The Grub Street Diet

Mad Hungry’s Lucinda Scala Quinn Eats Chocolate to Ease the Pain of Bad Pizza

Scala Quinn, on set, with some Sriracha and one of
Scala Quinn, on set, with some Sriracha and one of “Greg’s eggs.” Photo: Melissa Hom

“This isn’t ‘sexy’ in the sense that I’m at all the groovy restaurants,” jokes Lucinda Scala Quinn. But as the executive food editor of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the host of Hallmark Channel’s Mad Hungry (as well as being the author of the show’s namesake cookbook), she has plenty of opportunities to cook. Even when she’s off the clock, she rarely gets away from the kitchen — she has three sons and a husband to feed. “Many nights we’re finished shooting and then I go home and it’s like, ‘What’s for dinner? What are we doing?’” she says. “So I drop my bags and start cooking again … That’s what Mad Hungry was born out of. This family of five with all men, and living in the city, and keeping up with the appetites.” See how she does in this week’s New York Diet.

Friday, February 25
It’s the same routine every morning: dog walk, water, coffee. Sumatran beans from Fairway, ground and tamped down into an old-fashioned one-cup, stove-top mocha-espresso maker. And no less than handmade frothy milk: mug filled halfway with milk and nuked for 60 seconds. Froth it with a small whisk rolled between your palms.

It’s pathetic to admit this, but filming a television show in HD at my age after years of coffee and red wine drove me to an uncharacteristically high-maintenance routine. I got my teeth whitened and learned that I could consume nothing but white food for 24 hours after the interminable procedure, with a 3 p.m. finish time. So I had a plain bagel and cream cheese from Tal Bagel on Broadway.

Ordered in yellowtail sushi and chicken tonkatsu from a neighborhood spot, Momoya. And one Tito’s vodka on ice, sipped before and after the white food.

Saturday, February 26
The unthinkability of waking to no coffee loomed large. White bread, white chicken, whitefish, white ice cream, white wine — all fine. But no coffee?! Neophyte that I am, I should have planned the whitening to coincide with absolutely zero interruption in my morning coffee routine. I tried a white yogurt-banana-and-coconut-water smoothie to get through, and toughed it out until three. I was driving a pack of kids to soccer practice on Randall’s Island — a culinary wasteland, by the way — then made a beeline back to Manhattan for my first coffee. Where’s a Starbucks when you need one? Eventually I found some passable Joe, sated my itch, and felt happy once again. It just takes one.

Home with only one whole chicken and lots of mouths to feed, I hacked the whole thing up into sixteen pieces, scrounged from the fridge, and managed to make a big pot of chicken cacciatore. At this point, I was finally free to go to town — bring on the tomatoes and red wine, damn it! To spread the wealth, I piled the whole thing on top of tagliatelle noodles. The chicken and pasta, along with some sliced and oven-roasted cauliflower, just managed to feed the group. Washed everything down with a delicious Aglianico, through a straw. And my favorite, Chocolate Moderne caramel-filled squares, which no doubt made my teeth a shade darker, finished it all off.

Sunday, February 27
Dog walk, water, and coffee per usual. Was headed for a large frittata when I set out to make breakfast for the family. I had the potatoes, onions, and peppers sautéed in the skillet, only to find that the dozen eggs I saw the night before had been decimated. So, with five eggs left, I cracked and nestled them in little holes around the potato mixture, then topped each egg with a slice of Muenster cheese. Toasted bread pulled from the freezer and blackberry jam, and the whole brood was satisfied and happy, including moi.

Back out to Randall’s that afternoon. No time to cook, but was assured by my husband, whose word is usually strong as oak, that a new pizza place in the neighborhood was great. He described it as a cross between Motorino and old-school NYC slice-style pizza and wanted to order out for the Oscars. I agreed, reluctantly — ordering usually becomes prohibitive when there are four six-foot guys to feed, not to mention the not-so-dainty yours truly. It often costs too much and disappoints. Simply put: My husband is up shit creek, along with the pizza. It sucked! Visions of the old Vinnie’s of 73rd and Amsterdam — rest in peace — dancing through my head, I tucked back into the chocolate to lick my pizza wounds.

Monday, February 28
Another Mad Hungry TV shoot week, so the groundhoglike routine began once again. Super-early dog walk and water. Delicious coffee made by my son Calder and Monday-through-Thursday breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit. I usually reserve Friday mornings for something greasy, ditto Saturday and Sunday. Luckily, after several bowls of wallpaper paste, Calder has finally learned how to make a highly edible bowl of oatmeal. I like to think that, if nothing else, I’ve armed him with a tasty oatmeal recipe for life.

Then, let the games begin. Food-show-segment eating and tasting regimens are crazy. That day was: frozen figs, banana, shrimp, white beans and kale, trout almandine, baked oysters, lemon chicken, white lasagna, flat-roast chicken, coconut rice, and beet-and-watercress salad.

And an interlude of Cheetos and a Kit Kat from the craft-services table. Mind you, this is all between eleven and five, with dinner still on the agenda.

Dinner was Yakitori Totto for my friend Sarah’s birthday. Had shoju and fresh grapefruit juice, which was self-juiced at the table. And at least one bite of all of the following: shishito peppers stuffed with chicken, seaweed salad, pork-belly skewers, pork-neck skewers, chicken-oyster skewers, chicken-skin skewers, chicken-heart skewers, short-rib skewers, rice stick, rice-ball dumplings, gyoza dumplings, fried chicken wings, cold udon noodles over ice.

Home, and a little more of that ridiculous chocolate-salted toffee. It’s like seven bucks for a bar, but wow.

Tuesday, March 1
Another shoot day. Dog walk, water, coffee, and oatmeal. Then the craziness: baked beans, baby-back ribs, limeade, “uncorned” beef and cabbage, apple mash, Reuben sandwich.

And a snack interlude. Had a platter of sliced apples, Parmesan cheese, figs, raisins, and chocolate. And a green tea.

After that, I couldn’t eat another damn thing. Just a short, neat glass of Woodford Reserve bourbon once I got home. And lots of water — otherwise I’d be Puffy McPuffington in the morning.

Wednesday, March 2
Dog walk, water, coffee, oatmeal. And it was day three of all-day eating — I really do eat everything I cook on set. With gusto, and true love … And a great pair of Spanx! That day I had a Spanish tortilla wedge, pink-lady apple, oatmeal-berry smoothie, peanut-butter-and-jelly pancakes, corn-beef hash, romaine-and-citrus salad, grilled zucchini, osso buco, risotto, and risotto cakes.

The interlude was Greg’s Eggs. Greg’s one of our food stylists on the show. It was two hard-boiled eggs in a half-torn carton, salt and pepper sitting in the two empty dimples.

Dinner with Martha Stewart and colleagues at Kevin Sharkey’s house with some advertising clients meant a full-on delicious dinner cooked by chef Pierre Schaedelin. Blanquette de veau — veal twice in one day, rice, a beautiful plate of asparagus, beets, carrots, and cucumbers. And sipped a glass of white Burgundy — perfect with the meal. Lemon-curd tartlets for dessert, and I was a happy lady. The smile spread across my face revealed two rows of not-so-pearly whites.

Mad Hungry’s Lucinda Scala Quinn Eats Chocolate to Ease the Pain of