Peace, Love, and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef's Home Kitchen ($35) releases today (September 14), filled with soulful recipes from Conant's home kitchen — and a few from his restaurants.
Conant tells New Times that although the book was in the planning stages well before the pandemic closed his restaurant dining rooms and delayed shooting on his Food Network shows, the time he spent at home actually strengthened the book's content. "I was super excited to be able to work from home. I'm trying to have more of a balance. I've never cooked at home as much as during the past year."
Normally on the road for much of the year, Conant found himself testing the recipes for the book at home.
The chef included recipes that he cooks for his daughters and a section devoted to the Turkish food that his wife, Meltam, grew up with. In fact, says Conant, he was schooled on his Turkish recipes by his mother-in-law, who was quarantining with the family. "I was making certain things and my mother-in-law was saying, 'No no no no. That's not how you do it.' Like any good cook, I said, 'Yes, chef,' and learned a few new tips."
The resut, Conant says, is a collection of recipes filled with comfort and simplicity with just enough tweaks to make them fresh and interesting. "My intention was to look back on the 35 years I've been cooking in different places and to create then for the home kitchen. I want the dishes to be approachable and simple, yet elegant."
Conant tapped into his culinary career to come up with favorite recipes from a stuffed lobster he made at his first gig at a seafood restaurant in Long Island to the pasta pomodoro served at Scarpetta.
When asked to share the one thing a home cook can do to improve their culinary skills, Conant doesn't hesitate: "Keeping yourself well organized is the key. I know it sounds really simple, but it's wildly important to have the right tools."
Conant also said there must be a balance between technique and ingredients. In other words, follow the recipe as it's written until you master the basics. "You need to know the proper time to add the garlic. It's not going to be the same if you go out of order."
Though the origins of the recipes range from Germany to Turkey to New York, Conant is best known for his Italian dishes. The chef says Italian cuisine resonates with so many of us because we can identify with the spirit of Italy.
"Whether you've been to Italy or you just have a picture of it in your mind, we can all feel the passion when we taste something like a pasta pomodoro," he says. "You can close your eyes and feel this is what you'd be eating in Italy."
When all is said and done, Conant says, people really want heartfelt food. "I think people want soulful, gutsy dishes that are identifiable but have some touches to make them interesting."