Simone channels her Armenian and Southern lineage in her creative cooking
Get to know Simone in this Q&A and get her “Weeknight Armenian,” TUESDAY (6/11) from 7-9PM!
Q: What’s your cooking background?
Simone: I don’t have a formal cooking background. Everything I’ve learned has been from family and self-teaching. I didn’t start cooking for fun (as opposed to solely for necessity) until law school—I needed a mental escape and I finally had an apartment with a large enough kitchen to get creative! For inspiration, I often look to Mike Solomanov, an award-winning chef and restaurateur in Philadelphia.
Q: What can you tell us about the dish you’re making and what inspired it?
Simone: I call this meal “Weeknight Armenian” because it has the bold flavors and comfort of Armenian food, without the rigmarole of cooking a large feast or meals that take all day to make. It’s the sort of thing my parents would make, say, on a Wednesday night when they had a bit of time to cook. Looks are deceptive with this dish—it tastes bolder than it looks!
Q: Who do you think about when you make this dish? What does it remind you of?
Simone: I try to channel my family when I make this dish—how much salt and olive oil would dad use, and how much parsley would mom add. Ultimately, this dish reminds me of family dinners around our table in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During the winter it was comforting, and in the summer it was fresh and flavorful.
Q: Where did you grow up and what kind of food did you grow up with?
Simone: I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up eating a variety of foods—my mom (but sometimes also my dad) cooked dinner for my brothers and I almost every night. My mom is from the south and my dad is Armenian, so there was no shortage of comfort food growing up. But my parents were also creative—my mom loves cooking Latin food, and my dad had a fondness for trying eccentric foods—sheep brain, pig stomach, cow tongue (although I will say that cow tongue is divine).
Q: What’s your favorite food memory?
Simone: My favorite food memory has to be a family tradition of Easter manti. “Manti” are small dumplings common in Levantine/Turkish/Armenian cuisine, but they can be prepared in many different ways. My family prepared manti by making small dumplings filled with lamb and spices, deep frying them, and putting them in a yogurt-mint soup. Sometimes we would make them on Easter; all of us would fast and help fold the mantis. It’s a meal that I would like to test on Shmeal!