The first step to better, happier cooking? Setting up a tip-top kitchen. We’re talking one that’s stocked with essential tools and ingredients, organized so everything you need is close at hand, and sparkling-clean from floor to ceiling. Food52 is here to make it happen. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks from the Food52 community and test kitchen to help you transform your space into its very best self.
Samantha Seneviratne and her work are all over Food52: She’s guided us through some seriously satisfying baking projects (like homemade toaster strudels and Cheez-Its). Her Banana Bread Scones are certified Genius. She’s the stylist behind many a recipe photo and video. She’s also the author of three books we love to bake from: Gluten-Free for Good, The New Sugar & Spice, and The Joys of Baking. For Your Do-Anything Kitchen, Samantha showed us around the Brooklyn kitchen she shares with her three-year-old, Artie, and told us about how she keeps things inspiring—and joyful—for both.
Caroline Lange: Tell us about your kitchen. What do you love about it?
Samantha Seneviratne: My favorite thing about my kitchen is the floor. The previous owner of my apartment put in these beautiful French tiles that make me happy every day. I also love the amount of storage I have. I own a lot of (too much?) cooking equipment and to have the storage for it all in a New York City kitchen is pretty exceptional. And lastly, I love my wine fridge. I don’t have enough wine for it, so I use it to store things like nuts, coconut, and flour.
CL: Has there been a tool that’s changed the way you cook?
SS: I’m into my new Instant Pot. I’ve had a few failures, but when I nail it, I feel so pleased. Nothing is ever ready in an instant, but it does cut down time significantly. And being able to put food on and leave the house is always a win.
CL: Do you have a philosophy that guides you in the kitchen?
SS: I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures.” I never want to feel guilty for taking pleasure in food. Eating is a joy and I consider that every day.
CL: What do you eat when the last thing you want to do is cook?
SS: Cereal. And my kiddo gets “snack dinner”—yogurt, fruit, cheese, nuts. When I don’t want to cook, I don’t. And I think that’s perfectly fine. I don’t want it to be a chore.
CL: How has cooking for your son influenced the way you cook?
SS: It doesn’t always work, but I try to have my [toddler] eat the same things that I’m eating for dinner. I want him to experience all the flavors and combinations that adults enjoy. I try really hard not to simplify my cooking for him. And sometimes he totally refuses and throws it on the floor, and I end up feeding him crackers.
CL: What is the best piece of kitchen wisdom you’ve ever received, or that you impart to other cooks?
SS: It’s just food. Don’t take it so seriously. I know that feeding people is a tough job. I feel totally deflated when my toddler refuses to eat. But if I take a deep breath and relax, I remember it’s all just food. And it’s a pleasure. And he’ll eat later. And so will I.
CL: Do you have a weekly cooking routine, or is what you cook always changing?
SS: I have a handful of dishes I make regularly: breaded chicken, beans and rice, veggies and eggs, quickie paella, lentils, chickpea stew—but I try to get inspired by what’s available at the supermarket every week. I belong to the Park Slope Food Coop and the vegetable and fruit selection really pushes me out of my routine.
CL: Where do you turn for inspiration when you’re in a cooking rut?
SS: Food magazines. I used to work in magazine test kitchens and I know how hard those editors work to create new, innovative, and delicious recipes. I trust them!
CL: What about cooking energizes you?
SS: I love a cooking project that forces me to slow down and just be in the moment. That energizes me and makes me feel truly grateful.