The early winter mornings are dark and quiet. Although your warm bed beckons you to climb back inside, starting your day before the day can leave you enlightened and ready to meet life’s later requirements that rise with the sun. It’s not a time to get ahead at work or skim your social media feed—those can wait, as can the laundry, the shopping list and the call to your mother.
Diana Yen, author of A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories & Recipes to Savor & Share (and a regular contributor to Kinfolk), talks about cooking with the seasons and teaches us how to make a delicious spiced coffee.
What was the inspiration for your new cookbook?
I was inspired to write this book when I first moved to New York from California. The seasons change so dramatically here that I felt it affected my cooking in a big way. I was introduced to apple picking in the fall and rooftop barbecues in the summer.
The life style and activities that wrapped around each season provided so much inspiration for me to cook along with. I hope that the book can be enjoyed throughout the year and revisited with each changing season.
Can you describe one of your earliest cooking memories?
My mother has always been in the kitchen preparing our family’s meals as long as I can remember. Walking into the kitchen and smelling the aromas drift through the air always made me feel warmed and cared for. She always had a comforting soup simmering all day on the stovetop. There was never a meal without a soothing soup to accompany it.
Which season’s foods and flavors are your favorite?
If I had to pick a season, it would be spring. After eating root veggies all winter long, I perk up at the sight of baby greens, radishes, carrots and asparagus. I love making open-faced tarts and salads that show off all the vibrant colors of the vegetables. Spring is also a time of year that is social and all about new beginnings. The weather is sunny and mild, and it’s such a pleasure to dine outside with friends again!
Where are some of your favorite places to have a picnic?
I live down the street from Brooklyn’s Pier 1 , a beautiful park that looks over the water into Manhattan. It’s so nice to pack up a basket of goodies, spread everything out on a blanket and take turns between reading, napping and snacking. I also love Prospect Park and Central Park. Any green area in the city is great and fun to meet up with friends for an afternoon in the sun.
If you had to choose one recipe from your cookbook to eat every day of summer, what would it be?
I would eat the Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata (a cheese made from mozzarella and cream) every single day of the summer—actually, I think I did last summer. The best time is in August when we get the sweetest tomatoes at the farmer’s market. I fell in love with tomatoes after moving to the East Coast. The best ones are bursting with sweet flavors and ripened in the sun. And I love the weirdo rainbow tomatoes that come in funny shapes. Pairing tomatoes with burrata is a heavenly combination that melts in your mouth.