Niya Sisk is an editorial illustrator, designer, and author. She is happiest in the with either a wooden spoon or pencil in hand. Niya was raised in Northern California, where she built tree forts to host pretend dinner parties for the kids in the neighborhood. Luckily, she now has a real kitchen for real dinner parties. She recently created a gluten free cake cookbook, Cakes of Color—a purse size portable gallery of cake art with modern organic cake recipes. Cakes of Color: Gluten free recipes, illustrated and catalogued by color, was inspired by the Food and Wine section of The Art of Daily Cultivation. They Draw and Cook features her Green Tea Cake recipe in their wonderful world of food illustration.
Cakes of Color is a gorgeous cookbook, full of inspiration, joy, and, of course, color. Cakes of Color was approved to retail in 5 Whole Foods stores in the Bay Area in 2015. She’s currently illustrating a coloring book featuring food & wine and a portable gift book featuring her favorite recipes for clients and friends. Find more colorful inspiration at Niya’s Instagram.
Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I have a few of those.
Native American Crab & Corn Cakes with Abodo Sauce comes to mind immediately. I learned of this dish while in Sedona at the Enchantment Resort Mii Amo Cafe. The cookbook is simply exquisite. I brought it home with me, along with a beautiful wool cape. The cape has nothing to do with how good the food turned out. Well, who knows, maybe it did. Food and ritual are so closely tied. The Crab and Corn Cakes are very authentic and so delicious with the Abodo Sauce. I love to serve them with Champagne and arugula salad.
Another favorite is a simple comfort food recipe my mother taught me growing up – rosemary chicken. It’s such a flexible recipe. The staples are rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. But I will add ingredients like a bit lemon or olives and roast some red potatoes.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about Salmon. That’s nearly a staple in my home.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Carrots with parsley for my pet rabbit.
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Slow eating, passion for the art of conversation, and a love for red wine. Okay that was 3 characteristics. But they all go together in a person who loves life.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
That’s easy. Mobile phone at the table. Looking at a person while enjoying amazing food is such a luxury these days. I’m a redhead. A statistic when it comes to all that means. Fiery and quirky, often unpredictable. If a mobile phone is on the table, I simply can’t take responsibility for my actions after that. ; D
Your favorite cookbook author?
This is the hardest question yet. Alice Medrich is right up there. She has a gift for bringing history alive with her use of flours in baking. Baking is my main passion. I’ve learned so much from her. She’s such a master at gluten-free she’s removed the word from her taster’s vocabulary.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
My bright lime green spatula. I swear it’s my new power tool.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Salads, Cakes (desserts), Seafood.
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Jicama. But my rabbit is convincing me (with his abundant enthusiasm) that kale is best thing on earth.
Chef you most admire?
Maggie, the chef at Omnivores Cookbook, is amazing. She has recently captivated my imagination with how authentic, fresh and accessible her Chinese cooking recipes are. And her photographs are stunning. I’ve always been afraid of cooking Chinese but she makes it so captivating and easy. So delicious.
Food you like the most to eat?
Unfortunately, I’m crazy about CAKE. Luckily I also mountain bike and swim. ; D
Food you dislike the most?
No matter how amazing and awesomely cooked a beet is, I still can’t like it. People have tried. Oh, have they!
What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Paint on a large canvas to loud and gorgeous music. Or illustrate whatever book I have in process. Coloring books, art books, cookbooks have been the theme the past 4 years.
Who do you most admire in food?
Deborah Madison, Greens Cookbook San Francisco. I have admired her for 20 years. I’ve worked through most of the recipes in Greens Cookbook. I have to say, I think she is a genius. Her meals, like Eggplant Gratin with Saffron Custard, could save the planet. So good.
Where is your favorite place to eat?
France. So creative and delicious. So much history. I never worry, I’m always up for all food adventures in France. Especially Paris and a few tiny village towns in the South of France.
What is your favorite restaurant?
That changes every month. I’m always food adventuring wherever I am. Right now, it’s Mediterranean Exploration Company in Portland, Oregon. I was blissed out for days after just one meal there.
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
All my tattoos are on paper. I love to sketch, watercolor, monoprint the many colors and shapes of food. Food illustration is big passion.
Salmon and dinner party prep. Salmon recipe included. Illustrated for the Food & Wine section of The Art of Daily Cultivation by Niya C Sisk.
Recipe: Salmon with Lemon and Dill
Recipe adapted from Shauna Prince, Portland, Oregon
Ingredients – serves 8
Two whole fillets of salmon (skin on/or skin off, ideally wild, around 2 ½ pounds each fillet)
Four medium lemons – two sliced in rounds (with skin on), one juiced, one sliced in wedges for garnish
1½ oz butter
Half a medium white or brown onion, cut in thin slices or wedges
3 tablespoons of white wine (optional)
1½ teaspoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of fresh dill – chopped. Plus sprigs for garnish
Salt (approx. ¼ tsp Kosher salt)
Freshly ground pepper (approx. ¼ tsp)
1½ tablespoons of olive oil
Lightly sweat onion in butter until soft, but not browned. Add white wine, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Stir together and cool.
For each fillet, cut a piece of aluminum foil and a piece of parchment each slightly more than twice as long as your piece of fish. Be sure it’s large enough to fold over and seal your fish lengthwise. Lay the foil on the counter, then add the parchment paper on top of the foil. Place the fillet on top of the parchment – near one of the ends, skin side down. Repeat with the second fillet.
Brush the top and bottom of each fillet lightly to coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour half the butter/wine/mustard/lemon juice mixture evenly over each fillet. Lay round slices of lemon, and chopped dill on top of the fish. Close up the foil packets to seal.
Heat up barbecue to 350F or medium-high heat (or your oven to 350F). Place fish packets on grill. Cook until the fish flakes lightly (be careful not to overcook it). Timing will depend on how thick your fish is – likely 10+ minutes for 1½ inch thick.
Serve with additional lemon wedges and dill sprigs. You can also make an easy accompanying sauce with good mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of lemon juice and salt. Add chopped capers and dill to the sauce if you like.
* Leftover salmon makes amazing fish cakes. Flake the fish, add 1- 2 lightly beaten raw eggs, any herbs that you want (e.g. dill, tarragon, sorrel), and enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together (panko works well). Add additional salt/pepper to your taste. Form into balls, and cook in a lightly oiled or buttered frying pan until brown. Turn and brown on the other side, and serve with lemon aioli.
The End. Go Eat.