Just over a week ago, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my food idols. I’d already planned to make it a “food excursion day” with some friends, grabbing a bite on the Hill and heading up to Bethesda to check out a tea shop when we saw that Hill’s Kitchen was hosting Sara Moulton for a cooking demonstration and book signing. You never saw plans change so fast!
If you’ve ever seen her shows Cooking Live or Sara’s Secrets, she is just as friendly and engaging in person. She reminds you of the friendly neighbor that might stop by to borrow a cup of sugar and then come back with a share of the cookies or brownies she baked with it.
Watching her talk about Food Network, Gourmet Magazine, her family, her recipes and the new book was like seeing her on TV all over again. One of the things she practices and stresses is that cooking shouldn’t be a burden. Many people resort to fast food or dining out because they see cooking as a chore, especially when they have families to take care of. The recipes in her latest book, Everyday Family Dinners are the cure for that. The longest “total preparation time” I’ve seen in the book is 2 hours and 30 minutes and that was for “quick” kimchi, most of the “hands on” times are 15-30 minutes. She even starts the book off with a “How to Use This Book” section explaining cooking terms, where to find ingredients mentioned, the difference in weight between box grated and microplane grated cheese and most importantly the equivalent between chopped fresh herbs and dried herbs–1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. For most people, this is common knowledge, but it’s something that used to confound me when I started cooking, especially when finding fresh herbs wasn’t easy if you didn’t have a garden.
For the demo, she showed us how to make her Polenta Lasagna and Warm Chocolate Cheesecake (recipe below) and sent samples around the room for tasting. Chantal cookware is sponsoring her book tour, so she used their wares and was happy to show off its capabilities, but it didn’t feel like a sales pitch. Leah did make sure, however, to let us know that the items Sara was using were all available for purchase at Hill’s Kitchen!
When she was finished cooking, she answered our questions–about anything, not just food–and then the book signing began. Thankfully my friends were knowledgeable in the ways of book signings and explained the Post-It note thing to me. During her discussion, she admitted that she steered us wrong when she had her cooking show and never had a chance to correct herself. One of the classic cooking teachings is that when you oversalt something, you can add a potato to correct it… well this is a myth, and I now have her signed say-so! However, she did say that there are two things while cooking that you can’t undo if you mess them up: burning things and mashed potatoes.
I’m not a giant, she really is that adorably tiny in person. And when she found out my friend and I were food bloggers, she asked for our cards! Sara Moulton asked for my card! Believe me, I was buzzed off of that for days! It was a fun morning and simply amazing to meet her. There are few food celebrities/personalities that I consider must-see, and Sara is easily at the top of that list. Take a look at her book if you see it while out and about and Amazon has a Kindle edition for 1/2 price. This one won’t be collecting dust on my shelves for a while!
Warm Chocolate Cheesecake
- One 3.5-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate
- 8 ounces full-fat or 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter four 1/2-cup ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Coarsely chop the chocolate and melt it in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Combine the chocolate with the cream cheese and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process until well blended.
- Stir together the sugar and flour, add it to the processor, and blend it into the chocolate mixture. Add the egg and pulse until smooth. Divide the batter among the ramekins.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the centers are set. Transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly before serving.