We asked a range of artists whether cooking is part of their artistic practice – or a break from work and art. We asked everyone to share a cookbook that shaped their style, and a recipe.
What these artists shared is thoughtful, mouthwatering and fun. Enjoy.
For me, cooking’s a physical break, since I’m always working on a laptop. I had to teach myself to cook, since my Mom enjoyed a lot of things, but never that. So we’ve got a bookcase full of cookbooks, even though I tend to skim across a recipe and mostly wing it.
Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, made me a fearless (and occasionally dangerous) improviser, especially with leftovers.
I always get asked to bring a green salad to potlucks, and I think that’s mainly because of this dressing – a stripped-down riff on Tamar Adler’s vinaigrette.
pinch of salt
2 T lemon juice – or 1 T lemon juice and 1 T red or white vinegar
maybe a blob of mustard, maybe not
1/3 c good olive oil
If you’ve got cooking thoughts to share, you can email
firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep updating this feature.
And if you’re looking to get started cooking – or keep learning more –
Dunedin Fine Art Center now has a kitchen, and a range of Food Arts classes
for grownups and for kids. You can find the schedule here.
Mixed Media Visual Artist
Cooking for me is a blend of creativity, comfort, passion, love.
When I’m having a bad day, cooking always cheers me up, no matter what the recipe. When I’m having a great day, cooking is a celebration.
Cooking fits into so many emotions and spaces for me that I cannot imagine life without it. My whole family loves to cook and eat together. My husband and I fell in love cooking together! I love cooking for and with friends.
I usually have a glass of wine in hand and music playing while I cook. I just discovered the perfect word to sum up what cooking means to me – hygge – in Danish it roughly translates as “that cozy feeling you get when snuggled with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate in your favorite spot on the couch or when you’ve pulled off an expertly designed dinner party with friends, and there’s a swelling of happiness fluttering in your chest.”
I have lots of cookbooks, Food & Wine magazines, and a binder in which I collect all sorts of recipes from various magazines I flip through while selecting images and textures for my mixed media art. I think my binder stuffed full of recipes is my favorite cookbook because I hand selected all of the recipes so I know it’s full of all of my favorite things. I also absolutely love The Perfect Meal, by John Baxter. It takes you on this sensuous journey of French food and reading it is as decadent and beautiful as the cuisine it explores.
I call my signature recipe “The Gravy,” and it’s what I make for large family and friend gatherings, special occasions, or when we need comfort food. It’s a bolognese that I’ve perfected over nearly two decades, and it started with trying to make the recipe directly from The Godfather Part II, where an uncle is showing Michael how to make “the gravy.” That’s where I got the name! I love that movie.
He shaves the garlic into the olive oil with a razor blade, because that’s how important this sauce is. I did that a couple times for my gravy, but realized that was just being a little too precious for me. There is still an abundance of garlic in my version, but it’s minced, not shaved! From there I’ve updated it with secrets from professional chefs, friends, and Italians who just know what to do with a sauce. It’s amazing. It cooks for 8 hours. But I have to cook that recipe for you, and if you come early enough you’ll see what goes into it. Not a recipe I publicize, it feels too personal, too close to my heart. If you’ve had my bolognese you know I love you.
I’m going to share my recipe for Chicken Pot Pie here, which is another comfort food recipe that I’ve developed over the years, and one that never disappoints. I’ve never measured anything, but don’t be afraid, this one is difficult to mess up.
You can explore Nikki Devereux’s work at nikkidevereux.com
Bob Devin Jones
Writer, Director, Artistic Director
of The Studio@620
Cooking is a break from art and work. Most of my very good friends like to eat – and I like cooking for them as much as I like being cooked for.
But I do an inordinate amount of it, so people don’t have as many opportunities to cook for me – so when someone does, that’s the highest gift.
I have about a dozen things that I cook, and I cook those and cook those. Cooking for me is familiar – I’m wanting to taste that dish. My mother for so long, she’d say, ‘Do you want me to make you some stuffing?’ And you know what that’s going to taste like – it’s got a certain place in your memory. You can only get the dressing my mother made, from her.
It’s amazing how many people don’t cook – how bereft they are. Cooking really puts me in touch with my mother, and my family. Eating is sublime.
I learned how to cook from my mother, but the cookbook that I go to most often is Patti LaBelle’s LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About – because soul food – you got the leavings, the scraps, and then you made it into something beautiful like gumbo, étouffée. I mostly use her book for my baking recipes – since I didn’t grow up eating Sour Cream Cinnamon Walnut Pecan Coffee Cake.
I also like to thank people with food. If it’s appropriate, I’ll bring a baked good – and it’s always appropriate.
Explore some of Bob Devin Jones’ work here.
Writer and Foodlover
I find there is something incomparably relaxing in lining up ingredients needed for a dish, chopping, prepping, mixing, sautéing. The creative part of cooking, for me, is in combining the right dishes for a meal, repurposing leftovers – or simply reading recipes and imagining how the flavors might taste, thinking about how substituting one ingredient for another would change the dish.
I love reading recipes and have a pretty substantial collection of cookbooks. The bookcases in my living room hold about a third of my collection and I have more books on
my bedside table and on my kindle. I also watch a lot of cooking shows and look at recipes online. The New York Times recipe app is one of my favorites.
Despite my love of cookbooks, or perhaps because of it, I would be hard-pressed to point to one which has specifically shaped my cooking style. I’ve learned from all of them.
The big treat in my house was going out for Chinese food (read Cantonese) once a week. My parents gave me a piece of saucy
beef to suck on when I was just a few months old. My body was sustained by soy formula and soy sauce well before I ever ate solid food.
I love dishes from all the regions of China, but Cantonese remains my comfort food. Growing up in Chicago, I never attempted Chinese dishes at home – why would I when I could find a decent, if not great, Chinese restaurant every few blocks?
Let’s be frank – here in Tampa Bay, we have many wonderful Asian restaurants – Korean, Vietnamese, Thai – but there is a paucity of good Chinese restaurants. During the pandemic, with my cravings for Cantonese food at a fever pitch, I learned how to cook it at home. Here is one of the simplest (and one of my favorite) recipes from Maggie Zhu who has a terrific website called Omnivore’s Cookbook.
I have loved almost every recipe I’ve tried off her site from Eggplant with Garlic Sauce to General Tso’s Chicken. You will need to invest in a few specific ingredients in order to achieve the authentic taste of the recipes but luckily, there are many very good Asian markets in Pinellas County. MD Oriental Market in Pinellas Park is the largest but even smaller markets like Cho Lon Oriental Market on 34th St. N. in St. Pete stock the essentials. And once you have the essentials, you will use them again and again.
Top of my list for comfort food is Soy Sauce Fried Rice, a classic and indulgent treat, which always brings the flavors of Chicago’s Chinatown into my kitchen. The secret ingredients are a mixture of dark and light soy sauces and, surprisingly, butter – though if you have chicken fat or lard, you can definitely use that instead. I once made this with duck fat, and it was unbelievably tasty! (But so rich!)
Right before I swirl in the soy sauce mixture, I often add thinly sliced panfried mushrooms or cooked meat and always add bean sprouts because, seriously, what is fried rice without bean sprouts?
Stage Designer and Visual Artist
I feel that cooking is very much part of my artistic self and work.
I don’t consult individual cookbooks very often. I just go to the internet
and look at a few versions of want I want to cook and then make it.
Here’s my recipe for Shrimp Curry.
I am on the road this summer and am cooking on a camp stove. Here’s a picture of that!
Explore Allen Loyd’s work here.
Art is a respite from cooking! In fact, I would like to turn my stove into a planter.
Explore Paula Kramer’s work here.
Photos by Tom Kramer
Stage Director, Intimacy/Fight Director and Educator
It’s a break, or maybe a redirect. . . It still uses the analytical eye and envisioning of an end product – and particularly of an audience savoring the product (even if I am the audience of one).
However cooking grants me a little more of a slower and more methodical pace than my theatre methods. My approach to creating with actors is driven by allowing them to shine through – same with cooking ingredients, but ingredients aren’t as unpredictable (or magical!).
I’m not an exacting follower of recipes. . . I tend to read a bunch and then synthesize my own. That said, my desire in my work is to understand underlying patterns, same with cooking. Which is why I love Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking.
I also tend to get really into one cuisine or dish for a while. The quarantine obsession was Tacos, one book I’ve kept coming back to on the topic of Mexican Cuisine is Nopalito by Gonzalo Guzmán
This recipe is mine, my partner calls it “the fajita chicken” to me it’s just a sort of Oregano Grilled Chicken, good for tacos or fajitas, or really anything.
Explore Dan Granke’s work here.
Screenwriter and Filmmaker
Cooking definitely feels creative, though it “feeds” a different impulse, since preparing a meal generates something that is by its nature impermanent. Even if writing or making art doesn’t happen over the course of a day, there’s usually a chance to get creative with dinner.
We have a few cookbooks on our shelves, and recipes that turn up in the New York Times or that my wife passes on can be inspiring, but mostly I try to bring out or complement ingredients’ distinctiveness. The Silver Palate and New Basics surely deserve credit for shaping that commitment. I would like to develop more facility with spices.
Salad Niçoise is a meal that invites endless variation, and it offers a change of pace in summer. Besides the pepper salami, cherry tomatoes, boiled eggs, sliced chicken, haricots verts and boiled potatoes with lemon-pepper butter, tuna salad, olives and pickled okra, the spread pictured includes a Black Bean Salad from a recipe that has been a consistent crowd pleaser for decades.
Black Bean Salad
Combine. . .
one can of organic black beans
1/2 red pepper, diced
3-4 sliced scallions
generous handful of chopped fresh parsley
Mix. . .
1T olive oil
2T key lime juice
pinch of salt
1/2 t fresh black pepper
Stir in the dressing and serve.
Explore Susana Darwin’s work here.
Lighting and Scenic Designer
Cooking for me is my chance to withdraw from “life” that consists not only of running a theatre complex for a college but keeping up with a private design, production and consulting practice. It’s that “thing I do” that forces me to totally refocus on something other than incessant emails, phone calls and text messages. It is definitely a break from everything that spells all-encompassing work and/or art for sure.
I’m a culinary child of television. . . cook books ? I have shelves full of them. . . read them? use them? hardly ever. My introduction to “real food” was probably a reaction to a home life that was fairly bland as far as food was concerned. My mother, a ballet teacher usually was busy at dinner time so Dad became the “short order cook” and although he was very talented, dinner time didn’t exactly bring out any creativity from him.
So my introduction to real food probably came courtesy of PBS – yes, Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet, The Cookin’ Cajun. Eventually I graduated to The Food Network / Cooking Channel and Alton Brown’s Good Eats (still a personal fav), Emeril Lagasse and the original Japanese version of IRON CHEF! I started out stuffing garlic cloves into slits in a chuck roast, stuffing herb butter or goat cheese under the skin of a chicken before roasting. But then came BBQ and everything changed. . .
BBQ hit television and I was hooked. Pork and chicken in particular. Prior to BBQ becoming a big thing on TV I didn’t really get the difference between grilling and smoking.
I assure you I do now.
I regularly host an event around the holidays that attracts quite a crowd for my BBQ. It didn’t happen last year due to the pandemic but I’m already making plans for it this December. Last time around I think I smoked 6 Boston Butts. I also made a “faux” Porchetta but that’s a whole other story and I’ll touch on it below. There was lots and lots of other meats and veggies that came out of the smokers and grills I have – but the star of the show is usually the pulled pork.
I’ve been praised by a couple of folks who are legit food critics even. But truth? do I have a recipe? No! I probably never do it the same way twice.
I do come up with a rub. The recipe is usually trial and error but contains the usual – kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, chili powder, paprika, a little cayenne or other pepper, brown sugar and ??? It all depends what’s on hand in the kitchen! Sometimes I rub the pork with yellow mustard before slathering the rub on, sometimes I don’t.
Generally I smoke over a mixture of woods with a base of charcoal. My smoker will easily handle four good sized pork butts at a time. But truth is that even my large smoker has difficulty maintaining that perfect sweet spot of temperature of about 250 for long periods of time. Constant attention is needed.
To that end, I do “cheat.” I use what’s known in brisket circles as the Texas Crutch.
After “hot smoking” the pork at about 300 to 325 F (a temp easier to maintain in my smoker) for about 5 to 6 hours I take the pork off and wrap it firmly in aluminum foil and move it indoors to my kitchen oven. That’s the Texas Crutch.
There I let it sit overnight at about 250 degrees. After about 12 hours total you have amazingly tender pork BBQ, the Boston Butt jiggling almost like Jello.
Here are a couple of Pork Butts after about 4 hours over smoke.
I did try this last year sort of a ‘faux’ Porchetta. Porchetta should have crispy skin and since there’s no skin on a boneless pork loin I wrapped the entire loin in about a pound and a half of bacon! (Everything is better than bacon.) No recipe, but somewhere I had seen a “real” Porchetta done on TV and got inspired to try to make something similar again without buying the expensive cut of meat, in this case a large pork belly.
I took a full boneless pork loin and carefully butterflied it open. Laid a mixture of olive oil, fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary on it and then rolled it up.
This I roasted in a gas grill (only because the wood charcoal one was busy!) until the bacon had rendered and turned crispy. Using an instant read thermometer I kept track of the center of the cut. Brought it whole to the table and make slices of it. It went quickly I barely got a taste myself !
Sometimes as a theatrical designer I feel like I’m losing my creativity. That never happens when I’m cooking. Are my attempts always successful? I assure you that you would not have been interested in my recent attempt at a bouillabaisse, it was not pretty!
Maybe one day I’ll look at a recipe! Maybe not!
I don’t do much complex cooking anymore like I did in the past. But, here is a handwritten recipe for my Mom’s Mystery Cake. It sounds gross, but it was delicious!
Explore Don Gialanella’s work here.
Curator of Public Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts
Cooking encompasses so many things for me, but it is definitely a clean break from work and life and a mental reset.
I have a routine before I start a serious baking or cooking session – music or a podcast must be on, and I prefer that it be dark outside, making my kitchen this well-lit little bubble. Having it dark outside means I’m either cooking late into the evening or waking up early, both of which are fine by me!
Cooking is an escape, a salve, and a reminder that I can, most times, meet any challenge I set before myself.
Right now, I’m really enjoying the Arabesque Table and any of Samin Nosrat’s recipes, but I also spend quite a bit of time (probably too much time) every day browsing virtual cooking sites: NY TIMES Cooking, Food52, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, TheKitchn and many, many smaller blogs I follow for inspiration.
Although I’m not that much of a sweets person, I do love to bake. My go-to is a blood orange upside down cake, and while there are many versions of this cake out there, my absolute favorite for both nostalgia (it’s the recipe I used to make my first one) and pure deliciousness is the one by David Lebovitz, who used to be the pastry chef for Chez Panisse.
Find the recipe for Chez Panisse Blood Orange Upside Down Cake here.
Explore Margaret Murray’s work here.
Tampa Bay area arts writer
How I learned to cook creatively during the pandemic
I love a crumb-free keyboard, so most of my cooking doesn’t overlap with my writing. But that distinction dissolved during the pandemic as home cooking columns rose in popularity.
For the first time since I started writing, I began documenting my cooking and drink-mixing adventures in publications. It seemed like a huge departure from my usual art writing, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cooking can be a creative process as well.
Most of my week-day cooking aims to get something heart-healthy on the table as quickly as possible, but I like to shake things up on the weekend. When making a new dish, my inspirations are as varied as my interests. It’s not unusual for me to cook a meal or mix a drink inspired by a time, place, friend, family member, ingredient, kitchen tool, holiday, event or situation. The cookbooks and online recipes I work from are usually secondary to that initial inspiration.
When making Florida-inspired grouper sandwiches for the first time, I combined advice from multiple sources to make one amazing Fried Grouper Sandwich.
I seasoned the grouper filets with seasoning salt as recommended in Good Catch; dipped the filets in egg followed by a combination of 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. baking powder (as recommended by Coastal Living); fried them in a 1/2 inch of oil in a cast-iron skillet, cooking for about four minutes on each side; then served them on soft brioche buns with tartar sauce and American cheese like you’d find on a McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwich.
It’s hard to define my style in a single recipe. When I phoned a friend for advice, she reminded me that whatever I choose should be Florida-inspired and have a lot of citrus in it because that’s what I like most. So, rum runners it is…
Frozen Rum Runner
(makes 2 drinks)
My Dad missed Frenchy’s rum runners during the pandemic, so I tried my hand at making a rum runner for him at home on Father’s Day. I used the original Holiday Isle Tiki Bar rum runner recipe as a jumping off point, then I added lime juice and doubled the amount of rum, using Bacardi Dragonberry as my light rum because that’s what they use at Frenchy’s.
To make, combine 2 oz Bacardi Dragonberry rum, 2 oz Bacardi Black rum, 1 oz blackberry brandy, 1 oz banana liquor, 2 oz pineapple juice, 2 oz orange juice, 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz grenadine, and 4 cups ice in a blender. Blend and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.
Explore Jen Ring’s work at @jenringwrites.
“A party without cake is just a meeting.”
– Julia Child
True confession. I have an enormous sweet tooth. I cannot think of a time when I turned down a cookie, a piece of cake, or a slice of pie. My biggest pet peeve? When a waiter brings extra forks so that others (who didn’t order a dessert) can share MY dessert.
When I was working as a college professor, my email box was full with my law students’ questions. Now that I am retired, my email box is still full. But now it’s packed with emails containing links to new recipes for baked goods. I have an unconditional love for flour, butter and sugar. My quest these days
is to explore how those ingredients can combine to make the most delectable treats.
While on this quest, I subscribe to at least one part of my dear friend Pat’s baked good theory – “Baked goods ensure one’s personal safety,” Pat says. “The more you weigh…the harder you are to kidnap. So stay safe. . . Eat more CAKE.”
While Wintering in Estero FL during Covid lockdown, I tried to stay safe while fully engaging in what I called “stress baking.” In spite of trying to avoid being kidnapped, I also tried my best to avoid “stress eating.”
So, even though I tried out a new recipe almost daily – I shared my cakes, cookies and pies with friends, neighbors and even my trainer. (Yes, I had to exercise off all that cake!) What I discovered is that nothing puts a smile on someone’s face faster than gifting them delicious baked goods.
Both my husband, Tom, and I are gluten-free. This makes baking somewhat more complicated as not every recipe successfully transitions into gluten-free. On the other hand, some recipes are actually better gluten free. For instance, using almond flour for the base of lemon bars truly elevates that lemony goodness.
This Summer, at our Indiana Cottage, I was looking for a light, tasty and delicious dessert. I wanted it to be pretty enough for a small luncheon with my museum group. And, it had to be gluten free. I found the perfect dessert with an easy-to-make Pretzel-Crusted Lime Mousse Tart from Better Homes & Gardens.
Find the recipe here.
This tart has it all! The filling was a dream, a perfect finish for a light Summer meal or a heavy BBQ. The saltiness and crunchiness of the crust was the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness and tartness of the filling. And it was so pretty!
Luckily, I was able to easily substitute a gluten free pretzel in the crust’s ingredients. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, with one exception. In spite of my sweet tooth, I didn’t think that the tart needed the extra sweetness of the original recipe’s blackberry sauce.
Oh, and one other thing that goes to the trial and error portion of my dessert exploration. The tiniest things in a recipe can make a big difference – good or bad. In the case of the Lime Mousse Tart – the original recipe calls for an optional “two green food coloring.” Take it from me. Unless you’re making the tart for St. Patrick’s Day – you should know that the original recipe meant to read “two drops” of green food coloring!
Yes, the first sample tart was really GREEN – but it still was delicious! I definitely wouldn’t turn it down.