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Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
My mom made the greatest birthday cakes for her kids. She'd decorate them however we'd like and we always loved them. I'm pretty sure my interest in cake decorating came from her.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
Hand-washing dishes or cleaning the fridge. It's a toss-up.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands! Lately I've been obsessed with Jenn Louis' Pasta by Hand, so I've been making loads of Italian dumplings—potato gnocchi (above, left), wild nettle gnocchi (above, right), cecamariti, trofie, and pici—all in the last month!
What is your idea of comfort food?
I crave something creamy and warm when I'm looking for comfort—macaroni and cheese, rice pudding, polenta. Unless it's hot out, then I'll go for something creamy and cold like ice cream.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
I had a kitchen disaster while testing vvvanessa's Bocadillo El Camino: Spanish Omelet Sandwich for the contest, Your Best Road Trip Snack—I had more than a little trouble with the allioli (a Spanish version of aioli).
On my first attempt, I failed to emulsify the allioli due to my impatience with adding the oil. For the second batch, I used an immersion blender in a glass measuring cup. It came together beautifully in a thick, mayonnaise-like texture, but as I turned to grab the salt and lemon to complete the allioli, I left the immersion blender in the cup—big mistake. The glass cup fell to my ceramic tile floor and crashed. There were glass shards and allioli from one end of the kitchen floor to the other. A few gobs even made it onto the cabinets. Needless to say, cleanup was not fun (worse than cleaning the fridge and hand-washing a bunch of dishes)! But the sandwich ended up being really delicious—even though I cheated by rubbing garlic on the bread and spreading on commercial mayonnaise. I just couldn't bear to attempt the allioli a third time!
Photos of hardlikearmour and gnocchi provided by hardliearmous; all others by James Ransom