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Congratulations to pigisyummy, whose Cavolfiore Palma a la Leah (Pan-Roasted Cauliflower) won the contest for Your Most Impressive Dinner Party Side. This recipe will be featured in a live-stream cook-off -- head here to mark your calendars and watch it all happen!
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
I've always been an eater. Even as a kid I loved things that most kids didn't like, such as lima beans and Brussels sprouts, and I enjoyed being in the kitchen with my parents as they cooked. The food experience that really stands out in my mind was when my family took a trip to Italy when I was 14. I was just blown away by how delicious everything was. The zuppe di pane or tagliatelle ai funghi I had in the tiniest, hole-in-the-wall restaurants were just the best things I had ever tasted. That's when it really occurred to me that you didn't need a fancy setting or a lot of money to eat amazing food. I realized that it's all about the ingredients and the passion of the person making the food. That's what I always have in mind when I cook.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
It's a tie between washing greens and cleaning up.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Obviously a good sharp knife is indispensable, but since I'll take any good knife and I'm not particularly attached to MY knife, I guess I'll have to go with my mortar and pestle.
What is your idea of comfort food?
Usually anything that I'm craving at that moment is a comfort food to me. Comfort foods are never ever cold though, unless we're talking ice cream on top of warm pie. Staples are my mother's baked ziti (or lasagna) with meatballs and sauce, a good bacon cheeseburger, anything with melted cheese (except pizza), and good chinese takeout.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
Luckily my biggest kitchen mistakes have never been when cooking for a crowd, so I don't know if I'd qualify them as disasters. That's like dropping-the-whole-turkey-on-Thanksgiving level. But the most recent that comes to mind is when I was making double baked potatoes as part of my husband's favorite meal that he only gets on special occasions. For some reason I decided to purée the baked potato meat in my food processor rather than doing it by hand and the whole batch turned into a gluey paste. Lacking a reserve of potatoes, I had no choice but to stuff the baked skins with the potato glue. During the second bake, the insides just liquified out of the skins and pooled all over the baking tray. For my husband, it was a total disaster.