Mina Stone has received considerable attention for being a personal chef for a notably swellegant set and her eponymous restaurant at MoMA PS1. Two cookbooks later, though, Mina has now firmly established herself as a modern-day keeper of the flame for that sweet spot of Greek cooking that celebrates big flavors in simple recipes, which is the biggest compliment I can give a food writer. Greek or not.
Mina Stone: Cooking for Artists, included drawings by “members of the community of artists that delights in Stone’s cooking,” a line that may read as part of the smoke trail off a flare gun signal warning of a hipster love-fest. Those recipes were inspired by her five years working at Urs Fischer’s Brooklyn-based art studio and producing private gallery dinners in the New York art world since 2006. I’m never interested in the eating habits of rich people or the culinary pleasures afforded fancy art world dinners, just not my bag.
But, in both that work and her newest, Lemon, Love & Olive Oil, released this autumn, Mina transcends the cool and delivers seriously well-thought-out, delicious, and incredibly straightforward recipes with loads of flavor and depth.
Mina describes her style as “simple food with an attention to detail,” a style that is challenging to perfect for the home cook. Simplicity can be ferocious to reproduce as lousy access to quality products can break a recipe with only three ingredients. But Mina’s recipes are glorious, and I want to make everything — her commitment to chickpeas is a thing of such beauty.
Just one of many fantastic chickpea recipes, this is Revithia Sto Fourno (Oven Chickpeas).
Growing up, Mina was back and forth between Greece and the United States, and regular visits appear to have enchanted and shaped her indelibly. The recipes combine what she learned from her maternal Greek family, particularly she credits her yiayia, with the full-proof efforts that a working cook can add to a home recipe.
Mina’s father had left Cleveland Heights, Ohio’s Orthodox Jewish world, and moved to Greece, where he met her mother. And while there is only one overtly Jewish recipe in the book, latkes, so not exactly bursting with Jewish Greek flavor. It appears to be illegal now for just about everyone to not publicly provide their latke recipe, so fair enough. Although disappointing.
Greek Jewish recipes are extraordinary, but it doesn’t appear to be the world Mina had access to, although she said she “always felt an affinity toward the communal aspect of both Greek and Jewish culinary culture.” Adding, “when it came to food, I felt like there was just so much crossover.” Perhaps for her next cookbook, we’ll see some recipes from that other exotic paradise: Cleveland Heights.
Mina’s great-grandma, grandma and her mom in Piraeus, Greece. Courtesy of Mina’s Instagram account.
Stone, Mina. Lemon, Love & Olive Oil. New York, NY : HarperWave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2021.