Pamela Salzman is the type of woman you want for your best friend, surrogate mom, and on call personal chef. She whips up gorgeous concoctions on a daily basis for her family of five as well as with her students in her LA-based cooking classes. Pamela and I first became Instagram friends a while back, and I immediately fell in love with her clean California aesthetic and kitchen practicality. I had the opportunity to meet Pamela during one of her visits to New York City for an appearance on the Today Show. She was even more charming and warm in person. Pamela appears to do it all and does it all with a beautiful smile in place. I was eager to share more about her with the crunchy radish community on the latest installment of Meet the Makers.
How did you get into recipe development and health focused culinary education?
I have always loved to cook for as long as I can remember, but I never actually thought about doing it professionally. Likewise, I have always been interested in nutrition, but never considered it as career. About 9 or 10 years ago I was volunteering for a non-profit, teaching children about nutrition and gardening, and it hit me that we had some major fundamental problems with the way kids and adults were eating and the lack of knowledge about what real food was. At the same time, I was attending monthly cooking classes for fun with a group of ladies who asked me to take over the class from the chef because they were more interested in the way that I was feeding my family. This is how my business started.
What is your wellness philosophy? How do you unwind?
Since I really like feeling good day to day and I hate feeling unbalanced, I am motivated to do the best I can with my eating, sleep, exercise, and work level. I am a big believer in listening to my body. If I am super tired but I'm not done with a blog post or I haven't caught up on emails, that's just the way it is. I usually ;) opt for rest. But I don't strive for perfection, whatever that is. I eat nutritious foods that I enjoy as much as possible and every now and then treat myself to something a little naughty. I am not particularly good at unwinding, so I have to schedule exercise into my day. I love yoga and barre classes and taking a beach walk with a friend. And I love curling up with a great tv show or movie with my husband and kids.
Your website and Instagram are filled with beautiful plant-based seasonal food that seems simple and attainable for the home cook. What are your personal go-to recipes that you find yourself making time and time again?
That has always been the goal since my students are not looking for "out-there" food, as many of them say. I love roasted vegetables and grain bowls with a creamy tahini sauce and quick stir-fries, either rice, quinoa or lentil-based, especially the Italian Fried Rice on my site. And I could eat frittatas several times a week -- one of my favorites is the corn and zucchini frittata on my site, but I taught one in my December classes that is amazing -- cauliflower and roasted red pepper!
With the holiday's in full swing, how do you set a mood to entertain? What are your go-to holiday recipes?
My motto is to keep things simple; otherwise it's not too much fun for me. I put my husband in charge of a signature cocktail/the bar and music, and I do of all the food. If I'm doing a seated dinner, for hors d'oeuvres I might just do a huge cheese board with fresh fruit, crackers, roasted vegetables and one dip. I usually keep the animal protein simple, like roasted chickens or roasted fish, and then have more fun with the vegetables and the salad. But I only plan on a menu that can be somewhat prepped in advance. Making whole roasted branzino is fun and incredibly simple to prepare. I very often serve cauliflower mashed potatoes when I entertain as well as a salad with a seasonal fruit, like roasted butternut squash with pomegranates or roasted apple and delicata squash. And I love a seasonal fruit crisp or galette for dessert!
As a mom of three, how do you best manage to lead a healthy balanced lifestyle for yourself and for your family?
And that is the struggle. I do my best to find time for it all, but honestly sometimes it feels like I'm not doing enough of something. That said, we eat dinner together as a family at least five nights a week or more because that is our only quality time together and staying connected to my husband and kids is my first priority. And everything else that's important to me must get scheduled into my day, like exercise, phone calls to my parents and sisters, and writing blog posts.
What or who gives you inspiration?
I am so inspired by pioneers like Alice Waters, who has been walking the whole food talk for decades, and Oprah Winfrey, who has done so much to help people bring out the best in themselves. With respect to food and nutrition, I live in LA! There's inspiration around me all the time and for that I am so grateful. The farmers' markets here are year round and they're incredible. And we have so many uber talented chefs who never cease to amaze me with their creations. But just as importantly, I am inspired by my students who are so eager to learn and to make positive changes in the kitchen for their families.
What is your ideal food day? What is your actual food day?
Ideal food day: Green juice and bircher meusli and seasonal fruit to start, soup and a hunk of sourdough bread for lunch, an apple with homemade almond butter and super dark chocolate for snack, and a piece of wild salmon, roasted veggies and a big green salad for dinner. Actual food day: Bircher muesli in a jar eaten in the car on my way to work with a travel mug of green tea, cooking class leftovers for lunch, dates, popcorn, bites of whatever recipe I tested in the afternoon for snack and, whatever I make for my family for dinner, which is always something I would want to eat, too.
What are your top five kitchen essentials that you can not live with out?
My food processor, Vitamix, grey Celtic sea salt, Staub enameled cast iron pieces, and my Global knives.
Any New Year's resolutions?
Meditation is my missing link. This is my year.
In celebration of Pamela, I whipped up one of her delicious and simple plant forward recipes Harira, which is a warming Moroccan stew. I made her recipe vegan and added a kick with some cayenne pepper. You can catch the original recipe here.
lightly modified from Pamela Salzman
- 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut or olive oil (Pamela prefers coconut)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4-5 grinds of black pepper
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped OR 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with the juice (Pamela recommends using ½ box of Pomi since she is not a fan of canned tomatoes)
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- ½ cup dried lentils
- ¼ cup long-grain brown rice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- A couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened. Add all the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add the tomatoes with their juice and 1½ teaspoons of sea salt. Cook until fragrant.
- Add the stock, lentils and brown rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 50 minutes.
- Add chickpeas, cilantro, and parsley and cook uncovered for 5 minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through. Stir in the spinach leaves, if using. Ladle into individual bowls and serve with a wedge of lemon.