Kristine Kidd has been influencing America's foodie culture for quite some time -- she was the food editor for Bon Appetit for 20 years. As the resident food expert, she was responsible for filling the magazine's pages with delicious inspired recipes, wrote a monthly column and even created dishes for the cover. What a cool job!
Today Kristine Kidd is writing cookbooks, teaching culinary classes and is the Food Editor for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I caught up with her to chat about what inspires her seasonal cooking and her latest cookbook Weeknight Fresh + Fast: simple, healthy meals for every night of the week. Kristine has a knack for creating quick and easy and delicious weeknight meals. Read on to find out how she does it.
Laura Klein: Kristine, what kept you inspired during your 20 years at Bon Appetit magazine creating and selecting recipes for the home cook?
Kristine Kidd: I love to cook and eat good food and am curious about new cooking styles, places, food and ingredients. I'm just curious and have a love of the topic and I've always been interested in food.
LK: In your most recent book, Weeknight Fresh + Fast you show readers how to put a simple yet delicious wholesome meal on the table every night of the week. What's your secret?
KK: I get inspired by the season and what's in the farmers market and start with the vegetables instead of the main course. I go to the farmers market at least one time a week. Most of my recipes in the book include vegetables.
I also love leftovers. It's fun to come up with something new with whatever is in my pantry and refrigerator, and I keep a well-stocked pantry so I don't make an extra stop at the market.
LK: If someone is new to cooking, what kitchen essentials do you recommend someone stock their pantry with?
KK: It's really important to have pasta -- I prefer Barilla's Plus pasta. It's high in protein, Omega-3s, legumes and has good flavor and texture. I like to have rice on hand like basmati or jasmine brown rice. It's healthy and cooks faster than regular brown rice. I also like to have on hand canned beans, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, Swanson's organic chicken broth -- it's organic and has the best flavor on the market and comes in resealable packages that keep in the refrigerator.
LK: If someone is not used to cooking seasonally, what are some simple steps to get started?
KK: The first or top recommendation I have is visit a local farmers market. It's a joyful experience to buy direct from farmers and it's a sensual experience. You can experience and smell aromas, colors and flavors, and the food is so fresh it doesn't need much help.
And if you don't live close to a farmers market go to your favorite grocery store with an excellent produce section to see what's fresh and in season.
Last, check out a cookbook that is organized by the season (Kristine's cookbook is organized in such a way).
LK: What are your top 3 tips for turning leftovers into new family dinners?
KK: Tacos are a favorite. I always have good corn tortillas in the freezer. Almost anything can be wrapped up in them; rice, veggies, meats. And I love salads. At the end of the week I clean out the refrigerator with leftover bits and pieces and make a delicious salad; and of course soups are nice since we're moving into fall.
LK: Do you ever get tired of cooking?
KK: I rarely get tired of cooking because I love to eat well and love to cook. After a day at my desk, cooking is fun. The anticipation of eating something fresh and delicious is exciting. I take yoga a couple times a week and sometimes my beau, Steve, picks up brown rice sushi at Whole Foods.
LK: Do you have a favorite cooking season?
KK: I don't have a favorite season. What excites me is the change of season and what each new season brings like mushrooms and yams in the fall, spring peas, summer tomatoes and peaches. Change is what excites me.
LK: What do you recommend people do to stay inspired in the kitchen during the winter months when access to local fresh food is limited?
KK: In the winter I think about warming comforting food, with great aromas. So I think about braising, roasting and soup things that smell good and warm up me and the kitchen. I get inspired by what's going to warm me up like a white bean and vegetable soup, braised chicken, roast chicken with winter root veggies.
LK: What is your favorite go-to weeknight recipe that you make at home?
KK: I have three favorite things. I love roasted or grilled fish and I love to prepare pasta because it's so easy. The Spaghetti Carbonara with Black Kale is simple, easy and delicious. I love to add vegetables to pasta carbonara and it is a great way to sneak in eggs for dinner and it won't bother Steve (who does not think eggs are suitable dinner food). Another favorite is my Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Feta and Mint. This is a good example of how I add fresh veggies to a simple tomato sauce. All of these recipes can be found in my book.
LK: What's your favorite comfort food dish to cook at home?
KK: I love pho-type soups like my Asian-Style Chicken Soup with Baby Bok Choi. There's something about the poached chicken with the herbs and spices. And I love the herbs and aromas that fill up the kitchen. It just makes you feel good.
LK: What's your favorite thing to eat when you go out?
KK: I'm more drawn to a restaurant for the chef. I love Nancy Silverton's and Mario Batalli's restaurants, Thomas Keller's, Suzanne Goin's and John Sedlar's restaurants. At Huckleberry in Santa Monica, I love how fun, casual, tasty and fresh it is. I go to the Santa Monica Farmers Market and then meet a friend at Huckleberry. The FarmShop in Brentwood is another favorite; the chef came out of Thomas Keller's kitchen and the food is fresh. And I can meet Steve at The Hungry Cat in Santa Monica and miss traffic. I prefer simple restaurants vs. fancy restaurants.
I also love fun, like biking down the coast to have huevos rancheros at a little spot called Senior G's - it's all about the outing.
LK: What are your top three essential cooking tools in the kitchen?
KK: I love my Santoku knife. I love the shape of the blade, it feels good in my hand and can easily transfer ingredients I just chopped to a skillet or bowl.
My 12" non-stick skillet. I use a heavy one because things don't stick, it transmits heat easily and has an even cooking surface. With these pans I don't have to use a lot of oil. I like Calphalon and All-Clad, and they are easy to clean. I get a good 7-8 years out of them and use them every day. They are great for sautéing.
I also love my microplane grater and a ceramic knife. The ceramic knife is great for fine work like chopping herbs and shallots.
LK: Why is it important to select sustainable seafood?
KK: It's important to preserve the oceans from over fishing, harmful fishing methods or harmful ways of raising fish. Farmed salmon is a disaster for the environment and humans. Artic char is farmed successfully. Go to SeafoodWatch.org to find out which fish is sustainable in your location. You can also download an app.