Is there anything more joy-inducing than the scent of garlic sauteeing in a pan of butter, the scent of freshly cut herbs, the zest of a lemon as its grated over roast vegetables, or the crunch of pomegranate seeds on a fresh salad. We don't think so. In a world where there are 6 billion Google entries for "how to be happy," perhaps the secret to true happiness is right at home in your own kitchen cooking a homemade meal.
Sure, we get it, the idea of coming home after an 8-hour day (or more) to cook dinner doesn't always spark joy. More often than not you're simultaneously tired and hungry which is a disastrous recipe for eating something quick and unhealthy just to fill the hole. But it's time to reignite our passion for cooking because there is nothing quite like the sense of pride you feel at nailing a new recipe or testing out ingredients you haven't used before. It's in this process of learning and experimentation that magic happens.
Don't believe me, just ask the founder of EyeSwoon, Athena Calderone; American nutrition author and television host, Daphne Oz; and co-founder and executive chef of DEZ restaurant and founder of Eden Eats, Eden Grinshpan. Individually they are incredibly inspiring, passionate, and effervescent women but put these close friends together (in Calderone's insanely chic kitchen) and it's truly a recipe for passion, love, connection, and joy—and delicious food!
Lucky for us, they asked us to join in and the result was a very special afternoon cooking Meditteranean-inspired dishes. So, watch the video below, read the interview—where they share their top 3 ingredients—and make the exclusive recipes, (then tag us on social if you make them with #InMyDomaine). Here's to bringing the joy back to cooking at home.
What distinct food memories do you have together that bond you all together as friends?
Daphne: We can talk about so much here but the most distinct is when Athena came over to my apartment to cook after wrapping her cookbook shoot. We cried and then laughed and cooked and ate. Or when everyone came to mine for a bbq over the summer. We cooked grilled chicken, fresh corn with tomatoes and jalapeños, tender greens with shallot vinaigrette, squash (or was it beets?) with scallions, pine nuts and golden raisins and that meal actually inspired the chicken we made together in the video as a way to take us back to summer in the dead of winter.
Or feasting at Dez restaurant, or meeting Eden when Ayv (her daughter) was maybe two or three months old at some place that specialized in "bowls"—the food was mediocre, but the conversation was essential. I feel like that's probably why we end up cooking together so much. We know the conversation and time together will be stellar, and we want the food to match.
Eden: A night to remember for us was just before the new year at Athena’s new home (which is the most beautiful home ever) We drank lots of red wine, danced to New Kids on the Block and ate a delicious meal that Athena cooked from her book Cook Beautiful. It was a night to remember.
Daphne, cooks with such ease. She really makes putting together a large dinner spread look effortless. We cooked together at my place a couple years ago. I was prepping for hours and she walked in 10 minutes before the dinner and whipped up three huge dishes... she’s a badass.
Athena: I feel like Eden introduced me to using more cumin and coriander and tahini in my cooking. She also recipe tested for my cookbook and 1000% improved my chicken kebabs. And definitely dancing and uncontrollable laughter as we cook, always. Oh and Eden also taught me the ice cubes in the tahini trick to get the silkiest and creamiest tahini sauce, and now my son is obsessed with roasting a whole head of cauliflower thanks to you babes.
And Daphne, well she moved about the kitchen with such grace and confidence and certitude. She can chat and cook on autopilot. She introduced me to my absolutely all-time favorite snack like ever which is simply Persian dukes with Labne and herbed sea salt and olive oil. To date, I likely eat it three times a week. Thanks Daph!
What are your top three favorite ingredients of all time?
1. Quality olive oil, avocado, cheese (especially a salty, creamy, sheep or goat milk option).
2. Condiments—salt, lime, parsley, chives, pistachios, apricots, dates.
3. Hot sauce (I collect them).
1. Quality Extra Virgin olive oil.
2. Citrus/sweet—Lemon-orange, pomegranate, dates, and apricots.
3. Spices—cumin, coriander, turmeric, sumac, Aleppo, cardamom.
4. Herbs—parsley, dill, cilantro, mint.
5. Vegetables—fennel, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, olives.
1. High quality extra virgin olive oil is essential.
2. Acid, usually from lemon, bright herbs, fresh chili peppers. (But I also love an olive or a caper for a briny element.)
3. Nuts for texture.
4. A creamy sharp cheese is another one of my go-to’s. All of these are used in my cooking for salads and sauces to brighten fish or meats.
What's your #1 cooking rule?
Daphne: Don't overcrowd the pan or things will steam instead of getting gloriously crisp and golden brown. Use a great knife and just enough salt.
Athena: Agree with Daphne here. In order to get a gorgeous golden sear when roasting veggies you cannot crowd your pan. An overcrowded pan with cauliflower or potatoes, for instance, steam against themselves if they're touching one another. This holds true when sautéing onion too or if you are searing pork chops.
You also need to dry your veggies completely after washing them and your protein before searing or roasting for the same reason. So always pat fish, chicken or mean down with a paper towel. And make sure you always bring meat back down to room temperature before cooking otherwise your hot oil will immediately cool the pan and will not yield that golden goodness.
Make sure you heavily salt water when you make vegetables or cook pasta—a tablespoon just won’t do. You want your water to taste like the sea. This way as you cook your veg, it is fully infused with salt from the inside, not just on the surface.
Eden: Agree with both the girls, Understanding the basics such as roasting is also key.
Cooking is tricky when you’re busy or tired, so how can we bring back that joy again? And why should we be doing more of it?
Daphne: This is exactly why I wrote The Happy Cook. It kills me to know that cooking—which should be all delicious joy, relaxation, fun, adventure—more often than not feels like an exhausting chore. I want everyday eating to feel celebratory, like you're eating on the weekend. To do that, I generally keep my recipes to a few simple, quality ingredients prepared well. I take it easy on myself so it doesn't feel stressful. The biggest changes I made is that I grocery shop more frequently and cook what I buy that night or the next day which helps me stay inspired. Even if you buy a rotisserie chicken and just make a quick gremolata or pesto to put over top, it feels like a celebration that people really do appreciate and remember. And it should make you feel damn good.
Eden: I love cooking for myself because I like to know what's going into my food. Obviously, people are busy and sometimes it’s really difficult to get food on the table. Keep it simple and don’t overthink it especially if you’re exhausted after a long day. Focus on fresh, seasonal produce and let the food speak for itself. People forget that cooking is supposed to be fun. It’s all about figuring out those great shortcuts too.
Athena: There is a sense of pride when you cook yourself or your family healthy home cooked meals but it can be overwhelming—I would say, learn just a few simple recipes as staples and find ways to then riff on those few. So, learn the technique of a simple whole roasted chicken and then each time use a different medley of vegetables. Or make different sauces to change the flavor profile.
I often do a sumac and lemon chicken but you can also make an herby citrus sauce. Or get creative with roasted lemons and adding olives and almonds and raisins for an unexpected element. Another fun meal that can offer a ton of flexibility is a frittata. There are so many options to add seasonal vegetables, onions, leeks, potatoes, cheese or herbs. The possibilities are endless. If you can master a few techniques you can then riff and play and bring joy and creativity into your kitchen.
Get cooking in the kitchen and cultivate joy with the deliciously healthy dinner recipes from Calderone, Oz, and Grinshpan's video above (then tag us on social with #MyDomaineEats):
Daphne Oz's Crispy Chicken Thighs With Cracked Coriander
Time: 40 minutes
4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seed, crushed with the bottom of a heavy pan
1 tablespoon freshly picked thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly cracked pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove chicken thighs from refrigerator 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to cook. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine crushed coriander, thyme, cumin, salt, and pepper. Generously sprinkle over all chicken sides.
Add olive oil to the bottom of a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to thinly coat (Dutch oven’s higher walls helps prevent splatter). Heat pan over medium-high heat until surface is hot but not smoking. Arrange chicken thighs skin side down so that they have maximum surface contact and are not too crowded or they will steam.
Cook chicken 2 minutes, then drop heat to medium and cook another 8 minutes on the stove top to encourage fat to render from the skin for maximum crispiness.
Spoon some of the rendered fat over each piece of chicken. Toss garlic cloves into the pan and carefully transfer to the oven for another 10 minutes. Flip chicken pieces so skin side is up and return to the oven to finish cooking, another 10 minutes or so. The skin should be deeply golden brown and crisp with juicy meat beneath.
Remove chicken to plate to rest 5 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, squeeze cooked garlic cloves into the remaining fat in the pan and whisk to combine and distribute. Ladle a spoonful over the chicken before enjoying.
Eden Grinshpan's Shaved Fennel, Walnut, and Mint Salad
2 fennel bulbs (keep fronds)
3 stalks of celery (clean leaves and keep for salad)
1 small red onion
1 cup of crushed walnuts
1 cup of finely grated pecorino
1/2 cup of Medjool dates, diced
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 juice of a lemon, zested
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of salt
Using a mandolin, thinly slice the fennel, celery, and red onion. Set aside.
Roughly crush one cup of walnuts using the bottom of a pan or your knife.
Finley grate a cup of pecorino. Chop 1/2 cup of dates.
Assemble the salad on a large plate starting with the grated vegetables. Next add the cheese, dates, walnuts, and top off with fennel fronds, celery leaves, mint and lemon zest.
Dress the salad with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Athena Calderone's Smashed Potatoes With Horseradish Gremolata
2 pounds baby new potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
A small handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons freshly shaved horseradish
1/2 cup of creme fraiche
2-3 tablespoons of Labne
Flaky sea salt, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 ̊F (220 ̊C). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and simmer until they’re tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain in a colander. Using a flat-bottomed cup or mug, gently smash the potatoes. Turn them onto a baking sheet; use two sheets if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Drizzle the potatoes generously with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until they’re golden—about 15 minutes—then flip and roast until golden and crispy all over, about 10 minutes more.
In a small bowl, mix together the dill, capers, and garlic. Zest half of the lemon and horseradish over the mixture, add the oil and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix the creme fraiche with the Labne. Using a Microplane zest the horseradish into the creme, stir to combine. Arrange the potatoes on a platter and dollop the creme fraiche mixture sporadically over the spuds. Spoon the herb and caper mixture over the potatoes. Zest the remaining lemon over the platter. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.
Head over to EyeSwoon to discover Athena's cooking techniques from the day.