Antonia Lofaso spent much of her childhood in Long Island whipping up traditional meals with her grandmother, mom, and aunts. “Then I attended culinary school to hone my skills,” says the chef, who went on to work for gastronomic legends in Los Angeles while cultivating her own cooking style: cultural comfort cuisine prepared with top-quality ingredients — and her own modern twist.
What was your favorite meal as a child?
I had two: my mom’s tomato sauce with spaghetti, topped with a mountain of Locatelli cheese, and my grandmother’s incredible roast chicken with Yukon potatoes, white onion, and tons of olive oil, served with an iceberg salad.
How do you honor traditions while also being innovative?
Honoring tradition is held in the ingredients that evoke a memory. I find the balance between the memory and tradition of the dish, then innovate with more progressive ingredients and sometimes the way I plate it.
What inspires your culinary twists?
I always look at a dish and ask myself how I would make it into my own, whether it’s changing ingredients or the cooking style.
What’s your go-to recipe when you’re in a rush?
I do a ton of meal prep at home for the upcoming week — nothing I make is quick. My go-to dishes include chicken and beef stews, because they last in your refrigerator, and they’re delicious reheated because of the sauce.
What tools should every home chef keep in their kitchen?
A sharp knife, a microplane for grinding and grating, and a cast-iron skillet.
Who’s someone you’d love to cook for?
Joe Rogan. I love his comedy and dedication to martial arts, which is my second great love and passion.
friday, March 22
The James Beard
Benefiting Friends of the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Programs
and FIND Food Bank.
Located in Pacific Sales Kitchen & Home Main Tent.
The event is sold out.
11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
Antonia Lofaso prepares the second course;
includes book signing.
saturday, March 23
Located in Pacific Sales Kitchen
Home Demo Tent 1.
and book signing.
$135 Premier Pass and $100 General admission.
To order tickets, visit palmdesertfoodandwine.com.
Antonia’s Mussels Escabeche
Serves three to four
1 pound mussels
1 large shallot
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces cooking oil
2 cups mirepoix (brunoise-chopped onion, carrot, celery, and chayote)
1 cup reduced mussels juice
2 ounces sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon chopped scotch bonnet chili with seeds (or ¼ teaspoon chopped habanero chili, no seeds)
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pan over high heat, sauté the shallots with the cooking oil, bay leaves, and thyme for one to two minutes. Add the cleaned mussels in one layer, salt and stir them, then add white wine and cover with lid. Stir occasionally until all the mussels are open.
Turn off the heat and leave the mussels in the pot with the lid on for a few minutes to finish steaming. Strain mussels and reserve cooking liquids, then place the mussels on a baking sheet and cool for five minutes.
Strain the reserved juices through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure there is no grit; return to the stovetop and reduce until about 1 cup remains (this creates a nicely intensified flavor). Place the liquid in the refrigerator until cool.
Combine all ingredients for the escabeche with a whisk, drizzling the olive oil in last. Mix the escabeche sauce with the cleaned mussels, submerging the mussels in the liquid.
Sauté the mirepoix. Once cooked through and tender, add to the mussels and escabeche.
Serve in a shallow bowl and drizzle olive oil on top. Finish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a slice of grilled bread.