Using the paintbrush and spatula, artist Lindsay Gardner turns her focus to women and food

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Lindsay Gardner’s new book, “Why We Cook,” celebrates 112 women in food. The artist and illustrator started exploring the overlaps between the impulses that drew her to both cooking and painting. As she examined the many roles women play and balance in the modern world, Gardner responded by working out a series of questions raised in her studio. Expanding the conversations from her friends to the broader food community, she illustrates the essays, recipes, and interviews collected over two years.

Ashley Rodriguez creates beautiful dishes from her forage finds in the James Beard Award-nominated series “Kitchen Unnecessary,” including this Morel Toast with Charred Ramp Aioli. Illustration by Lindsay Gardner, courtesy of Workman Publishing.

Morel Toast  with Charred Ramp Aioli
Serves 4

Morels, readily available in the spring, are heralded as one of the most delicious mushrooms. For me it’s not just because of their taste—woody, meaty, and almost truffle-like—but also because of how these fire or burn morels, as they are commonly called, grow every spring after forest fires raged through the woods the previous summer. It’s the perfect illustration of the earth caring for itself and for us.


  • 4 thick slices country bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch ramps or scallions
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Sea salt
  • 8 ounces morels, roughly chopped
  • Freshly chopped herbs, such as chives and/or parsley
  • Edible flowers (herb flowers, calendula, borage, marigold, lavender, nasturtium, dandelion, pansy)


-Once the morels have been acquired, it’s time to start the fire. (It seems fitting to prepare these morels over fire.) Drizzle the bread slices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Set a grill grate over hot coals, then grill the bread until the edges are charred and the exterior is crisp while the interior stays nice and soft. Set the bread aside.

-Set the ramps on the grill grate and cook until wilted and charred in parts, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and repeat. Set those aside to cool, then roughly chop and stir into the mayonnaise to make the ramp aioli. Add a hefty pinch of sea salt and set aside.

-Set a large cast-iron skillet directly on the hot coals and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the morels and a hefty pinch of sea salt, then sauté, stirring frequently, until the morels are deeply caramelized.

-Slather a good bit of the ramp aioli onto the crisp pieces of toast, then add the warm morels on top. Finish with a flurry of chopped herbs and edible flowers, then marvel at the bounty that is gifted to us from the earth. Enjoy immediately.

Lindsay Gardner celebrates 112 women through essays, interviews, recipes and her illustrations in “Why We Work.” Photo courtesy of Workman Publishing.



Evan Kleiman