BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: MELISSA NORTON

Our favorite Italian by way of California chef, Melissa Norton, is sharing the staples she keeps in her fridge and pantry that transport Italy to the West Coast. Expect a lot of fresh produce (the citrus!), olive oil and vinegars in bulk, the CAP Matcha and jars of Calabrian chili paste. Her philosophy that less is more resonates deeply with us. Especially when it looks, and tastes, this good. She’s sharing her favorite pancake recipe and we’re rounding up the ingredients for the weekend ahead.

What is your food philosophy? 

When referring to putting together a dish and picking out ingredients: Less is more.

Shop local, seasonal and intentionally.

In general: Food and drink is the only profession in the world where people consume something you make with your two hands. It is very intimate and special that way. When I think about food or cooking for someone, I think about how I can connect with someone through a plate of food. My main philosophy is to not to take food or cooking too seriously and to have fun with it. People can feel the energy you put into food, so why not make it soulful and joyful?

What is the first meal that you remember?

Not quite a meal but the first dessert…

My late grandmother’s plum duff on Christmas Eve. It was an old English recipe from my great grandmother and my grandmother made it every Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget my first bite!

 

How did you get into cooking?

My fascination with cooking and ingredients has been there for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a Mom and two grandmothers who absolutely love cooking and entertaining. I’ll never forget the butterflies I’d feel as a little girl when I knew my Mom was putting on a dinner party and she’d ask me to help her whisk or stir something simmering on the stovetop. I was hooked early on.

How do you start the day?

I’ve made a habit of meditating first thing in the morning. It was hard at first but am so grateful I stuck with it. Anxiety can get tough if I don’t ground myself first thing in the morning.

Drink two full glasses of water. First plain, second with oregano oil.

Espresso. I can’t function without coffee and making espresso brings me so much joy.

Exercise! I love to exercise! I take long hikes, or will do a workout class I love with a friend.

Lately I’ve been making these GF flax buckwheat pancakes for breakfast and they’ve really been hitting the spot.

 

GLUTEN-FREE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES

Ingredients

1/4 cup flaxseeds (ground in a food processor to a fine powder)

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

3/4 cup oat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup plant-based milk (I love homemade coconut milk)

1 T apple cider vinegar

3 T honey

1 T vanilla bean paste (optional but delicious)

pinch of salt

CAP coconut butter

 

Instructions

Mix the flaxseed powder, buckwheat flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk.

Add in the coconut milk, vinegar, honey and vanilla bean paste.

Whisk to combine and let stand for 5-10 mins.

Add coconut oil or oil of your choice in a pan and turn to low heat. Cook pancakes on each side for 2-3 minutes or until they flip easily.

Top with cinnamon, honey and melted coconut butter.

What's always in your fridge? 

Citrus, miso, anchovies, parmigiano reggiano, really good cultured French butter

 

What’s always in your pantry?

About 8 different bottles of Italian olive oil, CAP’s matcha sticks, coffee, honey, red wine vinegar (see photo for the best), different vinegars in general (I love sour everything!!), Calabrian chili flakes, monograno felicetti kamut pasta, flake salt and chlorophyll.  

What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

Family. I am fortunate enough to live close to my family and when I need a pick-me-up I’ll go give my 2  year old nephew a huge hug and kiss.

I absolutely love hot bubble baths. I have a nice little collection of body scrubs, body oils and bath salts that I love to pull out depending on my mood. Sometimes I’ll throw on a healing frequencies playlist and really get in the zone.

 

Favorite kitchen tool?

My Japanese Chef’s knife and my copper pots.

 

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

A box of Annie’s Mac n cheese. Reminds me of my childhood.

 

What ingredient are you most excited about right now?

Nettles! I love when they’re in season. I play with them in so many different ways and they’re so good for you. I’ve been turning the leaves into green pasta dough and saving the stems for cold nettle infusions that I drink in the morning.

Cold Nettle Infusion

Add a bundle of nettles to a jar (using gloves!! They sting!) Fit as many as you can into a 32 oz jar. Fill jar with cold water and toss it in the fridge overnight or for two nights. Strain and enjoy throughout the week!

 

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

The Flavor Bible

Estela

On Food and Cooking by Harold Magee

Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well

Boudain’s Les Halles cookbook

Larousse Gastronomique

Any Chez Panisse cookbooks

Gjelina

Modernist Cuisine

Tartine books

Anything by Paul Bocuse

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Culinaria Italy

The River Cafe London

The Garden Chef

However, I think the best cookbook is tinkering and jotting down notes in your own kitchen :)

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

Rice bowls with loads of veggies,  soft boiled eggs and kimchi. Pasta too, obviously ;)

 

How do you end your day?

Cozy socks, a candle and a really good book.

 

Click here for Melissa's Matcha Olive Oil Cake Recipe. 

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