on Instagram! Read her answers below, then make this salad for dinner tonight.
What's usually inside your fridge? - marta_loureiro
Butter, eggs (always from the farmers market, even though they're $$$, and sometimes as many as two dozen! We LOVE eggs), flour, whole milk, lemons (a few of which are usually crusty and hard as rocks; I forget they're there), a jar of homemade vinaigrette, many hot sauces, a bottle of vermouth, a bag of rolls of film, and leftovers. I love leftovers.
What's been the biggest challenge of being a small business owner in the food industry, and how has it shaped you? - meltfw
Managing people. It's the most rewarding part, and the hardest part. There's a real art to creating a staff, to balancing personalities and skills and schedules, and unfortunately, so far as I can tell, that art can only be learned by trial and error. And as though that weren't hard enough, people inevitably move on -- go back to school, change fields, on and on -- so just when you think you've got it made and your staff is awesome, everything shifts. I don't think I'll ever get used to that. But having to adjust to constant change has been good for me. It's made me more resilient and more flexible.
Which meal of the day is your favorite to make and why? - thecookerywife
Breakfast, absolutely. I like to really geek out on my coffee: I have just one cup a day, and it'd better be great, you know? I try to take my time and be methodical about it. Whenever my mom visits, she thinks I'm nuts, with my digital scale and my fancy kettle, but it makes me happy. As for food, I don't need an elaborate breakfast. My ideal is toast with butter, a little bowl of plain yogurt, and some fresh fruit. Or maybe pancakes, if I'm feeling particularly energetic. Mostly I like breakfast because it feels so hopeful. My friend Lecia told me recently that her sister sometimes texts her in the morning to say, "It's a new day!" I like that a lot. That's how I feel about breakfast.
What books or authors inspire your writing? - smnthabella
So many. I'm a big fan of Calvin Trillin and Laurie Colwin. I also love Francis Lam's writing, and I hope he writes a book one day. I love Matthew Amster-Burton's writing -- am I allowed to say that, given that we cohost a podcast? As for novels, I come back to Michael Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, every few years. My favorite of all time.
What has feeding a child brought to your experience as a cook? - clairevwh
I make a lot more soups -- my daughter will eat pretty much anything in soup form -- and I'm a little better about planning ahead. But if anything, having (and feeding) a child has just made me lighten up. I want food to be something that brings us together as a family, something that we have fun sharing, and not a source of stress or tension. I try to cook simple, delicious food, food that I want to eat, and our daughter's job is to choose which parts to eat and how much. Most of all, I try not to worry too much about it. I hope that she grows up to understand that food and cooking are about not only sustenance, but also connection and fun and pleasure.
Are there any ingredients or recipes that scare you? - beccapie
I like the flavor of chicken liver, and I never shy away from eating it, but man oh man, I DO NOT like working with it in recipes. I don't like to touch it. The texture of raw liver! The connective tissue! SAVE ME.
How did you decide which recipes made the final cut into your book? - postcalligraphy
Delancey is about a time in our lives when we actually weren't cooking much for ourselves, and we weren't necessarily eating well. We ate a lot of takeout. So when it came to choosing recipes for the book, I wanted to write about simple foods, the kind of stuff that we rely on in busy times -- or all the time, for that matter, as business owners and new parents! I wanted to be sure to include a basic fried rice formula, and my favorite meatloaf, and a good brownie recipe, that kind of thing. And then, of course, we made all the recipes over and over, to make sure that they worked the way we wanted them to. A few on the initial list got nixed because they were too hit-or-miss; we couldn't work up a reliable method for making them taste just right.
Serves 2 to 3
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 to 8 tablespoons water, to taste
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 fresh Thai (also sold as "bird's eye") chile, minced
For the salad:
8 ounces thin rice noodles (roughly the width of linguine)
3 or 4 napa cabbage leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 medium carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/2 cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 handful chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of basil, cilantro, and mint
8 ounces cooked meat or shrimp, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Photo of Molly by Kyle Johnson. All other photos by James Ransom.