Petaluma cook co-authors cookbook with recipes for multiple diets
Audrey Marsh of Berkeley and Becky Madsen de la Rosa of Petaluma are the first to admit they’re not trained chefs.
But the two women, who met more than 25 years ago, grew up in families where food was paramount. Madsen’s father is Danish and a master pastry chef. Marsh’s parents are French and Croatian.
“We’re very good cooks ... and have lived, traveled and eaten around the world,” Marsh said. “It’s all about enjoyment and encouragement.”
Five years ago, however, Marsh found herself adrift from her culinary moorings. She was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a good friend who had become a vegan. The friend’s husband, who was allergic to gluten, required mostly paleo food.
“I’m an omnivore, so I didn’t know what to do,” Marsh said. “It was so stressful.”
So she threw down a plate of Brussels sprouts and hoped for the best. Over time, however, Marsh started to lean into the challenge, researching alternatives for guests who were vegan or vegetarian, gluten-free or paleo.
Last November, Marsh launched into writing a cookbook that would feed many mouths at the same table, rescuing home cooks like herself with substitutions to satisfy special diets. Her idea was to show how easy it is make a dish with variations so people around the table can eat (basically) the same dish.
“It’s an original concept, being able to make substitutions,” said Marsh, a university professor with a PhD in art history. “Many people want to adopt a vegan style of cooking once a week ... or families have their college kids home and now they’re vegan.”
Because she knew the cookbook was going to be challenging, she reached out to her old friend, Madsen, an artist and hairstylist, who added her own twist — simple, straightforward recipes and whimsical illustrations.
The result, “Rescue Recipes: 101 Flexible Recipes for Multiple Diets at the Same Table,” (HHF Press, 2020, $16.95) is packed with humor and creativity. Madsen’s illustrations are in black and white, so kids can color them in.
Her drawings also have been upcycled into a companion coloring book for kids, “All Hands on Deck!,” featuring Oskar the blue octopus on the cover. In addition, the authors have spun off a fun line of graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts, notebooks and stickers, pillows and posters featuring Madsen’s illustrations (hhfpress.net/ygt-1).
How to use the cookbook
“Rescue Recipes” provides symbols for each diet that suggest corresponding substitutions. There’s also a downloadable “cheat sheet” that shows how to make substitutions at a single glance. It suggests certain mushrooms, for example, in place of shrimp or clams, to make a seafood dish into a vegan or vegetarian dish.
The book also features recipes that simply highlight vegetables, such as Marsh’s Enchanted Forest Pie, filled with sauteed mushrooms, zucchini and fresh herbs and topped with mashed sweet potatoes or mashed turnips, depending on whether the guest is vegan or paleo.
“I am not into those vegan restaurants with the meat substitutes,” Marsh said. “Why not just take a beautiful dish and make it delicious and simple?”
In the opening of the book, the authors share some of their acquired kitchen wisdom, from the importance of using up leftovers (“reincarnation recipes”) to how to stock a pantry for different diets. They also define each special diet — vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo — and give general guidelines.
“It’s tricky figuring out what people can and cannot eat,” Marsh said. “Some vegans will eat honey, some won’t. Some paleos will eat sweet potatoes and quinoa, and some won’t. So it’s good to ask.”
Cooking for the pandemic
By coincidence, the book’s summer release coincided with the state’s shelter-in-place orders, which have created a growing demand for home-cooked meals that are easy, quick and accessible.
“This book is nonfussy,” Madsen said. “You can learn to cook with this book if you are a family, a brutal bachelor or just an adult needing to cook due to the coronavirus.”
The authors’ different cooking styles add diversity to the recipes which circle the globe, from Caribbean-style Shrimp and Salmon Teriyaki to South-of-the-Border Pork Roast to Fire-house Chicken, a beloved Slavic dish also known as Chicken Paprikash.
Marsh, who created most of the recipes, leans toward savory European dishes such as hearty vegetable soups and celery root salad, ratatouille and crepes.
A self-described “scrapper,” Madsen contributed comfort dishes such as Darn Good Deviled Eggs, a five-ingredient Carrot Salad (with love from Denmark) and an Emergency 5-Minute Pasta Salad.