Ania Catalano is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet School of Cooking in New York and the owner of the Gourmet Whole Foods Catering and Cooking School in Milford, Connecticut. Visit www.gourmetwholefoods.com.
THE AUTHOR SCOOP
Do you have any unusual or special family traditions?
Like a lot of families, Christmas Eve is a time for a special celebration among our family and friends. We have an all-seafood menu, which includes lots of traditional Polish recipes I grew up with: herring with sour cream and onions, perogi filled with farmers cheese and potatoes, and a meatless version of bigos that's made with sauerkraut, wild mushrooms and vegetables. My husband is Italian, so we have a mix of two culinary cultures and even more seafood dishes! The feast continues on Christmas Day. The highlight, as far as I'm concerned, is babka – a rich, yeasty sweatbread filled with raisins, cheese or poppyseeds and topped with a honey rum glaze. My mom made the best babka in the world!
How did you learn to cook?
My Polish mother was an amazing cook and I spent many years in the kitchen with her. In fact, when I owned Sprouts, we spent many more years together in my kitchens! Of course, she never had to measure anything and all her recipes were committed to memory, so my attempts to replicate her dishes never come out quite the same. She loved to experiment and try new things – maybe that's where I get my sense of adventure.
What's been sitting in the back of your fridge for more than a year?
Let me think about what I want to own up to . . . there are a few things! Probably Melinda's Triple XXX Hot Sauce and barley miso have been there the longest.
How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling down?
For me, nothing beats a spinning class at the gym! An hour of intense, kick-butt workout leaves me sweaty, happy and pumping with positive endorphins. If that doesn't cure my blues, a glass of good red wine and a plate of cheese usually does the trick!
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