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What the Art World Is Cooking

We asked artists and art workers to share the recipes they’ve been turning to for comfort and inspiration. Their responses are brimming with humor and memories.

In the last few weeks, seemingly everyone we know has become a chef, even Picasso’s “Blind Man.” (edit by Valentina Di Liscia for Hyperallergic)

Sales of baking yeast are up 457%, your friend seems prouder of her sourdoughs than her child, and if you haven’t heard of fluffy Dalgona coffee yet, it’s time: the nationwide lockdowns prompted by the pandemic have turned some into self-styled chefs seemingly overnight.

Artists and art workers, accustomed to making beautiful things out of what’s lying around their studios and connecting with the world through the senses, are getting especially creative in the kitchen these days. When we asked them to share the recipes they’ve been turning to for comfort and inspiration as they face the long days at home, their responses were not only mouth-watering, but also brimming with humor and memories.

Curator Helen Molesworth recalled poring over cookbooks while writing her graduate dissertation and shared a lentil and chorizo stew that reminds her of “her summer queer haven” in Provincetown. Aliza Nisenbaum told us the backstory behind her “Swiss enchiladas.” And Hyperallergic’s very own documentary editor, Dan Schindel, divulged his tricks for transforming plain old boxed mac ’n’ cheese (delicious and nostalgic all on its own) into something a little more gourmet.

However, it’s also important to remember that for millions of people around the country, cooking is a luxury. Many are struggling to cover basic expenses, such as food, including artists.

Ludovic Nkoth, Artist: Creamed Corn

(image courtesy of Ludovic Nkoth)

“This soup is really easy to make, lower in fat than most cream soups, and delicious, especially if you’re fighting off a cold. You’ll need:

1 stick of margarine or salted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
4 whole, fresh ears of corn (but 2 12-ounce cans whole kernel corn also works, just tastes more homey with fresh corn)
Heavy cream and
2 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese (not necessary but adds extra flavor)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

After slicing the corn kernels off add them to a warm pot, followed by milk, heavy cream, and butter. Let it all come to a boil. Then add your salt and pepper and let it cook till corn is ready. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour in half a cup of water. Add to the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes to help thicken the mix and boom, you have it. Enjoy!”

Sarah Levine, Gallerist, and William Jess Laird, Photographer: Chili Eggs

Color is key to this dish: “If you’re lucky enough to find red or green Thai chilis, that’s where it really comes to life.” (photo by Sarah Levine and William Jess Laird)

“One of our favorite breakfasts (or dinners) comes together in under 15 minutes. We call it Chili Eggs. What really makes this dish fun is color. It sits beautifully on a plate. It looks sophisticated but is simple as can be. Serves two:

2 cloves garlic
1-2 chili peppers (Serrano or jalapeño)
4 eggs
Olive oil
Sumac
Salt to taste
Labne (optional)
Pita or a nice toasted bread (optional)

To start, cut the garlic into very thin slices. We usually use about one clove of garlic per egg. Do the same with whatever kind of chili pepper you’re using — cut into very thin slices. For convenience, we use either Serranos or jalapeños. The Serrano is a bit spicier. You can also always discard the seeds if you want a milder dish. If you’re lucky enough to find red or green Thai chilis that’s where this dish really comes to life. The red chilis are a beautiful complement to the color of the sumac.

Next, pour a small pool of olive oil into a small frying pan and heat over medium. When the oil is hot add the sliced garlic and chilis to the pan and stir often. It’s important not to let the garlic burn or the oil will become bitter. 2 minutes or less is usually all you need. When done pour the contents of the skillet (including the reserved oil) into a bowl and set aside.

Fry your eggs in the same skillet, adding more oil if necessary. Add a bit of salt. As the eggs are cooking use a spoon to baste the whites of the egg with oil from the pan. When the edges of the whites are crispy and begin to curl up the egg is finished. 2 minutes max. Leave the yolk runny!

To assemble the dish, plate your fried eggs and top with the garlic and chili mixture. Grab a healthy pinch of sumac and sprinkle all over the top. Enjoy. You can serve with toasted bread as well as Labne topped with olive oil, za’atar, and more sumac.”

Livia Corona Benjamin, Artist: Broiled Sardines

“Don’t forget to eat the bones, for the calcium and phosphorus benefits.” (photo by @LiviaCoronaBenjamin)

“Sardines, the fishiest fish! Make sure to get your fish oils this season, friends. Rich in mood-boosting Omega 3’s, they help keep the #CovidBlues away. Line the sardines in an olive oil greased pan, stagger wedges of lemon, pour on more olive oil. Squeeze fresh lime juice atop. Toss on lots of dry oregano, or whatever fresh herbs you have at hand. Bake the sardines at 350 degrees, until skin can be pulled off easily. This can take 8 to 12 minutes. Then broil at high heat for about 2 minutes, until they look crunchy enough to your taste. Eat with plenty of fresh squeezed lime and finely chopped parsley, to balance out the strong taste. Don’t forget to eat the bones, for the calcium and phosphorus benefits.”

Ingredients:
Sardines
Olive oil
Lemon, cut in wedges
Oregano or other fresh herbs, to taste
Parsley

Helen Molesworth, Curator: Chorizo and Lentil Stew

Molesworth’s dinner table. (photo by Helen Molesworth)

“I made my way through grad school and writing my dissertation by reading classic cookbooks: Hazan, Madison, Kamman, Sahni, Child, Kennedy. These volumes were always at the ready, typically open and stained as part of my analogue desktop. Part aspirational, part escapism, part self-help, part a gateway into an entirely new vocabulary, they rescued me from hours of frustration, self-doubt, and, to be honest, the lessons in self-limitation that is a dissertation’s most profound gift to its writer.

During this global crisis I find myself having to hustle up dinner every night for my wife and father-in-law. This is a task I have embraced, as it serves to structure time and it connects me, and us, to the millennia of women whose lives were determined by such daily rhythms.

So far my favorite quarantine meals have been stews. Here’s one inspired by memories of, and longings for my summer queer haven, Provincetown, home to a Portuguese fishing community for over a century:

Sautée chorizo out of its casing. Add onions, garlic, carrots, one 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (fresh would be better, but, pandemic, etc.), a cup of red lentils, two quarts of liquid (make at least one quart a chicken or vegetable stock), and two bunches of kale. Simmer on stove until it smells and tastes good. Serve with homemade cornbread (Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food has my current go-to recipe) crumbled in the bottom of the bowl.”

Ingredients:
Chorizo
Onions
Garlic
Three carrots cut into rounds
A 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (fresh would be better, but, pandemic, etc.)
1 cup of red lentils
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
Two bunches of kale

Natalia Viera, Independent Curator: Tostones and Ginger Juice

If you want a kick in your ginger juice, add “some good Ron del Barrilito, Puerto Rican rum.”(photos by Natalia Viera)

“I’ve been feeling very homesick, and cooking some Puerto Rican food always makes me feel good. Here’s my recipe for tostones and the ginger juice I drink whenever I feel under the weather. I used to make this every day at a restaurant I worked at:

For the tostones:
Tostones or ‘patacones,’ as they call them in Colombia and other countries, are fried plantain in slices; basically, you cut them about an inch thick and then you fry them. We generally use a ‘tostonera,’ but in this case, I don’t have one so I use a coffee mug. Then you fry them again. You add salt and then you make a dipping sauce called mayoketchup, it’s basically mayo and ketchup and garlic.

For the ginger juice:
You’ll need four peeled lemons and half a pound of ginger. You put them in the blender and then you strain the mix with a strainer. This is very strong, so you can add water to make it less spicy, but I like it super spicy. I add honey or brown sugar (you can also mix it with some good Ron del Barrilito, Puerto Rican rum).”

Ingredients for the tostones:
Plantains
Salt
Ketchup
Mayo
Garlic

Ingredients for the ginger juice:
Four peeled lemons
Half a pound of ginger

Sharon Core, Artist: Homemade Graham Crackers and Almond “Nutella”

“As a child chocolate covered graham crackers were my absolute favorite cookie,” says the artist. (photos by Sharon Core)

“At the beginning of the stay at home order, I saw this as an opportunity to do some serious baking. I find baking to be a meditative activity much like making art and of course, a source of comfort. I used this time to reacquaint myself with old favorites like Brioche and Hot Cross Buns at Easter, but also to try new, more elaborate recipes. This was followed by more practical ‘survival baking’: whole wheat seeded loaf and the like.

The time came when all the yeast, all-purpose and white bread flour were used up at home and there was absolutely none to be had in stores or online. I had a bag of graham flour (whole wheat that is ground with the germ and bran intact) in the freezer and looked for a recipe for graham crackers. As a child, chocolate covered graham crackers were my absolute favorite cookie, and by this time I was looking for something somewhat ‘healthy.’ I like the act of making something one usually buys in a store, although I don’t know the last time I bought Honey Grahams.

I used Alice Medrick’s Homemade Graham Crackers recipe. They are not too sweet and completely whole grain, good with cheese or, as I found, homemade almond ‘Nutella,’ included here:

2 cups raw almonds
2 tablespoons almond, walnut or mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Toast almonds on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool and blend in a food processor until a paste forms, much like almond butter. Add the oil and process until blended. Turn off the processor and add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until well blended.

Sharon Core’s homemade “Nutella.”

Aliza Nisenbaum, Artist: Enchiladas Suizas

You can make this easy, yummy dish with premade frozen taquitos. (photo by Aliza Nisenbaum)

“This is a recipe for enchiladas from the classic old-time restaurant in Mexico City called Sanborns. They are called Swiss enchiladas because they have melted crispy cheese on top, like fondue on top of an enchilada.

First, take any frozen taquitos and defrost them. Separately, make a green salsa with tomatillos, onions, cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, and salt, all to taste. Boil all salsa ingredients for five minutes, then blend, adding extra water and a bit of cream to the sauce so it’s quite liquid for when it goes in the oven, otherwise it will be too thick. Then, pour over taquitos in a cast iron pot or other pot — drench so they are swimming in it. Place any melty cheese on top and bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. That’s it!”

Ingredients:
Any frozen taquitos
Tomatillos
Onions
Cilantro
Jalapeños
Garlic
Salt
Melty cheese of your choice

Dan Schindel, Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic: Spruced Up Box Mac ’n’ Cheese

Don’t underestimate boxed mac ‘n’ cheese (photo by Dan Schindel for Hyperallergic)

“I’ve cooked more in quarantine than I had in the entire year preceding it. Mac and cheese is fun, but can be tricky to do from scratch. However, there are ways to make basic boxed stuff just sing.

First off, slice up some chicken thighs (NOT anything white meat, come on now) into tenders. Then season with kosher salt, some cranks of pepper, garlic powder, and Old Bay Seasoning, and let it sit for a bit. While you boil the macaroni until it’s al dente, cook the chicken in a skillet with butter and some olive oil. Time it right and both the chicken and macaroni will be done at the same time.

When you drain the macaroni, it’s time to deviate from the box instructions. Melt a pad of butter and stir in some heavy cream instead of milk. To that, add some gratings of whatever blocks of cheese you’ve got in your fridge that you like. Once the cheese is blended in, add the packet that comes with the box and work the powder in until the lumps are all smoothed out, then add in the macaroni. Eat it either as a side to the chicken or with the chicken added to the macaroni.

Other variations: You can use meatballs instead of chicken, and/or add in caramelized onions as well.”

Ingredients:
A box of mac ’n’ cheese
Chicken thighs 
Kosher salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Old Bay Seasoning
Butter
Olive oil
Heavy cream
Any cheese

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