Interview Series | Minimalism into daily cooking

by Diana Solomon

What is the first thing that pops up into your mind when you are thinking about minimalism?

We bet that you almost instantly start thinking about airy Scandinavian rooms, with green plants here and there. Or maybe a dreamy capsule-wardrobe, with simple white sheets and lingerie with quiet aesthetic? But what about food?

Kitchen is the heart of our home. Therefore, for a better understanding of the symbiosis between the art of cooking, kitchen supplies and minimalism, we’ve talked to Cătălina Penciu.

Cătălina is a food styling & photography blogger who likes to travel. And eat (obviously).

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in your case, minimalism or food photography?

Minimalism was always there in one way or another. I was brought up with the mindset that nothing goes to waste, that we should use all we have available and make the best of everything.

When I was younger, I always helped my mom with the weekly cooking and grocery shopping. She would consistently make sure the list only included items for the week ahead and we would almost never throw away food. (I still buy all my food weekly, following a list based on a meal plan).

 I cook for as long as I can remember, from sand cakes and mini potato stews to crème caramel and sarmale. Sometime along the way, I discovered the excitement of taking photos and the easiest subject to photograph was food. From that point on, the step towards minimalist food photography was the easiest one.

 

How does your favorite dish look like (and taste)?

I don’t have a favorite dish, but the thing I always asses in all dishes I taste is texture. I love the contrast of crunch in a green salad with roasted pumpkin seeds or the airiness of a perfect soufflé. But without any doubts, I am a crispy kind of girl (thus, the #crocanteala hashtag).

 

Can you think about three easy to make dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

My go-to easy breakfast is a chia pudding with almond/oat milk I make the night before, which can be topped with anything from fresh fruits to jams.

My lunch box always includes some kind of stew or roasted veggies and some lean protein (in the fall, I love making Buddha Bowls with quinoa or Thai rice – my favorite!, pumpkin and roasted tofu).

Dinners are the easiest part: a (big pot of) soup that can be made at the beginning of the week (and last for at least 3 nights), or a salad (baby spinach + goat’s cheese + pine nuts = l o v e).

 

Name two (or more) ingredients that you think should be essential in every kitchen.

This is a tough one. I think the essential ingredients in each kitchen become the ones you use most often. For me, I think they’re olive oil and garlic.

 

How can we declutter our kitchen supplies? What things can we donate/ give away? And what objects can really simplify our life regarding cooking?

Actually, the Marie Kondo method works equally well in the kitchen. Take out everything from the cupboards, place things in categories and discard the items you haven’t used in the past 6 months.

There will always be a tart pan or some silverware you rarely use. That’s the best sign you can live without them and start decluttering.

When in front of a difficult recipe that requires a specific instrument, improvise! You don’t really need a rolling pin if you have a glass bottle in the pantry. Also, there’s no need for 100 cookie dough cutters, you only need a glass (you can then make round shapes and crescent moons).

 

Can you give us a minimalist cooking guide for simplifying our food?

It’s actually quite simple: go to the farmer’s market once a week, stroll around, make a mental note on everything you see and like. Go back home, draft a meal plan for the week ahead and reverse engineer the ingredients you need.

You’ll only have to do this at first, after a couple of tries you’ll get the hang of seasonality, of what works and what doesn’t in your taste and in your schedule, and you’ll be able to draft the grocery list on your way to the market.

For me, a minimalist cooking guide takes into consideration the fresh produce available, the level of investing one wants to put into weekly cooking and balanced meals. You can never go wrong with vegetables + grains + proteins for main meals and fruits + seeds or nuts for snacks!

 

If you are looking for some inspiration to incorporate minimalism into daily cooking, you can follow Cătălina’s eye-catching Instagram feed here. Bon Appétit!


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