Molly Baz on Her New Cookbook and the One Food She'd Eat for Every Meal
Molly Baz is all over Instagram making delicious food and holding her adorable dog, Tuna. You may know her for her love of Caesar salad (affectionately nicknamed Cae Sal) or her time at Bon Appétit, but her latest endeavor might be her best one yet. This April, Baz's cookbook Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach & Recipes to Repeat will be hitting shelves near you. For the time being, follow her through her recipe club on Patreon for $5 a month or preorder her book for $29 on Amazon.com. We asked her more about what we can expect from her book, what she loves to cook and eat, and where she finds inspiration.
Q: How did you get into cooking?
"I didn't really grow up in a super-foodie household. In college, I studied abroad in Florence and got my mind blown by the food, the produce and the respect for ingredients. I loved the simplicity of cooking over there. My homestay mother would cook for me every night when I got home from school and I was like 'OK, this is what cooking is. This is what good food is.' After that, I decided to move from art history into pursuing cooking."
Q: What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
Molly sent us a list of some of her favorite cookbooks from authors who inspire her. Check them out for yourself below:
- The Flavor Bible, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page ($26, Amazon.com)
- Marcella's Italian Kitchen, by Marcella Hazan ($26, Amazon.com)
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, by Samin Nosrat ($20, Amazon.com)
- My Mexico City Kitchen, by Gabriela Cámara & Malena Watrous ($25, Amazon.com)
- Night + Market, by Kris Yenbamroong ($26, Amazon.com)
- On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee ($26, Amazon.com)
- Plenty and Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi ($18 & $23, Amazon.com)
- Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry ($17, Amazon.com)
- Where Cooking Begins, by Carla Lalli Music ($22, Amazon.com)
Q: What is your favorite part of developing recipes? Where do you start?
"There is no point in trying to develop a recipe if the inspiration isn't there. The most exciting part of recipe development for me is the moment of inspiration. That can happen at any point anywhere in the world at any time of the day. For me, that's the moment when I just want to get in the kitchen and start cooking. I try to avoid developing recipes when I'm not inspired because I just find them to not be the best versions of themselves."
Q: How has the transition been going from working for a large brand like Bon Appétit to going out on your own?
"It has been a lot of things at the same time. Terrifying is one word I would use, exhilarating is another. Lonely and really fulfilling also. What I miss most is the collaborative team of genius minds around me to bounce ideas off of. At the same time, I feel so fortunate that there has been so much support in me going out on my own and I am really really grateful for that. I've found that what I was able to establish at Bon Appétit was strong enough to support me on this next phase of my career. The possibilities are endless when you go out on your own and there's really no ceiling on what you can do, which is really exciting for me."
Q: What is a typical day of eating like for you?
"First thing is coffee. I don't like to eat breakfast right away, I like to let an appetite build. If there is breakfast, it's usually some kind of 8-minute [hard-boiled] egg with something to make it more interesting. Lunch is usually whatever I am developing that day. Sometimes it's perfectly suited for lunch, and sometimes it makes no sense at all to be eating for lunch but, since it's what I'm developing that day, it's what we are eating for lunch. Dinner usually doesn't have anything to do with work. I like to let that be a time to cook more freely. My recipe development is very structured, so I like to have a moment at dinnertime to cook recipes from other people or to just cook out of my brain, fridge and pantry."
Q: What's your favorite meal when you are short on time?
"Eggs for dinner, eggs for breakfast. We just always have eggs. If we have less than six eggs, we get more eggs. There are always eggs in the house and I love them for dinner. When I don't have time to think about it, it's usually just eggs plus whatever leftover vegetables I have in the fridge. I sear the vegetables to get them nice and crispy in a cast-iron skillet with whatever aromatics I have. Then I crack eggs right into the skillet and bake them into the vegetables and scoop them up with tortillas. We always have tortillas on hand, too."
(We think Baz would love our Bacon & Egg Breakfast Tacos for breakfast or dinner!)
Q: When you are celebrating, what cocktails and food do you like to make?
"Martinis are a celebration for me. I love them so much, but they go straight to my head so it has to be a special occasion." [We feel her on this one, but also love making Dirty Martinis or Espresso Martinis to celebrate.]
"Seafood for me is always a celebration food. It doesn't mean it has to be super fancy, but I cook less fish and shellfish than I do anything else so it still feels like something special. Shrimp cocktail always feels special when you make it at home."
Q: Let's be real. These days, many of us are cooking more at home. Especially since you are also writing a cookbook, how do you avoid cooking burnout?
"I might not be the best person to ask because I love to be in the kitchen all day. It's like a dream for me. But I have definitely felt cooking fatigue in quarantine, too. Stopping and ordering takeout or finding food outside of your own space is a great way to reinspire you to get back into the kitchen. A lot of times, the meals I would pick up from restaurants nearby would turn out to be inspiration for a future meal. It's not only breaking up the monotony of cooking, but also getting me excited to get back in the kitchen. Beyond supporting restaurants, it's important to be eating new things and trying new flavors and be outside of your head, especially as a recipe developer."
Q: Any cooking tips for beginners?
"The most important thing for a novice cook is to make sure you have the right tools. The pantry and the way you style out your kitchen are also important, but make sure you have the right tools. That doesn't mean it has to be fancy or expensive, but it is about being smart about what you have in your kitchen. The worst things happen when you don't have the right tool for the job. I really believe in investing in the tools that allow you to succeed in the kitchen. One of my favorite appliances is the cordless food chopper from KitchenAid. I have used it a million times since they sent it to me. And they don't take up a lot of space in your kitchen."
[Get your very own Cordless 5-Cup Food Chopper on sale for $80 now on BedBathandBeyond.com.]
Q: What was the inspiration for your cookbook?
"I didn't have a moment where I said 'I know what I want to write my book about!' I got an email from an editor (who turned out to be my editor). They wanted to have a meeting about another book to see if I wanted to be an author. I didn't think it was my time yet, but it got me really excited. I got an agent to help me since I didn't totally know what I was doing. After that meeting, I realized I didn't want to write someone else's book, I wanted to write my own. It can't be a square peg in a round hole of me trying to do what someone else wants. My agent sent me a list of questions as prompts for what we needed to flesh out and the book just poured out of me. I think she is a genius. The questions were so pointed and it got me thinking so deeply. I sent her the answers then she erased the questions, did some formatting and there was my book proposal. Everything just took shape and I realized what I needed to tell the world through my book. It was a pretty incredible process."
Q: What is something unique about your book?
"The thing I am most excited about is that there are QR codes throughout the book. Cookbooks are so physical and so separate from the digital world and that was such a disconnect for me. We are all on our phones all the time (myself included) so it felt like there had to be a way to fuse these two things. The QR codes are a way to bring the content of the book into a digital space. They just pull up really quick nuts-and-bolts cooking technique videos. If I'm asking you to chop an onion and a novice cook doesn't actually know how to properly chop an onion, it's actually really hard to explain by writing it down. So I thought 'I'll just show you.' You can pull up the QR code, watch me chop the onion, then go back and finish up the recipe. It makes it more dynamic than cookbooks have been traditionally."