Watch this cookbook trailer for Simply Vibrant by Anya Kassoff with gorgeous photography by her daughter Masha!
Meet the mother + daughter team behind Simply Vibrant
January 19, 2018
Here's how Anya describes the book on her beautiful plant-based recipe and self care blog, Golubka's Kitchen: "There are 129 recipes in the book, all of which are vegetarian, and 124 of them are vegan. My goal was to create healthful, everyday recipes that require accessible, whole food ingredients—mainly vegetables, fruit, herbs, spices, grains, and legumes. The recipes are very much influenced by the seasons, too. Our hope is that you’ll be able to find whatever good-looking produce you picked up at your market or store in the index of the book, and get some ideas on preparing it."
We asked Anya and Masha a few questions about how they worked together to create this cookbook.
We think it’s so wonderful that you work together as a mother daughter team! How does your process work to create the book?
Anya: We knew right off the bat that we wanted this cookbook to have simpler recipes than our last one, and we conceptualized from there. We talked about what kind of dishes we're excited about at the moment, and bounced ideas off of each other. I determined the organization of the book pretty early on. I thought it would make so much sense to organize the book by types of dishes that are in most people's everyday lexicon: pasta, pizza, risotto, bowls, soups, etc. I then went on to develop the recipes on my own.
My process varies, but for the recipes in this book, I really focused on using accessible whole food ingredients and on keeping the preparation as simple as possible. I really tried to get rid of any unnecessary steps and to simplify the cooking techniques without compromising flavor.
If a recipe turned out well, I would usually take a photo and send it to Masha to see what she thinks.
Masha: I would receive those photos and get very hungry and jealous that I can't have any, since I live in NYC and mom lives in Florida!
Once the recipes are finalized, they need to be tested by someone other than the person who made them. I was able to test a lot of the recipes this time around, because they are so manageable and don't require any special skills. I gained a lot more confidence in the kitchen during that whole testing process. I'm now able to cook simple, wholesome meals without following recipes, and they come out tasting pretty good, too.
When it came to photographing the dishes, we had to get organized because the recipes in the book are very dependent on fresh, seasonal produce. So we photographed spring dishes in the spring, summer in the summer, and so on. I flew down to Florida to take some of the photos, and mom flew to New York to take other ones. We even took a bunch of them while on vacation in North Carolina. We are never not cooking when we're together!
What is your favorite thing about working with your mom / daughter?
Anya: My favorite thing is that I get to talk to my daughter every day. I think that's pretty much every parent's dream.
Masha: It really is a special bond, and it's very supportive. Typical professional relationships are usually not so generous with their level of support, but because we are family, we take it easy on each other. We know that we'll have each other's back even when one of us messes up.
What is the history of how your collaboration started?
Anya: I had my second daughter, Paloma, a bit later in life, and started having some major, thyroid-related health issues after giving birth to her. I got very interested in healing with diet, and that's when I discovered raw food. I ate almost exclusively raw for about a year, and it really helped me feel better. Since I've always loved cooking and being experimental with what I cook, I started doing the same with my raw food meals. I would dream up all these wild dishes, and then try to make them a reality just for fun, after work and on the weekends.
"My favorite thing is that I get to talk to my daughter every day. I think that's pretty much every parent's dream."
Masha: I was in college at the time, and was reading and cooking from a few food blogs. This was 2010, so you could count the amount of the existing food blogs on your fingers. I would come home on break and see mom cooking all these amazing things. I connected the dots pretty quickly, and made her a blog on Blogspot.
Anya: The recipes on the blog have evolved since then. We now focus on seasonal, plant-based cooking, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for raw food, since that's how we started.
How does the rest of your family get involved in your work?
Anya: The number one way everyone is involved is that they get to eat everything we cook and give honest feedback! Ernie, my husband, is very supportive, and helps with grocery shopping (which often involves something crazy like running out early in the morning for a turnip we forgot to buy for a recipe), doing the dishes, and much more. Kevin, Masha's fiancé, is a graphic designer and musician, so he helps us a lot with anything to do with design and writes music for our cooking videos. Paloma, my nine year old and Masha's sister, also loves being involved in the process. She'll help us with kid-friendly tasks like mixing up ingredients, and she's often the hand model in our photos.
Tell us about how previous generations influence you?
Anya: I dedicated Simply Vibrant to my mom, Elena, who is my biggest influence when it comes to cooking. When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, every woman around me cooked, because that's just how the society was set up. But my mom took her cooking to the next level, she was always experimenting and finding ways to make traditional Russian dishes more exciting. She was all of my friends' favorite cook, and was constantly feeding someone. She's still that way - very concerned about everyone around being well-fed. All her grandchildren are always too skinny in her eyes.
Masha: My mom is definitely my number one influence. I learned to cook by following her recipes, and I get very inspired when I spend time with her.
Do you have any advice for mothers and daughters who like to work together?
Anya: Just keep reminding yourself that it's a very special thing, and that you are spending time with someone you love, even when things aren't going well professionally or when other difficulties arise.
Masha: Be nice and try to have fun!
What is your favorite recipe in the book for each of you?
Anya: Polenta Crust Pizza with Romesco and Tomatoes
Masha: Bukhara Farro Pilaf