On today’s edition of My Favorite Foodies Series we meet Jean from Lemons and Anchovies. I can’t remember when I first came across Jean’s blog, but what I do remember is that her recipes and photography always impressed me. Lemons and Anchovies is a blog that has it all, great recipes, interesting flavor combinations, comfort and luxurious recipes, and plenty of sweet desserts to leave your heart and belly content. Jean is one of the most talented and down to earth food bloggers you’ll meet, and that is why she is one of my favorite foodies. So let’s us welcome and allow Jean to tell us all about her fantastic blog. Please help me give her a very warm welcome.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your blog, what can people expect to find there?
My blog was intended to be just a catalog of my recipes but it has also become a small window into my life. I share my trials and errors in the kitchen with anecdotes of my travels and other life adventures thrown in. I am not a professionally-trained cook so much of what I share is anchored on simple, rustic preparations. Occasionally, I will step out of my cooking comfort zone and try a new technique but overall, if I share a recipe on the blog, chances are you can successfully (and easily) create it in your kitchen, too.
2. Is there a special significance to your blogs title?
Several names came to mind as I considered starting my blog but I kept coming back to Lemons and Anchovies. I love lemons in both savory and sweet dishes so that part was a natural choice. As for the anchovies, I happen to like them a lot, too, and I thought it would add an attention-grabbing quality to my blog’s name since people’s reaction to anchovies is always one of love or hate–rarely something in between. Both ingredients are also good representatives of the simple cooking I ascribe to in my blog.
3. Why do you like to cook/bake or spend time in your kitchen? Have you always liked spending time in the kitchen?
Anyone who knew me in my 20s would never have predicted that I would one day be so comfortable in the kitchen…least of all me. As a child I observed more than participated in cooking activities and the rare attempts I made to cook often ended in disasters. My desire to spend time in the kitchen developed over time. As I settled into married life I learned to embrace the responsibility of preparing healthy, balanced meals at home. And I found that I enjoyed it. Successfully recreating a childhood dish by letting my taste buds guide me or looking at a beautiful cake that I baked myself, from scratch, proved satisfying in more ways than I ever imagined. I was hooked in no time. Now I find myself craving the solitude of my kitchen during busy weeks or extended time away from home. My kitchen has become the heart of my home.
4. When you want to treat yourself or loved ones what do you prepare or splurge on?
I can’t say that there is one dish that I gravitate towards when I want to serve my family or myself something special. It is customary for me and my husband to serve nice bottles of wine when friends and family are present but this is more his department than mine. I have go-to savory dishes and desserts that I prepare on certain occasions but I also love to try new dessert recipes for my family and friends. Hopefully the effort that I make to give them a new treat to love is received as a reflection of my high regard for them. That said, serving filet mignon at a dinner party always garners praise!
5. If you had to pick a favorite sweet and one savory recipe from your blog, which would they be? (please provide names and links to the recipes)
If I had to pick one savory dish from my blog it would have to be my Ragú alla Bolognese. This is one of my “last meal” dishes and I’m very selective about my bolognese sauce. I’m quite proud of the recipe since it took me some time to get it right. This ragú is a labor of love as it requires a few hours on the stove for the flavors to come together perfectly. My secret? Generous use of dried porcini mushrooms and their liquid makes this recipe one of my favorites.
Selecting a sweet recipe is a bit tougher. I have declared several recipes as favorites since starting my blog two years ago. Permission to select two? My go-to chocolate cake is Ina Garten’s recipe and it receives rave reviews each time I serve it. The cake is ultra-moist with pumped-up chocolate flavor thanks to one key ingredient. It’s a winner. A more recent favorite is my Ligurian Lemon Cake. This cake is olive-oil based, dotted with fresh raspberries inside and is finished with a meringue topping. Where the chocolate cake is rich and decadent, this lemon cake is light and bursting with fresh flavor.
6. What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory?
One of my most memorable kitchen moments would have to be roasting my first Thanksgiving turkey. This was well before I fell in love with cooking or even aspired to be a decent cook. I had a 20-pound turkey and about 20 people celebrating the holiday with me and my husband and I probably only had a couple of roast chickens under my belt for experience. The stress level was off the charts that morning as I tried to coordinate the preparation of several side dishes (all new recipes at the time), as well as that giant turkey. My mother came to rescue by guiding me on the phone each step of the way and by the time she and the rest of my family arrived for Thanksgiving lunch, the turkey was roasted to moist perfection. I will never forget that experience.
7. What is your favorite ingredient, the one you couldn’t live without, the one you use most often? And is this ingredient the one that inspires you the most or is there another?
I would have to say lemons. I really do love them that much. I grew up with condiments served alongside each meal. Whether it be ketchup, salsa, soy sauce, fish sauce, chopped tomatoes or vinegar with garlic, I always had to have something on the side. I can do without the aforementioned but a little bit of lemon juice always completes a dish for me. If a dish is too salty or rich at a restaurant, a squeeze of lemon juice makes it more palatable. A bit of lemon juice drizzled on steamed vegetables or greens makes them brighter, fresher to me. In sweets, lemon zest and lemon juice lend a lighter quality to otherwise too-sweet baked goods.
8. What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking:)
I have always loved cheese-flavored chips. Cheetos, Doritos, Cheez-its–I like them all. During particularly weak moments I will even eat nachos topped with processed cheese at the movies. I don’t keep these items in my pantry too often but I do succumb to the craving at times. If I have a bag at home, I will have a small portion, just enough to satisfy the craving and I’m sated for a while. When I travel, I will always visit a local market to sample the country’s local version of cheesy crisps. Now does this disqualify me as a legitimate food blogger? :)
9. Who is your favorite foodie? (Be it a professional, enthusiast or novice)
This is a difficult one to answer. So many people have inspired me in the kitchen. Focusing on my love of Italian food, I will say that Biba Caggiano and Lidia Bastianich are at the top of the list. They both have a simple approach to cooking and have shown me how satisfying rustic, humble fare can be. Their recipes have become my benchmarks for preparing good food at home–and not just Italian cuisine–and of course, what I share on my blog.
10. Why did you start blogging? Do you have a goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
I started Lemons and Anchovies because I fell in love with the food blogging community. Until I discovered 101 Cookbooks or the Pioneer Woman I didn’t realize that there were so many like me who thrived on the discussion of food. Where I previously spent time jumping from one fashion blog to another, I found myself happily reading not about the hottest shoes or bags of the season but instead a blogger’s take on their favorite roast chicken or what made another’s pie crust so perfectly flaky. At one point I decided that I might have something worthwhile to say, too, about my experiences in the kitchen.
I haven’t set any grand goals for me and my blog. There is always the far away dream of a cookbook (or other avenues I’m considering pursuing) but in some ways I have accomplished so much more than I originally set out to do. An ancillary goal to sharing my kitchen adventures was to improve my writing skills and by regularly sharing my kitchen adventures with my readers I’m learning to find my voice. I have also always been afraid of using a camera but the challenge of producing images of my dishes that would compel my readers to run to the kitchen to try my recipes has forced me to conquer that fear. The camera has become my friend. I still have a long way to go before I can profess to know it intimately but I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made over the last two years.
Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice for fellow blogger?
The best advice I can give? Blog for you and not for anyone or anything else. Share the food you enjoy and not what you think will garner the most traffic. Find your own voice. I didn’t realize until I looked back on some of my earliest posts that I tried to emulate the style of a famous blogger–and quite unsuccessfully I might add. It didn’t sound like me. I saw a mismatch in the way I wrote some of those posts and the way I would normally express myself. Writing is much easier when you let yourself shine through the pages. Don’t give up on photography if that is a challenge for you now. It took a long time for certain technical elements to “click” for me and for those to translate into decent images. You can start by looking at the pictures of other bloggers whose images appeal to you. Ask yourself what it is about those images that draws you to them and go from there. Nancy has generously shared a lot of wonderful photography tips here and I’ve learned a lot from them. As long as you blog for you, it will continue to be fun.
Recipes for images in the graphic and photos can be found in the links below.
Blueberry Banana Buckle, Banana Caramel Tart, Fresh Strawberry (Mini) Pies, Coconut Curry Mussels, White Bean Dip, Pineapple Sorbet, Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet, Grilled Lamb Chops with Chimichurri Sauce, Pan Bagnat, Spicy Honey Roasted Almonds,Peri Peri Pepper-Almond Dip with Marinated, Carnitas Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa, Squid Ink Spaghetti with Shrimp and White Truffle Oil, Pasta alla Carbonara, Bucatini with Arugula, Anchovies, and Fried Lemon Zest, Penne with Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Eggplant and Sambal, Chocolate Madeleines, Spicy Pork Stew
All images are the sole property of Jean Pope and Lemon and Anchovies. Graphic design by Spicie Foodie. Please do not use images or graphics without prior written consent. Thank you.