An exerp from her cookbook "Beautifully Delicious"
I remember when I decided I wanted to learn how to cook. I had just moved into my first apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, and my roommate offered to prepare us dinner to celebrate my arrival. She sat me down at the kitchen table and poured us each a glass of wine. I watched as she opened the refrigerator and scanned its contents— chicken breast, a small bunch of grapes, Dijon mustard, some leftover rice, fresh herbs, and salad greens. In no time, she placed a beautiful plate of food in front of me and with my first bite I was amazed! She hadn’t taken out a cookbook. Instead she simply gathered ingredients on hand and confidently set to work. She heated a cast iron pan, seasoned and seared the chicken, added the mustard, grapes, rice, a little water, and a handful of chopped herbs and placed the pan into the oven. She tossed the greens with oil and vinegar and another handful of herbs. I couldn’t believe that something so simply prepared could taste so good. From that moment on I knew I wanted to learn how to cook. I taught myself some basic cooking skills and experimented with ingredients hoping to end up with something I’d like as much as that meal.
At that time, I was working in the fashion industry and cooking professionally never entered my mind. It wasn’t until four years later that I began my cooking career in a makeshift kitchen in the stockroom of a gourmet food store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over time I improved my cooking skills and my confidence in the kitchen grew. Every day was an adventure as I developed my own style of cooking.
Like an artist learning to paint I experimented with the colors of the ingredients I cook with. The contrast of fresh vegetables against the deep tones of dried beans and grains, and the rich shades of seared meats and seafood are all elements I consider when I am creating a meal. And for me, the final flourish of brightly colored edible flower petals can make a dish irresistible. I am also a huge fan of using herbs in my recipes, lots of herbs. If a recipe calls for a teaspoon of parsley I throw in a handful. Herbs add flavor, color, and give recipes their cultural identity. There is no right or wrong way to use herbs, so I always have fun with them!
I met my husband Ted while I was in Boston and together we started our family. In 1999 we fell in love with the oldest house in Hollis, NH. It was here, in our little purple cape that I discovered a passion for gardening. One of the original homes built in the village, our 1744 house sits on the edge of a compact ⅓ of an acre and is separated from the road by a picket fence. I planted my edible garden in front of the house with hopes of slowing traffic by attracting attention to the garden. Herbs, edible flowers, vegetables, perennials, and fruit spill out of the window boxes, ramble down the pathway, and drip over the low picket fence. And while the work of the garden calls to me daily, my kitchen is my favorite place to be.
Our house had been restored before we bought it and the kitchen was left as a tight 5’ X 12’ space with no storage and very little room to cook. After working in that tiny room for 7 years it was time to create a kitchen that would give me the conveniences of modern appliances while respecting the character of our 263-year-old house. We kept the oversized windows at the back of the kitchen that were part of the previous restoration. They filled the space with light and opened the view to my gardens. Against advice from friends and professionals I chose Carrera marble counter tops with a honed finish. I love the look and feel of marble in an antique home and I have never regretted my decision. To give the space the feel of an older kitchen I brought in a few free-standing antiques. My favorite piece is a large primitive cupboard I inherited from my mother. It's a lovely reminder of her love for colonial period pieces and I think of her every time I use it. To add more storage and a place to hide small appliances we created an old-fashioned pantry. This little room is a delight to work in and the light that shines from the south facing window pours into the center of the kitchen. The focal point of the kitchen is the stove. I chose an AGA Legacy dual fuel range that works perfectly with the design of the kitchen. Multiple ovens allow me to cook several things at one time and the 6-burners give me plenty of cooking surface to work on. With the kitchen in place it was time to refocus my attention to my cooking career.
Rather than heading back into the restaurant and catering world I decided to teach cooking. I began offering cooking programs at libraries, garden clubs and in corporate settings. During my demonstrations, I tried to inspire cooks of all abilities to practice the basic, but important skills they can use for a lifetime. Understanding the simple lessons; how to cut an onion, how to chop herbs, and how to add flavor can help any cook make a good meal great.
I recently completed my first cookbook Beautifully Delicious and in it I’ve gathered many of my favorite flavor-inspired recipes using herbs and edible flowers. Each recipe includes simple variations that can be used to create two or three additional dishes. Like me, my students want to be able to walk into their kitchen at the end of a busy day, grab a few ingredients from the refrigerator and prepare a delicious, healthy meal for their family. If this book can help you to be a more confident cook that would make me so happy.