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Cooking at Home with Gina M. Larson-Stoller, Cortlandt Manor


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.”

Culinary Influences
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.

Take It From Them 
Our Chefs’ Top Tips for Newbie Cooks

“Fear no recipe. Try it. Then try it again. Then improvise and make it your own.” 

 â–º Plus:

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


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