Expert Interview Series: Mila Furman of Girl and the Kitchen About Cooking Simple, Delicious Meals

Mila Furman is the Girl and the Kitchen and the "resident lunatic" of her cooking blog of the same name. We recently sat down with Mila to hear her thoughts on veganism, Russian cuisine, Nutella, and creating simple, delicious...

Cooking simple

Mila Furman is the Girl and the Kitchen and the "resident lunatic" of her cooking blog of the same name. We recently sat down with Mila to hear her thoughts on veganism, Russian cuisine, Nutella, and creating simple, delicious meals.

You're a cooking school graduate - so why did you choose to put most of your energy into creating this blog?

I love to write. I love to cook. Both activities proved to be therapeutic and soothing to me. After years of teaching people how to cook and telling them my stories, many told me I should write books. I did the next best thing: I started a blog where I aim to teach, tell stories, and enrich my and other people's lives with cooking and laughter.

The subtitle of your blog is "chronicles of an imperfect vegetarian." What do you mean by that?

Ha! Yes, I am the ultimate Imperfect Vegetarian. I went vegan over a year ago and was committed to it for 5 months; but after that, I added in eggs and fish. However, I could not go on cooking my food for clients without tasting it, so I committed to only trying meat and dairy when I was cooking and needed to taste test.

I am also human, and on rare occasions I reach for my comfort food - which usually comes in the shape of my mom's chicken soup. It is ingrained in me and forever a part of my soul and my palate. I feel you do not have to be perfect to make a difference in your life or anyone else's. You just have to be honest.

Talk a little bit about your East European heritage. What are some of your favorite aspects of Russian cuisine?

I was born in Moldova, which is a republic of the former USSR. I grew up eating hearty and savory foods and creamy desserts, cakes, and pastries. My mom and babushka were incredible cooks, and I have watched them cook side by side since I was a little girl. They always filled our kitchens with delicious scents and overwhelming amounts of love.

Russian cuisine is influenced by all the countries that surround it. It is full of history and flavors alike. But most importantly, it represents my childhood nostalgia to me.

You allude to your "journey" to embracing a plant-based diet. What are some of the benefits you've seen from this lifestyle?

My plant-based journey was a great one. I enjoyed more energy and better workouts. I felt like my body had become more efficient. But most importantly, I loved the creativity that came with cooking vegan food. It pushed my culinary abilities to their limits and really showed me how incredible food can be just by utilizing what grows in the ground and on the trees.

If someone said to you, "If a recipe doesn't have at least ten ingredients, it's not worth preparing," how would you respond?

I believe that food should be simple, delicious, and good for the soul. It does not matter how many ingredients it has or what chef created it. Food should take advantage of what is in season and what grows locally as much as possible. For me, even today one of the best meals is a crusty bread with my mom's Russian salad. The best part of the meal is the end, when all that is left is the juices of the tomatoes and the bread acts as a mop for the delectable sauce.

You're also a connoisseur of cooking and baking with Nutella. What's the difference between Nutella and chocolate when using it in a recipe?

Yes Nutella and I have a serious love affair! It started when I was in Italy at the ripe age of 7. I had my first spoonful and I was never turning back. It was perfectly delicious.

I love the texture that Nutella can give desserts as well. My Fudgy Nutella Brownies are full of Nutella, and they have the gooiest texture.

Do you have a favorite healthy meal or dish that your whole family loves?

I LOVE my vegan alfredo sauce. It is so delicious and it has zero cream in it! I also love potatoes. Roasted, smashed, pureed, fried, baked... it doesn't matter. I am a potato fiend. Any diet that has attempted to exclude my precious potato has failed - miserably.

OK, so what are the most frequently-used kitchen tools and utensils in Girl and the Kitchen's kitchen?

Ahhh, I have so many gadgets! But my number one favorite tool is my microplane. I just do not think anything can replace it. I use it for mincing garlic, ginger, and shallots. I use it to zest citrus and to shred Parmesan cheese. It is so incredibly handy that I have 3 at home.

What kitchen gadget or appliance can you simply not live without?

I have a few I cannot live without. One is my Nespresso espresso and coffee machine. It is my fuel, and without it I cannot run. My other favorite appliance is my Vitamix. It was purchased when my daughter was just a few months old to make her baby food, but since then it has literally been used for EVERYTHING under the sun in my kitchen.

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