Famous Artists Share 10 Recipes for the Creative—and Delicious—Dishes That Are Getting Them Through Lockdown
Dan Colen, Gina Beavers, and other artists share some of their favorite recipes.
As much of the world hunkers down, practicing social distancing and sheltering in place, everyday life is shifting dramatically. And for artists, like the rest of us, that means preparing for an extended stay at home by stocking up their larders.
In search of a little culinary inspiration, we turned to artists who have worked with food in their practices, either as a material or subject matter, to ask them what they’re cooking during these unprecedented times.
Here are the dispatches they sent in from around the world—from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Italy, Thailand, and more—on their favorite recipes, their strategies for stocking up for long stretches, and advice special diets. So as we face this extended period of home isolation, we hope their contributions get your own creative culinary juices flowing.
Enjoy—and don’t forget to check out more artists’ recipes here.
Dan Colen, Hudson Valley, New York
Dan Colen has made “paintings” from chewing gum, and has owned a farm in New York’s Hudson Valley since 2011.
I’m at my farm, Sky High Farm in the Hudson Valley, with my girlfriend, baker, artist, and food advocate, Lexie Smith. We’re baking, fermenting, dehydrating, and we are stocked up on local grains and local meats from the farm. The diet and menu is stuck somewhere between macrobiotic and grass-fed meat lovers.
At the farm, we are currently planting seeds in the veggie garden and expecting births of cows, pigs, and lambs. All the food raised and grown on the farm is 100 percent for donation to underserved communities in New York state, which feels especially necessary right now. Of particular note at this moment, and something I feel really fortunate to get such close witness to, is an initiative Lexie has started in response to the epidemic through her project Bread on Earth.
She has offered her community a free sourdough starter kit, sending out small portions of sourdough to anyone who requests it, with instructions for use and further sharing. In her words, the spirit is as follows:
“We’ve quickly become acutely aware of our ability to pass things between us, even while living in an alienating and isolating world. Spores making their way across a population can look like solidarity and sustenance, too, not just fear and sickness. Even if the starter stays with you, you’re now a point on the evolving map of this living culture.”
I’m still trying to decide if art is on hold or more active then ever.
Michael Rakowitz, Chicago
Michael Rakowitz uses Middle Eastern food packaging in his ongoing series “The invisible enemy should not exist” (2007–) which recreates ancient Iraqi artifacts that have been destroyed or looted in recent years. The artist prepares and serves traditional Iraqi food in the ongoing project Enemy Kitchen (2003–).
I wanted to make Iraqi dolma, which Iraqi Jews call mhasha, but the local supermarket did not have any produce other than bok choy. So, instead of stuffed vine leaves or onions or cabbage, I decided to make do with what was there.
I have never really cooked with bok choy other than to steam it and serve with an oyster sauce or soy sauce. I figured I would challenge myself and give this a try. Also, my six-year-old son, Jude, decided to become a pescatarian three months ago, and so I had to make it without meat, which acts as an essential binder to hold the hashwa, or stuffing, in place.
So, I decided to make the traditional Thursday night meal for Iraqi Jews, which is kichree, an Iraqi version of the Indian dish using basmati rice, red lentils, tomato paste, onions, garlic, cumin, and olive oil. I made the kichree stickier than normal, and then parboiled the bok choy for about 10 minutes to make it easier to roll.
I then took a fistful of the kichree, placed it on the leafy end of the bok choy and rolled it down to the stem. After doing this with all 10 stalks of the bok choy, I pan seared each dolma in a non-stick pan with olive oil and salt. I served it with a homemade garlic yogurt and a Syrian tomato salad with our last tomatoes that my friend Suhail taught me and my wife to make.
Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, Brooklyn
Husband-and-wife artist duo Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw are also former food truck owners and once competed on the Food Network’s competitive cooking show Chopped. Their food-related work includes a giant ice cream sundae sculpture with a real chocolate syrup fountain that was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, and a performance piece where they sat in a giant tub of milk and cereal at Miami Beach’s SATELLITE Art Show.
We are riding it out in our New York City apartment with a fridge full of seafood, a cabinet full of beans, and regular trips to the coffee shop while we still can. Prepping for the worst, but can’t leave this city! So far, pizza is still delivering, so totally OK.
We are finally revealing this recipe to the world, because you all deserve this treat. This could take you all day. It’s really worth it and really, you have the time, so go for it.
“Super Secret Seafood Gumbo”
1 pound gilf shrimp, shells on, head on (frozen if you must)
1 pound other seafood: crab, mussels, clams, oysters, etc.
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large onion
1 rib celery
2 tsp cayenne pepper (add slowly to attain preferred spice level)
5–6 cloves garlic
1½ cups okra (frozen fine, but fresh is best)
½ can whole tomatoes, hand crushed
3 bay leaves
12 oz andouille sausage (substitutions can be made, or sausage omitted and replaced with more seafood)
For the roux:
3 sticks butter
1 cup flour
Remove shells and head from shrimp. Throw the shells in a pot with one to two quarts of water. Boil for 30 minutes, then strain the liquid and reserve. You will use the shrimp stock later.
Melt butter in a large pot, a Dutch oven is great. This is where everything will eventually congregate. Then slowly whisk in the flour. Allow butter to cook with flour, stirring often until the butter begins to slightly brown. It will smell nutty. Do not burn the roux! It will be the color of peanut butter. Keep warm.
In a separate sauté pan (cast iron preferred) on high heat, add some butter or oil. Add chopped onion, pepper, and celery. Allow it to slightly brown, then sauté until tender and stir. Throw it in the pot with the butter roux. In the empty sauté pan, add andouille sausage and brown. Then add sausage to roux pot.
Turn the pot onto medium heat, slowly add about 1½ quarts of shrimp stock. You want to make sure you add the proper amount of stock so it is slightly thick, so eye it as you pour. Then add ½ can of hand crushed whole tomatoes (more if you like that acidity), bay leaves, salt and pepper, and cayenne to taste. Then on low heat, cook for an hour or so until everything (except seafood) really gets to know each other in that pot.
Take a pause and say an hour long prayer to the sea and to New Orleans for granting you this delicious meal. (Also say a prayer that all our jobs will soon return and people still buy art.)
Finally, throw in the seafood, cook until cooked through. At this point, we recommend you turn off the heat, let it sit for an hour. (Time to enjoy a delicious HURRICANE.) Then reheat when ready to eat. Serve with rice and that delicious Louisiana hot sauce.
PLAN B: ULTIMATE QUARANTINE EDITION
Replace all seafood with RATS! Catch a rat by baiting live trap with slice of pizza. Instead of putting rat in at the end of the gumbo, throw it in earlier with all other ingredients, and let it braise for HOURS—like hours and hours. Replace all fresh vegetables with whatever canned veggies you salvaged from your dead neighbor’s cupboard. Add lots and lots and LOTS of hot sauce, more tomatoes, more bay leaves, more peppers. Say a prayer that you will survive the apocalypse.
Take what ingredients you might have to the middle of the woods. Set up camp. You will likely die. GOOD LUCK.
Paola Pivi, Aosta, Italy
In addition to her fanciful feathered polar bears, Paola Pivi has also made many artworks of and with food, including an early work, Pizza (1998), in which she attempted to cook the largest pizza pie she could. (It measured 91 inches across.)
Stack five KitKat bars on top of each other in front of you.
Preferably enjoy also with exciting TV program.
Gina Beavers, Newark
Gina Beavers’s 3-D paintings, based on images she finds online, often depict food, from slabs of raw meat to colorful soft-serve ice cream.
I don’t cook, I really don’t. I do have a few tried-and-true recipes for potlucks but even those don’t require cooking!
Our go-to plan as this became real has been tons of snacks, like just grazing on dips and spreads all day and then a more real dinner, which usually is just warmed up pre-prepared stuff, usually from Trader Joes.
Speaking of, we have a car, so we were able to drive to the TJs in Millburn, New Jersey. Anyone in the city who has a car, highly recommend checking out your suburban Trader Joes that are fully stocked and only allowing like 20 people in at a time, it was the most relaxed, spacious TJs shopping experience ever!
So, my recipes! These are both no-bake and crowd pleasers, they should last a couple meals and all of the ingredients are available at conventional supermarkets, like a Key Food, C-Town, or Shop-Rite. One is my mom’s taco salad recipe (sweet and salty!), and the other is a classic Southern peanut butter pie from the time my parents spent living in South Carolina a decade ago.
“Mailyn’s Taco Salad”
head of iceberg lettuce
12 oz. pack of shredded cheese (cheddar/Jack or the Mexican pack made for tacos)
ground beef, turkey, or veggie substitute
1 pack of taco seasoning mix
I big bag of Doritos
bottle of Catalina dressing
Cook the ground meat or veggie meat with the taco seasoning according to the directions on the packet.
Dice the tomato, wash and tear the lettuce, and crush the Doritos into small pieces.
Let the meat (or substitute) cool somewhat.
Combine lettuce, tomato, Doritos, ground meat, and cheese.
Toss with dressing, I usually use a whole bottle.
Mix well and serve!
“Classic No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie”
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 oz cream cheese
8 oz frozen topping (cool whip in a tub)
1 store-bought graham cracker crust in pie tin
Cream ⅔ cup of peanut butter, all the cream cheese and ⅓ cup of powdered sugar.
Spread mixture evenly over crust.
Spoon frozen topping over the peanut butter layer
Mix ⅓ cup of peanut butter and ⅔ cup of powdered sugar to make crumbles.
Sprinkle crumbles evenly over frozen topping and the pie is ready to serve!
Janine Antoni, New York
Janine Antoni’s 1993 piece Lick and Lather saw the artist create 14 identical self portrait busts, half from chocolate and half from soap. She then softened the features of each figure by licking the chocolate and washing the soap.
I made the call on Monday to move my whole studio to my home, where my assistants would be able to walk and avoid the subway. Relocated, we sat in my garden, putting final touches on a sculpture. We stood in my kitchen, stewing chicken and slow-cooked pulled pork. For a witchy potion, I dropped some garlic cloves in my honey (to give my tea a boost).
Kader Attia, Berlin
Kader Attia often uses couscous, a grain common in North African diets, in his sculpture. The French-Algerian artist also opened La Colonie, an art space and restaurant, in Paris in 2016.
I decided to definitely stay home on Sunday, March 15. Since then, I have tried to get as many vegetables as possible, to stay healthy and help me and my family’s immune system. One of my favorite recipes, which my mother taught me, is something very simple and very healthy:
In a large salad bowl, mix together a lot of spinach leaves, rice, chicken, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, and turmeric.
(Turmeric and black pepper each have health benefits, due to the compounds curcumin and piperine. As piperine enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000 percent, combining the spices magnifies their effects. They may reduce inflammation and improve digestion, particularly in supplement form.)
Put the preparation in a steam cooker.
Wait until the rice is cooked (it has to remain a little bit firm).
Add olive oil when it’s cold.
Mary Kelly, Los Angeles
In her 1974 work Post-Partum Document: Documentation I Analysed Fecal Stains and Feeding Charts, Mary Kelly documented her infant son’s feeding schedule.
Soup, soup, and more soup. I find this to be the most comforting kind of food in any crisis. I make generic French vegetable soup often, just puréed mirepoix and good stock, or Italian spinach and Arborio rice with broth and sautéed onions.
Then there are special soups like Alice Water’s chicken noodle—a curative libation from the gods—or Thomas Keller’s lentil and sweet potato—difficult, but worth it. And there’s my personal favorite, celery root vichyssoise. This is how I make it. Live in the moment. Keep well.
“Celery Root Vichyssoise”
1 medium-sized celery root, peeled and chopped
1 small potato, chopped
1 leek, chopped
½ brown onion, chopped
1 glove garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
Approximately 4 cups chicken stock
Squeeze of lemon
Pinch of salt and a lot of black pepper
Sauté onions, leek, garlic and celery. Add celery root and potato, cover with stock and a squeeze of lemon. Simmer till soft and purée. Serve with swirl of cream and parsley garnish.
Gabriel Rico, Guadalajara
Gabriel Rico makes strange, surreal ceramics, sometimes featuring tubular sausages, raw steaks, and other foodstuffs.
Lentil soup is very easy to prepare and it is a food that I always ate at my parents’ house. Sometimes they added bacon or chorizo. Personally, I like to add banana and epazote, a native plant from Mexico. You can substitute basil and complete with baked bread.
I found this recipe on the internet which is very similar to the one we prepared at home.
Rirkrit Tiravanija, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Rirkrit Tiravanija often creates art installations that revolve around cooking and sharing meals, turning galleries into impromptu restaurants since the early 1990s. He opened a hybrid restaurant/gallery, Unclebrother, in Hancock, New York, with his dealer Gavin Brown in 2015.
I was introduced to this drink through Anette Aurell’s guru, Dr. Jubb, who at the time had a small health shop, Jubb’s Longevity, on East 12th Street [in New York].
Dr. Jubb is a breatharian, meaning he just survives on the breath, or as he says “going without.”
The lemonade is a drink one could have continuously as sustenance—but use a straw, as the citric acid does wear your enamel thin. I drink it as a part of my 14-day detox (and 14-day self-quarantine ), so a complete two-week diet just on lemonade and homemade vegetable juices. I like the minimalism of how one could sustain on very minimal cooking and production.
The vitamins from the lemon should fortify one for all the attacks from the virus. The turmeric is very medicinal could be good for inflammation, it’s also a good antioxidant and helps with depression, the brain, and many many qualities.
The cayenne can boost metabolism, reduce hunger, lower blood pressure, and aid digestive health.
The coconut oil can encourage the body to burn fat and provide energy for body and brain. It also has good HDL (cholesterol in the blood good for the heart), and may have antimicrobial effects which can kill harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
1 pear (preferably the Bartlett, or the Williams)
5 tbsp coconut oil (cold press and organic would be best)
4 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne chili
3 cups water (I use Fiji water)
Combine using a very powerful blender; I use a Vitamix blender.
PS: You can charge the water with electrolyte, hence the electrolyte in the recipe.
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