Today I will be going into the kitchen of Sylvie from the Gourmande in the Kitchen blog. I discovered Sylvie’s blog a while ago while blog hopping and was instantly hooked, how can you not be? Just look at her photography, she is not only a great photographer but a very engaging writer. Sylvie’s motto is: cook simply and her recipes are always uncomplicated, flavorful, comforting to eat, with a focus on quality ingredients and minimal preparation that let the natural flavors of the food shine. And you can see this right through her pictures, gorgeous! I am so excited to be in her kitchen today.
How long have you been cooking and who was the person who encouraged you to come into the kitchen and learn about food?
I’ve been drawn to food and cooking from a very young age. As a child, I spent every summer in France with my maternal grandparents. Those summers were filled with some of my most cherished memories: picking fragrant wild blackberries and raspberries in the woods with which we prepared large batches of jam, and helping to thinly slice apples for my grandmother’s perfectly arranged apple tart. Each meal was lovingly prepared with fresh ingredients we bought almost daily from the local merchants. A favorite treat was biting into the crusty end (le crouton) of a still warm baguette on the way home from the bakery. Food was the center of daily life; when one meal was finished, we immediately planned and anticipated the next. When I think of my childhood summers, I think of these experiences and the great food I shared with the people I love. That is what drives me to the kitchen, then and now.
Where would you like to travel that you haven’t been before and why?
If I had it my way, I would travel to every country and experience the food and the culture firsthand. I think that the food of each country tells the story of its history and its people. My dream would be to take off for a year to travel and taste the world.
Have you lived your full life in LA? If not where else?
Although I wasn’t born in Los Angeles, I grew up here and have lived here for a good part of my life so I consider it my home.
Do you have a signature dish? What is it and how did you come up with it?
I don’t know that I have one signature dish, perhaps a signature type of dish; I like to combine fresh vegetables, legumes, cheeses, and whole grains to create endless combinations of hearty and healthy salads.
What is your favorite kitchen gadget? [picture]
I think my most loved kitchen gadget is my electronic scale. I like to measure things in metrics because I think it is more precise so this is a must for me, especially when I am baking.
Pictures from Salter Electonic Scale
What eatables do you have in your backyard?
Living in Los Angeles, space is at a premium so there isn’t room in my backyard to grow much. I do have a tangerine and a Meyer lemon tree. I also like to grow my own herbs to cook with and make herbal infusions. I’ve grown peppermint, lavender, parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, and spring onions.
I would love to have room to grow more fruits and vegetables; I think there is something very satisfying about growing your own food. My great-grandparents grew all their own vegetables, and it was such a pleasure to eat meals prepared with that fresh produce. When I was little we had a plum and a white peach tree in the backyard at my house, and every summer we would gorge ourselves on the ripe fruit straight from the tree. What we couldn’t eat we would make into jam. I have a jam-making obsession so it would be a dream to have a backyard full of fruit trees and berry bushes.
What is the one cookbook you can’t live without?
Picture from Walmart
Although not technically a cookbook, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking is one of the most used books in my kitchen. It’s a great resource on kitchen science; it explains the where, what and how of food and cooking. As someone who always wants to know the reason behind the method, this book is indispensible.
Do you have a cooking trick or technique you use all the time and would like to tell us about it?
Flash freezing. When fruit is in season I like to freeze as much as I can to last me until the next season. I wash and dry the fruit, then peel, pit and cut it into small pieces depending on the type of fruit and how I anticipate using it in the future. I then spread the fruit out on a small sheetpan and place the sheetpan in the freezer until the fruit is firm and frozen. I can then put the frozen fruit into freezer-safe containers and store them until I need them for a recipe. Spreading the fruit out during the initial freezing period ensures that the fruit doesn’t clump together. You can also flash freeze vegetables. During the spring I stock up on rhubarb and in the summer it’s berries and peaches.
Name 3 thing you always have in your refrigerator.
Yogurt, fruit and vegetables. Those are staples in my house and in my diet. In fact when I travel the first thing I do when I get to where I’m going is go to the store to get those three things!
What are three things people don’t know about you?
Although I was born in the United States my first language was French. French was spoken at home, so it wasn’t until I went to school that I was really immersed in the English language. I then stubbornly decided that I would only speak English, so my mother would speak to me in French and I would respond in English! It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how important preserving my French heritage was to me and I started speaking to her in French once again. I am so thankful that she never gave up speaking French to me, today we have our own mixed up way of talking to each other in “Franglais” (part French, part English).
I like to go for an hour walk every day; it clears my head, refocuses and rejuvenates me.
I have a huge sweet-tooth and a crazy obsession with chocolate, although I’m fairly certain most people know that about me at this point!
Describe your death menu. (Last meal before you die)?
Good bread, raw milk cheese, olives, cornichons and wine. That pretty much sums up the perfect meal for me. I would then follow that up with an unreasonable amount of chocolate and every flavor of macaron from Pierre Hermé.
What advice would you give to other food bloggers about food photography?
First, get comfortable with your camera’s settings; make sure you know how everything works. Next, practice taking shots in different lighting conditions to learn what to expect and how different lighting can create different moods. Also, don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective or try unusual compositions. And of course, read as much as you can on the subject.
I want to thank Sylvie for letting me in her kitchen! Thank you!
** All images from this post are taken and copyrighted by Sylvie from Gourmande in the Kitchen. **