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Danguole believes in adventurous eating and drinking. And her kitchen is her ultimate playground. Although she appreciates the classics, she truly tries to bring something creative and original to her blog, 10th Kitchen.
I am so delighted to have Danguole Lekaviciute of 10th Kitchen joining me here on the show today.
(*All images below are Danguole’s.)
On Starting Her Blog:
What happened was that a good friend of mine moved across the country, and she had a personal blog that she was doing a project 365 on, which is where you take a picture everyday and write a little blurb about it. And it’s meant to get a good blogging habit going.
When she moved away, I jumped on board. I got my own blog, and I started doing the same thing. It was a fun way for us to keep in touch. I don’t think anybody read it besides us. But what I found eventually was that I was mostly interested in talking about food and cooking. So when that wrapped up, it was just a natural transition for me to start a food blog.
I pretty much immediately bought my domain and started taking some crappy pictures and telling awkward jokes. And about four years later, I’m still doing the same thing.
I had a personal WordPress blog before, just your basic template. I had no idea how a website works. Those templates make it so easy for anyone to put up their website without really having to do a whole lot of work. Since then I’ve learned a lot about HTML and CSS and all the intricacies with hosting and stuff like that. So I’m at the point where I put it on my resume now, because it is such a valuable skill that I never had before.
I think the most challenging part was trying to switch hosts halfway. And I just lost my website for a day and a half. And it was terrifying, even though at that point, not that many people read it. So I just went back to my old host, and was like, “Please take all my money. I’ll stick with you. Just make it work again.”
It’s a terrifying thing when your website is down for some reason. It’s like an extension of you. And even though you know it doesn’t matter, it feels so strange.
I think all of it felt pretty natural to me. I’ve always played with recipes a little bit and developed my own. I’ve written before. And I’ve done photography as a hobby before. I don’t know if you can tell from those early shots because they’re just not great. But I always dabbled in artistic things like that. So all of it made sense, except the technical part probably.
On Her Curiosity Around Food:
I cooked since I was a kid. And I remember trying to make things work from an early age. I definitely helped out in the kitchen a lot. And I definitely have memories of being 10 or 12 and just playing in the kitchen and seeing what happens.
In my family, it was more of a chore. And I actually really liked it. So my sister would always do the dishes if I cooked, so I always enjoyed that arrangement. To me, it was fun.
I love David Lebovitz. I think his style is so classic and so refined. And he has such a good way of connecting it to his life in France as far as blogging goes. Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Ice Creams in Columbus completely changed my life with her method for making ice cream, which I do regularly. And I love Mark Bittman. I have his books. I’ve read his articles. I followed his podcast. He just has so many smart things to say about food and policy and connecting it to the everyday cook in the kitchen and how you can make small changes and work toward a more sustainable food system, which is the stuff that I find interesting.
On Adventurous Eating:
I’ve always been interested in just playing with things and seeing what happens. I think if I didn’t have an artistic streak, I think I’d be some sort of scientist because I just like to see how a dish changes if you use coconut oil instead of butter or more herbs or more this or more vinegar. So to me, that comes naturally. I think it’s important to appreciate all aspects of cooking.
I love ethnic food from all over the world. I’ve always dabbled in Mexican or Thai or Vietnamese. I don’t think there’s a particular cuisine that’s the good gateway. It’s more about playing with recipes that you know and love. Like if your family is from France or Russia or wherever, I think it just comes from mastering what you know and changing one thing here or there to see how the dish changes and to see how the ingredients interact with one and other.
Fish sauce, when you first smell it, is just so overwhelming and so different from what I’m used to. But it just makes such a difference in dishes. And it’s such a great savory base for crisp, clean flavors. They all meld so beautifully together in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a thing of beauty. I love it.
On Being Fearless and Experimenting in the Kitchen:
I remember making tacos from this leftover roast chicken, and I mixed it with a bunch of sour cream and green onion. That’s not a taco. But it was one of those times right before grocery shopping that you had to make do with whatever you had. And my family appreciated that.
One thing I was trying to do was make buttermilk rolls, which I have eventually got to making through cultured buttermilk, with powdered buttermilk. I really wanted that flavor. But I was working with a recipe that required you to heat up milk. And so I was like, “Oh, I’ll just switch it with buttermilk.” And of course, I should have known that when you heat buttermilk, you just get a curdled mess. That completely threw me off my game. That’s something that I should have know but just didn’t think about. So that happens all the time.
On Making Cooking More Fun:
I think mastering the things you know and love is a good first step to where you don’t even need the recipe anymore. Then you can play with the proportions or add different ingredients to it. Simple things like switching out parsley for cilantro or basil or something like that is a good start.
If you view recipes as a template, if you see the part that’s starchy and the part that’s savory and the part that’s fresh and the part that’s acidic, it’s like a puzzle. You can swap out the lemon juice for sherry vinegar maybe and see what happens. Just see a recipe as a whole, and then take apart the components and see what we can do with them.
It’s a balancing act, and it also makes you more flexible. If you don’t have lemon juice, you can try a certain vinegar or lime juice, things like that.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I honestly don’t watch much TV. I used to watch Top Chef back in the day. Right now, I’m binging on Orange Is The New Black. There’s cooking in that show, a little bit, prison cooking.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I think anyone listening to your podcast would probably know about Smitten Kitchen and David Lebovitz. Those are my favorites.
I also have blogger friends that I keep up with who are really talented, The Sugar Hit is fantastic, My Name is Yeh. Who else? SugarHero is a really fun baking blog. There’s tons. Any type of cuisine, any type of cooking you’re into, there’s a blog about it, which is fantastic.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I follow Take A Megabite. I think you’ve had her on your podcast before. She is just so colorful. It’s not my style at all, but it makes me very happy.
I follow The Sugar Hit, like I said. Sarah just has great taste for desserts and a great eye for photography. Tieghan from Half Baked Harvest, she’s really fantastic. She’s really visually oriented. Kelly Beall, who does Design Crush, is also really good. On Pinterest, she always posts interesting design, interesting food, interesting style.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I have a stovetop smoker, which I don’t break out too often because it makes your house smell like bacon for days afterward. But yeah, it’s fantastic. I love it. If you don’t have a backyard pit for barbecue, it’s a good alternative.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I am really trying hard to like mushrooms. It’s the one food that I just never liked, never appreciated it. And I like the flavor of it. I do like mushroom ravioli if it’s all chopped up. I think it’s a texture thing. So I’m trying really hard, and I’ve done some things with it that I ended up liking a lot.
I actually smoked shiitaki mushrooms one time, put them on polenta, and that was actually enjoyable. So that’s where the stovetop smoker comes in.
It depends on what kind of mushroom. Big, slimy portobello, I’m still at like 1%. I’ll eat it if I have too. But yeah, shiitake mushrooms are great. I love chanterelles. So, I’m working on it.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I have a lot of cookbooks. I like Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I’m trying to cook my way through it. Mark Bittman’s books are always a great resource. I have How To Cook Everything Fast right now. It’s focused on fast food, but it is also really inspirational. His combinations are really innovative. And I think the cookbook that I like the most isn’t actually a cookbook, but I literally sleep with The Flavor Bible. I’m always flipping through it at night when I’m looking for ideas. It’s like a dictionary of what flavors go together. And it’s fantastic. I use it for inspiration all the time, and I used to have it on my nightstand. It’s like the bedtime story for me.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I’ve been branching out a little bit with my taste in music. I usually listen to indie rock or stuff like that. But I’ve been into soul lately. So if I had to pick a song, I would pick Nothing On Me by Curtis Mayfield. I love that. It’s my jam right now.
On Keeping Posted with Danguole:
I probably use Instagram the most. I’m really visually oriented. It just makes it so easy to let people know what you’re up to and what you’re drinking, what you’re eating.