Blogger Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi seems to have a full plate on her hands―literally and figuratively. As a foodie and a mom, she whips up old and new recipes at home and for special occasions. She also makes sure that her family, especially her two kids, is involved in the process.
“We never force but always urge [our kids] to try. The key is to expose them. If they always see you eat new interesting things, if they participate in making the food, they will develop the taste for it eventually.”
Steph’s blog is a testament of how she brings her love for food and family together. You can also see this in her first book Feast With Me, a guide to dining and entertaining with recipes, wine pairings, and table setting ideas. In that light, we talked to her about her favorite recipes and how travel influences them, and tips on arranging dinner parties.
What are your favorite recipes to make at home?
Actually, our favorite recipe to make is sort of a hodgepodge of our own creation. My husband and I love a good bowl of pasta Bolognese and we always feel our version is the best. More so because it’s got all these herbs and spices that we both love, we use a heavy hand with the veggies, and in fact it’s a totally crazy bastardized version of Bolognese but it’s exactly what we love and look for.
Were there chefs or foodies that you looked up to?
I definitely love Ina Garten. I love how she unabashedly uses butter and her only priority is that everything needs to be at its utmost yummiest! Her recipes, however, are never too fussy or fancy, as well as the way she entertains. It’s always effortless and elegant. I love that. I also love Jamie Oliver. His energy, his passion for good nutrition, and how he tries make bold, flavorful, healthy food really accessible.
How much does traveling inspire your cooking?
Oh, so much! Whenever I go on a trip, particularly in exotic destinations, I always make my way for to markets, street food stands, and groceries. I try to sneak in a cooking class or two. I love exploring all the flavors and techniques. Then when I get home, I usually try to prolong that feeling of vacation by trying to replicate something I tasted there. From the flipside, I also quench my wanderlust with food. Like if I’m suddenly itching to go to Vietnam or Italy, I’ll whip up a Cha Ca La Vong or a fresh pasta.
When you’re arranging a wine and dine gathering, what pairings do you usually prepare and recommend?
Ooh… that’s hard to say. There are so many factors—what are you serving? How many people? What’s the occasion? And even who is coming to dinner? Safe to say that I’ve outlined everything in my book and tried to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Which do you prefer the most: red wine, white wine, or rosé?
All wines. All the time. Just teasing! But it’s the truth, I really do love it all. Maybe it’s more fair to say that I love an excellent Grand Cru St Emilion, a crisp dry German Riesling and a young, fresh Côtes de Provence.
Aside from food, what are other things do you like investing time on to prepare—like tableware, floral decorations, etc.? Any go-to color palettes and designs?
I’m all about investing in great tableware and what most people tend to forget: great serveware and cookware. I have this beautiful collection of Le Creuset and I just cook and serve directly in it. I love the rustic feel of it all, the burnt, caramelized bits sticking to the edges. And since they are already so beautiful there is no need to transfer to a serving platter. When you have great plates, glasses, cutlery and beautiful food, you don’t need much else.
I do, however, find floral arrangements therapeutic and love being able to take the time to do a nice one. As for go-to palettes and designs, most of my plate collections are some sort of derivative of blue and white. It’s wonderful because I mix and match all the time. I also love olive greens. My Le Creuset collection is red. Eventually, I’m going start collecting Staub in blue. Once I move into my new home. There is currently a moratorium on new plates and tableware by my husband. He doesn’t get why I need to have so many!
Let’s talk about your new book. What made you decide to publish your own book?
It’s always been a dream of mine to write a book. First and foremost, I consider myself to be writer. I’m not a cook, a chef, or a host. My number one true passion is writing. I loved to read and write since as far back as I can remember and I’m a huge fan of classic fiction. I actually moved to Paris in Hemingway’s footsteps so I could be a starving writer. I ended up eating my way through Europe! [Laughs] But I couldn’t just write about anything. First, I had to be credible. It had to be a topic I enjoyed. It also had to be something more than just a cookbook. I wanted stories that people could enjoy and get lost in. The clincher though was when Tita Millet [Mananquil] pushed me to publish a book. She literally called me up and said, “When are you going to write a book? I think it’s time.”
How did you handpick the recipes that will be included?
Once I had an outline in my head, things were clear. The recipes follow the chapters and the stories. I had to slash a few to make things more cohesive but that’s okay. It’ll be saved for the next one!
What was the most challenging part about writing a book?
More than anything it’s getting your thoughts together. Finding the structure and the outline. It has to make sense and can’t just be a bunch of ramblings. Thankfully, I have experience as a magazine editor so I sort of structured my book that way.
What’s next for you? Are you prepping for your next book or formulating new recipes? Or will you just take it slow for now?
There ain’t no rest for the wicked! [Laughs] I am actually planning the next book, Little Feasts and hopefully to come out in time for Mother’s Day next year. It would be all about cooking with and for your kids and the family, plus inspirations for DIY kiddie parties.
Art by Lara Intong
Photos by Magic Liwanag
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