THE SHARING CORNER
A SPACE I DEDICATE TO ALL THE CHIC WOMEN THAT INFLUENCE ME AND IGNITE MY CREATIVITY.
THEY SHARE THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS, STYLE AND PASSION FOR FOOD. I SHARE THEIR STORIES.
There’s someone I want you to know. She and I share the same philosophy regarding food. We both believe food that’s good for you doesn’t need to be boring or tasteless. That food can be healthy AND satisfying. Wholesome AND tasty. She’s a flavor first kind of gal, just like me. And she’s as passionate to the point of crazy about sharing food as I am. (I think maybe she’s part Italian.)
Her name is Carolynn Carreño. I’ve known Carolynn for decades and I’ve always admired her passion for cooking, her knowledge of all things food, and her irrepressible sense of humor. We once shared a house in Bridgehampton(oh if those kitchen walls could talk!) and although the past many years we’ve lived on opposite coasts, we’ve kept up a long-distance relationship by continually swapping recipes, cookbook ideas and culinary philosophies—and she never fails to add a smart twist to my stubborn Italian ways.
Carolynn’s writing, like her food, is anything but boring. She’s a James Beard award-winning writer whose essays have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Playboy, The Los Angeles Times, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and more. She’s also co-authored a dozen cookbooks with chefs whose names I’m sure you know, including culinary goddess Nancy Silverton, with whom Carolynn wrote The Mozza Cookbook. As Silverton says, Carolynn is the rare combination of a home cook with a chef mentality. That means Carolynn can tell you how to put amazing things on your table without needing a sous chef, a trust fund, and someone else to do the dishes.
I just got my hands on Carolynn’s most recently published cookbook, Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals., and the book is everything I love about Carolynn in recipe form.
The book is a mix of surprising, practical, daring, casual and sophisticated. And oh yeah, everything in it just happens to be healthy. Imagine that. It goes way beyond just grains and vegetables and stretches your imagination as well as your notion of healthy. Like Rice with Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad, which is an inspired example of how to stretch a little extravagance a long way, and Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Meatballs, which have a lovely sweet and sour thing happening and rely on rice rather than breadcrumbs as a gluten-free binder. The book is crowded with recipes simple to complex, weeknight fixes to easy and elegant entertaining, breakfast as well as dessert. I have an obsession with rice pudding and have my eye on her version made with black rice and coconut milk. Not only are the finished dishes doable and impressive, they’re gorgeous, too, thanks to inspired food styling by Susan Spungen and masterful photography by Beatriz da Costa. I’m really excited to cook from her book. You should be, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it if I were you. You’ll be so glad you did.
Bowls of Plenty is a testament to the fact that flavor always come first with Carolynn. Which makes perfect sense when you learn a little about her upbringing. “I grew up in the 1970s in Southern California with a pseudo-hippie mother,” says Carolynn. “She drove a van with wall-to-wall shag carpet and made macramé plant hangers in her spare time. But she didn’t do any of the dirty stuff like compost or wear Birkenstocks. She billed herself a ‘health nut’ and she wouldn’t let us eat anything white. We would sooner have found a monkey in the house than a loaf of Wonder Bread. Instead, she stocked the pantry with Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry Bread, which was packed with chewy wheat berries and sunflower seeds (and is to this day my favorite base for avocado toast), and when my sister and I would lobby for Fruit Loops or Cap’n Crunch cereal, she would tell us, ‘You might as well eat a Hershey’s Bar for breakfast!’ Instead into the cart would go boxes of Quaker 100% Natural Granola and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran which, despite the hefty sugar content, must have made her feel better because they were in the shape of something that may have come from the earth and they were brown.” You can understand why flavor has been an obsession for Carolynn.
Contrast her health-conscious American mom with her Mexican dad, who owned a restaurant in Tijuana, and whose legacy to Carolynn was dozens of recipes from her Mexican great grandmother, and you begin to understand the gamut of Carolynn’s culinary upbringing. And, perhaps, the reason for her intrepidness.
Put simply, Carolynn possesses an ability to make everything better. I’m not the only one who thinks so. She’s worked with countless professional chefs who feel the same, including Saveur Magazine co-founder and former editor-in-chief Colman Andrews and chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in New York City and Waxman’s in San Francisco. They adore her. And so do I.
Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals goes on sale today on Amazon.com. I suggest you get a copy ASAP. It might be the nicest thing you do for your-self and your taste buds this year.