BE YOU, BRAVELY
I left my cushy desk job around 7 years ago and there's been no looking back; not even for a second. I love what I do even if it means making it up as I go along. I broke into the world of food and invented a job for myself in it. Even if my new ventures don't work out, they are not failures. Trying to book what I think will be the most amazing food and wine trip through a crazy undiscovered land that I love has been tough because guess what, I am not a travel agent. And I am still kicking myself on the daily for not dedicating enough time to my neglected passion project, SNACK Sicily.
I'm still learning as I go. Running a small business is hard! Fuck yea, it is. Outside of the regular day-to-day of booking jobs, grocery shopping, invoicing and actually cooking food... I try to experiment with new business opportunities, get healthy again, keep my clients happy and well-fed, while making plans to split my life between New York and Italy somehow. There's a lot to juggle and I'm the only one in this one-woman-wolfpack. When I was a snotty 20-year-old college student, I told my mom in a grand declaration of my independence: "I refuse to lead a boring life!" and although she still throws that one back in my face every now and then, every little struggle and bump in the road is just part of the adventure I asked for. In the words of my beloved Freddie Mercury, don't stop me now.
SO LONG SWEET SUMMER
Summer in the Hamptons was a perfect mix of cooking in beautiful homes, grilling outdoors, picking up organic produce from local farms, and enjoying the occasional poolside glass of vino. This month we're trading in our caprese salads for pumpkin risotto as NYC transitions into official fall weather. You can find me on Wednesday and Fridays picking through veg at the Union Square Greenmarket, snapping photos of things organized neatly in baskets and planning menus while I go. There are fewer choices for tomatoes hanging onto the edge of summer, tons of eggplants of every shape and size, broccoli, purple cauliflowers, pumpkins, and bunches of concord grapes carefully policed by their trusty swarm of new york bees.
My mentor, Fabrizia Lanza, is creating a new documentary and needs a little boost.
Amaro is the story of the complexity of food culture in Sicily. Fabrizia Lanza's film delves into the island’s gastronomic history, highlights present day culinary traditions, and follows the hands and hearts of a people who have embraced the most remote, least valued, and often disregarded taste: bitterness. Amaro also talks of its namesake, the Italian digestivo that is truly an expression of place, with coveted recipes that vary drastically by the available wild bitter herbs in each community. From field to fork, Amaro follows a flavor that has helped shape the Sicilian food identity. ⚡ Support AMARO on Kickstarter⚡
Planting a little seed in your mind right now. Holiday season is right around the corner. December is a wild month with corporate holiday parties, Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations, and let's not forget Linda's birthday (she's turning 30 again)! December dates tend to fill up quickly so send us a quick note to coordinate all things holiday!
Amaro is a film that brings to life the narrative of Sicilian food and culture through the exploration of a single taste: bitter.
Amaro is the story of the complexity of food culture in Sicily. The film delves into the island’s gastronomic history, highlights present day culinary traditions, and follows the hands and hearts of a people who have embraced the most remote, least valued, and often disregarded taste: bitterness. The film talks of the foraging traditions of an agricultural state, where gathering bitter greens was a last resort, a symbol of need. It follows the Good Friday ceremony, an event in the small town of Caltanissetta where local foragers, representatives of the bitter taste, transform from marginalized to celebrated as they lead the town’s celebratory procession. Amaro also talks of its namesake, the Italian digestivo that is truly an expression of place, with coveted recipes that vary drastically by the available wild bitter herbs in each community.
Finally the film takes us from the streets and fields into the homes of Sicilian locals. In the kitchen, bitterness plays a leading role in food alchemy, transforming what could easily be discarded into delectable dishes and products with unique flavors and mythical traditions. From honeys to cheeses, and sautéed cardoons with anchovies to risotto with wild asparagus, bitterness serves to elevate the other tastes we sometimes take for granted and brings us back to our roots: of the land, of the culture, and of tradition. From field to fork, Amaro follows a flavor that has helped shape the Sicilian food identity.
The words of Sophia from Golden Girls play over and over again in my head. “Picture it, Sicily 1922. An attractive peasant girl who has saved her lira embarks on a glorious vacation. For weeks she frolicks at the seaside resort and enjoys the company of many young men, all of whom adore her.” When I think of the freshest seafood possible and fish crudo in particular I am immediately transported to Southern Italy and I start to dream just like this.
Read my full post on the CASA MIA Food + Travel blog based in Rome.
The Warmth of Sharing Meals
words + recipe by Linda Sarrisimages by Katie June Burton @katiefresca
I started working in the culinary world when I turned 25. Leaving an office job and transitioning into something that really made me happy was a big leap. Two things that I am discovering in my growth as an entrepreneur are that you need to take care of yourself and you need to foster relationships that strengthen you. Freelancers get caught up in the hustle (especially in New York City) oh too often. We have to hunt, search, and scrap for jobs. Every day is different but that is what makes it terrifyingly exciting.
Taking care of yourself could mean a balance of eating well, exercising, positivity and self love. Being my own best cheerleader, even when I think I'm bullshitting it, just keeps me moving forward. Surrounding yourself with strong people who lift you up is the second part; whether it's a mentor, a lover, a partner, a client or a friend -- we can't do it on our own. After cooking school, I was lucky to receive a scholarship that sent me to Sicily and into the hands of my mentor, Fabrizia. But it's no longer luck that keeps the adventure alive, it's the choices I'm making that allow me to build relationships, continue learning and growing.
While traveling in Sicily this fall, I had an opportunity to work the olive harvest in a town called Sambuca di Sicilia. What comforted my heart while being away from home was of course the satisfaction of eating local and seasonally but also the combination of warm Sicilian sun and even warmer people. Whether I was sitting on the ground in the shade of an olive tree splitting a panino and some pomegranates with a farmer or cooking together with friends sharing the meal with their family of perfect little loud Italian children in the comfort of their homes, eating together is a ritual that I love more than any other.
Most of the time, I'm the one in the kitchen but sharing meals or cooking together is the best way to comfort yourself, thank friends, cheer them up or celebrate! I usually save it for date number three with new guys. Risotto is something I make when I need to wash away the winter blues. I can whip it up with items from the pantry and it's always a crowd pleaser. The recipe is simple but requires focus. You need to dedicate your time and cannot be distracted with other things. In this vegetarian recipe, I use broccoli rabe paired with a new harvest Italian extra virgin olive oil and some stinky strong cheese on top. I like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to brighten it up. The balance of bitter greens with high-quality oil and salty cheese are guaranteed to warm your belly.
Linda Sarris is a private chef who splits her time between Brooklyn and Italy. She finds inspiration from her badass female CEO clients and cooking mentors abroad. Linda travels often for research and work-study programs including an upcoming Sicilian food/wine tour with guests from May 6-12. Follow her culinary storytelling through instagram @thecheekychef and lindasarris.com.
RECIPE: Broccoli Rabe Risotto
- 1c. arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 4T extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2c. white wine
- 3c. vegetable stock
- 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, 6c. of trimmed sprigs
- 3T unsalted butter
- 1/2c. parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
- sea salt and flakey finishing salt
- black pepper
- funky cheese like pecorino, taleggio or an earthy castelrosso to finish the dish
Trim tough stems from the broccoli rabe and remove large outer leaves. Add the florets to a pot of heavily salted boiling water, cooking until bright green and softened. Blanch in ice water to stop the cooking, drain and set aside. In a wide flat-bottomed pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil on medium. Add the onion, cooking until softened and translucent. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot and grab a ladle. Add all of the rice to your risotto pan and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Toast for a few minutes then add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Sti continuously with a wooden spoon so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom, allow the wine to absorb a little bit into rice and burn off the rest.
Start adding 1 ladle of broth at a time until fully absorbed. Lower the heat to just simmering and always keep stirring. The whole process should take about 20 minutes. Cook to your desired doneness; the rice should stick to your teeth (al dente) but not feel too crunchy. Stir in the broccoli rabe for a few minutes just before the rice finishes cooking. Turn off the heat and finish with butter and grated cheese for the "mantecatura" step. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. The butter and cheese will melt and make the risotto creamy. Finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil, flakey sea salt and a few bits of funky cheese.
Cheeky's Risotto Notes:
- Measure 1 espresso cup of dry risotto rice per person. It's the perfect amount.
- Chop your onions smaller than the size of the rice.
- Wine, olive oil and salt are very important. Don't skimp on quality.
- Serve right away; both risotto and pasta waits for nobody.
Our dear friends at Gustiamo just received their shipment of Lorenzo Piccione's fabulous Pianogrillo EVOO from Ragusa, Sicily! Pianogrillo Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made with 100% Tonda Iblea olives. They are all hand-harvested, as you can see! Cheeky took a trip to visit Lorenzo in spring 2015. This is one of the sicilian oils that we use in private catering jobs in New York!
Tasting Notes: This year, Pianogrillo EVOO is rich and elegant with a spicy, but not overwhelming finish. It boasts aromas of green tomatoes and a bright almond flavor. It is a round and exceptionally well-balanced olive oil.
Grab a bottle or two from GUSTIAMO.COM + use promo code: cheekychef for 10% off your entire order.
1. How did you become The Cheeky Chef?
The name itself came from working with a lot of British friends on a cruise ship during university. I started a food blog, The Cheeky Chef, to write about all the exciting things I was discovering while traveling around South America and Europe. When I moved to NYC for a job in book publishing, food blogging as a hobby became more of an obsession and eventually led me to changing careers. Once we share a few glasses of wine together, you'll know why I'm called Cheeky.
2. What sort of cooking do you specialize in? What are the pros of being an independent chef?
I specialize in Italian farm-to-table cooking. After working in Sicily and Tuscany, I developed a love for artisanal Italian products, fresh seafood, and seasonal produce. The best aspect of being an independent chef is being able to see people enjoying your food. There's nothing better than sharing a few bottles of wine, tearing crusty bread with your hands, and passing plates of food to the people you love. These are the kind of parties I like to cater and the kind of dinners I enjoy most.
3. What's your favorite thing to cook? What's one thing you think everyone should know how to cook?
My favorite thing to cook is seafood. I think it tells a story of the place it comes from, the way wine does. When you buy your own seafood, they say it should smell like the sea (and not fishy). I love the way raw oysters, shrimp and scallops have that fresh delicious taste of the water. I find so much joy in visiting fish markets, snapping loads of photos, asking questions, watching the fishmonger’s every move, and being a pain in the ass to pick out just the things I want. The way I approach my job as a Chef, is by learning as much as I can about the products I use and sharing those stories with the people who enjoy my food.
Besides the most basic cooking technique of knowing how much salt to put into pasta water, I think everyone should be able to build a campfire.
4. What's been one of the coolest projects you've worked on?
I guess the career I created is pretty cool in general. When I finished cooking school, I worked with a group called A Razor, A Shiny Knife, and we threw a dinner party on the subway in New York City. We built tables that hung from the handrails and served a multi-course meal to just 12 guests with the help of about 60 volunteers. As the only female head of one of the Chef teams, I created a hot soup course. We plated garnishes like crisps of prosciutto, perfect morel mushrooms, and a black garlic puree in the bowls. Then, I came through the busy train car with a silver kettle, pouring an electric green spring ramp soup into the bowls. Collaborating on projects like this through my career has given me boosts of creativity and the benefit of working with a team.
5. What advice would you tell 21 year old Linda?
Be brave! It's the same thing I tell 32-year-old Linda every day. Be brave in your career, with your heart, and in defending whatever you believe in. I woke up one day with a steady 9-5 office job and thought I don't want to do this anymore. I started secretly going to cooking school at night and finally turned my life into something I really love. I never wanted to work in restaurants but knew I needed that experience to develop the skills to go out on my own. Whenever I've been given opportunities for adventures or new experiences, I always say YES! When you feel brave (sometimes it means faking it), you can try something new and even if you fall down, you just keep learning.
OH, HELLO AUGUST
Team CHEEKY is going strong these days with a kickass all female crew. I am so lucky to have such talented, hardworking, and most importantly sweet people to work with and represent The Cheeky Chef. We have kept busy this summer catering some memorable events in the city (like a backyard dîner en blanc wedding in Greenpoint) and heaps of weekend barbecues and bachelorette parties out in the Hamptons. We are going to keep summer rolling all the way into September.
AUGUST 29th / GO SHUCK YOURSELF NETWORKING EVENT
You heard it here first! Cheeky is teaming up with Six Degrees Society for a juicy co-ed networking sesh + oyster shucking lesson. Tickets include 2 curated networking matches for young professionals, a hands-on oyster lesson, small bites + bevs.
$35 early bird tickets | SIGN UP HERE
I hope you guys are getting down on some cool watermelon salads this month. It is blazin'! The summer has treated me well so far with a quick jaunt to northern Italy to celebrate my culinary mentor's wedding (che bello), most sunny Mondays have been spent lounging at Rockaway Beach with a cold beer, and we have had a boat-load of exciting events with many of my favorite repeat clients. We have dates available if you still need to book your August/September events.
There are a few top secret collaborations in the works so stay tuned to these Cheeky Newsies for updates and invites.
Fluent City Series: Italian
For a fun-filled night curated by The Cheeky Chef, join us at The Brooklyn Kitchen as Chef Linda Sarris partners with Williamsburg's foreign language school Fluent City for an instructive culinary and language evening! We'll teach you the basics of traditional Sicilian cuisine (something I've been studying for the last 5 years!) as my own Fluent City language instructor offers vocabulary and phrase lessons alongside. No prior cooking or language knowledge required.
On Monday, May 2nd we will be making Sicilian street food while Professoressa Sandra helps us with Italian phrases along the way. At the end of the night, we sit down together to eat and drink, closing out the night with a bang.
Tickets are $85 each and include the hands-on cooking lesson, Italian instruction, food/drinks and a special in-store student discount. Purchase your tickets online. Join me for my last class teaching at BK.
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 from 6:30-8:30PM
The Brooklyn Kitchen: 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
NEWS from the cheeky chef
Feeling like you're the last to know about all of that cheeky goodness? These newsies will help.
SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS
After spending the last two summers private cheffing in Southern Tuscany (aww, poverina!), I have decided to stick around and hustle in the Hamptons this year. Let's do this thing. I'm currently booking dates for catered parties in NYC and the Hamptons through the next few months. Spring/Summer dates start to fill up quickly! If you're interested in booking dinners with THE CHEEKY CHEF this summer, start checking your calendar and scoop the dates you want as early as possible.
I have week day and weekends available in June, July + August. Available for private dinner parties, cocktail soirées, and multi-day private cheffing jobs.
Have a rooftop in the city or a backyard in Brooklyn? A turkish love-den with coffee table and fancy pillows? We have you covered. Wanna fly me somewhere? Also down for that.
MARCH 28 // BROOKLYN KITCHEN // SEASONAL CHEF'S TABLE
$85 tickets include a cooking lesson, beers, dinner + in-store discount
APRIL 11 // BROOKLYN KITCHEN // COOK THE AUTHOR: OTTOLENGHI CLASS
$85 tickets include a cooking lesson, bevs, dinner + in-store discount
APRIL 18 // BROOKLYN KITCHEN // KNIFE SKILLS CLASS
$75 tickets include a hands-on lesson + in-store discount
MAY 2 // BROOKLYN KITCHEN // ITALIAN FOOD + LANGUAGE CLASS
$85 tickets include a hands-on cooking lesson, wine, dinner + in-store discount
Join Brooklyn Kitchen and Williamsburg's foreign language school Fluent City for an instructive culinary and language night! We'll teach you the basics of traditional Italian cuisine as a Fluent City language instructor offers vocabulary and phrase lessons alongside. o prior knowledge required!
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Interested in working with the Cheeky Chef?
I am currently looking for freelance bartenders/servers to help on special events.
Food service experience and happy faces are required.
Have some alcohol/wine, bread, sweets, oysters, breath mints you want to share?
We are happy to join forces to partner on special events. I help you + you help me. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you heard about my new project, SNACK SICILY?
Linda Sarris, a private chef based in Brooklyn, has spent the last 5 years learning about Sicilian cuisine with research trips, farm stays, cooking classes and adventures through fishmarkets, vineyards + salt-pans. Her new project SNACK is a chef's guide to the food/wine of Sicily.
Here are some photos shot by my fav @katiefresca from a wonderful family-style dinner hosted by @SwissMiss with food from The Cheeky Chef at The Invisible Dog Art Center in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. If you are interested in bespoke dinners like this, send me a note and we'll make the magic happen.
I've been teaching classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg for the last 10 months. Last night we hosted a special hands-on italian cooking lesson sponsored by GRANA PADANO cheese. Here is my recipe for a valentine's themed beet risotto. Buon Apetito e Buon Amore!
Beetroot Risotto with Grana Padano Frico (serves 8)
3 c. rice for risotto - either carnaroli or arborio (80g per person)
2 large white onions, small dice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. white wine
7 c. vegetable or chicken stock, hot
4 large red beets, scrubbed clean
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 c. Grana Padano cheese, grated
1 candy-cane or golden yellow beet, raw but scrubbed clean
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rub the beets with olive oil then wrap up in packets of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour depending on their size until a knife can easily pierce through. Open packets to let steam out. While wearing plastic gloves, rub the skins off with paper towels.
Grana Padano Frico (makes approximately 20 pieces)
1/2 lb. Grana Padano cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of fresh thyme, washed and picked
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper then grate cheese into small piles without touching each other about 2 inches wide. Grind black pepper and sprinkle a little bit of fresh thyme leaves over each pile. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes until cheese melts and spreads out to form thin cheese chips. Remove the oven and cool to room temperature. Carefully remove frico from the tray without breaking and use as a garnish. Reserve the rest of the picked thyme for the risotto.
In a dutch oven or wide skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sweat until softened and translucent. Stiring continuously with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot equipped with a ladle. Bring stock to a boil then turn it off. Add all of the rice to your risotto pan and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Toast for a few minutes then add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan and allow the wine to absorb into rice and burn off.
Lower the heat to just simmering. Next, we start adding a little bit of broth at a time. Add 1 ladle of broth to the rice and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. It's important to keep stirring and not be distracted with other things. As the rice soaks up the liquid, add another ladle and repeat as needed. The whole process should take about 20 minutes but you can check by tasting a grain of rice every now and again. Add the chopped red beets to the risotto about half-way through and continue cooking the rice. The rice should stick to your teeth (al dente) but not feel hard. It will be tender as the risotto becomes creamy.
When you reach the desired doneness of the rice, turn off the heat and finish with butter and grated cheese for the "mantecatura" step. Stir in the butter cubes and make sure they melt all the way through. Finish with grated cheese and stir to combine into a nice creamy risotto. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately and garnish with paper-thin sliced raw candy-cane or golden beet, the Grana Padano frico and fresh thyme.
Hey loves! Landed back in NYC in the fall after a few months working in Italy again. Pretty excited to share some news for 2016!
I started teaching cooking classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg so you can check out the schedule on my events page. After a crazy fall/winter holiday season, I'm back to basics with the steady weekly meal prep jobs for a few families in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as some new adventures...
In January, I was invited for a kitchen take-over event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Adelina's Wine Bar. The chef/owner Toby Buggiani scouted me on instagram while I was working and traveling around Capalbio this summer in Southern Tuscany. He offered his restaurant up for a kitchen takeover this week where I created my own special menu for the night featuring Sicilian dishes to promote my new project SNACK sicily.
Stay tuned in 2016 for cooking classes and other special events coming up!
Join the Cheeky mailing list and get on the invite list.
Thanks for following along!
love from Lou. xx
I wrote a small piece for my Italian language class this week. A poem, a love letter, to my favorite place on earth. Maybe you will understand. xx
il mio posto felice
Io ho un posto speciale, dove vado prendere un inizia fresca. Vado per trovare la mia famiglia. Vado per sentire la natura madre e assaggiare la sua frutta della terra. Quando arrivo in Case Vecchie, io aspetto nel fronte del giardino per assorbire la magica del questo luogo. Prima, Io vedo Giovanni e lui guarda su quando sente la mia macchina. Lui lavora ogni mattina in questo giardino e dopo va in cucina prendere un caffè con noi. Io sento Giovanna nella cucina. Lei fa la marmellata con la frutta fresca del stagione. Ascolto le bolle nella pentola e sento l’odore lo zucchero in aria. Le galline sono nel cortile. Loro giocano con il piccolo Giuseppe, anche se loro non piace. È possibile rimanere qui in la mia posto felice vicino la palma vecchia. Fuori e lontano dalla vita della città, io ho il mio pezzo di paradiso.
I recently filled out a bio for my cooking instructor position at The Brooklyn Kitchen. Read on for an inside scoop on Chef Linda Sarris "The Cheeky Chef".
Type of cuisine I like to cook:
Past & Present:
Antica Locanda di Sesto is a trattoria in the picture perfect town of Lucca in Tuscany. Chef Aurelio Barattini is the 4th generation running the Bibb Gourmet Michelin-rated restaurant along with his brother Lamberto, la mamma Raffaella Tomei Barattini + her mamma Nonna Ida.
They have a family farm nearby growing grapes for easy sipping wine, 400 trees producing extra virgin olive oil, and an "orto" for produce used in the restaurant. Italy's true + natural farm-to-table style. When I asked Aurelio if the area was known for truffles he quickly replied "No, they are found 45 minutes away! It's very far." When you see a 45 minute drive as too far away, we can really understand the local way people eat and think about food here.
Antica Locanda Di Sesto | Lucca, Toscana, Italia
how can I sum up a whole month in sicily? looking back at photos of my whirlwind trip researching my new project SNACK sicily, i haven't had a moment to stop and digest it all. I don't even want to because i'm so sad it is over.
i want the taste of homemade mulberry marmellata on my lips, to inhale the smell of jasmine flowers outside my window like a drug, feel the churn in my sleepy hungover stomach while off-roading thru vineyards at 7AM to collect honey. i don't want to forget anything. i've been driving from city to city, following winemakers down bumpy dirt roads, living out of a backpack, staying with friends and waking up every morning with a daily checkoff list of meetings, interviews and meals for the last month and haven't even had a chance to reflect.
maybe nobody believes this is "work" or i'm just off living this fantasy life that they wish they had. i am just trying to follow the path that presents itself for me. a few years ago i lost my best friend and i've just been trying to live my life in a way that i can be proud of. that she would be proud of. we're here for just a short time, and i want to fill mine with as many experiences as possible. if i don't take off for two months "working" in italy now, when will i do it?
these trips away from home (whatever home is, i don't even know yet), are what have been sculpting me into the best version of a person/cook/teacher/friend/partner that i can be right now. with just a few days left on my trip, i am nervous thinking about getting back to new york and starting over again. i'll always find work, my friends and family will always be there, i'll discover a new place to settle back in and pickup half of my old life and half of whatever there is to come. cheeky 2.0 or maybe 7.0 this time. here are some photos from the last month away.
chef's day off:
sleep til 10, bike 1hr to the sea, stop at fruit vendor for peaches, stop at bar for cold water + chat w/ old men, park bike at the beach, cafe shakerato, swim + sun for hours, stop at bar for more water + chat with old men playing cards, bike home, jump in pool, shower, wine + bed.