Chef Interviews
Amy Rosen
by Kate Zimmerman for the Weekend Post, Table Talk

Where would I be without my Moffat?

OK, so she’s a girl on the go. The question is, can she cook?

Hey there, sassy girl: are you the toast of the town but still can’t make toast? If so, Amy Rosen wants to pump you up. Rosen, a freelance journalist who has eaten her way across Canada twice for enRoute magazine’s Best New Restaurants survey and whose work often appears in the Post, has come to the rescue of the culinarily challenged with her latest book, Cook This: Recipes for the Goodtime Girl (Random House Canada, $25). In it are instructions to make everything from Pistachio Aioli (garlic mayonnaise) to Vichyssoise (cold soup), plus such tips as the following: Don’t drink alone. Bring an imaginary friend with you. You’ll recognize Cook This in bookstores by its pink cover, decorated with a stiletto shoe. The Post caught up with Rosen, 35, for a clickety-clack Q & A.

How long have you been cooking?

Since I was little. My mom encouraged us all to get into the kitchen – just for fun. We didn’t have to cook our own meals.

Did you start out making desserts?

It’s funny, my mom put together a little scrapbook when I was younger. It included “Amy’s first recipe” — I was seven — and it was these oatmeal brown sugar bars. I think that was the first time that I realized “Oh, it makes people happy to eat something delicious” and that cooking was pretty easy to do.

What or who inspired you to cook?

It’s just one of those things that I enjoyed, I guess, like other people paint or ride a bicycle … I was never intimidated by it. I figure, you gotta eat a few times a day, so why not learn the skills. I was more into writing than cooking and then as I got older I got interested in cooking because I liked the feedback.

What do you think is your best dish now?

There actually is a favourite dish (in Cook This) that my family likes me to make. That is the lamb stew with rosemary dumplings, and it’s pretty easy. The one I make most often is the stuffing-stuffed squash. It’s really fast and tasty and I like to eat a bit on the healthier side when I’m at home. (But) I can’t choose favourites – they’re all my children. 

What must you eat?

To me, if it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert.

What won’t you eat?

I don’t know if it’s because I was brought up in a kosher home, but I don’t like to bite into a piece of pork. And anything licorice-flavoured, I just don’t like at all. But other than that, I’ll eat anything. I can’t think of anything that I haven’t tried once or I won’t try once.

First choice restaurant when you dine out?

Because I live in Little Italy, most common would be Italian, like pasta or pizza.

Thick crust or thin crust?

Thin. And extra sauce.

Is the “big sister” persona in your book really you?

The book is completely me. My humour is a little off-colour sometimes. I call it like it is, which I think is the tone of the book – it’s a little in-your-face. It also just explains things in a down-to-earth, easy, clear way. I’m not talking down to anyone but I want to make sure they understand. And that’s how I talk to my friends. (Laughs.)

Kind-of like they’re dogs?

More like hamsters.

Most essential kitchen gadget?

I don’t know how I could be a good cook without my stove. It’s a Moffat Fiesta with a double oven. And my wooden spoon.

Iceberg lettuce: oui ou non?

Oui, oui. It is totally back. We’re so sick of the airy field greens.

What do you always have in your fridge?

Eggs, milk, hot sauce, and pickles — Strub’s sour dills. And always some sort of cheese.

Maldon salt, kosher salt or regular salt?

Portuguese sea salt.

STUFFING-STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
(from Cook This)

1 small acorn squash
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, chopped
½ McIntosh apple, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped celery
2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
½ tsp. crumbled dried sage
2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 or 3 slices havarti cheese, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle the inside of each half with olive oil, then put cut side down on the cookie sheet. Roast for 40 or 50 minutes or until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute shallot, apple, celery, pecans and sage until apple and celery are soft.
  4. Remove cooked squash from oven, scoop out a bit of the cooked innards, and stir into vegetable mixture. Stir in breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Re-stuff squash halves and top with cheese. Put back in oven until cheese melts.

Makes 2 halves.

To serve: Grab a fork and eat one half now. Go in for the second in about an hour.

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