Better known for whipping together dramatic red-carpet gowns than lavish multi-course meals, it’s s little surprising that Zac Posen’s latest project is designing a beautiful cookbook. But Posen, who grew up helping his parents stir and chop in their New York City kitchen, says he was kneading dough and simmering veggies long before he ruched his first satin bodice.
“I made my first dashi in the fifth grade,” says the celebrated fashion designer and Project Runway star judge, referring to the Japanese seaweed-flavored broth that remains a staple in his diet and is featured in four of his mouthwatering recipes, including the one below.
International culinary influences—the result of Posen’s time spent studying design in London and sourcing fabrics in Asia—show up in classic dishes such as Posen’s quiche—which is spiced with curry—and Brussels sprouts, which are roasted with ponzu sauce, giving them an exotic twist. “There are dishes for the more adventurous gourmet cook and recipes with more accessible ingredients,” Posen says.
Fashion people eat
Organized by the fashion calendar season (think: spring and summer, resort, fall and winter, and holiday), Cooking With Zac came together after Posen starting posting photos of the food he was making for his friends and staff on his Instagram. “Cooking for somebody is the most gracious gesture,” says the designer, who often has friends like models Naomi Campbell (who Posen says “loves food” and taught him the benefit of manuka honey) and Jourdan Dunn (who taught him her secret recipe for jerk chicken) over for dinner. “At the same time, for me, cooking is therapeutic—it’s my fashion detox. And really good, fresh produce is one of the greatest luxuries.”
“Really good, fresh produce is one of the greatest luxuries.”
Posen’s cookbook offers plenty of ideas of what to do with all those in-season vegetables (think late fall roasted ratatouille and raw corn, tomato, and couscous salad). Posen grows many of his ingredients on his family’s farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which this year was planted with heirloom tomatoes, various varieties of basil, four types of beans, zucchini, chard, arugula, fennel, strawberries, gooseberries, and watercress.
Keeping things in balance
Watercress soup, by the way, is one of Posen’s favorite healthy recipes when he’s trying to find a little more balance in his diet. “I eat incredibly healthy,” says Posen, who swears by turmeric and ginger tea. “I try to get as much produce as I can.”
“Nobody should deprive themselves.”
For Posen, that means balancing glasses of wine and “rustic and decadent” tarte tatins with healthy go-to meals like stewed vegetables with rice, beans, and salads. “I’ve been doing a Persian rice, or I cook an 11- or 12-grain rice,” says Posen. “I make a lot of soup.” But ultimately, says Posen, food is about enjoyment. “Nobody should deprive themselves,” he says.
Keep reading for Zac’s recipe for dashi-glazed lotus root and winter vegetables.
Dashi-glazed lotus and winter vegetables in dashi broth
For the lotus and winter vegetables
2 cups dashi broth, plus reserved shiitake mushrooms, optional
2 Tbsp mirin rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking sake
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 piece fresh ginger root, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise, stacked, and cut into thin strips
1 very large, thick carrot, peeled and sliced on a bias into 1/2″-thick pieces
1 medium lotus root (about 3/4 pound), ends removed, peeled, and cut crosswise into 1/2″-thick slices
1 lb. winter squash (my favorite is kabocha), halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1 1⁄2″–2″ pieces
2 shiso leaves, stacked, rolled lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into thin ribbons, optional
4 whole pickled plums (also called umeboshi, optional)
For the dashi broth
1. Add the kombu and eight cups of cold water to a large pot and warm gently over medium heat until steam rises off the top of the pot. You don’t want the water to boil or simmer. As white foam rises to the top, skim it off. This can make the dashi bitter, so it is good to remove it from the liquid. Once you see steam rising off the top, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the kombu sit in the water for 40 minutes.
2. Remove the kombu. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Slice an asterisk in the top of each mushroom cap. Make an X and then add another slit across the center. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the bonito, sardines, and shiitakes to the broth. Continue to gently simmer until the sardines are semi-soft (but not falling apart), about 20 minutes.
3. Remove the shiitakes and set them aside. You can slice them and return them to the strained broth or add them to a stir-fry. Strain the dashi through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve lined with paper towels, pressing on the solids lightly to extract as much of the broth as possible (discard the solids). Return the mushrooms to the broth (if desired) and serve warm, or refrigerate the dashi for up to five days.
For the lotus and winter vegetables
1. Pour the dashi into a medium saucepan and add mirin, soy sauce, sake, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to simmer for two minutes to let the flavors come together. Set aside.
2. Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it starts to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger and once it becomes fragrant, after about 30 seconds, add carrot and lotus root. Pour in the seasoned dashi—it should rise about halfway up the vegetables—and bring to a simmer.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook broth and vegetables until the carrot is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the squash and reserved shiitakes (if using). Cook, covered, for 20 minutes more. Uncover the pan and continue to cook, using a spoon to drizzle the glaze from the pot over the top of the vegetables, until the squash is tender, five to ten minutes more.
4. Divide the vegetables among four bowls. Add some dashi to each. Sprinkle with shiso leaves (if using) and serve with pickled plum (if using).