Recipes for a Good Life

Pamela Salzman—mother of three, nutrition expert, and cooking instructor to Hollywood's elite—opens up her kitchen for a crash course on clean living

Pamela Salzman in her kitchen in Manhattan Beach, California. At right, her dining table, where cooking-class participants gather to enjoy the meal they helped make.
Pamela Salzman in her kitchen in Manhattan Beach, California. At right, her dining table, where cooking-class participants gather to enjoy the meal they helped make.

If anyone knows the secret to eating well year-round—not just in January—it’s Pamela Salzman. The health-food guru has quickly become the culinary savant to Los Angeles’s fashion-centric set, teaching private cooking lessons for the likes of Rashida Jones, Kristen Bell, Elizabeth Berkley, and Jenni Kayne, all while trying to get her Italian father to dig gluten-free pastas and kale salads (the latter was a winner).

Recipes for a Good Life

Salzman’s cooking groups, which started as get-togethers among friends, are now one of Tinseltown’s most exclusive word-of-mouth invites. Open classes take place in Salzman’s own Manhattan Beach kitchen, where a lithograph of LeRoy Neiman’s International Cuisine greets visitors and 1950s rosewood dining chairs provide ample seating. “Our original goal in designing this kitchen was to have a lot of natural light with sliding doors that open up both sides of the room,” Salzman says. “Any chance to merge the living spaces with the outdoors is key; we wanted the space to feel open and bright, with an organic vibe.”

It helps that everything in the room is meticulously organized. Salzman worked around the original layout, which her builder husband designed, to incorporate a 48-inch Thermador range with two ovens, Venatino marble-slab counters, and practical details including a chalkboard panel and a pad-and-pencil station. “The blackboard is our no-tech version of Instagram, our kitchen nerve center,” Salzman says. “It’s a great place for lists and reminders, inspirations, and messages to each other. I’m always experimenting in the kitchen with recipes, so if I don’t write down what I just did, I would completely forget. ”

Her pantry, meanwhile, would make Whole Foods proud. Shopping for a family of five as well as for all her cooking classes means having key ingredients on hand and planning out meals in advance. “The key to eating healthfully is avoiding convenience foods, so [it’s important to] have a pantry with all the basics,” Salzman says, listing staples such as quinoa, whole-wheat flour, and healthy oils. “Then I look at my schedule on Sunday night for the entire week. Is this day insane? Do I have to cook the night before or use the slow cooker [that day]? I never wake up in the morning not knowing what I’m making for dinner.”

A chalkboard panel serves as message central.
A chalkboard panel serves as message central.
Paper and pencils stand at the ready for recipe development.
Paper and pencils stand at the ready for recipe development.

So what could possibly be on this cook’s resolution list? “I always eat healthy, but this year I want to eat more sea vegetables, once or twice a week,” Salzman says. “They can be slimy, but they’re super-high in minerals, way more than land vegetables.” Nori, a seaweed snack, gets tossed in a salmon salad or wrapped around sushi rice; arame and hijiki add depth to Asian salads; wakame perks up miso soups and noodles.

Other resolutions? Commit to a regular meditation practice, try a digital detox, and entertain more. “I used to entertain all the time, but I wasn’t teaching cooking classes four days a week,” Salzman says. “I’m having people over this Sunday night for dinner. One of my girlfriends is bringing an hors d'oeuvre, another a salad, so that’s two fewer things I have to prep.” Her trick, she says, is finding easy, healthy dishes and planning ahead—wash grapes two days in advance, prep a crudité platter the day before. “I’m not going to be making fresh pasta—I’m not trying to impress anybody,” she says. “I’m just trying to make a tasty dinner and have time to play cards afterwards.”

Which is why everyone, even superwoman Salzman, is allowed to have cheat days. “There are some days where, you know what? I was tired, so I made quesadillas for dinner,” she says. “Yes, it’s important to make the best choices possible, but nobody has to do everything perfectly 100 percent of the time. It’s what you do most of the time that matters.”

Recipes for a Good Life

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

“I love making homemade soups regularly, and I always use homemade stock, which is far more nutritious and tasty than anything you buy at the supermarket. Italian Wedding soup is one my grandmother used to make, but I’ve lightened up her version with ground turkey instead of beef and cannellini beans in lieu of pasta.”

SERVES 8

 

FOR THE MEATBALLS

1 egg

¼ onion, finely grated

¼ cup dry whole-grain bread crumbs

½ cup fresh whole-grain bread crumbs (1 slice of bread, crusts removed)

⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino

1 pound ground dark-meat turkey

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

¾ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

FOR THE SOUP

2 tablespoons unrefined extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

10 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

1½ cups cooked cannellini beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed 

Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces baby spinach, stems trimmed, or 1 head escarole, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or pecorino, plus extra for garnish

To make the meatballs Stir the first five ingredients in a bowl to blend.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine well with your hands. Using a half-tablespoon measure or a mini ice-cream scoop, put the meat mixture into your hands and form about 24 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Set aside on a plate or baking sheet. The meatballs can be made up to one day ahead, then covered and refrigerated.

To make the soup Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, beans, and 2 teaspoons salt (more if your stock is unsalted). Bring to a boil and carefully add the meatballs (if using escarole, add this now). Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the meatballs are done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and grated cheese and cook until spinach is just wilted. Taste; adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese.        

Note: This soup is traditionally served with ditalini or pastina instead of cannellini beans. If you prefer to use one of these, add cooked pasta to the soup when you add the spinach. Other options: cooked Arborio rice or green peas.

Recipes for a Good Life

PIZZA MUFFINS

“I came up with these muffins as a way to get that great pizza flavor without all the white flour and heavy cheese. No one even knows these are made with whole-wheat flour. Plus, these travel better than leftover pizza for lunch.”

MAKES 12 MUFFINS

 

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or white whole-wheat flour)

1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder

½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda

1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

¾ cup buttermilk (or 6 tablespoons whole-milk or low-fat yogurt plus 6 tablespoons whole or low-fat milk)

1 cup marinara sauce (plus ¼ cup for topping)

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

½ cup shredded mozzarella

½ cup grated pecorino (plus extra for topping)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Whisk first five ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, buttermilk, marinara sauce, and maple syrup. Add cheeses; stir. Slowly stir in dry mixture until just combined.  Do not overbeat.

Using a large ice-cream scoop, fill the muffin tins. Top each with 1 teaspoon of sauce and sprinkle with pecorino. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan and then transfer to a wire rack.

Note: You can top each muffin like a pizza with your favorite toppings such as nitrate-free pepperoni, sautéed spinach, or chopped olives. Or you can stir these toppings into the batter before baking.

Recipes for a Good Life

MUST-HAVE INGREDIENTS

Pamela Salzman shares four key elements of her well-stocked pantry that make for flavorful, stress-free meal planning

 

  • 1. CAULIFLOWER

    “I’m using cauliflower in the craziest ways. I steam it, freeze it, and use it in smoothies. I’ve made pizza crusts out of it, pureed it like mashed potatoes, and riced it like tabouli.”

  • 2. COCONUT OIL

    “It’s a healthy fat, withstands higher temperatures, and has an amazing flavor. I use it for popcorn, pancakes, baking; I even rub it on my skin. This is what I would bring if I were stranded on an island.”

  • 3. SALT

    “I have about 10 different kinds of sea salt—never table salt. My go-to is a gray Celtic version, but I also love Maldon flakes on top of dishes.”

  • 4. TURMERIC

    “I’ve been obsessed with turmeric lattes — hot almond milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. And sometimes I use turmeric in place of saffron for a bright-yellow rice."

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