Common Sense Tempered by Enthusiasm
"When I create a recipe, I look at the primary ingredient and try to think outside the box," says cookbook author, food stylist, teacher, and caterer Rori Trovato. "But I also think about how I would like to eat that particular food. I put the two together and decide how I might get someone else to try it."
Over the years, Rori has developed a lion's share of the recipes for O, The Oprah Magazine and says that every time she writes a recipe for a home cook, she hopes she is "making an itty bitty contribution" to getting people back into the kitchen.
"When I teach, students often tell me they know nothing," she continues. "With a little prodding, I discover there's always something they know. They might recall a dish their mother or grandmother cooked or something they tried when they were first married."
She is endlessly fascinated by what she calls the genealogy of cooking. How we cook is based on what we've been taught as children, Rori says, whether we realize it or not, and cooking styles can be traced through a family's generations. For example, Rori says, Thanksgiving is our one true culinary tradition in America, and she would hate to see it change. But except for a turkey-with-all-the trimmings feast, she is all for experimentation in the kitchen.
"Listen to your instincts," she suggests. "Do not ignore what you like. If you don't like something, you probably won't be good at it."
She tries to make the recipes she writes accessible to home cooks, and she urges you to follow any recipe closely until you feel proficient. When you do, she says, go with your heart and taste buds to cook food as you like it. Most of all, she hopes her readers will want to cook. continue
"I want people to realize that braising only takes about 15 minutes of your time; the rest of the time, the food is in the oven. Because a homemade cake is so much better than one from a mix, someone might be willing to make the extra effort to bake one," she says.
"The little things make a big difference, like chopping your own garlic, squeezing juice from a real lemon, mixing a little orange juice and melted butter into maple syrup for pancakes, and making real hot chocolate, which is so easy and so special."
Rori, the author of Dishing with Style, believes it's important to set a pleasing table. When she makes a meal, she aims to fill the plates with color and texture as well as flavor. She wants the food to be memorable and explosively exciting, she says, and yet she prefers to keep it simple. "I really don't like overmanipulated food," she says.
Her recipes are designed to expand home cooks' abilities without "scaring them." Her advice is always practical (don't try something new for a dinner party; give it a trial run first), but her expectations and enthusiasm are inspiring.
"Once you learn a few things, your whole experience in the kitchen will be more rewarding," she promises.