La Cocina showcases women we admire and their kitchens. Part photo essay, part interview, all admiration.
Here is our new episode of La Cocina, a conversation with Fran Badalamenti.
Please describe your kitchen.
Clean and simple, nothing too fancy, pretentious or precious. Comfortable and welcoming. A little hodgepodge but also well-nurtured and well-considered.
What’s your style of cooking?
My style is simple and basic, ideally fresh produce and meats from a local market, nothing too complicated. I don’t use cookbooks, only my intuition. I always say that I like to shop and cook like a European; I like to plan meals the day of (not days ahead) and to find inspiration when I am at the store or market. I like to see what looks good that day and what feels right for that evening. I’d rather not work off of a list.
Do you taste as you go? Do you like snacking/drinking while cooking? What is the soundtrack to your cooking?
While cooking, I don’t really taste as I go because a friend once told me that it’s bad luck and messes with the energy of the meal. I drink water or tea while cooking and I often listen to podcasts, NPR or jazz.
We all have our tried and true meals. What is your...
“I can’t be bothered” meal?
An omelet with whatever cheese and veggies need to be used up, served with a simple green salad.
“I want to feel comfy” meal?
Miso soup with lots of veggies and rice noodles.
Lentil Dal with spinach and brown rice.
Favorite take out meal?
Brick oven pizza.
First meal you will indulge/a Portland restaurant you’ve missed during COVID?
A nice spread at Navarre. Inside. Not outside on the street.
What is your all-time favorite meal, where did you eat it, and with whom
Steak frites and a simple green salad is my all-time favorite meal. I have had it at many brasseries around Europe and in Manhattan. One memorable steak frites meal I remember in particular was in San Sebastian, Spain with my dear friend Jodi who I met while living in Holland. We had spent the day travelling from Amsterdam by plane and then bus and were both exhausted. I remember the restaurant was traditional Basque style, dark wood everything, chunky tables and chairs, dim lighting, older gentleman foodservers, probably hundreds of years old. We sat down to a plate of steak frites and hardly said a word to each other because the food was impeccable. We had arrived.
Who taught you to cook? What was the first food you ever made?
I would say both of my parents taught me to cook. Both were amazing cooks, in different ways, different styles. I cook a lot like my father, lots of braised vegetables. I come from what I call New York, red-sauce Italians, so of course the first food that I ever prepared was a simple marinara sauce: crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, lots of basil, salt, pepper.
We love how food can travel through our lineages. Are there things you love to cook that have been passed down from generation to generation?
That marinara sauce eventually evolved into a meal that has been passed down through multiple generations, which is a slow-cooked-all-day meat sauce. It’s classically called “Sunday gravy,” and it was tradition for my grandmother and great grandmother before her, to serve this meal to a very long table of very hungry relatives in Brooklyn every Sunday afternoon. It was an institution.
Food shopping can be a drag or a dream; where is your favorite spot to gather ingredients?
I am absolutely crazy about the green markets around Europe, most especially in France. Here in America, the smaller shops (the coop and of course, Providore) and farmer’s markets are my favorites.
What ingredients/staples do you always have stocked in your pantry and/or fridge?
Milk. Bread. Eggs. Rice. Pasta. Oats. Dried legumes.
Meal plan or wing it?
Recipe hunting: where do you enjoy finding recipes? Online? Cookbooks? Which are your go to cookbooks?
I rarely follow recipes, but if I need guidance or inspiration, I lean on The New York Times or Jamie Oliver.
What is your most well-loved cooking utensil?
A wooden spoon.
Doing the dishes: soothing or annoying?
I don’t care for cleaning up the dishes.
What is the kitchen task you most dread?
Unloading the dishwasher.
MADRE’s tagline is We all eat. We all rest. We’ve asked a lot about eating, so how do you build rest into your day/week/month?
Yoga/meditation, walking, reading, writing, resting and eating well.
Photographs by Naz Sahin