Get to know the Chef(s)
In Domenica’s own words: “Italian home cooking is my first passion in the kitchen. Food is at the center of Italian family life and I have probably spent the equivalent of half my hours on this earth in kitchens and around dinner tables, cooking, eating, talking, arguing and socializing. If I’m exaggerating, it is not by much. The food I cook is the food I love to eat and feed others: simple, honest dishes that reflect my heritage and the seasons.” Her recipes and articles on Italian home cooking have been widely published in national publications including Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, Health, and The Washington Post; and online at Leite’s Culinaria, NPR’s Kitchen Window, and Apartment Therapy’s theKitchn.
What are your top 5 kitchen tools?
1. Stovetop espresso maker – for that all-important first cup of the day.
2. Mezzaluna, for chopping herbs and garlic.
3. Microplane grater, for grating Parmigiano cheese and for zesting citrus.
4. A set of three cast-iron pans that my husband brought to the marriage. They were his grandmother’s and were perfectly seasoned from many years of her Midwestern cooking.
5. My Atlas hand-crank pasta machine. I know there are all sorts of fancy motorized machines and extruders now but nothing beats the simplicity and functionality of a well-made hand-crank machine.
What is your favorite culinary destination?
Abruzzo, in central Italy. This is where my family is from and it is probably Italy’s most unsung region. It has everything – the rugged Apennine mountains, rolling hills planted with vineyards and olive groves, and the Adriatic coast. And all of that is reflected in the cuisine: hearty pastas with ragùs, grilled meats, and rustic vegetable and legume soups in the mountains; great wines and a wealth of vegetables cultivated in the hills; and an incredible selection of seafood on the coast. Every time I go back I discover something new.
What smell evokes a wonderful memory?
I love the aroma of grilled or fried peppers. No matter where I am, it transports me right back to the side streets of just about any Italian city or town, where the trattorias are tucked away. It’s lunchtime on a summer afternoon and I can just about hear the clattering of plates and the clinking of cutlery as people sit down to enjoy their meal.
What do you have that is interesting in your refrigerator?
A squeeze bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise from Japan. My 15-year-old daughter bought it for a sushi feast she made recently. I confess I like making squiggly designs with it when I make sandwiches!
When did you discover you wanted to cook for a living? What was the defining moment?
For me, it was more about discovering that I wanted to write about food for a living. I was a newspaper reporter, with a graduate degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I had been taught to pursue “real” news – investigative stories, political stories, and so on. But at the end of my workday, the first thing I would do when I got home was to open up a cookbook (I had a fast-growing collection) and find something interesting to make for dinner. I never dreamed I would write cookbooks. It wasn’t until I had two young kids and needed to scale back my work hours that I decided to “reinvent” myself as a food writer. Now I spend as much time in the kitchen developing recipes for my books as I do at the computer writing. I can’t complain – I love both pursuits!
How do you decompress?
Any number of ways – a morning walk, a hot shower, a game of tennis, a glass of wine. And – believe it or not – making dinner for my family.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
With any luck, both my kids will be out of college and I’ll be spending more time in Italy, researching books (and relaxing). I’ve just started organizing small group culinary tours to Abruzzo and I hope this venture will continue for some time.
If you were not a cookbook author, what would you be?
An art historian or a First Amendment lawyer.