The Little Ferraro Kitchen
Samantha has a very diverse background. She’s a Brooklyn native, lived in Hawaii for 10 years, is a current California resident, she’s Jewish, and one of her favorite cuisines is Italian. All of this influences the foods she enjoys and shares on her blog, The Little Ferraro Kitchen.
I’m so thrilled to have Samantha Ferraro of The Little Ferraro Kitchen here on the show today.
(*All images below are Samantha’s.)
On How Her Family Background Influenced the Foods She Enjoys:
I grew up as a Jewish girl in Brooklyn, which is very common, but the funny thing about me is I come from a Jewish background that has both Sephardic and Ashkenazi backgrounds, and there’s a difference just in culture.
So my father’s side is Ashkenazi, which means they come from Eastern Europe, so a lot of the foods that I grew up with on my father’s side was like, matzo ball soup, briskets, really kind of stick to your ribs foods, comfort foods. And then my mom is part Turkish, and actually the ancestry comes from Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition they went from Spain to Turkey. So, a lot of the foods I grew up with on my mom’s side was maybe stuffed grape leaves, lots of things with saffron, and olive oil, and lemons. I grew up with something called fasolia, which is a green bean and tomato stew, so a lot of those foods I grew up with, so I kind of incorporate everything as an adult now.
On How Where She’s Lived has Influenced the Foods She Enjoys:
You have this Jewish girl from a big city, and then my mom and I decide, “Oh, let’s move to Hawaii, why not?” So when I was 14, we moved to Hawaii, not knowing anything, and I still had a thick Brooklyn accent. Nobody really knew probably what brisket was. But we just did it, and we embraced it, and what I learned living in Hawaii is the simplicity of food, the beautiful fruits and vegetables, and farmers thanking you with a bag of lettuce, or growing their own avocados. It’s just such a beautiful place, and the Aloha spirit is so true and alive. It’s just so honest, and it’s just such a beautiful place. I’m so happy that I lived there and experienced it.
(Today) I’m a five hour flight from New York and a five hour flight from Hawaii, so I have the best of both worlds, because California is kind of, you know, I live in a small beach town but if I want to go to a big city, I can have that, too. There’s a lot of people that I actually went to high school with in Hawaii that now live in California, and vice versa. People from here move to Hawaii, so, I’m so blessed to be able to go to both places and have an excuse, like, “Oh, I have family in Hawaii,” or, “I have family in New York.”
I live in Southern California, and we have such an awesome food mecca. When I moved here, I had never gone into a Mexican mercado before, a Mexican market. And when I moved here, you know, it was just so amazing that there’s such a huge Mexican culture here. And there’s different Asian markets here. There’s Vietnamese and Thai and Japanese. There’s a Jewish area in LA that I can go to if I really want good challah bread. It’s just such an awesome area. I went to Little Saigon, which is just 10 minutes away from me. I just live in a really cool area.
On a Food that Surprised Her:
I would have to say, living in Hawaii, I didn’t think I would try a lot of things that I did in Hawaii. For example, taro root, or poi, is this really, like, pounded until it’s kind of like gelatinous, kinda, and it doesn’t taste very good, but when paired with a salty lomi salmon, or pork, it’s actually delicious. And there are also some similarities, so, for example, lomi salmon you would find at a luau in Hawaii, which is diced up, cured salmon with tomatoes, which is very similar to a bagel and lox, like that cured salmon. So I saw some similarities there, but I mean, honestly, just the fruits that are grown there are just, nothing like it. Nothing like a mango from Hawaii.
On Foods That She Misses:
I miss New York bagels. When my cousin actually moved here, from New York to here, and I see him often, and whenever he goes back to visit my aunt and uncle, I’m like, “Can you please bring back bagels?” I mean, if you’ve ever had a New York bagel, there’s nothing like it, and they say that it’s because of the water, you know, that East Coast New York water. That’s the excuse. Nothing like it, so he always brings back bagels.
Another thing from Hawaii that I love is something called lilikoi, which is passionfruit. Lilikoi is the Hawaiian name for it, and it grows just everywhere. My mom has a lilikoi tree, and one time my mom sent me a box of lilikoi. She just took this mailing box and stuffed it. It must have been like 10 pounds of lilikoi. And you can’t ship things from Hawaii to . . . like you just can’t do it, it’s agriculture, you can’t do it. And one time it came through and I was like, “Oh my gosh! This is awesome!” The next time it came through, I got an empty box with a nasty letter from Agriculture saying, “Don’t do that!” Such a gorgeous flavor, it really is.
On Her Passion for Cooking:
You know, to be honest, I knew I liked food when I was little. My mom cooked, my grandmother cooked, but I was never mature enough to really ask them about it, or, you know, be mature enough to learn from it. So, it wasn’t until I got older and I was experiencing foods and traveling that really inspired me, and I just wanted a challenge. I love challenging myself in the kitchen. I’ll jump in and make a ramen dish that I’ve never made before, or a soufflé I’ve never done. I think it’s so fun to do that.
My mom cooked all the time when I was little, now she asks me recipe questions. But now that I’m older, I realize that I wish I took notes from my grandmother on my father’s side, I really do. For example, I remember her making a Jewish cookie called rugelach, and I remember it vividly when I was little. You know, she passed away since, but now that I’m older I make my own rugelach, and I think about her, like, “Oh, you know, this is what she would do.” So I think memories inspire me.
On Starting Her Blog:
I was going through a transition, I was changing majors in college, I was kind of confused, I didn’t really know what to do. But my outlet was cooking, that was what my outlet was. I loved it, I mean, it was a stress reliever for me, it was exciting, it was challenging, it was beautiful.
So, I was reading blogs, and I thought, “I can do that!” So, I kinda did. I’m spontaneous, so I said, “Oh, why not?” I just jumped in, and I said, “Oh, let’s see how long this goes.” I was enjoying the challenge, and I was enjoying learning, so I was learning, too, and it was fun, so I just kept doing it. Three years later, here I am.
On Her Culinary Bucket List:
I have a bucket list on my blog that I need to update. I’ve actually crossed off a few that I haven’t put on the blog yet. But, to be honest, the cuisine I’m least familiar with is Asian cuisine, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai. I’m least familiar with that and that is something I would love to learn.
I have the Momofuku cookbook, and I really want to do his ramen broth. I think that it’s a 48 hour broth and you reduce and add, and I just think that’s so awesome. I really, really want to do that.
I made pad thai once, and that came out horrible. So, I want to do that. It’s just a simple dish, but the flavor combination of that sour and sweet, it’s gorgeous. I really want to conquer that.
Cannolis, I’ve done cannolis once. It was okay. I want to give it another shot. Again, here I am, all different cultures.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I’ve been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain shows, like No Reservations. He has a few of them that are very similar to each other, love him.
I like some of Gordon Ramsay’s shows, like Master Chef, it’s fun and kind of creative what they do.
I love Ina Garten’s show, Barefoot Contessa. It’s really simple and clean, and to the point, I really like that.
And sometimes I watch Julia Child on YouTube.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
So, well you’ve already talked to Amy. I love her blog What Jew Wanna Eat. She’s awesome, she does all these creative, fun Jewish recipes. Rainbow challah, like what? She has fun with it, and she’s fearless and I respect that.
I think she mentioned another one that I read, one of the first blogs was, she’s formerly known as the Shiksa in the Kitchen, but her name is Tori Avey. She’s really fascinating because she’s a convert to Judaism, and she loves history, so she does a lot of Jewish history and Jewish food, and that’s really fascinating.
One of the first blogs I also read was called Pass the Sushi. She is really interesting, she’s really creative, she designed my blog, and she’s a gorgeous photographer, food and outside of food.
I have a personal friend as well, it’s called Pineapple and Coconut, and her and I have a Hawaii connection. She loves all things Hawaii, so she does a lot of Hawaiian food, Kalua pig, or pineapple this, or coconut that.
Another good resource is called Just One Cookbook. She does a lot of Japanese food, and one time when I was going to a Japanese store, I was messaging her like, “Oh, should I get this?” She’s helped, guiding me, and she’s just awesome, just a wonderful resource for Japanese food.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I love dogs, so on Instagram I follow The Dogist, ’cause dogs make me happy and it’s all dog pictures and I love that, it’s awesome.
I follow WhatJewWannaEat on Instagram, ’cause I love her bagel lox photos, it makes me hungry.
Can I do a YouTube one? I just started watching, it’s called Sweets and Beyond. And she does a lot of Puerto Rican food, which is fabulous, ’cause I’m not too familiar with that food, so I started watching her and that’s really cool.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I don’t know if it’s unusual to other people, or maybe not to me, but I have anchovies. Is that unusual? I always have anchovies on hand. When I was trying to learn about Korean food, a friend of mine gave me, I don’t know what it’s called but it’s like that red pepper that makes kimchi. (Gochugaru)
It’s a powder, and I guess you add it to your seasonings and it makes it spicy and red, and it’s a gorgeous color.
I have kind of random ingredients. Fish sauce, different kinds of fish sauces.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I would have to say anchovies again. It was horrible, but now, I don’t eat it by itself, but I’ll add it to things, like to sauces.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Well, like I said, The Art of French Cooking, that has just opened my mind, my taste buds, everything. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s old school, it’s to the point, it’s well written. That one is wonderful.
I also just recently got a cookbook called Jerusalem, which has become a very popular cookbook. But just gorgeous, inspiring Middle Eastern flavors, bright flavors, and just gorgeous photography. Those are probably two of my favorite books.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
On Keeping Posted with Samantha:
I’m on Facebook as the Little Ferraro Kitchen, and I absolutely love Instagram, as FerraroKitchen. You can find some behind the scenes, some things I put on the blog, other things I’m eating that I want to share.