Summer brings a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies to enjoy. That's just one of the many reasons why we wanted to catch up [virtually] with New York Times bestselling author Erin Gleeson. Her recipes feature delicious and healthy ingredients, artfully presented with her gorgeous photography and watercolor art. Through her series of "The Forest Feast" books, her blog and on social media, Gleeson is all about sharing recipes anyone can do - and that everyone will love. We got the scoop on her story - and some fabulous food ideas too.
Seattle Refined: Erin Gleeson - you are the New York Times bestselling author of "The Forest Feast" series [which I’m a huge fan of]. It’s kind of a recipe cookbook series but you actually started as an art major!
Erin Gleeson: I studied art in college and then got my masters of art in photography and throughout that I decided I really loved shooting food, so I was living in New York and I was working as a food photographer there. My husband got a job on the West Coast, which moved us out to California and just by chance we found this little cabin in the woods. I started this blog, it kind of got picked up! I called it The Forest Feast and so I was always cooking up a feast in the forest. An agent just reached out and asked if I wanted to create a cookbook. So that was in 2014, my first book came out and now I’m working on my fifth book.
You’re not formally trained in the culinary arts?
My philosophy when it comes to food is simple, simple and produce-forward. My books are vegetarian.
What do you say to someone who thinks vegetarian food is kind of boring?
Oh I just thing you have to try cooking it a different way. Or maybe not cooking at all - and just eating things raw. I think at the core of it is really good ingredients.
These are cookbooks, and they’re art books how do you make them all work together so well?
I had always loved watercolor painting and hand lettering, and I had never put them together before. Moving here I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any clients to please and I just thought - I’m going to put it together and see what happens for the fun of it. I want things to look really visual and colorful on the plate. I think its so much more fun when your food is really colorful.
You took the family out of the forest a couple years ago and put together another gorgeous book "Forest Feast Mediterranean" - what was that like, having your young family on the road?
It was fun. We have three kids now, but we had two then. Max was 9 months old and Ezra was 3. We went to Europe and we spent three months traveling around the Mediterranean. We did Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. And I love Mediterranean. I spent a year in Italy in art school in college, and I love Italian food, and I love being on the water. I feel so inspired by all those ingredients the fresh basil, the fresh tomatoes the great olive oil.
What does food mean to you?
Food to me means community. Food is all about bringing people together and trying to create conversation around the table. Food is really the starting place and I think it’s really all about the people.
I wish I was at your table with you in the forest right now but I’m not. I was hoping you might make something for us anyway?
I thought I would make for you a dish that’s inspired from my first book and it’s one of my summer go-to’s - it’s a Nectarine and Tomato Salad. [And for a perfect summertime pairing, an Aperol Spritz].
Nectarine and Tomato Salad Recipe
(Adapted from The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson)
- Ingredients: 3 nectarines, 3 tomatoes, 4-6 oz mozzarella, arugula (optional), basil leaves, olive oil, coarse salt and pepper
- Chop the nectarines and tomatoes into bite sized pieces, place in bowl
- Rip the mozzarella cheese into small pieces for a rustic look, scatter in bowl
- If you like to add greens, add some arugula
- Scatter a few basil leaves on top of the salad
- Drizzle olive oil on tip and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper
Note: A traditional caprese might have balsamic on it, but Erin likes to treat the juices from the fruit the nectarines and the tomatoes as the acid.
Aperol Spritz Recipe
- Ingredients: Aperol, Prosecco, and for garnishes, a small piece of nectarine and a basil leaf
- Place ice in a cup and add a splash of Aperol
- Top it off wth Prosecco
- Add a small piece of nectarine and a basil leaf for garnish