A big congratulations to QueenSashy, whose Creamy Polenta with Sautéed Apples, Mushrooms, and Calvados was voted Your Best Savory Apple Recipe. Here's a little more about her:
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
The first time I realized the magnificent powers of good food involved a trip to Italy and a bowl of homemade pasta. I was about 11 years old and went on a long Italian vacation with my godparents. The trip culminated in Anzio, a small port south of Rome, where long-forgotten Italian friends of my godparents rented a villa for the summer and invited us to join for an eagerly awaited reunion. An hour away from Anzio, we telephoned to signal our arrival. “We are so excited,” I heard the voice at the other end of the wire, “and we are making a special dinner to welcome you!” I spent that last hour of the trip in the back seat of the car painting the picture of the feast about to unravel, a gigantic table of Italian delicacies that grew bigger with every mile we traveled. Once we arrived, I ran straight to the kitchen, only to find a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove and a mound of fresh pasta waiting to be boiled. “Who serves pasta with tomato sauce to a special guest?” I almost refused to eat the dinner, making a stand for all neglected guests around the globe, but then the empty stomach prevailed against the principles and I took my bowl grudgingly. It was a dish I will never forget. I can recall no words to describe it, only the feeling that remained—a moment when everything stopped and I ate my pasta in silence, recognizing that it came from another world. Today, when I want to treat someone to a special meal, I prepare a bowl of homemade pasta. I hope they understand.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
Washing dishes, hands down.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
I used to say a sharp knife, but ever since my mom passed away, it's been a book of her recipes. Knives come and go, but the things I learned from my mom—from her love and pieces of her kitchen wisdom, the aromas of her dishes, her excitement when a great dish was about to happen—these are the things that are behind my love for cooking and my most essential equipment today.
What is your idea of comfort food?
It changes all the time... At the moment, it would be a compilation of take-out from Sri Lankan delis on Staten Island, a sofa, a blanket, and a bottle of beer.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
I’ve been known to put up a fire or two. It always happens the same way: I wander away from the stove to check my email, or read a post. Take a photo. Sometimes, I go and wash my hair. (Well, if you had a spare 15 minutes while the thing is cooking, wouldn’t you do the same? Time is precious.) Then I get a little bit carried away with the new activity, and poof.
Photo of polenta by James Ransom; others provided by QueenSashy