photo of Julia in her kitchen by David Loftus.
photos of Julia’s Applesauce Cake + family meal via her Instagram.
Meet Julia Turshen: cookbook author, food writer, and podcast host. Julia has written three cookbooks of her own and contributed to and co-authored many more, including It’s All Good with Gwyneth Paltrow. Called “one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time” by Epicurious, learn more about Julia (and find her recipe for Roasted Radishes) below.
You’ve worn many hats in the food industry – how did you get into this field?
Mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever considered a different field! I have cooked since before I can remember, have always loved books and writing, and grew up in a family that worked in publishing— so from a very young age I’ve always known I wanted to work on cookbooks. I studied writing in college while also interning and working part-time in various types of food media (magazines, food television, cookbooks, etc.) and got my foot in the door as soon as I could. I’ve worked hard to keep on the other side of that door and am always thinking about how I can keep it open for others.
How did you get into food writing?
From reading about food since I was a child. To write about food, I really believe you have to be a voracious reader.
What’s your favorite recipe you’ve ever written? Why?
This is a very hard question! The first one to come to mind is the Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese + Honey Frosting from my latest book Now & Again. I love it because it’s so easy to make, so beautiful in its simplicity, and so comforting to eat and share. It’s also a not-too-sweet cake or frosting which I really love.
You often talk about pivoting your recipes to better feed your family after your wife Grace was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She’s lucky to have you! At Lavva, we know that no added sugar doesn’t have to be a taste sacrifice – what are some favorite swaps you’ve made to cook for Grace now?
You’re kind to say that— I’m lucky to have her! That applesauce cake is actually a really good example since it doesn’t have very much sugar in it and the frosting is barely sweetened with just a little bit of honey. But in general I bake with very little if any sugar and compensate with tons of warm spices like cinnamon and ground ginger, and I cook without any sugar. I am always mindful to have tons of flavor in the way of fresh lime and lemon, big spoonfuls of mustard and chili paste, all of those types of things. Just because you’re being mindful about sugar doesn’t mean you can’t have big, craveable flavors!
Tell us about your Feed the Resistance project.
It’s a little book with a lot in it, including recipes and essays from over 20 of the smartest people I know. It was born out of the 2016 election and all of the proceeds go to the ACLU. To date we’ve raised about $20k for the ACLU. Feed the Resistance is about food and activism, which are both totally about community so it makes a lot of sense for them to coexist. Plus food is how I’ve come to understand my own activism and it’s my hope that it will be an approachable lens for others, too. Food offers lots of practical actions that are easy for individuals to take (providing meals for activists, being more environmentally aware, etc.) and food also shows us so much big picture potential. All of the contributors in the book show us so many examples of this. It was very important to me that the book include a range of perspectives and experiences. When it came to approaching contributors, I was thinking a lot about the power of representation. When I look at food media (cookbooks, blogs, magazines, etc.), I often see people who look like me. I know this isn’t the case for everyone and I wanted this feeling of visibility and recognition to exist for as many readers as possible. Also it was important to me to not only include contributors from big cities on either coast. Cooking, community-building, and activism all happen everywhere! You don’t have to live in a large, liberal city to get involved or make an impact. The resulting diversity of stories and recipes makes the book so much stronger than I could’ve ever made it alone.
You used to host Radio Cherry Bombe – and now have your own podcast! What inspired you to launch Keep Calm & Cook On?
It’s been an amazing excuse to have meaningful conversations with people I really admire on a regular basis. I love making Keep Calm & Cook On and am so excited to know that people are listening!
What’s your favorite Lavva flavor?
I’d say it’s a tie between Original and Mango 🙂
Anything else you want to add?
I always love being able to give some love to Equity at the Table (a.k.a. EATT). It’s a digital directory for women and non-binary individuals in food that focuses primarily on POC and the queer community. I’m so proud to have made it and am so happy it exists and encourage this community to follow us and join us!
“The small victory here is all about cooking vegetables that are almost always served raw. Not only will you discover a new angle for something like a radish, you will also add a bit of variety to your regular routine.” —Julia Turshen, author and food writer
(From Small Victories, Chronicle Books, 2016).
1½ lbs. radishes, split lengthwise (it’s okay to leave a little of the stem)
5 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 T sherry vinegar
12 pitted Kalamata olives (or other dark olives), finely chopped
1 T finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or chives or 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Put the radishes on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and use your hands to toss everything together. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the radishes are tender and browned, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile put the garlic, a large pinch of salt, and the vinegar in a small bowl and let them sit and get to know each other for 10 minutes (this quick-pickle moment will tame the bite of the garlic and also infuse the vinegar with the garlic). Slowly whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then stir in the olives.
4. Transfer the roasted radishes to a serving platter, spoon the olive dressing over them, and scatter the parsley on top. Serve immediately.