Brooklyn-based Rebekah Peppler never thought she’d end up a chef. Starting off as a writer, she pursued the culinary arts with the intention of being a food writer/editor. Across all of her work, whether it’s testing recipes for a cookbook or cooking for friends in her own kitchen, Peppler describes herself as a home cook – making her recipes that much more accessible for all of you, our Plated home chefs.
You may have indulged in a number of her delicious recipes throughout April (and May). Want to know more about the chef behind, for example, the Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetable Hash or Steak with Greens and Texas Toast? Keep reading…
Q: Who or what is behind your culinary inspiration? Has any place you’ve traveled impacted your cooking in any way?
A: Travel has always been one of the biggest inspirations for me as a recipe writer. Once you’re out of your comfort zone you realize that flavors that seemed so exotic and esoteric at home aren’t so in another place. It gives you the authority to bring them into your everyday repertoire long after your bags are unpacked.
Every time I travel it ends up altering the way I look at food: whether it was studying abroad in college in Rome, Italy and Cambridge, England (which also allotted me an ongoing addiction to the UK-based gummy candy, Wine Gums), spending a long weekend cooking with friends in Nantucket or heading down to New Orleans to eat my weight in beignets and muffalettas. What’s more, one of the greatest things about living in New York is the fact that even if I don’t have a big trip planned, I can just walk down an unfamiliar block and discover something new and inspiring.
Q: What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever gotten?
A: “Use the right tool for the job.” One of my chefs in pastry school offered up this ridiculously simple advice and it’s never left me. Every time I’m too lazy/busy to wash the spatula or dig around to find a whisk and am ad hoc-ing with the wrong tool, I can hear Chef whispering in my ear, reminding me that a spatula would make the job 10 times easier and more beautiful. And you know what, she’s right every time.
Q: What are the three tools you can’t live without while cooking a meal?
A: My Mac 8-inch chefs’ knife, music, and wine. Those three things, plus great people to feed and there’s no way a great meal isn’t going to happen. [Editor’s note: How sweet is that philosophy?! We agree!]
Q: What’s one budget item that should be on every home gourmet’s grocery list?
Anchovies packed in oil. They’re cheap, sustainable and add incredible flavor to anything you add them to. My favorite late night meal consists of sautéing anchovies and finely chopped garlic in a pat or two of butter until the anchovies melt into the sauce then tossing it all with pasta and a good pinch of red pepper flakes. It’s especially satisfying after a long day.
Q: What ingredient are you most willing to splurge on?
A: Cheese. I’m Wisconsin-born and raised and grew up on a steady diet of cheddar, brats and the Green Bay Packers. While my tastes have evolved slightly, I don’t go a day without a good chunk of premium dairy cheese.
Chef Challenge: Don’t be afraid to take risks, whether that means adding a new flavor, texture or trying out an esoteric ingredient. When I was young, my mom let me pick out one new interesting food item every time we went to the market and it opened my mind–and palate–to a crazy world of options (including a few downright disgusting ones). I still allow myself that luxury to this day and it continues to shape the way I look at food in a fantastic way.
– Pareesha Narang