Behind Closed Doors: Vilda Gonzalez

Friend and kitchen witch, Vilda Saskia Gonzalez, is always cooking exactly what we want to eat. She believes that food should be delicious, flavorful and indulgent, but also deeply nourishing, regenerative and healthful and with a deep respect for the history and transformative properties of food and ingredients, this holistic nutritionist is the one we turn to for inspiration in the kitchen and beyond. Read on to discover what she relies on to uplevel her meals, and the practices that keep her feeling her best. We want what Vilda's cooking.

What is your food philosophy? 

I eat and cook as a celebration of ingredients, which also means as a celebration of the farmer, the soil, the sun, the seasons, the grocery store clerk, the truck driver, and so on. My food philosophy is deeply rooted in gratitude. I seek out remarkable pantry products produced as a commitment to place and tradition, and source produce almost exclusively from my local farmer's market. It’s impossible not to feel a deep sense of awe and connection when you feed yourself and others in this way.  

Of course, the backbone of this philosophy is that the food should be equally nutritious as it is delicious. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that more flavor (read: the spice in a pepper, the sweetness of a carrot, the pungency of garlic) inherently means more nutrients. That’s really inspiring to me. 

How do you start the day? 

I start my days with my boyfriend Kevin. We roll out of bed anywhere between 9 and 10:30. We listen to NPR on our kitchen speakers every morning, drink lots of water, and usually make a pot of french press coffee. Sometimes I take mine with frothed raw milk, sometimes Oatly’s barista blend, sometimes black. Now that it’s a bit chillier out we’ve been starting the day with herbal tea, before transitioning into a caffeinated mugful. I usually take 20 minutes or so with a book, then start making us breakfast. 


What's always in your fridge? 

Lots of seasonal produce. November in the Lowcountry is incredibly lush - right now it’s been a heavy rotation of broccoli rabe, lots of lettuces, tons of herbs, radishes, fennel. Sweet peppers and okra too, they’ll keep going strong until the first freeze. Lots of hot sauce, a collection of jams, half drunk bottles of wine, delicious Spanish vermouth, calabrian chili paste, raw milk, oat milk, pasture raised eggs. Always some kind of raw milk aged cheese. We’re super lucky to be friends with Eric and Nora from Counter Cheese Caves, they age and distribute exclusively American and mostly Southern made cheeses from small, artisan cheesemakers. My favorite’s are Hardware, an aged raw sheep’s milk cheese, and Mountaineer, a super savory alpine style raw cow’s milk cheese. They slice meats now too and have the most incredible Parisian style city ham. We also always have beurre de baratte, dijon mustard, fun condiments, sheep’s milk yogurt, preserved lemons, sauerkraut, Niman Ranch sausages and bacon, random experiments and leftovers. Lemons and limes. Fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin. And my beloved sourdough starter. 


What’s always in your pantry? 

Martel anchovies, My Brother’s Farm hazelnuts, spices from Burlap and Barrel, Diaspora Co and Daphnis & Chloe, pasta from Pastaio Via Corta, Ziba Foods heirloom Afghan almonds. I stocked up on lots of pecans from Farm & Sparrow to stow away for the winter. Tinned fish, beans and legumes, masa harina for tacos. I’ve been slowly but surely moving through 6 liters of Phileos extra virgin olive oil, it’s my workhorse oil. I always have that in addition to some smaller, fancier bottles. Ghee, calabrian chili oil, coconut oil. Good vinegars, currently on rotation are red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, aged sherry vinegar, Pineapple Collaborative apple cider vinegar, and Tart’s oro blanco vinegar. Bianco DiNapoli preserved tomatoes. Bulk dried herbs. Kombu. Stone ground flours and grains from Anson Mills, though I technically keep these in the freezer. Bee pollen, matcha, coconut milk. Wildflower honey, maple syrup. I’m hooked on Zen Bunni’s coffee, it’s one of the only biodynamically grown coffees available and it’s just delicious. 

How did you get into cooking?

Where I am today as a cook is the cumulative result of years and years of a very topsy turvy relationship with food. Growing up, my parents always cooked dinner and it was definitely a ritual in our household to all sit down and share a meal. They’re both good cooks, and I think I learned how to feel comfortable in the kitchen at a young age by proxy. When I was a young teen I developed a pretty chronic eating disorder, which obviously impacted my way of cooking and feeding myself for years to come. The beauty of that otherwise grim scenario is that I gained a lot of autonomy in cooking for myself. When I was 17 I moved to NYC on my own. I worked as a hostess in a small restaurant in Tribeca and could hardly afford my life working 6 shifts a week. Scarcity can be one of the greatest creative facilitators. I didn’t have the money to eat out (and never was the person that could survive on a slice of pizza for 3 meals a day), so I had no choice but to cook. About a year and a half later I got very suddenly sick with what I’d later come to know as an auto-immune disorder. The process of healing and learning and restoring my body back to balance was definitely the most formative influence on why I cook the way I do today. I dove into alternative modalities of medicine, experimented obsessively, got certified as a Holistic Nutritionist, and really got to know my body and self. 

Over the years my cooking has become much more refined and less limiting. I don’t feel tethered by the more restrictive ways of my past and that feels really, really good. 


Favorite kitchen tool?

A sharp knife (though I never keep mine sharp enough), a microplane, a wooden spoon. Pretension aside, I’m always reaching for tweezers. 

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

Bitter greens, salad for breakfast, a strong cup of matcha, ginger tea, bone broth, an oat milk cortado at a charming cafe, my mom, a sweaty yoga practice, a long walk, a trip to the ocean, snuggling with my man, hugs, music, candlelit baths, a good book. Lately watching Pippi Longstocking has been really uplifting for me - I’m from Sweden and grew up with that show, it’s so silly and lighthearted. Without fail, going to my local farmer's market. Nothing brings me more joy than that. 


What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Ducksoup Soho is number one. Zuni Cafe Cookbook, River Cafe Cookbook, Gjelina, Grown and Gathered, Franny’s. When I need some restorative inspiration, Food for a Happy Gut is a great resource. I adore Frederik Bille Brahe’s All the Things We Ate, and find myself actually cooking from it which is rare with cookbooks for me. Marjory Sweet’s Farm Lunch, though I highly recommend befriending her if you really want to reap the rewards of her kitchen wisdom. 


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

Kewpie mayonnaise. It’s chock full of vegetable oil and MSG which are usually big no no’s in my kitchen. But the packaging is so cute and I knew my boyfriend would love it so I said what the hell. Balance! 

What ingredient are you most excited about right now?

I have been collecting different varietals of squash all season: futsu, sunshine kabocha, butternut, long island cheese pumpkin, etc. They’re on display in a massive bowl in my kitchen. The sweetness and durability of squash is very comforting, I love knowing that they’re there for me when I’m low on provisions and need them most. I’ve also been collecting garlic when traveling, currently I have bulbs from Seattle, New York and Asheville. My friend Camille brought me some from Richmond, Virginia, too. I found this incredible balsamic vinegar from one of my favorite Italian natural wine producers, il Farneto - very excited to drizzle this over aged Italian cheese or strawberries in spring. Quince! I brought back a glut from the Pacific Northwest. I just poached some in honey and bay, soon going to embark on membrillo...


How do you cultivate creativity, any rituals or routines you rely on?

I read cookbooks whenever I need to fill up my creative cup. Reading about the rituals and routines of creatives I admire is really grounding for me. Grocery shopping, always. A trip to the farmer's market, a scroll on an online specialty market. Traveling is becoming more and more important as a regular ritual in my life; tasting new flavors, being challenged outside of my comfort zones, immersing myself in cultures and practices beyond my own. 


How do you end your day?

My boyfriend and I both work in the service industry and usually don’t get home until long after the sun has set. We’ll usually cook up a snack to share, and chat about our days, new ideas, lingering feelings. Then I brush my teeth, wash my face, and moisturize. I usually read a book or scroll on Instagram in bed while Kevin reads the news. Then it’s lights out!

Honey and Wine Poached Apricots

I recently traveled to New York and made a pit stop at the Union Square Farmer's Market on my way to the airport. I bought so much produce, most notably an abundance of apricots. I got home and poached them in honey and wine, with aromatics like bay, thyme and chamomile. I’ve been enjoying them seared in butter on french toast, on ice cream, with yogurt…

Save the pits and make amaretto. Simply scrub them clean and let them dry, then pop them in a clean jar and cover with your favorite spirit. Some 6-8 weeks later the mix should smell irresistibly of sweet almonds. Sweeten to taste. This is especially precious when re-incorporated with apricots (a compote, perhaps?), like nose-to-tail eating but with fruit. 


2 pounds apricots, pitted and halved (approximately 20 small apricots)

¾ bottle dry, aromatic white wine (I used a natural Sauvignon Blanc)

6 T honey

2 sprigs fresh thyme

½ vanilla bean

1 bay leaf

½ T chamomile, fresh or dried 



Combine wine and honey in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir to let the honey dissolve, cooking for about 2 minutes. 

Add the aromatics and let the flavors mingle at a bare simmer for another 5 minutes or so. 

Add the apricots and cook until cooked through but not mushy, 2-3 minutes. 

Remove apricots and aromatics with a slotted spoon. 

Reduce the poaching liquid till it thickens just barely, another 2-5 minutes or so. 

Pour the liquid over the apricots, chill and keep in the fridge, enjoy with whatever your heart desires.


*This is a borderline obnoxiously low amount of sugar, which just so happens to suit my everyday palate. If you have a penchant for sweeter things, please add more honey to your heart’s content.

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