Martha Rose Shulman, author of Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine (Rodale, 2010), is chatting with me in my kitchen today. Find out how this burger-loving girl turned into a vegetable-pasta-cooking queen!
Martha is the author of more than 25 books. Her articles have appeared in Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines, and she has been featured in national media. Her series appears weekly on NYTimes.com. She lives in Los Angeles.
1. Why is living organic important to you?
We have so little control over so many things in our lives, but the food we eat is one thing we can control. Feeding ourselves well begins with ingredients, and I love supporting the farmers who work so hard to bring organic ingredients to our tables. Their efforts extend far beyond their farms; they are helping to rebuild our compromised ecosystems by doing what they do.
2. What was your favorite food growing up?
When I was growing up—when I was little—hamburgers were my favorite food. But they were not fast-food hamburgers. At our house, hamburgers were made with ground prime sirloin! Ours was a family of meat-eaters, and I when I became a vegetarian at the age of 21, I always said I’d had my quota of meat by that age. I do eat some meat now, but very little; now things are in balance.
3. What’s your go-to comfort food now?
There are two meals that my son Liam and I turn to again and again; they’re easy and comforting. One is scrambled eggs (we like them slow-cooked and creamy); the other is pasta with homemade tomato sauce—the tomatoes from my garden—and good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Fusilli or Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula
Makes 4 servings; vegetarian, low-fat, quick/easy
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt to taste (I like to use French coarse sea salt, or fleur de sel, for this)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 cup chopped fresh arugula
1 Tablespoon silvered or chopped fresh basil
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound fusilli or orecchiette
¼ cup (1 ounce) grated ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese
1. Combine the cherry tomatoes, garlic, salt, balsamic vinegar, arugula, basil, and oil in a wide bowl. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes (or longer). Taste and adjust the seasoning.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt generously and add the pasta. Cook al dente, until the pasta is firm to the bite, following the timing directions on the package but checking one to two minutes before the suggested cooking time.
3. Drain, toss with the tomato and arugula mixture, sprinkle on the cheese, and serve.
4. What’s the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn’t live without?
A good knife. That’s the most important kitchen tool. I also rely a great deal on my heavy nonstick Anolon 12-inch pan.
5. What magazine, website, book, album, or product are you most obsessed with right now?
Since I spend most of my week coming up with and testing recipes for Recipes for Health on NYTimes.com, my head is there most of the time. I turn to my extensive library of Mediterranean cookbooks for inspiration. As for new cookbooks, I just bought Deborah Madison’s new book, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, which I love. And I’m enjoying Angela Miller’s memoir, Hay Fever, about her farm and goat cheese operation in Vermont.
6. What’s the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay more attention to?
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is one, of course. There are so many elements at play here—the disaster to the environment, the lack of regulation that led to its occurrence, the impact that it will have on people as well as plants and animals.
7. Where do you get your news?
NPR and The New York Times are my main news sources. The radio goes on as soon as I get up and, living in Los Angeles, I’m in the car a fair amount. I read The New York Times online every day and luxuriate over the paper on Sundays.