Cookbook Review: Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

I’m a huge fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s cookbooks. Her recipes are always delicious and easy, so I was excited when I heard that her new book, Isa Does It (out now), was all about simple weeknight suppers and desserts. I interviewed Isa and her talented team who photographed the book and learned how a cookbook comes together. If you ever wondered how a cookbook comes together, check out my timeline below. And definitely grab a copy of this book and make the Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake right now (trust me).

1. In December 2011, Moskowitz pitches her idea for an easy weeknight meals cookbook to editor Michael Sand at Little, Brown and Company. Says Moskowitz, “I wanted each recipe to be a little cooking lesson … whether it was an easy way to prep a carrot or a more efficient way to bake a cake.” The proposal is accepted and a deadline for the manuscript is set for October 2012.

2. Moskowitz sets off to create 150 recipes, and assembles an army of 20 recipe testers to start cooking. Recipe testers are asked, “Did you like it? Were the instructions clear? Would you make it on a weeknight?”

3. As she’s writing, Moskowitz and her editor go back and forth brainstorming photographers for the cookbook. She suggests Vanessa Rees, who photographs her food column in Bust magazine.

4. Over the course of eight months, Rees and Moskowitz work together photographing key recipes with food stylists Lauren LaPenna and Kate Lewis. Moskowitz’s longtime cookbook collaborator, Terry Hope Romero, assists with prepping dishes during the shoots. “[Terry and I] speak mostly in grunts at this point. I’m only half kidding,” says Moskowitz.

5. What exactly does a food stylist and photographer do? LaPenna says, “There is a certain art to making food look good in front of the camera. I help style Isa’s recipes so they look just as great as they taste.” Lewis shares, “Our team had a collaborative approach … At any given moment, one to three people could have been working on parts of a dish.” As far as the photography, Rees says, “My first priority is to bring great light into the shot. It’s also my responsibility to create a nice composition, color scheme, and general mood.”

6. Here are 5 little-known secrets you won’t see in the cookbook:

  • The entire cookbook was shot in Rees’ tiny New York City apartment.
  • Chinese takeout was ordered in most nights to feed the crew.
  • Rees’ orange cat, Marshall, was on hand for frequent snuggles.
  • Romero made veggie stir-fries from the day’s leftover groceries.
  • After Sunday shoots, the team would make coconut ice cream sundaes with Obsessive Confection Disorder chocolate fudge sauce and watch Girls.

7. With more than 150 recipes, it’s hard to choose one favorite, but the team shares their top five must-eats from Isa Does It.

  • Lewis: Puffy Pillow Pancakes
  • LaPenna: Pizza Bowl
  • Moskowitz: Quinoa Caesar Salad
  • Rees: Chicky Tuna Sandwich
  • Romero: Lemon Lemon Cookies and the Puffy Pillow Pancakes

8. In October 2012, Moskowitz turns in Isa Does It to her publishing team. “Her voice is great. Reading a recipe is a pleasure. You want to hang out with her,” Sand says.

9. What was the process for deciding on the book cover? Moskowitz jokes, “It was like, ‘Which photo of Isa has her eyes open and her mouth in a somewhat normal position? We’ll go with that!’”

10. After 12 months of back-and-forth editing and design decisions, Isa Does It is released on October 22. To promote the book, Moskowitz will head out on a book tour and top-secret cooking videos.

I'd love to know what you think! Tell me in the comments below.

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