After living in upstate New York, New Jersey and Manhattan, Visnja and John found a Victorian home in SE Portland to renovate, with an eye on a fabulous, open kitchen. They did just that, and wound up creating a relaxed, modern space with great energy, perfect for all the home cooking Visnja dishes up!
Visnja is originally from Croatia, where her love of simple, healthy country foods began. One of the things she loves about her home in Portland is the availability of abundant, fresh fruits. In her neighborhood of SE, you can walk down the street, happily picking raspberries and plums off neighborhood trees. When I visited, she casually whipped up a spiced cherry pie that perfumed the space with ginger, cloves, nutmeg and winey cherry flavor as it baked.
During the remodel, Visnja and John chose to raise the ceilings (keeping the kitchen's footprint the same), paint most surfaces white and install wooden cabinetry from Ikea. The look is modern, yet homey — a nice combination and alternative to the ever–popular all–white kitchen. This is a work horse kitchen with well–used appliances and great cooking vibes. Dinner parties come together effortlessly as Visnja cooks superb, approachable recipes as guests mingle in the open dining room/kitchen area. It's a pleasure to spend time with someone who loves to cook and loves their space.
10 Questions for Visnja (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I like to try a lot of different cuisines, from Thai to Indian to Moroccan and Mexican. Variety, spices, smells and flavors, as well as having a satisfied customer in my husband, as he enjoys my experiments in our huge kitchen.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I use my cutting boards and knives all day. It seems I am washing them five times a day. I wash my knives by hand so they don't fall apart from the high heat in the dishwasher.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Probably New Years 2010, where I served quite an array of dishes: Freshly shucked oysters with homemade mignonette sauce, white bean salad with celery, roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, beef teriyaki crisps with wasabi mayonnaise, lox with sour cream, capers and fresh dill on seaweed crackers, zucchini fritters with sour cream, shaved fennel, onion and orange salad, a cheese plate, fudge squares and apple cake.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Two people cooking is almost impossible, especially with a big man; the stove and the prep and the sink are really designed for one cook.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Maybe bought a less expensive stove; this one was $5,000, a Wolf, and we already have had to have it replaced completely. It heats up very slowly and is not that great as an electrical oven, although much better than a gas oven.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
The Wolf, definitely.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I think we are done with it, it was quite an endeavor.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Multifaceted with a strong interest in exploration and discovery!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Never had any instruction and I have taught myself everything I know, from cookbooks and TV shows, but I think take your time, develop flavors, try new spices and don't be afraid to explore a new thing!
10. What are you cooking this week?
Pork loin, bone in, squid and rice, Macao version, taquitos with pulled pork, and tortellini with cheese and sun–dried tomatoes with pepper relish.
• Stove: Wolf
• Cabinets: IKEA
• Flooring: Marmoleum
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)