Angela Roberts is the founder of Spinach Tiger. She is – as she describes herself – a food blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and a restaurant passionista. She develops recipes and does food photography for major food brands.
“It is such a pleasure to develop original recipes, style the food and photograph it in such a way so that you not only want to eat it, but you want to know more about the story behind the dish.”
She learned to cook from “tasting” different ingredients and learning how to use the right ones to create the right combinations that will make you go, “Wow!” This is exactly what she wants to teach her readers. For her, “your own taste buds, if properly developed, are your best eyes in the kitchen.”
1. Having grown up in an Italian family with people who love to cook, what do you think is the trickiest Italian dish to prepare? What is your most favorite Italian dish?
That’s a big question, because while Italian food is really rather simple, making good, authentic Italian food is complex, because it’s all about balance.
I could give three people lettuce, olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper and they would all be different and possibly range from great to not edible. Italian food is about balancing quality ingredients, using the least amount possible to get a good meal. The trickiest dish is homemade pasta.
You have to first roll it, then let it dry up to a point where you can cut it without it being too sticky or too dry. My finest pasta moment came when I taught another amazing blogger how to make pasta without a pasta machine. We rolled it with a rolling pin and made it with these chanterelle mushrooms, which might be one of my favorite dishes on the blog.
This post on homemade egg noodles is especially meaningful to me, because it’s all about engaging family in the kitchen, while making something everyone loves and looks forward to eating together.
My husband’s favorite pasta is dish made with anchovy sauce. Once you take one bite, you are hooked, as it is very umami. You can serve this pasta with either scallops or seared tuna.
2. Your grandmother is such a colorful, interesting, and fun person. What is the most important thing you've learned from her about cooking? Is she your biggest influence when it comes to cooking?
My grandmother was way ahead of her time when it came to eating, clean, healthy food. She taught me more about eating than cooking.
She inspired me to seek out good ingredients at farmer’s markets and to cook good food fast, rather than grab a can or box. She was a beauty salon owner and stylist. She could tell a person’s diet from looking at their hair. That always stuck with me and has influenced my approach to shopping, cooking and eating. Most of my recipes are my own but have that core viewpoint.
This basic tomato sauce is my number 2 post of all time.
Frittatas were a mainstay and an easy, healthy dinner or side dish. We ate a lot of asparagus frittata.
My grandmother made this pasta and egg dish for us all time. She could make this in twenty minutes. Sometimes she made it with pastina, a tiny pasta, which we loved as kids.
3. You said you develop recipes for major food brands. How do you do it? Is it difficult? Can you walk us through the process of recipe development?
Not many people can say they love slaving in the kitchen. When I am developing recipes for people I will never meet, I get truly excited and energized.
The first thing I’ll do for a brand is try to figure out the mindset, budget and skill set of their consumer. I can develop dishes that take five minutes to prep, yet will be drool worthy and photograph well, or I can go a slower route, but that’s not usually what they want.
Once I get an idea of who will be in the kitchen cooking, I make a brainstorming board. I write out every kind of possible recipe I know I can do and they can do. I also do google searches and Pinterest searches for inspiration. I recently did 20 recipes for a company’s website in a four-week period. It was invigorating to work at that speed, because the photography can tell a few hours for each dish.
I try to create dishes with an original spin but not too unique because sponsors want to sell their products. However, recently I was hired to take a simple product and make a dish that was outside of the box. That’s fun to do. I try to not have more than six ingredients and when I’m writing the recipe, I’ll try to be specific and give some options.
I’ll remake a recipe three times, if necessary, because I want people to experience success and be encouraged to cook for their family.
Here are a few recipes I’ve created for companies.
- Summer Pizza featuring Vidalia Onions
- Tortilla Fruit Hand Pies (originally done for Tortilla Land)
- Country Sausage Sweet Potato Puff Quiche. This recipe was developed for a country sausage company’s website. I made it easy for them in suggesting store bought pie crust and sweet potato puffs with country sausage for a fun quiche.
4. Are you a fan of "slow food" too? What is your opinion about it?
I am in the slow food camp absolutely 100%. I only wish it was a part of our value system in this country, as it is in Italy, but we are just the opposite.
We’ve been sold a false narrative that the journey, the process (planning, shopping, cooking, setting a table) are negatives and are to be removed by having someone else do these, as we eat in a car, instead of dining and having conversation.
We have created a negative relationship with food by taking away the benefits of the journey, the benefits of the relationships formed around food, and the benefits of good health, not to forget the holistic benefit which includes homage to our farmers and environment.
I’m so passionate that I will cook the food you see on my site all by myself when my husband is out of town because to eat right and to eat well is such a good thing. I never want to be cavalier about this blessing I have, not having to wait in a long line for food as some do in some countries.
I heard about a restaurant in a prison in Milan, where the inmates do the cooking, and I think this is a marvelous idea. Cooking for others can be very healing.
I take many cues from Marcella Hazan and we love her “slowest” dish, bolognese sauce. One of my most popular posts is a post dedicated to her, highlighting the year of cooking her food with an online group I started in 2009.
Authentic bolognese is meat sauce meat, milk, wine, tomatoes. You start with sofrito, carrots onion and celery and each ingredient is added one at a time, and layered in, which takes at least 30 minutes standing at the stove. After that it simmers for at least 3 hours.
This dish is slow and popular since I posted it in 2012. I was inspired to make this from the book series, the Hunger Games, where the protagonist loved this dish. If you read these books, you start to appreciate the bounty we have, the kitchens we have, the freedom we have to eat well, something we take for granted.
5. Finally, what is the recipe that you are proudest of?
This is a tough decision, but I have to say my Southern Fluffy Biscuits.
I did not eat biscuits growing up, but my Southern husband did. His grandmother made them in a wood fired oven on the family farm in the hills of Tennessee. I tried to make biscuits for and experienced what most people experience. Horrible rocks.
I then started to study recipes and no matter what I tried, I wasn’t getting what I was looking for. I kept thinking they were leaving something out. I stumbled upon the secret (sticky dough) and nailed the biscuit.
People say it’s the best recipe they have ever eaten, but most importantly a recipe they finally have success making. I’ve demonstrated it at home shows and Williams Sonoma, always to rave reviews by real Southerners. I’ve made 18 different variations, one of which was published in a cookbook.
The response to this recipe and my unique technique has been so positive that years later I still get emails, which always say the same thing. “Finally, I can make biscuits for my family.” This is a slow food win, because it beats what’s in those cans in the grocery store and can be passed down to children. I have six year old twin boys make it on my video to show people they can do it. I just created a gluten free biscuit that is similar and I’m proud of that too.
I have made many variations, such as strawberry and cream biscuits. I also did a gluten free biscuit with a video which will make a lot of people who can’t eat gluten very happy.
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