The winning cook (at center) grating cheese during a cooking demonstration; her decadent French Onion & Rutabaga-Baguette Au Gratin
Q&A with lapadia
It’s midnight and you’re hungry. Do you reach for something savory or sweet?
I reach for something savory and cheesy.
An ideal dinner party includes a) 2 people, b) 4 – 6 people, or c) 8 or more.
My ideal number of people for a dinner party is 8. Actually, the more the merrier. My philosophy is "Eat, Drink, and be Merry!" I love parties, including planning, organizing, entertaining, cooking with and for family and friends.
How did you first become interested in cooking?
It all began while spending time in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother -- they were a team and my kitchen inspiration. I loved baking yeast breads of all kinds -- there is just something about the feel of the dough, kneading, creating, shaping, and slowing down to relax while waiting for it to rise. It was all fun, and today, it is somewhat therapeutic for me.
If you were reincarnated as a single dish, what would you be?
Pizza. The "Frienda Kinda Pizza.” My Grandma Angelo called her pizza “the frienda kind.” In fact, she called a lot of things the frienda kind. Her Italian slang, the best I can explain it, means something, anything, which is the most familiar.
Describe your weekend cooking style.
"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food." - W. C. Fields
Is there one ingredient you can’t live without?
Olive oil -- extra virgin, of course.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
Hmm. Should we talk about the time I dropped the old dried beans I was using to blind bake a pie crust, and while taking the crust out of the oven I brushed my hand against the hot element, causing me to drop the beans all over the place, some of which started to burn and smoke on the bottom of the oven, which set the smoke alarm off, the smoke alarm I couldn’t reach without using the heavy ladder that needed to be brought in from outdoors and my husband was gone at the time? No, let’s not.
What music (if any) do you listen to in the kitchen?
The chatter and laughter of those around me is music to my ears. Otherwise, George Frederic Handel or the Beatles.
Which cookbook(s) do you reach for most often?
What is your most cherished food tradition?
I have made so many variations of pizza for friends' parties, co-workers' parties, family parties...square, round, deep-dish, hand-tossed, and grilled. I am not only remembered for the pizza, but for a combination of pizza and the party moments that go with it. This is a tradition I cherish and love!