Monday, February 20, 2012

Philly Kitchen: Celia Lewis

Every other week Penn Appétit profiles a student who cooks on a college budget and in a college sized kitchen.

Call her the queen of spices, Celia Lewis stays true to her cooking philosophy of “keeping it simple,” regardless of how big her spice collection might be. Though she’s famous in some circles for her baked treats, it turns out that she’s an accomplished cook as well. I had the pleasure of cooking with her one sunny afternoon in her high-rise kitchen and learning more about her journey from being dependent on restaurants around campus to cooking her own food. While I was there she made a full and delicious meal of pan seared salmon, roasted asparagus and rice. See the recipe below to make this easy but satisfying dinner yourself!

Penn Appétit: When did you start cooking and how did you learn to cook?
Celia Lewis: Before this year I didn’t cook, and I was kind of intimidated to start. I didn't have a meal plan, so I was supplementing eating out once or twice a day with yogurt, granola bars, deli meat, and other no-prep items I picked up from the grocery store. Not only was this costly, but I also realized I wasn't particularly satisfied from the eating the same thing from the same places all the time. After I came back to Penn from Thanksgiving, I decided that I needed to start cooking. I started with a lot of easy dishes, like omelets and pasta, and then started expanding to full meals with rice, a protein and basic vegetables… I taught myself [how to cook]. I never really helped my mom when she cooked but I used to always sit in the kitchen with her so I guess that helped… most of what I cook is really simple so it made it easy for me to do. Sometimes I’ll use Google if there’s a specific thing I need to look up.

PA: What’s your favorite dish to cook?
CL: Any kind of roasted vegetable, which is funny because I didn’t really eat so many vegetables before [I started cooking]. The prep is very easy but I like them really smoky and charred so it takes a while, but you can throw them in the oven and do your homework or something else while you wait. Plus once they’re cooked they take up much less space in the fridge.

PA: What’s your cooking philosophy?
CL: Keep it simple and use lots of spices. I really like spicy food so I will get dried chilies, break them apart by hand and then stick them in an omelet or eat them with vegetables. My three favorite spices are Herbs de Provence, Kansas City Classic Rub and Mozambique Peri Peri (a combination of red pepper flakes, paprika and other spices) [all available at Whole Foods]. As a college student, using a lot of spices means that I can have things that are really flavorful but don’t need a lot of ingredients.

PA: What’s your advice to someone who wants to start cooking for themselves?
CL: One thing that people find intimidating about cooking is that you need to plan ahead and figure out what to get at the grocery store. Even though you end up spending a lot of money upfront you save money in the long run. Start simple, figure out what your favorite spices are and buy those. Get frozen versions of your favorite proteins, like frozen chicken breasts or salmon burgers. You can also order staples, like oatmeal and rice, on and if you have a prime account you can get free shipping. That helps a lot because one problem can be carrying heavy groceries from the store. Stock up your pantry because then you get over the hurdle of getting to the grocery store and you just have to find the time.

Celia’s Pan Roasted Salmon with Spicy Grilled Asparagus
Serves: 2 Time: 1 hour

• Olive Oil
• 1 bunch of asparagus
• 1 frozen salmon filet
• Salt, pepper, paprika, and Mozambique Peri Peri
• White rice

Start with the asparagus about an hour before you want to eat:
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Wash your asparagus, cut about an inch off the ends. Place them in a bowl and toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add pepper, paprika and Peri Peri spice to taste (several shakes should suffice)
• Place on a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put into oven.
• After about 30 minutes, turn the asparagus over
• Let cook for another 20 – 30 minutes or until asparagus are well charred

For the Salmon,
• Thaw one packaged filet (between 0.5-1 lb) of salmon, you can get good frozen ones at Trader Joe’s. These filets come packaged in plastic bags already, so to thaw properly put them in the fridge the night before or place into a bowl of warm water that day.
• When you’re ready to cook, place salmon into a pan on the stove.
• Drizzle about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over the salmon. Turn the heat to medium low.
• Sprinkle paprika, Peri Peri, and black pepper onto the filet.
• Cover the pan with a lid.
• Let cook for 10-15 minutes. You can cut it in half to check and make sure it’s done. You’ll be able to tell when the salmon changes from the red pink to a light pink, you want it to be thoroughly cooked and all the same color.

Serve with white rice. If you have a rice cooker like Celia set the timer for when you’re ready to eat. Otherwise cook on the stovetop (will take about 15 minutes for white rice).

-Leyla Mocan

Do you or someone you know cook in your college sized kitchen? Want to be profiled on our next post? Send an email to and we’ll contact you to be featured!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...