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JULIE HIRSCHFELD AND STILETTO CO-OWNER Stefanie Barth do a little of everything—websites for nonprofits, films for Lucky, artists’ catalogs. But Hirschfeld only included cooking in her repertoire when she received “nice cookware” for her wedding and decided to “learn to cook for real.” When it comes to presentation, she says, “I do tend to think about the colors on the plate, but at the end of the day it has to taste good. That’s the most important thing. I hate it when I get something in a restaurant that looks really beautiful but doesn’t taste good. It’s the ultimate letdown.”
Where did you buy your ingredients for this dish? A mix. I bought a bunch of stuff at Fairway and some at our local market.
Is that the place you usually buy food, or did you make a special trip?
We’re lucky because there’s a lot of good food in our neighborhood. I try and buy as much as I can at the farmer’s market. Luckily I live close to a weekly market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. What I can’t get at the market I buy at a local artisanal market in the neighborhood called Provisions. They have an amazing cheese counter and really good-quality meat. A few times a month I go out to Fairway for a bigger run.
I love the farmers market, but in the winter it’s pretty much apples, potatoes and eggs which gets old fast. Fairway on a Saturday can be a trying experience.
Our office is in Chinatown so I also tend to pick up things from there. I love randomly buying some exotic ingredient to try. The markets in Chinatown are amazing. I’ve been cooking a lot more Asian since I’ve worked there.
Were the ingredients you used expensive or cheap, or both?
Mostly it was pretty reasonable. I always try to buy organic, which is a little more expensive. I’m not really that into fancy ingredients with the exception of cheese. I’m a total addict. I’ll buy anything.
Is this a dish you often make?
Yes, we make this dish a lot. It’s really delicious and it will last for a few days in the fridge.
Is this your own recipe? It was inspired by a recipe I clipped in The New York Times. I’ve made it a lot and it’s evolved over time.
Do you cook often?
I cook all the time. I usually cook a large amount of something over the weekend and eat it throughout the week—usually some kind of curry. During the summer we use the grill a lot.
Do you draw any connection between the food you like to make and the kind of design you do? Is your approach to one similar at all to your approach to the other? I haven’t really thought about it, but I’m sure there are similarities. I love trying new dishes and tend to obsessively clip recipes for new ideas. Since the kids were born, I haven’t been able to travel much, so cooking is kind of a way of going somewhere else. Right now I’m big on East Asian cooking.
One of these days I’m going to go to Thailand. I’ve been eating Thai food as long as I can remember.
Are there certain types of dishware you favor? My grandmother recently moved to a smaller apartment, so she gave me a bunch of really cool vintage cookware from the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve been having fun using it.
Do you listen to music while you cook? If so, what’s your preferred cooking soundtrack? I wish! I haven’t managed to hook up a stereo in the kitchen so it’s mostly NPR. I like catching up on the news while I cook.
When and how did you first learn to cook? Who taught you? This is kind of an embarrassing story. Growing up both of my parents were amazing cooks, so I think because I was always surrounded by good food, I really wasn’t motivated to enter the kitchen.
When I moved to New York I was working 10-plus hour days so it was primarily take-out. I was one of those people who thought of the stove as extra storage. When I got married people gave us all this really nice cookware. I felt totally unworthy of it, so I decided I would learn to cook for real. I asked my mom for some starter advice and she sent me Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and Deborah Madison. I totally fell in love with cooking. It was during this time that I discovered the Union Square farmer’s market. I’ve been hooked ever since. Do you think your relationship with food has changed much over the years? In what ways?
I think I’m a lot more aware of healthy food than I used to be. Also, it’s hard not to be affected by the recent focus on the politics of food. The biggest change for me, though, was having kids. I have to tailor what I make for them. I want them to develop a broad palette, but they can’t eat spicy foods yet. I also don’t have the lazy Saturdays to food shop and cook anymore. It’s lot more “all business.” I’ve been trying to get the kids into cooking with me. So far, they like it.
Is there a new way that you’ve noticed design and food connecting? How is design shaping our collective relationship with food, in your opinion?
I think design and food have always been connected. Whether it’s the packaging, restaurant design or food presentation. I’m not sure any of that has changed.
After you prepared this meal for our photo shoot, did you share it with guests or anyone else? If so, what were their reactions to the dish? After I finished we all sat down with the photographer for a big lunch. I’m guessing he liked it because he went back for thirds. People are always surprised by this dish. It sounds kind of weird, but it’s really amazing. It’s a nice mix of sweet and spicy.
Chipotle Sweet Potato and Chicken Tacos
“This was inspired by a recipe I clipped in The New York Times. I’ve made it a lot and it’s evolved over time.”
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo (these vary in heat)
2 limes (about 4 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
2 large chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs.)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches chard, stems removed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Salsa or Rick’s Picks Handy Corn
In a blender, mix garlic, chipotle peppers, lime juice, vinegar, and salt. Slowly add the olive while blending. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice the sweet potatoes (I use a mandolin). Place on cooking sheets (try not to overlap), drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake the sweet potatoes until nice and done, about 15-20 minutes.
While the sweet potatoes are cooking, cook the chicken breasts in boiling water. When cooled, shred into small pieces with your hands or a fork.
Wash the chard, remove the stems and roughly chop. Sauté chard in 1 tbsp. olive oil with a little salt.
Combine sweet potatoes, chicken, chard and red onion in a large bowl. Pour on sauce and mix well.
To serve, warm the tortillas (I used my gas burner) and pile high with the chicken/sweet potato mix. Garnish with cilantro, yogurt, and salsa.