Congratulations to melissav, whose Caramelized Butternut Squash Wedges with a Sage Hazelnut Pesto won this week's contest for Your Best Butternut Squash -- earning her a $200 gift card from Williams-Sonoma, plus big prizes from Viking and OXO, and a spot in the next food52 cookbook!
Q&A with melissav
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
- In college I was lucky enough to have roommates who loved food and cooking as much (or almost as much) as I did. We spent many nights and weekends collaborating on elaborate dinner parties and trying out new ideas and techniques. I always loved to cook but it was during this time that I learned to cook from my heart and not just from a recipe.
- What's your least favorite food?
- Tripe. My husband is Colombian and every time we go to Colombia or a Colombian restaurant, he tries to coerce me into eating mondongo (a Colombian stew made with tripe) but I just can’t get it down. It may be more of a mind over matter thing, but I just can’t do it.
What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
- There have been so many memorable dishes this year, a large majority of which have come from all the wonderful recipes on this site.
- Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
- My sister and I were in elementary school and spent the night at my uncle's house. In the morning, we requested pancakes for breakfast. He gave us the box of pancake mix, a bowl, and a skillet and left the room (obviously, he didn't have children at the time). We had no idea what we were doing and within 30 minutes pancake batter was dripping from the walls and both of us. There have been other disasters along the years, but that is the first and most memorable.
- What is your idea of comfort food?
- When I am sick, nothing beats a bowl of matzoh ball soup with a grilled cheese and a Coke with no ice. That was always my mom's cure for anything that ailed us growing up.
- Apron or no apron?
- Usually no apron but I really should never be without one. I never remember to put it on until it is too late. Not only do I completely lack grace but I’m also a major klutz so I almost always end up wearing what I am cooking (as does the floor, the counters, etc.).
- What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
- That’s a tough one but the one that comes to mind first is the scene in "Pretty Woman" when Julia Roberts is having dinner at some fancy restaurant and her escargot shell goes flying across the room. I love that because I can totally imagine that happening to me.
- If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
- My husband. There is no one I enjoy cooking and eating with more than him. Cheesy but true . . .
- You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood
- Usually (a) except for Thanksgiving and other holidays or family events. On those occasions, I always love being in the kitchen and cooking with my family.
- When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a. clean as you cook, b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.
- I always start out with (a) and as things come to the end, it always gets a little crazy so it ends up at (c). Luckily, my husband is very good at doing the dishes and all the other little tasks I hate like chopping herbs, grating cheese, peeling potatoes; however, I think he is starting to catch on that I am giving him all the grunt work.
Melissav enjoying stone crabs with her husband