Today we're going to take a tour of Austin kitchen celebrity Ms. Jess Simpson. No, not the Jessica Simpson known for pop music, MTV, and Tony Romo. We're talking the cheery Austin talent that sings with her food on ForgivingMartha.com. Working out of her apartment kitchen, Jess doesn't let things like counter space and gluten-free dietary restrictions prevent her from whipping up creative meals (and desserts!) that look as good as they taste. Let's get real, y'all.
I came across Jess' food blog a few months ago and always found myself salivating over such scrumptious creations as Fried Green Tomatoes, French Apple Pie, Blackberry Cobblepie, and Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chip Cookies — I don't ever let a good cookie recipe slip by. Most of her recipes are gluten and dairy-free, including all the ones mentioned above, due to being diagnosed with Celiac's disease a few years back. But that doesn't hold back motivated, strong-willed girls like Jess, nor does a modest space-restricted apartment kitchen.
Jess makes it all work by keeping things simple and essential. A KitchenAid stand mixer is one of the few appliances taking up counter space, along with a versatile Vita-Mix blender. Whisks? Who needs them when a fork will do just fine. Microwave? Overrated — that's what ovens and stovetops are for. Jess keeps decor and accessories down to a minimum as well, letting her beautifully plated food be the focal point.
Her refrigerator stocks the largest Bob's Red Mill flour collection I've ever seen. Brown Rice, Tapioca, and Amaranth flours are all there helping this southern belle make foodie magic without Mr. AP. Her few trusted cookbooks are kept handy on a wrought iron stand, and a single cabinet stores away a few fabrics and plateware used to accessorize her food. She simply sets the stage on her dining table, set next to a large glass door, and lets the natural light illuminate her work — providing culinary inspiration for everyone.
10 Questions for Jess (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
My kitchen is a hodgepodge of sorts. Having always lived in spaces with tiny kitchens, I've learned to make do with the bare minimum. For now, the focus and inspiration in my kitchen is placed more on the product. My parents are both amazing and adventurous cooks which means I was raised around daily, and often interesting, home-cooked meals. My own affinity for the kitchen grew post-college when cooking became more of a necessity of life. I was instantly in love with the creative aspect and challenge of creating and trying new things. For me, it's a lifetime love affair that I enjoy more and more everyday.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My favorite kitchen tool is most certainly my KitchenAid stand mixer. While I am of the belief that kitchen counters should be left clean and bare, and appliances should live inside a cabinet, my mixer has earned her spot on the prime real estate that is my kitchen counter.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
That would certainly be the bouillabaisse I made recently. I'm a huge seafood fan and this was the mecca of all things seafood.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen:
My wonky oven and range. From having to adjust baking temperatures to my crooked burners on the range...suffice to say, it's a constant game of guess and check.
5. Any tips or tricks for working in a small space?
Keep your appliances and tools to a minimum. I don't own a whisk because a fork works just as well and I don't own a microwave because an oven and stovetop get the job done, too.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
My freezer full of gluten-free flours. Because I have Celiac disease, my gluten-free baking requires an often high-number of varying flours and starches to replicate the taste and consistency of the almighty all-purpose wheat flour. And boy, those flours are pricey.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
An entirely new one?
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Eclectic. I'm a dairy-free, gluten-free, non-meat-eater, but I'm open to cooking most anything. I also rarely make the same thing twice. Even if I discover a recipe that works well, I'm always adjusting to make it better.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
"Buy fresh and keep it simple." - Mom
10. What are you cooking this week?
I'm working on a vegan flan. It's a work in progress, but I'm hopeful!
Thanks so much for letting us peek into your kitchen Jess!
Visit Jess' blog: Forgiving Martha
(Images: Chris Perez)