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The sixth cookbook from David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl, Green Kitchen: Quick + Slow, finds the culinary couple documenting how they cook and eat at home, feeding themselves and their three children on a typical evening. Neither trained as a chef or operates a restaurant, but the Stockholm-based duo have built an audience for their beautiful-yet-accessible recipes. “We cook and eat healthy and simple vegetarian food with natural ingredients, whole grains, good fats, fruit, and vegetables,” their website, Green Kitchen Stories, notes.
Quick + Slow highlights meals that are simple to prepare, often using strategically pre-prepped elements, and can be whipped up before crashing into bed at night when you’re too tired to put a ton of effort into cooking (the “quick”), along with some more luxuriously time-consuming options that encourage finding comfort and relaxation in the kitchen (the “slow”).
We spoke with David about the building blocks of what he and Luise call “joyful vegetarian” cooking – and how their family makes it work while keeping up with their busy lives.
Can you tell us a little about your food philosophy and, in particular, the role of cooking as self-care?
Our food philosophy has always focused around healthy, vegetarian food with a variety of whole grains, lots of nuts, seeds, legumes and seasonal vegetables and fruit at the centre. The definition of healthy has broadened for us during these past 10 years. Going from only a nutritional perspective to also acknowledging that cooking your own food is one of the healthiest activities there is. Baking cardamom buns and snatching one fresh from the oven is 100 percent joy and happiness for me. Switching off one part of my brain and just letting my hands and senses work by following a recipe is truly a healing process for a stressed mind.
What was the impetus to launch Green Kitchen Stories and how has the journey progressed so far?
We started our Green Kitchen Stories blog in 2009. Back then vegetarian food was not as available and varied as it has become today. It was also before the health-food hype. So in the beginning Green Kitchen Stories was just a space for us to develop our own way of cooking. After people discovered the blog, it went from just being us, to more of a community. It blows my mind that we have been able to play a part in so many people’s journey towards choosing more plant based food through our site, social media apps and books.
You mention in the book that doing some advance meal prep, “will not only make weekday cooking quicker, but also make life feel easier and more structured in general.” Can you tell us a little more about this idea?
Being parents of three kids and juggling my job(s) with Luise’s midwife studies means that we don’t always have time to spend hours cooking in the weekdays, so we often try to find smart ways and shortcuts to get lots of flavor with little effort. So prepping a few things on the weekend makes our weekdays so much easier.
You don’t have to meal prep consistently. We don’t. Sometimes you just don’t have time or energy for it. But every time we do set aside time to peel a bunch of carrots and place them in a jar of water, marinate some aubergine slices, store cooked black lentils in the fridge, or make some extra cookie dough for the freezer, the reward is instant. We eat better, we have great salad shortcuts, and we can offer freshly-made cookies when we have the neighbors over.
Often you don’t even need to do a special prep, you can just double the amount of quinoa or tomato sauce or whatever you are making and store the leftovers for other meals.
What are the key ingredients and supplies to keep on hand in a vegetarian kitchen to make weeknight cooking quicker and easier?
First thing you need in order to cook vegetarian meals are fruit and vegetables. We always keep some kind of leafy greens at home. And root vegetables. We then complement with whatever fruit and veg are in season and affordable. Fresh herbs are also great for making your meals tastier. We love basil, parsley, mint and dill (but rarely keep them all at the same time).
A thick natural yogurt can be used in so many ways so we always keep a tub in the fridge. A good bread is also essential because a veg sandwich can also be a good weeknight meal.
You want to keep your pantry stocked with nuts, seeds, oats – we are major oats consumers – nut butter, cans of tomatoes, beans, pasta, rice, some good spices and things sprinkle on top, like za’atar or dukkah. These things last forever and make a good ground for lots of meals.
But perhaps the most important thing is to keep some good condiments and sauces at home. Things like harissa, miso, curry paste, ginger honey, pesto, tahini or kimchi instantly add flavor and depth to almost any type of dish. You don’t need them all at the same time but keeping a few condiments at home is very helpful.
You could for instance heat a can of chickpeas in some harissa and serve over a herby yogurt with some crunchy salt on top – it’s a delightful meal that comes together in less than 15 minutes. Or fry some mushrooms in kimchi and soy and serve on a sandwich. We have got lots more tips in the book.