Spiced wine simmering over a campfire, a wooden bowl overflowing with dewy greens, piles of beets dusted with a faint layer of dirt—Ilona Oppenheim may live mostly in Miami, but you’d never know it from her idyllic Instagram.
The graphic designer, photographer, and self-taught chef’s mountain roots run deep—she did grow up in Switzerland, after all—and she’s bringing that rustic spirit to her first cookbook, Savor. Inspired by her family’s Aspen, CO, cabin (and all the fishing, foraging, and farming she does there), the recipes within have a distinctly back-to-nature feel, but they’re accessible enough for even the most die-hard city dweller to make at home.
“I believe that the best food is familiar and comforting, and that recipes don’t need to be complicated and intimidating to be delicious,” writes Oppenheim of her eating philosophy. “Living so close to nature renewed my interest in wholesome, seasonal food, but no matter where you are, you can get these ingredients… from your own garden or a farmer’s market, CSA, or organic market that stocks locally sourced food.”
Oppenheim’s passion for super-clean foods in their natural state is so strong that she even makes her own pantry and refrigerator staples—and it’s kind of shocking how quick and easy it is to DIY them at home.
Keep reading to learn how to make 3 pantry staples (without the added sugar, fillers, and preservatives found in grocery store versions).
All recipes excerpted from Savor by Ilona Oppenheim (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Ilona Oppenheim.
“Making your own yogurt sounds more daunting than it really is, and once you’ve tasted homemade, you’ll never want store-bought again,” writes Oppenheim, who points out that processed yogurts are usually laden with sugar and artificial flavors.
She adds: “Avoid ultra-pasteurized milk…Using raw whole milk will produce a very creamy yogurt with a smooth taste. Your choice of culture affects the tartness of the yogurt and can create a great range of firmness and texture.” (She likes the yogurt starters from Custom Probiotics.)
1 quart whole milk (ideally raw or non-homogenized grass-fed)
Powdered yogurt starter (amount specified on package) or 3 Tbsp plain yogurt with live cultures
Attach a candy thermometer to a large heavy pot, pour in the milk, and heat it over medium heat to 180°F. Take it off the heat and let cool to 110°F.
Mix in the yogurt starter or plain yogurt. Immediately pour the milk into four 1-cup glass jars with lids, or a 1-liter mason jar.
To incubate, you can use a yogurt maker, which is designed to keep the yogurt at a stable temperature. However, there is really no need to buy this appliance—you can simply let the yogurt incubate in your oven. Keep the oven off and turn on the oven light. Place the closed jars inside and let them incubate for 8 to 9 hours, which makes a creamy yogurt that is not too tart. Refrigerate the yogurt for at least 3 hours before eating. It will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
If you prefer a thicker, Greek-style yogurt, strain the yogurt through cheesecloth stretched over a bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight—the longer you let it drain, the thicker the yogurt. The whey that drains out can be discarded or saved for another use.
This yogurt is great eaten as is, but you can also stir in fruit or flavorings just before serving.
Makes about 1 quart
Bulletproof coffee fans, this one’s for you. “Ghee is a type of clarified butter traditionally used in Indian cooking,” writes Oppenheim. “Due to its high smoke point, it is great for high-temperature cooking and is a good alternative to vegetable oils.” (It’s also great for your skin and is a killer eye makeup remover.)
1 pound (4 sticks) high-quality, unsalted butter
Cut the butter into squares and place in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the butter. After about 8 minutes, when the foam subsides and the butter turns a golden color, start stirring as it continues to simmer. When the butter foams a second time, after another 8 minutes, turn off the heat.
Let the butter cool down for a couple of minutes. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Strain the butter through the cheesecloth. Discard the milk solids that remain in the cheesecloth.
Store the ghee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months. (Removing the milk solids inhibits spoilage, so it is okay to store at room temperature.) If you store it in the refrigerator, you can keep it for up to 1 year.
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
Bored of oatmeal? Prepare to escape the rut. “Müesli endures as a typical Swiss breakfast food, and I’ve been eating it my entire life,” writes Oppenheim. “My recipe is pretty traditional, but since it’s made at home, it has a higher nutritional value than the processed müesli that comes in a box.”
1 cup home-flaked oat groats (recipe in the book) or old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup home-flaked rye berries (recipe in the book) or rye flakes
1/4 cup raisins
3 Tbsp unsweetened dried blueberries
3 Tbsp dried dates, cut into pieces
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
2 Tbsp raw, unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup plain yogurt
Fresh fruit, crushed almonds, and extra milk or yogurt, for serving
Combine the oats, rye flakes, raisins, blueberries, dates, almonds, and seeds in a medium bowl.
Add the orange juice and yogurt. Cover and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
In the morning, stir the mixture and serve it topped with fresh fruit, crushed almonds, and extra milk or yogurt. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Serves 4 (makes 3 cups)
Once you’ve got these staples made, here’s how to round out that holistic pantry. Ready for some more healthy takes on comfort food? Check out these recipes for nutrient-dense risotto, superfood truffles, and ramen from scratch.