They laugh, they cry, they stir-fry. Actress Debi Mazar, known for her tough-talking roles in Good Fellas and Entourage, shares the spotlight with her laid-back Italian-born chef husband, Gabriele Corcos, in the Cooking Channel’s top Wednesday slot, Extra Virgin.
Each week the cooking couple and their two young children take you along on their culinary adventures through Italy and New York. A favorite family foodie hotspot? Their own “tiny garden” or Brooklyn backyard, where the children pick summer tomatoes right off the vine. Mazar and Corcos shared their passion for healthy eating—and some of their favorite home recipes—with us.
How long did you live in Los Angeles before coming home to New York?
Debi Mazar: I was born and raised in Queens and moved into Manhattan as a young adult. Then I ended up acting and ran off to California. I met and married my husband in Italy, and after a decade in our little Hollywood love nest, we both agreed, ‘Let’s go back to Tuscany.’ Next thing you know, our cooking show is a hit, they’re asking for more seasons… and they want it to be in the States.
We loved California but here in Brooklyn I’m really home. I’m close to the park. I walk my kids to school. Plus, the food trucks and the farmers’ markets and all the street festivals—oh, we love it here.
Like the tofu recipes you feature on your show, the quest for organic, natural eating seems to stem from Debi. Correct?
Gabriele Corcos: Yes. I appreciate the challenge of knowing the healthier way to cook something basic from my background like a good pasta that’s light on cream. I cook real Italian home cooking, with my grandmother’s mix of Tuscan and Florentine recipes.Butter, oil, you know all that stuff. She is more into the tofu and all the salad, baking with low-fat ingredients. I am Italian. I am a carnivore! Debi shows me how to substitute the tofu for cream in a sauce or potatoes in a soup to make it even more delicious and healthy. We learn like this from each other.
DM: My kids were eating tofu as a protein alternative since they were babies. Swap out cream or eggs in a frittata or a fluffy dessert and they don’t know what they’re missing. Children should grow up picking, growing and enjoying more fruits and whole foods, too.
In our house, we cook and use only non-GMO tofu and soybeans. We generally only buy organic produce, try to cook really healthy and eat at home with friends a lot. Be kinder to the earth, grow a garden and leave behind a smaller imprint.
Tofu Caprese with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil-Infused Olive Oil
1 package (14 oz) House Foods Tofu Medium (non-GMO verified), sliced into 8 even slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
Fresh basil leaves
Basil-infused olive oil, recipe follows
Press and pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add garlic cloves and when they are just beginning to lightly brown around the edges, add the tofu and cook until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.
Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Layer the tomatoes and tofu on a platter with freshly torn basil and drizzle with basil oil (recipe below).
Basil-Infused Olive Oil
2 bunches fresh basil leaves, stems removed
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Add the basil to boiling water for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove to a bowl of ice water to stop it from further cooking. Dry and add to a blender. Add the olive oil, and blend until smooth. Strain oil through cheesecloth into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice right before serving. Makes about one cup.