How I Weekend with Rachel Simons

As the co-founder and owner of Seed + Mill, a New York City-based company that makes halva, spice mixes, and the best, most velvety tahini you’ll ever spoon over your lunch, Rachel Simons spends a lot of time thinking about food and flavor. Now, as the pandemic has forced her to slow down, she has been focusing more and more on what goes on in and around the kitchen she shares with her husband and two teenage children. 

We spoke to Rachel for our How I Weekend series, where we ask some of our favorite creative people how they spend their days off. Read on for her awe-inspiring dinner party tips, traveling pantry advice, and family game night strategy.

Where I Weekend

Right now, my family is renting a friend’s house out in Amagansett, so we have a lot more space than usual—I’m really grateful, during this very hard time, that we can be here together. I have so many colleagues in the food industry that are really struggling, and I’m really sad about that. But on a personal level, my kids are getting older and want to spend less and less time with us, so having them at home and cooking with them and playing a card game or watching family movies has actually been a really nice bonding experience.

I'm definitely not a planner—I either go to a farmers market if I have one nearby, or I'll go to wherever in the city. I always go to the store and look around and sort of feel what inspires me.

Where We Begin

Pre-COVID, on an average Friday night, we celebrate shabbat dinner. We’ll have 15 to 20 people every second or third Friday, and I always serve it buffet style on my kitchen island. My favorite thing to say at a dinner party is that if people don’t get up for seconds, they don't get a second invite!

Now that we’re up here, I go to the farmers market every weekend. This past weekend was the quintessential perfect weekend for me. I invited two friends to come spend the weekend who hadn't had a lot of interaction with people, and needed to get out of the city. On Saturday, we went to Amber Waves Farm, which is a CSA farmstand run by two women, that sells incredible beautiful produce. Then we went and had a swim.

Visits to farm stands, buying all kinds of seasonal produce, eggs, etc.

How I Plan a Meal

I'm definitely not a planner—I either go to a farmers market if I have one nearby, or I'll go to wherever in the city. I always go to the store and look around and sort of feel what inspires me. 

I am a big home cook, so I always have a really well stocked pantry. We’re only here for a few months, and my husband was so annoyed because I literally moved my entire Manhattan pantry to Amagansett. I was like, yes, I do need my mirin and my tahini and my date syrup and my togarashi! 

Because I keep a very well stocked pantry, when I find something at a farmers market I know that by the time I get home I'll have enough to combine it with something to make a dish or a meal. My cooking style is that sort of Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi style: I love a Mediterranean, vegetable-forward meal, and I’m a big salad girl. I’ll usually serve one protein, one carb-y dish, then at least three to four vegetable salads or roasted vegetables. And presentation is everything for me. Even if I'm making a salad, I want to chop my vegetables in a particular way so it looks beautiful as well as tastes beautiful. Quality of ingredients matters most, but people eat with their eyes.

For Sunday night meals, I make what I call a “rainbow plate.” I just chop up every kind of fresh vegetable I can, in every color I can find, so we have tons of fresh color and crunch.

My Perfect Summer Meal

There’s nothing better than picking up produce you know is just so fresh and seasonal. Last weekend’s dinner was one of those nights where almost everything gets grilled. We got peaches at Amber Waves, so I grilled those, and we drizzled a little bit of spicy honey over them, and served that with a big pile of fresh ricotta—really, really yummy. I put some eggplants on the grill and just left them there, which is one of my favorite ways to treat eggplant. I leave it for about an hour, until the skin is super charred, and then I make what I call “deconstructed baba ganoush”: you slice open the eggplant and drizzle on tahini, lemon, chickpeas, and salt and pepper. I also picked up some shishito peppers, and we pan-fried those and topped them with the Seed + Mill togarashi, which is this beautiful Japanese sesame spice blend, and some tahini sauce.

We served all of that with some grilled fish and octopus, plus a potato salad with lots of chives. And then I put the beautiful purple chive flowers on the table as decoration. 

Beach time with my husband (Chris), kids (Annika and Oliver), and dog (Buddy)

How We Sunday

I’m a really social person, and my husband is slightly less so—if we have more than one big food gathering on a weekend he gets a little bit antsy. So I very rarely entertain twice on a weekend.  And I like to slow down on a Sunday. 

This particular Sunday, we woke up and went to the beach—I feel so, so lucky that we are near the water. For Sunday night meals, since we usually indulge a lot on the Friday-Saturday part of the weekend, I make what I call a “rainbow plate.” I just chop up every kind of fresh vegetable I can, in every color I can find, so we have tons of fresh color and crunch. I like to keep it healthy and end the weekend on a lighter note.

As far as family downtime goes, we have been watching a bunch of movies with the kids, particularly around May when the George Floyd incident happened. We were back in New York for the month, and they were seeing the protests out on the streets. We spent a lot of time watching movies like Selma, Return of the Titans...we really tried to watch as many films accessible to an 11- or a 13-year-old to help them understand what was going on in the world as best they could. 

And we’ve also taught the kids how to play poker, so we’ve had some wild poker nights. I don't usually drink that much, but I’ve learned that when I’ve had a few drinks I play a much better poker game. The kids think it’s hilarious.

The (mini) reBoard

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To celebrate the launch of The (mini) reBoard, we’re partnering with Seed + Mill for The Tahini Set. Whether you're dining together al fresco or apart via snail mail, The Tahini Set is perfect as a summer pick-me-up for yourself, your quarantine pod, or as a gift to family and friends.

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