Image via Washingtonian.com
Eating a little too much take-out lately? In the mood for something other than a brown rice Alaska roll? Whether you like cooking delicious food or just eating it, classmate Rivka Friedman’s Not Derby Pie will inspire you to put down the chopsticks, pick up the paring knife, and whip up something inspired.
Health care consultant by day and food blogger by night, Rivka loves using the freshest local ingredients to make stunning dishes like Wheatberry Salad With Cranberries, Feta, and Mint and mmm… Blackberry Pie. And because she is also a Brilliant Barnard Class of 2005 Woman, Rivka answered a few questions just for our blog.
Read the full interview for insights into Rivka’s food celebrity crush, her favorite kitchen tool (I had never even heard of it!), and how even she, foodie extraordinaire, fell into the Pertutti trap while a resident of the illustrious Morningside Heights.
What started your obsession with food?
When I first moved to DC, I had a job that was….let’s just say, slower than I expected. With too much free time and not enough to do, I started reading food blogs. It wasn’t long before I was up to my waist in CSS and HTML, creating a blog of my own.
What were your favorite Morningside Heights eateries?
During first year, we spent way too much time and money at that mediocre Italian joint, Pertutti’s. That was before I discovered the world below 59th street. But even after I started spending nights and weekends in the village, I always stayed uptown for brunch. Nothing beat the biscuits at Kitchenette.
Did you ever cook in the shared Quad kitchens? What was the occasion? Did you do your dishes promptly?
I was fortunate to have friends in suites during first year, so I never had to cook in the Quads. I did watch the Oscars there one year, though, and the whole place stank of burnt popcorn. Even popcorn was impossible to cook in the Quads!
If you had to make out with a food celebrity, who would it be?
I have a huge crush on Nigella Lawson. I’d also totally make out with John Besh, the NOLA chef. Beautiful hair, piercing blue eyes, killer smile. Swoon.
Have you ever considered turning your love of food into your full-time career? Or do you love your day job too much?
I do love my day job (I’m a health care consultant, focusing on health care reform and C-suite strategy). I also love having a true hobby, which I do not because my income depends on it, but because I love it.
If you could make dinner for any Barnard alumna, dead or alive, and eat it with her, who would it be, what would you make, and why?
Erica Jong. I think there’s been a resurgence of Jongophilia among alumnae our age. If not Jong, then Jhumpa Lahiri.
What is your position on playing with food? What about food fights?
I’m not so into food waste. Too many hungry people, and all that jazz. Besides, isn’t cooking essentially playing?
What’s your favorite vegetarian recipe?
I grew up in a meatless household, and still eat meat very rarely and selectively, so most of my meals fit this category. Perhaps my favorites (can’t pick just one) are shakshuka, the Israeli dish of poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce, and Mujadarra, a dish of basmati rice, lentils, caramelized onions, and yogurt eaten throughout the Middle East. Oh, and I almost forgot another long-standing favorite: baingan bharta, the eggplant-tomato curry of Punjab.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for newbie cooks?
Don’t sweat the recipe. Few people will tell you this in their recipes, but there’s always something you can substitute for whatever it is you don’t have. There’s almost always a step you can omit. Cooking doesn’t have to be laborious or rigid. Go off the grid: improvise. It’s fun.
What culinary tool could you not stand to live without?
My bench scraper. (Editor’s note: Wondering what a bench scraper is? I was too.)
If you were only allowed to eat five foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Sushi. Bucatini al amatriciana. Mt. Tam Devil’s Gulch. Pho. Chocolate chip cookies.
You’re obviously an expert photographer with a camera to match. Do you have any advice for taking the best food pictures possible with a regular old digital camera?
That’s very kind! I’m a total amateur, but I’d say this: even point-and-shoot cameras can take great pictures. The trick is to turn off the flash and rely on natural light. Also: candids make the best photos. Don’t make everyone smile – just be there when they burst out laughing.
What is the worst tasting food you have ever eaten? Have you ever tried Vegemite? It’s disgusting.
Ha! I’ve got a soft spot for marmite/vegemite from, of all things, my time in Israel. I worked at a health food store there, and they loved it. But seriously, I’m really grossed out by jarred mayonnaise. Ew.
I know you focus on being an ethical, healthful eater, but be honest, what highly processed food do you indulge in when nobody’s looking?
If cheez-its ever went away, I would cry. I’m a sucker for all crunchy, fake-cheese-flavored snacks. My colleagues and I have been planning a taste test of cheez-its, cheese nips, and the generic brand of cheese crackers, which is just about the only thing that could challenge my fierce loyalty to cheez-its.