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Q&A with Tamar Adler

Everyday Food, March 2012

Chef and author Tamar Adler takes a use-it-all approach to making delicious meals. Try her tips, and save time and money.

"There's no better way to avoid worrying about the cost of food than knowing how to cook: It gives you the power to turn simple, economical foods into dinner. When time is scarce, try cooking with leftovers in mind. Eating last night's remains is never a last resort for me -- I love looking into my fridge and seeing the starting points for a dozen potential meals."

Tamar's Tome
Tamar honed her skills as a chef at the famed Northern California restaurant Chez Panisse. Her new book -- part cookbook, part narrative -- outlines her advice for effortless, resourceful ways to eat. For more, visit

What's your cooking strategy?
Rather than saying, "I need to go out and buy food," I say, "I'm going to cook what I have." The best part about this is that it cuts back on shopping, which I never have to do more than once a week. The secrets are making extras when you can -- why roast one bunch of beets when you could roast two in the same amount of time? -- and cooking things simply so you can flavor them differently each time.

How do you make sure you use up leftovers?
I keep a list on a chalkboard in my kitchen to remind me what foods need to be eaten. I also keep leftovers in glass jars. I think they look more appealing that way, and it lets me clearly see what I have. And I always keep a few essential building blocks around that can help make sense of whatever scraps I have on hand: Rice and good eggs are great bases for delicious meals.

What do you like about this soup?
I love that it's made with a bunch of plain, economical ingredients you can get at the corner store -- or, even better, already have in your kitchen -- and that simple cooking can turn them into something rich and wonderful. It's also a perfect use for stale bread, which acts like a big crouton, soaking up the flavors of the soup. You can serve it to guests or enjoy it as a comforting family dinner.

Caramelized Onion Soup with Onions to Spare

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