Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a book signing/cooking demo featuring the Pollan family. You may be familiar with actress Tracy Pollan, who is married to Michael J. Fox. Tracy, along with her sisters, Dana and Laurie, and their mother, Corky, have written a warm and practical cookbook, The Pollan Family Table, that has been a joy to read through and cook from.
The event was held at the brand new Chambers Center for Well Being in Morristown, which in itself was worth the visit. The center is an affiliate of the Atlantic Health System, and is focused on integrative health. Combining Western medicine with complementary treatments (such as yoga, nutrition, massage, acupuncture, fitness training, counseling), the staff works to help patients obtain optimal health.
Growing up, the sisters and their brother, author Michael Pollan, had incredible meals. Corky was the Style Director of Gourmet Magazine and a food blogger for the Cooking Channel. Corky’s father owned a wholesale produce business, so food has always been an integral part of their lives.
The sisters know the emotional and health benefits that eating together provides and they wanted to recreate this for their own families using time-honored and trusted family recipes. This was their inspiration for writing the book.
During the demo, the family cooked two recipes from the book for us – their “signature” salad, which they have been making for years, and roasted cauliflower with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Both were delicious and easy. The sisters told us that the salad is their most requested dish when they visit friends or family and I could see why. It’s got only five ingredients and is a snap to put together. (See below for the salad recipe.)
Besides having terrific recipes, the book has been organized so that each recipe has a pantry list and a market list (what a great idea!) making it really easy for readers to put delicious, healthy meals on the table.
The sisters and their Mom offered the group their own “sage advice”— cooking tips that they find indispensable:
For Laurie, it is mise en place (having everything in its place, ready to go when you start cooking).
Corky is a firm believer in reading a recipe from beginning to end.
Dana’s tried-and-true trick is to store brown sugar in a resealable bag in the refrigerator.
And Tracy always uses a bit of cooking spray on the spoon when using honey or maple syrup, so it slides right off.
The book has wonderful, practical recipes, a handy glossary of cooking definitions, along with the “Pollan Pantry” (key ingredients you should stock), and of course, beautiful photos. But what I found most compelling about this cookbook was the genuine warmth that the sisters seem to have for carrying on the traditions founded in their mother’s kitchen. They enjoy cooking with each other and for each other, and that basic tenet is what makes it so pleasant to come to their table.
The Pollan Family Table
Pollan Signature Salad
We serve this salad at all our large family gatherings. Light, crisp, both vinegary and sweet, our signature salad is a delicious addition to any meal.
For the dressing (ingredients)
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the salad (ingredients)
5 to 7 ounces mesclun or mixed baby greens
½ cup chopped caramelized walnuts (page 263, or your favorite store-bought)
½ Bosc pear (cut lengthwise), cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
For the dressing (directions)
In a glass jar with a lid or in a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegars, mustard, grapeseed oil, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Shake the jar vigorously or whisk in the bowl to emulsify.
For the salad (directions)
Place the mesclun in a large salad bowl. Pour on half the dressing and toss the greens to coat. Add the walnuts, pear, and more dressing to taste (taking care not to overdress) and toss again. Top with the Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.
Food for Thought
Walnuts are the healthiest tree nuts around—they have close to twice as much antioxidants as other nuts! What’s more, they are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is great news for people who don’t eat heart-healthy fish.
Excerpted from THE POLLAN FAMILY TABLE by Corky, Lori, Dana, and Tracy Pollan. Copyright © 2014 by Old Harvest Way, LLC. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Terry Krongold is a lifelong, passionate baker. In addition to a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry, Terry has been involved with food for many years, including co-ownership of a dessert catering company in the late eighties called I Love Cheesecake, specializing in fine cheesecake and unique desserts. Terry is the author of The Cook’s Tour, a blog focused on food, baking, and travel. When not working, writing, or baking, she spends time planning vacations around restaurants to visit. She can be reached at [email protected]