Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. As a fine arts student in college, I spent a semester in Italy learning Italian. There I took a cooking class and learned just how wonderful simple, fresh ingredients could be. The Italians love of local food bled into their dishes and suddenly I was more aware of what I was eating. The juxtaposition of the crusty outside of a loaf of bread verses its soft, pillowy inside; the perfectly developed saltiness of cured meats; and of course the slight yet enjoyable pucker from a sip of the local red wine. Food wasn’t just a pleasurable form of sustenance, it was a love affair -- and it changed my whole outlook on food.
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What's your least favorite kitchen task? Despite how much I love salads and how frequently I eat them, washing lettuce is my least favorite kitchen task. I think it stems from childhood -- every night as my mother would prepare dinner, I was tasked with washing the lettuce for a salad. To this day, I still hate washing lettuce.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My Wusthof chef's knife -- I've had it for 10 years, I use it all the time, and it still looks great!
What is your idea of comfort food? For me, comfort food is anything with carbs! My mother's spaghetti with meat sauce is a childhood favorite. I could eat an entire pot of that stuff!
What is your greatest kitchen disaster? Gee…there have been so many, which one do I choose? I'd have to say, my first experience making pasta...complete and utter disaster! I didn’t knead the dough long enough and so it did not run properly through the pasta machine -- it stuck and tore in the rollers. I salvaged what I could and decided that the dough looked thin enough, despite not passing it through the thinnest setting recommended. I piped the ravioli filling onto the pathetic looking sheet of dough, but the filling turned out to be too watery and it oozed out of the seams. At that point, both the kitchen and I were covered with flour. As both the pot of water and my blood were beginning to boil, I dropped the ‘ravioli’ into the water and scooped them out as they began to float to the surface. I took a bite. The dough (which was not rolled out to its thinnest point) had thickened into what resembled a tough pasta puck, and the filling was nonexistent; in fact, the filling was floating in the pot of water. At this point I just needed to leave the kitchen. I opened up a bottle of wine...a big bottle, the 1500-milliliter bottle of wine. Shortly thereafter, my husband came home to find me outside on our deck, wine glass in hand, covered with flour and staring blankly off into the yard. I must have had some look on my face, because immediately he said, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ I assured him he didn’t do anything, and that I was just exhausted from the mayhem that occurred in the kitchen earlier. Needless to say, we ordered takeout that night.