I had the great pleasure of recently interviewing Anita Schecter, the voice behind the popular NYC-based food blog, Hungry Couple. The blog is filled with sweet and savory recipes for every occasion, as well as a plethora of cocktail recipes that she often pairs with some of her recipes. Her original blueprints for delicious dishes are paired with brilliant photos that appear to come straight from a glossy magazine.
Though it would be nearly impossible to choose a favorite recipe, notable mentions include her Rum & Maple Cocktail paired with Baked Brie with Rum Cranberry Compote, Pumpkin Crumb Cake, and Polenta with Butternut Squash, Sausage and Caramelized Onions. Please see below for an exclusive interview.
How did you begin your recipe developing process? Please describe any challenges you came across. How long does it take on average to create a new recipe?
My mother was a good cook and I was always her little kitchen assistant. I began cooking on my own as a teenager by trying recipes I saw on TV or read in magazines and then tweaking them to my own taste. Over the years that grew into developing original recipes. I usually begin the process by writing down what I think the ingredients and proportions should be and then making it that way. Once done, I taste it to see if I was right, if it needs tweaks or if those flavors just didn’t go together at all. The more years experience I have, the more likely the recipe will come together quickly but there are always failures. On average I make a recipe 3 times to get it right.
Do you ever find yourself going back and tweaking an old recipe?
Yes, I definitely tweak older recipes. Sometimes it’s because I’ve learned some new tricks and flavor combinations. Sometimes it’s just because I’m currently obsessing over some new ingredient or other. But sometimes I find that the original was best, after all.
I love your Chocolate Chip Bread Recipe. I find that when I bake bread, it is either too browned on the outside or not cooked thoroughly in the middle but perfect on the outside. How does one bake that perfectly moist quick bread?
Thanks, the chocolate chip bread is very popular. If you’re having challenges, I would start by making sure your oven’s temperature is actually correct. Oven thermometers can be bought at any kitchen-ware store and it will show you if your oven is accurate or runs hotter or colder. Based on that. you might need to bake at a different temperature. Another important tip is to make sure you’ve given your oven enough time to pre-heat and resist the urge to open the oven door during the baking process. Doing that causes temperature swings that will affect the way the bread bakes.
You have traveled to the East End on a few occasions? What are your favorite places to visit out east? What do you love most about your visit?
Yes, I’ve become a huge fan of the East End. I feel most at peace when I’m near water and even my Manhattan apartment is by the river. So any trip out east needs to involve the ocean and not necessarily as a beach day. I love walking along the docks and watching the ferries go in and out, dining on the patio at The View in Oakdale and watching guests arrive for dinner in their boats or just finding little sandy nooks, like a tiny sliver of beach in Sayville, to sit and inhale the smell of the water and listen to the sound of crowing shore birds.
There was a great post you wrote about your summer visit to The East End. You particularly mention a rum cocktail you recreated. Do you find yourself trying to recreate dishes at restaurants? What are your favorite recreation recipes for both meals and cocktails?
Oh, yes, definitely. My favorite food and drink inspirations are the wonderful recipes of professional chefs and mixologists. Without a doubt one of the best dishes I make is the recipe from the former chef at The 1770 House in East Hampton. We stayed there during Christmas week a number of years ago and dined on the best brisket we’ve ever tasted. It was so amazing that once we got back home, I emailed the chef and begged for the recipe to surprise my love with on Valentine’s Day. To this day it’s known in my house as 1770 House Brisket and is the go-to special occasion recipe.
My best cocktail inspirations so far have come from summer vacations on the southern coast of Maine. There’s a marvelous restaurant called One Dock, on the Kennenbunk River, and their specialty cocktail menu never disappoints. Their Pear Cosmo was addictive and I recreated it almost as soon as we got home.
You have a wonderful travel section where you review bed and breakfasts and inns. Why do you choose to stay at inns rather than hotels during your travels? What are some of the benefits of staying overnight at inns?
Resorts and hotels are great for girlfriend getaways or business trips but for romantic travels, nothing beats a bed and breakfast. They’re usually designed for couples and even discourage children. Big luxurious beds, whirlpool tubs built for two, candles, fireplaces and decanters of brandy in the room are some of the lovely touches I’ve encountered. They also have fewer rooms so you have more of the grounds to yourself to enjoy as a couple.
Are there any new travel ventures planned for this year?
Although I don’t yet have any reservations set for this year, it’s a sure bet that I will be spending a chunk of my summer out east and, hopefully, be road tripping to my beloved New England again soon.
What is your favorite recipe you created this past year?
It’s so hard to pick favorites. I love them all! But if I must, then I’d say my favorites are the ones that became much more than I expected. A childhood favorite like Salisbury steak that I learned to make on my own and so much better than any version I had as a kid. My low cal, low fat Frozen Banana Berry Cake that turned out so delicious it became impossible to remember it was healthy. My Blueberry Ricotta Cream Cheesecake that, even to a lifetime cheesecake lover like me, is the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted and is worth every decadent calorie. And best of all is when I make a dish that’s so delicious I end up making it two or three times in a row for myself because I love it so much and then it gets the attention I know it deserves. My Mexican Tortilla Pie is a perfect example of that and, thanks to a BuzzFeed write-up, so many more people know about it. And now it will be featured in a magazine in May so that even more folks will learn about a dish I’m so proud of.
Anita Schecter is the voice behind Hungry Couple. A writer, photographer, recipe developer, cook, bottle washer, shaker of creative cocktails, avid reader and doggie mama. Her philosophy is delicious nutrition, occasional indulgence and a life lived in good balance. The recipes are made from scratch and mostly local and seasonal with either original creations or healthier twist on classics. Hungry Couple also features reviews of restaurants, romantic inns and road trips along with a few glimpses of life in the big city, photography and an adorable pup.
*Photo courtesy of Anita Schecter