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CE: What made you decide to set up The Wooden Spoon? How does your type of cooking school differ from taking a class at a culinary college?
Allison Fishman: When I was young I was flying around the country and putting on weight really fast because I was eating all of my meals out, sitting on a plane and when I got home to my own kitchen I didn’t know how to cook. I lost control of my health and wellness and I didn’t have the skills to put it back together again. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one in this situation. So I thought, “I’m going to start a cooking school that’s not for big fancy chefs, but for men and women like me, who hear about this cooking thing that is a lot of fun.”
CE: When it comes to cooking with seasonal ingredients, do you have easy ways for beginners to incorporate each season’s bounty?
AF: Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with herbs. Not a teaspoon or two, but handfuls of fresh herbs! Salsa is a great ingredient to have, whatever your favorite salsa is – you can put it into a lot of dishes as a quick flavor enhancer. I have used tomatillo salsa with a half bunch of cilantro and half a bunch of basil – the resulting sauce was so vivid and it did not have cream or oil.
CE: What are your favorite cooking methods that enhance the flavor of food?
AF: Roasting is the one technique I use more than anything. Pears, onions, butternut squash, apples and carrots will give a nice color. I just made a roasted butternut squash soup. Adding vegetable stock to roasted vegetables gives you a rich, creamy, intensely-flavored soup. I add a tablespoon of oil for a quart and a half of soup and there’s absolutely no cream or full-fat dairy but tons of fresh flavor. To garnish, I add chopped hazelnuts and a drizzle of sherry vinegar.
CE: When you think of clean eating what comes to mind?
AF: You know, it’s funny: To me, clean eating used to mean grains and sprouts – not entirely sexy – but in my eyes, that’s now changing. It means beautiful, vibrant food – it’s almost like reclaiming health is a very cool thing to do. It means eating natural foods in a very vibrant way, finding out where your culture plugs into natural bounty and celebrating that and enjoying it.