The way Max and Eli Sussman see it, there’s a perfect dish for just about every occasion — whether you’re hosting a dinner party, eating solo or fighting a vicious hangover. Their new book The Best Cookbook Ever is full of fabulous recipes, expert advice and hilarious stories for any and every circumstance you may find yourself in (yes, including an impending apocalypse).
Here’s what it comes down to: no matter what’s going on, you always have a good reason to cook. And who better than two talented, fearless twenty-something cooks to give you the confidence you need to take your kitchen skills to the next level? Here, we ask Max and Eli all about the book, including what makes a successful hangover cure, their ideal dinner guest, and what they cook when they’re alone. Read on for their responses and sample recipes, then scroll down to the bottom of this post for book signing and cooking demo dates and locations!
In your intro, you call these “the best recipes of all time.” How does a recipe earn that status?
A recipe becomes the best recipe of all time by virtue of it being included in the Best Cookbook Ever, obviously. But in order to be included in this illustrious tome, a recipe must be: delicious, easy to make, taste delicious and stand the test of time.
You give dishes for specific scenarios: being hungover, eating alone, the apocalypse, etc. Which scenario are you most likely to find yourself in?
I think the most likely scenario is alone and hungover. But hopefully our readers have more vibrant social lives and can take advantage of the many other chapters!
What makes a successful hangover cure?
Greasy, salty and sweet. If you combine all three, plus the inevitable nap, you are well on your way to having that hangover disappear. Luckily, we have recipes with all those flavors in them!
In the book, you speak to people who may not already cook at home. What’s special to you about a home-cooked meal?
There’s little that compares to a great home-cooked meal. First of all, you’re probably cooking for someone whom you like or are at least interested in talking to. So you’ve got good company, which is important. Second, you can have your friends or roommates help out, which makes it more fun. And then you guys all get to eat it together without having to deal with sorting out the bill.
What do you cook when you’re alone? Any secrets to cooking for one?
Don’t fear the leftovers. We think the biggest fear that people have is that there will be too much food. Well guess what? The odds are good that you are going to eat a meal or 3 tomorrow so just cook your little heart out and if there’s any left just pack it up.
What’s your favorite kind of dinner party? Your number one party tip?
Our favorite kind of dinner party is one that later turns into a dance party. Number one tip: don’t run out of alcohol. Your party will end quickly after that point.
Who’s your ideal dinner guest?
Which recipes from the book do you make most often, and which are guilty pleasure/special occasion meals?
The parmesan cake has been a delicious go-to recipe for any dessert type of situation. It’s also a guilty pleasure.
Please choose a recipe from the cookbook for us to share and tell us why you chose it.
The Artichoke and Chard Salad. It’s really good, looks really pretty and combines ingredients in ways that not everyone has done before.
Chard Salad with Artichoke Hearts and Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
Artichokes are essentially two vegetables in one. In this recipe we use the heart, which is tender with a texture somewhere between a really creamy potato and a roasted turnip. But you can also eat the bottom part of the leaves; dip them into some homemade lemon aioli or melted butter with lemon juice mixed in. Serve the leaves as a snack while you’re getting the rest of the meal ready. It’s like the Tootsie Pop of vegetables. As Lil’ Kim once said while singing about artichokes: How many leaves does it take to get to the center?
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) white balsamic vinegar
2 medium or 1 large artichoke
1⁄4 cup (11⁄2 oz/45 g) pitted Kalamata olives
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp, or as needed
1 bunch rainbow chard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 cup (3 oz/90 g) golden raisins
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
In a wide saucepan, combine 2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) water and the vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, prepare the artichokes: Trim the stems to about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Using a large serrated knife, cut off the top one-third of each artichoke. Use a paring knife to nick off any remaining sharp tips from the outer leaves.
Add the artichokes to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until tender all the way through, 30–45 minutes. Insert the tip of the paring knife through a stem into the heart to check. Drain and let cool. Pull the leaves off each artichoke and snack on them or save for later. Discard the furry choke, using the tip of a teaspoon to scrape it out of the hearts, and trim off any tough parts. Cut the cleaned hearts into slices. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine the olives and lemon juice and pulse to purée slightly. Add the 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) olive oil and process until smooth to make the vinaigrette. Set aside.
Cut the stems from the chard leaves. Cut the stems into narrow strips and coarsely chop the leaves, keeping the stems and leaves separate. In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving the oil in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat (add more oil if the pan seems dry), add the chard leaves, and cook, stirring, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Using tongs or the slotted spoon, transfer the leaves to a bowl, reserving the oil in the pan.
Return the pan to medium-high heat (add more oil if the pan seems dry). When the oil is hot, add the artichoke pieces in a single layer and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly.
To assemble, add the chard stems and raisins to the chard leaves, pour in the vinaigrette (you may not need all of it), and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a platter. Scatter the artichokes over the top, add a few grinds of pepper and the lemon zest, and serve warm with any remaining dressing on the side.
Rolled-up pieces of meat with delicious stuffing should be its own food group at the top of the pyramid. Unfortunately, the Surgeon General never returns our calls. The first time we ever really had amazing spiedini was at our friend Joe’s popular Brooklyn restaurant Rucola. It’s a must order whenever we go (as is the excellent pasta). When we were thinking of a cool meat technique to show you (pounding out the meat thinly) as part of a delicious dish perfect for dinner parties, we were lucky to find inspiration in that most satisfying appetizer.
2 lb (1 kg) sirloin, cut into slices
1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick
1 cup (4 oz/125 g) salted roasted pistachios
1⁄2 cup (2 oz/60 g) panko bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil for brushing
Working with 1 slice at a time, place the beef between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. On a clean work surface, using the flat side of a meat pounder or a small, heavy frying pan, pound out each slice to a thickness of about 2 credit cards. The goal is to get the meat extremely thin without tearing it. The slices should be about 2 inches (5 cm) by 4 inches (10 cm) after they are pounded. As you work, stack the slices in their plastic wrap to one side.
Put the pistachios in a food processor. Carefully pulse to process the nuts just to the consistency of a coarse meal (about the size of the panko) scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. (Be careful not to overprocess, or the nuts will turn to butter.) Add the panko, garlic, lemon zest, coriander, and cayenne and pulse to blend. Add the lemon juice and purée until smooth.
Preheat the broiler.
Spread a thin layer of pistachio purée over each piece of meat. Carefully roll the meat up, taking care to keep the pistachio purée stuffed inside. Slide the rolled and stuffed sirloin pieces onto skewers. You should fill the equivalent of four 15-inch (38-cm) skewers.
Brush each skewer of meat with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Broil for 5–7 minutes, flipping halfway through. The spiedini are done when cooked to medium-rare inside. You may have to remove the smaller pieces from the oven earlier, as they will cook faster. Serve right away.
Pearl Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Syrup
We love pearl couscous because the texture is more like pasta than like a grain. Equally perfect for summertime outside or wintertime indoors and also delicious served hot or cold, the true trick to elevating this dish is the pomegranate syrup. We obviously suggest making your own (you are in fact reading a cookbook with recipes). But in the case that you are in a rush or lazy (we are assuming that you’re most likely American and therefore you are both), a lot of specialty grocers will carry pomegranate molasses in the Middle Eastern section.
2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) pomegranate juice
1 tsp light brown sugar
About 1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (6 oz/185 g) pearl couscous
1⁄2 head cauliflower, cored and broken into small florets
3⁄4 lb (375 g) cherry tomatoes
1⁄2 cup (2 oz/60 g) julienned red onion
Roasted Garlic Dressing (recipe follows)
3 oz (90 g) baby arugula
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the pomegranate juice and brown sugar and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the juice is reduced to 2–3 tablespoons syrup, about 30 minutes. Set the pomegranate syrup aside.
In a saucepan, bring 11⁄4 cups (10 fl oz/310 ml) water to a boil over high heat. Stir in 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Pour in the couscous, stir once, and reduce the heat to low. Cover tightly and let simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir with a spoon, then cover again until ready to use.
While the couscous is simmering, in a large sauté pan, heat about 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) of the olive oil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and a pinch of salt and sauté until the cauliflower is dark around the edges but not completely tender, 3–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Return the pan to high heat and add the tomatoes to the residual olive oil. Add another 1 tablespoon oil if the pan seems dry. Cookuntil the skins are blistered, 2–3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the couscous, cauliflower, tomatoes, onion, and dressing and toss to mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the arugula and toss gently to combine. Place on a serving platter and finish with a drizzle of the pomegranate syrup. Serve right away.
Roasted Garlic Dressing
Makes about 3/4 cup (6 fl oz/180 ml)
1 head garlic, cloves separated and unpeeled
Extra-virgin olive oil to cover, plus 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic cloves with oil to cover and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently until a paring knife meets no resistance when thrust through a clove, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cloves to a bowl and let them cool until they can be handled. (Discard the poaching oil or save for another use.) Peel the cooled cloves and place in a food processor or blender. Add the 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) olive oil, the lemon juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Book Signings & Cooking Demonstrations with Max & Eli
Join us at your local Williams-Sonoma store for a special book signing and cooking demonstration with Eli Sussman and Max Sussman. They will be signing copies of their new cookbook, BEST COOKBOOK EVER. Please note: Eli and Max will only be signing copies of BEST COOKBOOK EVER purchased at the Williams-Sonoma store where the event is being held. Proof of purchase required.
Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 12:00pm
340 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94108
Market Common at Clarendon
Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 12:00pm
2700 Clarendon, Arlington, VA 22201
Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:00pm
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
King of Prussia
Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 12:00pm
160 North Gulph Rd., King of Prussia, PA 19406