We are so excited to team up with New York Times Cooking contribute Colu Henry to create a bag for her latest book COLU COOKS: EASY FANCY FOOD. Featuring scarf wrapped handles with a charming radicchio print, it’s the perfect tote to carry your weekly farmer’s market haul.
We recently sat down with Colu to talk about her life in the Hudson Valley, her go-to recipe and how her Italian American upbringing influenced her cooking.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up, your background, etc.
I was born in NYC and raised in the suburbs. It was a pretty crazy food-obsessed Italian-American household (they all are).
I went to school for musical theater in Boston and moved back to the city in 1999. I started out as a cabaret singer and also a bartender to make some money. At some point, I knew I had to find some stability and took a job in Fashion PR, which led me to restaurant PR because food was always something I wanted to learn more and more about. That led me to publishing – while I was there many, many stars aligned and I got my first book deal called Back Pocket Pasta. I still don’t understand how I got here exactly, but I feel very lucky.
What inspired the name of your cookbook?
My philosophy on cooking. Sophisticated and elegant food doesn’t need to be fussy. You can pull together a beautiful, effortless dinner with just a few ingredients. I want to put people at ease in the kitchen.
Is there a chef you admire the most?
Too many! Kelly Mariani at Scribe, Shaina Loew-Banaya at Café Mutton here in Hudson, Mashama Bailey, Charlotte Langley who founded Scout and so many more.
What is your favorite cuisine?
So hard to choose just one! I love Chinese, Japanese. Italian, Korean, French, Mexican, Thai – the list goes on and on… I love all different types of cuisine equally.
What trends are you noticing regarding food pairings?
Traditional pairings are out the window! People are having more fun and are loosening up a lot. A red wine before a white wine is A-OK and switching back in between courses is just as fun and perhaps more interesting.
Which recipe from your cookbook would you recommend for someone who is not confident in the kitchen?
I would say the Roasted Mushrooms with Sour Cream Lemon and Herbs because it looks a lot fancier than it is or the Pasta e Ceci because it is cooked all in one pot and nearly impossible to screw up!
What movie can you watch over and over?
Don’t laugh, but Dirty Dancing and Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender – can’t get enough.
When did you decide to be a chef?
I am a self-taught home cook. I grew up around a lot of food, and as I mentioned, worked in restaurant PR. Consequently, this also meant I spent a lot of time in kitchens, watching, learning, and writing recipes for other people. Writing my own cookbook seemed like the next step!
What is your signature dish?
Tough one. I would say I’m most known for my Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew, which was the #1 NYT Cooking vegetarian recipe in 2020! Otherwise anything with a white bean or a pork shoulder.
What does your morning routine look like?
How long did it take you to complete your cookbook?
What is your favorite or least favorite dish to prepare?
How do you describe your overall cooking philosophy?
Name the three kitchen tools you can’t do without.
Bench scraper, tongs, and a good chef’s knife
What are you working on now?
If you can believe it, another book! I have no idea what it is about yet, but I’m hoping it will reveal itself over time. It should be out in spring 2024!