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'Small Victories' for the Home Chef

Photo: Ekaterina Boym-Medler, FreeImages.com

Ever since she was a child, Julia Turshen knew she wanted to cook like the chefs on television. How did she practice you ask? She asked her parents to buy her “endless bunches of celery,” she says, “I would spend hours chopping it in different ways, getting comfortable with a knife, and cooking it in a pan and tossing it up in the air and trying to catch it in the pan (which took a lot of trial and error)…It’s become a really fun symbol of how I taught myself how to cook when I was a kid.”

Since then, Turshen has not only persevered celery, she has worked as a private chef, written for  SaveurFood & WineThe Wall Street Journal, and co-authored cookbooks with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali, among many other amazing accomplishments. Currently, Turshen is working on various articles and writing yet another book.

She says, “Food is one of the most powerful things in the world. It’s the thing that makes me feel most closely tied to my family, and to my family’s history. It’s what’s helped me learn so much about the whole world.” When she’s creating, Turshen says, “My friends and family are very much always on my mind when I’m writing recipes.” She also keeps her most influential cookbooks, written by Lee Bailey and Edna Lewis, close by.

Turshen's latest book, Small Victories, made its way to the  New York Times' The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016 list.  She hopes the book  will help readers understand just how much variety one can have in the kitchen without needing the entire grocery store at their immediate disposal. Many of the recipes have “spin-off” versions which provide a variety of options for different methods and ingredients. Whether you’re one to strictly abide by recipes or experimentally toss in a dash of this or that, Turshen agrees, “there are really different ways to be in the kitchen.” No matter the approach, her goal is to ensure her book helps readers feel relaxed in the kitchen. Part of that feeling comes with having a sense of humor. Though cookbooks should be thorough and detailed, she says, they “don’t have to be boring.” The book is an unadulterated reflection of Turshen. She says, “The kind of food that is in Small Victories is really true to the way that I like to cook and I like to eat.” The recipes, Turshen shares, “value simplicity of technique but they’re not afraid of interesting flavor combinations or big flavors.” The cookbook is well-written and playful to boot, nothing short of entertaining. Even after becoming renowned for her talent, Turshen maintains a humble perspective. She says, “At the end of the day, while I love food, I care way more about who I’m eating with than what we’re eating.”

Julia Turshen resides in upstate New York with her wife, Grace, and their dogs and cat. She's no stranger to Hampton Roads, either, as Grace's family resides in our very own Virginia Beach. 

As a sneak peek, Turshen shares a recipe from Small Victories: flounder with roasted tomatoes, black olives, and herbs for all to enjoy. Ready to get cooking? Find the recipe here

Small Victories may be purchased anywhere books are sold. Learn more about Turshen by visiting her website. Photo of Julia Turshen courtesy of Gentl and Hyers.