One recent sunny afternoon, Paulina Brand served a socially distanced lunch on the back deck of her home in suburban Marietta. Among the guests were a lively poodle named Louie, an inquisitive hen named Lacy, and a yelping Royal Palm turkey named Matilda.
The dishes were all from Brand’s new self-published cookbook, “The Bohemian Peach: Taste of Home” (Bohemian Peach, $49.95) — including a hearty cauliflower tomato soup passed down from her grandfather, a healthy arugula salad, and an Italian-inspired chicken dish.
There was a loaf of what Brand calls “Heavenly Bread,” too, notable because, like her cookbook, it was inspired by the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, I couldn’t find bread flour for months, so I started to experiment,” Brand said. “I took all-purpose flour and self-rising flour to make it, and every other day I would bake a loaf. It went from really bad to really tasty, with literally four ingredients.”
Brand is originally from the Czech Republic, but moved to the U.S. some 25 years ago, and has been in Atlanta for 16 years. Since then, she’s mainly worked as a makeup artist and hairstylist for photo shoots, commercials, and print magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Elle.
Not surprisingly, the lavish design and sensuous photos for “The Bohemian Peach” are quite impressive — especially given that the book is essentially a DIY project.
“Last year, during the pandemic, my friend, who is a photographer, approached me because he saw me bragging about my food on Instagram, and he knew I was a passionate cook,” Brand said. “He said, ‘Why don’t you style some food, and I’ll photograph it?’ I said, ‘I always wanted to be a food stylist, because I have such an obsession with food and photography.’
“So we did, and the pictures were absolutely stunning. That’s when it occurred to me that I wanted to do a cookbook. Why not? I had all these recipes that people had been asking for. It’s the pandemic. I’m sitting at home, doing nothing. Let’s be productive.”
Besides writing all the recipes, Brand ended up doing much of the photography herself — cooking, styling, then shooting in her backyard, often on the Tuscan table from Cortona that’s been her inspiration.
The book is arranged by seasons, and there are styling and decorating tips, stories about her family and growing up, and Brand’s everyday life as a single mother with two boys who can be picky eaters.
“I always make a joke and say, ‘Old Paulina had a farm,’” Brand said, laughing. “I have the chicken. I have Matilda. I have the dog. Crazy children. And then there are the crazy stories about that in my book that I wanted people to enjoy.”
Of course, the title is an homage to her Czech roots and her current residence in the Peach State. But the food she cooks is influenced by traveling in Europe and other parts of the world.
“I collected recipes that I would make over and over again, and that people really enjoy,” Brand said. “They’re mostly traditional recipes that have a little twist. They’re my own version. But I don’t like to experiment too much. I’m not a trained chef. Most of the recipes are easy, and something that people are familiar with. It’s not time to be fussy or fancy.”
These recipes from “The Bohemian Peach” cookbook by Paulina Brand include a hearty cauliflower tomato soup, a healthy arugula warm lentil salad, and an Italian-inspired chicken dish with Marsala wine.
Grandpa’s Cauliflower Tomato Soup
“I love this soup, and not only for sentimental reasons, but also because it is so very delicious,” Paulina Brand says in “The Bohemian Peach.” “My grandparents cooked with butter, real chicken broth and everything was made from scratch.”
Arugula with Warm Lentils and Pomegranate
In her newly published cookbook, “The Bohemian Peach,” Brand describes this salad as “delicious” and “perfect for winter healthy meals.”
Chicken Marsala with Gouda and Asparagus
“Everybody, including my picky eaters, loves this Italian classic with a twist,” Brand, the mother of two boys, says in “The Bohemian Peach.” “What’s not to love about this recipe? Melted cheese on top of chicken with mushrooms and asparagus, all in delicious Marsala wine. One of my favorites to make for any occasion. My only suggestion is to make more — because everyone always wants seconds.”
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