Commitment: The Summertime Anytime Cookbook: Recipes from Shutters on the Beach is a wonderful book full of recipes from your family's hotel, Shutters on the Beach. What inspired you to write this book?
Dana Slatkin: It was an epiphany over a delicious stack of Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. I thought it would be great to be able to share our most popular recipes along with entertaining and decorating ideas, so folks could bring Shutters’ breezy beach vibe back home with them.
Commitment: The Summertime Anytime Cookbook is divided into chapters related to the weather, i.e., Sunny Days, Cloudy Days and Misty Mornings. How does weather influence what you cook?
Dana: We Angelenos are a bit obsessed with the weather, and my appetite totally revolves around it. On a sunny day, I’ll want a quick and refreshing meal like Cucumber Gazpacho and Seared Tuna Salade Niçoise with Anchovy-Stuffed Olives and Sherry Vinaigrette. On rare rainy days, comfort foods fit the bill, like Roma Tomato Soup with Baby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. And a stormy night definitely calls for a cozy dessert, such as Chocolate Coconut Fondue served with a heap of fresh fruit for dipping.
Commitment: You have lived with a beach in your backyard for most of your life. How does the beach inspire your recipes?
Dana: The beach reminds me to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like a meal with friends or a family picnic. In my cooking, I love playing with different kinds of sea salts for flavor. Fish and seaweed show up a lot on the dinner table.
Commitment: What other factors influence your cooking?
Dana: Since I cook for a family of finicky eaters, I always make at least four different dishes to choose from. I’ll deconstruct a dish so that the protein and sauce are served separately. And because Los Angeles is a melting pot of different cultures, I love to punch up a staple dish with ethnic touches like lemongrass and sesame oil or cumin and paprika.
Commitment: What are some of the kitchen tools and ingredients that no kitchen should be without?
Dana: The tools I reach for most often are the food processor, the toaster oven for quick reheating, and my chopping boards made from recycled wood pulp. I could not cook without good local olive oil, Kosher salt, Maille Dijon mustard and Scharfenberger chocolate.
Commitment: You launched the Beverly Hills Farmer's Market. Do you prefer to cook with locally grown food?
Dana: Of course, I’ve joined the locavore movement. Besides being more planet-conscious, buying local is a lot more fun, because you can often meet the growers and get them talking about their harvest, favorite cooking tips, etc. Also I would rather sustain our local economy right now, which desperately needs the support.
Commitment: You teach cooking classes for adults and children. What are some of your favorite foods to make with children?
Dana: The first thing they teach you in cooking school is how to make a proper mayonnaise, so I like to show my kids how to make one all by themselves. We also make fish sticks, turkey cutlets and pasta sauce. When they taste the difference between the homemade and store-bought versions, they usually fall in love with cooking.
Commitment: In addition to consulting for food companies, teaching cooking classes, writing The Summertime Anytime Cookbook and launching your own line of food products, you are a mother of three! How do you find time to cook?
Dana: It’s not so hard to make the time to do what you love. I come from a family of lawyers, so there was always a lot of arguing at the dinner table. That’s probably why I crave ways to create harmony in the home. And nothing brings people together better than a good meal.
Dana Slatkin is a chef, consultant and culinary teacher. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Dana completed a two-year program at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, winning several awards and graduating at the top of her class. She trained in France with Michelin Three-Star chefs Georges Blanc and Michel Guerard and with renowned patissier Pierre Hermé at Fauchon.
After cooking in New York City at Bouley, Dana moved to Los Angeles to become General Manager at L’Orangerie, one of the city’s most highly regarded formal restaurants. In 1994, seeing a need to engage her local community, she launched the Beverly Hills Farmers Market, which became the inspiration for her own line of food products. Her Danabelle’s Oven-Fresh Scones, Veggibles and Fruitles won awards at the International Fancy Food Show and sold to supermarkets and airline companies for nearly a decade.
Dana currently lives with her husband and three children in Los Angeles. In addition to consulting for food companies on new product development, Dana teaches popular cooking classes to children and adults. She especially enjoys combining cooking and philanthropy for a variety of children’s causes. She is a founding member of Everychild Foundation and concert classical pianist. Her first cookbook, Summertime Anytime, was published in the Spring of 2008 by Clarkson Potter.
To learn more about Dana, visit her at www.danaslatkin.com.
To purchase Dana's book, The Summertime Anytime Cookbook: Recipes from Shutters on the Beach, click here.