Congratulations to Brita, who won this week's contest for Your Best Recipe Using Fresh Mozzarella with Buffalo Mozzarella with Balsamic Glazed Plums, Pine Nuts and Mint.
Q&A with Brita
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
When I was young I was a very picky eater, but one day my mom decided to pull up a stool and let me help her with an apple pie she was making. From that moment forward I started growing more adventurous with food. I found that the more you cook, the more you want to eat and try new things. I love the fact that many of my memories are interlaced with food references that pop up when cooking. For example, every time I am filling a pasta pot I think of my Italian grandmother reminding me "salty as the Mediterranean" or when I scoop batter from a bowl I think of the way my aunt always presses her lips together when she does the same thing. The smell of bacon reminds me of Sunday mornings when my dad would cook breakfast. So many memories all tangled up with food makes it so those little memories never leave me.
What's your least favorite food?
Mushrooms -- it's a texture thing. I just can't deal with it at all. I think I'm allowed one dislike because I eat virtually everything else in the world. Truffles are still very much okay in my book though.
What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
I was especially proud of a strawberry rhubarb pie I brought to a BBQ recently. There's something about fresh picked farmers market strawberries and tangy rhubarb that really made the pie sing, plus my lattice crust worked out nicely, which is always a little iffy.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
This year I hosted an Easter brunch, complete with sweet and savory dishes, a build-your-own bloody mary bar, et al. I even had boiled 3 dozen eggs so everyone could get in on the coloring fun. They did -- we had so many different beautiful designs. When it came time to do my family tradition of "egg wars" where you take an egg and go point-to-point with your opponent, my friend and I counted to 3 and smashed our eggs... well, I guess I hadn't boiled them long enough and the soft boiled egg went splattering all over the place: the table, my face, my dress and hair, her entire arm. Whoops, guess I should have set my egg timer.
What is your idea of comfort food?
To me, comfort food is anything your mom makes really well and reminds you of home. My mom is a pro at stir-fried veggies with fresh ginger, brown rice and tahini sauce. Not your typical comfort food but this dish immediately satisfies me and I love the way the tahini seizes up and gets thick when you add water but then releases as you add more and keep stirring. A great trick.
Apron or no apron?
Apron! I like to collect old vintage ones that can become an extension of your outfit. Aprons really put me in the cooking mood. My mom gave me one recently that says my name and "Oggi cucino io" -- "Today the kitchen is mine" in Italian. Plus if I don't wear an apron, I tend to forget and wipe my hands on my clothes...
What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
Antonia's Line is a film that just epitomizes what family meals are all about. The scene with the artichoke has always stayed with me. I also love the relationship with food in Amelie, the little pleasures of cracking a creme brulee and sinking your fingers into a sack of dried beans.
If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
This one is tough. Maybe Frank Sinatra because he was such a gentleman and he liked sweets, plus something tells me he was a good eater. Or my dad because he is my biggest fan and has the most sophisticated palate of anyone I know. He has a way of describing food with such detail that you would swear you are tasting it.
You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood
B. I love to have someone in the kitchen with me to shell peas or peel potatoes etc., but I definitely like to be the one in control.
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 would say B. but past roommates and spouses may beg to differ...