Vicky Cassidy is the brain behind Things I Made Today, a blog which catalogues all the things she makes in her kitchen.
She has always been curious about food, so she started this blog as a way for her to track recipes she thinks deserved repeating.
When she’s not working full time at Zapier or spend time with her husband, Jason, and son,Theodore, she works for Whisk, a collective of Wisconsin-based food bloggers that I founded in 2015.
1. Having had grown up in a Russian household, how did Russian cuisine and cooking influenced your own style and preferences?
My family immigrated from Russia when I was five and settled in Los Angles for a couple of years before moving to the suburbs of Chicago, which is where I spent most of my childhood.
To be honest, we didn't eat a lot of traditionally Russian food. With the exception of Salat Olivie, which is a potato salad with peas, eggs, pickles and a lot of mayonnaise, I don't remember much Russian food at the table.
The cultural experience that did stick though was the course of pickled, smoked, and cured things before every meal. That is something we continue to do, regardless of how fancy the meal is. I don't imagine my dad could eat dinner without first consuming at least 1/2 a pound of pearl onions marinated in vinegar.
2. Who is your biggest influence when it comes to cooking? And what has he or she taught you that made you love this art?
My mom was always a phenomenal cook, and it's no doubt that it was her influence that got me interested in food. However, as a child, I didn't do a lot of cooking with my mom---I more made things on my own and presented them to her and the rest of the family. She offered critiques and advice, and now acts as more of a consultant to my recipe ideas and struggles.
The biggest difference between my mother and I when it comes to cooking is that she cooks from memory but cannot write down a recipe to save her life (trust me, I've tried to make some of her classics that she "documented"), while I need to capture all my notes on paper (I mean blog) in order to be able to make the dish right.
But, when it comes to things my mother has taught me, it's how to throw a proper dinner party. How to plan a menu, how to pace the cooking, how to make sure the dishes come out at the right time. Also when to open the wine and how to make sure it's flowing properly.
3. How do you usually come up with new recipes? How often do you develop new recipes?
By eating a lot. Most of my ideas are influenced by somewhere I traveled and something I ate. I try to remember flavors and ingredients and to recreate there essence in my own version of the food.
I iterate a lot, until it becomes something new and unique. I try to make a couple new recipes a month, but there is no shortage of total failures or dishes that just don't make the cut.
I'm also constantly challenged by my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We get a basket of vegetables delivered every week from spring through fall and we don't always know what's coming in them.
It takes some creatively and planning to keep up with all the food and to make sure it goes to good use. It's a challenge in all the best ways, and has helped me create new and beautiful recipes that I may have never come up with (because who would ever buy kohlrabi out of their free will?).
4. Can you tell us more about Whisk? It's actually a great idea - something that other cities or communities can do as well. How would they start if they want to?
Whisk is a collaborative of Wisconsin-based food bloggers. Our aim is to unite the local food blog community and help bridge connections between bloggers, local Wisconsin food producers, sponsors, and advertisers who are interested pursuing collaborative efforts.
I started Whisk with two other local bloggers (Sarah of Wisconsin From Scratch and Bowen of Bowen Appetit). We realized how much we enjoyed getting together and collaborating and decided to see what would happen if we invited the rest of Wisconsin to join us.
Turns out there are over 50 food bloggers in the state and many small, artisanal food producers who want to share and promote their products through blogs. It's been a really lovely relationship and it continues to grow.
I would say if someone wanted to start a food blogging collective in their city or state to just start. Reach out to people, share your story, share your resources, and see what people are interested in building.
We don't treat Whisk as a business, but as a community, and it helps us make decisions that benefit the whole group. Honestly, it's whatever our members want it to be, and we have nothing to lose.
5. Finally, can you give us three of your favorite recipes from your website?
Oh that is always a tough one. Good thing I just had my four year blogging anniversary and went through all the recipes to pick the best ones. Three is tough, but here you go:
- Grilled Trout with Eggplants and Leeks
- Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Gorgonzola Pizza with an Egg on Top
- Caramelized Onion and Ricotta Tarte Soleil