Cookbook Club

Hand Crush Your Tomatoes, Says Julia Turshen (+ Other Bits of Kitchen Wisdom)

May 19, 2017

This week, members of our Cookbook Club submitted questions they wanted to ask Julia Turshen, the author of this month's featured book, Small Victories. She answered queries on everything from why it's worth taking the time to hand crush tomatoes (instead of just starting with crushed tomatoes) to what her go-to cookbook is.

Read on to see her answers on cooking, cookbooks, and don't forget to vote for what cookbooks the Cookbook Club covers next.

A good morning for Perfume Genius and chilaquiles. ✨

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On Cooking

Sonia Hawkins: What's your favorite kind of food?

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Julia Turshen: My favorite kind of food is anything I get to eat while I'm sitting next to my wife. 

Chrissy Francis: Why should I hand crush whole tomatoes instead of using crushed to start?

Julia Turshen: I think the whole tomatoes tend to be a higher-quality product (crushed aren't usually just straightforward crushed tomatoes, but rather the bits and pieces leftover from tomato processing). Plus it's so fun to get your hands messy. And you get to keep them from being too crushed (I like irregular pieces). That said, if you want to save a little time (I know I do all of the time), by all means, use the crushed. 

Nanda Garber: When you say juice of one lemon, how much do you mean, approximately?

Julia Turshen: I would say approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons. I just hate measuring lemon juice and love just squeezing it straight from the fruit! 

On Cookbooks

Dara Vandor: Which cookbook is your go-to? If you could have dinner with one chef/baker alive or dead who would it be?

Julia Turshen: The answer for both is one in the same: The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis is my go-to book, and if it were humanly possible, I'd love to have dinner with her. And my late grandfather, who was a bread baker. 

Hayley Evans: What are your top five favorite cookbooks? (Excluding your own, wonderful though they are.)

Julia Turshen: Oh you're so sweet, thank you. Edna Lewis's book as I mentioned above, plus Lee Bailey's Country Weekends, Ina Garten's Parties!, Dr. Jessica B. Harris's The WELCOME TABLE, and Vivian Howard's Deep Run Roots

Brian Hogan Stewart: How did creating your own cookbook differ from working on others' cookbooks? What was easier, harder?

It was much quieter! It was different and easier in many ways (less scheduling, less back-and-forth) and also harder (more responsibility and the work of promoting it and not just moving onto the next). I loved creating my own but I also love great collaborations. I'm so happy I get to do both. 

Joan Laws Osborne: I’m enjoying cooking from Small Victories and was wondering if you have plans for another cookbook.

Julia Turshen: Thanks so much! And yes!! Stay tuned...

Have a question for Julia? There's still time to ask her—join the Cookbook Club today.

Vote for our next cookbooks

Cookbook Club books are chosen by you, the participants. To have your say on what cookbooks we'll cover in July, August, and September, fill out this Google Form by Monday, May 22.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.

1 Comment

Rhonda35 May 21, 2017
I appreciate Julia's answer regarding hand-crushing canned tomatoes vs using already-crushed tomatoes. I agree; I think it gives you more control over the final texture. I hadn't thought about the already-crushed being made of bits and pieces leftover from processing - it makes sense.