(photos by Dominick Mastrangelo)
Sometime around Christmas, I learned what a buche de noel was as I watched the Food Network’s Robert Irvine mess one up on an episode of Iron Chef. A few days later, I trekked from Bushwick all the way down to Sunset Park (about an hour on the subway) to my friend Eleanor Whitney’s apartment for a lovely New Year’s Eve party (with cupcakes in hand). When I arrived, she was pulling a thin sheet of cake out of the oven. After letting it cool, she covered it in chocolate maple buttercream frosting, and then I watched her roll it into a buche that put Irvine’s to shame.
In 2009, Eleanor and her boyfriend Sharif launched 2 Cooks in the Kitchen, a blog of yummy and practical recipes, like the aforementioned buche de noel and veggie stock. Eleanor also plays guitar and sings in the indiepop band Corita, and she writes about music. Basically, she is awesome.
I asked Eleanor about her cooking and eating habits, and what Corita would taste like if they were a food. Interview below!
FAVORITE DISHES SO FAR ON THE BLOG?
I’m really happy with our entry about “lunch specials,” which I presented at an addition of Community Cooking Club. Especially the seared salmon burger with rouille spread and the cucumber mint salad with lemon vinaigrette. Both of these recipes are very easy to make, but have a depth of flavor that energize the palate.
I also really love one of our earliest dishes, our holiday Pot Au Feu. It was an all-day cooking adventure and it yielded one of the most memorable meals of my life.
Sharif’s entry about learning to cook with fruit is also a perennial favorite. While he discusses it as being a dressing for fish or chicken, it would also work very well on baked tofu!
FAVORITE CUISINES TO COOK?
We like cooking food with a Middle Eastern influence in terms of spices and flavor. You’ll see a lot of cumin and coriander and spice blends containing sumac and a variety of hot peppers in our recipes, but for the blend I can’t tell you what’s in it because it’s sent to Sharif directly from Egypt and he doesn’t know the name for the spices in English!
We also really adore French home cooking for an attention to detail, sauces and a simple-yet-elegant approach to everyday cooking. Due to our own dietary restrictions and knowing that our friends have all types of dietary needs we try to make our recipes as flexible as possible and make dairy optional whenever we can. There are some things we make I know could never be vegetarian or vegan, but with most dishes, we want that option to be there.
PRE-SHOW EATING HABITS?
I try to eat very light before shows. Mostly, I concentrate on drinking water. If we’re not playing too late I try to eat after we play, so usually I’m limited to what is near a club. I love Oasis falafel if we are playing in Williamsburg. After practice on Fridays, Corita almost always goes to eat at Bar Tano, near our practice space in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I love getting a thin crust pizza with arugula and prosciutto and bruschetta with walnuts, honey and Gorgonzola. And their “Gowanus” cocktail, which has basil in it!
WORST KITCHEN DISASTER?
I wouldn’t call it a disaster, per se, but when I was about 11 years old I traded my best friend Mark cooking lessons (for him, by me) for drum lessons (for me, by him). I was teaching him how to make chocolate cake in the food processor and he figured out how to turn it on without the top being on. Needless to say, we ended up with cake batter all over the windows and ceiling of the kitchen!
There was another time when, with my cousin Heather, we decided to make chocolate chip cookies, but miscalculated how much flour to put in and ended up with very flat cookies! Let’s not call them disasters — let’s call them learning experiences! Also, I’m still a terrible drummer (that’s why I play guitar), but I think my cooking skills have improved significantly since then.
DO YOU PICK YOUR COOKING MUSIC BASED ON WHAT YOU’RE MAKING?
Subconscioiusly, I do. If I have a lot of chopping to do, I need something rockin’. I recently got a record player after five years without a working one and put on Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out to chop gallons’ worth of vegetables for stews we were making for a weekend away with 12 friends. Sharif prefers to cook to old-school metal like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, and so that’s become my cooking music as well! I also love cooking to Lali Puna or Ladytron, but I admit I also make most of my dinners listening to NPR so I can catch up on the news of the day and zone out while I wait for my dinner to be ready.
FOODS TO DESCRIBE CORITA?
We debated this during our recent recording session. We decided we are not pizza, hamburgers or anything greasy. We could be butternut squash soup with sweet potato and apple, made with coconut milk and topped with creme fraiche, chives and Siracha rooster sauce. A complex blend of favors that are a little sweet, a little spicy, and a little unexpected. Also, a booker at a local club once misheard our band name as “Doritos,” so maybe we are also Doritos!
FAVORITE NEW MUSIC?
Call me a ’90s throwback, but I am really excited about Wild Flag. And while she’s not a “new” band per se, the new Des Ark record is fantastic. Standard Fare, from the UK, are really catchy. I also have to give a shout out to Sharif’s band Mt. Olympus, who sound like Thin Lizzy meets Iron Maiden meets your science class. I probably listen to them the most of all the new bands out there! Truthfully, I’ve been more dedicated to finding new recipes, and have been sticking to my old favorite bands, so I would love suggestions for new music from readers.