Maria Zizka came to us on a short list of recommended recipe testers from our editor, Judy Pray. For the Haven's Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, we were looking for someone who was meticulous and smart; that wouldn't be deterred by our meddlesome methods of working; and who we could prod into giving us brutal feedback about our recipes. And, we were intrigued that she had worked on one of our favorite cookbooks: Suzanne Goin's The A.O.C. Cookbook. We never got our brutal feedback, but we did find ourselves delighting in her detailed notes about each recipe she tested.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a cookbook writer, and I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. I studied biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where I spent a great deal of time in the botanical garden, learning how plants grow and memorizing their medicinal uses. I also earned a master’s degree in food culture and communications from L’Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in northern Italy. My thesis focused on American cookbooks and the introduction of e-books. Before I finished graduate school, I jumped right in and started working with Suzanne Goin on The A.O.C. Cookbook.
Maria with Jessica Koslow of Sqirl (left) and Chad Robertson of Tartine and Tartine Manufactory.
How did you decide to work in food as an occupation?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved cookbooks. My parents tell me that when I was a little girl, they would come pick me up from friends' houses and find me sprawled out on the kitchen floor reading stacks of cookbooks. At first, the idea that working on cookbooks could be my job seemed too good to be true. But once I learned that it was possible, I pursued the career wholeheartedly. I studied Italian for a year before applying to graduate school in Italy. The craziest part to me is that from the first book I've worked on, to now, my love of cookbooks has only grown.
What do you find the most interesting part of your job?
Lately, I’ve been interested in bridging the gap between restaurant cuisine and home cooking. Although they’re quite different, they mutually influence one another, and I’m curious about that intersection.
What’s your morning routine?
I sleep a lot, and I wake up with breakfast on my mind! Wednesdays are the best day of the week because my fiancé, Graham, comes home from the gym with apple cider donuts he buys from our neighborhood’s farmers market. We always get four donuts: two sugared for me, one sugared and one plain for him. I make each of us a macchiato, and then we dip the donuts in the coffee. On other days of the week, I might have a croissant for breakfast, maybe with some jam, or I might make oatmeal, or a fried egg and buttered toast. I shower, get dressed, and then sit down at my desk and hop to it!
Where magic happens: Maria's writing desk.
Where do you find serenity and inspiration when you're in a rut?
I take a long walk. It miraculously gets me out of a funk every single time. I am lucky to live near Prospect Park, so most days—even if I’m not in a funk—I’ll go for a walk. This sounds nerdy, but I always bring a little notebook in my pocket because my best ideas come to me on those walks. I love seeing how the park changes from day to day, season to season.
What was the last book you read?
I’m the kind of person that likes to read a few books at the same time. Currently, I’m reading a book on the history of Ireland (because we’re getting ready to travel there for our honeymoon), as well as a compilation of selected essays by Betty Fussell titled, Eat, Live, Love, Die. I just finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri. And I’ve been reading and cooking from Cal Peternell’s A Recipe For Cooking.
Recipe testing and editing — ensuring consistency through persistence.
What was the last recipe you cooked?
I’m writing a cookbook of my own and I’ve been testing recipes for it. The last one I worked on was whole-wheat crêpes, which I like to fill with jam, then fold like handkerchiefs and dust generously with powdered sugar.
Can you tell us more about your cookbook?
By coincidence, my book will also be published by Artisan and, you'll never believe this, Judy Pray is the editor! I've admired Judy and her work for years, so it is such an honor to have the chance to work with her. I am writing the book now, and it will be published in 2019.
Judy Pray is the executive editor of Artisan Books, and the editor of The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School. Judy's straight-talk feedback and genteel steering was essential in writing a cookbook that we envisioned as being indispensable to home cooks. Because we appreciate her insight and value her judgement, we wanted to know more about Judy Pray.
How did you become a book editor?
I've always loved books and cooking, so being a cookbook editor is a good career fit for me. I started as an editorial assistant helping an editor and worked my way up the ladder. Beginning an editorial career functions almost like an apprenticeship. You train and learn from another editor until you begin to acquire and edit books based on your own tastes and interests.
What kind of books do you work on?
Cookbooks, primarily, but I also edit design and decorating books, photography books, gift books, and all types of nonfiction that can be presented visually. What does your day to day look like? Each day is different, which is a big reason why I love my job. One day might be spent working with an author developing the direction for his book; another day might be spent on the set of a photo shoot. Some days are filled with meetings; other days I'm in my office answering emails for hours or writing long editorial notes in response to an author's work. It might seem from the outside that an editor sits at a desk reading all day, but I'm hardly ever able to find time to read and edit in the office. The best time for that is after hours when there are no meetings or distractions.
What's the general process of a book look like for you from start to finish?
Each book is different; some books require you to start with the words and others require you to start with the photographs and design. It depends on the nature of the book and what drives the content. For a text-heavy cookbook, once an author and I land on the premise for the book, she will begin writing one chapter or a partial chapter and give me material to respond to. After we settle on the correct voice for the book and the presentation of the information, the bulk of the writing begins. I jump in and edit the author throughout the writing process. I'm keeping an eye on the big picture — "Are we including everything that should be in this book?," "Is it written for the right audience?"— and paying attention to the small details too — "Do we have too many fish recipes?," "Does the order of the recipes make sense?".
When a good deal of writing is complete and recipes have been tested, we organize photo shoots for the book and begin the design process to get the book into layout. It's a collaborative process with the author and my role is to coordinate the author's interactions with everyone at the publishing house: from the copyeditor to the book designer to the sales team. After the book is designed and eventually printed, I continue to work with the author as she begins to work with our publicity team on plans to promote the book. And when the book is on sale, it's almost like the author has graduated and only needs me for occasional check-ins. But I'm still the in-house advocate for the book and I'll continue to be the point-person for the author long after the book has been on sale.
Did Haven’s Kitchen’s book follow this same process? What challenges were puzzled out in this book?
The Haven's Kitchen cookbook required a lot of thought and discussion from the start about the best approach to organizing the material for a beginner cook. It was a challenge to figure out the most sensible way to convey common culinary skills and the essential building blocks of cooking in book form and in 384 pages. Most cookbooks aim to teach one recipe at a time.
We wanted The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School to teach skills that could be built upon from one recipe to another, so it was essential to think it through on paper and devise a way to present the information visually as well. I think we achieved what we set out to do—each chapter is an essential lesson for the home cook. And the recipes within each chapter arm readers with an arsenal of recipes for a lifetime of good eating.
How many pages do you read in a typical day?
Lucky for me there is no typical day. In the last couple of days, I edited two chapters of a forthcoming cookbook on Basque cooking and one chapter of a book on whole food cooking. Tomorrow I'll be working with an author who is a dog photographer and that means the entire day will be spent editing photos of puppies into book form.
What was the last book you read?
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. My day-to-day involves reading so much nonfiction that when I read for pleasure, it's primarily fiction.
What was the last recipe you cooked?
I cook all the time. Last night it was the Zuni Café roasted chicken —or at least my version of it— with salad. I like to make it on a Sunday when I have a leftover baguette. You make croutons from a day-old baguette, flavor them with drippings from the roasted chicken, and toss them with arugula or other greens. It becomes part stuffing/part bread salad and when served with the roasted chicken, it's the perfect comfort meal.
Where do you find inspiration and / or peace?
Any time spent outside with my dog.
What neighborhood do you live in, and what are some of your places to eat there?
I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn; I'm lucky that we have so many good restaurants in the immediate neighborhood and also that we're walking distance to so many other neighborhoods with great restaurants too. My favorite places near home are Roman's, for a nice dinner out; Speedy Romeo or Franny's, for pizza; Ganso, for ramen; and Walter's, which is the perfect place to meet friends after work.
Judy Pray is the executive editor of Artisan Books. Click here for more information on The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School.
Now is the time to sign up for a season of organic vegetables from Katchkie Farm delivered to Haven’s Kitchen! Shares of fresh produce will be delivered every Wednesday for pick-up, starting in June and ending in November.
Fast Facts for the 2017 Growing Season:
Weekly Vegetable Share from Katchkie Farm
Dates: Tuesday, June 7 to November 1
Total deliveries: 22
Large Share: $638 includes 7 to 10 different kinds of organic vegetables per delivery
Small Share: $385 includes 4 to 7 different kinds of organic vegetables per delivery
Katchkie also has some exciting add-ons to the vegetable share this season. Please note that you must sign up for a vegetable CSA in order to receive any of the following:
Fruit Share from Samascott Orchards
Dates: June 21 to October 4, weekly delivery
Total Deliveries: 16
Egg Share from Liz Neumark’s homestead
Dates: June 7 to November 1, weekly delivery
Total Deliveries: 22
Honey Share from Bee Hollow Farm
Two deliveries of one pound of honey. One pound will come with the first vegetable delivery of July, and the other will come with the last delivery of the season.
Sign up for your share by March 19 at katchkiefarm.csasignup.com.
If you were a member in 2016, make sure to click the returning member link in the green banner at the top of the page for a seamless transition to the new season!
Select your weekly choice for vegetables >> if you’d like, you can select weekly option for fruit, eggs, honey, and prepared food >> select Haven's Kitchen Community CSA
Email email@example.com with any questions.
KATCHKIE FARM SUMMER AND FALL CSA
Katchkie Farm is a year-round NOFA-certified organic Community Supported Agriculture farm in Kinderhook, New York dedicated to building connections between consumers, food professionals & families and healthy, delicious local food. Katchkie prides itself on holistic stewardship of the land and its bounty.
What is a CSA?
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a direct link between the farmer and the consumer in order to "invest" in small, local farms. Members sign up for a "share" before the start of the season and pay up front so the farmer has an advance in capital before the very busy growing season. During the harvest season, the farm delivers bundles of produce to give their "investors" a great value on high quality produce. CSA produce is harvested within 24 hours of delivery, so members receive extremely fresh produce. However, because members pay in full before they receive their first share, this is a shared risk endeavor.
What will I get each week?
Shares contain 7 to 10 different organic vegetables per delivery. A sample July share might contain broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, summer onions, scallions, lettuce, zucchini, and parsley. A sample October share might contain beets, garlic, celery root, onions, mustard greens, leeks, butternut squash, peppers, tomatoes, and turnips.
Valentine's Day elicits a lot of boos and bad attitudes. People wear black and grumble about how it's a "Hallmark" holiday. Our annual Valentine's Day round-up of suggestions from our staff has some brooding and calling it just another day, but there are also some good suggestions for gifts, places to go, and things to do that might soften your cynical heart.
We're putting the kids to bed early and I'll be sharing a bottle of 2005 Ridge Geyserville (Zinfandel Blend) with my wife that we been saving for no particular reason. We bought it on a trip to California right before we had our first child. It's very drinkable now, and we don't want to miss it's prime. Then, more likely than not—we'll be talking about said kids for the remainder of the night. – David Mawhinney, culinary director
I'm hoping to get these in gold — the midi size — let's see if Daniel reads our blog posts.
– Shell Hatke, operations manager
I hope my husband remembers to get me a card this year. That's our rule, cards only, and last year he forgot. My favorite thing I've ever gotten on Valentine's Day was a box full of paper hearts. On each one, my niece and nephew wrote all the things they love about me. – Suzanne Birnbaum, events manager
Pointy Snout caviar on hand-carved spoons. Photo courtesy of Pointy Snout Caviar.
Usually Eric and I make an annual pilgrimage to King Spa in New Jersey followed by a dinner in Flushing or somewhere normally out of our way. But now that we have a baby, I'll opt for a night in with potato chips, caviar and bubbles. The alcoholic variety for me, and the non-alcoholic for him. – Sonjia Hyon, special projects director
A few lady friends and I are headed to Le French Diner for a not-overly-romantic but great evening of food and drinks. – Alison Cayne, founder
I am in a long distance relationship, so I am going to see my partner and we are getting to spend some time in Napa together a little early, and visit friends who work at Trinchero and Freemark Abbey. On Valentine's Day, I'm going to spend the evening writing letters to friends. Romance isn't dead, it's alive and well in the courtship of new and old friends. – Laurie Ellen Pelicano, Haven's Kitchen friend & maker of delicious baked things
I will be in school all day on Valentine's Day. However, I might grab a quick lunch and exchange sweets with my girlfriends between classes! – Hyewon Lee, barista
I am actually one of those people that would love to get a stuffed animal on Valentine's Day — I grew up believing all stuffed animals had souls (thanks, mom). My Valentines Day planning usually happens last minute, but by far one of the most memorable Valentine's Day I had was spending it with my two best friends from home, sharing pizza and lamenting over the struggles of dating. – Kathryn Tam, operations assistant
I'm not going to lie: I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day, so my husband and I don't really celebrate and usually I end up working. (This year, I'll be teaching at Haven's Kitchen.) But the years where I'm not working, I do like to take advantage of those Valentine's Day grocery specials and make up a dinner of steak or lobster or oysters on the cheap.
– Sarah Bode-Clark, teacher and photographer
I'm headed to the East Village to see my bestie read some poetry. – Zoe Maya Jones, kitchen manager
Locanda Vini e Olii, a charming Italian restaurant in Clinton Hill. Photo courtesy of Locanda Vini e Olii.
My husband and I have been sitting on a gift certificate we received for our wedding to our favorite date restaurant, Locanda Vini e Olii, so we'll be cashing that in for a four-course Italian dinner. And, I am hoping to get myself some discount candy on the 15th. – Dianne de la Veaux, cafe production
Before this kid pops, my husband and I are going travel the via Amtrak up the Hudson for the weekend to visit some of our best pals in the Berkshires. We will likely eat Moroccan food and try our best not to talk too much about current affairs, while disco music plays in the background. – Halle Heyman, events director
I refuse to become overwhelmed by Valentine's Day "pressure." I'd rather do something romantic and thoughtful 2 or 3 days before the actual day. – Greg Green, cafe production
Stop by Haven's Kitchen on Valentine's Day to pick up some flowers and heart-shaped cookies for your sweetheart.