In the introduction to her new book Savor (Artisan, 2016), chef and author Ilona Oppenheim swiftly reveals her muse… “The mountains keep secrets; they envelope me, surprise me, and sometimes overpower me with pure, relentless nature… Whether I forage for mushrooms and berries, fish for trout, make a fire, or simply go for along hike, being outdoors brings me peace of mind.” That connection to nature very much permeates throughout the author’s elegantly designed mash-up of signature (“uncomplicated”) recipes and stunning color images, many of which were captured by Ms. Oppenheim herself.
Aspen is the place where much of Ms. Oppenheim’s food writing and life unfolds. What captivates the reader is the skillful manner in which the author plumbs the depth of that patch of earth. Employing only whole ingredients freshly caught and cultivated among the land and waters which trim the majestic peaks, her recipes transport. That Rocky Mountain energy spills onto page after page with content organized around chapters sporting titles such as; “Around the Pasture”, “Into the Wild”, and “By the Fire”. Natural elements also feature prominently in the companion images splashed throughout the book with most of the captures thoughtfully composed using rustic wood and stone.
The author traces her passion for being in the kitchen to her childhood in Switzerland and her father’s spa, Clinique La Prairie which attracted guests from around the globe coveting the beauty treatments and healthy cuisine for which it was noted. The chopping, the mixing, even the cleaning… all kept her tethered to the moment at hand and fostered a love of preparing comforting dishes. Her European roots pulse in her take on Clafoutis a classic French dessert made with cherries and home-milled wheat flour. Served best directly from the skillet, the image featured alongside the concoction will have you headed straight for dessert. And while some of the recipes may demand some prospecting for goods, they largely rely on pantry staples and seasonal ingredients found at local farmer’s markets.
While not a formally trained as a chef, Savor’s contents are expertly informed by Ms. Oppenheim’s aesthetic, deep connection to the land and her grasp of the modern family’s precious (and increasingly dwindling) leisure time. Daily, her professional commitments as a graphic designer compete with her role as a mother of two young children, and that dance jumps from the pages as she shares sweet images of her young daughter indulging in her Peach Marmalade and her son in the pasture gathering eggs for Mushroom Quiche. Oversized, hardbound and printed on a heavy stock paper, Savor has the art book feel of another new (kitchen) title which is drawing lots of praise, Love & Lemons (Avery, 2016), by the husband and wife team of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews. Part artbook, part instructional, these fresh new takes on cookbooks document the family kitchen (and life) in unscripted airs. Visually and editorially they scream to be kept handy on the counter, on the coffee table… as a center piece for gatherings large and small.
As Mr. Thoreau went to the woods “in order to live more deliberately,” Ms. Oppenheim in retreating to her beloved Aspen has crafted a gorgeous prompt for considering the land and its wisdom and for sharing its rich bounty with family and friends. Learn more about the author through her website.