This week’s Site We Love is Sassy Radish, where proprietor Olga Massov shares her simple, home-cooked and locally sourced recipes. After ten years in the finance world, Olga changed professions to follow her passion for food writing and recipe development. The recipes on Sassy Radish are easy and approchable, and Olga’s posts are stuffed full of helpful hints, exciting experiences, and back-to-basics techniques that are sure to excite even the most experienced cooks. Here’s what Olga has to say about her site:
Photo: Olga Massov
Live since: 2005
Posting rate: About twice per week
Geographic location: Brooklyn, NY
Why is the site called Sassy Radish? Growing up in Russia, one of my favorite things to eat when I was little were radishes. I’d stick them on a piece of generously buttered bread, sprinkle a little salt and dill, and voila – my favorite snack. I’ve been told by many friends, that I often possess a lot of “sass” when I’m cooking, or talking about food. But the name stuck with me ever since high school – there was this little hippy boutique in the town where I went to school called the Sassy Radish, and when I decided to start a food blog, it was the only name that seemed to make sense.
What’s been your most popular post? I must be the only person with a blog who is still puzzled by Google Analytics. But I went and dug around, and I think it’s between Homemade Oreos, Chocolate Guinness & Whiskey Cupcakes and Olive Oil Almond Cake. I guess people love their sweets – and I don’t blame them – I have a serious sweet tooth.
What’s your favorite post? It was a post where I was initially going to write about my favorite salad, but I got engaged instead and had to put the recipe on the backburner.
What’s something great that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting your blog? So many things! First and foremost, I recently left a decade-long career in finance to pursue food writing. And the man I’m engaged to read my blog for 2 years before we reconnected (we knew one another in middle school) – so without the blog, who knows if we’d have found our way back to one another? My fiance gave me the courage to take the leap into the world of food and writing. And for that, I’ll always be grateful to him. Secondly, I’ve been ridiculously lucky in my new career. I have been privileged to get to know some of the most amazing friends and mentors as a result: kind and generous people like Melissa Clark of the New York Times and Gilt Taste; Andrew Scrivani (New York Times), among so many other talented folks! I had spent a decade working in finance and left the industry about six months ago, and have been incredibly lucky to work with Melissa and Andrew and not only to learn from them but to get to know them too. I pinch myself every day – I feel so blessed and grateful! And none of this would have been possible were it not for the blog.
What’s the usual process for developing one of your posts? While I’m driven seasonally and what I find at my local farmers’ markets, there’s no one way that I come up with a recipe. Sometimes I read something in a book, a newspaper, or a magazine, and it inspires me. Sometimes it’s a craving I wake up with (and I have a lot of cravings). A lot of times it’s general curiosity – I want to see if something will work. And a lot of times it’s when I go out to eat somewhere and eat something amazing and then will, literally, have a dream about making it and eating it.
Photo: Olga Massov
What are your favorite ingredients and tools? Ingredients – farm-fresh eggs; lemons, garlic, quality olive oil (I’m going through a Sicilian olive oil phase – I like the aggressive, peppery notes); Parmesan/Pecorino; ripe, heirloom tomatoes; sour cherries; mullet botarga (I’ve just recently encountered it and I’m obsessed); thick, syrupy balsamic; chili flakes; French butter; pasta; potatoes; dill (I’m Russian, after all), mint, basil; Dijon mustard; bourbon; guanciale; anchovies; leeks, and of course, onions.
Tools: A well-worn wooden spoon goes a long way with me. As does my beloved 12-inch cast iron pan (which badly needs re-seasoning). I’m hopelessly in love with my Staub cocottes and will be the first to tell someone to just go ahead and invest in one already. I love my heavy-duty All-Clad pans, and my KitchenAid mixer and food processors which do a lot of work in the kitchen that I couldn’t do, especially when I bake without my digital scale. And lastly, my oven thermometer has been indispensable. In general, I think really long and hard before even the tiniest thing enters my kitchen. And I agonize over which is the better thing for me and for my uses before I spend the money.
What are your favorite food and cooking resources? This is going to be long — I’ve started to collect cookbooks (as I want a nice cookbook library when I actually have room for one), but the ones I return to over and over are the following: In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love by Melissa Clark (for whom I also recipe test and who is the most amazing friend and mentor – and because I’ve been reading and devouring her column, both on page and plate, for years before I met her); Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” by David Tanis, is a sublime marriage of stunning writing and genius recipes (and Christopher Hirsheimer’s photography is gorgeous too!); Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in cooking Italian food; Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Floursby Kim Boyce is a revelation (and Quentin Bacon’s work makes it shine even brighter); Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen is my constant point of reference when I cook Russian food, because my mother will tell me things like “add a little dill” and I wonder, what is “little”. A few others: Tartine Bread is inspiring; The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming (and Melissa Clark) is a treasure and it’s a shame that it’s out of print – the desserts in there are tremendous; The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant is encyclopedic, thoughtful, evocative; every Canal House book I own is a precious gem; Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book is lovely, lovely, lovely; anything Maida Heatter has ever written is fantastic, particularly how specific she is about instructions – hers are truly well-written recipes, as are Rose Levy Beranbaum’s books; and last but not least, I’ve many a greasy fingerprint on All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking and The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own.
I don’t really watch cooking shows – I learned English, in part, by watching Julia Child and until I was 14, I would say “to-mah-to” because that’s how I thought you were supposed to pronounce it. If I catch Jaques Pepin on PBS reruns, all bets are off – you can rest assured I’ll be glued to the television screen until it’s over. Oh, and have you seen Vine Talk with Stanley Tucci? My food/celebrity crush went through the roof when I discovered that show.
What photography equipment do you use? I use a Nikon d700 and either a 50mm 1.4/f or a 50mm macro.
Photo: Olga Massov
Where else can we find your work? I’m trying to freelance more (since it’s my job now), but I’ve done some recipe testing in a few upcoming cookbooks; working with Melissa Clark and helping out Andrew Scrivani on photo shoots. I’m going to be co-authoring a cookbook on kimchi; I also write a biweekly, seasonally-driven column called “The Farm Stand” for Prospect Heights Patch, and have contributed to holiday recipes for Serious Eats. I’m working on something for Apartment Therapy’s Kitchn right now as well as something for the Cooking Channel blog.
What food blogs do you follow? I read many food blogs on a daily basis. My reading list is my blogroll, actually, and it rotates as I find new, interesting things to read. I’m always inspired by 101Cookbooks, Orangette, The Wednesday Chef, In Jennie’s Kitchen, I Made That, and Sweet Amandine.
Do you know a blog or blogger who deserves to be featured in this space? Email a nomination — including a link to the site and a few sentences on why they’re worthy of love — to email@example.com.