Melissa Camero has been chronicling her home cooking on her blog, Bitchin' Camero, for four years. Her homey recipes -- the guava and cream cheese French toast she prepared recently is just drool-worthy -- and beautiful photos will make you want an invite to her home or at least to get into your kitchen. Here's what she had to say about her approach to cooking and her favorite recipes
Name: Melissa Camero Ainslie
Blogging since: January 2007 though those old posts are downright embarrassing.
Day job: VP Production at AgencyNet. We make websites, apps and other internet stuff.
Reason for blogging: Originally started as a way to share and keep track of what I was making for dinner. Somehow people found my little site and now blogging helps keep me creative in the kitchen.
New Times: Who is Bitchin Camero?
Melissa Camero: I'm Bitchin' Camero, not to be confused with Bitching Camero - she only appears on my bad days. My maiden name is Camero, so sometime during grad school everyone started calling me Bitchin' Camero after the Dead Milkmen song. BC for short and also my alma mater.
When did you start cooking?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where we rarely had take-out. My mom cooked every day, even making us breakfast and lunch, all while running her own pharmacy. I started helping her with dinner when I was six. When I was about ten, she entrusted me to make dinner on my own. It was some kind of chicken with mushrooms and onions. My mom left me with instructions and it was supposed to simmer on low heat until tender. I missed that part about low heat and we ended up with charred, dry chicken. We had Domino's for dinner.
What's your approach to cooking?
It sounds like a cliché these days, but I really like fresh, local and simple cooking. I don't know how to make fancy soufflés or terrines; those are better when someone else makes them for you, anyway. I much prefer homey casseroles, braised meats and homemade pasta. Nothing says love like a big and hearty, family dinner.
What are your favorite sources for recipe inspiration?
I get inspiration everywhere - the grocery store, restaurants, cookbooks and other blogs. Usually, I see something, get a craving and come up with a recipe to match
Do you have any go-to recipes, the tried-and-true ones that never fail to get you out of a bind?
Yes. These Baked Eggs with Chorizo and Gruyere are a huge hit every time I serve them - breakfast, brunch or dinner. They're meaty, gooey and cheesy - everything you could ever want from a casserole. This Vietnamese Noodle Salad has also been a big hit, even with persnickety old Cuban relatives.
You describe yourself as a grocery store junkie. Where do you shop?
Lately, I've limited myself to Whole Foods and vegetables from the Bee Heaven CSA. They're the best for meat and produce, but I do have to supplement with special trips to Publix for more ethnic ingredients like Guava paste and chorizo.
Do you also hit farmers markets?
The only reason I don't is because I have my CSA box during the Florida growing season and there's plenty in there to feed two people for a week. If I didn't have the CSA, I'd probably be at the Coconut Grove Farmer's Market every weekend.
Do you have any food shopping secrets?
Make a list. Yes, that means planning out all your meals before you go, but I know that if I don't I'll wind up with a cartful of artisan cheese, beer and ice cream. Unfortunately, a girl cannot live on dairy and malt beverages alone.
Three favorite ingredients.
Chorizo, pasta, eggs
Do you eat out much?
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We don't eat out a whole lot, probably three days a week. We try to balance between exploring new places and revisiting our favorites.
What three places would you recommend to an out-of-towner?
Michael's Genuine, Sergio's and Sakaya Kitchen.