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 Martina Thornhill.
What is your all-time favorite meal, where did you eat it, and with whom?
Years ago when we were living in North Carolina we decided on a whim to drive up to Richmond, Virginia with two close friends and go to Mamma Zu’s, a hole in the wall Italian restaurant that sadly closed for good this year. It looked like an abandoned building from the outside, but inside it was jam packed with tables and people. The menu was all hand written on the wall, you picked out your own bottles of wine from the shelf and the servers were the perfect mix of knowledgeable and rude in the best way that our table of 4 slightly burnt out bartenders fully loved. We went all out and ordered what felt like half the menu. Roasted broccolini with lemon, out of this world veggie lasagna, sausages in red sauce, delicious tiramisu, wine, coffee, everything. It was a heavenly 3 hour affair and my mouth still waters thinking about it
We all have our tried and true meals. What is your...
“I can’t be bothered” meal?
Crispy chickpeas fried in lots of olive oil and za’atar served over rice with garlic lemon yogurt and some salad greens.
“I want to feel comfy” meal?
Pasta forever and always. Cacio y pepe is a favorite with some gremolata style roasted mushrooms on top and a simple arugula salad dressed with lots of lemon and crunchy salt. Or with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce recipe and baked in the oven with dollops of parsley and garlic studded ricotta like a deconstructed lasagna.
Homemade chicken broth mixed with coconut milk, ginger, turmeric and raw garlic to sip on with a giant salad of mixed greens, quinoa, avocado, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds tossed in a shallot red wine dressing.
Favorite take out meal?
Curry and Roti Set with fried chicken from Hat Yai.
Food shopping can be a drag or a dream; where is your favorite spot to gather ingredients?
La Bouffe International Gourmet is one of my favorites and we’re so lucky to have it right up the street from our house. I pop up there multiple times a week for staples, snacks and spice restocks.
What ingredients/staples do you always have stocked in your pantry and/or fridge?
Heavy cream, greek yogurt, eggs, Parmesan, butter… lots of butter, lemon, shallots, darky leafy greens, chickpeas, rice, pasta noodles, coconut milk, pickled green beans, nuts and seeds of all kinds. I keep extra jars of chicken broth in our downstairs freezer along with olive oil roasted summer tomatoes, and a few packages of sausages from Scratch Meats for the nights we need to pull together a super quick meal.
Meal plan or wing it?
100% wing it. We’ve been getting a year round CSA for the last couple years and it’s forced me to get really good at knowing which things I can switch out in recipes for what I have on hand. I have a casual mental list of basic recipes I can lean on and tweak as needed, or sometimes it’s just going through the cookbooks to see what things they make with the certain ingredient and winging it from there. It took awhile for me to get the hang of cooking this way, but now I look forward to unpacking that veggie bag and seeing what I get to experiment with this week.
Where do you enjoy finding recipes? Online? Cookbooks? Which are your go to cookbooks?
My go to cookbooks lately have been Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden and the two Alison Roman books, although I use the recipes as launching off points more than something to rigidly follow. I definitely do my fair share of internet digging as well based off of whatever ingredient I’m trying to come up with a use for.
Doing the dishes: soothing or annoying? What’s your relationship to dish washing?
It’s not my favorite and I have a tendency to let them pile up, but I’m working on it. My partner and I have an agreement that I make dinner and he does the dishes which is the dream for me.
What is the kitchen task you most dread?
Cleaning out the fridge. I hate it.
Are you pro kids in the kitchen? Or do you prefer to cook alone? What meal/food do your children most request?
Absolutely pro kids in the kitchen and I try to encourage it as much as possible, but I definitely prefer to cook alone. I love cooking and it’s such a source of relaxation for me to have an unbothered hour or so to make exactly what I want to eat. My partner Drew loves good food and is my biggest cooking fan so he’s always a joy to cook for. Dodge doesn’t feel the same and would honestly prefer if it was Annie’s Mac and Cheese every night.
What do you gift to friends who love to cook?
Fancy salts, interesting spices and beautiful serving ware.
Would you rather cook or be cooked for? Do you prefer to host or be a guest?
Cooking and hosting! It’s hard for me to relax and enjoy the party when I do it, but cooking for others is always a joy for me.
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?
I’m one of those people who has a hard time sitting still. I am constantly (maybe annoyingly?) productive. I used to feel slightly bad about my inability to stop, like it was a product of internalized capitalism and something to train out of myself, but I’ve realized that my creative outlets ARE restful to me. Whether it’s cooking, sewing, gardening, or pottery I feel replenished by having the quiet time to devote to intentionally making things. Particularly functional things that bring joy to my day.
Here is a recipe for simple baked eggs Martina made for us during our visit to her kitchen.
Photographs by Naz Sahin: