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Bacon French onion dip, left, and chicken taco-stuffed bell peppers from Eat What You Want.
What’s Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want by Gaby Dalkin.
Dad’s kitchen sink cookies from Eat What You Want.
Our cookbook of the week is Eat What You Want by chef Gaby Dalkin. To try a recipe from the book, check out: Bacon French onion dip , chicken taco-stuffed bell peppers and Dad’s kitchen sink cookies .
Even during a global pandemic, diet culture manages to dominate. Look no further than the “quarantine 15” memes — alternating photos of chonky cats, plates of pasta and rippling muscles — and tools that supposedly calculate how many pounds you’ll gain in lockdown. A health crisis hasn’t lessened our weight obsession, and for some, it may be all the harder to ignore.
“It’s so loud and it’s so unnecessary,” says chef and author Gaby Dalkin. “The diet industry has had many different looks and it rebrands itself every once in a while. But the bottom line is that the noise that these people are creating for everyone is not helpful.”
For Dalkin, deprivation has never been the name of the game — and in her third cookbook, Eat What You Want (Abrams, 2020), her ethos of enjoyment is front and centre. “Food is supposed to bring us joy,” she says, “and I really wanted that to come across in the book.”
A reflection of her Los Angeles life, Dalkin’s sunny style permeates its pages. She developed the 125 recipes with everyday eating in mind, and as with What’s Gaby Cooking — the blog she launched more than a decade ago — her social media and other cookbooks, approachability is the common thread.
“I don’t want any of the recipes to feel (out of reach), no matter what level of expertise you have in the kitchen,” she says. “That’s how I started thinking about the recipes that would go into this book: what ingredients did I want to feature, what cooking techniques did I want to teach everyone.”
During lockdown, traffic to What’s Gaby Cooking has tripled. First, there was a flood of interest in baking and pasta recipes, Dalkin says. But now the pull of comfort food has ebbed, and people’s affinities are running the gamut once again. “I feel very lucky that my recipes are resonating with people,” she says, “and honoured that (they’re) looking to me to help them through this.”
Dalkin is in regular correspondence with many of her readers; at the rate of a couple thousand per day across her social media platforms, emails and blog comments. Recognizing early on in the pandemic that some of those coming to her for ideas were new to the kitchen, she started a video series focusing on the basics.
“My husband luckily produces all of the video for my site. So very quickly we were like, ‘Let’s do this. We can do it super-low budget, just the two of us,’” says Dalkin. “We’re shooting on my phone, no lighting. I’m literally wearing pyjamas for half of the episodes, but that’s what everybody’s doing right now. So I think it’s relatable and educational, which is always the key to creating good content.”
Food is supposed to bring us joy, and I really wanted that to come across in the book
Dubbed the What’s Gaby Cooking Culinary School , she turned to her old binders — which she had stashed away since she went to culinary school in 2009 — for inspiration. The resulting 30- to 60- second videos cover knife skills and vegetable prep techniques, like how to cut an onion, and simple recipes such as sweet potato hash and wilted greens.
Her life has always been about eating, Dalkin says, and she credits her parents for instilling a balanced approach from the start. This Father’s Day , rather than spending the weekend at her parents’ house in Seattle — baking and barbecuing together — she’ll be visiting with them via video chat instead.
Growing up, baking with her dad on the weekends was treasured family time. She dedicates several recipes in Eat What You Want to him, including his speciality, grilled cheese (French onion, and bacon, cheddar and tomato confit versions are in the book), sun-dried tomato, Parmesan and roasted garlic-herb bread, and kitchen sink cookies.
“The love he puts into his food has really stayed with me,” says Dalkin. “Even when I go home and visit now, I’m perfectly capable of making myself a grilled cheese. But there’s nothing as good as how my dad makes it — how he cuts it and all these things. So it’s really cool to honour him in the book in various chapters, because he’s played a huge role in my love of food.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020