Sheila Lukins came to the Miami Book Fair to talk about her new cookbook, Ten: All The Foods We Love...And 10 Recipes For Each. It’s a nifty concept that covers steaks, stews, burgers, roasted chickens, chops, chocolate -- 32 categories in all. I sat down with Sheila at the Fair before she spoke, and to get things off to a good start I began by showing her my singularly tattered copy of her earlier, co-authored classic, The New Basics Cookbook:
Where she dined while in town:
"I ate at Michy’s last night. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, it was so so great. It looked different than I expected -- very girly, and cute. And the food was fabulous. It was one of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at in a long time."
Another local favorite:
"Allen Susser is an old friend. He’s a really sweet guy. I prefer his place to some of the other chefs who’ve been around for awhile."
On her early days as co-owner of one of New York City’s first contemporary specialty food markets;
"We opened The Silver Palate in the summer of 1977, the same time as Dean & DeLuca, and as Eli Zabar’s E.A.T. We were at the beginning of this great revolution of prepared take-out food. It was a time when women were going back to work, and no one was in their kitchen any more. Everyone needed to pick up dinner on the way home from work, or no one would eat."
On coming up with the idea for her new cookbook:
"I thought of all the foods we crave. Little by little I started writing down my favorites, and made a list. You know, we crave lobsters, we crave steaks, and we love comfort foods, slow-cooked foods, meatloaf, rib roasts.... We have passions for chocolate, pies, cakes, ice cream... classic American foods."
On the writing process:
"It took four months to outline, but that’s not unusual for me. I take a long time to outline my books, and once I do I stick with those outlines. Then I hand it in to my editor who goes over it. She might say, 'Aren’t you missing leafy greens?' -- which are so popular now. And grains are important, and then you think about all the seasonal stuff, like corn, and tomatoes. And if at the end of March we can’t get any asparagus we’re going to go out of our minds; so that’s how that fell in."
Whether she got stumped finishing off any categories:
"I couldn’t think of a tenth roast. And then I went: 'Aha! Venison!'"
Level of difficulty for the recipes:
"I write Run, Spot, Run cookbooks. They are all fairly easy to prepare, and every ingredient can be bought in your neighborhood super market. I don’t want things in my books that frustrate people."
The secret to making a great burger:
"Don’t overcook it and don’t handle the meat too much. But I think everybody says that."
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One thing she learned while having written this cookbook:
"I could give you a virtual world tour of roast chickens."
-- Lee Klein