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The Blogger Beat: Endless Simmer

A little of this, a little of that—this week’s Blogger Beat chats with Endless Simmer’s Stefanie Gans.

Endless Simmer might be a cooking blog, but persnickety cooks should beware: The writers post recipes, but they never include measurements—only ingredients. “To us, one of the best parts of cooking is being creative and a little dangerous with ingredients,” says Stefanie Gans. "We like to explore, even if that means messing up every now and then."

Gans—known as Gansie to readers—is one of the blog’s founders. She and her former coworker Brendan Spiegel started the site in June 2007 as an outlet for their growing obsession with food and cooking. “It started as a bunch of coworkers bringing in the previous nights’ dinner to share tastes, recipes, horror stories, and successes,” says Gans. “A blog was the next logical step.”

Spiegel, who still contributes to the blog, has since moved to New York City to pursue food and travel writing, so Gans holds down the fort in Washington; she’s both a writer and an editor. In addition to original recipes, the site includes entries on local restaurants, cooking shows, celebrity chefs, breaking foodie news, farmers markets, and seasonal cooking. “We’re basically somewhere between regular consumers of pop food culture and total snobs,” says Gans. “We can just as easily enjoy offal or destroy a Dunkin’ Donuts egg-and-cheese croissant.”

We convinced Gans to take a timeout from her busy eating schedule to answer our cooking questions. Favorite recipe? Biggest disaster? Advice for novice cooks? Read on for her answers.

Rate your cooking skills from 1 to 10—where 1 is a bachelor with Ramen noodles and 10 is Julia Child:
“Six. I figure someone can’t be too above average if they’ve never tried to bake bread. (Banana bread doesn’t count.)”

Number of cookbooks you own and your favorite in your collection:
“I have an entire bookcase dedicated to cookbooks, but I only ever reach for two: The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, for when I can’t figure out what that missing ingredient is in my almost-right dish, and James Beard’s Theory & Practice of Good Cooking, for when I forget how many minutes to cook a hardboiled egg.”

Best and worst recipes you’ve ever tried:
“I absolutely hate following recipes. It takes all the fun out of cooking for me. One of my biggest disasters, the one I actually cried over, was the first time I made matzo-ball soup. I followed a recipe one of my friends contributed to Endless Simmer, but the matzo balls exploded. It was still delicious, so I dubbed it deconstructed matzo-ball soup and ate it anyway. The best recipe was when I went home and got my Oma’s (German for grandmother) matzo-ball soup recipe and it turned out just like I had remembered.”

Best and worst recipe you’ve ever invented:
“Worst: fried avocado balls. Avocados have become my life and I’m always looking for ways to incorporate them into everything. However, breading and frying avocado isn’t the answer. As for the best, that’d be anything with an egg. I once poached an egg in Thai-curried coconut milk, served over brown rice and wilted spinach. And then there was the time I topped a thick asparagus sauce with a fried egg and chives. Another time I realized how well eggs pair with acorn squash in a frittata with queso fresco and herbs de provençe. Actually, do you think I could try baking an egg in the well of an avocado?”

Biggest kitchen disaster:
“I’m glad you asked this; we embrace disasters on Endless Simmer. My biggest catastrophe was a birthday present for my sister. Even though I despise baking, I always insist on shipping my sister a sweet goodie for her birthday (mostly so I know she’s soaked up some of her birthday partying). I thought I could show restraint and not mess with Nigella Lawson’s blondie recipe, but I couldn’t. I left out the nuts and added in more chocolate. Nigella instructed me to pull the blondies out of the oven after 35 minutes, but they were still gloppy, so I left them in for another 20. I pulled them out to let them cool and when I went to package them I noticed that it was still batter-like and I didn’t think it’d be safe to send raw elements through the mail. I put it back in the oven a third time—it never really hardened. But I have a feeling my sister and her college friends wouldn’t have known the difference.”

Advice for newbies in the kitchen:
“Don’t follow recipes. (Except for baking.)”

Pantry item you most frequently run out of:
“Eggs. I cover almost everything I eat with a fried egg: greens, lentils, squash, beans, bulgur, fish, waffles.”

Embarrassingly simple recipe that always impresses guests:
Avocado-and-feta dip. Just mash avocado and feta with salt and pepper. No acid. No herbs.”

Pain-in-the-ass dessert that’s worth the hassle:
Boozy chocolate mousse whizzed around in a blender is as pain-in-the-ass as I’ll get with desserts. Well, or chocolate truffles. But it’s a pain in my boyfriend’s ass because he makes them for me.”

Favorite farmers market in the Washington area:

“I can’t deny the power of proximity. The Mount Pleasant farmers market calls my name on even the harshest of Saturday mornings.”

What to do with leftovers:
“Top it with a sunny-side-up egg, salt, and pepper. Have I mentioned that I adore eggs?”

What you’d eat for your last meal:
“Steak frites with béarnaise sauce and red wine.”

Kitchen appliance you can’t live without:
“Mini food processor. Anything can be improved by buzzing it around with feta.”

Where you go when you want a night off from the kitchen:
“Dupont Italian Kitchen. Their fettuccine alfredo reminds me of the strip-mall Italian restaurants I enjoyed growing up in South Jersey.”

Favorite local food blog besides your own:
“Actually, my favorite is the one I miss the most: Kim O’Donnel’s A Mighty Appetite. The Washington Post recently ended her blogging stint, but you can still read through the archives. She now blogs at True/Slant.”

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