Clean Eating: What are a few tools and kitchen gadgets one can use in multiple ways?
Bob Blumer: Probably my most-used appliance is my panini maker, which I use to make toast, sandwiches and even thaw foods. It’s really about having your go-to knives, a good solid chef knife, a bread knife and a paring knife. A solid cutting board, a couple of good sauté or cast iron pans — these are what anchor a kitchen.
CE: People get the idea that it takes a lot of effort to plate a beautiful dish and make it really interesting. If someone only has a few minutes to spare, how can they do it?
BB: My style of cooking is the light version of what a lot of fancier restaurant chefs are doing these days. So, I’m adding razzmatazz but it’s not a day-long affair to make what I’m doing or to present it the way I’m presenting it. Something like the salmon [baked in cupcake pans and presented with mashed potato “icing”], I could make it and probably bake it in half an hour and serve it for six people. Just the simplest of simple things, like a nice plate and paying attention to how you’re plating your ingredients, making sure that not everything is beige and just sort of thinking it through. And you don’t even have to do that when you’re cooking, you can do that when you’re in your car driving home or when you’re on the subway – I visualize my dishes in their final form long before I start cooking.
CE: What ingredients are you inspired by that readers can use in their own meals to boost the flavor?
BB: It doesn’t take that much more effort or money to create dishes that have bright bold flavors. It’s really about understanding the flavors and how to use them. Basics like garlic, shallots, fresh ginger, citrus zest and chiles cost pennies per serving and they can really add a lot of razzmatazz to what you’re making. I’ve managed to grow citrus trees in pots, I have kaffir lime, kumquat and lemon trees. From the kaffir tree, you can put the leaves in water overnight and it creates this perfumed water.
CE: You said you had a brown thumb. Is this something that people could do in their own home with the right environment?
BB: I literally bought my lime tree as mail order and it was sent to me the tiniest of saplings and now it’s this four-foot high beautiful tree.