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Karen Mordechai, the creator and visionary behind Sunday Suppers, had been someone I admired greatly from afar for many years. As I began my cookbook-creating process she became a sounding board — Karen was forthcoming and supportive with boundless advice.

More recently, over the past few months, (counter-intuitive since Karen moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles this year!), we have become fast friends. While we initially bonded over our shared love of aesthetics and feeding our loved ones wholesome, simple food, we soon discovered another commonality — an obvious neurosis in having everything juuuuust so. Oh yes, the two of us like things in a particular way. Wanna call us control freaks? Go right on ahead. We admit it. We see it all, hear it all, and we have our hands all over it all, at all times.

Thankfully the particular way Karen likes just about everything she touches is with a grace and a beauty all her own. It is simple yet nuanced and never overly manipulated.

“My eye tends to like negative space and clean lines, I enjoy the play between color and space — and I love finding that balance,” she says. This balanced beauty Karen creates grasps hold of you and draws you in. It is experienced each time you step inside Sunday Suppers or peruse her Instagram account. She is steadfastly consistent and it has allowed her to build an unbelievable brand and following.

Now Karen has poured her swoony point of view into a two-part anthology and resource for cooking seasonally and simply. The first volume, Simple Fare: Spring and Summer, was released just last week. To celebrate, I was fortunate to step inside her breathtaking kitchen to create the most fantastic mushroom toast. Stocked with simple, high-quality ingredients, we got cooking.

Sliced and diced with a little laughter in between, sautéed and brightened with some white wine, citrus, and thyme, in less that 30 minutes we savored some remarkably flavorful little nuggets. Nuanced indeed, they were packed with bold yet subtle flavor, creamy with that surprise bit of crème fraîche and bright thanks to just the right hint of acid. The morsels were reminders to not over-think and over-manipulate our food. And to let beauty be beauty. Let what’s natural and at its peak shine.

In Simple Fare, Karen shares something she has experienced firsthand — food has the power to connect people and cultures. I could not agree more. In fact, I express this very sentiment in my own book. Karen also shares the importance of cooking every meal for her family (no an easy feat, to be sure), the value of knowing where her food comes from, (she supports farmers and local purveyors), and the belief that cooking simply can help us eat well amidst the challenges of everyday life. In sharing her story with recipes that are accessible yet aspirational, she is inspiring us to create our own.

She writes, “Cook with your season, and in your way. Be malleable with what the market offers you. Have freedom and lightness in your kitchen; it’s a wonderful place to be.” I thank you, Karen, for offering us the tools to get cooking in earnest, simply, seasonally, and beautifully, with Simple Fare.

Simple Fare

Karen Mordechai

  • Q&A

    • Tell us about your vision for the two-book anthology for Simple Fare. 

      Simple Fare is a book about how we eat and cook. Its intention is to be honest, straightforward and inspiring. We use beautiful and wholesome ingredients and shop at the market with the seasons. The food is simple but not simplistic. It is thoughtful and bold — and allows the ingredients to shine.  

      The book also offers market variations for each recipe that allows readers to swap ingredients based on what they find at the market. Hopefully this helps cooks not only learn a recipe but also feel confident to make changes and cook intuitively.

      With its large-scale text, Simple Fare feels like a cross between a coffee table book and an art magazine. Was this intentional?  

      I’ve always admired beautiful food magazines and felt like there was a creative gap between books and magazines, so yes, in a way I did want to see these things converge a bit and get redefined. I was inspired by art books, journals and magazines but also wanted to create a resource that was very practical and useful for cooks.

      What is the core value you wanted to express with the food? 

      Honest and beautiful food that is nourishing, attainable and inspiring.

      What do you want people to come away with when they see the book and create the recipes?

      My hope is to inspire cooking and freedom in the kitchen. Cooking is the center point of our lives, families, and traditions. Finding that value in how and what we eat is so important and is possible for all of us. I hope to bring that feeling across.

      Okay, the mushroom toast we made – so simple but packed with flavor. Is this a recipe that has been in your repertoire or was it developed specifically for the book?

      I’ve made and eaten versions of this recipe and brought those ideas together for this recipe. Also, I live and die for mushrooms so this really is a personal favorite.  

      You took everything in-house for this project, from the recipe development to the design. How did this experience differ from your first book experience? 

      I was very lucky, my publishers and team really stood behind my vision for this book and I worked with an incredible designer, Marjolein Delhaas, who really helped articulate my work. Having the liberty to work this way expanded the creative process and the ideas evolved organically.

      Whose food are you most inspired by in N.Y.C? In L.A.?

      The food on both coasts is wonderful and inspiring. I love California for its produce and its approach to clean flavors, while NY has an evocative and imaginative take on flavor profiles — but the scenes are changing on both sides and they are equally and endlessly inspiring.  

      With a recent move to L.A., how has geography shifted your awareness or way of life? How has this shift informed your food?

      Our lives are (expectedly) more organic in California, you do less and you focus a bit more on the things you are doing. I like this a lot. We’ve slowed down and are cooking at home even more. We also spend more time outdoors, which is amazing. Our meals have gotten simpler in a way — but the produce here is an endless playground.  

      What are the core building blocks of honest yet nuanced food?

      Really good ingredients.

      Five ingredients you would be lost without?

      Cyprus salt (I carry some in my bag when I’m out:), olive oil, avocados, mushrooms, and greens — oh, and lemons! Six okay?  

      Beauty and simplicity seem to pour out of you effortlessly. Coco Chanel had said to take one thing off before leaving the home. Likewise, do you have any visual rules you follow? 

      Ha! I love that line and think of that often — with clothes and with food styling, too. My eye tends to like negative space and clean lines. I enjoy the play between color and space — and I love finding that balance.

      You have such confidence in all you do. It is something I very much admire. Your brand, from the Sunday Suppers space to the cookbooks to your Instagram feed, is unbelievably consistent. Was this set from the start or something you developed over time? 

      Oh, I don’t know If that’s true — and of course it’s always hard to see that in your own work. I think my work has evolved over the years, and I try to let it do so and lead me. I try not to force things, and do what feels right.

      What is your go-to weeknight meal you make at home for your family?

      We make the dukkah-covered schnitzel all the time — and I roast a ton of vegetables. A simple protein with charred greens is a usual. We also make tacos often and love the deconstructed Niçoise — that is a staple and I play around with whatever ingredients I have handy. 

      Any tricks you can share for someone that might be overwhelmed by cooking? A recipe from the book that looks impressive but is oh-so-easy to make? 

      One of the things I love about this book is how approachable the recipes are — there really aren’t any that are “difficult”. Some may take a bit of time and attention — like the brisket tacos that braise in the oven for a few hours — but overall the level is meant to be inviting for all.

      How do the accoutrements – the labne, the dukkah, the smoked yogurt, the dressings, the pickled veggies – elevate simple dishes and transform a meal?

      Uh, they are everything! It’s that hit of salt, sour, crunch or smoke that can truly transform a dish. I love having these profiles in my fridge — and using them liberally.  

      What is your guilty pleasure, your food Kryptonite? 

      Oh man, pasta and/or risotto, I think, is my greatest comfort food. I’ll take a savory bowl of warmth and goodness over dessert any day.

Mushroom Toast

Karen Mordechai

  • Ingredients

      • 2 thick slices sourdough bread
      • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
      • 2 garlic cloves, halved
      • 1 tablespoon salted butter
      • 2 bunches beech mushrooms, separated
      • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
      • 1/2 cup (120 ml) Sancerre wine
      • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
      • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, good-quality store-bought or homemade
      • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
      • Lemon zest 
      • 1 teaspoon truffle oil
      • Cyprus flake salt
  • The Prep

      1. Heat a grill to high or a grill pan over high heat. Brush the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. (Alternatively, toast the bread in a preheated 400°F/205°C oven for 5 minutes, until crisp.) Rub the toast with 1/2 of a garlic clove for flavor. 
      2. In a medium skillet, heat the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the remaining garlic, the mushrooms, and most of the thyme and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in the crème fraîche right before serving and season with salt and pepper.
      3. Top each piece of toast with some of the mushrooms and a bit of sauce. Garnish with lemon zest, the truffle oil, the remaining thyme, and flaky salt. 

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