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In the Kitchen with Julia Stambules

Produced by Stephen Exel

I couldn’t live without this kitchen appliance/accessory:
My vegetable peeler, which is in constant rotation for peeling carrots, radishes and cucumbers added to lunch and dinner salads. Microplane recently launched a unique, round shape peeler that’s very comfortable to hold and stays razor-sharp.

The best recipe of all time is...
My mother’s spanakopita, which cannot be beat. She insists on using fresh spinach (never frozen), and has a real talent for adding mixed fresh herbs such as dill and parsley, plus a sprinkling of crushed dried spearmint that really brightens the cheese, a mix of feta and cottage cheese.

Are you more of a follow-the-recipe kind of cook or do you throw caution to the wind?
Definitely have a bit of rebel in my approach to recipes, but first I like to do some research by referencing recipes for a certain dish on the web and from my cookbooks. Online, I also like to see comments and changes that others have made to recipes that look promising.

Would you rather cook or do the cleanup?
I prefer the cooking process to cleanup, but sometimes after guests leave a dinner party, washing up helps me unwind. I always have an adrenaline rush from entertaining that needs to get flushed out before I can sleep.

My go-to dish for entertaining is...
A stovetop fish dish that begins with copious vegetables sautéed with olive oil—usually a mix of onions, garlic, ginger, fennel, carrots, celery, and if it’s summer, zucchini or baby eggplant, that are well seasoned with spices like cumin, smoked paprika and Aleppo pepper. Then I place the fish—stripped bass, swordfish, or halibut—right on top and let the fish steam and absorb the vegetables and juice  below. Every bite is flavorful without being heavy.

My dream kitchen would definitely include...
Another dishwasher, especially for entertaining. I’d also love two ovens – one range, maybe induction, and a wall oven would be dreamy.

My earliest kitchen memory is...
Making Greek cookies with my mom.

My biggest kitchen disaster was...
Ruining a pie by mistakenly sprinkling the top with salt instead of sugar when I was working at a theater-district bistro in London during my college years.

My greatest kitchen/culinary success was...
Making vichyssoise soup using a recipe from McCall’s magazine when I was 8 years old and in charge of prepping dinner. My mom was having minor surgery and I was thrilled to be in charge of the kitchen for once!

My favorite/most-used cookbook is...
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazen.

White kitchen or colorful kitchen?
Colorful, but not loud.

The best dinner parties always include...
Besides good wine and spirits, at least one guest who is especially outgoing and a good conversationalist.

Big kitchen island or breakfast nook table?
I don’t have either, we have a peninsula in both our Westchester and North Fork, NY kitchens, but if I had the space, I’d go for the big kitchen island.

My best kitchen advice is...
Learn solid techniques from the classics, like Jacques Pepin and Marcella Hazan, then let it rip!

My biggest talent when it comes to cooking is...
Improvising and not being intimidated by recipes.

Kitchen pet peeve:
Used spoons left on counters instead of being placed inside the sink (I’m looking at you, hubby).

Everyone who comes into my kitchen comments on...
My amazing collection of cookware, which I’ve amassed from years of representing the best cookware brands over the years—All-Clad, Staub, Anolon, and now Hestan NanoBond. I’m very privileged.

The one thing in my kitchen I’ll never get rid of is...
My KRUPS coffee grinder, which is a must for grinding beans fresh every morning.

The one thing in my kitchen I should get rid of is...
Our refrigerator in Westchester, which is on its last legs.

Every kitchen needs...
A sous chef.  

Julia Stambules is principal of JS Public Relations, a consumer marketing public relations with a focus on housewares, food, and tabletop. Because of her long association with cooking related brands, Julia is a mastermind of kitchen wizardry.