Food blogger Gaby Dalkin, creator of "What’s Gaby Cooking," shares how families can keep the holidays simple and delicious, and tells us how her family gathers around the table to celebrate the season.
What role does family play in your cooking and your culinary journey?
My parents don’t love cooking like I do, so I host everyone for the holidays. I am happy to take the reins and they are happy to let me run with it. My parents are huge influences in my life, and they are the most incredible and supportive parents anyone could ask for. My husband is also my biggest supporter and fan. Outside of my family, my readers drive me, and I’ve grown to know these people through questions and comments they share on my website and on social media.
Is there a dish you remember from your childhood? What about it was special?
My Omi makes the best fried potatoes on the planet. I request them every time I see her. It's laced with onions and garlic and butter and sliced potatoes — perfection!
Tell us about your California way of approaching cooking.
My goal is to bring something new and fresh to the family table that is not too complicated. No recipe of mine has a billion ingredients! I frequent the farmer’s markets, packing as much produce and color into my recipes as possible. And I always have a big bottle of olive oil, tons of garlic and lemon. Cooking can be intimidating, so I want to make people’s lives easier and more delicious. I will never say that a specific cheese has to be used in a recipe. Use whatever you like most.
The most important skill in the kitchen isn’t knife work, or how to make an amazing sauce. It’s not about fancy utensils or expensive appliances. It’s about CONFIDENCE. If you are confident in your recipe and just run with it, you will succeed.
What advice would you impart to families stressed about the holiday season?
I never ask people to get super dressed up, but I do ask them to help in the kitchen. If you give someone a task when they arrive, it loosens up the mood and helps lighten the workload. My family helps me chop cheese for a cheese board, or I have people help pour the wine.
Holidays can be overwhelming for families facing Alzheimer's. Can you share ideas to keep holiday cooking simple but delicious?
Keep the menu simple! A really great lasagna, a beautiful salad and a dessert is really all you need for a complete meal. That way you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family.
Does your family have any food traditions around the holidays?
We make apple crisp on the REGULAR! Every holiday, no matter what time of year, it's all about the crisp! I also love roasting a whole side of salmon for a big group of family and friends. It is easy, but looks so impressive. And risotto is actually really easy, too! People will think you’re a total rock star if you make risotto, but it’s really simple.
I hope that what I make for the holidays can be translated into other people’s kitchens and that these dishes make their families as happy as they make mine.
Try Gaby’s ‘Best Mashed Potatoes’ recipe.
About Gaby: Gaby lives in Los Angeles with her husband and cat, Stella, who is rarely interested in her cooking, though Gaby does share the occasional scrap from a rotisserie chicken with her. Gaby is also the author of the recently published “What’s Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food.” Check out her recipes on Instagram.