Welcome to What Our Friends Are Cooking, where we call up our favorite people to find out what they're cooking and how they're fairing under quarantine.
We're so excited to bring you a little treat from our friends, Jill Donenfeld and Tiana Tenet, also known as The Culinistas. Whenever the two of them are in the kitchen, you know not only is the food going to taste good, but also be good for you. They're always doing double duty so it's no wonder they volunteered two recipes for one ingredient, black olives!
P.S. Social Studies co-founder, Jess Latham, will be going LIVE with The Culinistas on their Instagram channel (@theculinistas) this Thursday @ 2pm EST! Tune in!
Q: Where are you quarantined and who are you with?
Jill: I am in Boulder, CO at my parent's house. They moved from Cincinnati (where I grew up) about ten years ago. Yet, the rub: they are in Telluride with my little brother so I’ve been solo here since March 13th. It’s ok though; I like being alone, there’s a good sound system and I already learned how to fix a sump pump.
Tiana: I'm quarantined in Washington, DC with my husband and in-laws -- I know what you're thinking, but it's a good thing! I'm currently 33 weeks pregnant, so we knew we needed to be around family and good hospitals. I never thought we'd be giving birth here, but we've already switched doctors and set up the nursery -- looks like Papou (grandfather in Greek!) is going to be the night nurse!
Q: How has cooking (or anything else) helped you stay sane during quarantine?
Tiana: Keeping a daily schedule, while incorporating favorite aspects from pre-quarantine life, is keeping me sane. That includes working out, growing the business, socializing, family dinners and personal time to read, relax, and unwind. I've tried to maintain consistency, despite being in a new place, and cooking has always been a way for me to decompress and connect with those I love.
It's exciting to see all this activity in the kitchen across social channels -- it finally feels like everyone is starting to understand the importance of a nurturing home-cooked meal. Whether you're feeding yourself or others, it's extremely gratifying to prepare a meal with love and care. I hope it continues forever!
Jill: Cooking daily is not a new activity for me; it is a consistent aspect of my day-to-day life. Whether I am in my apartment in New York or traveling around the world, I will always find a way to cook. So, perhaps I would say that yes, it is keeping me sane in quarantine because it connects me to a constant of my life as a whole.
Eating is a function of being alive; taking ownership of looking after oneself fosters a pleasant feeling for most. So, I suspect that is why people are finding satisfaction over the stove. Cooking provides for a bite-sized project with a delicious result; ultimately, it is very simple to cook but perceived as difficult so it provides for an easy and relativity quick sense of completion. We all like the “you did it” moment, and cooking leads to that nine times out of ten.
Q: What food have you consumed the most since quarantine started? (Wine does not count)
Jill: Ginger. Ginger ginger ginger. I eat ginger with everything — anything I am baking has ginger in it and any savory foods have all been a sort of flirtation with Southeast Asia on account of the ginger. On one grocery run, there was no fresh ginger root so I bought candied ginger — about 4 pounds. I snacked on it till it was gone. Beyond ginger, I’ve eaten popcorn every day and don’t foresee that slowing. I spice it up with our za’atar for savory and make is sweet by tossing it with our solstice blend. I’ve been baking all the bread like the rest of the internet, too. My favorite invention has been using olive brine in place of water and tinting my loaf with turmeric as a nod to Alison Roman’s chicken.
Tiana: I'm eating a lot of eggs and oats these days (pregnancy = protein + fiber). They are extremely versatile, and with less trips to the market, I'm loving their long shelf life.
I've also become a barista -- depending on my daily homemade matcha latte as my only source of caffeine to get me through the days (secret ingredients: Matchaful's Kiwami Single Cultivar Ceremonial Matcha + Oatly Barista Edition).
Q: You both took black olives and made very different Culinistas recipes. Can you talk a bit about why you like showcasing two different recipes from the same ingredient?
Jill: Versatility not only allows for reinvention but also the varied exposure can open up an ingredient in a way that may cause you to like it. The olive is case in point because Tiana always says she doesn’t like olives, but she does! She likes them with bread. I dream about a ball pit of olives -- whether it is with fish, on a pizza, or as a snack with supremed oranges, I am always in. Put ‘em on your fingers, eat ‘em right off.
Tiana: Grocery shopping and cooking should be fun and stress-free. It's important that you know how to use an ingredient multiple ways so you don't have to rely on time-intensive recipes and multiple trips to the market. When you feel confident in the kitchen, the ingredients you have will inspire you and creativity is the best part of cooking. No recipes, no measurements; just intuition and creativity.
Q: What are you doing with The Culinistas to help people rediscover the joy of their own pantry and cooking from it?
Jill: We launched a Kitchen Concierge service that provides subscription based access to our service team. We will FaceTime with you in your kitchen to see what you have, come up with a meal plan, and send you recipes. Our recipes are unique in that they are meant for chefs to use as a North Star for servicing individual and distinct households so they do not have measurements or exact instructions. They force the cook to be intuitive and answer questions like: “how would I prefer these potatoes chopped: one bite or two?” I am also on our Instagram everyday at 2pm EST answering DMs about what to cook with what people have in their pantries. Joy comes from not overthinking and from getting oneself into the headspace of cooking for the purpose of nourishment and togetherness, not for perfection; we are trying to broadcast that message.
Recipe Run Down: Tiana & Jill's Dishes
Tiana's Provence Flatbread is made with caramelized onions, tomatoes, olives, thyme & lemon. It is sweet, briny and ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Jill's Sea Bass & Tomatoes is a Greek-influenced dish with sautéed onions, olives, feta & dill. It’s ideally served from a low bowl with toasted bread.