Meet the Cook: Amber

Post by community member:

Say hello to Amber aka backyardandbeyond
from North Carolina!

Q. What are your favorite things to cook?
I love meals with plenty of vegetables and prepared pretty simply–homemade semolina pasta with some roasted red bell peppers, some pine nuts for crunch..or a great raw lacinato kale salad, or pretty much anything involving tomatoes. Those kind of straight-from-the garden meals are heaven.

Q. How/when did you learn to cook?
My mom and step-mom are both great cooks. I would like to say I learned from them as I grew up, but I really wasn’t interested in the kitchen until adulthood. I don’t think I became a good cook until I got married. My husband and I cook a lot together and he introduced me to great Indian and Thai flavors. And he helped me fall in love with the other white meat–the chickpea. Plus it’s just fun to cook with someone else intensely interested in food and willing to try almost any dish.

Q. Tell us about some of your cooking triumphs.
Any day I get dinner on the table without panic is a triumph for me! But I would say my weekly bread baking is the thing I’m most pleased with. I use a no-knead method that evolved from a two-page description in a book called “From the Garden to the Table” by British writer Monty Don, to a free-form style whereby I don’t measure anything anymore. Not every loaf is a masterpiece, they’re better than store bread and always cheaper. I’m also partial to the yogurt I make and a nice spice-crusted salmon recipe from the New York Times.

Q. What was your most memorable cooking tragedy?
Could it be the chocolate cake roll I tried (for the first time) for Thanksgiving and wound up sweeping off the floor? Or the wild pecans I spent hours cracking and then immediately burned when toasting in the oven? Possibly the years of pancakes even my dog would not eat? Hmm…

Q. Describe your kitchen. Do you love it, hate it, and why?
I have a small and ordinary kitchen. I’ve lived in seven houses in the last 20 years and though some of the kitchens were terrible (carpet on the floor!), I think you can put out a good meal in just about any space.

Q. Is your pantry organized and are your kitchen drawers tidy? We need to know.
I practice serial organization. It happens in fits and starts. The canning cupboard is tidy! I guess because it has glass-front doors.

Q. Do you have any favorite family cooking traditions?
The Italian side of my family puts on a great feed. Fried cardoons, homemade pizza, those wrinkled-up cured Italian olives, eggplant parmesan, pasta, pasta and pasta.

Q. What is the one gadget (or ten) you couldn’t do without in your kitchen?
My cast-iron pans, cutting boards, chopping knife and colander. I probably use all of them every day.

Q. If you had to take one food to a deserted island, what would it be?
Let’s assume the island has its own fruit. And that I can find some sort of protein swimming in the waters. After that, great bread.

Q. What is your go-to comfort food?

Amber submitted a wonderful blog post on eating for free–foraging awakens our senses to the natural world, filling not just our stomachs – but our souls, as well as some wonderful recipes.

Urban Foraging: Eat for Free

See Amber’s recipes
and blog posts!

Amber blogs at Backyard & Beyond.

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