Me: Are there any basic items in the pantry that you would recommend?
Aida: 1 -2 Oils (at least a healthy oil like olive oil and on for sautéing like peanut oil)
-1-2 Vinegar (at least red wine for cooking and balsamic for salads)
-Something salty (in addition to kosher salt such as Soy Sauce, Worcestershire, Miso, or Fish Sauce)
-Something Spicy (such as Hot Sauce, Chili-Garlic Sauce, Curry Sauce, Harissa, Canned Chipotle en Adobo, or Hot Pickled Peppers)
-A few condiments (such as Dijon mustard, Capers, Roasted Red Peppers, Chutney, Anchovies, Hoisin, or Curry paste)
-Reduced-sodium chicken and vegetable broth
-Dried or Canned beans
-Oil-packed chunk tuna
-A few quick-cooking grains (ie pasta, whole-wheat couscous, quinoa, grits)
-Some nuts, seeds, or dried fruit (for snacking and garnishing)
-Onions and garlic
-A few sweet potatoes or a squash for last-minute dinners
Me: Wow that’s a great pantry list! How about favorite restaurants/places that you frequently go to?
Aida: This is so timely because I just wrote about my favorite San Francisco and Los Angeles restaurants. Also, I would include bars/coffee such as Coffee Commissary, Covell wine bar, and La Descarga in LA and Sightglass Coffee, Terroir wine bar, and City Beer Store in SF.
Me: Is there any specific food that you often cook for friends or family and why?
Aida: I love to bake so I’m the first to volunteer for holiday baking duty. For mother’s day, I’m going to make an orange flower water ricotta tart that I’ll be posting on my website in early May.
Me: General Advice in Cooking or Preparing a Meal?
1. Select Seasonal
You know the deal: cooking is season is better for the planet, better for you, and more affordable because it’s not being brought in from some far away place like Chile.
2. Don’t Be Overly Ambitious
Always have a few no-brainer recipes in the mix for your meal (like a simple salad or wilted spinach) so that you can focus on the harder part (usually the main dish) without stressing out.
3. Mise En Place
Those who love competition shows have heard this kitchen term plenty and there’s a reason for that. When you mise en place (aka read the recipe through and prep/measure your ingredients before you start cooking) you’ll fare better once you turn on the stove.
4. Cook More For Later
Whenever you cook, think about foods that you can make in excess (such as rice, grains, beans, roast vegetables, or pasta) as it will cut the prep time for tomorrow’s meal.
5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
One of my main goals is to get our generation back in the kitchen and become the effortless cooks that many of our grandmothers were. But, that’s not going to happen if we expect to be perfect from the start. So, ditch your Martha Stewart tendencies for perfection and be forgiving, adventurous, and, most of all, have fun.
Me: This has been a great interview Aida! Thanks for your time and we’ll be looking forward to your cook book next year.
Aida: You’re welcome!