Foodies will likely be familiar with Toronto-born, New York-based chef Eden Grinshpan from her gig as the host of Top Chef Canada or from her Instagram feed, where she posts photos of her mouthwatering creations as well as adorable family snaps under the handle @edeneats. Now, Grinshpan is bringing her culinary knowledge to your kitchen table with her debut cookbook, Eating Out Loud. Inspired by the Middle Eastern food Grinshpan grew up eating, the book is full of crowd pleasing dishes, from flavourful dips and breads to colourful salads and tender meat entrees that, rest assured, Grinshpan says that cooking novices will have no trouble making. “I love accessibility,” says Grinshpan, who we reached by phone while she was visiting Toronto. “I don’t want things to feel like they need to be too perfect or precious. I’m a mother and I want to get food on the table that tastes amazing and just so happens to be really good for you.” Below, we talk ingredients, her favourite recipes for fall and winter and which recipe was the most challenging for her to pin down (hint: it’s a staple at many Jewish Sabbath dinner tables).
What inspired you to create Eating Out Loud?
It’s very much inspired by my Israeli background, but also kind of the evolution of my life – where I’ve traveled and where I grew up. There’s inspiration from Persian cuisine, which is a cuisine that I fell in love with living in Toronto. There’s obviously a ton of influence from Israel with me being half-Israeli and spending almost every summer there, as well as living there for a couple years, and now being married to an Israeli. It’s the food that we always gravitate to and the food I feel most passionate about. It’s my contemporary version of Middle Eastern flavours.
How did you compile the recipes?
When I signed on with my publisher, I sat down and wrote out the titles of dishes that I really wanted to make for the book. I basically wrote 85 percent of the dishes down in that one go. If you ask friends that I’ve cooked for for years, they are a lot of dishes in this book that they will say, Oh, that’s very Eden. I gravitate toward flavours that I love and they repeat frequently in the book. The rest of the book was this creative process where I spoke to a lot of my friends in Israel about dishes that they loved.
I also went through old pictures for inspiration of my time traveling. I would have a specific flavour combination in the back of my mind, weaving Middle Eastern flavours through dishes that a lot of people in North America can relate with. For instance, I have a tahini Caesar inspired by this amazing romaine salad at one of my favourite restaurants in Brooklyn called Roberta’s. We love how fresh it is, and we eat it with our hands and we get it every time we go. I was like, I’m going to do a simple twist, and instead of using an egg yolk, I’m going to emulsify with tahini paste It just adds such a beautiful nuttiness and my own little spin to it.
Was there a recipe that was the most challenging for you to nail?
With desserts and breads, it’s chemistry. I can’t even tell you how many times I have made challah bread and I have made the Barbari bread maybe 100 times. It’s amazing how half a teaspoon of salt can completely change the flavour, or the addition of the olive oil versus the traditional glaze… everything, all these little things can really affect the dish in the end. I had to make and remake almost every kind of baked good in this book because it just needs to be the perfect ratio [of every ingredient].
Are there any recipes that you’d recommend specifically for beginners?
There’s a lot of really straightforward recipes. The hummus is a really great dish to start off with. Obviously, I couldn’t write a Middle Eastern-inspired book without putting in my own hummus recipe. I actually use canned chickpeas because I’m a working mom and I just don’t necessarily have time or even really remember to soak my chickpeas. What makes it super awesome is I just put in a really generous amount of tahini paste, which really lightens the hummus and makes it even creamier.
Which recipes would be best for fall and winter?
The whole-roasted sweet potatoes are a standout, they’re delicious and very popular amongst my friends. There’s a sunflower seed basil gremolata with lemony sour cream inside. The whole-roasted broccoli with dukkah and Green Goddess dressing, the roasted cauliflower with date-parsley gremolata, crispy smashed potatoes with chimichurri and urfa are all excellent. For meat options: the braised lamb tagine with apricots, fennel and honey the chermoula pork chops with labneh and charred shallots… it’s definitely not a Kosher book [laughs]. Also the whole-roasted chicken with roasted shallots, preserved lemon and sweet potatoes.
Do you have a personal favourite recipe from the book?
I actually don’t know if I can say that I do, I feel like I’d be cheating on the rest of this book. The Persian rice tahdig is always near and dear to my heart. That’s actually one of my first food memories growing up, I love that dish. I love the baked lamb kebabs with roasted vegetables and tahini, it’s called Siniya. I think those are going to be the star recipes.
There’s a big focus on family and general community gathering around food, which can be challenging during a pandemic. Has your approach to cooking or food in general changed during this time?
I like to make a lot of different dips and little salads and keep them in the fridge, so when it’s time to eat, I can just take out these core containers and fill little bowls and can just maybe make a shakshuka to go along with that. Everyone can pick and choose and mix and match all these different prepared salads and dips from what’s in the fridge. Quarantine hasn’t changed that style of eating for me – it’s very much part of how I like to cook and keep my kitchen stocked. A lot of these dishes are meant for gathering people around a table, but I like to also make food for my immediate family. I wouldn’t call these recipes fancy – I would call them approachable, accessible, colourful and happy. You can make it for a nice occasion but you can also just make it for your family at home for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Have you been visiting or ordering takeout from any restaurants while you’re in Toronto?
I’m a really big fan of your Joso’s. We’re good family friends with the owners and they have some of the best seafood in the city. We’ve been a couple times to sit on their patio, they’ve done an incredible job of creating a nice environment. I love supporting businesses that mean a lot to me, especially during these times; I’ve also been to Trattoria Nervosa. Ido [my husband], took me to Aloette for my birthday. It was an exceptional meal. Their burgers are insane.
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