WHAT'S COOKING: Summer Dessert Mixes Fresh, Local Ingredients with Memories; Behavioral Researcher Puts Her Knowledge of Behavior to Good Use in Her Kitchen

By Story And Photos Pat Eby; | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

WHAT'S COOKING: Summer Dessert Mixes Fresh, Local Ingredients with Memories; Behavioral Researcher Puts Her Knowledge of Behavior to Good Use in Her Kitchen


Story And Photos Pat Eby;, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


For Kate Chadha, the texture of sweetly crisp meringue shells, the taste of ripe fruits and the smooth finish of freshly whipped cream make Schaum Tortes the quintessential summer dessert.

"I remember my grandmother's tortes were so hard they would shatter. She'd make them on a dry day, in her summer kitchen, and leave them in the oven all day once they'd baked. 'Don't even peek; never open the oven door,' she would say. Next to corn, bought just after it's picked, grilled and slathered in butter, and beer brats, there's nothing better in a Wisconsin summer than Schaum Tortes," Chadha says.

Chadha traces her love of fresh foods to her upbringing in the farm country around Delavan, Wis. As she hopscotched to the twin cities, to New York and to France in her job as a behavioral researcher, she developed a philosophy of food that guides her today. St. Louis with its vibrant food culture of farmers markets, specialty shops and artisan food suppliers corresponds well with Chadha's ideas about food.

Chadha plans her meals ahead of time and buys local foods at the peak of quality, in small quantities, to maximize the health benefits and minimize food waste. Because she studies how people perform everyday tasks and finds ways to improve efficiency, she has simplified the organization of her kitchen and her cooking to match her principles.

"I don't want to waste money on food that's bad for you, or on food that will be thrown away," Chadha says. "A successful kitchen for me means not having anything other than water, condiments, fruit, crudites and maybe a bottle of wine in my refrigerator. My freezer holds mostly stocks, maybe some cartons of soup, ice and occasionally, homemade kolfi pops or a pint of ice cream.

"We rarely use convenience items because we want the health benefits of foods cooked without additives, hormones and preservatives. Since we buy just enough foods to cook the meals we've planned, we don't have many leftovers."

It's not a model most Americans follow, but Chadha shops every two or three days at local markets, a habit she learned in France. To make the onerous task of coordinating her just-in-time cooking schedule easier, Chadha uses high-tech apps, websites and blog resources.

She keeps track of what's in her pantry with Prep and Pantry and generates menus and shopping lists with Ziplist. She then sends the list to her phone. She syncs her calendar to her tasks, especially during the holidays, when she shops and cooks a lot more. When she's got things in her pantry she needs to use up, she'll consult Gojee, a site that relies on the blogosphere to find a recipe that matches ingredients on hand.

For inspiration, Chadha surfs Pinterest and curates boards. She posts her dinner parties on her "What's for Dinner?" board. She follows the British chef Jamie Oliver, the champion of home cooking Yvette van Boven, the irreverent Anthony Bourdain and more on Twitter.

To make Chadha's beautiful Schaum Tortes, however, all you need is the best ingredients you can find, a bowl, a mixer, a spoon and a cookie sheet with a parchment liner, an oven and patience. Chadha used eggs from the Good Earth Egg Co. purchased at Local Harvest, berries from the Tower Grove farmers market and Vanilla Bean Classic ice cream from I Scream Cakes on Cherokee Street. …

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