Mina Stone is perhaps best known for cooking in the art world. Her previous cookbook, Cooking for Artists, is a compilation of recipes she developed while working as a chef for various artists and studios around New York City. In 2019, she opened her first restaurant, Mina’s — which fittingly serves as the café in the contemporary art space MoMA PS1 in Queens.
While her first book was straightforward in its presentation of recipes, Lemon, Love, & Olive Oil is far more personal. In each section, Stone provides journal entries that weave together culinary influences from throughout her life, with memories of summers spent on the Greek islands of Paros and Aegina, as well as customs introduced by her Jewish father while growing up in Boston. Urs Fisher, an artist with whom she frequently collaborates, adds whimsical drawings.
The recipes in Lemon, Love & Olive Oil are simple, comforting, and, yes — artful. They each need only a handful of ingredients, and they rarely require any fancy tools or techniques. “My yiayia made the best food, every summer, out of a toaster oven,” she recalls. The ingredients are forgiving as well, able to be substituted or adjusted to taste. While most preparations skew Greek (like roasted and fried haloumi, crunchy salads with yogurt dressings, and olive oil poached fish), plenty reflect her Jewish side as well, including her latke recipe.
Her version of cooking is less about measuring and timing and more about tasting and feeling. “I think it is important to keep that ethos alive in the kitchen so one can start to feel more comfortable using a recipe as a guide rather than a rule book,” she writes. She has succeeded in doing so. One only needs to follow these recipes once in order to remake them with confidence, a credit to her instruction.
“The most important thing I’ve learned from the women in my family is to cook with love, abandon, and an absence of fear,” she says. Stone proves that even the simplest ingredients can transform into a memorable meal with generous amounts of lemon, olive oil, salt, and love.
Courtney Gooch is a designer and partner at Portrait, a graphic design studio that creates identities for people and places. She lives, cooks, and eats in Brooklyn.