We Talked to David Burtka On Raising Healthy Eaters, Cooking Delicious Food and Loving Classic Dishes
Actor, chef and author of the cookbook Life Is a Party (buy in on Amazon.com, from $18), David Burtka chatted with EatingWell about cooking with his kids, the cauliflower trend and his very strong feelings about the ideal cheeseburger.
EatingWell: Finish this sentence: To me, cooking is …
David Burtka: Life! All of my favorite memories with my kids have been cooking and eating and going to nice restaurants and things, so I feel like it's really just defined my world.
EW: Do your kids love food as much as you do?
DB: They have such an appreciation for food. Just last week, my son wanted to know how to make a baguette, so I taught him! I also like to go around the world with them: We get the map out and I'll cook Thai food, or a chimichurri steak and we "go" to Argentina. Along with music from the country, it's a nice geography lesson.
EW: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
DB: My husband [Neil Patrick Harris]. Because he's really fun. And funny. And handsome.
Show your own special someone some love with one of these romantic dinners for two.
EW: What is always in your fridge?
DB: A salad bar. I keep different homemade dressings: a mustard—lemon vinaigrette; I do a ramp ranch (since I pickle my own ramps and the kids really like them); and maybe a balsamic, Caesar or a carrot-ginger. I have a bunch of chopped-up vegetables—carrots, celery, sometimes radishes, cauliflower or scallions. And I usually keep a rotisserie chicken shredded for protein.
Do as David does as make your own healthy salad dressings.
EW: Go-to burger?
DB: I am very opinionated on burgers. Very opinionated! I always use Pat LaFrieda Meat—I mean, they supply all of the Shake Shacks. I season it heavily with salt and pepper and put it on a hot griddle or a cast-iron pan. (Never on a grill. No way! Never!) I flip it over so it's got a nice crust. Then just before I'm done, I take a slice of American cheese, not Cheddar (Kraft Singles are delicious!), and put a little water in the pan and cover it, so it steams and the cheese melts nicely. I get a simple potato bun, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayonnaise—super simple and classic.
Check out How to Clean & Season a Cast-Iron Skillet.
EW: What does healthy mean to you?
DB: It's all a balance. I've never been one to starve myself of stuff that's really great. I've never been into doing fat-free or a diet diet. I do intermittent fasting. That feels healthy for me because it regulates what I eat during the day and I'm not as hungry. I walk the line: It's good to eat healthy one day and then if you want to have a piece of pizza—or a couple—it's fine. As long as you work out, take care of yourself and drink water, then you're gonna be all right.
EW: Are there environmental issues that speak to you?
DB: I am such a fan of supporting local farmers and knowing where your food is coming from. You can taste the nutrients when you put the salad in your mouth and the greens were just picked.
Inspired? Check out these recipes straight from the farmers' market.
EW: What's one food trend you can't under-stand the hype for?
DB: I don't get cauliflower everything. I love cauliflower in the oven, with olive oil, salt, pepper, some thyme and roasted so it's nice and caramelized. But I don't get the cauliflower crusts and putting cauliflower in your smoothie—it's cauliflower coming out of everywhere! I guess cauliflower rice is a nice alternative every once in a while … I don't know. But I mean, let's just eat cauliflower the way it was intended to be eaten. I'm more of a purist when it comes to things. I'll eat it raw. My kids eat it raw. They love it!
This story originally appeared in EatingWell Magazine March 2020.