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Are you someone who knows a million ways to have food delivered but never got around to mastering the art of cooking?

Then Santa Rosa native Gabi Moskowitz wants you to read her latest cookbook, “Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life.” The new cookbook serves up small bites of funny, personal anecdotes between humorous helpings of recipes that range from “I’m a Fraud French Toast” to “A Pad (Thai) of One’s Own.”

Adding her two cents to the culinary comedy is co-author Miranda Berman, a writer for the Hulu series “The Mindy Project,” starring writer/actress Mindy Kaling of “The Office” fame. Together, the two writers create a narrative of messy, millennial disasters to help readers digest a series of tasty yet accessible recipes.

“The ‘Hot Mess’ voice is a good way to get information,” Moskowitz said in a phone interview from her home in San Francisco. “We disarm you by embarrassing ourselves and convince you to get into the kitchen.”

Moskovitz, who studied acting and writing while enrolled in Santa Rosa High School’s Artquest program, has already written four other cookbooks: “The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook” released in 2012; “Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious Unexpected Recipes” released in 2013; and “Young & Hungry,” released in 2017, a companion to the Freeform TV show, based on Moskowitz’s life as a food blogger and personal chef. She wrote that cookbook with Diana Snyder, a writer for the “Young & Hungry” show.

“At this point, it’s highly fictional, it’s not the Gabi Moskowitz story,” Moskowitz said. “The book is geared for younger women, teens to early 20s … I wrote the recipes and she wrote the advice about how to live your best life when you’re young and hungry.”

For her latest book, Moskowitz met her co-author through the beta testing of an app launched by actor B.J. Novak, who played Ryan on “The Office.”

Using The List app, people can collaborate on building lists that range from travel and entertainment suggestions to amusing ways to kill time with funny photos from their phones.

“One of the things you can do on the app is to send list requests,” Moskowitz explained.

“I was getting requests about the best tuna salad recipes and pastrami recipes.”

Then she got some rather odd requests for recipes with funny names, like “Best Meal to Trick a Guy into Falling in Love with You” or “I’m Ready to Sleep with You Chocolate Dessert.” They were sent to her by Berman, who lives in Los Angeles.

“We were joking around with each other … and I said, totally kidding, that we should write a book where I write the recipes and you write the titles,” Moskowitz said.

“She said, ‘That’s not a bad idea.’ So we got on the phone and started talking.”

The cookbook pits the “millennial big sister” voice of the 35-year-old Moskowitz, who is married and has cooked all her life, against the uber-millennial voice of the 28-year-old Berman, who is single and relies on food-delivery services like Postmates.

The combination of Berman’s almost absurd humor with Moskowitz’s more earnest tips and confessions throws a wide net, appealing to women who are the life of the party as well as to gals who don’t mind staying home and eating “Super Sad Saturday Night Salmon,” one of the recipes in the book.

Sure, there are semi-serious chapters on stocking a spice rack, how to make a shopping list and purchasing basic pots and pans.

But the headnotes wander into other tasty territory, from overspending and emotional eating to the brave new worlds of modern romance and online dating.

While writing the cookbook, Moskowitz cured Berman of her addiction to delivery food by supplying her with a steady stream of easy recipes that made cooking surprisingly fun and doable.

“There are so many people … who don’t want to cook anymore,” Moskowitz said.

“The idea of sharing these stories of disastrous things that happened to us, or we made happen, and the food that saves us, or could have … felt exactly like what our shared generation really needs.”

Moskowitz also holds the reader’s hand through a chapter entitled “Entertaining Your Enemies, Frenemies and Friends,” with super simple menus for occasions such as the “BFF Buffet,” the “Chill Girl Sports Spread” and “Your First Thanksgiving.” There’s also a cocktail chapter, “Let’s Get Drunk,” and a final tribute chapter to roller-coaster romance cooking, from “Heartbreak Hamburgers” to “Texting Jitters Jam.”

“This book is awesome,” Mindy Kaling wrote in the foreword. “I came for the recipes and stayed for the funny, personal writing.”

Here are a few reasons to come for the writing and stay for the recipes from Moskowitz, who studied theater arts at Emerson College in Boston, worked as a kindergarten teacher, then started her own kids’ cooking school and migrated into catering.

Moskowitz launched The Brokeass Gourmet blog in 2008 as a life preserver for her noncooking friends who had lost their jobs in the economic downturn.

Q: Why did you chose “Hot Mess” as the book title?

A: A “hot mess” means when someone is a disaster, and it’s often attributed to young women who are drinking. And I thought it was perfect. What do you do in the kitchen? You go make a hot mess, and then you clean it up. I focus a lot on cleanup and cleaning up as you go.

But everyone is a hot mess in some form in their lives. I’m 35 and happily married, but there are moments when I’m a hot mess. It’s all about loving yourself as the hot mess that you are, as a first step to becoming less of a hot mess.

Q: What is your favorite tip in your book?

A: I’m extremely proud of my Cauliflower Crust Pizza recipe. It’s one of those things that people are buying and are into it because it’s low in carbs. But the recipe I wrote is legitimately delicious, whether or not you’re watching your carbs.

But then we also had to have something for the young, broke people. How you can make wine taste better without fancy equipment? You can mull it, blend a cheap wine with a more expensive wine, aerate it and decant it. And when in doubt, you can always make sangria.

I really want readers to feel like they can do a lot more with less.

Q: What was the goal of your chapter on entertaining?

A: I think it all has to do with expectations and perspective. I wanted the through line to be about the fact that we need to get back to the original purpose, gathering friends around a meal.

If people enjoy food more when it’s being served to them, you can get away with going simple. Roast a chicken, make a salad and buy some bread — that’s all you need to do.

Meals with a lot of things to cook are overwhelming and scary. You just need a little hand holding with the timing, and it’s totally acceptable to ask people to bring stuff. Tidy up, pull chairs together and ask everyone to bring wine and dessert. It’s so much easier than a Pottery Barn catalog will have you believe.

Q: This book has much more personal writing than your other books. How did that feel?

A: It’s gotten easier for me. I know I’m a good cook, and I like good recipes, but if you just want a recipe, there are a million bloggers and cookbooks that you can open up that will be roughly as good as mine. I want to reach the people who are not prone to buying cookbooks.

Q: Why is cooking your favorite form of therapy?

A: There’s something so satisfying in this crazy world about the process of watching onions and garlic and salt and pepper and flour and sugar and butter and chicken come together and become more than the sum of their parts.

To me, engaging in that process is so essential and primal. Every evening, it doesn’t matter what happened that day, I have the ability to combine simple, inexpensive ingredients, apply some straightforward techniques and have something special and delicious that I can share.

It makes me feel in control. It’s a little reprieve, and you finish it and feel nourished.

Q: If this book were a TV show, what would the plot be like?

A: It could be the story of two spunky roommates who are slightly different from each other, in big and subtle ways, who have very different lives. But at the end of every evening, they come together over food.

Certainly, every episode would be a disaster that happens to us. It would be centralized around our personalities, with food and cooking being the solution.

Q: What lessons do you hope your target audience will take to heart?

A: I hope they finish the book feeling inspired to cook regularly and make it a sustainable part of their lives.

But more generally, I think we’re fed a line that your 20s are the best years of your life. But my 20s were not the best years of my life. They were in some ways the hardest years of my life … it’s really hard to feel like you don’t know how to do anything, a lot is expected, you’re dying for independence, but wounds from childhood are still fresh. You feel like a mess.

And I hope that millennials learn that it gets so much better, and if you find ways to practice self-care, coping is easier than it seems.


The following recipes are from “Hot Mess Kitchen: Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2017, $28) by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman.

Basically Carbless (Not That We Care) Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Serves 2

½ large cauliflower, cut into florets

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for topping the pizza

— Pinch of salt

¼ cup sauce of your choice (tomato, pesto, romesco, etc.)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1–2 toppings of choice (we love sliced bell pepper, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and caramelized onions) Fresh herbs (optional — we like sliced basil and chopped parsley)

— Red chili flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and puree until the mixture resembles ricotta cheese and each grain is about the size of a piece of couscous.

If you can’t seem to get the right consistency, or if a few whole florets remain after pureeing, try adding enough water to cover (usually about 2 cups) and puree as if you are making soup.

When all the cauliflower has been completely processed, strain it in mesh strainer.

Scrape the cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for 5 minutes. Carefully scrape the microwaved cauliflower puree onto a clean dish towel.

Very carefully (using a second towel if necessary to protect your hands) squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Get it as dry as you can.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower, the eggs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the Parmesan and the salt. Mix together to make a thick batter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scrape the batter into the center of the parchment. Gather the batter into a ball shape. Wet your hands and carefully pat the batter into a circle, making it as thin as possible.

Drizzle the cauliflower circle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and use your hand or a pastry brush to spread it all over the circle.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and a little crisp. Remove the crust from the oven, but leave the oven on. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the cooked crust. Carefully flip the whole thing so the bottom is facing up.

Remove the top layer of parchment (what was previously the bottom layer).

Top your pizza with sauce, cheese and anything else you like. (I encourage you to go light on the toppings — the crust is sturdy but not as sturdy as conventional pizza crust.)

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes more, until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Slice and serve, topping with fresh herbs and red chili flakes if desired.


Steak Your Claim
Serves 2

For the compound butter:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, thyme, or a combination), chopped

— Pinch each of salt and pepper

For the steak

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 (18- to 20-ounce) boneless rib eye steak, 1 inch to 1½ inches thick

— Salt and pepper

To make the compound butter: In a small bowl, stir together the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper until completely mixed.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the steak: Heat a griddle or frying pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Brush it with a little olive oil. Sprinkle the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.

Cook the steak for 4 to 4½ minutes on each side (longer to cook it past medium-rare).

After cooking, transfer the steak to a cutting board and top it with the compound butter. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes.

Slice the steak and serve immediately.


DIY Fro-Yo
Serves 2

16 ounces frozen strawberries (a 1-pound bag)

1 cup Greek yogurt (any fat percentage)

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

Combine the strawberries, yogurt and honey in a food processor. Puree until the mixture resembles a thick smoothie.

Scrape the mixture into a bowl or plastic container with a fitted lid. Cover tightly and place in the freezer until firm, about 2 hours. Scoop into bowls and serve immediately.

The frozen yogurt will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the freezer.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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