I love dabbling in the kitchen creating new concoctions. My friends love it even more as I’m often using them as guinea pigs to try out my latest creation. Sometimes it turns out, and sometimes I need a backup plan.
Living in Europe, we have easy access to fresh spices, healthy ingredients, and quite a few unique choices, in terms of vegetables and cheeses that you don’t find everywhere. The other thing I love is that many of my friends are international, and I love trying to make dishes that are local to them to see how well I can match a home made recipe.
I also believe it’s important to hold onto traditional family recipes. That was one thing I asked my mom to do for me one year for Christmas. ‘Please write down all of grandma’s recipes in a book, so I will have it forever.’ And I’m glad she did so now I can replicate them.
My father, too, was a big experimenter in the kitchen. He was often making Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisine – not something you’d regularly find in a restaurant in rural Wisconsin!
When traveling, I try to find a local cooking class to provide insight into the local cuisine and it’s a great way to spend a day. I usually bring home a local spice or product from the region to try at home.
This is my favorite shop for rare, organic spices, teas, sea salts from Djibouti and the Himalayas, sugars, liquors, high-grade olive oils and superior-quality vinegars from Modena. Some of the bottles are so pretty, they look like expensive perfume! The shop is Girofle et Cannelle. And I always go here if I’m looking for a unique gift for someone. They have a great melange for Mexican meals that I swear by. And my favorite tea/infusion comes from the Maldives. It has a wildly-delicious fruity aroma and it’s caffeine free. I make it by the half gallon and put it in the fridge for ice-tea. I drink these and others like it all summer long.
This autumn, I plan to spend time with my friend’s mom who’s originally from the Alsace region to learn how to make a proper choucroute alsacienne and other local specialties. Be on the look-out for my, ‘Cooking with Mama’ series.