UPDATE: This story was originally published on May 30.
Getting fancy in the kitchen is more than intimidating — especially for those of us with tiny, unequipped, New York apartments. But we're saying no to another night of Chinese take-out. One scroll through our favorite food blogs shows us exactly what our taste buds are missing, so we decided to break out of our chef-shells and give cooking a try. For help, we turned to one of our favorite womenswear designers, Peter Som, who happens to moonlight as an expert chef. (Don't believe us? Just check out his mouth-watering Pinterest boards!).
We took over his dreamy West Village kitchen to watch and learn as he prepped three delicious (and healthy) summer dishes. Not only are we sharing his excellent recipes, but we got the scoop on everything you need to know for your Martha-Stewart makeover, from how to stock your shelves, to the secrets behind a Page Six-worthy dinner party. Read on to get the, ahem, dish. We hope you're hungry!
Photographed by Janelle Jones
We're ready to cook! And don't forget, as Som says, "A glass of wine while you're cooking is always a good idea."
Roasted Carrot Veloute with Mini Grilled Cheese
3 cups carrots, peeled and cut into similarly-sized 1" pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 pinches of ground cumin
1 cup of chicken stock
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup whole milk
4 slices of good multi-grain bread
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp basil pesto
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Turn on oven to 400F. Toss carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin and place on cookie sheet in one layer. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, rotating and shaking pan halfway through, until carrots are fork-tender and slightly browned.
While carrots are roasting, prepare grilled cheese. Using a ring mold or the top of a drinking class, cut four rounds out of each slice of bread. Spread pesto on two of the slices of bread and top with cheese. Top with the other slices. Set aside.
Once carrots are done, carefully put into blender. (They are going to be hot!) Add half the chicken stock, and carefully blend. Pour in the rest of the stock, as well as the milk and vinegar. Continue blending until consistency is smooth and velvety — add more milk or stock as necessary. Heat cast-iron skillet or pan to medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter. When sizzling, carefully add sandwiches and heat through until bottoms are golden brown. Gently turn over and heat opposite sides. Pour the soup into a coffee mug, garnish with chopped parsley, and put mug onto a larger plate along with your grilled cheese.
Som's make-ahead tip: Soup can be made several days in advance, just heat before serving. You will be cool as a cucumber in front of your guests.
Tell us how you got into Pinterest in the first place.
"I started pinning because I was having files of interiors that weren’t organized. I started pinning for more practical reasons."
Som whips up the carrot soup like a pro.
Do you have any insight as to why you have such an unreal amount of followers? What’s the secret?!
"I have no idea! I just pin things I like and I try to be strict with my curating. For example, I don’t like images from magazines with writing in the corner. I like strong images, and I just started making folders."
Som cuts off the crust for the grilled cheese, but they don't have to go to waste. Feel free to save to make bread crumbs.
Do you have anywhere you go for inspiration?
"I don't have any specific sites. For interiors, I like Remodelista and Architectural Digest. For food, I go to Epicurious. Sometimes I just put in a keyword into Google, and if the image is big enough I pin it. It could be from a random blog."
He shows us the real secret to a picture-perfect grilled cheese: lots of butter.
How did you get into cooking?
"Well, my mom and my sister really love cooking. My sister would be obsessed with crepes so we’d make crepes constantly. It wasn’t until moving to New York that I really started getting into it. Baking started after a bad break-up — I was making pies, which oddly happened around the time that Keri Russell movie, Waitress, came out. I felt very Felicity."
The final product! The circular shape of the sandwiches lends a true chicness to the presentation.
What are the key ingredients for a successful dinner party?
"Keep it simple. The classic rule is to not try making something you’ve never made before. You should prep as much as you can beforehand, and make things you can easily heat up. There have been some parties where the work was so labor intensive that I couldn’t enjoy myself, so keep it simple. It should be fun for everybody."
Oven-Roasted Salmon with Chickpea Salad
2 salmon filets
Olive oil (or softened butter, if you’re feeling indulgent)
Half a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes (larger tomatoes can be cut in half)
1 10 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup arugula
For the vinaigrette:
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Turn oven onto 450 F, rub salmon with olive oil (or butter), sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Place on non-stick baking sheet and cook for approximately 12 minutes, until salmon is cooked through.
In the meantime, bring a large pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Add tomatoes and cook until they start to burst. Turn heat to low and add chickpeas. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat
and cool. Add arugula and red onion.
Serve salmon on a mound of the chickpea tomato salad and garnish with a few leaves of arugula.
Som's make-ahead tip: The day before, make the salad and dress it. The flavors will meld nicely. Before serving, bring to room temperature and add arugula just before serving.
Som insists not to feel pressured to buy all your ingredients at the farmer's market. Organic fruits and veggies from your local grocery can be just as good (and a whole lot easier).
What décor do you recommend for dinner parties?
"I do tablescapes for holidays like Thanksgiving, with pumpkins and kumquats and little silver dishes. Normally, I’ll get flower arrangements and non-scented votives to not distract from the aroma of the food."
Som adds seasoning, seasoning, and more seasoning.
When cooking, it's all about the little details to help you along. Som recommends tucking a towel into your belt loop. You'll be surprised how much you need it!
You have a massive and beautiful kitchen, but what are the bare necessities for people who may not have as much space or are just getting started with cooking?
"Well for basic ingredients, keep a stock of eggs. If you’re going to have a protein, a chicken can take you far. If you can do a good roast chicken you’ll find a boyfriend or girlfriend quickly (laughs). You need lemons and good olive oil. For equipment, you just need a sauce pan and a pasta pot. Oh, and a pair of tongs are the best."
Where do you shop for the kitchen?
"Williams-Sonoma. I like to walk around and touch things."
The finished dish is a true beauty sure to knock the socks off your guests.
How do you find the time between being a super pinner and your design work to do it all? Is there anything you’ve had to sacrifice to stay successful?
"It’s all about balance. You can’t work 24 hours a day and expect the best. I can’t work all day and expect the best. It’s about making sure you’re organized, but with room for spontaneity. And know when you need to step back and, I don’t know, cook something."
2 servings strong espresso
1 scoop dulce de leche gelato
2 scoops vanilla gelato
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted in a dry pan at low heat until just golden brown
Timing is everything so get your glasses, spoons, and guests ready! Affogato is always a hit, but it waits for nobody. Put scoops of gelato into drinking glasses or mugs. Pour hot espresso on top and garnish with almonds. Serve immediately. Wait for the accolades.
Som's make-ahead tip: Pre-scoop ice cream, put into glasses, and then the freezer. Toast almonds beforehand. All you will have to do is make espresso!
You've cooked us quite the healthy summer meal, but what do you turn to for a good indulgence (besides affogato, of course)?
"Anything with lots of butter or sugar. I love to make coconut cake, madeleines, tarts, pies. The first time I made brioche there was so much butter, I think my KitchenAid started to smoke."
Som whips up some espresso in a New York-sized coffee maker.
Seriously, we dare you not to eat this entire delicious dish.
Is there anything in the kitchen that you'd still like to master?
"My grandmother cooked Cantonese — dumplings and everything — and I haven't been a part of that since I was little. I think it would be great to learn to make all those family dishes. Also, I'd love to master donuts. I've tried once and failed miserably."