Sara Forte is a food writer, cook, and now recipe book author. Her recipes thrive on fresh and seasonal ingredients for maximum flavor and wholesome, healthy meals. Sara’s passion for food has led her beyond her online blog and onto her first recipe book, The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods with photography by her husband, Hugh Forte. The recipes are practical, delicious and accessible to both experienced and novice chefs in the kitchen.
How did the idea of The Sprouted Kitchen come about?
Sara Forte: It was the name of my “dream restaurant”. I didn’t have serious goals of owning a restaurant, but I talked about it all the time. Hugh created the site as a gift for me, when I was hitting a plateau at my full time office job. It was a project for us to work on together, for him to practice a new type of photography, and me to learn to cook better and share with a food loving community. We didn’t exactly plan to be nurturing a brand, but I am ecstatic with where it has taken us.
How would you describe the style of cooking in The Sprouted Kitchen?
SF: I would consider it produce focused, health conscious, simple, colorful, and California/Mediterranean by way of ingredients. I like to use a lot of fresh herbs, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, shallots, parmesan.
What was the process to create, test, and document each recipe for the book?
SF: Ideas would come to me from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, what I was reading, the foods I was in the mood for, health food trends etc. and I would just work on them as they’d come. I divided the book into chapters, and would try to work with a variety of fruits and vegetables within those six chapters. If there weren’t any beet recipes, I’d daydream about beets til I wanted to try something. I’d test things a couple times, have a recipe tester okay them to make sure I wasn’t crazy, then we’d make the recipe and photograph it. We kept up with the photography throughout the manuscript project so I could get the best looking produce for pictures, and to avoid being overwhelmed at the end. I was testing and writing all the time, because these foods fit into my everyday life, and then we’d photograph on Tuesdays and Thursdays to stay on track. It was a complete learning process and we needed that. I hope we get another chance to do it again to apply what we learned the first go around!
What did you grow up eating?
SF: My mom doesn’t like to cook, so she kept things as simple as possible. She had about five things on rotation and we ate out quite a bit. There were a lot of frozen taquitos, meatballs and ravioli and always cucumber and tomatoes with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. She had no intention of feeding us junk, cooking just never interested her. I feel like 20+ years ago there was a larger gap between quick meals and health food. You were either a super, healthy, hippie mom eating sprouts and growing tomatoes, or you fed your family quick and easy stuff. These days, there is lots of space between that. That is what I hope to do with Sprouted Kitchen, to create a place where produced focused meals are uncomplicated and the ingredients easy to find. But to answer your question, we ate taquitos. :)
How did you learn how to cook?
SF: I read a lot of food magazines, watched shows, studied recipes and experimented. I am always logging away flavor combinations that I see on restaurant menus or on other websites. I lived in Italy and picked up a lot of stuff from the family I worked for. I also worked on a farm, being paid in vegetables, and just figured out how to use what I had, because I hate waste. That resourcefulness has always been a center of creativity for me. It becomes a challenge and I like that.
Any favorite recipes from the book?
SF: The leeks and beans (a side dish) has to be my favorite healthy comfort food. Ever the hummus aficionado, I do love the hummus in the book, made with a roasted shallot. I also really love the collard wraps with carrot miso spread, quinoa and beets – they’re so healthy, fresh and portable. Perfect for road trips.
For anyone who is new to the world of cooking, what advice would you give them?
SF: You will think you can’t. You will make a ton of mistakes and think this skill is not for you. Keep going. Burn the granola so you remember to set a timer next time, make mushy roasted vegetables so you see why it’s bad to crowd the pan. The best way to learn is by doing. I promise. Keep reading and trying and practicing feeding people. When you hit your stride, you’ll fall in love with the process. I just know it.