Teresa runs a tight ship. Having grown up in the Phillipines, Teresa was dutifully trained in domestic skills. As much as she might begrudge her traditional upbringing, she certainly knows her flour sifting from her egg white stiffening.
And her kitchen follows suit. Every single task that might come up in the course of cooking or eating has its appropriate tool. Teresa's kitchen appears simple from the outside, but when you get behind its closed doors, drawers and decorative vessels, you encounter an incredibly well-stocked arsenal.
Teresa is incredibly organized and has no tolerance for waste. During my visit, she was immersed in a persimmon bread making adventure. It was a pleasure to behold. When measuring out a cup of flour, Teresa poured from a large jar of stored flour into a measuring cup held over a large stainless steel bowl. That way, all the excess flour could easily be returned to its origin. The prep table was laden with beautiful bowls holding the exact amount of every ingredient that would be used for the recipe. Every step of the process was both incredibly pragmatic and visually pleasing!
San Francisco now requires everyone to compost, so in addition to Teresa's commitment to reuse glass jars, and preclude the use of plastic bags with her ubiquitous tote bags, she now has a tiny bin next to the stove full of kitchen scraps that gets dumped into her building's common collector bin every night.
Teresa respects her kitchen and, in response, her kitchen's got her back.
Teresa's Response to The Kitchn Survey
What's your cooking style?
Quick steam/stir-fry or, if there's more time, roast/bake. I was not the granddaughter destined to cook and hence did not learn from my grandmother. I took up cooking when I lived in quite a number of roommate situations and did not want to be the dishwasher forever. Okay, these "situations" were called "collectives" made up of expatriates and since there were children in these households, we cooked and ate meals together. The cooking invariably was simple, quick, nutritious but always tasty.
What inspires your kitchen?
It's quite basic as of now. I think it needs more color.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My blue Le Creuset combo skillet/sauce pan. I use it almost every day for everything.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
"Use real butter."
Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
I live in what was originally an affordable housing project so the kitchen is at best basic and workable. There is sufficient storage space though it may not be my ideal configuration so I have to be more efficient about how I use it. For example, there are only two drawers, so my "junk drawer" doubles up with the boxed kitchen paper rolls drawer. But because the size and configuration is basic, I think it's easier to "read" and things are easy to find.
So far, my new fridge. It's an LG 10 cu ft and I could have gotten something larger at a lower price but this has a good-sized freezer.
Dream tool or splurge:
The next big indulgence/splurge will be a two-oven range – maybe this year or next.
What are you cooking this week?
Kabocha squash and long beans in coconut milk. Not quite vegetarian as I will add just a bit of shrimp for flavoring.
What cookbook has inspired you the most?
The best recipes I've tried came from various issues of the NYT Sunday magazine.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Not so much memorable as enjoyable – all the unplanned meals I've prepared for friends who stop by and when till it's almost dinner time and as custom dictates, they must stay and I feed them.
Many of the very useful tools or containers or utensils found in Teresa's home are from a Japanese supply store.
Teresa's Persimmon Bread Recipe:
(James Beard's Persimmon Bread)
Yield: 4 Loaves (Teresa did 2 loaves and 12 scrumptious muffins)
3 1/2 c Sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ts Salt
2 ts Baking soda
1 ts Ground mace
2 c To 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 c Butter, melted
4 lg Eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c Cognac or bourbon *REMY MARTIN
2 c Persimmon puree (the pulp of about 4 med. persimmons — not necessary to peel
2 c Coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
2 c Raisins (optional)
Sift all five dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Then make a well in the center and add the melted butter, egg, Cognac, persimmon puree, and if you like, the nuts and raisins. Mix the dough until it is quite smooth. Butter and flour four molds*, fill them about three-fourths full,, and bake for 1 hr. at 350° F. Cool the loaves in the molds and turn out on a rack.
NOTE: Wrap in foil after cooling if you wish to keep them. They will keep nicely from 1 to 2 weeks.
Source: Beard on Bread 1973
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(Images: Jill Slater)