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.

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
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.

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.