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Style File: Julia Turshen

Inside the kitchen of the culinary triple threat
Julia Turshen, taking a coffee break, at her Greenpoint apartment. | Photos: Tasting Table
Style File: Julia Turshen

She writes cookbooks, she cooks with big-name chefs, she has her own radio show.

And triple threat Julia Turshen does nearly all of it out her cozy, super-efficient kitchen—which she's graciously offered to show us around—in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood.

You may recognize her name from the covers of cookbooks by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jody Williams and, most recently, Dana Cowin. Or maybe you've heard her on the airwaves of Heritage Radio Network, where she hosts the Radio Cherry Bombe segments each Monday.

But above all, you know her for the stories she tells, or from the thousands of recipes she has tested, perfected and presented to home cooks in the many books she's written and worked on.

"I feel like I can spend all day testing recipes," says Turshen of her favorite part of the cookbook process, perched on her bright pink couch.

"It's really different than just cooking. It's this moment when you're not trying to make a meal for you or your family or friends. You're trying to get the best expression of this recipe and record it so that anyone else can make it."

Now, after years of working with chefs and celebrities to put their cooking expertise to paper, Turshen's working on her own book, Small Victories, set to come out in 2016.

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"It's a technique-driven book for home cooks, all about empowering them to understand that if you can really master a handful of techniques, you can make so many things," she says. "I've felt really privileged to help people tell their own stories, but I'm excited to now tell my own. Food is a great way to talk about places you've been. It's very transportive."

Turshen is about to go into hard-core cookbook mode for the next six months, but she graciously invited us over to check out her must-have kitchen gear (see the slideshow).

Her apartment is beautifully furnished with giant, twiggy wreaths and colorful little trunks (she is married, after all, to Design*Sponge founder Grace Bonney). Shelves are stuffed with cookbooks, boxes brim with spices and a ukele. The only background noise this hot October day comes from whirring fans, but when Turshen's testing recipes, there's always reggae music playing.

Turshen covets blue Mason jars and is now a happy digital-scale convert.

She may be a respected voice in the culinary world, but at the end of the day, Turshen tells us, she considers herself one thing: a home cook, like her readers.

"I would feel like a fraud if I was telling you how to do molecular gastronomy," she laughs. "I've been a home cook my whole life. And for so long, so I've given people advice on how to cook for their families, and it's so nice to actually be able to do that for my family. It's the most wonderful thing."

  • Blue Mason jars ($11): Turshen has a motley collection of Bonne Maman and Mason jars. And for good reason. "My biggest reason for loving the jars is that you can see what's in them," she explains. "When you open a cabinet and it's all boxes and text inside, it looks messy. This is a nice way to clean things up." She keeps rice in big jars and dried fruits in smaller ones.

  • Measuring gear: "I'm a total convert to the digital scale," Turshen gushes about hers, an Ozeri Pro digital scale ($19). "There's so much variation when you measure out of a cup; humidity, how you pat it down, all these can vary. But if you measure 125 grams of flour, it's always going to be 125 grams of flour." And, she adds, "You don't have to clean a billion measuring cups!" But when she needs to measure out a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, she swears by the little plastic OXO cups ($5).

  • Antique show sign: Turshen's father, a former magazine art director, found this while antiquing about 15 years ago. He passed it on to her a few years ago, and it was the first thing she hung up when she moved into her bright Greenpoint apartment with her wife and Design*Sponge founder, Grace Bonney. Find similar ones here.

  • Spices: "Since I test a lot of recipes, I keep ingredients to a minimum and buy a small container because I can't imagine getting through a huge thing of some obscure spice," says Turshen. And she has a few tips for keeping all her spices organized and fresh: "I keep them in boxes in our living room cabinets because I don't have room in the kitchen. I keep them high and as far away from the radiator as possible (or in other cases, a stove!) since heat will affect them, and you've spent good money on them. I like writing things on the top, so I don't have to pick them up to see what it is."

  • Cast-iron pan: "I have all the essentials, but I try not to call for anything you wouldn't normally have if you're someone who cooks regularly," Turshen explains of her cookbook-writing philosophy. "I hate when there's a dish that you have to buy a new pan for. That bugs me so much!" But one thing to invest in is a sturdy cast-iron. Turshen's had hers for a number of years after buying it from the Brimfield antiques show.

  • Muji notebooks ($4) and washi tape ($14): Turshen never leaves home without a notebook in her bag or pocket. "I have a bunch in circulation since writing and note-taking are a big part of my life," she says. She records everything from observing what a chef is doing in the kitchen to writing hednotes for cookbook recipes. When putting these recipes to work in her kitchen, she can't live without Japanese washi tape. "I tape recipes to the kitchen cabinet when I'm testing. This is great because it doesn't rip the paper and they come in all sorts of colors."

  • Kitchen essentials: "I feel like I go through Maldon by the pound," Turshen says with a laugh. She loves this crunchy sea salt ($11) and stores it in her gray salt cellar ($42) from The Brooklyn Kitchen. "It's simple and has some weight. It's nice, too, because Maldon has some natural moisture and this keeps it from drying it out." As for knives, she's always grabbing for this L'Econome paring knife ($10). "With a paring knife, you tend to use your wrist, like chopping garlic or peeling an apple," Turshen explains. "This is lightweight, sharp and bright red, which keeps things cheery."

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