This ‘Forest Feast’ cookbook is made for a California road trip – Press Enterprise

At the height of the pandemic, we were all cooking like crazy and avoiding restaurants and hotels. Short Vrbo or Airbnb vacations were all the rage. Now it comes to work cations – staying in a scenic location where you are on vacation at all times.

What better time for a travel book that’s also a cookbook? One with simple recipes that can easily be prepared without all the gimmicks you never drag on the road. With “The Forest Feast Road Trip: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by My Travels Through California,” you’ll never have to pack a food processor, blender, or waffle maker.

Erin Gleeson has it all figured out for us and is leading the way to some cool places around the Golden State. A former food photographer in New York City, she moved to a cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains and started a blog that grew into a series of “The Forest Feast” cookbooks filled with 100 vegetarian washing up.

Get ready for oven-roasted Brussels sprouts until golden brown; lavender butter shortbread; and easy, no-bake Mediterranean nachos—crispy pita chips loaded with creamy hummus and Greek yogurt, brined kalamata olives, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and tangy feta cheese crumbs.

Gleeson takes inspiration from the local landscape and ingredients, comes up with the recipes, takes the photos, then adds charming watercolors. We had to ask her how she put the book together and get her tips for making delicious Instagrammable meals on the go.

Q. This book is a road trip through our glorious state. What brought you to California?

A. I’m from California, but I was shooting freelance in New York and did my MFA in photography and then taught photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology. But my husband got a job in California, which took us out West.

Q. How did this cookbook series start?

A. I was just trying to create a new food portfolio, hoping to move from journalism to shooting more cookbooks, like other people’s cookbooks. So I started with a blog because it was an easy way to upload photos. I could send a link to the editors and say, this is what I’m working on. I wasn’t really into food blogging and didn’t know much about blogging – it was like 2012 and food blogging was still pretty new. But the blog took off, and about a year after it started, a literary agent contacted me to ask if I was interested in making a book out of it.

Q. Do you have professional culinary training?

A. No I do not know. I am very much a home cook, which is why I keep the recipes very simple. From the beginning, everything was inspired by our farm delivery box that we receive every week. It’s a box of local products.

Q. Your previous cookbooks in this series include the New York Times bestseller “The Forest Feast”, a children’s book, another titled “Gatherings” and the most recent, “Mediterranean”. With “Road Trip”, it seems like a magical moment because over the past two years, everyone wanted to travel but they were cautious about hotel stays and restaurants. This led to a lot of Vrbo or Airbnb trips. Do you think the pandemic created the perfect environment for this book?

A. Yes definitely. I signed on to do the book before the pandemic and shot a good chunk of it in the summer of 2019. As you said, the timing was kind of magical for this theme. But we have continued to travel on the road for the past two years. And took lots of photos even during the pandemic which are included in the book.

Q. How did you find cool places to stay?

A. My husband is the mastermind behind our itinerary. So the first big trip was three weeks and that was 2,500 miles without leaving California. We have stayed at the majority of places featured in the book and then a few more after that on long weekends. He offered the itinerary for the number of days in each location and I was looking on Vrbo, Airbnb and other vacation rental sites to try and find some cool places.

Q. Where did you stay?

A. Because my early books are very inspired by the idea of ​​cooking in a cabin in the woods, I wanted to take that idea on the road and stay in other cabin-like places. I wanted their architecture to be a little different, so there’s an octagonal house in Tahoe and an A-frame in Big Bear and a yurt in an urban farm in Los Angeles, a craftsman’s cabin in Big Sur, a Beach. We mixed it up, but they all have kind of a similar wooden structure vibe.

Q. I love to cook on vacation and have been known to pack blenders, blenders, food processors and more. I tend to overdo it. What’s the trick to traveling light?

A. I don’t usually take mixers or mixers or anything like that, but I like to bring in some ambient elements that make it a bit special. I bring my twinkle lights and candles and a bluetooth speaker for music and cocktail supplies to make a great drink. Just small touches. I think they really make you feel like you are on vacation.

Q. This book reminds me of the Malibu Farm recipe book. It captures California cuisine in a fresh and colorful way, but you combine watercolors and watercolor effects with photography. Did you also participate in the graphic design?

A. I have laid out all the pages. Yeah, it’s like a big art project for me.

Q. Your handwritten instructions and vegetarian recipes have drawn comparisons with the Moosewood Cookbook. Do you take that as a compliment?

A. Yeah. She is a huge source of inspiration. She’s one of the first people I’ve ever seen using her own handwriting and illustrations mixed into the recipes. So, I’m a huge Mollie Katzen fan. I have been to Moosewood several times. I have one of the first editions which comes from my husband’s grandmother. … I think it could be a first edition. Yes, it is one of my most prized possessions.

Q. Like Moosewood, this book is comfortable, but it’s sophisticated and very elegant. Why did you decide to develop the recipes with such simplicity?

A. Because I think people will often think it’s so simple they can do it. And they’re not intimidated by it and they can have these things on hand and sometimes, because there are so few ingredients, they’re kind of inspired to put their own spin on it, which I like always. … One of my big goals is to make people feel creative in the kitchen. And I think when the recipes are simple enough, it leaves room for creativity, which I encourage.

“The Forest Festival Road Trip”

Author: Erin Gleeson

Editor: Abrams Books

Price: $40

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