I have a pretty extensive collection of cookbooks that sit sadly collecting dust on a shelf since quick digital recipe search has taken hold of me. Karen Mordechai's gorgeous, thoughtful, super useful new book, Simple Fare: Spring/Summer: A Guide to Everyday Cooking and Eating ($20; amazon.com) has reignited my love affair with cookbooks. Mordechai is the founder of Sunday Suppers; a food and design community based in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the simple, chic product line, ILĀ. She is also a trained photographer that has created a visual language so enticing, you want to move right in.
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The recipes are designed to be easy. Never fret at the market when you can't find a certain ingredient. Each recipe offers three to five alternate ingredients that can be used in the same preparation. A smoked beet panzanella with purple kale, radicchio, and ricotta, for example, suggests a carrot, mizuna, watercress, yogurt adaptation — or tomato, arugula, purple basil, burrata.
Here are 10 things I really wanted to know from Karen, I hope you do, too.
1. What five ingredients do you always have in the fridge?
Avocados, mushrooms, greens, harissa and lemons.
2. What's your signature dinner party meal?
In the summer, I think fish tacos and ceviche with plenty of toppings and drinks. Wintertime—I like to do something braised that can cook in the oven for hours and warm up the house.
3. What's your go-to weeknight family meal?
We often make the dukkah-covered schnitzel with greens, or roasted potatoes, and a watercress dressing—it’s my daughter's favorite meal, and so I make it often.
4. Kitchen tool you can't live without?
Zester for sure.
5. Top performing Instagram?
Up close, beautiful food does well (especially fun toasts!)—and is my favorite thing to shoot (below some of the most engaging).
6. What's your favorite online resource/brand for tabletop decor?
I love mixing from different shops + places—I curate ceramics from small potters that I find on travels and boutiques and sometimes Etsy or Pinterest, And I love small curated shops like: Quitokeeto, Herriot Grace, Formerly Yes, Spartan Shop, and others.
7. Are there plans to expand the ILA Line of olive oil, honey, salts, etc.?
Yes! We are working on some exciting new additions and possibly a little design face-lift, stay tuned.
8. What camera do you use?
A Canon Mark III and many different lenses, but the 50mm is a favorite for food and travel.
9. What inspired your photographic style?
My photography like all art has been an evolving journey—I started out with an old Pentax k1000 shooting documentary and street photography. I would walk around the city for hours and capture moments and people, inspired by the greats like Robert Frank, Eugene Richards, Henry Cartier-Bresson, and later in my career became moved by strong women photographers with a decisive point of view like Elinor Carucci, Mary Ellen Mark, and Cindy Sherman. I studied at the NYU/ICP program, and my master's focus was photographing my mother and grandmother’s cooking as a visual essay.
10. Stuck on a deserted island: butter or olive oil?
Olive oil, please :) and some sea salt would be great.
This fall, look for the second book in the seasonal cooking series, Simple Fare: Fall/Winter: A Guide to Everyday Cooking and Eating ($35; pre-order at amazon.com).