Episode 94
ūüéô¬†¬†LIVE¬†SHOW
ūüďļ¬†¬†¬†SERIES:¬†FOOD¬†MEDIA¬†AWAKENING
ūüć嬆¬†DRINKS¬†WEEK¬†2019
ūüßĀ¬†¬†BAKING¬†WEEK¬†2019
ūü•ß¬†¬†PIE¬†WEEK¬†2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
|
29:33

Harissa Matzo Soup: Bridging Moroccan and Ashkenazi cooking with Danielle Renov

"If you asked me my biggest accomplishment in this book, it's quantifying Moroccan recipes. You know what, it's quantifying any recipe that comes from your grandmother, I think, no matter what country you come from. There were no measuring spoons in Morocco … it's the proportion that really matters, and the technique that they use in cooking. That was passed down from mother to child."

This week, we're excited to welcome Danielle Renov to Salt + Spine, the podcast on stories behind cookbooks.

Danielle is the voice behind Peas Love & Carrots, her food blog and Instagram handle of the same name. A native New Yorker, Danielle has lived in Jerusalem for more than 13 years.

She joins us to discuss her first cookbook‚ÄĒalso titled Peas Love & Carrots. It's a large volume (with more than 250 recipes!) that blends her culinary influences in unique and sometimes surprising ways. Look no further than the recipe photographed for the cover of the book: a matzah ball soup. But this version pulls in influences from Morocco (her mother was born in Casablanca) like chickpeas and spicy harissa, as well as ingredients like fennel and Swiss chard, which are abundant at her local shuk, The Machane Yehuda Shuk.

You’ll find lots of other recipes that bridge Danielle’s Moroccan and Ashkenaz identities, and many more more than are just crave-able kitchen staples, like a dozen salad dressings and a ton of simple chicken dishes.

Danielle joined us remotely from her home in Israel for this week’s episode. And of course, we’re playing a culinary game with Danielle at the end of the show, plus featured recipes below for you to try at home.

VOICES featured in this episode:

RECIPES featured in this episode:

COOKBOOKS featured in this episode:

Peas, Love and Carrots

Start cooking today:
*denotes local bookstore support

Episode Transcript:

Danielle Renov

I am a very moody eater. You know, I wake up in the morning and I'm in the mood for a flavor profile. I'm in the mood for a specific protein ‚ÄĒ I'm in the mood for something. And that's the dish that I need to create that day.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Hi there. I'm Brian Hogan Stewart, and you're listening to Salt + Spine, Stories Behind Cookbooks. You just heard from today's guest, Danielle Renov.

Danielle is the voice behind Peas Love & Carrots, her food blog and Instagram with the same name. A native New Yorker, Danielle has lived in Jerusalem for over 13 years now. And we're here to talk about her first cookbook, also titled Peas Love & Carrots.

It's a large volume‚ÄĒmore than 250 recipes!‚ÄĒthat blend her culinary influences in unique and sometimes surprising ways. For instance, look no further than the recipe that's photographed right on the cover of the book. It's a matzah ball soup, but this version pulls in influences from Morocco‚ÄĒas you'll learn, her mother was born in Casablanca‚ÄĒlike chickpeas and spicy harissa. And it also has ingredients like fennel and Swiss chard, which are abundant at her local shuk.

You'll find lots of other recipes here that bridge Danielle's Moroccan and Ashkenaz identities, and many more that are just crave-able kitchen staples, like her dozen salad dressings, and more simple chicken dishes than I can count.

Now, Danielle joined us remotely from her home in Israel for this week's episode. It's a great conversation, so stay tuned. And of course we're playing a culinary game with Danielle at the end of the show‚ÄĒdon't miss it. Let's head now to our virtual studio, where Danielle Renov joined us to #TalkCookbooks.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Hi Danielle. Thank you so much for joining us on Salt + Spine.

Danielle Renov

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really honored to be here.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yes, we're, we're thrilled to have you and to talk about your cookbook, Peas Love and Carrots, which I love. It's beautiful. I love this cover. But let's come back to the book in a second and start by talking about you first a little bit. So I know you grew up in Long Island. Were you born there?

Danielle Renov

Yeah. I was born in Manhattan‚ÄĒin Lenox Hill Hospital to be exact‚ÄĒbut I spent my whole life in Long Island. I went to a Jewish private day school, my whole life. And when I was 18, I spent a year in Israel. came back, went to college for little, got married, and then headed right back to Israel and I have been here ever since.

Brian Hogan Stewart

And talk a little bit about what life was like for you growing up. Food wise, what sorts of things were you eating? I know your mom is Moroccan and your dad, Ashkenazi. So you sort of had both of these influences, right?

Danielle Renov

I led a very blessed food life.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah.

Danielle Renov

I would say most people on Long Island, you know, eat like really‚ÄĒif you're Jewish‚ÄĒare eating very Ashkenazi food. There's not very many Sefardim, at least when I was growing up, (you know, Jews from the Sephardic culture‚ÄĒ Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Turkey, Tunisia) in Long Island.

My mother was certainly the only non-American-born parent I knew growing up. And, actually, I was really blessed because Moroccan food is really, really delicious. And that was kind of just the cuisine of my childhood. So I was very lucky and my mother being the really wonderful devoted wife she is, not only cooked Moroccan food but really embraced my father's culture and also learned to make the foods that, you know, he too grew up with and loved eating and brought him comfort throughout his life.

So I was really lucky to just have a mother and grandmother who were excellent, excellent cooks. And I grew up eating very, very well.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. Were there favorite dishes of yours as a child‚ÄĒor things on the flip side that you detested?

Danielle Renov

There were. OK, listen: I love Moroccan food and I love Ashkenazi food. And I actually love what my mother did with food and what food meant to her and how she used the food to really blend our Moroccan and Ashkenazi cultures and bring everybody to one table.

And, you know, she did a fabulous job and I could talk to you more about that after, but I do also have a deep love ‚ÄĒ you know, I did grow up in New York ‚ÄĒ for like New York-style Chinese takeout. You know what I'm saying? Like, I love a good bagel. I love pizza. I love that stuff. I love it all.

In regards to, you know, the childhood food that I grew up eating at home‚ÄĒlike that kind of homemade, comfort food‚ÄĒone of my favorites is mufletta. It's in the book. It's like a Moroccan pancake type of thing or crepe; it's hard to even explain. It's so labor intensive and no matter how many times I asked my grandmother to make it, she would wake up early in the morning and she would make a batch of mufletta.

And you know, the fifle tomatese‚ÄĒit's like a chicken, tomato, vegetables stew‚ÄĒthat's something you grew up eating. And I think because it holds so many wonderful memories of my family sitting around the table, it really does bring me comfort when I think about the dish. That as an adult, I love the dish even more than I did as a child, you know?

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah, You have a deeper appreciation for it today.

Danielle Renov

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Your grandmother seemed to have a pretty big influence on you food-wise. She comes up a lot in the cookbook, you've mentioned her a couple of times. And I think she lived with you for periods of time. Is that right?

Danielle Renov: [00:04:59]

Yes, my grandmother would come for months at a time, like 3-4 months at a time. We had a room, "grandma's room," in our house, which was right off the kitchen, which is where she wants it to be. And she literally just cooked all day.

You know, my earliest memories of my grandmother are in the kitchen in the home I grew up in when I was very little, sitting at the table with a stack of sheets of dough that she would make for Moroccan cigars, and piles of the meat‚ÄĒwhich, you know, actually for real authentic Moroccan cigars, is meat that's cooked, and then it's actually put through the grinder again with cooked liver to make it really creamy and delicious and spicy‚ÄĒand sit there, and she would roll thousands of cigars at a time. Because people would come from all over to pick up her cigars.

My grandmother was‚ÄĒyou know, there's like one in every family‚ÄĒshe was really the best cook. I mean, she was really, really¬†amazing. So people would come to pick up her cigars and, you know, she would sit there and she would roll cigars, and she would make some mufletta, and she would make the [TK], and she would make the fifle tomatese. And she would make us when we weren't feeling good, we called it "grandma tea," it's Moroccan mint tea, which is in the book, which is just green tea loaded with tons and tons and tons of sugar. But when we didn't feel good, she would make us Moroccan mint tea, and, you know, every day at seven o'clock, she would go and watch "Wheel of Fortune," even though she didn't speak English.

And I just, I do, I have very fond memories of her. And, I think that my cooking, my love for cooking, really began with watching her cook and seeing the love, the devotion, she put into every dish she made.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. I love those memories. So you moved to Israel … 13 years ago, is that right?

Danielle Renov

Yeah.

Brian Hogan Stewart

And so most of your adult life living in Israel. Can you talk about how sort of your cooking and your food life evolved when you made the move from the United States to Israel?

Danielle Renov

Yeah. So it changed tremendously, even though I grew up in a home with a blended food culture. First of all, I think anytime you pick up and move … if you move from Long Island to New Jersey and you all of a sudden have to start shopping in a different supermarket, that in and of itself is a culture shock. You know what I'm saying?

We know where our stuff is in our local grocery store and we want every grocery store to look exactly like that. We want every last thing. And we want the freezer section to be where it's supposed to be and everything categorized the same way. So, you know, that in and of itself was just a typical move.

But in addition to that, there was a cultural application to the move‚ÄĒand there was a language barrier. So all of a sudden, not only did I have to learn a new supermarket, but I had to learn food words that I hadn't had up until now. And that was really difficult. And it was a challenge and I had to overcome it.

And then on top of it, you know, when you grew up in New York … yes, strawberries tastes better in the summer, but that doesn't mean you can't find a strawberry in February. You know, you can find everything all the time.

And I moved to Israel, and we moved around September time, and I actually wanted to go make a dish with strawberries. And I go into the store and it's like a local fruit and vegetable store‚ÄĒwhen I moved 13 years ago, there were no big box grocery stores here; there was only small vendors and there was the shuk, the open air market, which I'm very fortunate to live eight minutes from and do my shopping in. And I walk into the local fruit vegetable store and I asked them, you know, where the strawberries are. And he literally started laughing at me. He was laughing at me! And I was like, "Oh wait, what, what?" Also because it's the summer, so if you're going to have strawberries then it's going to be now, like, why are you laughing at me? And he said, "No, of course we don't have strawberries now," and he looks at me like I'm an idiot.

And I'm like, "Well, I don't understand why not." He's like, "It's not the season." And I'm like, "Actually it is this season." And he's like, "Well, it's Israel, and it's not the season here. So there are no strawberries."

Not only did I have to learn to really not make my menu before I went grocery shopping, you know? I had to switch that around: We don't make a menu and then go grocery shopping ‚ÄĒ we go grocery shopping and then come home and make the menu, which is a totally different mindset. But I also had to learn all of these new seasons because in fact, strawberry season in Israel is in January, not in the summer.

So I had to re-educate myself, and it took me a few months, but I would walk around literally with a pen and pencil. I went back to him a few weeks later with a notebook. He was hysterical, laughing again. I still love him‚ÄĒlike to this day, we're still friends. I went in with pen and paper and I'm like, "Tell me all the seasons. I need to know. OK?" [Laughter]

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. I mean that not only obviously changed and affected how you shop, but clearly how you develop recipes too. Not only how you build a menu, but how you think about developing recipes.

As you've become a full-time recipe developer and now cookbook author, how did that affect how you think about recipes too?

Danielle Renov

I think that, for me, recipe development is very intuitive because I am a very moody eater. You know, I wake up in the morning and I'm in the mood for a flavor profile. I'm in the mood for a specific protein … I'm in the mood for something, and that's the dish that I need to create that day.

It's very hard for me to, when I write for a magazine or I work for a company, to say like "OK, you need to develop a recipe for crushed tomatoes." And I'm like, but I don't want crushed tomatoes. So how could I possibly develop that recipe? But on a day when I want crushed tomatoes, I can develop 14 recipes for them.

So actually, it kind of really works to live here with my recipe developing style, because I go to the supermarket or I go to the open-air market and I walk around the stalls, and I'm constantly inspired by all of these wonderful ingredients that we don't have all year, or the beautiful produce on display or, you know, the fish changes every day‚ÄĒfish here is not reliable; most of what we get is sustainable and beautiful, wild fish. And I go, and I see, OK, this is the best fish today. Oh my gosh, and instead of lemons, it's lime season, so let's use the limes because the limes look amazing. And in a weird way, the recipe sort of write themselves when that's how you come to approach them.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Sure. I mean, you not only adapted to the changes in how you can source specific ingredients, but you also write about the sabbatical year, which takes place every seventh year. Can you talk about that and how that affected you as a cook?

Danielle Renov

Oh my gosh. It's wild‚ÄĒwild! I moved here on a sabbatical year, which in the same way the Sabbath comes on the seventh day of the week, a sabbatical year happens once every seven years. And during that year, Jewish farmers ¬†do not harvest their fields. The fields are left for people that are poor or homeless or don't have access to food to take whatever they want actually. The whole field is up for grabs. We don't plant it. We don't harvest it. We don't plow. We don't do anything like that.

So during that year, our produce becomes very, very, very limited. Lettuce is like not a thing. There's no lettuce. Our cucumbers are very, very, very sad.

We're very fortunate, despite what is portrayed, to have really good relationships with a lot of Palestinian farmers, who we can buy produce from because they don't have to observe the sabbatical year. But it's limited, because there's a lot of people and there's not that many farms.

And I had to really learn to adjust. You know, things like cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, lemons, onions, potatoes … real basics we'll have access to, but they don't look as nice, and you really have to learn to plan your menu. So I have a few salads in a book that I'm like, "These are as a sabbatical year salad because it's actually filled with grains!" [Laughter] That's how we do salads during the sabbatical year.

But I love it. I love the limitations because I actually think, even with keeping kosher, it's almost easy… Well, I don't want to say easy, because it's actually not easy to be a really good recipe developer, but being able to use natural flavor enhancers like pork or butter, or being able to combine ingredients like that, is amazing. But when you don't have those tools and you are limited, and you're forced to be really, really creative, you actually can create something unbelievable when you really push yourself.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. So you've been doing this work for a while: developing recipes, blogging, using social media to share your recipe development and what you're cooking. When did you decide it was time to write a cookbook? How did that come about?

Danielle Renov

I didn't. I didn't want to write it. [Laughter]

Brian Hogan Stewart

You didn't want to write it. Okay. Tell us how it came about.

Danielle Renov

I initially started my food career doing private catering for people. And after like three or four years, I was like, this is boring. This is not for me. I need to create. I don't want people just to say, "I want this kind of chicken. I want this." It's not for me.

And I actually started writing a cookbook, and I wrote a manuscript, and I had three small children at the time. I live in Israel. My husband lives in Israel, but travels ‚Ķ he's gone a lot from Sunday to Thursday. And I was like, there's no way for me to bring this manuscript to fruition because‚ÄĒand now I know for a fact, you really have to check out for like a good six months between editing, photography, typography, all the little things that you don't even to realize go into a cookbook, really take over your life. And I just didn't have time.

And about a year or two later, Instagram started and it started picking up traction and I was seeing what other people were doing. And I was like, you know what? This is great. This is so good for me. I can just make dinner every night and I can post the recipe for dinner and nobody needs to pay me. And it can be on my own time‚ÄĒI'm making the dinner anyway, what do I have to lose?

And I started and my Instagram very, very quickly grew. And thank God I have the most amazing Instagram community of really, really, devoted, loyal community members that are engaging and informative and have taught me so much.

And after like three years, people really wanted a book. You can't search on Instagram, which is an unfortunate feature. And instead of having the recipes on the blog or Instagram, they really wanted a book in their kitchen. So I said, you know what? Now is a great time. And I just, I just did it. I just wrote the book. [Laughter] Ad I'm so happy I did‚ÄĒbut I'm never doing it again. That's it.

Brian Hogan Stewart

This is the one and only? OK.

Danielle Renov

One and done. Yeah.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. You decided to open the book with this list of 86 things that you want people to know about cooking, about the book specifically… And as I've looked at some of the press coverage of the book, it feels like there are some elements of it that are, I guess we could say, are controversial, right? In particular, your aversion to raisins has really bothered some folks.

How did you decide to open it with that list?

Danielle Renov

You know what, I don't care. It actually really bothers me that they like raisins. So. [Laughter]

Brian Hogan Stewart

Right. How did you decide to include that list and like to share some of those tips that you shared? You know, raisins obviously are one of them, but you also have little pieces of advice, like "Half a tablespoon is not a real measurement." And I also loved, "Table manners exist for a reason."

Danielle Renov

You know, I just felt like there are things that need to be said that are never said. But that if you put them in in a humorous way, maybe people could hear them.

And, raisins I really just actually think are offensive and gross. Because when you're a little child and you bite into a cookie, and it's a raisin‚ÄĒor you bite into a traditional, you know, Ashkenazi noodle pudding, which is supposed to be sweet and delicious, and inside there's a golden, mushy, nasty raisin. It's very upsetting as a child, you know. It literally ruined the food for you. Literally as a child, I really thought I didn't like oatmeal cookies. I did. You know, if you would say, "Do you want an oatmeal cookie?" I would say, "No, I¬†don't like them," because I didn't know there was an option to put chocolate chips in them. Because there were always raisins! And I just, whatever. I just find them annoying and irritating and I don't like them.

But OK. The thing like table manners, I think it's just another way of saying, be kind to the person sitting next to you. It's just not nice to sit there, you know, chewing with your mouth open, spitting out food. Think about the person that's sitting across from you.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah, that's great advice. I'm glad you included it in there. People do need to absorb that information, I think.

One of the recipes that really stuck out to me‚ÄĒand I love the story behind it too‚ÄĒis the smoked white fish toast with the radish butter.

Danielle Renov

I love you!

Brian Hogan Stewart

Tell us about [the recipe] which almost didn't make it into the book, right? So I'm curious, one, about your recipe development process, because that one was on the cutting block for a while. And then tell us how it sort of ended up in the book, actually.

Danielle RenoV

So that, you should know, is one of my favorite recipes in the book. It's really a foodie recipe. It's a recipe for people, I think, that really get and really like food, because it's not typical.

Basically if you have the book, you know it's very, very heavy. Very large. There's over 254 recipes in the book. There's recipes within recipes, there's bonus recipes. And at some point my publisher was like, "OK, Danielle, this is your page limit. You're done. Like, you can not push the limit anymore." And that was really reasonable, because the book is big and it is heavy, and I understood. And we had to cut a bunch of recipes. And the recipes that I did choose to cut were sort of the foodie recipes ‚Ķ¬†were sort of the recipes that are more either labor-intensive‚ÄĒlike Moroccan cigars, which literally took up three pages of text‚ÄĒor, you know, something like the whitefish toast that maybe only, you know, the 10% will actually get.

But when we were in the studio on the first day, my brother came to visit us and he brought bagels and a whole smoked fish spread from Russ & Daughters which, if you've ever been to New York, you know that Russ & Daughters, their fish is like no other. I mean, it's just … as far as appetite, it's so delicious.

And he brought so much‚ÄĒhe brought this entire smoked white fish, and it was so gorgeous. The food stylist looked at me, she's like, "How can we not use this in the book? Do you not have a recipe?" And I'm like, "I actually do have a recipe." And it was just pulled out of the manuscript a week before the photo shoot.

And I was like, "It's fully typed and tested, in fact, because it's come this far along." And she was like, "What is it?" And I'm telling her what it is, and I'm telling her about the radish butter. And she's like, "Wait a second, radish butter…?" I'm like, yeah. She's like, "You mean miso butter?" I'm like, "No. Radish butter." And she's like, "Danielle. That is genius. I want to eat the whole thing!" And I'm like, "OK, you know what, just put it back in. We're putting the recipe back in!" And I called my publisher, and he's like, "You're gonna have to take one out." And I'm like, "No! It's going in. It's from God. He sent us the smoked whitefish. It's here. It's going in the book!" [Laughter]

And we did. We fought for it, and we included it. And I just love everything from the photo to the recipe, to the whole thing. I just love it.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah, I can't wait to try that one. And the photo is so stunning, too, I mean, with the whole fish, it's just like, it catches your eye.

Danielle Renov

Yeah, it happened to have been that Russ & Daughters sent us a really beautiful fish. So thank you, Ross & Daughters.

** Commercial Break **

Brian Hogan Stewart

We'll be right back with the second part of our conversation with Danielle Renov. Don't go anywhere.

Remember, you can follow us on Instagram, @saltandspine. This week, you'll find a chance to win your own copy of Peas Love & Carrots.

We love sitting down with your and my favorite cookbook authors to tell the stories behind cookbooks. From Jacques Pepin and Nigella Lawson to Samin Nosrat, Carla Hall, and today's guest, Danielle Renov, Salt + Spine is the leading podcast featuring interviews with your favorite authors. Plus: We publish delicious and exclusive recipes, hold cookbook giveaways for listeners like you, and so much more.

We also just launched, last fall, our new Salt + Spine Cookbook Club, where we cook along with a featured author and then joined them at the end of the month for a really awesome and fun virtual dinner party.

Salt + Spine truly brings cookbooks to life and we can only do it thanks to listeners like you. You can join the Salt + Spine community today and support our effort to bring you top-notch interviews and the best cookbook content starting at just $2 a month. Find out more and join the Salt + Spine community at Patreon.com/saltandspine.

And now back to our conversation with Danielle Renov, author of Peas Love & Carrots.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Speaking of specific recipes, another unique one that actually is the recipe that's featured on the cover of the book is this matzah ball soup that has a Moroccan twist, right? Which you sort of described as "basically me in a bowl." How do you develop recipes like that that bring together different pieces of your identity?

Danielle Renov

So this recipe is specific. It's unique. It's the only recipe that I've actually ever developed like this where I had an end goal in mind and the recipe was the vehicle to the end goal. The end goal was to create a recipe for the book that really embodied what the book was‚ÄĒwhich is really a melting pot of cultures.

You know, I didn't want to write "kosher" on the front of the book because to me, kosher is so secondary. It's not about that. It's about good, delicious food‚ÄĒit just happens to be kosher. And there's a picture of a regular matzah ball in the book, on the page before. It's just the matzah recipe.

And it was one of my favorite pictures. It's such, from a food photography standpoint, such a beautiful, perfect picture of the simplicity of it. And we decided we really wanted something like that, but I was like, "I can't put just a matzah ball on my book, because it's so Ashkenaz and even though I'm half-and-half, I identify so much more closely with the Moroccan side that I can't just put it. And I was like, well, you know what, why does the matzah ball only have to be in an Ashkenaz soup? I have a matzah ball in a tomato soup, why not do something completely different with it?

And we created this‚ÄĒreally a melting pot of cultures in a soup bowl. You know, the soup is deglazed with arak, we have Middle Eastern influences to represent my life in Israel, and we have sumac and fennel and carrots and radishes and saffron, and it's really, really flavorful. And I loved the idea of deglazing with arak because it's not a liquor that's really commonly used in cooking, but complemented the fennel so well.

And it's such a flavorful soup in such a subtle way. You take the first sip of the soup and it almost feels light‚ÄĒbecause it is light, it's a light broth. But then as you eat it, you keep taking another bite and maybe you get a little bit of radish in your fork, or maybe you've got a chickpea in your fork, and maybe then a sprinkle of sumac, and it's constantly evolving as you're eating this bowl, and I feel like that's really, really expressive of what goes on inside the book.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. And so much of what you do… I mean, you're a mom, you involve your kids and your family in your social media, your recipe development. You even have at the end of the book this great little page of "family faves," where you denote which of the recipes your family members love.

How do you decide how much to involve your kids and your family in your food process and in cooking in general?

Danielle Renov

I'm very fortunate that I have built-in taste testers, right? If you have enough then you have enough of a variety, because obviously no two kids ever like the same dish. That wouldn't happen, right?

So, I have one child that loves spicy food, so I know, OK, he can't be my spice-level rater because he likes spicy food. But my kid that doesn't like food as spicy, I can give it to him and if he tells me, "OK, this is a good level of spicy," then I know I'm good with that.

My husband, who's a very, very, very picky eater‚ÄĒmore picky than any of my kids actually‚ÄĒif he really likes this dish, I'm like, OK, I definitely have a winner here. He's like the least common denominator‚ÄĒso if he likes it, everybody likes it.

So I feel very fortunate and there's no reason for me to ever un-involve them because their advice is valuable and, you know, children have opinions and they're right on.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah, exactly. We talked earlier about your mom and your grandma and what you grew up eating as a child. Were cookbooks a part of your life as a kid? Were there cookbooks…

Danielle Renov

Oh my gosh. No, no, no. Actually, I'd say if you asked me my biggest accomplishment in this book, it's quantifying Moroccan recipes.

You know what, it's quantifying any recipe that comes from your grandmother, I think, no matter what country you come from. Because my grandmother, you know, there were no measuring spoons in Morocco. Tea glasses was the measurement for everything‚ÄĒhalf the tea glass‚ÄĒit's the proportion that really matters, and the technique that they use in cooking and that was passed down from mother to child. And my mother can't follow a recipe, you know, for anything, so‚Ķ [Laughter]

Brian Hogan Stewart

Uh huh, yeah. When did cookbooks become important to you? Was there a time when you started to turn to them? Do you remember your first one?

Danielle Renov

No, they didn't. I'm not actually a very good recipe follower myself because I just can't be bothered with the reading‚ÄĒthat's the truth.

But I'm very visual, so I do like to look at pictures of food and food pictures, and I love to connect to people. So I love a good cookbook with good blurbs. I love to get to know the author. I love to get to know the story behind the dish and be inspired by a dish. And I even write that here: My goal is for you, if you're a novice club, use the book, follow the recipes, teach yourself how to cook through this book. But then as you progress, stop following my recipes because these are the recipes the way I like them. But you now need to change and adapt the recipes and be inspired by them to make them the way you like them, because we're not going to be the same on every dish.

And that's really my goal, and I see that in the beginning. I really want you to be inspired by the recipes more than to follow the recipes.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah. I think that's great advice for readers of your book.

So, we always end with a little game, so I thought we would sort of borrow your process of shopping first instead of building a menu and then shopping. We've got these little cards that we often use, so we've got a stack that's produce‚ÄĒlike vegetables‚ÄĒhere. So we'll pretend this is like our shuk, right? We're going to pick one of these and that's what we were able to buy at the market that day. And then we're going to come home and like draw something from our pantry, a flavor. And I'm going to see if you can tell us how you would merge those two things into one dish, and we'll do a round or two. How does that sound?

Danielle Renov

Oh, I love it. Game on. Challenge accepted.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Okay. Great. So let's shuffle the vegetables and we'll pick… OK, we have asparagus. And then let's see what we have in the pantry… and cilantro.

Danielle Renov

Right in my real house. Thank you, Morocco!

OK, I know exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to take the asparagus, I'm going to put a little bit of salt and pepper, and I'm going to pop them on the grill‚ÄĒcharcoal grill, specifically, because that's just the most flavorful and the most delicious. And then I'm going to make a cilantro vinaigrette, maybe with some champagne vinegar and maybe just a little squeeze of lemon for freshness, and I love to mix acids. I really like flavor-forward food. I'm going put some salt, some pepper, maybe a little pinch of Dijon mustard just to give it a little more viscosity, and some olive oil. And I'm going to drizzle it on the asparagus but I'm going to drizzle it on like seconds before it comes off the grill‚ÄĒthis way, as I put it on the platter, it sort of soaks up those flavors.

Then maybe I'm going to grill chicken and just have like that simple, delicious dinner‚ÄĒand it's going to be, oh, so summery and delicious!

Brian Hogan Stewart

Oh, that sounds so good. I love that. And right in your wheelhouse, too, of using sauces, dips to compliment things.

Let's do another round. So let's pull a vegetable.

Danielle Renov

I feel the next round's going to be difficult, because that one was too easy.

Brian Hogan Stewart

OK, it's corn. How do we feel?

Danielle Renov

Oh, no, no, no. Thumbs down on the corn.

But OK, fine, challenge accepted. We'll make it work.

Brian Hogan Stewart

OK, challenge accepted. And ginger is what we have in the pantry.

Danielle Renov

Oh, we're going to make a soup. Because that's what you do … I think a coconut curry soup.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Like a cream of corn?

Danielle Renov

Yeah. We're going to sauté onion, and celery, and no carrots because I don't want the carrots in there because the corn is sweet enough.

We're going to add the corn, we're going to sauté that up. We're going to add some chicken stock, we're going to let it simmer for a long time, we're going to stick a bay leaf in there to give it really nice earthiness. Maybe a little pinch of turmeric, because I like the turmeric-ginger combination.

And then we're going to add some coconut milk or coconut cream‚ÄĒwhatever you have. And then what we're going to do is we're going to take out half the liquid‚ÄĒoh!, we're going to add some fresh ginger in there, that's where the ginger is going to come in.

We're going to take out half the soup, and we're going to blend it, and then we're going to return it back. So we're going to have this like cream of coconut soup but we're still going to have the corn kernels in there.

And, actually I think I would eat that. That's sounds pretty delicious.

Brian Hogan Stewart

Yeah, that sounds pretty delicious. I would eat that, too. Also summery. Yeah, these are some great summer lunches coming together.

Well, this was so great. Thank you so much for joining us and for playing our game, Danielle. We really appreciate it.

Danielle Renov

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really honored to be here. Thank you.

Brian Hogan Stewart

And that's our show for today. Thank you so much for listening!

As always, you can find bonus content from today's show‚ÄĒand all of our episodes‚ÄĒon our website, saltandspine.com. There, you'll find two recipes from Peas Love &¬†Carrots.

Remember, if you like hearing from your favorite authors on Salt + Spine‚ÄĒand I hope you do!‚ÄĒplease click subscribe wherever you're listening. And you can leave us a rating on iTunes.

Our show today was produced by me, Brian Hogan, Stewart. The Salt +¬†Spine original theme song was created by Brunch for Lunch. Salt +¬†Spine is typically recorded at The Civic Kitchen in San Francisco's Mission District. The Civic Kitchen is now offering digital classes for home cooks. Find out more at civickitchensf.com. Thanks, as always, to Jen Nurse, Chris Bonomo, and The Civic ňöKitchen team ‚Ķ to Edible San Francisco ‚Ķ and to Celia Sack at Omnivore Books.

We'll be back next week with more stories behind the cookbooks you love.

‚Äć