When I thumb through my cooking magazines and cookbooks, I longingly gaze at gorgeous foodie photos and begin to fantasize. I imagine what I’ll cook next with this season’s inspired ingredients, where I’ll shop, who I’ll share the food with and the wine I’ll pair with dinner.
When a friend introduced me to Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan’s latest cookbook, Good food To Share: recipes for entertaining with family and friends, I was hooked. With deliciously, gorgeous photos, simple seasonal recipes and tips on entertaining effortlessly, I curled up on my couch and began to thumb through her book and romanticized about what I was going to cook next.
Sara is the founding editor of Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, and has written for numerous publications including Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, O, the Oprah Magazine, and others. When I got the chance to sit down and chat about what inspires her in the kitchen, I couldn’t resist! I discovered one of her secret ingredients and the one thing she loves (that’s not food related), that almost none of her friends and family know about (it’s really funny).
Read on to discover Sara’s secrets for delightful, seasonal cooking and effortless entertaining.
OA: In your cookbook Good food To Share: recipes for entertaining with family and friends, you really encourage people to shop and eat with the seasons. Why?
SKG: First of all, food that is in season simply tastes better. When we eat out of the seasonal rhythms, we’re consuming food that was harvested when far from ripe and has travelled a long way. Also, it is important to support people who are growing food in traditional ways; and eating in season is essential to the long term health of the planet and our food system.
OA: Do you have one dish that you are known for?
SKG: I’m known for making pizzas and having pizza gatherings (I talk a lot about this in my book). And I’m also known for my carnitas. When someone has a baby or needs food, I take them carnitas. I love slow cooked meats.
OA: What is your favorite dessert to make at home?
SKG: I am more of a savory person versus a sweets person, but I make a lot of ice cream and I love to make it from scratch. It does make a difference when you make your own ice cream. I have my gigantic Italian ice cream maker that has a compressor built into it so I can make batches back to back. I also love to make pie.
OA: What is your favorite comfort food?
SKG: Slow cooked meat or eggs; I am a big egg person. Also, Mexican food is comfort food because I am from Los Angeles. It is downright comforting for me to have a taco!
OA: What is your secret to throwing a successful dinner party with ease?
SKG: I write about this in the book. Create a warm environment; with a warm environment the food is better and people are engaged. It’s important to start with good ingredients, and make people feel relaxed. Have great music playing, make sure your guests have a drink, and involve them in the cooking process. I’m a believer in there are no stupid questions, let your guests ask questions. Ask them questions too. I always learn something about food and cooking from the people I have over for dinner.
OA: What inspired you to launch TheKitchn.com?
SKG: My husband and I started Apartment Therapy. I had been writing about food on Apartment Therapy and we felt a big part of the home is the kitchen. Those posts seemed really popular, and we were creating this brand about how we live in our home. So we started The Kitchn as a separate site. The Kitchn just celebrated its sixth anniversary.
OA: When you are tired from a long day at work, what inspires you to come home and cook?
SKG: I find cooking stimulating. To me it is rejuvenating to make food. I turn on some great music, have a glass of wine and it becomes invigorating. If it doesn’t feel like a chore, it can actually be energizing.
And make sure your kitchen is stocked in a smart way. Have at least a few fresh ingredients and staples on hand to make a good dinner like grains, oil, garlic and onions. This way, when you come home and don’t know what to cook, at least you have the building blocks for a solid meal. Also, having a few ingredients that will elevate a dish helps. I love anchovies because they add a lot of depth to sauces and dressings; it is one of my secret ingredients.
OA: What are your top three tips for pairing wine with food?
- Find a wine store you trust and talk to them. If you can find someone to help you, you can mooch off of their knowledge.
- A lot of pairing wine with food is also about balance. Lighter dishes want lighter wines and heavier dishes want heavier wines. Look at the characteristics in your food: Is it tart, bitter or sweet, and match that.
- And trust your palate. There are a lot of rules, but if you simply don’t like a wine, the rules don’t matter. Toss them out. Experiment and try one or two bottles of wine with a dish and see what you like and make it fun!
OA: What is your go-to seasoning that you always use in the kitchen?
SKG: Fat! Fat is where the flavor is, the right amount of fat in a dish heightens what else is going on there.
In terms of spices, I love sumac right now. I was in Turkey this summer and it is used in a lot of Mediterranean cooking. I love cilantro too. And it depends on my mood.
OA: What is your must have kitchen tool you can’t live without?
SKG: I can’t live without a really good chef’s knife. You can do anything if you have one good knife.
OA: What is something that you love that no one knows about?
SKG: I've had my cowboy boots since the eighth grade, re-soled many times.
images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan