Eva Longoria: Desperate to Cook?

Published in Gourmet Live 04.06.11
Victoria Recaño invites you into the kitchen of the desperate Housewives star

Her Desperate Housewives character may be notorious for her exploits down the hall, but actress Eva Longoria knows the kitchen is the heart of the house. The Texas belle (Miss Corpus Christi 1998) grew up the youngest—and foodiest—of four sisters in a Mexican-American clan, and she learned the essentials from her Aunt Elsa, a catering pro who dispensed a cooking tip a day whether young Evita wanted it or not. In recent years, Longoria partnered with chef Todd English to open sultry Latin-style steak houses in Hollywood and Las Vegas (crossword clue: the restaurants’ name is the Spanish word for kiss), and this week the food-is-amor theme comes back home with the publication of Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends. Chatting with Gourmet Live, the first-time author dished about the beans she’ll never forget, conjured the dinner party of her dreams, and proved the talk in Eva’s kitchen gets no dirtier than beets and Besos.

Gourmet Live: Your brand-new cookbook just came out this week, in English and Spanish. What inspired you to write it and to select the recipes in it?

Eva Longoria: It was a lapse of craziness, because it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Actually, I have always wanted to get all of my recipes out of my head and onto paper. In my family, when somebody gets married, we do a wedding cookbook. Everybody in the family submits one recipe. We give the bride one book of all these recipes, and we do that every time somebody gets married. I love that tradition of keeping old recipes alive and passing on the legacy of cooking.

Gourmet Live: What’s your favorite recipe in the book?

Eva Longoria: There are a couple: One is my tortilla soup. That was not a family recipe—I found it in a magazine. I have evolved it over the last ten years into this fabulous recipe that I am really proud of. It’s at my restaurant, Beso. The other one is banana bread. I love my banana bread recipe—it is so good, and it reminds me of my childhood. When the bananas went bad, we would make banana bread. We literally would not eat the good bananas just to wait for the bananas to go bad to make the bread.

Gourmet Live: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

Eva Longoria: My favorite style to cook is Mexican, although the cookbook is pretty international. I love cooking enchiladas, chalupas, and guacamole and salsa. I love the rice…the beans. I love all of that.

Gourmet Live: How did you learn to cook?

Eva Longoria: Everybody in my family cooks, except my sisters—well, they cook a little. I come from a family of women, and so everybody cooks. It was expected of all of us. If you were hungry, you had to make yourself something. And my Aunt Elsa, to whom I dedicated the book, was a caterer. I learned most all of the professional things from her.

Gourmet Live: Today, between your TV and film commitments, your charitable work, spokesperson gigs, and restaurants in two cities, there must be times when a home-cooked meal is out of the question. Where’s your favorite place to dine?

Eva Longoria: Beso. It really is, because it is an extension of my home, and it feels like home to me. So I am there about three times a week.

Gourmet Live: And when you’re traveling? Can a star survive on room service?

Eva Longoria: The Four Seasons in New York is great, because Tao is right next door, and they will bring it up to your room.

Gourmet Live: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Eva Longoria: I was in Italy, in Tuscany. One time, it was pouring rain, so we had to run into this restaurant. It was a hole-in-the-wall—literally, this town had a population of 200 people, and there were six tables in the restaurant. I was a vegan at the time. I ordered the white beans, and it was the most hearty meal I have ever had. It was just a bowl of white beans, and I don’t know what they did to them. I don’t know how, but they were beans and amazing.

Gourmet Live: What are the eating habits of your character, Gaby, on Desperate Housewives? Do you have anything in common with her?

Eva Longoria: She cooks more now, but Gaby could really use my cookbook on the show. I am not a chef. I am a cook, so it is really easy for anybody to pick up my book and try some recipes in there. Because it is not at a culinary level that is beyond normal people’s reach, Gaby could definitely do it.

Gourmet Live: Tell me five to ten ingredients that are always in your fridge—and that maybe should be in Gaby’s.

Eva Longoria: I always have milk, eggs, and butter. I am not a big baker, but when I do [bake], I get really irritated if I don’t have what I need. But in my pantry, more importantly, I always have cans of tomato sauce. I always have panko, Japanese bread crumbs. And there are always boxes of chicken broth, vegetable broth, and beef broth.

Gourmet Live: What are five things you’ve added to your diet in the last five years?

Eva Longoria: A lot more salad. A lot more different types of lettuce—so now my choices have expanded from arugula to baby spinach to leafy greens to bitter greens to butter greens.

Gourmet Live: And five things you’ve banned from your diet in the last five years?

Eva Longoria: I am not as big a red meat eater. I don’t eat many carbs. I am pretty much on a vegetable and protein diet.

Subscribe to Gourmet