Ron & Leetal Arazi, Chefs and Founders of NY SHUK

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Ron & Leetal Arazi, Chefs and Founders of NY SHUK
Ron and Leetal's food is damn delicious. The flavors—complex but immediately accessible—illicit head-nodding approval and leave you wondering what it is you're eating. Is this Middle Eastern food? The answer is yes, but what you're tasting is NY SHUK's exploration of it, drawing upon their Moroccan-Lebanese-Sephardic traditions and coming up with a version all their own. What we found after visiting their home was something greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, they create carefully crafted handmade kitchen essentials for their NY SHUK PANTRY line, not to mention some INSANELY beautiful and delicious hand-made couscous, but the intangible elements that bind this husband-and-wife team, steeped in their strong cultural identity, are what make them truly unique. No task is too menial, too laborious, or too much in Ron and Leetal’s kitchen. They’ll gladly and generously give their all in creating a beautiful meal, table and product.  Their heart and soul is what you're tasting, and we're thankful they're right here in New York to educate and delight us all. 

Read more about this special duo, their favorite ethnic eats in New York and find out how you can get your hands on NY SHUK pantry items… 

**AMAZING GIVEAWAY ALERT! (Hint: A home-cooked dinner for two!) Scroll to the bottom for info.**

Please tell us a little bit about yourselves, especially your backgrounds growing up and eating in Israel.  
Ron: I was born into a family where food was a viable part of its life. My mom cooked every day and every family gathering with my grandma, aunts and all the kids, always involved food. When you come to visit any one of them, even today, the first thing they would ask is: "What would you like to eat?” I think that gives the perfect explanation of how food is the core of that culture.

When I left home at the age of 23 (yes, 23 - in Israel you can stick around as long as you like ☺) I had to start cooking for myself and it was then that I understood that I liked it and want to try and give it a shot in a professional way. I took the normal route of cooking school, working at a hotel, then restaurants and a bread bakery; when Leetal and I moved to New York, I understood that the food I grew up with is the one that really matters. 

This food is so rich, full of culture and emotion, and so underrepresented in New York. When we both understood that if we didn't take a stand and keep our family traditions and cultural heritage it would probably disappear in a few years, we knew that this is our destination and we chose to bring it to other people's lives through our condiments and share the knowledge we love so much. 

Tell us about NY SHUK, how the idea and product line came about. 
Leetal: Two and half years ago we decided to pack our bags and head for a fresh new start in NYC. In NYC we came to realize that the definition of Jewish food is very different from what we grew up with and decided to put an emphasis on Jewish Sephardic food and preserving its culinary heritage.

The bigger part of our mission is our product line: NY SHUK PANTRY. Our goal is to give home cooks who love Middle Eastern/North African flavors the right tools to create those flavors at home with the utmost ease.

What is your favorite cookbook?
Leetal: My grandmother’s cookbook. Always brings me back to the food I love the most. 

Favorite food memory from your youth? 
Ron: During the holiday of Sukkot, my grandfather would be in charge of pita making. He would make it on a small electric grill on the front porch while my grandmother would make a fava bean soup with a dollop of harissa (minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon is added to the harissa). We would mop up the soup with that fresh pita while eating outside in the sukka. 

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What inspires your cooking and recipe development?
Leetal: The best inspiration comes from the people we meet. Some inspire us to create the food we love, some inspire us to create the food they love. 

What are some favorite dishes you two like to eat and make for yourselves?
Leetal: We like to play around with the food we make for ourselves. No dish is ever the same. We enjoy buying ingredients we are not familiar with and explore new flavors and textures.

What are some of your favorite restaurants?
Leetal: Our current favorite spots we enjoy going to are: Phayul for spicy beef tongue, Gulluoglu for su burek filled with feta cheese and parsley and the hazelnut and cream baklava, the Picante sandwich at Despaña, chicken kebabs and samsa at Café Kashkar, cauliflower pizza at Sullivan Street Bakery, anything at Breads Bakery, cod fish with fish roe dumplings at Dumpling Galaxy, khachpori at Brick Oven Bread, mille-feuille at Cannelle Patisserie, hot tarte tatin with crème fraîche at Laduree, chicken mole at El Atoradero

What are the pros and cons to building a business and working with your life mate? 
Leetal:
Pro: spending 24/7 of our time together
Con: spending 24/7 of our time together

Your couscous is like none other we've seen before. What are your thoughts on couscous available here and what tips would you have for home cooks who want to amp up their grocery store couscous? 
Ron: Fresh couscous and dry, boxed couscous are two very different products. Unfortunately, no tips will help elevate boxed couscous to that of freshly steamed hand-rolled couscous. But an important tip when you are taking the time to make fresh couscous will be to make enough so you can freeze it. It keeps really well in the freezer and will last you awhile. 

Left: Pantry essentials; Right: Squid ink hand-rolled couscous, made on that spot! 

Left: Pantry essentials; Right: Squid ink hand-rolled couscous, made on that spot! 

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?
Ron: The most important kitchen utensil we will ever own is our own pair of hands; it’s the only "kitchen tool" that can really transfer intention and emotion into a dish. 

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?
Leetal: tanzeya, l'ekama, harissa, Argan oil, turmeric-garlic concoction we make, dried sage. 

Favorite thing about your kitchen?
Ron: The light. 

Whose pantry would you like to raid?
Leetal: I am a sucker for a good pantry and that’s part of the reason our product line is called NY SHUK PANTRY. We are on a mission to introduce our pantry to others who are interested in bringing Middle Eastern and North African flavors to their own home. Long story short: I would love to have the time to raid our own pantry, we have so many interesting ingredients that we have yet to mess around with.

Play out your ideal dinner party for us: the mood, decor, music, guests and obviously, food!
Ron: Our friends, family and a big steaming pot of couscous.

Do you have a secret or unexpected ingredient you love to use?
Ron: Yes… tanzeya, l'ekama and harissa. It might sounds like a broken record, but our pantry staples are our little secret. They find their way into 90% of the food we cook; it just gives everything that extra oomph of flavor.
 
Any guilty pleasures?
Leetal: Crappy coffee I bring from Israel and carry with me wherever I go. 

Which chefs and food producers do you admire?
Ron: We admire home cooks. Each and every person out there who takes the time to cook food that tastes like home (no matter where in the world "home" is).

*   *   *
Rice, Herbs and Harissa-Stuffed Onions

Recipe courtesy NY SHUK. Photos depict a doubled recipe. 

Ingredients:
3 onions (you will use these to wrap the filling)

Filling:
2 additional onions, diced
1 cup uncooked rice, washed well
2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
¼ cup mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons harissa
¾ cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Oil

Broth: 
2 cups water
2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon l’ekama
½ teaspoon salt

Prepare the onions:
Peel the onion skins and make a slit that just goes halfway into the onions, not all the way through. 

Boil water and salt in a pot, add the onions and cook until the onion is tender. Another trick to soften the onions is to wrap them in cling film (as seen above) and microwave them for approximately 3 to 5 minutes until they are soft. Let cool. Peel the layers and lay them on a paper towel one next to the other. 

Make the filling: 
Sauté the diced onions until soft, add herbs and rice. Mix the harissa with the water and salt, add to the pan and mix well. Once the rice has absorbed all the water, remove the pan from the heat. The rice should not be cooked all the way. 

Depending on the size of each layer of the onion, place approximately 1 teaspoon of the filling in each layer of the onion. Roll and tuck the onion with the filling. Lightly oil the bottom of a shallow pan and tightly arrange the stuffed onions, seam side down.

Make the broth: 
Mix the water, harissa and l’ekama together and taste for salt. Pour into the pan holding the onions and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 45 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Transfer the onions to a heatproof dish, and bake at 400 degree Fahrenheit in the oven until the onions are nice and golden, approximately 45 minutes.

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Ron and Leetal are offering up a most generous giveaway: a homemade dinner for two in their home! This won't be just any meal. The feast pictured in the photos above is not unlike what they are used to having for themselves. A meal with Ron and Leetal is truly a feast for the senses. 

For your chance to win, please follow both @nyshuk and @pantryconf on Instagram and show us your favorite spice and/or how you use it. Tag us in your photo(s) and don't forget to include the hashtag: #dinnerwithnyshuk. Ron and Leetal will choose their favorite. Deadline is Monday, Nov. 23. Good luck!

*Fine print: Dinner for two must be redeemed in January 2016. Two dates will be offered. Contest open to all residents who can make it to Brooklyn for a wonderful dinner!

Rebekah Peppler, Food Stylist, Writer, Recipe Developer

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Rebekah Peppler, Food Stylist, Writer, Recipe Developer
Oh, Rebekah! This is the type of person you can while away an entire afternoon with. A midwestern gal with Wisco roots (and proud of it!), she’s happiest talking about summer sausage and singing the virtues of the oft-misrepresented 7-layer salad (have you heard of either?). Rebekah’s down-to-earth demeanor belies her fancy classically-trained pastry chef background and Type A-when-it-comes-to-work personality, but it’s this ability to maintain balance so effortlessly while giving everything a just-so finishing touch that makes her the popular food stylist she is. She works hard, parties harder, and makes everything look like a breeze in the process—that’s when you know you’re dealing with a pro. 

Read on to learn what surprising ingredient Rebekah tries to incorporate into much of her baking and get your hands on a KILLER Negroni rhubarb float recipe—AND! A chance to win her Short Stack Editions: Honey cookbook!

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Hi Rebekah! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do as a food stylist. Can you share with us the road you took to get to where you are today?
I studied journalism and art history in college back in Wisconsin then moved to New York City to study pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute. I always knew I wanted to combine my love of words, food and beauty in one place. Food styling and writing are two incredible channels to do so. 

I’ve found that the job of a food stylist is very often glorified into this epic dream gig. Don’t get me wrong, it totally is. But it’s not just hanging out on set with tweezers and spray bottles making food look gorgeous. The thing most people don’t know about food styling is the vast disparity between time in the kitchen and time on set. I spend 90 percent of my time sourcing, shopping, schlepping, prepping and cooking the food and about 10 percent playing with the food on camera. All that "preliminary" work leads to the perfect final shot, not just the fun Dexter tools. 

How did your Honey Short Stack book come about?
I've known and worked with the team behind Short Stacks for years now and consider them both friends and colleagues, a combination that always make for crazy fun collaborations. I remember when the idea behind the publication was just a twinkle in the publisher Nick's eye and I told him once he made it happen, I was in. Once Short Stacks came to fruition, he called me up, asked which ingredient I wanted and it snowballed from there. I’m lucky I claimed honey, it’s such an incredible ingredient to play with.

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Please walk us through a “typical” project. How exactly do you develop a recipe? Many people don’t know what goes into creating one, especially all the unseen labor that goes into simply procuring and preparing the ingredients.
Since I’m not sure a “typical” shoot exists, I’ll walk you through a stand-alone recipe. When I’m developing recipes they’re normally for either a magazine, online publication or a cookbook. First, a client reaches out with an idea of what they need, say 10 easy fall recipes for a food magazine. We work out the contract (rate, deadline, etc.), then I come back to them with one to two sentences on each recipe detailing the range of ingredients, what method I’m planning on using and anything else that might interest them. They come back to me and say, your ideas are perfect, go develop! I write up full drafts for each recipe (littered with “TK"s to fill when I’m in the kitchen), run to the store(s), shop all the ingredients and hop in the kitchen. Depending on the recipe, I'll test it two to four times to get it just right, sometimes more if it's finicky. Then I'm on my computer filling in the TK’s and adding any changes I made along the way. I also make sure each recipe is written in the style of the publication (everybody has their own quirks). I send the finished recipes out with my invoice and log all the details into my personal accounting sheet for the year (freelance is all about organization--I don't know what I'd do without Excel and Moleskin notebooks). If all goes well, I’ll eventually see the recipes in print, send a copy to my mom and et voilà! A recipe. 

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How would you describe your cooking style + food aesthetic? Where do you draw inspiration from? 
While I'm all for sampling the newest thing to enter the food world, when I'm in my home kitchen it's all about the classics with a twist. I grew up in the Midwest (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) and in a kitchen brimming with hearty, locally-sourced ingredients. To me, cooking at home isn't so much about technical skill or crazy ingredients but rather--as hokey as it sounds--the heart you put into it. My heart happens to have a particular fondness for dairy.

What do you like to make for yourself after a full day of cooking for others?
Does a glass of wine count? Honestly, after a completely packed day surrounded by food on set I can usually be found on the couch with a wine glass in one hand and a hunk of cheese in the other. Bonus points for also taking the time to pull out crackers and olives but don't count on it. 

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What do you love most about your kitchen? 
My kitchen is petite but has epic (compared to what I've had in the past) counter space. I put two stools on the opposite edge of the middle island and have spent many afternoons force feeding friends/getting them tipsy while I test recipes on the other side. It also boasts a (modest 20-inch) gas stove (especially dreamy as I suffered through electric in many of my past apartments) and (a first in my seven years in NYC) a dishwasher. 

Also, since the apartment is south-facing, it's flooded with light all day long which makes for particularly lovely prep and writing days (and even more delightful fire escape cocktail hours). Plus, the dainty size of the space has really allowed my Type A tendencies to blossom, forcing me to be extra creative with storage: I have one drawer and four narrow cabinets all day to work with and I can say with a happy heart that the only thing that is relegated to the (apartment's only) closet is the ice cream maker. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.

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Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?
Honestly, for such a tiny space (my apartment has a single closet), I have a completely stocked kitchen. I’m still holding out for a Vitamix but otherwise I can’t fit another thing in. If I need something for a shoot it’s NY Cake and Bake in the city, A Cook’s Companion on Atlantic in Brooklyn or I’ll hop on Amazon Prime

More often, I’m shopping for ingredients and there's plenty of places I love: Kalustyan’s, Sahadi’s and Dual Specialty Store for spices and dry goods. I’m constantly at Whole Foods, Fairway and Union Market. Plus there’s a deli down the street from me that has the craziest stuff; I’m always in there. 

Favorite utensils to use at home?
A fish spatula and a Microplane. They're in constant rotation.
 
Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?
I have an over-stocked pantry due to all the recipe testing I do, but personal essentials include whole coffee beans, honey, good crackers and always, always gummy candies.

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Do you have a secret ingredient you love to use?
It’s not a really secret or a surprise if you’ve ever worked with me but I absolutely love malted milk powder. The, I’d-bring-it-to-the-desert-island-with-me, kind of love. You give me free reign and 9 times out of 10 I’ll put either that or poppy seeds into a recipe. I also end up putting a ton of booze in recipes. My bar, conveniently located next to both my kitchen and my bed (a perk of living in a teeny apartment!), is nicely stocked and never fails to provide inspiration. Sometimes I’ll just buy an interesting spirit not so much for the cocktails I can make with it but what I imagine I’ll dream up in the kitchen with it. 

I’ve also recently started playing with powdered milk. Like the kind you get in the bag for a ridiculously cheap price. I’m trying to figure out how to make a cookie I used to eat as a kid and I’m convinced the secret lies in that bag of Carnation instant. 

Guilty pleasure ingredient or dish?
Seven layer salad. If you're not from Wisconsin you may not know what this is but, basically, fill a casserole dish with (in this order) a layer of lettuce, chopped bell peppers, red onion, celery, mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon and you have the dish I eat as soon as I land on home soil. I just got back from a trip home and, no joke, I ate it once a day… mostly for breakfast. So far, no one I've met in NYC (or anywhere outside my home town) gets the allure but I'm working diligently on changing that. 

CHEEZ DRAWER.

CHEEZ DRAWER.

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Who are the chefs and food producers you admire?
There are so many people in food to admire right now and I’m so darn fortunate to work with a lot of them. I’ll keep it short and personal: Melissa Clark is a dream to work with and her recipes are always spot on. I was cooking her recipes way before we met and find myself even more enamored with them—and her—the longer we work together. Same goes for my assistants, Jade Zimmerman and Adelaide Mueller. Those woman can cook and they make me look better than I could ever make myself. Lauren Deen for taking a chance on me so many, many years ago and pretty much throwing me into the start of my food styling career. And, oh, my grandma for pretty much everything. She still grows and picks her own raspberries and knows how to make a pie with them that will make you weep.

Favorite cookbooks, blogs and sites?
Anything by Dorie Greenspan. I spent most of college baking from her books and she never steered me wrong. Same goes for Julia (Child). 

Whose pantry would you like to raid?
Does everyone read that as panty raid at first? For the pantry, I’d raid my mom’s. She has the most meticulously organized and perfectly stocked pantry. It’s insane and I’m never happier than when I’m cooking in her kitchen. I’d also raid Bon Appetit's, because their test kitchen manager Brad keeps that place stocked to a T.

As for a panty raid, she’s going kill me for saying this but I’d totally raid my close girlfriend Erin Hartigan’s… she knows why. (Sorry, E.)

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*   *   *
Negroni-Rhubarb Floats

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Courtesy Rebekah Peppler

Makes about 2 cups 
1 pound rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces 
½ pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ounces Campari
3 ounces gin
2 ounces vermouth 
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 orange peel ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream
Champagne or sparkling wine

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, Campari, gin, vermouth, vanilla bean and seeds, orange peel and salt. Toss to combine and dissolve the sugar. Spread on a baking sheet in an even layer and roast until the rhubarb and strawberries are soft and jammy, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To serve, scoop vanilla ice cream into chilled coupe glasses. Top with a generous spoonful of the roasted rhubarb mixture and a hefty splash of champagne. Serve immediately.

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Thank you for opening your home to us! Stay updated with Rebekah and her delectable creations on social media: 
Rebekah Peppler |  Instagram 
 

For your chance to win a copy of Rebekah's Short Stack book, Honey, please leave a comment below. You have until Friday, August 14, 11:59pm/EST, to enter. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck! 

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original unless otherwise indicated. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you. 

Johanna Kindvall, Illustrator

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Johanna Kindvall, Illustrator
Johanna’s feature is a long time coming in so many ways. We first came to know this lovely Swede through her illustrated cooking blog, kokblog. There wasn’t anything like her blog that we were aware of and her whimsical, yet both minimal and instructional, drawings pulled us right in. We couldn’t wait to feature her kitchen after her lengthy house renovation, and boy, does she have a kitchen to show! The clean lines and functional sensibility that are so emblematic of Johanna’s art are on fully display in her Brooklyn home. She is a quiet force to be reckoned with and we can’t wait to introduce her to you - appropriately over fika, a proper Swedish coffee break, replete with warm cardamom buns and strong coffee. 

Read on to find out how Johanna saves an overly salted soup - plus, a chance to win her latest book, Fika - The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break

Hej Johanna! Please tell us a little bit about your illustrator background. 
I have been drawing since childhood. My mother (a tailor) and father (an artist) always provided us kids with endless of drawing materials. Even when I have been doing other things for a living, I never really stopped drawing.

I had a few shows in the early 90s, mostly painting and sculptures. But later on I got more into design and architecture, which led me back to school. In 2003, I finished my Master of Fine Art and Design at HDK, Gothenburg University. It was really during this time I developed the drawing style I have today. In my last year in school, I met my husband, Marek, and almost immediately after I moved to NYC to work on my final master project (the Promenade, which was a redesign proposal of the High Line in 2003). I paid my tutor in whiskey and Sunday dinners. I have always been baking and cooking, but it was at this time I started to really pay attention to my cooking.

In 2005, I started kokblog as a way to collect my recipes. But mostly it was a way to show my work as an illustrator. Today I work almost exclusively with illustrations. My latest architectural project was the redesign of our place in Brooklyn, which I did with my husband. My work also includes pattern design for fabrics and wallpapers, etc.

How did Fika the book come about?
I met Anna Brones, my collaborator on the book, on Twitter. I think I was responding to an article she had written about her experience of cooking Swedish food in the US (she is American/Swedish). We instantly connected and did a bunch of collaborations together, where she was writing and I was drawing. It was mostly articles about Swedish cooking and baking.

One day Anna came up with this great idea to write a book about the Swedish coffee break, fika. Soon after she invited me onto the project. About a year later, Ten Speed Press contacted us and soon after we had a book contract. Despite living several miles away from each other, often on two separate continents, we managed during the year to develop more than 60 recipes together. With the help of constant documentations with notes, photos and drawings on our deeply concealed fika blog, regular emails and weekly Skype calls, we made it all into a book with almost 50 recipes (which are all tested several times). Anna is freelance food writer, lover of coffee, travel and bikes, now living her life in Paris. The recipes in the book are developed and created by both of us. Anna wrote the content and I worked on the illustrations. 

Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall enjoying a fika, as illustrated by Johanna. 

Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall enjoying a fika, as illustrated by Johanna. 

Please walk us through a “typical” thought process for a commissioned project. Do you develop your own recipes? If so, do you cook or draw first?
When I work on a commission, I carefully listen to the client's needs, likes or what they have in mind. Some clients are more precise than others. My job is to translate their needs and vision into an illustration or graphics.

Most of the recipes on kokblog are developed by me. It could be based on a classic or something new I want to learn more about. It's food I want to eat regularly at home. Most of my ideas comes from what I eat at dinner parties, restaurants and when traveling. But food blogs, social media, magazines or cookbooks are also great sources for inspiration and a great way to learn new methods.

I most always cook first (many of my recipes are created with the things I happen to have in my fridge). But sometimes I start by doing research in cookbooks and online. Then I often sketch the recipe simply on a piece of paper or in my recipe book (a combination of sketches and notes). But it's always the flavors and the method that decide the recipe - not how it will look in a drawing.

Johanna takes us behind the scenes in her brightly lit studio, sharing the process of idea conception, sketches and ultimately, computer-assisted rendering. 

Johanna takes us behind the scenes in her brightly lit studio, sharing the process of idea conception, sketches and ultimately, computer-assisted rendering. 

How has your Swedish background influenced the way you cook and eat?
Obviously my Swedish background reflects my cooking but it constantly changes, depending on where I am and what's in season. I grew up in the countryside in Sweden where most people cooked traditional Swedish food. My parents used to live in Spain before I was born so the cooking in our home wasn't always that traditional. But like all Swedes, we had meatballs, falukorv, pea soup and knäckebröd regularly.

My parents also took us for a walk in the woods every Sunday. During the summer and autumn, we would forage berries (for jam), mushrooms and herbs (for snaps). For example, my mother would make elderflower cordial, lingonberry jam, pickled gherkins, black currant juice, raspberry jam and strawberry jam to stock up in her cellar. Blueberries she always froze to use for tarts and as topping for ice cream. My mother also made her own sausage, especially liver sausage.

What do you like to make for yourself after a full day of drawing and illustrating?
I love carbonara. But if I want something lighter, I sauté mushrooms which I serve with pasta or my husband's flavorful brown basmati rice (he makes it in the pressure cooker with bay leaves). For lunch I make different kinds of salads, noodles (in homemade broth), or dal and eggs.

Which do you prefer to cook/eat/draw: sweet or savory? 
Funny enough I'm more of a savory person than sweet. But baking is for sure my absolute favorite thing, especially bread baked with wild yeast. 

Obviously I love drawing food but I also really like to draw the tools in cooking. One of the most fun jobs in my past was when I got to draw machines for chocolate making for an article in Art of Eating. Last summer I visited a winery in Sicily. It was fascinating as they are using both new and old technology. One day I'm hoping to have time to draw all the different types of barrels and machines in winemaking. It would make an interesting post or article, I think. 

My favorite comfort food growing up was probably köttfärssås, which is a simpler version of Bolognese. Today I really like Äggakaka (eggy cake), which is a southern Swedish thick pancake-like egg dish you make preferably in a cast iron pan. It's served with lingonberries and salted pork (bacon). 

Favorite local restaurants?
If go locally here in Clinton Hill, I really like Aita, The Finch and Locanda Vini & Olii

Play out your ideal dinner party for us: the mood, decor, music, guests and obviously, food!
I often start the dinner with drinks (cocktails by my husband or wine depending on the food) with freshly baked bread, accompanied by hors d'oeuvres. Everyone is mingling around in the kitchen snacking and getting to know each other. Often we have world music (P1 världen, Swedish radio online) in the background, classical music or jazz.

Some of the guests may know each other but we often try to have a mix. Sometimes we haven't even met everyone. Sometimes we have a small talk before a dinner; it could be an artist who presents their latest work, for example.

I'm a lazy decorator, so the table is often set in front of my guests. Sometimes it's even occupied with freshly made pasta that will be cooked while the guests are sitting down and the main course wine is served.

For dinner I like serving my latest projects. It can be as decadent as pheasant filled with marinated cranberries or just a hearty stew with fresh pasta. The most important thing is for us is to meet our friends, get to know new ones and have inspiring conversations. 

Dessert is most often something that goes into the oven while we eat dinner. My specialties are tarts and pies. It's simple and can be endlessly varied both with the filling and the crust. Lately I have been doing chocolate mousse.

Incredible pendant lighting by Tom Dixon. 

Incredible pendant lighting by Tom Dixon

Space under the stairwell doubles as seamless - and clever! - custom cabinetry for kitchen storage! 

Space under the stairwell doubles as seamless - and clever! - custom cabinetry for kitchen storage! 

What do you love about your kitchen?
I love everything about my kitchen. I guess that's the beauty of designing it yourself. But I think the function of it is what I like the most. How everything works in the way I cook and bake. But all of this is based on experience of designing and working in many different kitchens. For example, I like my Swedish country kitchen but it's not as good as this one. We made a few mistakes there. Mistakes that we learned from and that were very useful when we planned this one. 

One thing I'm not totally happy with is the kitchen sink faucet. It's gorgeous but when you rinse vegetables it actually splashes water everywhere. It is especially annoying when you get soaked in water just before dinner guests arrives. But funny enough, you get used to it.

Homemade bread and antipasti helped fuel our shoot: mushroom confit, marinated sun-dried tomatoes (recipe to come soon on kokblog), a rye sourdough loaf and a Swedish rye bread known as rågbröd (recipe can be found on page 148 in the book). 

Homemade bread and antipasti helped fuel our shoot: mushroom confit, marinated sun-dried tomatoes (recipe to come soon on kokblog), a rye sourdough loaf and a Swedish rye bread known as rågbröd (recipe can be found on page 148 in the book). 

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?
My bread knife. I like it so much I got one for my tiny cottage kitchen in Sweden. Also I love my classic almond mill I found at a flea market in Sweden.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?
I wish I had a butcher, fish monger, cheese shop and vegetable shop around the corner, as I really do prefer small food specialty shops to larger food chains. But we have a few: Victory Garden is one of them; they mostly have produce from local farmers, etc. I get my chicken there, which tastes and looks like a real chicken, small and absolutely delicious. It comes with the head and feet, which makes for a wonderful stock. They also have cheese, bread, dairy and pastries. And I love Sahadi's (where I get feta, olives, nuts, dried fruits, halva, salt licorice, olive oil, tea and spices) and the farmers markets for vegetables.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?
My sourdough starter. I bring it everywhere I go in the world (on flights it travels in a traveling bottle made for shampoo). 

Dried chickpeas, lentils, dal, rice, semolina and polenta. Fennel, garlic, carrots, celery, ginger and onions. Whole ancho chilies, Aleppo pepper, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, anise seeds, caraway seeds and cardamom. Salt. Tahini, flours (rye, wheat, etc.). 

Do you have a secret or unexpected ingredient you love to use?
I like to share my experiences in the kitchen so no direct secrets here, unless I'm told to be quiet when testing and developing recipes, for me and others. 

Not sure if this is unexpected: In beef stews I like to use a combination of whole ancho chili (soaked in hot water before chopped and added to the stew), licorice root and chocolate (the cocoa powder is added at the end).

Would you believe this small jar contains homemade dehydrated yeast? Because why wouldn't you dehydrate your own yeast! 

Would you believe this small jar contains homemade dehydrated yeast? Because why wouldn't you dehydrate your own yeast! 

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?
I love Elizabeth David's books. And the book Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham, illustrated by Flo Bayley.

I have many food blog favorites, hard to say which I like the most. But here are a few sites I visit regularly: Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Rachel Eats, Elizabeth in Rome, London Eats (excellent cookie maker), Bread Magazine, Plated Stories by Ilva Beretta and Jamie Schler, and Cook's Illustrated

Guilty pleasure ingredient, food product, or dish?
I sometimes crave hotdogs but not the American ones, the thick Swedish ones (tjock korv med bröd). I don't think it's a great sausage in any way (my husband really hates them) and the bread that comes with it is really terrible. But I enjoy it enormously once or twice a year. And I will always have it with ketchup, a product I never ever have in my kitchen. Instead I make a thick tomato & chili sauce to serve with my fresh sweet Italian sausages, which are excellent with mustard as well. 

Whose pantry would you like to raid?
Madame Fromage's! I'm sure there will be loads of nice cheeses and complementary items in her pantry. I really enjoy her blog; it's mouthwatering and well-written.

Anything else you'd like us to know about you?
I have a background as a social worker and I learned to improvise in the kitchen by cooking with drug addicts. For some years, I trained people in a large kitchen in Malmö, serving lunch and fika for 20 to 30 guests every day. It was a challenge and I learned what to do when a dough couldn't keep together and how to save overly salted stews (simply add more vegetables and liquid). 

*     *     *
Kardemummabullar (Cardamom Buns)

Reprinted with permission from Fika, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Johanna Kindvall. 

Vetebullar (base dough for cinnamon and cardamom buns)
Makes 30 to 36 buns, or 2 lengths

Bullar (buns) are perhaps the quintessential component to a Swedish coffee break, and vete in Swedish means “wheat.” Vetebullar is therefore the general term for wheat-based dough that can be turned into any number of bun creations. Kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and kardemummabullar (cardamom buns) are common variations on this type of bun, and while the traditional “roll” form is common, there are twisted varieties as well. Typically they are baked and served in paper liners. Kanelbullar are such an iconic pastry that an entire day in Sweden is devoted to them (October 4, for those considering celebrating). 

This recipe has both filling varieties, and once you’ve mastered the dough, you can start experimenting with your own fillings. If a Swede knows one thing, it’s this: no matter what the variation, bullar are always best fresh out of the oven, and make for a wonderful-smelling kitchen. 

Dough
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted butter
1½ cups (360 milliliters) milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4½ cups (1⅜ pounds, 638 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces, 50 grams) natural cane sugar
1½ teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt

Filling
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) natural cane sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon or whole cardamom seeds, crushed
2 additional teaspoons crushed cardamom seeds, if making filling using cinnamon

Topping
1 egg, beaten 
Pearl sugar or chopped almonds

To prepare the dough, melt the butter in a saucepan; then stir in the milk. Heat until warm to the touch (about 110°F/43°C). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the warm mixture. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top of the yeast. 

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt. Add the yeast mixture along with the remaining butter and milk. Work together with your hands until you can make the dough into a ball. 

Transfer the dough to a flat surface and knead it until smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. The dough should feel moist, but if it sticks to your fingers add a tiny bit of flour. The dough is fully kneaded when you slice into it with a sharp knife and see small air bubbles throughout. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel, and place in a draft-free place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Grease a baking sheet, or place medium paper liners directly on the sheet. 

Make the filling right before the dough has finished rising. Using a fork, cream the butter together with the sugar and the spices until you get an evenly mixed, spreadable paste.

The same base dough recipe can be used to form small individual buns or a single, larger loaf (also known as "length"). 

The same base dough recipe can be used to form small individual buns or a single, larger loaf (also known as "length"). 

When the dough has finished rising, take half of the dough and place it on a flat surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin to an 11 by 17-inch (28 by 43-centimeter) rectangle. Place the rectangle on the surface so that the long side is closest to you. 

Carefully spread half of the filling on top of the rolled-out dough so that it covers the entire area; be sure to go all the way to the edges. Begin at the long side near you and roll the dough upward (see diagram). Slice the roll into 15 to 18 equally sized slices and place them, rolled side up, on the baking sheet or in the paper liners. If using a baking sheet, pinch the ends of the slices to keep them from pulling away during baking. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 435°F (225°C).

When the buns have risen, carefully brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle each with the pearl sugar.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. If you are baking a length, bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer the buns from the baking sheet to the counter, and cover with a tea towel to cool. Serve freshly baked, and if not eaten right away, store in the freezer once they are completely cooled.

VARIATIONS: Instead of rolling the dough to make the classic bun shape, you can also make twists (see diagram above), a common formation when making cardamom buns, as well as baking a length and cutting a design into the dough with scissors to let the filling ooze out a little (see below).

Just look at these little beauties! 

Just look at these little beauties! 

Tack tack, Johanna! Stay updated with Johanna and her wonderful illustrations on social media: 
kokblog |  Instagram | Twitter | Facebook |  Shop | Portfolio 


For your chance to win a copy of Johanna's newest book, Fika - The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, please leave a comment below. You have until Friday, June 12, 11:59pm/EST, to enter. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck! 

 

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original unless otherwise indicated. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you. 

Michael Harlan Turkell, Photographer, Host of The Food Seen on HeritageRadioNetwork.org

Michael Harlan Turkell, Photographer, Host of The Food Seen on HeritageRadioNetwork.org

Happy new year, Pantry Confidential readers! We hope 2014 brings you an abundance of happiness, health and opportunity. We're grateful to have such a dedicated audience and we'll strive to continue introducing you to exciting folks and the unique kitchens they call their own.

We're kicking off January with someone who can usually be found both behind the lens and behind the mic - Michael Harlan Turkell! The photographer and host of Heritage Food Radio'sThe Food Seen has his finger on the pulse of all that is percolating in the culinary world. Whether he's interviewing chef heavyweightsfood artists, or celebrity heartthrobs with a passion for wine, MHT lends a laidback air - and his signature laugh! - that puts everyone at ease. Join us in his Brooklyn home where he brings to the fore cooking en papillote, a classic technique we can all benefit from in our busy lives as we start 2014 with a bang.

Read on to check out Michael's awesome homemade vinegar collection and to peep some unapologetic kitteh shots!

Hi Michael and happy 2014! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and The Food Seen (TFS) - how did the show come about?

When I was photo editor at Edible Brooklyn, the magazine had started a show. I was going to do an episode about food photography, but had a lot more to say than solely on that subject. I've always been interested in the intersections of food and art, so I pitched the show idea, and was given a chance to explore radio. It's been three and a half years now, and more than 170 episodes. I guess I had a lot more to talk about that I even thought!

Who and what inspires your interviews? How do you approach your subjects and which has been your favorite so far?

An interest in the indirect, the artisans working outside the common scope of what is food. Those that influence it profoundly, either by action, product, theory, etc. I research my eccentricities, I ask around, word of mouth, not really sure how I find subjects, or get them to agree, but the first step is just that initial inquiry.

Fave TFS interview? Hmm, so many, but the Nathan Myhrvold one recently was kind of a dream. I love math/science, went to school for that, so my brain works in a logistical/analytical manner first, then I can be creative and emote; but I've always been process-oriented. He's the pinnacle of that for me. That next week had Kyle MacLachlan on and that, too, was quite the treat. We talked about his wine-making, sipped on his Cabernet while eating Roberta's pizza! Talk about surreal. I'm a huge Twin Peaks fan and do that with Special Agent Dale Cooper, come on! But truthfully, and not to be judicious, but all my TFS are special, as I get to engage with people I admire and respect, you two included. Really a dream job in that sense. When else do you get 30 to 45 minutes of pure inquiry like that?

Oh, hello! Hamming it up on-set during our interview with MHT on The Food Seen ! Photo credit: Joe Galarraga

You have an interesting background with stints in both the professional kitchen and in photography. Are you able to draw any parallels between these two worlds?

Absolutely. The have similar systems. Their protocols seem parallel. First you master a craft, then you create through art. It's an expression, a personal point of view. I like to work in-depth on projects, really study and know as much as I can about a topic. I am that way with both food and photography. I like to follow a subject, and return, and try different angles, until I'm comfortable enough to start exploring alternative ways of seeing something.

Some of the cookbooks Michael has photographed.

MHT's handsome cat Mason (check out #MasonToday on Instagram)

Congratulations, newlywed! How much do you and your wife (Food & Wine's Senior Wine Editor Megan Krigbaum) cook at home and where do you shop for groceries?

Often. I try and cook at home five nights a week at least. I see things in kitchens and try to recreate recipes, processes, find new ingredients and try to add them into my cooking repertoire. I cook in parts. Like mise en place without a final composed dish in mind, so we have a bunch of the elements, and we build meals from there. I shop a little here, a little there. Have my fave places for everything specifically, but often like trying new things, so it's a real mishmash. Markets all year-round, even in the winter. I try and support local farmers even outside of their growing season, from apples and tubers until the first buds of spring. I like spice shops like Sahadi's and Kalustyan's . I travel and bring back edible gifts. I order products online. It's also about supporting the global culinary economy and not limiting myself to regionality.

You'd mentioned your love for pizza and pizza-making. Please give us a couple of your favorite tips to ensure the tastiest pies at home. What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?

Depends on your dough. I make a dough that can be shaped and baked on cold sheet tray, and doesn't need the oven lift of fire brick or a pizza stone. It's more like the best parts of Stouffer's French Bread Pizza, that great crunch, airy dough; but it's firm, without a ton of chew. So more like a New York slice. It's the convention of conventional ovens. I built a wood fire oven last year and that's where I do more Neapolitan-style doughs.

Putting ingredients on the pizza while at room temp is a good rule of thumb. Also less is often more. You don't want a soggy pie. You can always add grated cheese, a little more olive oil… My house specialty is a smoked mozzarella, jalapeño, preserved lemon pizza that tastes a bit briny like the sea. I also love interpreting a sandwich into a pizza, like the "Bahn Mizza." Or have done a "Reuben" as well (made with a rye/caraway crust). I do an "Everything Bagel" with crème fraîche, salmon roe, everything bagel spices and chives that I love too.

You're used to being behind the lens and behind the mic. Now that we're blowing open your cabinet doors, is there anything surprising or secret you'd like to share about yourself?

That I'm a bit OCD? Not really. I still use FIFO (First In, First Out) in my home kitchen. I try and label and date everything. I make preserved citrus year round, love salty acidic things. I make an array of vinegars in barrel. Hot sauces. Big into spices and condiments that add heat. I try a bunch new products, like freshly milled flours and whole grains for baking bread, Mediterranean spice blends (e.g. zaatar, dukkah, ras el hanout), savory herbs as accents (e.g. lavender in more than just herbs de Provence), an array of finishing salts, finishing olive oils, finishing vinegars.

Tell us how you got into making specialty vinegars.

I love acidity and wanted to figure out a non-citrus way to bring it to food. Plus, I wanted to make a food product that I didn't have to tend to all the time; vinegar is a lot of hurry up and wait. I taste them almost weekly, take notes, tweak; but really, it's all about time, and that's why we call them "+ Patience" or "Plus Patience" vinegars. I'm a long time-customer at Stinky, know owner Patrick Watson and had been making vinegars in my backyard barrels. He loved them and suggested we collaborate. It's around the corner from my house and they've had a nice response so far. On the shelves right now we have the last of our Double Chocolate Stout vinegar and a Pear & Apple Cider vinegar. Next up/in barrel: maple/coffee vinegar (kind of like my riff on red eye gravy), a "hot toddy" vinegar with whiskey, honey and lemon; there's also more honey vinegar on the way, from local Brooklyn rooftops. And more dark beer vinegars to come.

Handmade vinegar made in barrel with pride and love - right in Michael's backyard!

How would you describe your cooking style?

Experimental, not in the molecular gastronomy/modern cuisine sense, or esoteric ethnic foods, but I'm not afraid to make a bad dish, or fail when it comes to cooking. It's not a fatalist thing. You can try again, and improve, but often I do this on my own. Not that I don't learn from others, but I try to self educate, and use professional insight and opinions to inform my decisions; but not fully direct where my tastes may go… so to many, my style is consider autodidactic?

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

My hands. I like the tangible aspect of food. I like feeling how things react and figuring out how they're put together before I try and deconstruct them. My eyes: I like to watch how things change over time, with applications of heat, cold… I'm not saying I don't like using a food processor every so often, or a stand mixer, but I like to know how to make something if I didn't have those devices handy. I also love a good sturdy Microplane, not only for grating cheese, but it can change the texture and way flavor is distributed for so many things. I also love a thin fish spatula and a cooking weight, to hold fish down for a crispy skin. I cook a lot of seafood.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Salt. Sweet (trying to use less refined sugars and find alternatives in syrups, dried fruits and vegetables). Sour/acid (citrus or vinegars). A beverage to enjoy while cooking.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Bread bakers. The patience and touch that it takes to make a great loaf takes tremendous forethought and skill.

Favorite restaurants, high and low?

I'm not sure about the high end, have been in many a kitchens as a cook and photographer, but haven't eaten in a ton of that style of restaurant. No. 9 Park in Boston will also have a soft place in my heart, was one of the first places I got a taste of fine dining. Clio as well, but there I saw an experimental side that was contemporarily playful but classically rooted. Noodles of all types, from Italian pasta shapes to ramen, soba, udon to Chinese hand-pulled to rice vermicelli, and even spaetzle! I like bar seats, solo dining during the day. Great lunches. Wonderful breakfasts. Most restaurants are dinner first when they go into business, but I like the idea of a place that can do it all. Those are the places I'm most impressed by. And atmosphere is important, has to have an ambiance.

Favorite cookbooks and sites?

I love bread baking books because a lot of it is about community, how ovens were once central parts to a town, city, and how people interacted. Books that carry a sense of sharing and have historical stories to boot. Lately I've loved Vincent Price's A Treasury of Great Recipes. He and his wife, Mary, traveled far and wide, but it's a stunning reliquary of the world at that time. It's so international without seeming pan-cuisine/fusion. Oh and my favorite cookbook is that of the Italian Futurists, The Futurist Cookbook. It's their manifesto that said no more pasta, defied convention, and introduced the idea of synesthesia into dining. Love Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks; she's such a curious soul. Still love Americana through the eyes of Jan and Michael Stern's Road Food. I listen to a lot of food radio, too.

MHT's sturdy Ambatalia apron also functions as a furoshiki, or Japanese wrapping cloth. 

Fun and inspired home finds from San Francisco's Bell'ochio notions shop.

What would your ideal last meal look like?

Oysters, champagne, good bread and butter, a simple salad with bitter greens and soft herbs, roast meats touched by smoke, grilled fish, potatoes from crispy to aligot, and fruit pies or peach cake for dessert, all by a body of water, be it an ocean or a lake, friends and loved ones. My wife and I love entertaining. Even our wedding was just a big dinner party when you stripped it on down. A moveable feast. From rooftop pizza, to Brooklyn backyard family-style Italian, to a throwback soda fountain brunch. It was all about sharing our favorite places and bites with our favorite people. And a Negroni nightcap for sure.

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Like how in movies you see characters looking through medicine cabinets, well, I do that to most people's kitchen pantries. There's almost something telling in there. I'm not sure it's about a famous person, or a renown chef, or a quirky artist, it's about seeing how people use common materials to make unusual combinations. Or seeing national or regional brands of staple ingredients and tasting their iterations. My favorite pantry at the moment is at Bar Tartine where they're fermenting everything, from dill-brined pickles to year-old cultured squash. They make koji, miso, yogurts, cheeses, kefir, krauts, vinegars, etc.

Mason hanging out and keepin' it real. Till next time!

***

Bluefish en Papillote with Herbed Cous Cous, Fennel, Preserved Lemon, Chili and Mint

1/2 cup water
1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme, oregano)
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided - plus more for plating
Salt
1/2 cup dried whole wheat couscous (makes about 1 cup, cooked)
6 ounces of bluefish filet, skin-on
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 fennel bulb (approximately 1/2 pound), cut in half with some of root end intact so that fennel doesn't fall apart, thinly sliced on mandolin
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 tablespoon preserved lemon, roughly chopped
1/2 small red Fresno chili pepper (approximately 1/8 cup), thinly sliced
Few sprigs of mint
1 10-inch x 10-inch piece of parchment baking paper
Flaky sea salt, to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare couscous:
To a small pot, bring water, dried herbs, 1 teaspoon olive oil and a bit of salt to a boil. Stir in dried couscous and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Prepare bluefish:
Season both sides of the filet with salt and pepper; set aside.

Prepare fennel:
In a small bowl, mix together sliced fennel, zest and juice from 1/2 lemon, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare preserved lemon, chili and mint mixture:
In a small bowl, mix together chopped preserved lemon and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add thinly sliced chili and mint leaves.

Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pile cooked couscous in the center of one side the paper. On top of that, place sliced fennel, bluefish (skin-side down) and preserved lemon, chili, mint mixture.

Fold in half and then start making small folds along the edges (about the size of your fingertip) until you've make a half circle shape, and the packet is sealed.

Put tray in the oven. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until fish is cooked (feels firm when squeezed from the sides). Remove and let sit for 1 minute.

To serve:
Place packet on a plate or in a bowl. Unfold slowly as steam may release when opened. Finish with a little more olive oil and flaky salt to taste.

Remove the core for easier handling. Don't forget to bag and freeze fennel stalks for stock-making! 

Be sure to catch Michael's show, The Food Seen, on Heritage Radio Network. You can also find his work here, and follow him on TwitterInstagram, as well as Facebook.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Yossy Arefi, Food Photographer, Food Stylist and Blogger

Yossy Arefi, Food Photographer, Food Stylist and Blogger

The moment you step into Yossy's cozy Greenpoint home, you know you're in for a treat. Is it the welcoming waft of just brewed coffee hitting your nose? The plate of orange-tinged saffron shortbread beckoning for a taste? The soaring high ceilings rimmed with charm aplenty crown molding? Yes, yes and yes; but there's more to it. There's an easy, unaffected quality to Yossy's style, which fans of her popular Apt. 2B Baking Co. blog will quickly recognize; and it's exactly this quiet confidence that draws you into this baker's dreamy, sweets-filled world where simplicity and beauty reign.

Read on to learn how Yossy broke into the food world and tips to prevent pie crust shrinkage this holiday season!

Hi Yossy! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your baking background and your full-time turn into photography.

I've always had food-centric jobs and when I moved to New York about seven years ago, I thought I might go to culinary school then work in the restaurant industry. I had a great time touring all of the culinary schools here and meeting the instructors, but I got big time sticker shock when it came to the financials. I decided that I still wanted to work in the industry, but I was going to have to approach it from a different angle so I got a job at a restaurant as a reservationist and eventually worked my way into the kitchen. I worked at that same restaurant for five years as a baker and cake decorator where I studied cookbooks and learned a ton from my co-workers.

While I was working at the bakery I started an online bakeshop, Apt. 2B Baking Co., and related blog. The shop never quite took off, but it did help me realize that I did not want to own my own bakery. It also helped me realize that I loved photography and sharing food through my blog. Through some connections I made through blogging I was able to start doing a bit of freelance photography and about two years ago, I stopped working at the bakery to pursue food photography, styling and recipe development as a career.

We understand your father's Iranian. What did you eat growing up and did you spend a lot of time in the kitchen? How much of the Iranian culture influences your cooking?

Yes! Both of my parents are wonderful cooks and we all (I have an older brother) spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up. My mom grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I think she really learned to love food and cooking when she moved to Iran with my dad in the late 70s. I grew up eating a combination of traditional "American" food and Iranian food, and love both. My favorite Iranian dishes were and are the rich stews flavored with dried limes, served with fragrant basmati rice, thick plain plain yogurt and pickled garlic to cut the richness. I think I get my love of tart, sour foods from Iranian cooking and my dad. He'll squeeze a lemon or lime on just about anything for flavor, a habit that I've also picked up. I was just talking to a friend about comfort food; hers was rice with butter and mine was rice with plain yogurt, which really says it all.

An assortment of Iranian pantry staples (l-r): dried limes; saffron (from her dad's stash!); two types of sumac (or "somagh" in Farsi); dried barberries

Left: Oh, just some of Yossy's saffron pistachio shortbread cookies lying around. | Right: Another masterpiece.  

We love the calm, gentle tone that accompanies the photos on your blog. Can you walk us through your cooking and shooting/editing processes?

I like to bake and cook all sorts of things, but what I love most is reflecting seasonality in my photos both through the ingredients I use and in the way that I use the light that changes throughout the day and year. I want my blog and photographs to feel more like a slice of life than a photo shoot. Sure, there is some styling and futzing that goes on, but in the end I want the food to speak for itself. I recently moved to a new apartment with a big, white porcelain sink that I love photographing. Almost every time I wash a batch of produce, I photograph it in the sink. It's not that exciting, but it's real life and it's simple and beautiful. I mean it's cute and all when people tie a stack of cookies up with string, but who actually does that?

What's your favorite camera and medium to shoot just for fun?

I love my Pentax K1000 and Holga. My blog is almost exclusively shot with my thrift store Pentax and Kodak Portra 400 film. The Holga is great for shooting outdoors and I never worry about breaking or ruining it because it is already stuck together with tape, ha!

Capturing Yossy capturing her own creation.

What's your most memorable professional or personal food shoot?

I have been spending a lot of time with Tama Matsuoka Wong lately, who is a professional forager and author who works with Daniel, Gramercy Tavern and Acme among other chefs and restaurants. At the beginning of fall she took me to a pawpaw grove in Pennsylvania that was incredible! Pawpaw are these crazy tropical looking fruit that are native to the east coast, so we got there and Tama started scampering up the trees to pick the best fruit. I was underneath her, trying to take photos and Tama was just tossing pawpaw at me. The crop was so abundant this year that you could hear them falling to the ground every time the wind picked up. That day we also foraged for shiso, onion grass, nettles, chestnuts and some seeds I can't remember the name of off hand. It was cool and raining all day and by the end of it there were leaves in my hair and I was covered in mud, but it was so much fun. Her enthusiasm and zest for foraging is unbelievably contagious. We have a wonderful working relationship and friendship that I am so happy to have.

We never tire of black grout + white subway tile. Would you believe this girl did this backsplash job herself?

What kind of savory food does a pastry chef like to make for herself on a day-to-day basis?

I cook a lot for work so when I cook for myself I lean towards very simple dishes with bold flavors. I like a lot of heat, salt and acid to balance out all of the baked goods and rich foods I inevitably consume. I also have a soft spot for avocado toast with plenty of chili flakes and crunchy salt; it's the perfect meal.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

For baking: good butter, vanilla beans, and an assortment of flours and sugars.

For cooking: good olive oil, vinegars, tomato paste, aleppo pepper, sumac and salts aplenty.

Yossy's go-to vanilla bean source: Beanilla for fresh beans that are super economical in bulk!

How would you describe your cooking style?

Simple and seasonal (even if that is a bit of a cliché at this point).

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

A mandoline, kitchen scale, bench and bowl scrapers, simple maple rolling pin, my hand-me-down Dutch oven that gets almost daily use, cheap peeler, sharp knives and my collection of pie plates. Oh,and I love having all of the beautiful handmade spoons and pottery I've received as gifts from my talented friends around. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I like it to feel really homey and comfortable in there.

Left: Ariele Alasko's gorgeous hand-carved wood creations. | Right: Tartine's starter never fails. 

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

Gah, too many! Laura from The First Mess really inspires me to eat healthy, nourishing meals. I love Seven Spoons for its writing and calming photography. I think that Izy from Top with Cinnamon is top notch - and only 17! Tim from Lottie and Doof has excellent taste. Bon Appétempt is hilarious. Andrea Gentl of Gentl and Hyers is a huge inspiration and her blog, Hungry Ghost Food and Travel, is just gorgeous. Kimberley from The Year in Food is a friend and such a talent. Kelsey from Happy Yolks always has something solid to say. Orangette was the first blog I discovered and it inspired me to start my own. Sarah's Vanilla Bean Blog has such a calm tone that I just love. Food52 has it going on.

As far as cookbooks go I love Claudia Fleming's book, The Last Course; Alice Medrich's Pure DessertNigel Slater's books; the Chez Panisse cookbooksDorie Greenspan's collectionOttolenghi's booksTartine Bakery's cookbook and Tartine Bread; Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain. I could go on here for awhile...

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

There are so many incredibly talented cooks, chefs and bakers out there and they have undoubtedly left an impression on me, but I'm most inspired by my parents and anyone else who can get a wholesome home cooked meal on the table after a full day's work.

Favorite restaurants?

Well, I love a good burger so I have to put Shake Shack on my list. The burger at Anella just up the street from me is also quite good. The falafel from Taim is A+. Saltie's sandwiches are amazing. Buvette is so great for breakfast. Vanessa's dumplings are cheap and awesome. Paulie Gee's and  for pizza. The pork buns at Momofuku are addictive. I recently had a Laotian meal at Khe-Yo in Tribeca that was incredible and so unique. Glasserie is also a new neighborhood favorite; they had a rice and yogurt dish last fall that was so, so good. 

Bakeries: Dominique Ansel Bakery (he is so much more than the cronut), Four and Twenty BlackbirdsDoughnut PlantPeter Pan DonutsDoughSullivan Street Bakery is phenomenal; Ovenly's peanut butter cookies are amazing; Bien Cuit makes beautiful breads and pastries.

What would your ideal last meal look like?

A feast somewhere in the Northwest, in the summertime, on the beach at sunset (where it will be magically warm but not too hot), full of friends and family eating Northwestern classics like salmon, Dungeness crab and oysters followed by a full Iranian meal made by my wonderful Aunt Guiti, who currently lives in Iran.

Whose pantry would you like to raid? 

The women of The Canal House. I was lucky enough to meet them at their studio this fall and it took all of my willpower not to poke through all of their cabinets.

Left: A coquettish partner-in-crime, Abigail, joins in on the fun. | Right: Yossy dons a Kill Devil Hill custom apron.

***

Salted Caramel Apple and Cranberry Pie

For the Crust
12 ounces all purpose flour 
8 ounces cold butter
4 ounces ice water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Mix the flour and salt together, then pour the whole lot on a large cutting board or countertop.

With a bench scraper, cut in half of the butter until it is the size of lima beans, then cut in the other half of the butter until it is the size of quarters. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water.

Using your fingers, flick the water on to the butter flour mixture and gently fold it in with your bench scraper. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart.

Press the dough together, then split it in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using. I like to chill mine overnight.

Salted Caramel
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the butter and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes. Then carefully add the heavy cream and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the filling.

For the Filling
4-5 large apples (about 3 pounds) I like Mutsu (aka: Crispin), Jonathan, Golden Delicious and Cortland varieties
⅔ cup fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
Zest and juice of one small lemon
Zest and juice of half of an orange
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
½ cup Salted Caramel (recipe above)

Peel the apples and cut them into thick slices. Place the apples in a large bowl with the cranberries then add lemon and orange juices and zests, stir gently to combine. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla bean seeds and stir again.

For the Topping
1 egg, beaten
A few teaspoons of coarse sugar, like turbinado or light demerara

To Assemble and Bake

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12-inch circle, 1/4-inch to 1/8-thick, and place it into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie.

Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, 1/4-inch to 1/8-thick, and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.

Fill the prepared pie shell with the apple mixture, top with the second crust, trim the edges so there is about 1/2-inch of overhang then crimp the edges and cut a few vents in the top. If you'd like to make a lattice top, here is a really great primer for all sorts of pies.

If the crust seems soft or warm, slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes before you bake it. When you are ready to bake brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.

Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 350ºF and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the apple juices bubble.

Yossy's baking tip to prevent crusts from shrinking: 

Don't overwork the dough while you are mixing it and give it some time to chill and relax before you bake with it. I think overnight is best. Also, make sure the dough is nice and cold before it goes into the oven.

Be sure to follow Yossy on her blogTwitterPinterest and Instagram, where there's no shortage of inspiring snaps of her creations and white-socked Abigail. She also writes a column called Project Dessert on Food52.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Julia Bainbridge, Senior Web Editor at Bon Appétit

Julia Bainbridge, Senior Web Editor at Bon Appétit

A girl on the go with singular style -- that's Julia in a nutshell for you. As part of the digital team behind one of the hottest food publications around, Julia tempers the pressures of her high-profile role by maintaining a deep sense of family, history and tradition. It's a quality that extends to her down-to-earth entertaining style (think more comforting roast chicken dinners than, say, splashy restaurant-style productions). In a world full of changing trends and fickle desires, it's refreshing to meet someone whose conviction is as decisive as her blunt 'do.

Read on for a gorgeous recipe for clams with chorizo and a peek at droolworthy objets d'art for days!

Hi Julia! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and your role at Bon Appétit.

Hmm. How far back do I go? I grew up lucky enough to travel a good bit, so my mind was open to different foodways at a young age. But I didn't really cook. I regret that, because my grandmother was a whiz, and instead of learning from her, most of my time in her kitchen was spent nibbling on beautiful roasts of lamb before they were set on the table. (The "pickins," she called them.)

In college, I read Sydney Mintz and some of the other great food anthropologists and realized there was this whole academic world of food writing. That's not what I do now, but it's what planted the seed, I think. I decided to go to culinary school after college, thinking it would give me an edge. Little did I know then, lots of food journalists have formal culinary educations. It was an accelerated program, so I didn't come out being a great cook, with all of the mother sauces under my belt—I couldn't make a Hollandaise right now if you asked me to—but I gained familiarity with technique and terminology. While I was there, I interned at the San Francisco Chronicle's food and wine sections. Then I moved to New York, got my first gig at Food & Wine—I worked on the cocktail book with Jim Meehan and Kate Krader—then to Condé Nast Traveler, and now at Bon Appétit.

I wear a zillion different hats at BA. That's just the nature of web editorship. I write, I edit, I copy edit, I photo edit, I style shoots, I prop shop, I assign stories, I pay photographers—you've gotta be scrappy.

Left: Great-grandmother Garrett holds court in Julia's Brooklyn home | Right: Keepin' it classy

We envy your access to what must be a wealth of food knowledge and inspiration. Do you think you've improved as a cook and/or writer since working for BA?

Most definitely. So much of cooking well, I think, is about familiarity with ingredients. I'm around food all day every day, and I'm watching people who really know what they're doing play with new dishes, new combinations, new ways of doing things. Taking a look at the pantry of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, now that would be a trip.

My writing has also improved. That's partly because the editors I work with are awesome and partly because I'm not precious about my writing. I welcome criticism, and while I have a sense of what my own rhythm is and what sounds like "me," I'm open to changing things in the name of a better piece overall. Does that sound earnest? I guess so… I just really love my job. I get to work with words and ideas all day with really smart people.

That said, I think I'm a better editor than I am a writer.

Most importantly, the quality of my ideas has improved. This is a competitive environment, and for an idea to make it into the magazine, it has to hit that sweet spot at the marriage of the many elements our top editors are looking for. Now that this new guard of BA has been together for more than two years, we really have our footing. We know who we are, we know who our readers are, and we know how to speak to them.

Play out your ideal dinner party for us: mood, decor, music, guests and obviously, food!

This could take a whole book!

The food should straddle that fine line between rustic and inventive, the wine should be overflowing, the music should be humming in the background (The Birth of Cool is my go-to), the decor… just my apartment. I publicly bemoan the fact that, in New York City, apartments are too small for proper dining tables, but privately I like that everyone assembles around my coffee table, some on couches, some cross-legged on the floor. It brings a level of intimacy to the whole thing. And while some of the plates may be formal, my attitude never is, and I hope my guests' aren't, either. One design choice I made recently was definitely more for others than for myself, though: My friends at Flat Vernacular made this crazy psychedelic floral wallpaper and I put it in my bathroom. The goal is for people to come back to the party feeling like they've just stepped into another universe. And I think I succeeded.

!!!

Julia's love of print and color extends far beyond her bathroom walls

Back to the formality thing: I don't like stuffiness, but etiquette is important to me. My biggest rule: no phones. Next: don't F with my music. This is a curated experience. Finally, I walk guests to the door to see them off. Give them a squeeze, send them on their way with a treat. That's kind of a signature of mine: I always send a little packed baked good home with people. It makes the party really feel like an event.

Favorite restaurants? Any hot spots worth seeking out?

I'm less into hot spots, but I do have to stay current for my job and did have a great meal at Chez SardineMaison Premiere's garden area is so romantic. At Broder in Portland, OR, I had the best Bloody Mary of my life—everything imaginable was pickled and threaded onto a toothpick that bridged the mouth of the glass. I love sitting near the window at Hillside in Vinegar Hill--that magical, almost-forgotten little corner of New York—on a Friday evening after work. It feels so comfortable in there, and the wine list is well-executed. I'll always keep going back to Keens.

Bottom's up! A fun family heirloom from Harvard drinking days of yore

How would you describe your cooking style and food aesthetic?

I'm not a complicated cook. Roast chicken, some simple mixed greens, crusty bread and wine is the menu of my most delicious dreams. (That's actually my go-to for dinner parties. When in doubt, roast a chicken.) I try new things here and there when I'm inspired by a particular chef or new cookbook, but I'm still working on mastering the basics. Granted, because of my job, the basics to me are more complicated than the basics for a lot of people out there, but still. I'm not going to be sous vide-ing at home.

As a busy gal working for a major food publication, we imagine many meals are spent out on the town. How often do you cook for yourself versus eat out?

During the weeknights, it's half and half. On the weekends, I never go out, unless it's for brunch (every chef's nightmare meal!).

It's so important to cook for yourself, especially when you do what I do. It anchors you in a sea of trends. And, when you know what the process of putting food on a plate is like because you've done it with your own hands, it gives you an appreciation for what chefs are doing. And a curiosity about their technique. How can you pinpoint a bold flavor decision if you don't know that it's a bold flavor decision, because you have no contextual knowledge of how these flavors normally work? Cooking helps you listen to what chefs are trying to communicate. This is a language you have to speak, to a degree, to understand.

Plus I just love feeding my friends.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

I'm simple when it comes to gadgets. A sharp knife, a well-seasoned cast iron pan. These two seem to be the most important. But I would like a good salad spinner or some other not-invented-yet way to dry lettuce. Currently, I pat the leaves dry with towels. Ugh.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Broadway Panhandler and Chinatown.

Top pantry essentials?

I love furikake, a Japanese rice seasoning, and I keep it around all the time. I like it on rice, on popcorn, on eggs—it's an awesome mix of nori, sesame seeds and dried, ground fish.

Also, tomato paste is underrated. We all cook with it—it's the foundation of so many things—but what about considering it as a bigger element? The flavor is so rich, and the acidity can work wonders.

What is your go-to entertaining dish sure to draw raves from guests?

I labored over a cassoulet this winter that was a big hit. But something I returned to again and again that season was a citrus salad that's prepared like a carpaccio. In other words, I thinly slice oranges, grapefruit, and blood oranges crosswise and place them just slightly overlapping, but really on one layer, on a big platter. I save the juices from the citrus and mix them into a dressing with olive oil and maybe some Champagne vinegar and salt. I drizzle the dressing atop the slices and then scatter some mint leaves on top of the whole thing, finishing with flaky salt. If you have them, thinly sliced red onions and fennel—cut on a mandoline—are good in this, too.

Basically, I think simple dishes—ones that contain few ingredients, but in which those ingredients are prepared in ways people haven't thought of before—get the most raves. And my go-to cocktail bite trick is still radishes, halved and served in a bowl with good, room-temperature butter and flaky salt served on the side, to be applied as the nibbler sees fit. My non-foodie friends are still impressed when they see this, and the foodie ones know they can't turn away a perfectly peppery radish.

Do you have an unexpected ingredient you love to use?

I'm trying to figure out how to play with rose extract in baked goods. You can go into grandmother's perfume territory very easily, and that's not an association you want when you're biting into a pretty little cookie.

Any guilty pleasure food?

I don't like to associate food with guilt. There's nothing too high or low for me—there's no ingredient I wouldn't display on my bookshelf, in other words. (Although, sure, some would make it to the coffee table…)

Chefs and food producers you admire?

Fearlessness and playfulness are two qualities I admire in a cook. My friend, Nick Pandolfi, will pick up some uni at the store, try to make some uni butter with it, toss some pasta in it, steam some clams to put on top, and serve it to a group of five. Like, he'll come up with the idea on his walk to the grocery store, throw it together while people are having a drink, and serve it up without a worry. This is how it goes every time I dine at his house. He really impresses me.

Otherwise, it's about knowledge and treatment of ingredients. Watch Suzanne Goin make a salad or the Canal House cooks make anything and you'll know what I mean. These people are cooking on two solid feet.

Whose pantry would you like to raid? 

Can I Frankenstein mine? And go for the whole kitchen? Here goes: Bon Appétit Food and Features Editor and wonder-mom Carla Lalli Music's freezer, BA's very chic Executive Editor Christine Muhlke's tea cupboard, cookie guru Dorie Greenspan's baking arsenal, PDT's Jim Meehan's liquor cabinet, and Seattle-based recipe developer and writer Sara Dickerman's fridge. Oh, and San Francisco food photographer Kimberley Hasselbrink's prop closet. I could throw some bangin' dinner parties with those goodies…

The same beautiful china from Julia's childhood grace her current dinnerware cabinets

Courtesy of Bon Appétit (April 2013); recipe by Alison Roman

Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 bunch spring onions or scallions, whites halved and sliced; greens sliced on a diagonal, divided
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris)
5 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
Toasted bread (for serving)

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook, stirring often, until some fat has rendered and chorizo begins to crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add potatoes, spring onion whites, and garlic. Cook, tossing often, until potatoes are crisp-tender, 10-12 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups water and continue to cook until potatoes are just tender, 5-8 minutes longer.

Add clams and half of onion greens, cover pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have opened, 8-10 minutes (discard any clams that do not open).

Divide clam mixture among bowls. Top with remaining onion greens and serve with toast.

Be sure to follow Julia's stylish escapades via InstagramTwitterFacebookVine (@juliabainbridge), Tumblr and of course, Bon Appétit

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Olga Massov, Food Writer and Creator of Sassy Radish

Olga Massov, Food Writer and Creator of Sassy Radish

Olga's story resonates with us on a number of levels. During a successful - but wholly unfulfilling - 10-year run on Wall Street, Olga would spend whatever bits of free time she had cooking and writing, tinkering around in her kitchen and sharing the adventures on her popular blog, Sassy Radish. Eventually, the Russian expat chose to leave the world of finance to follow her dreams full-time and so far, her gutsy move has paid off; her first co-written cookbook, The Kimchi Cookbook, came out last year and another one is in the works. Olga's writing, much like her food and cooking style, is full of wit, charm and humility, always leaving you hungry for more.

Read on for some candid advice for those looking to break into food writing and to get a glimpse of Olga's favorite sous chef - plus, a giveaway!

Hi Olga! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog, Sassy Radish.

I started the blog so long ago, it makes me feel like a dinosaur, in 2005. Mostly I just wanted a wee space for myself where I was happy. I wasn't in a good place in my life: I was very unhappy at work and I worked very long hours. But then when I started the blog, I didn't really do much there, since I was working really long hours. It wasn't really until fall of 2008 when my life became much healthier and balanced that I started to spend a lot of time on the blog: writing, cooking, photographing. I think I started to find my voice, also, because I was spending a lot of time thinking about food and what I wanted to share.

You made a very brave jump from the corporate world of finance to food blogging and writing. What REAL advice would you offer to those dreaming about paving a similar path in the food industry? Break it down for us.

Ah, yes! Actually, the timing of this is funny, because, from my observation and what I've gathered, it's very hard, if not impossible to make a living just as a cookbook writer. I know a few people are doing it, but more and more, what I am hearing is that to make a living, a sustainable living, at it, is very very hard. I, myself, am re-evaluating what I need to be doing in order to keep my writing afloat. I don't want to give it up, but at the same time we cannot survive on the income I make as a writer. Molly O'Neill, the great [food writer] Molly O'Neill, gave me some great, not warm-and-fuzzy advice. She said, "Get yourself stable. Get yourself in a position where you're not worried about money. And write in the time in between. It'll be hard, but you will actually enjoy it more if you are less stressed out."

The advice I have is this: figure out what you're comfortable with. Everyone has a different budget and also people are in different places in their lives. Also, figure out what you actually want. Only very recently was I able to articulate that I wasn't interested in making a "name" for myself, in that if I never write my own book, or become a household name, it doesn't matter to me. I want to write, and I want to work on good projects – projects that are interesting and involving talented (and nice) people. It's not that that's not what I wanted, but for whatever reason, I couldn't articulate it succinctly, and there’s something to be said for that.

Because I have a blog, there's a lot of focus on SEO, comments, traffic, and all that stuff. I have not been immune to it in the past, but ever since I've let go and stopped caring, I've been much happier about writing on the blog and creating. I'm not out there to become everyone’s go-to blog. I write because it makes me happy. And people who want to read it – do. And if it means Google search ranks me lower because I don’t have some plug-in – eh, I am okay with it.

Kudos on your continued cookbook writing success! Please tell us how you were able to make that initial jump into writing about - of all things - kimchi-making and cooking!

I honestly couldn't have done ANY of it without Melissa Clark, who I often joke is just like my fairy godmother, except she's way prettier than fairy godmothers have been, historically, in books.

I have, I suppose, a rather unorthodox way of trying to eke out a living as a food writer. I didn't go to cooking school, and outside of a one-day trail in ABC Kitchen, I've never worked in a restaurant. In fact, I spent almost a decade working in finance before doing this.

In the winter of 2011, the company I was working for shut down its New York office and moved entirely to Asia. I took the opportunity to try to work in food, making it work as a writer, recipe tester, stylist and general assistant. It was Melissa who took a chance on me and took me under her wing, and let me come into her kitchen and be her assistant for some time. I did everything from taping receipts and making expense reports (I'm a wonder with Excel!) to running out for groceries to testing recipes when needed. Melissa also allowed me to help out with various books and freelance work that she was working on, so I got to see start-to-finish how a pro writes a book with other people. What she looks for, how she structures her time, how to properly test a recipe, etc. Melissa was the one to introduce me to Lauryn Chun of MILKimchi in the summer of 2011, and she and I wound up writing the The Kimchi Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2012) together. I'm also working on a book with Iron Chef Marc Forgione (due out in the spring 2014).

How do you think you've grown as a cook and writer since committing to this career switch full-time?

I'm a lot more fearless, but also, sometimes, after a day of testing various recipes, I realize that cookies and condiments do not a meal make, so my husband and I order take-out a fair amount, actually. Ditto for days when I'm cooking at another place and am on my feet all day. I come home and sit on the couch. I know it sounds crazy, but if you cook all day, you want someone else to cook your dinner!

I've become a better cook overall though. More intuitive. Much more willing to take risks. It has also made me a lot more humble. I've learned that there are as many ways to cook eggs as there are people cooking them. Ditto with chicken. Ditto with ricotta. Anyone who tells you that this is the best way to make something might need to step back and cook with other people more.

I think when you work for yourself and by yourself, you have to be disciplined or else. I'm very disciplined about when I get up, when I sit down to work, when I have to meet a deadline. I'm very diligent about that. I'm less diligent about, say, going to the gym, but that's more of a mental thing.

Writing is a muscle. I try to write every day. Random thoughts and bits. Things that no one ever sees. Sometimes it's just a sentence or two. Other times it's pages. It all depends. Sometimes you start writing about a chair you're sitting on and how you should've paid a little extra and purchased lumbar support (if only you knew it was an option!) and you wind up remembering a cake your grandmother made. Just the process of putting words on paper is excellent. And people who really want to write, should do it regularly, much like that gym I'm so good at avoiding.

And last, but certainly not least, I read a piece in McSweeney's recently that basically said, "Good writers are also good readers." It's so important for writers to be reading as much as possible. I realize that this might be a very bourgeois thing to say, when we're all running around and are feeling behind schedule, but reading other people's work, good work, makes you a better writer in turn.

Top pantry essentials?

Lemons, salt, quality vinegars, mustards, anchovies, garlic, chili flakes, Aleppo pepper, various chiles, piment d’Espelette, good olive oil (or a few), flaky sea salt, good bread (we are addicted to the miche we get from Bien Cuit), vanilla beans, honey, maple syrup, mayonnaise, Sriracha, kimchi (duh), preserved lemons, olives, capers, onions (I panic when we're out of onions), cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seed, mustard seed, dried chickpeas and beans, lentils, quinoa and rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, quality canned sardines, dried fruit and nuts, Finn crisps.

What do you and your husband love to cook at home?

We have several that we made frequently: green curry mussels; midnight pasta (with capers, anchovies, garlic and chiles); roasted cauliflower with za'atar and spiced yogurt dip; roasted chicken; whole roasted branzino with rosemary, lemon, and garlic; roasted shrimp and broccoli.

Who is your biggest professional or personal food inspiration?

It's a mix. Sometimes I taste something in a restaurant and I'll have a huge grin from ear to ear. There are some amazingly talented people working in food. I think I am mostly inspired by people I know personally because I know what drives their cooking and how they think and it's much more personal that way.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

So many. I love my Microplane zester and I have even traveled with it. I can't stand when people's zesters are dull and just tear the skin off the fruit rather than give you beautiful zest. My $2 vegetable peeler that does not quit. I love my Vitamix. I know it sounds so froufrou to say that a very expensive blender will change your life, but it will. A blender does not equal a blender. Mine gets almost daily use. I love my knives: I have a few good chef’s knives and a cheap, but amazing paring knife. I could probably just live with those two knives and be fine. My KitchenAid mixer is a powerhouse and my Cuisinart food processor is amazing. It's very large so I can make a lot of pie dough at once, freeze it, and then make pie last minute. My used wooden spoons show me how much I've cooked with them; it's nostalgic. My All-Clad pots and pans; my Staub cocotte; my copper jam pot. I know it sounds like I'm listing a lot but here's the thing: anything that enters my kitchen, anything that has a permanent spot, means I have scrutinized it and thought: can I live without it? All of those items make my life easier and better as a cook, and happier. So many good memories with all those kitchen objects.

A tomato red pegboard that would make the great Julia Child beam with pride

Soldiers reporting for duty!

How would you describe your cooking style? How much does your Russian heritage influence your cooking, aesthetic and pantry?

Hm, if anything I don’t have enough Russian ingredients. I wish I had more. At the moment, I am not really cooking anything Russian; I'm going through a serious Middle Eastern phase. I'm cooking a lot from Jerusalem (Yotam Ottolenghi's new book), and a relative just sent me this amazing book on Persian food.

I love Russian food though – to me it is true comfort food. The one I want to make when I'm sick or sad. Salad Olivier, venigret, Russian cabbage soup, herring and potatoes, pelmeni – those are my comfort foods. But my ultimate comfort food is a simple bowl of mashed potatoes. I can go on and on about its restorative (and therapeutic) properties, but I'll hold back. But I recently read Nora Ephron's Heartburn and she went on and on, in the same way, about mashed potatoes. In fact, her character makes it to console herself that she's seven months pregnant, with a toddler, and a husband who is cheating on her. And she even gives the recipe in the book!

But back to my influences. I went through a phase, as a teenager, where I loathed anything Russian. I was in a pretty American setting and being different in middle school and high school, is not exactly what you aspire to. Maybe I would have, if I spoke fluent English and life was generally stable. But I was an immigrant and everything about me was different, and I was trying so hard to keep some things from not standing out. I couldn't control my accent, but I could control what I ate, and so I shunned Russian food and embraced all things American: Thanksgiving, pizza, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, peanut butter – you name it. The only thing I couldn't get behind was Marshmallow Fluff.

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

At the moment I'm cooking a lot from Jerusalem. I very much like both of Melissa Clark's books: Cook This Now and In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite (they are great for cooking everyday meals); Tom Colicchio's Think Like A Chef is fantastic; Edna Lewis's workJulia Child's; Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book is genius; The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is unlike anything else, as is the Chez Panisse series (I'm a huge fan of the Desserts one). I just started reading A Girl and Her Pig and Vegetable Literacy, and all I want to do is just lock myself away for a few days and read every single page. Gorgeous, amazing, inspiring books! As for blogs: I love what Heidi Swanson does on 101Cookbooks and I've been reading a lot of Dinner: A Love Story (I'm a latecomer to Jennie's blog). Also: Smitten KitchenOrangetteThe Wednesday ChefThis Yellow HouseSweet Amandine. Everything Elissa Altman (of Poor Man’s Feast) writes is incredible. I love David Lebovitz’s humor and irreverence. Lately I've been enchanted by The Guardian's food writers lately: Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigel Slater, Felicity Cloake.

Favorite restaurants?

So many… La VaraFranny'sMarc Forgione (I know I'm writing a book with him, but it has been one of my favorites since he opened in 2008), RecetteABC KitchenAldeaFisherman's Dawta (an amazing Jamaican place in our neighborhood), Gramercy TavernMaialinoBuvettePrune. I know I'm missing a whole bunch, but in general, I'm a sucker for cozy places and great food. I can appreciate fine dining, but I always have a far better time somewhere where I can show up in jeans and a T-shirt, and not have six forks and five knives. Those places are lovely, but I feel more comfortable somewhere less formal.

Play out your ideal last meal for us.

Ooof, that would be a big meal… Start with Wellfleet oysters and beer. Then I'd want to eat lots of vegetable salads and sides from ABC Kitchen and Franny's. Also, ABC Kitchen's clam pizza and Marc Forgione's spicy lobster (and the kanpachi appetizer); I think I'd want the cacio e pepe from Maialino; a cold borscht from my grandmother; herring and potatoes; pelmeni; then a small break and have actual New England lobster with corn on the cob and finish everything with a homemade blueberry pie. In between, I'd like to eat some lemon squares and Melissa Clark's pecan pie. I know I am forgetting a lot of things. But if it's my last meal, I need to really eat up! I think I'd like it to be picnic-style and outside on a cliff overlooking the ocean. And I'd like to share it with my husband, Leon Panetta (because he has the best laugh), Michael Symon (also the laugh), Rachel Maddow (because she makes a mean cocktail and because I am obsessed with her show), my and Andrew's families, our best friends (really we're throwing a party!), and our cat, Forrest, because he'll be begging everyone for food.

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

I'd love to raid a pantry of someone who cooks totally different food: so someone with a very Thai-centric pantry or a very Indian pantry because I don't have as many items in my arsenal. Also, anyone who is a passionate cook has an interesting pantry – so I'm not picky.

***

Anchovy-Panko Roasted Broccoli and Farro Salad

Serves 4

1 cup farro
Kosher salt
1 cup panko
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
5 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed into a paste
2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into long spears
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, optional
Juice of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Soak farro in water for 25 minutes. While farro soaks, prep your other ingredients.

Drain the farro and transfer to a medium pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover farro by at least 1 inch and set it over high heat. Bring farro and water to a boil, season with enough salt until the water tastes like the ocean, and cook until the farro is al dente, about 20 to 25 minutes. If necessary, add more water to the pot. As soon as farro is done, drain it and set aside in large bowl.

While the farro cooks, heat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack positioned in the middle. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the panko, anchovy, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape into a bowl with the farro and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the remaining olive oil and very lightly season with salt. Spread the broccoli on a shallow baking sheet and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning once midway, until slightly tender and lightly browned. Transfer the broccoli to the bowl with farro and panko, add the parsley and lemon juice, and toss everything to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with more olive oil and serve.

Be sure to follow Olga's blog, Sassy Radish, for other tasty, well-tested recipes, as well as on TwitterFacebook and Instagram (to keep up with Forrest's shenanigans, naturally!).

Thanks, Olga! For your chance to win a copy of The Kimchi Cookbook, please leave us a comment below. You have until the last day of the month, Tuesday, April 30, at 11:59pm/EST. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Seamus Mullen, Chef/Owner of Tertulia and Author of "Hero Food"

Seamus Mullen, Chef/Owner of Tertulia and Author of Hero Food

It's not everyday we get to hang out with celebrated chefs, so when the opportunity to visit Seamus Mullen in his own home presented itself, we jumped at the chance. We'll be the first to admit going through a bit of a fangirl moment - after all, he's spent time in some of Spain's most renowned kitchens; has competed on The Next Iron Chef; and has a laundry list of celebrities passing through Tertulia, his first solo restaurant here in New York. He quickly revealed, however, just how grounded he is, always letting his ingredients take center stage (and demonstrating how very little can't be improved upon with a few shavings of buttery jamón). Seamus is a true devotee to his craft and we have no doubt it's his eagle eye for detail, evident in both his restaurant and well-appointed home, that makes him the great chef that he is. Get ready to be inspired.

Read on to learn how Seamus's love affair with Spain began and for an incredible - yet easy to replicate - recipe for truffle risotto. Plus, an opportunity to win a signed copy of his informative and beautiful book, Hero Food!

Hello, chef! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, the amazing journey you've taken from your upbringing in Vermont to Spain, the country that seems to have largely shaped your cooking style and aesthetic.

I grew up in rural Vermont, in a tiny little town called Vershire. I was never particularly good at school, but I did have a knack for languages, which my high school Spanish teacher picked up on. She encouraged me to go to Spain for a study abroad program, and that really opened my eyes to a whole new world that was out there. Somehow I ended up in Michigan at Kalamazoo College (otherwise known as the Ivy League of Michigan) but was soon back in Spain, I couldn't stay away. Fast forward a few years and many highly random jobs later (including, in no particular order: working at an internet startup, driving a bus and teaching Spanish at UPenn), my grandmother Mutti really encouraged me to take cooking seriously and turn it into my career. My restaurant path took me from San Francisco (Mecca) to New York (Tabla) to Spain (Mugaritz, Alkimia and Abac), and back to New York (Crudo, Suba). In 2006, I opened Boqueria with a partner and in 2008 we opened Boqueria Soho. In 2010, I left Boqueria to pursue my own projects and I opened Tertulia in August 2011 - and here we are!

Huge congratulations on your first book, Hero Food, which focuses on the healing powers of foods you (re)discovered after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It seems many of these foods already fall within the realm of your cooking repertoire. How difficult was it to change your old diet to accommodate this new, more healthful one? What food do you miss most from your old life?

Thank you! It was certainly a labor of love... a very long labor of love, but it was all worth it. I am eternally grateful to my editor, Dorothy Kalins, and to one of my best friends, Colin Clark, who shot all the gorgeous photography.

Health and nutrition are, naturally, of great concern and importance to me. RA can be a very difficult disease to understand and cope with, and it's certainly exacerbated by a job that is as physically demanding as being a chef is. But at the same time, I'm very fortunate that my profession just so happens to be in a field that allows me to better understand my health and nutrition, and do something about it. What I've learned or realized along the way is that all too often we think of "food/cooking/cuisine" and "health" as two separate categories, but they are not mutually exclusive - in fact, they very much go hand in hand.

Hero Food is, first and foremost, a cookbook. Whether you pay much attention to nutrition or health or not, at the end of the day, it's a collection of delicious recipes that I hope you'll want to make time and again. But my larger goal is to bridge the gap between the concept of "healthy" food and "delicious" food, and drive home the point that healthy food can be delicious, and vice versa.

It was a bit of a happy accident that I was already well-versed in the Mediterranean diet, which is rich with olive oil, fish, legumes, beans, etc. So I already had a leg up in terms of eating things that were good for me. More recently though, I've incorporated a few more changes to my diet, which have had a noticeable effect on how I feel. I've been reading a few pretty amazing books on health and nutrition that have really changed the way I think about food, such as Wheat Belly and Why We Get Fat. For example, I've cut out gluten from my diet, avoid sugars and too many carbohydrates, and increased my intake of protein and good fat, such as grass-fed butter. I do miss the occasional sandwich or slice of pizza, but overall, it hasn't been too tough of a transition.

(To learn a bit more about RA, visit the NIH site here.)

DIY copper pot rack created through the handiwork of chef Seamus

You've worked in some incredible kitchens and have quite a few celebrities among your fan base. Tell us: who's your favorite guest so far?

My favorite guest story would have to be when I cooked for Isabella Rossellini - she must have enjoyed it because afterwards she took my face in both hands and planted a big one, square on the kisser. With tongue, I might add.

With Tertulia, you're really opening up New Yorkers' perception of Spanish food beyond patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo. Other than drawing from your extensive time abroad, what else inspires you to create these fresh, innovative dishes?

You're exactly right, there is so much more to Spanish food than just tapas. Spanish food is still relatively underrepresented here in the U.S. - people know it mostly as tapas on one end of the spectrum, or the super avant-garde, El Bulli-end of the spectrum. But there is such a broad range of Spanish cuisine that is still unexplored, and that's what I'm trying to do here. In Spain it's called cocina de producto, or product-based cooking, where the ingredients are the real stars, and you do just enough with them to make them shine. I always say that I cook in the language of Spanish food - my food definitely has Spanish roots, and draws from the traditions I learned and embraced in Spain, but I am an American cook, cooking in New York.

As a professional chef, you must have a treasure trove of tricks up your sleeve - can you share a couple with us?

Definitely! Here are a few favorites:

When barbecuing, bury vegetables (eggplants, onions, peppers, etc.) directly in the coals. Let them roast in the intense heat of the coals until tender. Remove, let them cool, brush off the ash, peel and discard the exterior, and you're left with incredibly sweet, smoky, intensely flavored vegetables. You could also blacken eggplant/peppers in a dry cast iron pan slowly turning them until completely charred all the way around, for the same effect.

Embrace vinegar for finishing dishes - a couple of drops can balance the right amount of acidity and brightness in a stew, sauce, even a risotto. It's always good to have your workhorse vinegars, and then your finishing vinegars.

One last trick - one of the secrets to robustly flavored vegetarian cooking is having a rich, aromatic vegetable stock. Perhaps the greatest way to achieve really intense umami in your vegetable stock is to add dried shiitake mushrooms, in addition to aromatic veggies like carrots, onions, celery, or fennel.

What comfort dish do you and your wife, Lynn, like to make at home?

If we are cooking, we're big on one-pot meals at home - stews, risottos and the like. Easy and delicious! We are in and out of the restaurant so much and our schedules tend to be unpredictable, so it can be tricky to plan ahead or try to make anything too elaborate at home. And of course there are times where we cave and order in, in which case our go-to comfort food is Thai - specifically Pad See Ew noodles.

What is your biggest kitchen pet peeve?

My biggest kitchen pet peeve is not cleaning as you go! It's one of the most important lessons we learn as cooks. Especially in New York, where space is such a premium, both at home and in the restaurant. It helps you stay disciplined, organized and focused because you have to finish what you start, before moving on to the next step. It's my opinion that you're not finished cooking until you're finished cleaning. I love my wife dearly and she is a great cook, but sometimes it looks like a tornado hit our kitchen!

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

Probably our Lagioule steak knives that we received as a wedding gift. They are really beautiful and just the best quality. And of course, my collection of Japanese knives.

In terms of gadgets, I do love my VitaMix blender. It just leaves all other blenders behind in the dust. I use it to make all kinds of soups and purees, but I especially love it for making smoothies in the morning. I'm a big fan of green juices and smoothies - I have a favorite parsley-based recipe in my book - but lately I have been making these coffee smoothies. I've been following Dave Asprey's Bulletproof protocol. The Bulletproof smoothie is coffee, MCT oil and 2 TB of grass-fed butter. I know it doesn't sound that appetizing but it's actually quite good, and gives me great energy. In Tibet, sherpas have been doing this for years at high altitudes, using yak butter mixed with tea. Think of it as Tibetan tea with yak butter with the added advantage of the caffeine kick.

They are more of an appliance brand than gadgets per se, but I'm a huge fan of Breville; they make the best home kitchen appliances. Really smart, well-considered designs. I have their SmartGrilljuicer and oven, all equally awesome. My latest acquisition is the Breville burr coffee grinder. I'm a bit of a coffee junkie so I'm pretty excited to use this.

Also, never underestimate the value of a good old spoon! It's good for tasting, basting and making a point!

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

My top three would easily have to be sherry vinegar, good salt, and excellent olive oil. Those three relatively simple items, but of the best quality, make a tremendous difference in cooking. I love Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar made from the PX grape for rich braises and stews - it has a deep, sweet flavor and mild acidity - and Montegrato Fino sherry vinegar for finishing salads, vegetables or anything that requires a delicate pop of fruity acidity. I always have at least kosher salt, sea salt, and fleur de sel on hand. My preferred olive oil is Valderrama Arbequina or L'Estornell unfiltered Arbequina olive oil.

Grass-fed butter is something I've become hooked on recently. I've used it often before of course, but it wasn't until a few months ago that I learned just how good it is for you, nutritionally-speaking. People shy away from using too much butter, but grass-fed butter is actually extremely nutritious. Among other things, it's got Vitamins A, D, E and K, lots of antioxidants, and it's a great source of Omega 3s and 6s. It's great for everyone, and particularly for someone like me who deals with chronic inflammation.

I always have good quality anchovies around - Don Bocarte or Ortiz are both great brands. Anchovies are one of my favorite foods (in fact there is a whole chapter dedicated to them in my book). I get weird looks when I say that, but I am happy to report that people are starting to come around! I serve a dish at my restaurant Tertulia called Tosta Matrimonio - it's a duo of black and white anchovies on olive oil bread with slow-roasted tomato and sheep's milk cheese, drizzled with a little bit of aged balsamic vinegar. It's been on the menu since Day 1, and it's one of our most popular dishes - once people try it, they totally become anchovy converts! And for good reason - they are super flavorful, and are incredibly healthy and good for you. They pack a big punch, so a little bit goes a long way. At home, we find ways to use it all the time - we put them in salads, in scrambled eggs, etc. Trust me on this!

I don't always happen to have a leg of Ibérico ham laying around, but luckily, today I do! It is hands down the best ham in the world. When I don't have the world's best ham readily available at home, I do usually have a good selection of cured meats - chorizo, sausage, soppressata, etc.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of Brooklyn Roasting Company too! When we moved to Dumbo, we discovered it was just around the corner from us, and as it so happens, one of the cofounders, Emily Sheppard, used to work with me back in the day at Boqueria. Their coffee is really excellent, and I'm really proud of what she's done with the company and how it's grown.

As far as condiments go - ketchup and mustard, because I secretly love hot dogs, and Sriracha, because it's good on everything! Last but not least, I always keep a stash of emergency chocolate somewhere. Oh, and ice cream.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Wylie Dufresne, for his out-of-the-box thinking and innovation. He looks at food as a logic problem that needs to be solved and comes up with a really unusual and unique point of view.

Jordi Vila, whom I used to work for at Alkimia. Jordi has expanded on the Catalan tradition that is his foundation, and has created a new Catalan cooking that is true to the flavors and ingredients of the past but integrates a lot of new influences. He's the guy that taught me to think about tradition but executing with impeccable technique. Elevate something humble to a completely new level just by considering how you prepare it.

On the personal tip, both of my grandmothers. Mutti, on my mom's side, is the one who really inspired and encouraged me to pursue cooking as a career, so I really have her to thank for where I am today. She attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris when she was young, and she introduced me to good technique at a young age. Meme, on my dad's side, was also instrumental in my culinary upbringing. My grandfather Proctor Mellquist was the editor-in-chief of Sunset Magazine for many years, so the two of them were really at the forefront of the California cuisine and lifestyle. I would visit them during the summers and was exposed to all sorts of incredible things at a young age such as truffles, foie gras and the most amazing coffee, which is probably what kicked off my caffeine habit; when other people were making Folgers, they had an Italian espresso maker and made Americanos in the morning and perfect frothy cappucinos in the afternoon.

Favorite restaurants, high and low?

Neta: this is one of our favorite new restaurants, just a few blocks away from Tertulia. They're doing some really amazing, inventive things there. And they make an incredible peanut butter ice cream.

Kyo Ya: Kaiseki is probably one of my favorite cuisines, and in New York, they do it best.

Pok Pok: Andy Ricker just kills it here. And I'm not just saying that because he's a friend of mine. His food here is so intensely flavorful and awesome, there's no other Thai place like it in New York. I could eat here every day.

Asiadog: I don't know why, but I just love hot dogs.

Locanda Verde: Consistently excellent, all the time.

Miss Lily's: Love their juice bar.

Favorite cookbooks?

This isn't a cookbook but I love Edible Selby. I love the way Todd Selby understands the whole package, how food, design, and aesthetic are all rolled into one experience. 

Hiroko Shimbo's Japanese Kitchen. For American cooks striving to understand Japanese cuisine, this is the quintessential book. It has all the traditional dishes and techniques.

I'm a huge fan of Olivier Roellinger. He was one of the first French chefs to eschew butter and cream in favor of delicate spice and vegetables. He truly captured the exotic flavors of far flung reaches of the world and brought it into his cuisine in a unique and beautiful way.

And without a doubt, Michel Bras' cookbook Essential Cuisine - it is the standard by which all food photography should be measured.

Just your average, everyday plugged-in New York couple ;)

A portion of Seamus's antique collection on display

Play out your last meal for us.

For my last meal, I'd kick it off with a bowl of heirloom tomatoes, Cantabrian anchovies, and fresh burrata, drizzled with Arbequina olive oil, 50-year old balsamic vinegar, and a fistful of fresh herbs. I'd follow that up with a huge bowl of Santa Barbara sea urchin with chilled dashi, fresh wasabi and yuba skin - I love sea urchin. Then, a few pieces of Toro sushi, shima aji tartare, Kobe beef carpaccio and white truffle risotto. For the grand finale, I'd have a plate of 48-month aged Ibérico ham from 5Js with a glass of Lopez de Heredia 2001 Rose wine. For dessert, two scoops of coffee gelato from il Laboratorio di Gelato and a Romeo y Julieta Churchill Cuban cigar. I think this feast would be most delicious somewhere in Paris, sitting alongside Picasso, Escoffier, Hemingway, Michelle Obama - and of course, my better half.

Whose pantries would you like to raid?

Juan Mari and Elena Arzak - they have probably the most insane catalogued spice collection I've ever seen.

Lior Lev Sercarz, from La Boite Biscuits & Spices. Here's a guy who spends all day, every day, thinking about spices, sourcing irreproachable spices, dreaming up spice blends - he is just amazing.

Yes, that would be an old school barber chair!

***

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Hen's Egg and Black Truffle

Serves 2

2 cups Arborio rice
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, cut into equal sized pieces
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoon dry white wine
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 free range eggs
Fresh black or white truffles (as much as you can afford and then a little extra!)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 ounces sliced Iberico ham

In a medium sized pot heat the stock up to a simmer, then turn off. In another medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the mushrooms a little bit at a time so as not to crowd the pot and to allow the mushrooms to brown evenly. Once they have browned, about three minutes, reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic and sweat for 1 minute, taking care to keep them from taking any color. Deglaze with the Champagne vinegar and add the rice.

Toast the rice, stirring to keep it from burning, for two minutes until the grains of rice begin to turn translucent. After 2 minutes, add the white wine and cook to allow the alcohol to evaporate, about 1 minute. Season lightly with kosher salt and with a ladle, add the stock a little at a time, stirring constantly in the same direction with a rubber spatula (this keeps you from crushing the grains of rice.) As the rice absorbs the stock, add a little bit more, taking care not to boil the rice. Once the rice is nearly fully cooked, about 18 minutes, season with fresh ground pepper and fold in the grated cheese. Cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and emulsify in the butter until creamy. The rice should be nice and creamy, but you should be able to see each individual grain.

Divide the rice into two warmed bowls, making a small indentation in the middle of the rice. Carefully separate the egg yolk from the white and set aside the white for another use. Nestle the yolk into the indentation in the rice and season with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil. Finish each dish with as many truffles and slices of Iberico ham as your budget allows. Eat right away!

To learn more about Chef Seamus Mullen, visit his website, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and if you're lucky enough to live in or around New York, be sure to drop by his gorgeous restaurant, Tertulia, where you can pick up signed copies of his photo-filled book, Hero Food!

Thanks, Seamus! We had risotto-filled dreams for a while after this. For your chance to win a signed copy of Hero Food, please leave us a comment below. You have until the last day of the month, Thursday, February 28, at 11:59pm/EST. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Mark Andrew Gravel, Independent Cook, Designer and Author of "Kill the Recipe"

Mark Andrew Gravel, Independent Cook, Designer and Author of Kill the Recipe

Mark's shoot couldn't have come at a better time. Without ever intending to, we realized we had featured only women here on Pantry Confidential since our first post a little more than a year ago (A year! Already!). It's high time we mix things up, wouldn't you say? And Mark couldn't be a better inaugural male subject - passionate about food, art and the wholly sensory experiences derived from each. His first book, Kill the Recipe, is an homage to beans and cooking locally, sensibly and economically. We totally fell in love with his pared down style, which is fully extended to his minimal cooking aesthetic. A laid-back man with an appreciation for beautiful art, delicious food and cleanliness... did we mention he's single?

Read on to find out the biggest misconception about beans and the best joint for dub reggae beats in Greenpoint - plus, a giveaway!

Hi Mark! Please tell us what you do and a bit about your culinary/design background.

I cook and design. I’m lucky because these are two of my passions, and I’m able to do both for work. I’m originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., and I came to New York in 2005 for the Food Studies program at NYU. Prior to that, I studied Culinary Arts in Charleston, S.C. While I was at NYU, the Food Studies program was still pretty young so there was a lot of room to individualize your study, which gave me the freedom to combine my design interests with my cooking background. While I was finishing school, I started Good Farm, an art and agriculture blog that showcased and celebrated the agrarian avant-garde, which are the forward thinking farmers, cooks, eaters, educators, activists, and artists reclaiming our land, our communities and our health. Since then, I’ve transitioned Good Farm to a foraging project that draws on a network of place-based producers to source local food for a variety of food businesses and events.

During this time, I also put together a collage art food zine with some friends called Food + Sex, which visually explored how desire shapes our food environment. I was living in San Francisco while working on Food + Sex and when I first landed in San Francisco, I wound up cooking with Chris Kronner and Danny Bowien at a temporary restaurant called Good Evening Thursday in the Mission neighborhood. I was really enjoying cooking in this alternative environment, so I wound up doing some of my own projects at my friend’s space called Gravel & Gold (the name is a coincidence!) At Gravel & Gold, I hosted bean-based dinners and daytime pop-ups, which eventually became known as Bean-Ins. While at a friend’s dinner, I met an artist named Natasha Wheat and she invited me to collaborate with her and Sarah Magrish Cline, a designer, to host a daylong Bean-In at California College of the Arts. For me, this was the pinnacle of Bean-In as well as the conclusion. After San Francisco, I moved back to New York and did a few more pop-ups then took a break and moved back to North Carolina to work on Kill the Recipe. As of now, Kill the Recipe is out, I’m back in New York and I’m currently working on a social cooking app.

How would you describe your cooking style?

My cooking style and aesthetic is minimalist because I believe that keeping it simple is really important. As for my cooking, it’s definitely bean-rich. I like to think of meat as more of a complement to a dish than the focus. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t eat a lot of beans growing up, but once I discovered how satisfying good beans could be I was hooked.

What is your favorite bean and how do you like to prepare it? 

I really love heirloom cowpeas. They’re a staple of traditional Lowcountry cooking and an essential ingredient in classic Hoppin’ John. Most Hoppin’ John made today is made with black-eyed peas, and it’s just not the same. My favorite way to make cowpeas is by simmering them with onion, garlic, bay leaves and a little bit of butter. It’s so satisfying and the leftover broth is amazing.

What are the biggest challenges you've encountered while spreading the bean gospel?

The main misconception is that beans cause digestive problems. It’s actually not a misconception because most beans aren’t cooked properly, and by properly I mean they aren’t cooked long enough. I like to compare beans to BBQ. Beans are full of complex starches and sugars like most cuts used for BBQ are full of tough connective tissues. Like the connective tissues, the starches and sugars need time to break down and become more digestible. If you cook beans long enough this happens and the digestive problems associated with the magical fruit cease to exist. Beans are rad when they’re made right.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat and enjoy a night out?

I love eating at Mission Chinese. They have a surprising amount of legumes incorporated into their menu, which I love. Other than that, I haven’t been eating out much these days. I do, however, enjoy hanging at Nights and Weekends near my house in Greenpoint. They always have the best dub reggae records playing, which also happens to be my favorite thing to cook to.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils?

My mom’s old All-Clad LTDs; they’re well-worn and beautiful.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Restaurant supply stores.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Olive oil, coarse salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, a few vinegars, garlic and onions. These are generally the only things in my pantry. :)

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

My grandmother.

Favorite cookbook?

Food Sex Art: Starving Artists Cookbook (currently out of print).

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Sean Brock’s.

Where can we find your book?

Amazon and killtherecipe.com.

***

Cowpea, Cauliflower and Spinach Soup with Green Chorizo 

Soak 2 cups of dried Carolina Plantation Cowpeas or Sea Island Red Peas overnight in well-salted water at room temperature. Drain before using.

In a pot, add soaked, drained peas, a small diced onion, a clove of garlic, a few bay leaves, a small piece of butter and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the peas for about 30 minutes or until tender.

When the peas are tender, add 4 cups of shaved, raw cauliflower and 4 cups of steamed, chopped spinach to the pot. Add more water to cover the ingredients and season with salt, black pepper, and a few splashes of vinegar (any type is fine). Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While soup is simmering, warm a saute pan over high heat and sear sausage* until the skin is browned (poke a few small holes in the skin of the sausage to prevent bursting before adding it to the pan.)

Reduce heat to finish cooking the sausage, then remove from the pan and slice.

To finish the soup, adjust salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste and ladle into a bowl. Add sliced sausage and serve.

*Substitute regular chorizo or andouille if you can't find green chorizo. Here we used The Meat Hook's amazing Toluca sausage filled with serranos, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and herbs.

Keep up with Mark's many projects on Twitter (@killtherecipe) and his various websites: bouwerie.comgoodfarmmovement.comkilltherecipe.com.

Thanks, Mark! This soup was so delicious, we re-created it at home the same night! For your chance to win a copy of Kill the Recipe and a bag of these gorgeous Carolina Plantation Cowpeas, please leave us a comment sharing your favorite bean recipe. You have until next Friday, December 14, at 11:59pm/EST. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Susy Schieffelin, Director of PR and Marketing, KGNY Restaurant Group

Susy Schieffelin, Director of PR and Marketing, KGNY Restaurant Group

The word exuberant doesn't fully capture Susy's energy. This girl is firing on all cylinders ALL the time, spreading her enthusiasm for all that she loves (great food, killer accessories, her precious pup) to all who surround her. It's no wonder she's gifted at what she does, heading up the press and marketing efforts behind one of the most renowned Austrian chefs in New York, Kurt Gutenbrunner. Susy epitomizes the ethos of working hard and playing harder, and when you see someone so utterly devoted to their work, you can't help but get a little swept up, too.

Read on for tips on how NOT to light your kitchen ablaze and to find out why Susy always got scolded in culinary school!

Hi Susy! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you landed such a great gig so early on in your career. 

I grew up in Greenwich, Conn., in a family that loves to cook. I was cooking eggs Benedict, spaghetti carbonara and Christmas cookies from scratch by the time I was five. It was just what we did! My senior year in high school, we had a class trip to the Culinary Institute of America and it opened my eyes to a career path that had not crossed my mind, and although I was already all set to attend the University of Virginia, I became determined to one day return to the CIA. When I graduated in May 2011, I prepared to finally attend culinary school - the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), not the CIA - in the fall. I learned so much during culinary school and had the most incredible experience.

As graduation approached, I explored many options in trying to figure out what I wanted to do. The more I looked, the more I became interested in doing public relations for restaurants. I was offered an internship at a well-known restaurant PR firm and, the day before I was about to accept, I got an email from Kurt Gutenbrunner's group (KGNY) inviting me in for an interview. I went in, not knowing what to expect, but from the minute I met the team and Chef Kurt himself, my gut told me that I had to have that job. The opportunity turned out to be absolutely perfect. Now, I have worked for six months as director of public relations and marketing for our group of five restaurants throughout the city. It is a big job, and I learn as I go every day!

When people ask me what I do, it is sometimes hard to explain because I wear many hats. We are a small group running five restaurants and everybody works together to make sure things run seamlessly. Generally, my job involves reaching out to the press and pitching stories, publicizing events and promotions that we hold, managing our social media (six Facebook and five Twitter accounts!), overseeing and always finding ways to improve customer relations - everything from Yelping, to replying to customer emails, to generally making opportunities to meet new people and spread the word about our restaurants. I also work on our branding and marketing, creating graphic designs for printed promotional materials. There are many fun perks, such as attending fabulous parties and dinners and even the James Beard Awards. But there are also long hours, stressful and unpredictable days, and a lot of pressure and responsibility. Nonetheless, I could not love my job more! I don’t get to cook as much as I would like to, but I do get to eat, talk about, photograph and generally enjoy amazing food and restaurants.

Did you ever consider working the line in a professional restaurant kitchen after culinary school? 

Not seriously. While in school, there was a point when I thought it would be an important thing to experience in order to solidify the skills I learned in class. But, after experiencing two months working at L’Ecole (the International Culinary Center's student-run restaurant) in every position of the line, I felt certain that it was enough for me. I got in trouble a lot for chatting in the kitchen and eating non-stop. I realized that as much as I enjoyed learning the techniques, what was going to be most helpful in terms of my career was what the school taught me about the restaurant industry: understanding front of house, back of house, food costing, etc., basically how restaurants work.

What is the most interesting thing you've learned working for a restaurant group?

How much it is like a family! We all have our own specific roles, but we also all take care of each other and have each other’s backs. Communication is so important in order to keep track of what is going on at each restaurant, so no one establishment lacks attention. We sometimes call Kurt “Papa”- I’m not even sure if he knows! But he looks out for all of us and we look out for his restaurants. We have a great team.

How would you describe your personal cooking style? Has working with an Austrian chef changed the way you cook or eat at all?

Before I worked for KGNY, I had never even had Austrian food before! Now I love it. I eat way too much Wiener Schnitzel, it's so delicious. Working for Kurt definitely has influenced me though, but mostly in terms of ingredient choices. I have learned new flavor combinations and fallen in love with Austrian-inspired ingredients such as pumpkin seed oil. It’s so healthy and delicious - even on ice cream (Editor's note: formerly featured pantry Shino Takeda gave us the same tip!)! My co-worker Krissy taught me to put it on vanilla ice cream and it is almost like chocolate syrup, but super healthy! I have also become extremely conscious of local and seasonal foods. Our chefs go to the Union Square Greenmarket several times a week and the menu is always changing depending on what looks best and what is available. Kurt believes strongly that good food must be made from the best quality ingredients, so now I really take that to heart. I live near the New Amsterdam Market and go there almost every Sunday to buy local produce. And, there is nothing better than fresh eggs!

My own personal cooking style is very improvisational. I get inspired and love to cook what I am in the mood for. I especially love sauces and condiments! Everything from hollandaise to compound butter; I hate dry or plain food.

In college I studied Mandarin and East Asian Studies, and I've also spent a lot of time in China, taking cooking classes both in Shanghai and in Sichuan province. A lot of times I like to cook Asian food - the spicier the better! I have a secret recipe for Chinese noodles that I learned while in Sichuan Province. They are extremely spicy and one of my favorite comfort foods. I wrote my thesis in college on the history of Chinese food in America, and how social/political relations with China directly affect the popularity of authentic vs. American-style Chinese food.

You're a young gal living it up in New York. What are some of your favorite haunts? Is there anything you love making for yourself after a long day at work?

I definitely don’t cook for myself enough. I am really busy during the week and on weekends there are so many restaurants that I am dying to try! I do make homemade granola to eat with fruit and yogurt for breakfast and bake brownies when I get the chance. I also make a lot of milkshakes - after a long day at work I just can’t resist!

Lucky cousin Matt gets to lick the whisk!

As a single gal in New York City, I have had the chance to go on some really fun dates. The best one was probably to

Bohemian - it's sort of a secret restaurant with only seven tables. The food is Japanese and unbelievable. Their foie gras soba noodles are to die for. Some of my other favorite places are The Spotted Pig for an amazing burger and their gnudi, Peels for brunch, and our restaurant Cafe Kristall for the petite Viennese finger sandwiches. I find any excuse to go there for lunch and always choose the same four sandwiches: chicken and foie gras, egg on egg and two asparagus with goat cheese. I also love to go out dancing after dinner: Southside Night Club in SoHo is probably my favorite place to go lately; they have great DJs and I always run into a million friends. I also love Chloe 81 in the LES - it’s smaller and more lounge-like but also great for dancing. On Saturday nights they have a cool French DJ. It’s awesome.

Fun nights out demand fierce earrings.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils?

Onion goggles! Just kidding. My dad gave me them for Christmas. I only put them on when I am cooking with friends to look silly. Onions don’t really even make me cry. To be serious, my favorite gadget is my hand blender. I love making soup, especially creamy black bean soup and the hand blender makes it so easy and mess-free.

Where do you like to shop for kitchen supplies?

Williams Sonoma. I could live in that store, I literally want everything that they sell. And I get a chef's discount!

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Soy sauce, truffle oil, honey, chocolate chips and polenta. Not to use together!

Lonely crisper drawers speak to Susy's aversion to most fruits and vegetables (exception: berries)

Coconut water: nature's sports drink

What are your favorite cookbooks and sites?

My boss's (Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s) book, Neue Cuisine, is amazing. It is so beautiful and the recipes are all delicious, unique and fairly easy. It is more than a cookbook, it's basically a piece of art in itself. He included lots of elements and information about Austrian art and design, especially pieces from the Neue Galerie. It’s educational and beautiful. I also just found out that none of the pictures of the food were styled. Everything was prepared just as we do for service and shot in the restaurant; it's almost unbelievable. I also read Grub Street religiously and The New York Times Dining section - of course. When Grub Street mentions one of our restaurants on their site, it makes my whole week!

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

The pantry at the International Culinary Center (where I went to culinary school)! Obviously it is a cooking school, so they have literally everything. It’s a huge storeroom with anything you can dream of. To me, the most valuable thing that they have, though, is their fresh homemade stock that the students make daily. Their stock is not even comparable to anything store-bought. It really makes a difference in your cooking, but it takes so long to make yourself! Especially veal stock. Yum. Then you can reduce it into demi-glace... wow.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

My mom! She can cook or bake anything. Her recipe collection is incredible and she doesn’t really even need to use them. Everything she makes is delicious. When my sisters and I were little, my mom would take us to school every morning and we would drive her crazy because it would be 7 a.m. and we would ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner??,” just so we could look forward to it throughout the day.

Okay, we are a little obsessed with your dog. Is that a Beau-tie we spy?

Yes! This is my Yorkie, Beau. He is also a foodie. Sadly, he has colitis and is on a gluten-free diet. He manages to eat well anyway; his favorite food is prosciutto. He gets excited if you even say the word!

***

Susy's Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

1 box macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons truffle butter
2 tablespoons (or more :)) truffle oil
Truffles (in this case, about half of a 3 oz. jar)
1 cup grated Gruyere
1 cup grated white cheddar
1 cup grated Parmesan
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

Fill a large pot with water, salt well and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 6 minutes until al dente, strain, reserve in same large pot.

In a saucepan, melt first 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes but do not let brown. Whisk in milk slowly, allow to boil and thicken. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Turn off the heat and whisk in cheeses, truffle butter, truffle oil and truffles.

Pour cheese sauce into the macaroni and add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter for good measure. Distribute macaroni into serving dish(es).

Mix panko with 1/2 cup of melted butter and a little truffle oil. Spread a very thin layer of the panko mixture over the macaroni. Put the oven on broil and let the panko brown for 2 minutes. Do not close the oven door! Do not forget about it!

(See what happens when you do forget about it below.)

Serve and enjoy!

Did that just happen?!

The term 'caramelized' springs to mind...

Luckily, it was just the very top layer that suffered the most damage - all was not lost! Good times. Thanks, Susy! For those interested in checking out Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's cuisine, visit any of his five restaurants: WallséBlaue GansCafe SabarskyCafe Kristall and The Upholstery Store. Blaue Gans will continue to host Oktoberfest festivities through this Friday, October 5. Follow Blaue Gans on Twitter for the latest updates - prost! 

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Mindy Fox, Food Editor of La Cucina Italiana and Author of "Salads: Beyond the Bowl"

Mindy Fox, Food Editor of La Cucina Italiana and Author of Salads: Beyond the Bowl

Don't let that disarming megawatt smile fool you - Mindy means business in the kitchen and she's got the chops to prove it! After years of cooking professionally in restaurant kitchens, Mindy turned to publishing, gracing the general public with her flavorful and often Mediterranean-inflected cooking through titles like A Bird in the Oven and Then Some and Olives and Oranges. Her latest cookbook, Salads: Beyond the Bowl, explores precisely that, shaking up the paradigm of orthodox greens and infusing a fresh, delicious point of view - perfect for now, when the dog days of summer settle in and green markets really start to flourish. Meet this incredible woman whose love of good food is matched only by her passion for good design. A true fox!

(Sorry Mindy, we simply couldn't resist!)

Read on to learn an easy technique for making garlic paste and to find out how to take stock of your fridge "bank account" - plus, your chance to win a copy of Salads: Beyond the Bowl!

Hi Mindy! Please tell us a bit about your background and the incredible road you took to get to where you are today.

I'm the food editor at La Cucina Italiana magazine, and a food writer and cookbook author. I’m so grateful to be able to do a variety of things that I love, including developing, testing and editing recipes; styling food or overseeing styling at photo shoots; and researching, developing and writing food articles. Sometimes I travel to cover an article -- new environments, people, languages, ingredients, architecture, design, history and more are so inspiring to me; all are tied to food and cooking in all sorts of cool ways. Occasionally I do a TV segment to promote my new book, Salads: Beyond the Bowl. I also teach cooking classes.

My mom and dad are serious food enthusiasts and talented at the stove; both are adventurous with food and travel—they’ve influenced and inspired my food from day one. When I was 13, we moved from Chicago via NYC to New England. I was devastated! I missed my friends and felt like an outsider -- a big city kid who needed to form new friendship bonds and adapt to small town life. I sulked for what seemed like forever. Then I got busy with my mom in her kitchen and beautiful gardens. We had apple trees, a blackberry bramble, rhubarb and blueberry bushes, nasturtiums, zucchinis and their blossoms, pumpkins and more. My dad decided to raise a small flock of sheep, so in came the rams and ewes and of course the gorgeous little lambs then arrived (I went through a vegetarian phase at that time!). My mom began to market her famous Fox More Than a Mustard. We earned our allowance by putting labels on jars for her!

We didn't live off the land, but we did harvest and cook with everything we grew and raised. When I opened my eyes to what we had and how life had changed, it was magical. I began my path to understanding the value and quality of organic and freshly harvested ingredients, the deep satisfaction in raising and growing your own food, and the importance of farm preservation and sustainable land use. I spent a lot of time cooking with my mom during those years; it was transformative and the springboard to my career.

At college in Madison, Wis., I worked the outdoor coffee cart for a local cafe called Victor’s. On Saturday mornings I woke at 3am to brew coffee for the farmers' market. I’d pull up to the market around 5:30am to set up. As the sun rose over the Capitol building, the farmers unloaded gorgeous vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, cheeses, honeys, pies, maple syrup, and more from their trucks. Then they’d line up for coffee and to share their bounty with me before the throngs of marketers arrived. The sense of community among the farmers and people who worked the market was fantastic. I’ve found this same sort of bond in the greater food world, too.

My obsession with food and cooking continued to grow in Paris, France, where I spent my junior year studying film theory and photography. It was my first time in Europe. I fell madly in love with the culture of food shopping: going to the butcher for my meat and the cheese shop for my cheese; purchasing pastries from the patisserie. Each artisan doing business from his or her own focused environment felt natural and appropriate. I lived in a tiny maid’s room, with just a sink and a hot plate. No fridge! In the winter, I kept milk and other perishables on my windowsill. I’m amazed to this day how simply and well I cooked and ate in that sweet little space with such elemental tools. After college I worked my way up the line as a restaurant cook in Boston, then came back to NYC, where I landed my dream job as an assistant editor at Saveur. My publishing career grew from there.

Left: Mindy's mother's tasty mustard | Right: A favorite shopping staple

How would you describe your food aesthetic and cooking style?

Fresh and seasonal. Clean, vibrant flavors. Unfussy but dignified, i.e., simple-chic! Not too rule-oriented; healthy, but not without a bit of bacon, chorizo, prosciutto or mortadella often involved! Aside from Dijon mustard and Hellman's mayo (I love both and I use mayo on sandwiches and for quick weeknight aiolis), I’m not big on condiments. I love spices. My favorites include Aleppo pepper, piment d'Espelette, smoked paprika, sumac, coriander, za’atar, fennel pollen and fennel seed, and I rely heavily on good sea salts and freshly cracked pepper. My dad taught me about dried Greek oregano which I find at Greek and ethnic markets, often in long cellophane packages; it’s fantastic – intensely fragrant and flavorful.

What is the motivation behind your latest book focusing on salads?

I'm a serious salad fanatic! Salad is truly part of my everyday eating lifestyle. With Salads: Beyond the Bowl, I teach the craft and balance of a truly great salad. This involves everything from how you shop for, store and handle ingredients to the best way to dress and toss. A few little technique tweaks can help you master the dish!

Since a salad can contain as little as one main ingredient or many, and can include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, grains, pasta, fish, beef, poultry or game, and flavor influence from any culture, the variations are truly endless. And great salads can be made throughout the seasons! Have you ever shredded a raw celery root or shaved raw Brussels sprouts for a salad? You might be surprised how amazing it is!

We all like the idea of incorporating more vegetables and hearty grains and legumes into our diets, and it’s imperative that we do. When healthy food tastes incredible, you forget the “good for you” part. It just becomes fantastic eating.

Nothing is more gratifying to me than when I can contribute to another person’s enjoyment of food and cooking, and share how simple and phenomenal healthy eating can be.

Do you have any good chef/restaurant tips you can impart to the enthusiastic home cook?

I sure do! Much can be said here, but these are my biggies:

1. As much as is reasonably do-able for you, purchase ingredients locally and as close to the time you plan to cook them as possible to ensure vibrant and “alive” flavors.

2. It’s totally ok – encouraged even! — to veer off the recipe roadmap; this can help ensure that you use the freshest of what you find in the market and/or to waste less in your own home by using ingredients you already have on hand.

3. Relating directly to the above, I take an inventory of my fridge contents once or twice a week, and my freezer every few weeks; I jot it all down on a piece of paper and keep it handy to remind me to use up what I have. Chefs do this to look after their bottom line; you can do it, too. In 2010, the New York Times published an article stating that 25 percent of the food we bring into our homes is wasted. Try thinking of your fridge like a food ‘bank account’!

4. Prepare your mise en place (i.e., chop your veggies, garlic, herbs; measure your liquids, etc.) before you go to the stove to begin a recipe, instead of during the cooking process. And “clean as you go.” Both techniques help you keep organized and focused -- a major key to cooking well.

Clean as you go!

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

The tools that probably get the biggest daily workouts in my kitchen are my microplane zester, which I use most often to zest lemons and grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and my timers. When you develop and test recipes, it's crucial to have good-quality timers that count both up and down. I also love my adjustable-blade slicer; it cuts radishes, fennel and all sorts of other veggies paper-thin which is very hard, if not tedious, to do with a knife, even a good sharp one, or thicker, depending on what you want. The way you slice a vegetable impacts the way you experience its texture and flavor; the same goes with cheeses and other ingredients.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Despaña in NYC is one of my all-time favorite shops. They have a Soho location and a lesser know outpost in Queens, which is a great local scene and is where they make their outstanding homemade chorizo and morcilla sausages. I go on Saturdays when as early as 9am they will pour you a glass of red wine to wash down the generous bites of cheeses, olives, sausages and more that are offered for sampling.

(Sounds right up our alley!)

I also love Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, and Eataly, where the espresso and gelato can’t be beat!! I shop at both often for ingredients for La Cucina Italiana magazine recipes. And I teach classes at Eataly; they have a great school there. 

Also Fante’s, which is very special kitchen shop in Philly. They have an extensive selection of Italian tools, including hard-to-find items like chitarra pasta makers and corzetti stamps. If you love to make pasta, these two shapes are really fun and easy. Check out recipes for chitarra, corzetti and more at La Cucina Italiana.

For kitchen and home gifts, I’m especially crazy about Marimekko, where I purchased the apron I’m wearing and our blue dot coffee cups, and The Global Table in Soho, for gorgeous bowls, serving ware and more.

What are your top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

I always have several high-quality extra-virgin olive oils, plus a good "cooking" ‘EVOO’ on hand. A great red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and sherry vinegar (there are many others, but those tend to be my most reached for). A selection of high-quality sea salts. Black peppercorns. Garlic—especially fresh from the farmer's market when in season; what a difference! Anchovies. Lemons. Salt-packed capers. Good-quality canned tuna. Good dried pasta; several shapes. Freekeh and farro. Lentils. Sriracha! Pumpkinseed oil is a recent obsession... Honey; lots of varieties. Farmers' market eggs. La Colombe coffee beans!

Who is your biggest professional and personal food inspiration?

So many people! Here are a few:

Dorothy Kalins: My first boss in the food publishing world at Saveur, where she was founding editor. Dorothy is smart, funny, exuberant, demanding for all the right reasons and very real. Her instinct for intuiting what resonates with readers is genius and totally from the heart. Dorothy launched and edited powerhouse magazines for decades. She's produced stacks of fantastic cookbooks, including My New Orleans, by John Besh, which is one of our official 'house favorites'!

Alice Waters, for simple but amazing cooking and cookbooks, and for her beautiful life mission to help people eat better from a young age.

Heidi Swanson, for her unique flavor combinations and gorgeous photography, and her all around elegance and style.

Michael Tusk, for the way he so subtly puts his own touch on Italian cuisine while staying true to root principles of the culture and ingredients, and for his deep knowledge of and excitement about many lesser-known Italian ingredients.

Sara Jenkins: I love how she brings a broad range of Mediterranean ingredients into her Italian cooking. And for her tenacity and her porchetta!

My parents.

Is there a tasty hole-in-the-wall, neighborhood spot you'd be willing to share?

I love Tanoreen in Bay Ridge for delicious Middle Eastern/Mediteranean.

Chao Thai: tiny super-spicy Thai place in Queens.

Casamento's in New Orleans (family-owned since 1919!!) for the oyster loaf sandwich – supremely plump and crispy cornmeal-fried oysters between 2 slices of pillow-soft white Bunny Bread, slathered with a mayo and pickle mash-up and topped with shredded iceberg; a sublime and very particular sort of heaven... There’s a great tiny Mexican resto, hidden in the back of a bodega up here in Washington Heights, where I live... I can’t remember the name!

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

I love 101 Cookbooks, which is Heidi Swanson’s blog. I also am a dedicated reader of The Improvised Life and Remodelista blogs, which are about creativity, architecture, art and design, with lots of food and kitchen overlap.

I love so many cookbooks; too many to mention, so I’ll name some of the lesser-known: Lebanese Cuisine, by Madelain Farah; The Golden Lemon, by Doris Tobias and Mary Merris; The Geometry of Pasta, by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kennedy; The Balthazar CookbookFrank Stitt’s Southern Table.

AND lovely, interesting, super-cool food writing: Gumbo Tales, by Sara Roahen; Serious Pig, by John Thorne; and anything by Calvin Trillin.

Whose pantries would you like to raid?

1. Angelica and Marcos Intriango; owners of Despaña in Soho -- for AMAZING Spanish everything!!

2. Stanley Tucci -- he's a serious cook, the host of Vine Talk on PBS and is set to debut his cookbook this fall! And his role as Paul Child in Julie & Julia!? WOW; so sweet.

3. Sara Jenkins --we share a love for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ingredients; she introduced me to Aleppo pepper, fennel pollen and sumac, and she’s always finding something new.

4. Massimo Vignelli -- I've actually pawed through his pantry and I'd do it again any day! Massimo designed the award-winning line of colorful melamine stacking dinnerware called Hellerware; I still have pieces from my parents' 70s collection! I’ve written about him for Saveur and Edible Manhattan magazines. He’s one of my design superheroes.

When beautiful form meets practical function: good design on display

What else should we know about you? ;)

My husband, Steve Hoffman, is an architect with his own design/build firm here in NYC, called DBA. He recently redesigned one side of our kitchen (the previous owner had done a gorgeous job with the other side. We surmise that her budget only allowed for that 50%!). We tore out the old and built the new together over one insanely crazy long weekend. We found elegant, simple cabinet doors and drawer fronts at Ikea, which we outfitted with invisible touch latches. And we got our dream fridge, a Fisher & Paykel "Active Smart". After years and years of using very old, super low-quality fridges, we are in supreme fridge heaven, and it's beautiful, too--smooth white with brushed aluminum handles.

Mindy with her sweet dog, Jasper

***

Panzanella Di Farro | Tuscan Bread Salad with Farro

Courtesy of Salads: Beyond the Bowl, by Mindy Fox

Serves 4 to 6

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Fine sea salt
1 large ear of corn, shucked
½ pound green beans, trimmed
6 tablespoons very good extra virgin olive oil
1¼ cups farro
1 large garlic clove
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Finely ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 cup packed basil leaves, large leaves torn
4 medium radishes, halved and very thinly sliced
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. In a large serving bowl, toss together the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Cook the corn and the green beans together in the boiling water; after 3 minutes, using tongs, transfer the corn to a cutting board. Continue to cook the green beans until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes more. using tongs, transfer the beans to a colander to drain, pat dry and place in a medium bowl (reserve the pot of water). Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss to combine.

Cook the farro in the boiling water that you used for the corn and beans, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the green beans until golden on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let the beans cool, then cut into 1-inch lengths. Cut the corn kernels off the cob.

On a cutting board, slice the garlic clove, then mound the garlic together with ½ teaspoon salt, and using both the blade and the flat side of a chef's knife, chop and scrape the mixture into a paste. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 5 tablespoons oil and the vinegar. Add the garlic paste and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and vigorously whisk the dressing to combine.

Drain the farro, then spread it on a baking sheet set over a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. When the farro is cool, whisk together the dressing and add it to the tomatoes, along with the farro, green beans, corn, cucumber, basil, radishes, scallions, ¾ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss the salad to combine well.

What's your favorite way to enjoy salads this season? Share with us in the comments below and enter for your chance to win a copy of Mindy's inspiring cookbook, Salads: Beyond the Bowl!

Deadline: Friday, August 10, at 11:59pm/EST.

Good luck, readers! :)

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Tamar Adler, Author of "An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace"

Tamar Adler, Author of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

“There is a prevailing theory that we need to know much more than we do in order to feed ourselves well. It isn’t true." 

The opening lines of Tamar's first book, An Everlasting Meal, speak to the heart of natural, resourceful cooking and eating that often gets muddled in this age of shiny tools and instant meals. She shares simple, but no less valuable, lessons in beautifully crafted essays that let you know she's equally adept with words as she is with ingredients. Having trained in the kitchens of Chez Panisse and Prune, Tamar provides thoughtful recipes (which don't often read like traditional recipes) that yield tremendously satisfying results, for both stomach and soul.

Read on to find out what irks Tamar in the kitchen and for your chance to win a signed copy of her amazing book!

Please tell us a bit about your writing process and if you can draw any comparisons between cooking and writing.

Something that's true of my writing is that I find that when things are just beginning, they're really tender, like small children, and I don't think they're ready to be thrown into the world. I'm not sure there's a correlate to that in cooking. Except that I can say, for me, that I don't particularly like making a lot of decisions before I'm in the middle of cooking something. That is to say that when people ask me how much salt I add to something, or how I'm going to finish something, or even sometimes what the finished dish is, I can't often answer. I add salt by tasting, like most cooks who haven't been beaten down by the cult of the recipe. Sometimes it's only when I've roasted broccoli, or cooked beans, or roasted a chicken that I decide that I want to make a broccoli bread salad, or make a chili oil for the chicken. So, in those cases, I suppose the idea of the finished dish is a little like the early stages of writing something.

That said, I don't have very intense expectations for what I cook. I just want it to taste good. When it comes to writing, I am meticulous. Every word matters, every comma matters, the rhythm of sentences read out loud matters. The nicest compliments I've gotten about An Everlasting Meal were the ones that said that parts of it read like poetry. One of my friends tried to get me to stop fretting about my fish chapter while I was working on the first draft by reminding me that I was writing a book on cooking, not a poem. But rhythm, diction, and cadence always matter to me, regardless of what I'm writing about, or for what. I've tried to rein that in a little as I've been asked to write blog posts and do written interviews because I could spend days on something people will skim in under a minute, if that.

As a professional cook, you must have some tricks up your sleeve. What is just one for all our readers, amateur, avid and everything in between?

Taste, taste, taste. And let yourself make changes if it doesn't taste right. Lemon helps everything, so does olive oil. If it tastes dull, make a little herby salsa, and breathe deeply.

Any tips to navigate the green market this season?

Go early. No, I would say to let yourself eat the most labor intensive vegetables raw. This can even go for artichokes, which can be de-leaf-ed and then sliced thinly for a salad. For everything else, buy a big, huge bag, and then put it on the table for everyone to help themselves to -- there's nothing wrong with having everyone snap and eat their own peas, or favas. And if you want to cook whatever it is, at least get help in the preparing.

You've worked in some incredible kitchens. Can you share with us a memorable war story?

I resist the current characterization of kitchens as mega-tough places. I tend to think of anyone who dramatizes the intensity of professional cooking as someone who just handles stress badly. I did have a rather mortifying experience one day in the prep kitchen at Chez Panisse when the chef that day -- cheffing duties are split between two people, with one working each half of the week to keep from burning out -- tasting these incredibly labor intensive tomato-potato tians I'd just made -- two massive ones, each with layers and layers of peeled, mandolined potatoes, thinly sliced incredibly ripe, salted, drained tomatoes, fresh herbs, oil -- and declaring them inedibly salty. I was saved by the fact that the second chef was in that day for a meeting, tasted them to confirm or deny, because deciding that would have meant either starting over or changing the menu, and deciding that they weren't at all, but only quite savory, as cooked, caramelized tomatoes can be.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Fergus Henderson; my old boss [at Chez Panisse], Cal Peternell; my brother, John Adler.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

Mortar and pestle. Everything needs pounding.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

I can't remember the last time I bought a kitchen supply. I like a Japanese knife store called Hida in Berkeley, and when I'm there I buy a little paring knife, if mine is lost, which is often is. My kitchen utensils are old. I was just given a nice blender for appearing on a panel, and it's so new and shiny I've been scared to use it.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Good olive oil, kosher salt, lemons, dried chilies, red wine vinegar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, fresh or stale bread, beans.

What are some of your favorite restaurants?

Franny's, where my brother is chef; Camino in Oakland.

What are some of your most trusted cookbooks?

Simple French FoodThe Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Edna Lewis's The Taste of Country CookingNose to Tail Eating, anything by Hugh Fearnley WhittingstallBiba's Italian Kitchen.

What is your biggest kitchen pet peeve?

I really dislike when people leave something out after using it. I can't bear when someone has used jam or honey and then left it out, or left out the rest of the milk after using a little for coffee. It's so easy to put things away.

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Alice [Waters]'s! She has the most wonderful utensils and ingredients and everything.

***

Braised Beef

Adapted from Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal

3 pounds meat from a tougher part of a happily raised animal
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
up to 1 cup clean vegetable scraps: onion, celery, carrot, fennel. If you've got no scraps, use pieces from whole vegetables
a bundle of parsley stems, sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf
optional: 1/2 teaspoon spices such as fennel seed, cumin, and/or coriander
8 cups stock, heated if you've got time
2 cups white or red wine or beer (or a nice rosé, in today's case), or a combination of any and the liquid from a can of tomatoes

Between a day and three hours before you want to cook the meat, salt it heavily.

If the meat has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature two hours before you want to cook it.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat the oil in a pot big enough to hold the meat plus all the liquid. Add the vegetable scraps and herbs to the pot. If you're using the spices, add them, too. Once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the meat, stock, and wine-beer combination, and bring almost to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover tightly, and let cook for 3 to 4 hour in the oven (or a low simmer on the stove top) until the meat is tender enough to fall apart when it's pressed with the side of a wooden spoon. Check the pot more frequently if you're cooking different cuts of meat. Smaller pieces of meat will get fully cooked before larger or denser ones. When any is completely tender, remove it.

Strain the vegetabley liquid through a strainer. Discard the vegetables and taste the liquid. If it's too salty, add a little stock or water or some tomato paste. If you're eating the meat immediately, once it's cool enough to handle, cut it into slices or pull it into large pieces. Skim whatever fat you can off the braising liquid. Serve the meat with a little of its liquid on warm polenta, boiled vegetables, or beans.

If you have time, refrigerate the meat in its liquid overnight or for a few days. Fat will harden on its surface. Remove it and save it to cook vegetables in. Slice or tear the meat, reheat it in a little liquid, and serve as above.

*In today's application, Tamar suggests serving the beef at room temperature with olive-hazelnut tapenade, which can easily be made by finely chopping olives, pounding a little garlic with salt, adding red wine vinegar and toasted hazelnuts, and mixing in a good amount of olive oil. 

Thank you, Tamar, for fitting us into your busy schedule and letting us peek into your pantry! You can read more about Tamar on her website. She writes for The New York TimesMartha Stewart LivingGilt TasteFine Cooking, and The New Republic, among other publications.

Those in New York City-area are also invited to an event this Thursday, June 28, at Bubby's Tribeca, 120 Hudson Street. There is a free panel, whose speakers include Tamar, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Ruth Reichl, Jack Hitt, Gerry Marzorati, and Ron Silver, on the influence of MFK Fisher, at 6pm. There is a ticketed dinner at 7:30pm. More information on Bubby's site.

*Don't forget to leave a comment below for a chance to nab your very own SIGNED, paperback copy of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. You have until next Thursday, July 5, at 11:59pm/EST. We will choose the winner at random and announce the lucky winner the following day - good luck! :)

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Alaina Browne, General Manager of Serious Eats

Alaina Browne, General Manager of Serious Eats

In this day and age, it seems just about everyone has a blog to call their own. The world of food blogging is especially active and we can thank people like Alaina for helping to create such an open, dynamic community on the web. She's most currently associated with one of our favorite sites, Serious Eats, but her work online is long and storied. We loved getting to know this down-to-earth talent, who's not only an inspiration for crafting her dream job, melding the arenas of tech and food, but an amazing wife (of another prolific online presence, Anil Dash) and doting mother.

Read on for simple Indian home cooking tips and shamelessly adorable photos of her son, Malcolm!

Hi Alaina! Please tell us a little about yourself and your awesome gig at Serious Eats.

I grew up in North Carolina and have lived in New York City since late December 2002 except for 2.5 years in San Francisco. As GM of Serious Eats, I'm responsible for developing and managing our strategy for making SeriousEats.com, the best and most loved food website. It's a perfect Venn diagram of my passions for the web and for food. It also requires tasting many of the delicious things that find their way into our office.

You also manage a ladies cookbook club [of which we PC gals are proud members!] - how'd that come about?

I'd wanted to organize a monthly potluck for a while as an easy way to get together with friends, but always had an excuse (too busy, my apartment was too small, my dog was too grumpy, etc). While many of those excuses are still valid, reading this blog post inspired me to send an email to some friends and see if anyone wanted meet every other month to cook dishes from the same book and share food. Turns out they did! There are now about 40 women on the mailing list.

How would you describe your food aesthetic + cooking style? How did you eat growing up?

Growing up, we always ate dinner together as a family and it always consisted of meat, veg, starch, and cooked by mom. A friend I grew up with recently said, "I remember there were always healthy snacks at your house." I wasn't aware of it at the time, but it's true -- there wasn't a lot of junk food in the house. My mom is Chinese, and my memories of time spent with that side of the family are always tied to food because we're always eating and planning the next meal. I think my food aesthetic and cooking style is still a work in progress. I try to cook and eat local and in season as much as possible. I'm not afraid of salt or fat or spicy heat. I love Asian flavors. I love ginger, and will always use more than is called for.

As a busy New Yorker and new mom, how often do you cook at home vs. eat out? Has the frequency of either changed over the years?

Since my son Malcolm was born, there's been a natural shift to cooking more at home. Before Malcolm, there was a lot more eating out and delivery and a lot more thinking and reading about cooking than cooking. Now I prepare all of Malcolm's meals, so I might as well cook for all of us. Malcolm's a good little eater, and it's fun to see him discover new foods. And I enjoy cooking.

Fresh illustrations and season-driven tea towels by the talented Claudia Pearson

Spring is here! What dish or ingredient are you most looking forward to eating/cooking?

Asparagus! I like them hammered, a la Gina dePalma. But let's be honest. The greenmarket doesn't really hit its stride until August, which is still a long way off.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

My Sodastream. I drink a lot of seltzer water and it's a lot more convenient and affordable with my own Sodastream.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Fresh Direct and Whole Foods for staple groceries, Union Square GreenmarketKalusytan's and Dual Specialty.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

I always have ginger, onion, garlic, olive oil, Sriracha sauce, rice, lentils, eggs.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

My mom and my mother-in-law. Both are self-taught and their interpretation of the foods from their homelands (China and India, respectively) are uniquely their own. They both love to feed people, and luckily I love being fed. Professional chefs: Gabrielle Hamilton, April Bloomfield, Floyd Cardoz.

Favorite high and lowbrow restaurants?

Low: Joe Junior (16th St and 3rd Ave). I have a weakness for diners. Joe Junior has a particularly good cheeseburger and better than average eggs. Veselka on 2nd. Avenue. Great New York Noodle TownXi'an Famous Foods.

High: Momofuku Ssam Bar and Torrisi - do these count as "high"?

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites (other than Serious Eats, of course)?

Other than Serious EatsFood52The Canal House Cookbook series, Suvir Saran's Indian Home CookingShopsin's cookbook.

Whose pantries would you like to raid?

Floyd Cardoz. Doug Quint (of Big Gay Ice Cream).

***

Saag Paneer

Courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds fresh (baby) spinach, well washed and dried
2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
8 - 12 oz paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon spice mixture* (see below)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup buttermilk
Splash of cream or dollop of plain yogurt (optional)
Fresh lemon to finish, and toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle

Chop the spinach well, and set aside in a large bowl.

While you're chopping spinach, cook the paneer in one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure the paneer is in a single layer and use a spatula to flip it regularly so all sides get deeply brown. This typically takes 7 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of butter in your largest soup pot. Add the onions and salt, and saute until the onions soften up, five minutes or so. Add the garlic, ginger, spice mixture, and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nicely combined - a minute or two.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the spinach to the pan all at once, if possible. Cook, stirring all the while, until the spinach is collapsed and wilted, a couple of minutes. If you need to add the spinach in batches (adding more spinach as it collapses), that is fine too, just do it as quickly as possible.

Stir in the buttermilk and cream and heat gently while stirring. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk a splash at a time (this rarely happens to me). Taste and add more salt if necessary and more red pepper flakes if you like. Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, stir in the paneer, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

*Spice Mixture: Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind the following spices as finely as possible: 2 tablespoons cumin seed, 1 tablespoons coriander seed, 2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 3 whole cloves. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Alaina keeps track of her recipes using the Pepperplate app for iPad |

Buttermilk in a pinch: add 1TB vinegar to about 1 cup whole milk; let it stand 5 minutes before using

Simple Lentil Dal with Fresh Ginger, Green Chilies and Cilantro

Courtesy of Suvir Saran

Serves 4

1 cup lentils, picked over, washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
4 cups water

Tempering Oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 whole, dried red chilies
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 fresh, hot green chili, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

1. Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water. Bring to a boil and skim well. Turn the down and simmer, covered, until the lentils crumble when you touch them, about 15 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

2. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken. If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break the lentils up into a puree.

3. For the tempering oil, heat the oil with the cumin seeds in a small frying pan or kadai over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin turns a light brown color, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the dried chilies, the ginger, garlic and green chili and cook, stirring, until the garlic no longer smells raw and turns a golden brown color, about 30 more seconds. Remove the pan from the fire, add the cayenne and sprinkle in a few drops of water to stop the cooking.

4. Stir half of the tempering oil, half of the cilantro and all of the lime or lemon juice into the dal. Simmer very gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Transfer the dal to a serving bowl. Pour the remaining tempering oil over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro. Serve hot.

Thank you Alaina, Anil and Malcolm (and Raptor) for opening up your home! Aside from SeriousEats.com, Alaina can also be found on Twitter. Be sure to check out A Full Belly - it may not be updated regularly, but it's one of the first blogs of its kind!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Marissa Lippert, Nutritionist and Founder of Nourish

Marissa Lippert, Nutritionist and Founder of Nourish

Now here's a girl after our own heart! Marissa knows how to bring wholesome, satisfying fare to the table, without ever sacrificing full flavor and panache - you don't even realize how healthful her gorgeous meals are. It's easy to see why she's constantly voted one of the most popular nutritionists in New York, exercising perfect balance in a city that's known for excess. Currently, she's dreaming of a brick-and-mortar operation where can continue sharing her philosophy with a broader audience. Be sure to check out her Kickstarter page if you're interested in showing your support!

Read on for a rainbow of spices and tips for an easy boozy brunch with girlfriends!

Hi Marissa! Please tell us what you do. Do you have a cooking background?

I'm a nutritionist/registered dietitian, culinary consultant and food writer, author of The Cheater's Diet. I went to NYU for graduate school and have always had a love affair with food/health – from the time I was two or three, I think! My background in cooking is primarily from home cooking, growing up surrounded by talented cooks and bakers, and taking a variety of classes through ICE and The Brooklyn Kitchen.

How would you describe your food aesthetic + cooking style?

Very seasonally/market-driven. I get inspiration through all sorts of blogs, websites, magazines (lifestyle, travel, design, food and fashion). I’m a huge researcher (I was a history major in college at UVA) and that probably plays a part in my taste and aesthetic. I’m big on ethnic cuisines, particularly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. And of course, just simple, delicious, market-fresh fare, rustic and modern at the same time - "American/French bistro,” I guess. I try to travel a decent amount in order to gain new inspiration and cooking techniques/flavor combinations. I was in London last year and there’s some very interesting things going on in the food scene there. Overally, my aesthetic is fresh, family-style, inviting with a bit of chic/cool thrown in, so I’d like to think!

Speaking of chic! Before we go any further, we just have to ask: Where's that badass apron from and what shade is that perfectly orangey-red nail polish?

The studded brass apron is made by birdkage; the polish is Deborah Lippmann's Supermodel.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Farro, great olive oil (I love Salvatore Brooklyn's), great Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, an arsenal of spices, beans, quinoa, excellent pasta, house-made vinegar from Brooklyn Kitchen, whole wheat pastry flour, almond and rye flour, variety of nuts – currently walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds are going on, truffle salt (a worthy investment/indulgence!), and some Marcona almonds for snacking!

How much does the health aspect of food come into play in the way you cook?

Health definitely plays a big part anytime I’m thinking about a new dish, or an old one. How to easily adapt something, make it a little lighter or bring out the health value in it.

Do you have a signature dish sure to draw raves from guests?

Hmm... I make a mean short rib dish. I have a butternut squash-sour cherry crostini recipe for Thanksgiving that’s been taken over by multiple friends. A simple roast chicken and fingerling potato dish will always have a guest coming back for more.

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

Great friends, food and cocktails or wine. Ideally, al fresco.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Broadway PanhandlerBrooklyn Copper Cookware. Various websites.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

MandolineMicroplane. A great chef's knifeFood processor (yes, worth the spend).

Do you have a secret (perhaps foreign) ingredient you love to use?

Piment d’Espelette (great on roasted potatoes, vegetables and eggs) and Harissa powder are current favorites. The Harissa rose powder is amazing on grilled or roasted chicken and grilled/sauteed shrimp. I’ve even used it in a summer potato salad before, delish! I also love these splurgeworthy farm fresh eggs from Grazin' Angus Acres, which you can pick up at the Union Square Greenmarket.

What's a guilty pleasure that may not be particularly healthy?

Ice cream, really amazing fries. Oh, and a killer cocktail.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Grandmothers, not only my own. A handful of cookbook authors and chefs: Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Alice Waters, Barbara Lynch. Anyone cooking authentic food – something that comes from the heart.

Is there a tasty hole-in-the-wall, neighborhood spot you'd be willing to share?

Café Mogador. Amazing and simple every time.

Favorite cookbooks, blogs and sites you peruse?

Bon Appetit101 CookbooksNectar & Light blogPurple Citrus and Sweet PerfumeThe Food of MoroccoCook Like a ChefTender by Nigel Slater, The Craft of BakingPlenty and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

A mix of hip hop/R&B, rock, Motown – whatever’s on my current iTunes playlist.

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

David Chang, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Carmellini’s.

Mood board for the future Nourish Kitchen + Table food shop

Psst... that's Marissa's affectionate cat, Coco(a)!

***

Poached Eggs with Asparagus, Piave and Truffle Oil

*Eggs are one of the healthiest ingredients around. Yes, please eat the yolks, they hold most of the nutrients! This is a deliciously quick and dirty brunch recipe that screams springtime with seasonal asparagus and the bright flavor of Piave or Parmesan cheese. Top it off with a touch of truffle oil and you (and your friends) will officially be smitten.

2 thin slices of French or whole wheat baguette
1 garlic clove, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
3-4 spears of asparagus
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated Piave or Parmesan cheese
Truffle oil for drizzling (if desired)

Rub baguette slices with garlic and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Grill bread over medium-high heat in a cast iron or on a griddle or grill pan for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Trim ends of asparagus spears, drop into water and blanch for 2 minutes. Plunge spears into a cold ice-bath or run under cold water. Pat dry and finely chop spears into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside in a small bowl.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add vinegar. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small ramekin and gently tip over into water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted, blot on a paper towel.

Arrange garlic toasts on a plate. Top with eggs, asparagus, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle Piave over top and drizzle lightly with truffle oil if desired.

*For a larger brunch party, multiply ingredient amount and poach each serving of eggs in fresh water-vinegar. Serve this up with a fresh mimosa or a springtime Prosecco sparkler (Prosecco with St. Germain and a lemon twist or simply mixed with cherry juice, as seen here!).

Thanks, Marissa! Be sure to follow her blog for other great recipes, as well as on Twitter (@nourishnyc). Don't forget to watch her Kickstarter video!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Archana Rao, Pastry Chef/Owner, Love Street Cakes

Archana Rao, Pastry Chef/Owner, Love Street Cakes

Imagine your days filled with sugar and flour, surrounded by confections so beautiful and unique, you're a coveted fixture on the New York wedding cakes circuit. On top of that, you also happen to be married to one of the most talented young chefs in town. Talk about a culinary power couple! Yeah, we'd say it was pretty much a no-brainer when our friend and formerly featured pantry, Jamin Mendelsohn, suggested we get together with Archana. When the pastry chef isn't busy whipping up gorgeous creations for couples and celebrities, she's generously lending her time baking for a good cause - in today's case, Jackson Pollack-inspired sugar cookies for a children's arts charity. So clever, no?

Read on for every baker's best secret and find out who really rules the kitchen in this household!

Hi Archana! Please tell us what you do. Did you always want to be a pastry chef or was this a career change?

I design and create cakes for weddings and special occasions. I think I always knew deep down that my place was in the kitchen, but as the child of two doctors I never considered baking a real career option. After undergrad I got my first taste of the professional kitchen when I was hired as a pastry cook at Tabla - things clicked right away and I knew that I’d found my calling. I started culinary school at the CIA the following year and I’ve never looked back.

Why "Love Street Cakes"?

My husband, PJ, is a fan of The Doors, and one of our favorite songs of theirs is Love Street. Years ago he said that's what I should call my future dream bakery, so when I started on my own I thought it was the perfect name for a wedding cake shop!

How would you describe your food style and where do you draw inspiration from, in terms of both taste and aethetics?

My style is clean and elegant, and I take a lot of inspiration from my Indian heritage, especially from the architecture and embroidered textiles in bright colors. I get inspired by anything and everything: clothes, paintings and drawings, paper and fabric designs, floral arrangements, etc.

In terms of taste, I like to keep things simple and delicious and I love to re-imagine classic flavor profiles. The dining public is very knowledgeable about food these days, so there’s a tendency to over-do it with obscure ingredients and complicated techniques, but that’s when things become muddled and confusing.

I draw great inspiration from my father’s mother, whose cooking and dinner parties were famous in our family circle. She also had an incredible artistic sensibility and loved quilting and crafts, and I grew up helping her in the kitchen. She definitely passed on the love for baking to me and even though she’s no longer with us, I feel her presence whenever I’m in the kitchen.

[Editor's note: The cookbook pictured below, "Vindu," was written and published by Archana's grandmother, who realized how important it was to preserve and teach cooking traditions to younger generations of her family -- pretty incredible!]

We know that your husband is also a chef! What are some of your favorite dishes to make at home together? Is it hard sharing a kitchen with a fellow chef? ;)

My husband PJ is the chef de cuisine at Ai Fiori and he’s incredibly talented, but the kitchen at home is my territory! I do most of the daily cooking but every so often he’ll be in the mood to whip up something special, and I learn a ton by watching him work. Our home kitchen is only big enough for one cook at a time, but we love to work together when we’re doing dinner parties in a bigger space. We make a great team because we have different areas of expertise and can help each other without getting competitive.

How much of a sweet tooth do you have as a pastry chef? Are you into savory cooking?

As a kid I had a huge sweet tooth - the majority of my childhood memories revolve around some sort of dessert experience. Now I’m older I tend to crave more salty stuff, maybe because I’m surrounded by cake and frosting all day!

Baking is my profession, but I consider savory cooking my favorite hobby. With baking you have to stick close to the recipe or things won’t turn out, so I love the freedom of cooking where you can always throw in this or that to adjust flavors and consistency.

What is a go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

I find that anything made with love and quality ingredients will make your guests ooh and ahh. Even the simplest dishes seasoned well can impress!

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

If I could, I’d throw dinner parties every week. My idea of a perfect evening is a lively party at home with a dozen or so close friends, plenty of good wine and sparkling conversation. My dream is a big open kitchen where people can hang out while I cook so I don’t have to miss the fun, and a big table where we can all sit down to enjoy the latest dishes I’m trying out.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, always! For cooking: olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic.

Do you have a secret ingredient that you love to use?

I always add some salt to sweet dishes to enhance the other flavors; it’s a baker’s best secret. PJ and I get a lot of food gifts from friends, all sorts of fancy salts and exotic spices from honeymoons and holidays. It’s always fun to add a pinch of saffron to something, or hit it with yuzu juice or a drizzle of truffle oil.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

Baking equipment doesn’t have to be fancy - if you have a bowl and a spoon you can manage to whip something up. But if you’re going to splurge on anything it should be a good stand mixer - my KitchenAid is by far my most used piece of equipment in my kitchen. My favorite tools are my mini offset spatula and my immersion blender, for which I find endless uses. And I love my Silpats, non-stick silicone baking mats. For cooking it’s essential to invest in some quality heavy-bottomed pots and pans; they make all the difference.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

I buy cake pans and equipment at a restaurant supply store on the Bowery, and most of my specialty baking stuff I order online, from Global Sugar Art or Sugar Craft. In a pinch I can usually find what I need at Broadway Panhandler or NY Cake and Bake (the source for many of the magical disco dust colors below!). New York is full of great specialty stores like JB Prince, where you can get really fancy precision equipment, and Korin where PJ buys Japanese knives.

Best tips for novice home cooks/bakers?

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Baking takes patience and practice, and you will get better. Also, taste your batter before it goes into the oven to make sure you didn’t mistake the salt for sugar!

*Pastry tip: Use a blowtorch to warm a metal bowl to give buttercream icing a perfectly smooth consistency. Drape a mixer with a kitchen towel to prevent dry ingredients from billowing out!

Favorite bakeries/patisseries?

Bouchon Bakery never disappoints - the croissants are flaky, the baguettes are crusty, and the pastry case is always full of gorgeous treats. I also love Bottega Falai for Italian breads and fruit tarts. For chocolates I go to Bond Street Chocolate on East 4th, where Lynda Stern spikes her truffles with tequila and St. Germain. She also makes these amazing chocolate statues of Buddha and Jesus and covers them with edible gold; they make great gifts.

Cupcakes are making their way out - what do you predict will be the next sweet trend? Whoopie pies, macarons...?

New Yorkers want their sweets to be portable and playful - that’s why we fell so hard for the cupcake. Thanks to Mad Men, people my age and younger are nostalgic for an era we never experienced the first time around, and retro desserts are in. A pudding shop opened up in my neighborhood and it’s been packed, and I think this summer will be big for popsicles.

***

1-2-3 Cookies with Royal Icing

1-2-3 Cookie Dough
8 ounces sugar
1 pound butter
1 1/2 pounds flour
3 eggs
Pinch of salt

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add eggs one at a time until they are incorporated.

3. Mix flour in until it's just incorporated. Chill for at least one hour.

4. Roll out and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.

4. Bake at 325F until golden brown.

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
4-5 cups powdered sugar

Whisk sugar into egg whites until you get a glossy paste that holds a medium peak. Decorate to your heart's content!

Thanks for a colorful day, Archana! Be sure to check out her beautiful cake creations on Love Street Cakes and more casual fare on her personal blog, Don't F With Chef.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Amy Feezor, Copy Director for Real Simple

Amy Feezor, Copy Director for Real Simple

Behind the enviable big city gig and Brooklyn street cred, Miss Amy is actually a lovely Southern lady at heart. The natural hostess makes you feel right at home in her well-appointed apartment, which is cozy and curated just so, in a manner befitting a design professional with a keen eye for detail. Amy brings some of this comfortable, unfussy aesthetic to her kitchen, where she's been spending a lot of time cooking her way through treasured family cookbooks - after all, what's a little shortening among friends?

Read on for retro gems and to see how Amy marries form and function in her home!

Hello Amy! Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am the Copy Director in the Creative Studio at Real Simple. I also contribute to a blog for Herman Miller and have a personal blog over at m-dashing.com.

I am currently cooking my way through the many out-of-print cookbooks (including one first-edition!) of my long-distance cousin, Betty Feezor, who was a TV hostess in the 50s, 60s, and 70s in the Carolinas. She was the Martha Stewart of her time, and even made television history: in 1958, hers was the first videotaped color program ever aired. Unfortunately, that means that every one of her shows was taped over every day — and there are now only about two episodes around that you can see (check them out here.)

How would you describe your food aesthetic and cooking style?

Not fussy. Simple, but not boring.

How has your design background impacted the way you cook and eat?

Not necessarily in the way I cook, but in the way I present things. Now, I am not silly enough to buy a kitchen gadget or piece of serveware only because it looks great. But I WILL take longer than the average bear to find something I like that merges form and functionality well.

What's your favorite dish to make at home?

Lately, I discovered a "mayonnaise bread" recipe in one of Betty's cookbooks. Quick and simple and way better than I ever expected.

Do you have a go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

This Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe by Mark Bittman. Always a crowd-pleaser — and it’s so easy!

What's your idea of a perfect party?

Well, given that my space is the size of what my grandma used to call a “two-butt” kitchen, my perfect dinner party would first start with an actual table to have guests sit around! In a perfect world, however, it would include great drinks, several dear friends, and probably a sizable portion of cheese.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

My Vitamix blender. I’m so in love. It makes smoothies, soups, nut butters, guacamole, even ice cream. Best investment ever.

I also have a soft spot for my grandmother’s bread knife.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Other than the expected (Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table), I hit up A Cook’s Companion, a lovely kitchen store in my neighborhood. I also dig Whisk over in Williamsburg.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Olive oil, garlic, whole-wheat pasta, chicken stock, agave, dark chocolate, tea.

Do you have a secret, surprise or unexpected ingredient you love to use?

It’s not really an ingredient, but I always have an interesting selection of teas at the ready from different places I’ve traveled. Right now, I’ve got some fruit-flavored types that I scored during a trip to South Korea last fall.

Who is your biggest culinary inspiration?

My mom. She’s just about the world’s best baker. Her red-velvet cake recipe alone would make you melt.

Do you have a tasty hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

A friend recently introduced me to Dos Toros Taqueria in Union Square — delish! You can also get great Vietnamese sandwiches at Nicky’s on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

I love the Rancho La Puerta cookbook I scored on a trip there last spring. And, of course, anything by Betty Feezor.

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

I actually write about music for Herman Miller, so I get tons of great recommendations each week from the people I interview. I’ll usually have a mix playing from my computer or my iPad. A coworker also recently discovered Chiptole Radio (seriously — it’s really good), so I might have it on.

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Grant Achatz’s. Can you imagine all the magic inside?

Best tips for novice home cooks?

Just try. It’s never as hard as you think it’s going to be. Also, YouTube is your best friend.

***

Cousin Betty's Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

Adapted from "Betty Feezor's Carolina Recipes Volume 1"

1 cup shortening
½ cup butter
2 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
3 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine butter, shortening and sugar; cream until fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and mix well (but don't overbeat).

4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.

5. Add lemon flavoring to buttermilk.

6. Alternate adding portions of flour mixture and buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

7. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube cake pan; bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

8. After cake is cool, top with Mom's Powdered Sugar Glaze.

Mom's Powdered Sugar Glaze
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond flavoring or vanilla extract
3 tablespoons water

1. Using a wire whisk, combine all ingredients in a bowl until you reach the desired consistency: "just a little thinner than gravy." Add more water, if needed.

2. Heat on low in a saucepan for easier drizzling (optional).

3. Using a spoon, drizzle over cake or cookies.

4. Let cool and serve.

Thanks, Amy! Don't forget to follow Amy's cheeky musings on her blog, m-dashing.com, as well as on Twitter (@amyheartsny). And for those curious, a classic Betty Feezor clip for you to enjoy!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Christina Ciambriello, M.A. Candidate in Food Studies, NYU Steinhardt

Christina Ciambriello, M.A. Candidate in Food Studies, NYU Steinhardt

Happy 2012, Pantry Confidential readers! The dawn of a new year often forces us to pause and reflect on our lives and the very busy world around us. With that in mind, we thought Christina would be just the right person to kick 2012 off for us. This food studies student has an incredibly thoughtful approach to the way she cooks and eats.  We couldn't help but get swept up in her enthusiasm - for both food communities and great olive oil! - when we dropped by her bright and funky kitchen a few months ago. If you've resolved to eat better this year, you can learn from Christina, who shows us how inexpensive and easy it can be to eat conscientiously. 

Read on to find out where Christina gets her fresh pasta and her single most important pantry item!

Hi Christina! Please tell us what you do.

I am currently pursuing my Masters in Food Studies at NYU and I also took classes this summer through the local non-profit, Just Food, in their inaugural year of Farm School NYC; for at least one small moment every day, food is on the brain. Following these courses has certainly shaped my perspective in the way I approach shopping for, buying and preparing food and, in extension, thinking about the ways in which those quotidian actions may differ for me than for someone living in a different part of the city.

I am very committed to the idea of supporting not just farmers in New York State, but the many small local businesses that have been in operation, sometimes for generations, in the city. The pasta for the recipe that I am making today comes from a small shop, Rafetto’s, in the West Village. Not only is the pasta fresh cut to order, but it is also significantly cheaper than buying pre-packaged fresh pasta available at most supermarkets. I find that the more thought and intention that you put into preparing and shopping for your food makes for a healthier meal and also more vibrant, thriving local communities.

[Editor's note: the mussels Christina used for the pasta are from her local farmers market.  Fresh mussels are a go-to for Christina--cheap, easy to cook, and totally delicious!]

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

In the past few years, I have really come to rely on the farmers markets as my primary source of food (easy living in Park Slope and working very near Union Square) and would describe my cooking style as seasonal and produce driven. While I am certainly not a vegetarian, I do wind up eating lot of meals based on grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables. I do also very much enjoy eating a nice piece of meat on occasion. Living in a state like New York, which has an abundance of great pastureland, it is actually a more efficient use of land to incorporate a small amount of grass-fed meat into your diet.

What are your favorite dishes to make at home?

I really eat a very wide variety of foods and constantly try new recipes (although I still pine for Gourmet Magazine).

Do you have a go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

For a large group there is a recipe originally published in the December 2001 issue of Gourmet Magazine for Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna — it is not a typical lasagna preparation but it is delicious and is always a hit with everyone (vegetarians and carnivores, alike!).

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

No more than six people (for conversation purposes/natural space constraints in my apartment), lots of wine, and good company. I really like to bring people together from various parts of my life and I am always thrilled if new friendships are actually forged in consequence.

Please share some of your favorite kitchen utensils with us.

I love the silicon egg poacher that I got at Crate & Barrel— just $5 and perfectly cooked, easy to remove eggs every time! I also make great use of my mandoline slicer– it is not fancy or high-tech but it is a great tool to have around. For some reason, everything taste so much better when sliced paper thin. It is especially great for making raw salads with heartier vegetables in the winter and fall.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

I have had the good fortune of receiving a lot of the “bigger-ticket” kitchen essentials as hand-me-downs or gifts from my mom — a KitchenAid mixer, Belgian waffle maker, Krups blender— but when not received in that fashion, I enjoy browsing in kitchen shops wherever I encounter them; locally I often go to Tarzian West Cookware Store on 7th Avenue and 2nd Street in Park Slope.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Having access to great extra virgin olive oil from Italy makes a huge difference, especially in “salad season” – nothing beats dressing fresh greens with a bit of olive oil, some vinegar or lemon, and a dash of salt.

Do you have a secret or unexpected ingredient you love to use?

It’s all about the olive oil.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

I do not have a single source of inspiration, but I do always admire people who are able to create things without following recipes — more improvisational, of the moment in style.

Who are some chefs/food producers you admire?

I don’t really follow chefs too closely, but I do admire those that use their celebrity to call attention to issues in the food system and focus on using local, seasonal produce.

Your favorite hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

There is a little Indian place by NYU on Bleecker Street named Sangam. They have a small, mostly vegetarian menu with a very tasty sag paneer. Everything is freshly made and very nicely spiced. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that they may have closed recently as they gate has been shuttered on the past few occasions I have walked by. Very sad.

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

I really love a cookbook on Tuscan cuisine, Twelve, that I received as a gift while living in Italy. As its title suggests, it is organized by month and focuses on dishes that utilize the bounty that is available at that time. Most recipes are simple and economical to prepare and consistently delicious. The book also has beautiful photographs.

We'd love to know some of your best tips for novice home cooks.

Don’t be daunted by the kitchen! Start with a simple dish that you know you enjoy and build from there. Even just reading recipes can help build up your culinary lexicon and illuminate common building blocks to cuisines — the more you read/prepare recipes, you really start to see the common pantry items and preparation styles inherent to different cuisines.

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

Depends on my mood/what is in rotation. Recently, I have been listening to Edward Sharpe’s album, Alexander, as well as Dead Man’s Boneseponymous album.

Tell us! Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Not really something I ever thought about, but I am sure raiding someone like Mario Batali’s pantry would produce a treasure trove of fine Italian products.

***

Tagliatelle with Mussels and Peas

Adapted from Trestle on Tenth, Courtesy NYT.com

Serves 4

Salt
1 cup fresh English peas (about 1 pound in pods)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, sliced vertically paper-thin
Freshly ground black pepper
60 mussels, about 2 pounds, debearded, scrubbed
24 basil leaves, torn
2 cups dry white wine with good acidity
1 pound fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil, add peas, cook 2 minutes and drain. Set aside.

2. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a skillet or sauté pan large enough to hold mussels in a single layer. Add 1 tablespoon butter. When it starts to foam, stir in shallots and cook until wilted but not colored. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in mussels and basil. Add wine, cover and cook gently just until mussels open, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add remaining butter.

3. Meanwhile bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add pasta, stir to separate strands and cook until al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain. Add pasta and peas to mussels in skillet and cook over low heat, tossing to combine ingredients. Add salt and pepper.

4. Divide pasta, mussels and broth among 4 warm soup plates. Dust with bread crumbs and serve.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Dorothy Neagle, Co-Founder of Good Food Jobs

Dorothy Neagle, Co-Founder of Good Food Jobs

Entrepreneur, mother, food altruist. Three equally important and weighty roles that our new friend Dorothy seems to manage with graceful aplomb. This Bluegrass State native, who incidentally owes her great eye to a background in interior design, found a way to share her love of food and community to an eager audience hungry for both when creating Good Food Jobs. Oh, and can we just take a minute to point out her insanely enviable Victorian era porcelain skin?

Read on to learn more about Good Food Jobs and Dorothy's favorite squash pie recipe!

Please tell us what you do.

As a co-Founder of Good Food Jobs, with my lovely partner Taylor, most of my work is done in front of the computer (the paradox of creating a website to build community is that we have to make an effort to get out and be in the community, physically rather than electronically). Although we strived to create a website that was user-friendly and do-it-yourself, we personally review and approve all jobs posted on the site, so there can be a lot of day to day work. As with most jobs these days, there’s a tremendous amount of emailing. And I also do a lot of the graphics for the site, including print materials and miscellaneous things like that. That part is fun enough that it doesn’t feel like work.

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

Homemade and comfortable. I grew up watching my mom make everything from bread to apple sauce from scratch. I love the process involved in making even simple things, like pancakes or mashed potatoes.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

When I was growing up, we didn’t have any simple gadgets, we had things like a giant tabletop apple sauce grinder that spit pulp and peel out the side while fresh hot apple sauce poured from the front; or an unwieldy, hand-operated ice cream churn that took what seemed like half the day to use. When I went to college, I discovered more elemental things like whisks (a fork really is not a good substitute – sorry, mom) and lemon squeezers. I still don’t go for anything too fancy or specific – I love a big wooden spoon, a plastic spatula to help you get every inch of brownie batter from the bowl, a good microplane for zesting citrus.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Where do I not shop for kitchen supplies? Okay, you asked first… I love even the big chain kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, but living in New York I feel it’s my duty to make the trip to the occasional one-of-a-kind spot, like New York Cake & Baking Supply on 22nd Street, or to wander along the Bowery for discounts. I also love Fishs Eddy for things like glassware – that’s where I found the perfect glass lemonade pitchers this past summer.

What are the top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

I don’t know what I’d do without dairy: we always have butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs and ice cream. (I’ve tested the theory that you can make a meal out of anything if you put a fried egg on top of it.) I also keep plenty of dried beans, pasta, and polenta on hand. And we couldn’t live without olive oil and good sea salt. I’ve always had a jar of peanut butter in the pantry, since way before we had a baby on board.

Do you have secret, surprise or unexpected ingredient you love to use?

My secrets are pretty simple. I use lots of butter or olive oil, and salt. I use lard in my pie crusts (except when my Jewish in-laws are coming for dinner, of course!) and I actually cut the sugar in most recipes by at least half.

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

I always feel compelled to confess that I’m not good at keeping up with food blogs, even though I have one! But the one that I return to over and over is Smitten Kitchen. Cookbooks are another story - if the kitchen is my house of worship, they are the holy texts. My mother passed on her reverence for The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Vegetarian Epicure Book. Recent favorites are Rustic Fruit Desserts and Once Upon a Tart (a great café in Soho). I use Nourishing Traditions for basic things like mayonnaise and chicken stock.

Has having a baby changed the way you cook/eat at home? How do you determine your meals?

All I can think to say is… having a baby changed EVERYTHING! But yes, it did change the way we cook, mostly by narrowing the focus down to ease above all else. I also put more energy into preparing things in advance, and making things that freeze well in bigger quantities. Meatballs in tomato sauce is a good example. Or pie and quiche crusts.

What are your favorite dishes to make at home for you and your family?

I love to make dishes like lasagna or quiche that require assembly, but lately we’ve been making a lot of meals out of vegetables and adding a cheese and a nut – like roasted cauliflower with parmesan and walnuts. Or Brussels sprouts finely chopped and sautéed with almonds and feta. This time of year we’ve making lots of soups: butternut squash with coconut milk, curried corn chowder, broccoli cheddar, Italian wedding soup - those are always perfectly simple with a piece of crusty bread and butter.

Function meets design with sleek Global knives and a stainless steel compost pail.

Rich Squash Pie

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

Basic Pastry Dough for 9-inch pie shell (recipe follows)

1 cup pureed cooked winter squash
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a pie pan with the pastry dough. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth and well blended. Pour into the lined pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300F and bake for 45-60 minutes more or until the filling is firm.

Basic Pastry Dough

Courtesy Group Recipes

For 8-inch Single Pie Shell:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

For 9-inch Single Pie Shell:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Combine the flour and salt.

Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or food processor on "pulse."

Combine lightly until the mixture resembles course meal or really tiny peas.

Sprinkle water over the mixture 1 Tbsp at a timeand mix lightly with a fork or your hands. (If you used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl before adding the water.)

Use only enough water so the pastry will hold together when pressed gently

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Although my parents had the most influence on me, I’d have to say that my partner Taylor is my biggest inspiration. She never seems to tire of being in the kitchen, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Any chefs/food producers you admire and why?

I have the most admiration for farmers. There is nothing more appealing to me than having knowledge of the natural world. When someone can tell you the difference, in sight, texture, and flavor, between one squash and the next, it makes me feel full of wonder, like a child. No one knows more about flavor than the farmer, because he or she knows about the soil conditions and the weather patterns and the ripest moment for each crop. And there’s nothing like taste testing by picking something right off the vine.

Do you have a tasty hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

We love going out for pizza or tacos, and in our house it’s Di Fara for the former and Tacos Matamoros for the latter (both in Brooklyn, of course).

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

Just about anything. Some favorites are Louis ArmstrongJoni MitchellDolly Parton– things that remind me of home.

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

Mark Bittman, Martha Stewart, Ruth Reichl.

What is your go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

Having dinner guests feels like a distant memory of a former life, but if I remember correctly, we always loved making spaghetti and meatballs with roasted broccoli.

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

The potluck isn’t thought of as a very sophisticated affair, but I love when guests bring something. It makes everybody feel good to share, and no matter how inspired you might be feeling as the host, it’s always nice to have some collaboration. The scene would be a mid-summer evening in the country, everyone a little worn out from the afternoon’s outdoor pursuits, eating outside at a big table, or in the grass. It would always involve fresh berries for dessert, picked that morning at a nearby farm, and hopefully an excuse for whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Please share your best tips for novice home cooks.

Try not to overthink it. A great meal can be very simple. And don’t be overwhelmed by the effort it takes to make simple things, because the results (once perfected) are more than worth it.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Kristin Appenbrink, Associate Web Editor at Real Simple + Ice Cream Maker

Kristin Appenbrink, Associate Web Editor at Real Simple + Ice Cream Maker

Kristin may just be the closest thing to a modern-day Girl Scout. Crafty, social and of course, always prepared, she espouses a 'can do' spirit that is downright infectious. It's no surprise, then, that this intrepid web editor has managed to turn her ice cream making hobby into a budding side business. When she's not busy creating cool new confections, she's likely connecting the many people in her life to one another - in our case, over a wonderful summer meal!

Read on for Kristin's favorite ice cream spots and her own 'real simple' pantry items!

Please tell us what you do.

I'm the associate web editor for Real Simple, which means I manage all of our social media and our blogs.

Wait! We also know you like ice cream - a lot. Please tell us about Belinder.

Belinder Ice Cream came about on a whim basically. I spent my entire summer making ice cream for an Ice Cream Social blog on Simply Stated (part of RealSimple.com). In the course of a month, National Ice Cream month to be specific, I made eight flavors, four toppings, and blogged about it everyday. I also entered the Ice Cream Takedown, with my Dirty Chai ice cream. It might not have won, but it did gain plenty of fans among my friends. I had a couple of requests to make ice cream for dinner parties, so I figured why not make it a bit easier and put together a site so people beyond my friends and co-workers (the best taste-testers a girl could ask for) could get some ice cream as well.

As for the name, Belinder is actually the street I grew up on in Kansas. So while it's an incredibly common word to me, few people here have heard of it. Plus, I'm a word nerd, and it just seems to have a really nice balance.

A Kansas City girl! Has being a Midwestern girl in New York impacted your cooking/eating style at all?

It's not so much a function of being from the Midwest, but I grew up with a really well-stocked kitchen, both in terms of groceries and supplies. My dad has worked in the restaurant industry for years, so we have the industrial version of just about everything in our house. Luckily he has helped both my sister and I stock our kitchens over the years. The next thing he's sending me is a pasta maker.

KA-9.jpg

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

I always keep tofu and veggies on hand. I also keep almond butter and oatmeal in my kitchen at all times.

Who are some chefs/producers you admire?

I really admire Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks, and Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs who run Food52. I think their site Foodpickle is one of the most helpful things on the web.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

While you can't go wrong with Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I also really love the Simple Suppers cookbook from Moosewood Restaurant, and The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto cookbook. Their plain ice cream base is almost foolproof. 

Can you take us through your ice cream development process? What inspires your flavors?

I spent a good portion of my summer focused on the classics, but with fall I've started to think more about flavors. I'm paying attention to the flavor combinations in recipes I read, dishes I order at restaurants, and meals I make with my friends. Since the greenmarkets here in NYC are winding down, I've been focusing a bit more on sorbets (mainly cocktail inspired ones). And, of course, with the holidays around the corner I've been making peppermint and will be trying my hand at eggnog shortly.

For someone who loves ice cream so much, you've gotta tell us who's tops!

There are so many good options for ice cream in New York City. I haven't tried them all, but I'm partial to Amorino near Union Square and Van Leeuwen in Boerum Hill. Since visiting ice cream shops could be considered "research," I've started a New York City Ice Cream Tour on Foodspotting. Hopefully, I'll be adding more sightings soon.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

Well, I've had my own KitchenAid stand mixer since I was 17. But my most recent splurge was a cherry pitter from OXO. It wasn't terribly expensive, but so worth the money.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

I love going to stores like Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma, but I tend to order from Amazon in the end. If I'm shopping for glassware or servingware, Fishs Eddy is top of my list.

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

Well, I'm a vegetarian, so aside from my ice cream fetish and love of brownies, I try to cook fresh and healthy.

What are your favorite treats to make at home?

Last year I bought my sister an ice cream maker for her graduation present, and while I was at it, I got one for myself as well. Since then I've been making a new flavor almost every weekend.

Your go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

If not my brownies and ice cream, it would have to be Corn and Crab Bisque. It's a recipe my family has been using for years, and it came from the cookbook put together by the Junior League of Kansas City.

Tasty hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

For as much as I love food, I'm actually terrible with restaurant recommendations. But I'm lucky to live across the street from Bedouin Tent, one of the best places for falafel in the city. (Editor's note: The perfectly warm and fluffy pitas pictured were purchased from Bedouin Tent.)

What are your best tips for novice home cooks?

Salt, olive oil, and freshly cracked black pepper make everything better.

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

I normally just turn on Pandora. Lately it's been the Miike Snow station.

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

I would basically like to spend the day in a magazine test kitchen. Where everything is at my finger tips and the spice cabinet is stocked. That's the one thing I always end up running back out to get - spices that I haven't cooked with before.

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

I like things to be simple. It's less about the meal, and more about good company and plenty of wine.

* * *

World's Easiest Falafel and Tzatziki

Courtesy Food52.com

Serves 4-6

2 cups dried chickpeas, rinsed well and soaked overnight
1 small yellow onion
1 bunch mint, washed
1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 egg (optional)
1 piece bread
2 pinches salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup canola oil for frying
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup plain yogurt, Greek style preferred
salt and pepper to taste

1 package pita or flatbread

1. Drain chickpeas and let air dry for 2 hours, or more.

2. Process chickpeas, onion, 2 cloves garlic, half bunch mint, cilantro, egg, bread, salt and pepper, cumin and half the lemon juice on low speed until a thick paste forms. No chunks or your balls will fall apart.

3. Form into patties and let rest while tzatziki is made.

4. Rinse processor and pulse cucumber, yogurt, rest of mint and lemon juice and the last garlic clove on low just until blended. salt and pepper to taste.

5. Fry patties in canola on medium high heat for 3 minutes each side or until golden brown.

6. Serve with warm pita or flatbread.

Thanks again, Kristin, for the perfect summer get-together and peek into your sunny kitchen! Be sure to follow Kristin on Twitter and check out her delicious small batch treats over at Belinder Ice Cream. Those in the NYC-area should sign up for her next Skillshare class, How to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Shino Takeda, Ceramic Artist + Manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi Brooklyn

Shino Takeda, Ceramic Artist + Manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi Brooklyn

Have you ever wondered what it's like to have two artists in the kitchen? We didn't quite know what to expect when we visited Shino and her husband Jared over the summer, but we certainly left being blown away. They didn't seem to miss a beat in bringing creativity into their everyday meals - who knew homemade "sorbet" could be as easy as whizzing to