At Heyday, we are ALL about making it easy and effortless to whip up delightful meals. We're chatting with some of our favorite chefs and recipe developers to learn more about they approach weeknight cooking. Today, Jess Marra is joining us to chat all things easy cooking, fun flavors, and pantry staples.
Rebecca, welcome to the Heyday kitchen! For those who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell them a bit about yourself?
Hi Heyday fam! My name is Jess (aka @kitschenista). I’m a digital marketer by day and a foodie by night. Although I’ve worked in the beauty industry for 10 years, I’ve always had a deep passion for food, the culinary world, and the community around it. In 2020, Kitschenista was born as a way to bring this passion to life. In addition to my own recipe development, I offer private in-person and virtual cooking classes, grocery shopping expertise, and food media consulting. My community is global, while my client base is predominantly between LA, SF, and NY. I also just launched my first digital cookbook, Perfectly Ripe, which celebrates the most delicious, juicy, bountiful produce season ever (SUMMER!).
How would you describe your general approach to weeknight cooking?
I turn *kitsch* ingredients into foodie meal dreams. I look to elevate the everyday through a combination of pantry staples (hey!) with seasonal produce and fresh herbs to create delicious, healthy-ish meals.
On Instagram, you go by the name “Kitschenista,” We know your motto is taking “kitsch” ingredients - things that are stereotypically unglamorous like canned tuna - and elevating them into delicious meals! What are some of your favorite “kitsch” ingredients to work with and what’ve been the best elevated “kitsch” meals you’ve whipped up?
Okay there are so many but my top picks are canned tuna/tinned anchovies, a can of chickpeas, and a pound of pasta or some rice.
I love doing a take on aglio e olio or puttanesca, adding lots of garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes. I’ll also do a risotto with whatever veggies I have on hand + big squeeze of lemon juice. On a similar ish note, if I have chickpeas and some cauliflower laying around I will typically make it into a curry of sorts. There are just so many incredibly simple and delicious meals that come from such few ingredients.
What are three ingredients that you absolutely cannot live without?
OMG okay rapid fire without overthinking –
- Good Salt
- Lemons, preferably meyer (everyone in LA seems to have their own meyer lemon tree)
- Big block of parmesan or pecorino in the fridge
We’re big believers that a well stocked pantry is the key to easy and flavorful weeknight cooking! What’re your most used or holy grail items to keep stocked in your pantry?
There is definitely some overlap here and what I said above (consistency is key lol). In terms of most used pantry items:
- Good Olive Oil
- Popcorn kernels
Holy grail pantry items:
- Champagne Vinegar
- Veggie Stock (but tbh a lot of times I make my own - it’s so easy and takes 45 minutes in the instantpot)
One of our Heyday goals is to make cooking delicious meals easy, accessible, and fun! What are your go-to recipes to make when you’re looking to whip up a quick weeknight meal, but don’t want to sacrifice on flavor?
Because it’s peak tomato season right now, I have to go with a sungold pomodoro. It is the most flavor-packed incredible, juicy, little tomato and just absolutely melts in your mouth when cooked down into a pasta sauce.
I’m huge on fridge clean-out salads. I always keep on hand either arugula, red leaf lettuce, or baby gems. Depending on what else I have like fresh herbs, nuts or cheeses, i’ll make do with what I have, make a bomb homemade salad dressing (I quite literally have never bought salad dressing in my life and I hope to encourage everyone to experience how much more delicious, cost effective, easy, and healthier it is to do so!). Let’s say I have a head of red leaf lettuce, I’ll add in chickpeas, red onion, and kalamata olives (feta cheese if I have it). All you need for dressing is an acid (lemon or vinegar), olive oil, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper.
What are some tips, tricks, or easy meals you’d recommend for someone new to the cooking world?
I would first do a quick google on SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT by Samin Nosrat (she has a cookbook and a Netflix show). Or skip that and read my TLDR: the success of your most delicious meal comes down to a combination of 4 factors – salt, fat, acid, and heat. Salt enhances flavor. Fat delivers flavor. Acid balances flavor. And added heat will determine the texture/bite.
Now let’s take a really really basic, easy, user-friendly meal and apply those four factors. We’re going to do a spaghetti alla limone. You’ll need a box of spaghetti boiled in heavily salted water (that’s your salt). You’ll need several lemons (that’s your acid). You’ll need some good cultured butter (that’s your fat). Cooking on/off heat is your heat favor. This whole meal comes together in less than 30 minutes and is so bright, creamy, and delicious. There is a reason it went viral during covid thanks to Lil Frankie’s chef & owner, Frank Prisinzano.
Other easy and DELISH meals: