Cooking at Home with Gina M. Larson-Stoller, Cortlandt Manor
This globally inclusive foodie doesn’t shy away from adventurous dishes, and neither does her 2-year-old daughter.
Marketing manager Gina M. Larson-Stoller, a resident of Cortlandt Manor, enjoys exploring international cuisines with her adorable sous chef, Vivienne, her 2-year-old daughter.
Earliest cooking memories: Helping her mom, aunts, and grandmother in the kitchen. First dish: Apple-cinnamon muffins. Current kitchen: Recently redone by Bilotta Kitchens in Mount Kisco; she loves the control she gets with her induction stovetop and is happy to have splurged on her Sub-Zero refrigerator. Culinary mantra: “The fresher your food, the better it is going to taste.” Signature cuisines: “My roots are Italian, yet I love to make Middle Eastern foods. Similar to Italian dishes, the preparations emphasize fresh flavors, but the spices are a bit more bold.” Runners-up: Mexican, Portuguese, Thai, and Chinese. Favorite dish to prepare: Pasta. “There’s a fun factor to making it—and the result is just leaps and bounds beyond your store-bought variety.” Her most unusual dish: Snail salad. “There aren’t a lot of people who like it—but I love it!” Favorite meal to prepare as weather warms: Cold sesame-noodle salad with grilled lemongrass pork. “This captures the Southeast Asian flavors I miss from living in Hong Kong.” Best dish from leftovers: Tacos or enchiladas. “There are so many variations to make—char some extra corn, blend remaining vegetables into a quick salsa, stir some extra chicken or pork into a creamy mixture, and stuff it into a tortilla.” Most unusual ingredient used: Zucchini flowers. “Stuff, batter, and fry them—that’s reason enough to plant your own garden.” Favorite baked good to prepare: Bundt cakes. “They’re pretty all on their own when they come out of the pan. Slather on a thick icing, and they look decadent!” Easiest dish to master: Anything slow-cooked, like pulled pork, chicken tagine, beef stew, etc. “You just can’t overcook them and you don’t need to keep a watchful eye on them once they are in the pot.” Most difficult dish prepared: Her holiday baklava. “There are just so many things that can go wrong with this dessert, and it’s a two-day event to make.” Can’t-live-without-it utensil: GLOBAL brand knives. “They make easy work out of prep. They are also the only kitchen tool I took with me when I went to live overseas.” Can’t-live-without-it ingredient: Olive oil. “There isn’t a vegetable that isn’t better off without it.” Complete-waste-of-money-ingredient: Truffle oil. “It’s often synthetic and just overpowers the food.” Three must-have spices: “Aside from salt, pepper, and herbs? With cumin, cinnamon, and ginger, you can make a number of world cuisines, as well as great savory and sweet recipes.” Always in her pantry: San Marzano tomatoes. “The best thing that has ever come out of a can.” Always in her fridge: Pesto. “You can use it in so many great ways when you’re in a pinch—on pasta, pizza, as a sandwich spread, as a vegetable dressing, etc.” Honorable mention: Calcutta Kitchens’ tomato chutney for use on cheese, bread, and sandwiches. Biggest cooking triumph: When living in Hong Kong, she threw a holiday party using a tiny, galley-sized kitchen with only a two-burner stove and a microwave. “Despite that, I was able to turn out crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms, chicken saté, spanakopita, plus a slew of other dishes, all to raves.”
Preferred cooking soundtrack: Her Mambo Italiano station on Pandora radio. Must-watch cooking show: MasterChef. “I love seeing these home cooks showcase their skills and impress world-class chefs.” The only cookbook to accompany her on her move overseas: America’s Test Kitchen. “I love that they tell you where you can take a shortcut and where you can’t.” Most visited website: foodandwine.com. “Their recipes have an attainable sophistication to them.” Must-follow cooking blogger: Smitten Kitchen. “She is funny, she’s a mom, and she makes amazing things in her small New York City kitchen. I can relate to this woman.” Cooking idol: “My grandmother was an unbelievable cook who never used a recipe, but just intuitively knew how to and with a nice, light hand.”
Local Shopping & Dining Guide
Favorite supermarket: Turco’s in Yorktown Heights. “They have a good, solid selection of fresh fish, nice cheeses, and good produce.” Preferred gourmet shop: Zeytinia Gourmet Market in Croton-on-Hudson, especially for special oils, fresh olives, and special produce. Preferred butcher: Cole’s Market in Cortlandt. Most frequented farmers’ market: Pleasantville. Don’t-feel-like-cooking restaurant: Birdsall House in Peekskill.
For Larson-Stoller’s recipe for Grilled Lemongrass Pork with Cold Sesame Noodles, please go to westchestermagazine.com/webexclusives.
Our Chefs’ Top Tips for Newbie Cooks
“Fear no recipe. Try it. Then try it again. Then improvise and make it your own.”
Brian Murdock, Mohegan Lake
Wendy Pregiato, Eastchester
Elly Kelly, Tarrytown
Susan C. Beer, Bedford/Pound Ridge
Lisa Ocasio, Cortlandt Manor
Mike Zollner, Port Chester
Todd A. Stankiewicz, Tarrytown
Tips, Hints & Ideas