Dinner parties are hotter than ever. And if you’re looking for some fresh inspiration for your next soiree, food writer and Salad For President creator Julia Sherman has your back. Her newest cookbook, Arty Parties, acts as a guide to cooking, living and hosting like an artist with inspired recipes that aim to create meaningful experiences that nourish both guests and hosts. Here, Sherman details her creative process, reveals her favorite party trick and shares a fresh broccolini recipe to try now.
What does food and cooking mean to you?
It’s the purest form of nonverbal communication. If I make you a meal, you will not miss the point: I love you.
Where do you source inspiration?
Cookbooks, friends and travel. I’m a really good listener. I eavesdrop at the farmers’ market and will ask the farmers how they prepare the things they grow — essentially coercing them to tell me all their culinary secrets.
What was your creative process like writing Arty Parties?
Long! It took me about four years to shoot and write Arty Parties, which was much longer than my first cookbook. It required quite a bit of research since I had to tap into the events and parties that artists were already having and find a way to invite myself along. There was a lot of editing and a whole bunch of stories that hit the cutting room floor.
To develop the recipes, I cooked for friends and family, and kept notes as I went along. I try to freestyle a dish the first time I make it without worrying about measurements or documentation. Then, if it feels like a winner, I go back and find all the ways I can simplify, clarify and distill it down so the dish is as accessible and affordable as possible.
The act of writing recipes is a linguistic exercise. You have to imagine an alien has come down to earth and entered the kitchen for the first time. Every directive must be crystal clear, no matter the reader’s prior experience. But at the same time, you must be extremely economical with your word count, as each recipe only gets a single page of real estate.
My favorite and most harrowing task for Arty Parties was the photo shoot. I shot and prop styled it myself, and it was eight crazy days of swimming in bowls, plates and backgrounds while sharpening my eye to the smallest details of a given dish. It was wondrous!
What’s one thing every great party must have?
Music. I hate a silent room; it makes my skin crawl.
Do you have a favorite party trick?
Changing into my pajamas at the end of a meal. I have a suite of public-facing sleepwear.
Any advice you can share?
Don’t buy green bananas (life advice from my father).
Crispy Broccolini with Creamy Pepita and Blood Orange
Makes 4 servings
I discovered the unexpected pleasure of blood orange and tender broccolini at my friends’ restaurant Kismet in Los Angeles. It was one of those unexpected yet harmonious flavor combinations that left me wishing I had thought of it myself. So I borrowed the idea and paired it with a pumpkin- and tahini-based sauce — earthy and subtly sweet, creamy with a bit of texture.
1 pound baby broccolini, stalks trimmed
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for finishing
1 tsp. fine sea salt
½ tsp. ground Espelette pepper
½ cup toasted pepitas
1 Medjool date, pitted
¼ cup tahini
8 Tbsp. warm water
3 medium blood oranges
flaky sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 425°F with a large baking sheet on middle rack.
2. Toss broccolini with oil, season with salt and Espelette pepper, and spread in an even layer on hot baking sheet, taking care not to overcrowd. Roast 10 minutes, until stalks are fork-tender and leaves are crispy.
3. Add pepitas to a blender and process to texture of coarse sand. Remove 1 tablespoon and set aside for finishing. Add date, tahini and ½ teaspoon salt to blender. Add water 2 tablespoons at a time and process until well combined and almost smooth, scraping down blender with a spatula halfway through.
4. Slice top and bottom ends off oranges. Stand each orange on its flat end and use a knife to cut away peel and pith, working from top down. You should see only flesh when done. Rotate 90 degrees and slice into round pinwheels, removing seeds as you go.
5. Spread sauce on a large serving platter or in a shallow bowl using a spatula. Pile broccolini on top. Place orange in and around broccolini. Season with a pinch flaky sea salt and drizzle with high-quality olive oil. Scatter reserved pepitas over top and serve.