Chef Kathy Gunst Talks Culinary Inspiration

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Is your cooking going through the winter blahs? Well, at Here & Now, we usually turn to our resident chef Kathy Gunst for inspiration, so we thought we'd ask her where she gets her ideas.

As Kathy tells Robin Young, cooking is edible art for her, and inspiration comes in many forms.

"For me it has to do with nature and seasons and colors and textures," she said.

She also finds ideas for recipes in her travels, or perhaps by trying out a new spice. Kathy might see a painting and something about its composition will strike her imagination.

Kathy says she's even been known to dream about food. What was her weirdest idea to come that way? A savory strawberry sandwich!

You can find that recipe below, along with five others:

And if these recipes aren't enough for you, you can check out recipes from previous shows:

____Fennel and Celery Root Slaw

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Kathy Gunst holds a dish of her Fennel and Celery Root Slaw. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)
Kathy Gunst holds a dish of her Fennel and Celery Root Slaw. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)

Kathy’s Note: Celery root or celeriac is a great winter root vegetable. When it is peeled and thinly sliced and mixed with mayonnaise it is called celery remoulade (very popular in French bistros). This is a variation of that classic French dish combining raw celery root and fresh fennel with parsley, lemon and a touch of mayonnaise. It is topped with toasted chopped pecans.

2 cups celery root or celeriac, peeled and cut into very thin julienne strips
2 cups very thinly sliced fresh fennel bulb
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
About 1 cup pecan halves, toasted in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes and coarsely chopped

In a bowl mix the celery root, fennel, scallions, and parsley. Add the lemon juice, oil, and mayonnaise and gently toss to coat all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving bowl or plate and top with the toasted pecans.

Serves 4 to 6.

____Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Cranberries, Parsley and Scallions

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Kathy’s Note: Cauliflower is a great winter vegetable—and so underused.

1 large cauliflower
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 scallions, very finely chopped
1 cup sun-dried cranberries
About 1/2 teaspoon za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend), optional
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, optional

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, separating the big chunks. Remove and discard the core.

Place the cauliflower pieces in a large roasting pan and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, scallions, cranberries, and za’atar, if using. Place on the middle shelf and roast 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir the mixture so it browns evenly. Add the vinegar, if using, and roast another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cauliflower feels just tender when you insert a small knife into the stem end. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 4

____Rigatoni with Sautéed Zucchini, Garlic, Spinach and Almonds

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Kathy’s Note: The inspiration for this recipe came from cleaning out my refrigerator. Yes, it's true. Don’t laugh!

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped and 2 whole peeled cloves garlic
1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
Dash red chili flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup thinly sliced or chopped almonds
1 cup fresh baby spinach
½ pound rigatoni or your favorite shaped pasta
About ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil.

In a large skillet heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and just tender. Add the chile flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Add the almonds and half the parsley and cook, stirring for 3 minutes.

Cook the rigatoni for about 13 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the zucchini and stir. Let cook 5 minutes over very low heat.

Drain the pasta and place in a serving bowl. Toss with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper. Add the hot zucchini mixture and the raw spinach. The heat from the pasta will soften the spinach. Toss with the cheese, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve hot!

Serves 2

____Strawberry "Sandwiches"

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Kathy’s Note: Here’s the strawberry “sandwich” recipe that I dreamt – a kind of savory, new-wave version of chocolate-dipped strawberries. Ripe, fresh berries are cut in half and one half is topped with prosciutto, baby spinach or watercress leaves, and sandwiched back together. In this “sandwich,” the berry acts as the bread. To finish it off, the berry is drizzled with a reduced balsamic vinegar glaze, which compliments both the berry’s sweetness and the savory filling. Serve the berry “sandwiches” with cocktails, or on top of a salad.

½ cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
About 16 medium to large, or 24 small to medium ripe strawberries, stemmed
¼ pound imported prosciutto, very thinly sliced
1 packed cup baby spinach, watercress, or arugula, washed and thoroughly dried
A few grindings of black pepper

Place the vinegar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, watching it like a hawk, until the vinegar is quite reduced and is thick enough to coat a spoon. It becomes a thick, black glaze. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cut the berries in half lengthwise. Fold a slice of prosciutto in half and then in thirds and place on half of the berry. Place 2 to 3 leaves of the spinach on top of the prosciutto and add a light grinding of pepper. Top with the other berry half.

Repeat with the remaining berries, placing them on an attractive serving platter. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the berries, creating a squiggly design.

Makes 16 to 24 “sandwiches”

____Emma Potatoes

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Kathy’s Note: As unlikely as it may sound, the inspiration for this dish came from my (then) 4-year-old daughter Emma. We were turning potatoes in the roasting pan so they would brown nicely on all sides when she accidentally dumped about half a jar of capers into the pan. (The capers were meant to go on the fish we were also cooking that night.) “Oh well,” Emma announced. “Those little green things will go good with the potatoes.”

6 medium potatoes, washed, cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons capers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the potatoes in a medium roasting pan or gratin dish and coat with the oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the potatoes over and roast another 25 minutes, or until almost tender when tested with a small, sharp knife.

Add the capers and roasted another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4

____Roast Tarragon Chicken with Leeks, Pears and Potatoes

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Roast Tarragon Chicken with Leeks, Pears and Potatoes. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Roast Tarragon Chicken with Leeks, Pears and Potatoes. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Kathy’s Note: I am often asked how I come up with a recipe. Sometimes a recipe is developed in a methodical fashion—I start out to create the best roast tarragon chicken—but other times it happens haphazardly. This wonderful chicken happened by chance. In this case, I had just arrived at a friend’s house in the south of France. I had bought a chicken from the local boucherie, or butcher’s shop, there were fresh pears from a neighbor’s tree, a few leeks, potatoes and garlic from the market. The tarragon was snipped from the 3 foot-high bush growing outside the door, and the bay leaves picked from a neighbor’s tree. I never would have come up with this dish at home, but sometimes an unlikely combination of ingredients leads to memorable results. This is one of my favorite chicken recipes.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed, and cut lengthwise and then into 3-inch pieces
One 3 to 4 pound chicken
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped garlic, and 4 cloves whole, peeled garlic
2 bay leaves
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
2 large ripe pears, cored and cut lengthwise into quarters
2 shallots, peeled and cut into thick pieces
1 large head fennel, fronds trimmed and saved and bulb cut into quarters
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Grease the bottom of a large roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Arrange the leeks in the middle (center) of the roasting pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the leeks. Place 1 tablespoon of the tarragon, the chopped garlic, bay leaves, and salt and pepper in the cavity of the bird. Surround the chicken with the potatoes, pears, whole garlic cloves, shallots and fennel bulb wedges. Drizzle the chicken and vegetables and fruit with the remaining oil and season everything with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on the middle shelf and roast 30 minutes. Add the wine and continue roasting for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is done when the juices run clear and not pink when the inside of the thigh is pierced. Baste the bird once or twice, stirring the vegetables.

Remove from the oven and let sit before carving. Serve the chicken warm with the pears, potatoes, fennel, and garlic and any juices from the bottom of the pan.

Serves 4


This segment aired on February 21, 2013.


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