Our doors are finally open. You know how long I’ve been waiting to say that?!
The idea to create a shop open to the public for workshops, meals, and a few of my favorite things in and out of the kitchen came at the start of 2017. Like so many of you I was asking myself a lot of questions about life, work, and how am I helping to unite and move my community forward. From all of that soul digging I heard, “build a table and they will come”. Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that but that phrase and consequently that scene from Field of Dreams continually played in my mind throughout the entire process.
I dreamt about a space to work that was away from our home so that home could feel a bit more as such and I could have the ability to leave work at the door and focus on my family without being lured away by the computer in the other room. I longed for complete freedom of creativity in the kitchen. My career in food began in professional kitchens and I missed the ability to stand in the kitchen and watch the delight on the diner’s faces as the plates I just created hit their table. I missed the rush of service and the stretching of my creativity in the kitchen using techniques and ingredients that I don’t often share here for fear of limiting the audience. And I wanted a place to play host to authors, instructors, artists, creatives and whoever else is wanting to inspire and teach 14 people at my table. I wanted to continue to learn from others and be able to create an environment of learning.
Building this space felt like putting in the last piece of the puzzle. Every recipe I share, word that I write, and image that I take and share with you all here, on Instagram, Facebook – anywhere – is with one goal in mind: To encourage and inspire all of us to spend as much time at the table as possible. I never regret a minute spent at the table, in fact it’s at the table where relationships are built, memories are made, tears are shed, laughter is abundant, and food is shared.
In the early part of last year I started spiraling into a place of feeling as if my work didn’t matter. I talk about food a lot and in light of everything else in the world that just felt so trite until I really saw that yes, I talk about food but really that is simply the medium used to gather people. So it seemed fitting to take that purpose and make it more tangible by building out a homey space with a 12-foot table eager to seat anyone and everyone.
I do hope that someday all of you can stop by and sit at my table but until that time I won’t stop sharing the work I do here and elsewhere online.
There are so many people to thank for helping me turn this dream into a reality. KitchenAid heard my dream, saw the vision and helped make it happen. Their generosity gave me the chance to build out a kitchen that I would say was my dream kitchen, but honestly even the kitchen in my dreams isn’t this good. Every large and small appliance you see in this space is from them and I assure you this place would not be the same without their help. I have been a loyal fan of KitchenAid since my first mixer nearly fifteen years ago. I returned so many wedding gifts in order to be able to afford the one I truly wanted; a 5-quart stand mixer in Pistachio green. My kitchen has never been without one of their mixers since. And when you do come and sit at my bar while I’m making us something to eat, I will gush about my induction cooktop because I am a huge, huge fan.
Last week I hosted our first ticketed event in the shop. This meant that most the people coming to the table didn’t know one another before they sat down. Just before dessert came out I turned to Gabe, who was my server for the afternoon, and said, “That is my favorite sound in the whole world.” The volume had crept louder and louder until the music could no longer be heard. There were glasses being clinked, laughter extending the entire length of the table, business cards being shared and dates being planned for the next lunch at the shop. I’ve yet to have an event here where the sight of the table full of people doesn’t fill me with tears. A dream realized.
This Farro and Parmesan pie was the main course for that lunch and all the plates came back to the kitchen completely clean. In fact I am sharing the recipe here because I promised everyone at that table that I would. I saw the burnished crust of this pie on BonAppetit.com and immediately knew I needed to make that.
There are few ingredients so each must be treated with care. I’ve made a few changes from the original recipe in the form of lemon zest, garlic, thyme and Italian farro. When I first tasted Farro in Italy I thought they must have cooked it for days and days. It was tender, still delightfully nutty but it didn’t have the irksome chew that I find to be more laborious than what I want in a meal. And in actuality, Italian farro, or semi-perlato (semi-pearled) takes about 10 minutes from dry grain to tender. I’ve been able to purchase it online, at Whole Foods or at a local European import store. If you can’t find it, regular farro is completely fine.
*This post was created in partnership with KitchenAid. Thank you, as always, for supporting the brands that support the work I create.
1 cup Italian farro, or semi-perlato farro (available at WholeFoods)
2 thyme sprigs
2 cups finely grated Parmesan, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Pinch of nutmeg
4 large eggs
Grease a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil. Wrap the exterior in aluminum foil then place on a sheet tray. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a large saucepan add 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the farro and thyme. Sauté the farro until toasted, about 10 minutes. Carefully add water to cover, along with a couple of hefty pinches of sea salt then bring to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the farro and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together 1 3/4 cups of the Parmesan, cream, milk, sea salt, lemon zest, garlic, nutmeg and the eggs. Add the drained farro and pour the entire mixture into the prepared springform pan.
Bake for 40 minutes or until slightly puffed around the edges but the center has a bit of jiggle still in there.
Top the pie with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, move it to the top of your oven and broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until deeply golden and bubbling.
Serve while just warm or room temperature.
The pie can be made the day before and gently reheated just before serving.
“Cooking with fire means that you become more aware as a cook. you have to master two living things: the fire and the ingredient. For me, cooking is like music, it’s completely different when you do it unplugged.” – Niklas Ekstedt, Food From the Fire
Between my two brothers and I we have nine children. There are enough of us to easily warrant the group campsites we inhabit every summer. We spend the better part of a week letting our kids run free in the woods, chasing snakes (and in the meantime terrify their aunt), constructing forts, creating and reenacting elaborate scenes that take place under the wooded canopy of our campground.
While the kids run barefoot in the woods I busy myself with the fire. It takes very little for me to stoke the fire for dinner as the coals still burn hot from lunch and breakfast. As we’ve settled into a camping routine I have given myself the title of camp chef. I prepare the menus then divide the prep and clean up tasks. To me, cooking over the fire feels both thrilling and completely natural. Somehow the weight of the cast iron pan in my pan and the manipulating of the coals in order to tame the fire to give off just the right amount of heat just feels right.
Somewhere between the caramelized fennel and cream steamed mussels and the apricot cobbler with spiced biscuits cooked with coals in a dutch oven my eldest brother and I dreamt up plans for Kitchen Unnecessary.
It feels just like that; a dream.
Here’s how we describe that campfire cooked dream on our website.
“Outside cooking is not just for the summer, this series shows you the magic of cooking seasonal ingredients outside all year long. Rain or shine – or snow, Ashley Rodriguez and her guests will take you outside to show you how to embrace cooking outdoors.
Each episode we will show you how to plan, prep and prepare a seasonal and local menu that you can cook and enjoy outside.
Cooking outside with seasonal and local ingredients we do not sacrifice taste or technique but we add a whole new layer of experience and create memories that last long after the food is gone.”
I could not be more excited to share this new project with you all here. Nothing is changing in this space, in fact I am more inspired than ever to cook and share recipes with you. Kitchen Unnecessary is just one more way for me to share my passion and encourage people to cook and gather as often as possible.
Please enjoy our first episode!
We are so excited about our future adventures. Currently we are exploring the idea of digging for Geoduck in the middle of the night. We’re making plans to get out to Alaska in June in search of the prized Copper River Salmon and we’re eager for Spring morels to start popping up.
This project is the work of a small but mighty team. My brother (Chris Baron, Baron Visuals) is my partner in this and I could not be more honored to be a part of this project with him. I have been hoping for years to have something like this to work on with him as his cinematography is beyond stunning. He has been nominated for an Emmy and has filmed for some incredible shows and films including, Food, INC.
My husband, Gabe is the incredible eye behind these photos posted here not to mention the website and logo.
My dear friend and planning genius, Julie Hubert, is our fabulous producer.
Bryan Tucker, John and Chris took about 10 hours of footage and turned it into 9 stunning minutes.
And Daniel Winkler, our star and mushroom expert. From the first phone call we knew we found the right guide. This episode would not be the same without Daniel.
The first episode would not be possible without the support of our partner, Barebones Living. I’ve been using their product and developing recipes for their site for awhile now and I was so thrilled that they saw our vision for Kitchen Unnecessary and jumped on board.
Fire Roasted Pumpkin Fondue with Chanterelles and Chorizo
This one is a show-stopper. Smoky roasted pumpkin becomes a serving dish for fondue with a spicy mushroom cap. Don’t fear the char that will inevitably coat the exterior of the pumpkin but do keep an eye on it while it roasts so that the char doesn’t go beyond the skin. You can roast the pumpkin completely in the cast iron pot but it will take quite a bit longer. Bring along the cheese already grated to save yourself from doing that work on the campsite.
1 3 pound kabocha squash (or other small pumpkin or squash)
8 ounces chorizo
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces chanterelles, cleaned and sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces grated comté or gruyere
4 ounces grated swiss cheese
2 pounds fire cooked potatoes
2 apples, sliced
1/2 loaf crusty bread
Set the pumpkin in hot coals at the base of a campfire. Pile up the coals around the pumpkin.
Roast until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the heat of your fire). Don’t worry about the exterior char but you may have you move it around while roasting so it cooks evenly.
Carefully remove the pumpkin from the coals then let cool a bit before removing the top and scooping out the seeds.
Place the pumpkin in a small cast iron roasting dish then return the whole thing to the coals. Place the lid on and keep warm while you prepare the chorizo and chanterelles.
Set a cast iron skillet over low flames on a grill grate or directly on the coals.
Sauté the chorizo until cooked through. Remove to a platter then add the the butter and chanterelles. Sauté until deeply caramelized, add the garlic then return the chorizo back to the skillet. Add a pinch of salt then stir everything together well.
Remove the lid from the roasting dish with the pumpkin. Add the wine then slowly begin to stir in the cheese, waiting for each new addition to melt before adding the next. Once all the cheese has been added top with the chorizo and chanterelles, remove from the fire then enjoy.