Nikki Gardner of Art and LemonsMeet Nikki Gardner.
Nikki, tell us about your family.
I live in the hills of Western Massachusetts with my husband, D and two-year-old son, L. We grow fresh herbs and tomatoes in four Polaroid-sized raised beds set up in the front yard. We also have two blueberry bushes and some large squash plants that transplanted themselves from the compost pile. Most of the food we prepare comes from local farms.
Tell us about your blog.
Art and Lemons is an art and food blog that includes recipes, photos and stories from my life. I like simple good-tasting food made from fresh ingredients and whole foods. I try to cook mostly with seasonal and local ingredients, although it's not always possible. It's a goal, not an absolute. Food should taste like what it is. Lately, this means braised radishes.
Braised radishes from Art and Lemons
Where is your favorite spot in the kitchen?
I spend most days in the kitchen writing and cooking. I sit at the kitchen table, it's the best spot in the house to think and write and eat. In the morning, light spills through the windows and the faint smells of last night's dinner remain: goat cheese soufflé and green salad dressed with tarragon vinaigrette. Pure comfort.
Kitchen table and bookshelfWhere do you find inspiration?
Fresh seasonal ingredients inspire my cooking. We belong to a local farm share so each week we pick up a box of fruits and vegetables. It's always a surprise to open the box and see what's inside. Especially when it's the last week for spring broccoli.
Stove and cupboards
What traditions does your family have with respect to food?
For the past few years, we've had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Even though I'm a vegetarian, I brine and cook a turkey. However, my husband helps clean and wash the bird as well as removing the fat pads. We also serve a smattering of vegetable dishes like cornbread stuffing, sweet and Yukon gold potato gratin, roasted root vegetables, orange cranberry sauce, and gravy. Dessert is often pumpkin and maple pecan pies, although sometimes we make a rustic apple galette.
Kitchen cartWhat do you make better than anyone else?
White bean and butternut squash soupWhat is your one indulgence?
Ice cream. The flavors change depending on my mood, usually I like ginger, lemon Cake batter, or French vanilla bean. Oh, and gelato too. Chocolate Hazelnut.
Ginger ice cream
What are some ingredients/food items that you could never, ever live without?
Nuts, and especially nut butters, like almond, cashew, and peanut. Lemons, ginger, garlic, cheese, and yogurt. Oh, coconut and chocolate too. But not necessarily all at once...
Homemade cheeseHow has your cooking changed since you had children?
After my son was born, I started to cook more with local ingredients. Food should be fresh and vibrant and tasty. So I want the natural flavors of the food to speak the loudest and not be overpowered by adding heavy sauces or too many flavors at once.
What are you favorite food blogs or websites?
Some of my favorite food blogs are the same ones I've read over the past few years: 101 Cookbooks, Orangette, Tea & Cookies, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, and Cucina Nicolina I don't have as much time to read online these days, but I find these voices to be the ones I miss the most. I also stay up to date with the food sections on Salon.com, The New York Times, and the LA Times.