Married for more than a decade, Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin specialize in creating incredible vegetarian dishes within the confines of their 14' x 6' kitchen. Their cookbook, Husbands That Cook, is a testament to simple, flavorful comfort food, like their recipe for Communication Breakdown Carrot Cake with Whipped Goat Cheese Frosting, which they shared with us as part of our Bob's by the Book interview series.
Learn about their favorite go-to dishes and how cooking has influenced their lives in our interview, below. We also have a delightful video and a chance to win a copy of Husbands That Cook from St Martin's Press!
Bob's Red Mill: What’s the first thing you ever learned to cook on your own, and how has that dish impacted your life in the kitchen?
Ryan: When I was five years old, I took my first cooking class at the local community center. We learned how to prepare several dishes, but my favorite was a one-bowl chocolate cake. Rich, moist, and ultra-chocolaty, this recipe is so simple even a five-year-old can make it. This is the cake we bring to every birthday party, and we even included it in the dessert chapter of our new cookbook. Being in that class showed me that I could do anything in the kitchen that I set my mind to—and I’ve been cooking and baking ever since.
BRM: What’s your favorite food memory?
Adam: I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years, but growing up, I used to love my grandmother’s chicken cacciatore. It would literally melt in your mouth. Every time I visited her, she prepared it especially for me because she knew how much I loved it, and I was so happy to include a meatless version in our cookbook. We used her exact recipe for that tangy red sauce, and although ours uses chickpea patties instead of chicken, it turned out just the way I remember.
BRM: Name a dish everyone should learn to make, and why.
Ryan: Overnight French toast is like a magic trick—the night before you’re having company for breakfast, you simply layer slices of your favorite bread in a baking dish, pour over a mixture of milk and eggs, then leave it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you just pop it in the oven and wait for your guests to arrive as your kitchen fills with the aroma of freshly baked French toast. It makes brunch entertaining a breeze, and the flavor possibilities are endless: in our book we have an orange-pecan overnight French toast, and on our website there is a Blueberry Cream Cheese version that is always a crowd-pleaser. It’s so easy you’ll want to host brunch more often!
BRM: If you could only take one dish to every social event for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Adam: We have a recipe in our cookbook for Spanakopita Quiche. Mmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! It’s interesting how it came about, too: originally, we wanted to create a spanakopita breakfast oatmeal, but the results turned out to be a thick, gooey mess. So we went back to the drawing board and had the idea to transform it into a quiche instead. We use three different kinds of cheeses in the filling—gruyère, parmesan, and feta—along with sautéed garlic and scallions, fresh dill, spinach, and Greek yogurt. Baked in a perfectly flaky and buttery crust, this quiche has traveled with us to many potlucks and parties and is always a hit.
BRM: What’s the one kitchen rule you swear by?
Ryan: Always toast your nuts! Whenever a recipe calls for nuts of any kind—whether you’re making pesto with pine nuts, a salad with walnuts, a pecan pie, or an entrée with slivered almonds—always toast them first to bring out their full flavor. The difference between a raw nut and one that has been deeply toasted in a dry skillet is incomparable. This simple trick will boost the flavor of any recipe, so the next time you head to the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies, just remember: always toast your nuts.
BRM: If you could only grab for one Bob’s Red Mill product, what would it be and why?
Adam: This must be a trick question! There are too many great products to choose just one. From bread flour and nutritional yeast, to red lentils and grains like farro and quinoa, we love them all. The last time we were in Portland, Oregon we visited the Bob’s Red Mill headquarters and witnessed the magic of the factory. It was an eye-opening experience to watch the grains in their natural form get packaged directly into the bags without any artificial flavors, coloring, or additives—just the way they should be!
Our thanks to Ryan and Adam for the engrossing interview. Learn more via our video, below, and don't forget to enter to win a copy of Husbands That Cook!