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. 

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

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

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. 

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.

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.