Author and contributor to the New York Times WELL blog, Dawn Lerman, was kind enough to answer Circle of Food’s “With Relish” questionnaire.
What’s your favorite dish to cook on a personal level and why? Recipe is optional.
My favorite recipe is my grandmothers chicken soup. When I was growing up we never had real food in our house. My 450-pound ad man father only consumed diet products with a marketing promise attached. My mom, a liberated woman of the 60’s and a wanna-be actress had no interest in cooking or domestic chores. I was always hungry both physically and emotionally except for the weekends I spent with my grandmother Beauty. Arriving at her home, I was transformed by the warmth of the air, and the aroma of her soup. It was in her kitchen, inhaling the dill and biting into the soft matzo balls, swimming in stock, sweetened by parsnips and carrots that I felt what true love and nourishment was.
Beauty’s Chicken Soup
Yield: 8–10 servings
In the words of my grandmother Beauty, “Good food is not fast. Fast food is not good and if you know how to make a pot of chicken soup, you can nourish yourself for life.”
Beauty’s chicken soup can be served as a first course or as a meal. It is loaded with body from the chunks of vegetables and the rich broth. Beauty never strained her broth, giving it a robust, complex flavor. “I can find my heritage in a bowl of soup,” she often exclaimed, as we enjoyed spoonful after spoonful.
- 32 ounces water (plus 10 more cups to add as the broth absorbs)
- 1 (3½-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, most of the skin removed
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 4 ribs celery, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
- Handful of fresh dill, chopped
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Garlic powder or a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, to taste
Place the 32 ounces of cold water in an 8-quart stockpot set over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cook until foam comes to the top. Spoon off the foam, reduce the heat, and add the carrots, celery, parsnips, sweet potato, onion, and dill. Simmer the soup for at least 2 hours and add the 10 cups of cold water, 1 cup at a time, as needed. As the soup cooks, the liquid will evaporate and the soup will thicken.
Check the soup every 30 minutes to remove any film that rises to the top. Stir in the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste, and remove the pot from the heat. Remove the chicken and the vegetables from the soup, and pull the chicken meat off the bones. Ladle the broth into bowls and add the desired amount of chicken and vegetables to each bowl.
What’s the best or most memorable meal you have eaten lately? Why?
One of my favorite meals lately was at Café Gratitude in LA. It is a vegetarian restaurant with the most decadently delicious desserts and raw food dishes. I am not vegan or vegetarian, but I am in love with their raw pizza with cashew cheese and their raw tiramisu. I took my health food phobic mom there, my meat eating son, and my vegetarian daughter. Everyone was equally delighted.
What’s your favorite food city? Why?
I think LA has to be my favorite food city. There are so many restaurants with both healthy and delicious. They are also eco conscious and use a lot of locally sourced ingredients. I usually only visit twice a year, so I long all year for my favorite spots.
A good meal is not complete without … ?
A good meal is not complete without good company, good background music and good conversation.
My 3 favorite restaurants are:
- Hugo’s in LA
- Friedman’s in NY
- Peace Food Café in NY
Anything you want to add – coming attractions, talk to the food-loving public?
I am a little bit of a health food nut. I am always seeking restaurants with Farm to Table dining, or a raw food selection. I am constantly searching for the new super food that I can use to add or swap in traditional recipes. To me the health food store has always been the equivalent of Holly Go lightly shopping in Tiffany’s. The excitement never fades.
ABOUT DAWN LERMAN, MA, CHHC, LCAT
Dawn Lerman is a Manhattan based nutritionist, bestselling author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes, and a contributor to the New York Times WELL Blog. She has been featured on NBC, NPR, Huff Post TV as well as several other news outlets. Her company Magnificent Mommies provides nutrition education to student, teachers and corporations. Dawn counsels clients on weight loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diet-related conditions. She is a sought-after speaker and cooking teacher and lives in New York with her two children. For more information about Dawn, go to www.DawnLerman.net or follow on twitter @dawnLerman
Karyn Zoldan: I reviewed My Fat Dad about six months ago. It was a good read and I tried some of the recipes because they reminded me of my grandmother and my mother’s cooking. If you struggle with weight or guilt about weight and are hungry both emotionally and physically, you might relate.