I had the great pleasure to speak with Eli Sussman, co-author of the just-released cookbook, Freshman in the Kitchen. As a recent graduate from Michigan State University, Eli knows a thing or two about what it’s like for college students to try to eat a decent (and economical) meal in between darting off to lectures, class, the library and the bar.
He and his brother Max, who co-authored the book, have spent years cooking in restaurants, summer camps and for friends and family. From line cooks to food runners, these brothers have done it all in the kitchen and they are anxious to share their tricks of the trade and their favorite recipes with you.
Just a few days after their appearance on the Today Show, we caught up with Eli to talk to him about his new book.
Where did the motivation come from to write Freshman in the Kitchen?
My brother Max and I have been in the food and restaurant business for years. We wanted to create a cookbook that was for anyone — the novice in the kitchen to someone who is very comfortable with cooking. Since we have been working in restaurants all of our lives and we’ve amassed a good deal of skills and knowledge between us. We wanted to share that with people in a way that is fun, simple and takes the fear out of cooking.
Freshman in the Kitchen is a progressive cookbook because it starts out with the beginner chef in mind and then evolves to involve more involved recipes. It’s really for anyone who wants to feel more comfortable cooking for himself , their friends or for their family.
For someone who is in college and is obviously very busy with their studies, what advice do you have for them if they want to cook for themselves and not rely on cold pizza for breakfast and cereal for dinner?
Since this book was also written for the college students who are usually on a tight budget and since Max and I are college grads, we also wanted to create a cookbook that was economical and budget-friendly yet also time-efficient and simple. We walk you through the whole experience from how to grocery shop to how to use the proper kitchen techniques. We make it easy for you.
What are five kitchen staples that no college apartment should do without?
I’ll divide this between appliances and food: First, you must have a really good knife. I recommend an 8-inch chef’s knife. Also, metal tongs. These are both kitchen necessities. In regards to pantry staples, no kitchen should do without a few lemons, a head of garlic and quality olive oil. With those three ingredients alone, you can create tons of amazing recipes.
You talk a lot about the importance of eating locally and consuming seasonal foods and locally-grown food. Why do you feel this is so important, especially today?
More and more of us are being concerned not just about the food we eat but where it came from, what is in it and how it was prepared. We want to know if our produce contains pesticides or what kinds of additives were used in our favorite store-bought foods. When we eat local and seasonal, we are much more aware of how our food was grown because we have access to the farmers who grow it or to the people who produce it. It’s exciting to see today’s youth taking a much bigger interest in cooking and in food in general.
Thanks Eli for the interview, and thanks for this vegetarian recipe from Freshman in the Kitchen that’s super budget-friendly.
Sesame Peanut Noodles
1 pound of dry spaghetti
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 small clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, medium diced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Cook spaghetti according to directions on the box. Drain and rinse pasta, then toss with 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Next, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, chili sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a mixing bowl. Toss the pasta with the peanut sauce mixture, the carrot, the green onion, and cucumber.Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds, remaining carrot and remaining green onion. Enjoy!
To learn more about this book, the authors or to purchase a copy, visit the Freshman in the Kitchen website.