Rebekah Peppler, Food Stylist, Writer, Recipe Developer

Photos by  Christine Han Photography  for Pantry Confidential. 

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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*   *   *
Negroni-Rhubarb Floats

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Courtesy Rebekah Peppler

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

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Harlan Turkell, Photographer, Host of The Food Seen on

Michael Harlan Turkell, Photographer, Host of The Food Seen on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the cookbooks Michael has photographed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us how you got into making specialty vinegars.

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

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

How would you describe your cooking style?

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

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

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

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

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

Favorite restaurants, high and low?

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

Favorite cookbooks and sites?

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

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

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

What would your ideal last meal look like?

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

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

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

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


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

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Bainbridge, Senior Web Editor at Bon Appétit

Julia Bainbridge, Senior Web Editor at Bon Appétit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could take a whole book!

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


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

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

Favorite restaurants? Any hot spots worth seeking out?

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

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

How would you describe your cooking style and food aesthetic?

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

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

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

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

Plus I just love feeding my friends.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Broadway Panhandler and Chinatown.

Top pantry essentials?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have an unexpected ingredient you love to use?

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

Any guilty pleasure food?

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

Chefs and food producers you admire?

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

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

Whose pantry would you like to raid? 

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

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

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

Serves 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Alaina Browne, General Manager of Serious Eats

Alaina Browne, General Manager of Serious Eats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

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

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

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

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

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

Favorite high and lowbrow restaurants?

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

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

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

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

Whose pantries would you like to raid?

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


Saag Paneer

Courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

Serves 4-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Lentil Dal with Fresh Ginger, Green Chilies and Cilantro

Courtesy of Suvir Saran

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Feezor, Copy Director for Real Simple

Amy Feezor, Copy Director for Real Simple

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

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

Hello Amy! Please tell us a little about yourself.

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

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

How would you describe your food aesthetic and cooking style?

Not fussy. Simple, but not boring.

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

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

What's your favorite dish to make at home?

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

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

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

What's your idea of a perfect party?

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

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

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

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

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

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

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

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

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

Who is your biggest culinary inspiration?

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

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

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

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

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

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

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

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

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

Best tips for novice home cooks?

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


Cousin Betty's Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

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

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

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

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

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

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

5. Add lemon flavoring to buttermilk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Let cool and serve.

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

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

Dorothy Neagle, Co-Founder of Good Food Jobs

Dorothy Neagle, Co-Founder of Good Food Jobs

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

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

Please tell us what you do.

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

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

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

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

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

What are the top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

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

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

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

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich Squash Pie

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

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

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

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

Basic Pastry Dough

Courtesy Group Recipes

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

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

Combine the flour and salt.

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

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

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

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

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

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

Any chefs/food producers you admire and why?

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

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

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

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

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

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

Mark Bittman, Martha Stewart, Ruth Reichl.

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

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

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

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

Please share your best tips for novice home cooks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell us what you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

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

Who are some chefs/producers you admire?

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

What are your favorite cookbooks?

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

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

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

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

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

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

What are your favorite treats to make at home?

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

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

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

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

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

What are your best tips for novice home cooks?

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

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

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

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

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

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

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

* * *

World's Easiest Falafel and Tzatziki


Serves 4-6

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

1 package pita or flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

6. Serve with warm pita or flatbread.

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

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

Jamin Mendelsohn, Documentary/Web Producer

Jamin Mendelsohn, Documentary/Web Producer

It's important to possess certain qualities when you're responsible for leading the charge over a growing health movement. Great energy and an upbeat attitude are just two that Jamin seems to have in spades. If a loyal cheerleader's what you need, you definitely want her in your corner - whether the cause is green living, Brooklyn, or even the Mets. And that smile! If that doesn't get you pumped for life, we're not really sure what will.

Read on for Jamin's juicing essentials and her favorite vegetarian-friendly chefs!

Please tell us what you do.


I work as a documentary & web producer and my most recent project, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," follows the stories of two men who struggle with obesity and disease, and overcome it through a plant-based lifestyle and specifically juicing! I've become an avid juicer since starting on this project three and a half years ago and have continued to explore the wide world of plant-based food. After we wrapped the movie, we launched a website to give people the information, tools and community support needed to do a Reboot (a.k.a.: juice fast) of their own. I'm now working as the community manager on this site and am inspired everyday by the incredible stories of people embracing fruits and vegetables, and making healthy choices in their own lives.

When I started on the project in March 2008, I did my first 10-day juice fast and it was that which resulted in my vegetarianism. I finished the 10 days and thought I'll just wait to eat meat until I crave it again... and here we are today, still no meat. It just kinda stuck with me!

Do the changing seasons influence your juicing choices?

I do my best to be seasonal about the produce that I eat (and drink!), and one of the things I love most about being a CSA member is that the produce I use during more than half the year is, at its core, seasonal (not to mention local and organic). In the warmer months, I am very into juice, smoothies and salads. When things begin to cool off, I still stick with juice and salads, but I trend towards blended soups and other foods that feel more nourishing in the cold.

How do you determine what makes a juice "good"?

The main factors I consider when 'evaluating' a juice are: 1) Is it green? Look, there are lots of great combinations with ingredients like beets or carrots which take on another color, but I am a purist. For me: the greener, the better; 2) Does it taste good? If a juice doesn't taste good, bottom line, I won't drink it. There are so many delicious combinations that there is no reason to have juice that you don't like. Apple and pear go a long way in green juice, as do lemon, ginger and even pineapple. And if you want to get really particular, I always prefer a hydraulically pressed juice - it maintains the most nutrients of all juicing modalities, and tastes really smooth and not pulpy.

What are some of the biggest challenges of juicing?

The biggest challenge for me is my complete and utter lack of a dishwasher. :( Cleaning all the parts of the juicer is time consuming and essential. Alas, there's just no way around it. Which is probably why I do buy a lot of juice out!

Where are your favorite places in the city to buy juices?

There are so many great juice options in NYC. When I first got into juicing, all of a sudden I happily realized juice is EVERYWHERE in this city. My favorites in Manhattan are The Juice PressOrganic Avenue and the kiosk in Union Square (Editor's note: Pretty sure this is Jus, attached to The Coffee Shop). In my own Cobble Hill, I can get pressed juice at Mandy's Healthy Cafe (and they have a frequent buyer card!).

What model is your juicer and would you recommend it?

I have the Breville Juice Fountain Plus. It's a mid-range centrifugual juicer (retails for about $150). I've been using it for three years and it's still going strong - definitely would recommend it. But there are lots of models at different price points: the Jack LalanneHamilton BeachOmega, the Norwalk, etc.

What are some tips for novice juicers?

When juicing, don't be afraid to try different combinations and experiment. I never would have suspected that fennel-cucumber-chard juice would be so delicious, but it is actually one of my all-time faves!

But man can't survive on juice alone! What are some of your favorite dishes to make at home?

In general, I like to cook vegetarian food that tastes good. I experiment with whole grains and cook a lot of veggies. Last winter I made many blended soups using an immersion blender. Butternut squash soup, acorn squash-black bean soup, tomato basil, creamless mushroom, etc. I try to combine veggies with anything I'm cooking. One of my favorite go-tos is romaine salad with spicy peanut soba noodles. I'll often roast veggies of all kinds: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.

I love the FRESH whole wheat pasta from Eataly. In fact, that's a really fun place to pick up gorgeous produce and fresh pasta, and you will definitely have something delicious on your hands.

Finally I make a simple tahini-citrus-dill dressing (recipe below) that I will pour over EVERYTHING - raw kale salad, grilled zucchini, tortilla chips, you name it!

Is it challenging at all to maintain a largely vegetarian lifestyle with the looming holiday season?

For me, being a vegetarian has been really straightforward; I simply don't find myself wanting meat, and so that part is easy! The biggest temptations and indulgences for me during the holiday season is probably cookies :) - yum!

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

I don't entertain all that often, sadly, but have made a few knockout fritattas for Sunday brunch! I also have some pretty fine baked goods recipes courtesy of my mother - the chocolate chip cookies are amazing and the sour cream chocolate chip cake definitely draws raves!

What are some of your favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

My Vitamix! I'm obsessed with making smoothies in it, especially the green ones. I also love my juicer, my Nespresso machine and I would not have survived winter without my immersion blender. I'm also seriously considering getting a dehydrator, I have no clue where it would live in my teeny tiny kitchen, but the idea of making my own kale and zucchini chips is pretty tempting!

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

I will usually pop into A Cook's Companion, my neighborhood spot in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

I always have a variety of whole grains (bulgur wheat, brown rice, quinoa, soba noodles) and also legumes (dried lentils and cans of organic chickpeas). From June to December, I am always fully stocked with veggies from the Cobble Hill CSA. The CSA can seem like a lot of produce for one person but when you start throwing it into a juicer, you end up making your way through it all (or most of it!).

Who are your cooking inspirations?

I learned almost all of my cooking skills from my mom, I read Smitten Kitchen food blog regularly and always pick up

Edible Brooklyn. I also really appreciate Mark Bittman's commitment to vegetarians.

Which chefs/producers do you admire?

Green Thumb Organic Farm in Bridgehampton, NY (my CSA farm!), Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Scott Conant really accommodate the vegetarians while still in a "fine dining" atmosphere. And man, that carrot salad from ABC Kitchen! Also Einat Admony, the woman behind Balaboosta and Taim - Middle Eastern food taken to great heights!

What's your favorite hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

Ted & Honey Cafe in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn: their egg sandwiches are excellent, the morning glory muffin is outstanding.

Balaboosta: a shining star in Nolita.

Grey Dog Cafe: the Chelsea outpost is less crowded and always a favorite!

Siggy's Good Food in Brooklyn Heights for healthy options.

What are your favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian's Mobile App

Edible Brooklyn magazines!)

(Editor's note: Hey, that's my blog! Didn't pay her, promise.)

Barefoot Contessa :)

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

Any album I can listen to all the way through:

AdeleAndrew BirdArcade Fire... wow, I'm still only in the A's. :) Oh and my brother's very awesome band, The Yes Way!

Whose pantry(ies) would you like to raid?

My friend Archana Rao of Love Street Cakes has an outstanding cake kitchen - so I would raid it and then ask for some lessons!

* * *

Reboot Recipe - Juice #1

Jamin's Tahini Citrus Dill Dressing

(not pictured, but great over greens and vegetables of all kinds)

Adapted from

1/3 cup well-stirred tahini
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon or orange juice
Lots of chopped fresh dill (or other fresh herbs)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix ingredients well!

Thanks for the great juicing advice and peek into your pantry! Be sure to follow Jamin on Twitter (@JaminLM) and her blog, Brooklyn Jam, for more great tips!

*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.