Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook: A Cookbook
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A modern approach to mastering the art of cooking at home from the food editor at large at Bon Appétit, with more than 70 innately flexible recipes.
The indispensable recipes and streamlined cooking techniques in Where Cooking Begins are an open invitation to dive into Carla Lalli Music’s laid-back cooking style. The food editor at large at Bon Appétit, her intuitive recipes are inspired by the meals she makes at home for her family and friends and the joy she takes in feeding them. Here, too, is her guide to the six essential cooking methods that will show you how to make everything without over-complicating anything—and every recipe includes suggestions for swaps and substitutions, so you’ll never feel stuck or stymied.
Where Cooking Begins is also the first recent cookbook to connect the way we shop to the way we cook. Music’s modern approach—pick up your fresh ingredients a few times a week, and fill your pantry with staples bought online—will make you want to click on a burner and slide out a cutting board the minute you get home.
The no-fail techniques, textured recipes, and strategies in Where Cooking Begins will make you a great cook.
Praise for Where Cooking Begins
“An ideal tool kit to transform a timid cook into an adventurous and confident improviser.”—Helen Rosner, The New Yorker
“[Carla Lalli Music] is like everyone’s favorite aunt, the one who shows up and makes surprising things happen. Her superpower is that she believes in you as a cook. . . . Where Cooking Begins is her 250-page argument that you should believe in yourself, too.”—Julia Moskin, The New York Times
“Carla Lalli Music knows how to help with ingredients, strategy and technique, but most important of all, she understands how to help you become confident as a cook.”—Nigella Lawson
“A gorgeous new cookbook from Bon Appétit’s former food director Carla Lalli Music, Where Cooking Begins presents a beautiful guide to truly modern cooking. Laid back and built to share, these simple but sophisticated recipes are the kind you accidentally memorize and learn to live by.”—The Chalkboard
“If you loved Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, this is the next book for you.”—PureWow
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Publisher: Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed
Publication Date: 03-19-2019
Product Dimensions: 8.10(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Carla Lalli Music is the James Beard Award–winning author of the bestseller Where Cooking Begins and food editor at large at Bon Appétit. Known for hosting the hit YouTube series “Back to Back Chef,” Carla has also appeared in many other recipe videos for Bon Appétit. She is currently at work on her second cookbook, That Sounds So Good. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.
How I Cook at Home
This is my perfect day: It’s June, and a Saturday, the best day of the week by far. It’s not too hot to sleep with the windows open but warm enough to kick off the covers when I wake up, take stock of the sun already pretty high up there, and realize with a spoonful of urgency that this day is not for wasting.
Saturday is farmers’ market day in Fort Greene, my Brooklyn neighborhood, and I want to be there ahead of the crowds as much as I want to snag a primo spot at the beach before the parking lot fills up. The thoughts rush in—What am I missing at the market right now while I’m lying in bed and the families with toddlers who’ve been up since 5 a.m. are going to buy because they got there before me? My primary motivators are activated: anxiety, competition, and desire. What if there were sugar snap peas an hour ago, but there are none now? What if the best berries have already been scooped up? What if the parade of parents pushing strollers, couples walking dogs, and those people shepherding both strollers and dogs prevents me from getting a front-row spot to assess the lettuces? What if I am barred from one of life’s greatest pleasures—blueberries that have never been refrigerated— because I arrive too late?
Some of my favorite recipes in this book came about on Saturdays like this one, when I had no plan for what I was going to cook but knew that whatever it was, it would all start with the farmers’ market shop. There have been countless weekends when there was so much good stuff there that I struggled to carry all of it the two and a half blocks home, leafy greens sticking out of my totes and tickling the back of my neck, which is honestly a terrible sensation when you’re trying to hang on to heavy bags. It’s worth it, though, and I’ve eaten many juicy freestone peaches over the kitchen sink as reward for my stamina. I can think of numerous excursions at different times of the year when I was already overloaded but couldn’t bear to leave without that giant squash/enormous watermelon/flat of tomatoes and called in family reinforcements to meet me halfway. I’ve eaten sautéed greens for breakfast because the bunches of Swiss chard were too big to fit in the fridge (Poached Egg and Silky Braised Greens, page 122) or spun the oven dial to a roasting temperature before unpacking so I could simply dispatch the squash I bought instead of parking it on my counter (Grains and Roasted Squash with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing, page 152), entered into a monogamous relationship with a single pastry dough that can be folded around any type of fruit, year-round, and become “a galette person,” a classic marketer’s spin designed to obscure the fact that my pie-crimping skills are crap (10-Minute Pastry Dough, page 241).
I’m a creature of habit and very stubborn, and I stuck to this market routine for years, motivated by berry-hoarder’s greed alone. Shop, cook, eat, repeat. I’ve now realized that the hunt for peak ingredients is the way I shop for meal ideas, because I can see from the start where I want things to go. When something looks good—vibrant, colorful, abundant, or in fleeting supply—I cycle through a short list of universal cooking techniques in my arsenal and imagine how each one could transform what I’m looking at. (The six methods I rely on the most can be found in a step-by-step technique section that starts on page 33.) Ingredient + method = a rapid-fire run-through of all the things I could do with whatever I have the urge to buy, whether that means I’ll pan-roast a thick steak or lazily simmer a pot of runner beans until their cooking liquid is good enough to drink. Over time I’ve come to realize that a direct line connects the special feelings I have about certain ingredients and the urgency with which I cook and eat them. Sometimes the abundance of peak produce inspires more dishes than there are hours in the day, and then the challenge is on me to consume everything I’ve bought before it starts to fade, since wasting what I’ve wrestled home is not an option. I’m okay with being excited by food shopping—it just means I cook what I buy. The upside of my occasional lack of restraint is that, over the years, I’ve figured out a lot of strategies for making great ingredients into meals and using everything up.
If you’re at all like me, a day off and the farmers’ market around the corner sounds like a great way to kick off a summer afternoon. But woman cannot live on local seasonal gems alone. There’s an equally important, transactional, rational flip side to all my unstructured market outings, and it’s called the internet.
I use online ordering regularly and strategically to keep my kitchen stocked with basics so I can come home at any hour of the day and put together a meal. The market has the fun stuff. But the internet’s basics are my fundamental, functional items, and a mix of pantry and perishable— butter, eggs, milk and yogurt, lemons, condiments, oils, vinegars, nuts, spices, dried fruits, grains, canned tomatoes, beans, pasta, onions, and garlic. These ingredients may not increase my heart rate, but they’re integral to most of my recipes. They’re seasonless, so I can get them reliably year-round, and they’re in heavy rotation; I replace and restock them frequently. They’re essential and important, but not exactly special, which makes them perfect for outsourcing via an online grocery delivery service.
My hunting and gathering is split between these two approaches. When deciding what to shop for in person and what to order online, I give priority to quality-variable ingredients, and automate everything else. Here’s how this plays out in practice: I’m motivated to visually inspect and smelltest the fresh scallops I’m planning to make for dinner, but I don’t need to personally pick up the other necessities—kosher salt, some lemons, a bottle of olive oil. The romantic in me wants to shop strictly for ingredients that spark inspiration and the desire to cook, and my inner pragmatist knows that I can easily turn the food fantasy into reality if the building blocks are already in my kitchen, where I’ll find them along with my cutting board, my pots and pans, and my knives when I get home.
As I write this, the traditional grocery store business is being upended by tech-enabled retailers, and there are more ways than ever for home cooks to find digital shopping options that make our lives easier. Relying on a combination of in-person market trips and online food shopping has saved me time, money, and hassle, and has removed the dread factor from grocery shopping. Online shopping is for everything heavy and bulky (four-pound bags of sugar, glass bottles of olive oil and vinegar, pounds of butter and pasta), plus all the things that come in cans (beans, coconut milk, whole peeled tomatoes). Instead of multihour weekend supermarket trips, I can place an order for groceries in twenty minutes. My hauls are lighter, my hours better spent. I stopped feeling guilty about paying a small premium to have someone else handle doorstep delivery a long time ago, and I’m simply grateful for the free time I get back in return.
Where Cooking Begins is a cookbook that makes shopping part of the recipes. If cooking and eating is a form of entertainment, shopping is the opening act. Linking these two moments—the going-and-getting and the coming-back-and-making—is what this book is all about. It will teach you a new way to shop that will inspire you to cook, and it is filled with no-fail techniques and textured recipes that will make you want to click on a burner and slide out a cutting board the minute you get home, because you can’t wait to eat what you bought.