Behind Closed Doors: Diana Yen

Diana Yen has worn many hats in her life, but they all seem to lead back to the kitchen. Previously a product developer and now one of our favorite recipe developers, her take on delicious make at home food influenced by her Mom's passion for cooking is refreshing, local and just what we want at the end of the day. Her most favorite childhood memory is of her Mom's weekend breakfast congee, and today she's sharing a Kimchi stew recipe that's more than welcome this time of year. Get to know one of our instagram crushes and don't forget to say hi to Cleo, her cuter than cute bunny. Quite possibly the best sous chef we've come across.

What is your food philosophy? 

Cooking with the freshest in season produce and experimenting with new ways to use it. I love traveling and absorbing culture through food, it’s always fun to recreate dishes once I’m home and use local ingredients. I feel like that’s how new recipe ideas are born.


What is the first meal that you remember?

My mom’s congee, she makes it every weekend and it’s always something we had as a comfort food breakfast growing up. Her version uses duck bones in the stock, which adds a rich sweetness.

What's always in your fridge? 

Fresh produce, eggs, and a fermentation experiment…usually kimchi!


What’s always in your pantry?

Lots of spices, my current favorites are Berbere, smokey paprika, and ground turmeric. I travel a lot and always bring a few small tins with me, I think even a little bit adds so much more depth to your cooking. 


What is your current favorite recipe?

My Kimchi Lentil Stew


Favorite kitchen tool?

A microplane hands down. I’m a little lazy about mincing garlic and this tool has been a lifesaver. My favorite way to use it is to grate garlic directly into the pan while cooking, less dishes!

What would we be most surprised to find in your kitchen?

A mini fridge. I think people are shocked that someone that works in food has such a tiny kitchen and fridge, but this is the space I’m currently living in…it’s small! I buy exactly the amount that I need so it works for me and I have two Yeti coolers if I need to max it out. 


What ingredient are you most excited about right now?

Hoja Santa leaf, I first had them pressed into tacos in Oaxaca and I was so surprised to see them grown in Ojai. I had never seen them sold in the US before. The ones I found are pretty large and mature, so I’m thinking maybe a pesto might be the best way to use them.


What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

My friends gifted me the Rosetta cookbook, which is my favorite restaurant in Mexico City. Her food is so elegant and the way she ties Italian and Mexican flavors together blows me away.

Two other books I have on my shelf are from buddies of mine: To Asia with Love by Hetty McKinnon who makes great vegetarian asian recipes, and Jam Bake by Camilla Wynne is getting me excited for fall baking.

Dream dinner party guests?

Julia Child of course!! She changed the way Americans cooked and is one of my biggest food heroes. 


Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?

A creamy dairy-free zucchini pasta that my friend Nick made when we were in Puglia. You basically boil a ton of zucchini chunks and blitz it with almonds, garlic, basil, and lemon juice to make a creamy pasta sauce. It’s so decadent but also light! I usually sauté some of the zucchini slices to go on top and eat it with a fusilli or tube pasta. 


How do you end your day?

I love to have chamomile or lavender tisane in the evening, the aroma just gets me so relaxed. I buy fresh bundles every week and they also look so pretty in a jar on the counter, I pluck a few every night for my tea. 

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