Walking into Flannery Klette-Kolton’s immaculate Alphabet City kitchen is a breath of fresh air, especially where young foodies are concerned. In New York, where cramped, crowded, and often shared cooking spaces are rampant, Flannery has it made. Upon arriving, we were instantly overcome with a serious case of kitchen envy before we even noticed star features such as the stainless steel fixtures, and six-burner gas stove. ” I hand picked all the equipment in my kitchen” noted Flannery who looks breezy her staple cooking garb– a smart denim vest, neckercheif, and shorts over tights that hide bruises from her side hobby– poll dancing.
How does Flannery afford this haeven of a cooking space? She co-owns six year old a catering company with her best friend Lauren under the monkier Big LITTLE Get Together, bringing a fresh, colorful, and creative idea of eating to an event near you! Serving up anything from artfully presented sausages, to colorful displays of fractal broccoli, their range is wide and the food is always a feast for the eyes, not to mention, an tasteful treat for the lips.
Though Flannery has been cooking professionally for over half a decade, she has spent the better part of her life expanding her kitchen know-how.” I grew up cooking with my family” she explains, “We would go shopping together which allowed me to really see the whole process. When we cooked, we would would each have a task. For instance, on lamb chop night, my job in the kitchen was to mill the parsley so it was extra fine for sprinkling on the chops as a garnish, and I was always up for it. We always had a lot of traditions around making food.”
It seems that cooking was in the cards for Flannery from an early age, but she tells us if it wasn’t for BigLITTLE Get Together, she might have veered off into acupuncture. We’re thankful she stayed in the kitchen. As we chat, she dutifully prepares her ingredients for a raw vegan recipe she’s recently thought up– Persimmon Pinenut Ravioi. Her fingers become stained with pomegranate juice as she plucks seeds from the ripe fruit for garnish. The kitchen air is heavy with the scent of fresh dill. As we watch her wooden prep bowls fill up with fresh and unexpected ingredients, we can’t help but wonder how is it she comes up with these artful flavor combinations.
“I think the more exposure you have to different foods, the more you think of layering your food” she explains,” It’s just like getting dressed in the morning. That’s how I developed this recipe. I wanted to create a persimmon ravioli, so I thought about what flavors go with persimmon, as well as what I have on hand. I came up with pine nuts, and figured fennel would add something. I realized it would need a little kick from an ingredient like pomegranate. And once you have your plate together you can start garnishing. Think of it as accessorizing an outfit.”
For inexperienced recipe builders she recommends tastespotting.com– an image-based searchable recipe board for and by bloggers. “Because there are pictures, the site is much more inspiring than a recipe index” she tells us, “Being able to look at how people have presented their recipes– you wanna see what you’re gonna get!” Flannery frequently turns to the tastespotting search bar for quick meal inspiration, as well as flavor combining ideas for jobs.
At this point, Flannery has moved onto slicing paper thin rounds of a semi-ripe persimmon with a ceramic mandolin she’s pulled from a drawer. “I think a mandolin is an excellent tool to have” she chimes,”It’s really time saving, and helps your presentation look great. However, it’s highly dangerous”. Flannery sustained a mandolin injury some time ago on a job she was called out on. “I was shaving fennel. I had a big portion of the bulb in my hand, and my palm was nowhere near the blade, but suddenly it just slipped and the base of my hand went through.” As we admire Flannery’s artful taxidermy display opposite the kitchen she goes on to say,”I received 10 stitches in a circle. It looked great next to my skeleton tattoo!”Stitch-style aside, she’s cautious now, utilizing a mandolin guard, and sometimes holding food with a fork or a towel to ease the blow.
Clearly she’s good under pressure, but are we really so surprised? As the LITTLE half of her catering duo, she recently won competitive cooking show Chopped on the Food Network, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Zestier still, her business partner Lauren nabbed the Chopped title on an episode just several months prior. “Even though Lauren had killed it, I was terrified to go on the show. It’s so fast, and entirely based on instinct” she says of the challenge-based series that pushes chefs to create five-star plates from randomly assigned ingredients. “In my experience, when you’re doing something really jolting, it’s nice to be surrounded by great people. Everyone I competed against was wonderful and I felt really lucky. I also got great ingredients in my baskets. I’m thankful that I wasn’t given kidneys with jelly beans, or sofrito mix with huitlacoche– oh that is an evil basket!” She erupts in a bout of laughter at the idea of combining the often-fatty pungent peppery mixture with the corn cob fungus. Humor only a seasoned chef would understand.
“I’m a realistic person”, she tells us as she fills her persimmon ravioli with a freshly blended pine nut pesto,”Before competing on Chopped I studied unfamiliar ingredients online, just incase I ended up with something I had no experience with. Proteins especially can be really specific, and you can’t often taste them raw the way you can with other ingredients. Chopped was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, but at the same time the most thrilling thing I’ve ever experienced.”
By now she is arranging her ravioli, five to a plate, “Never plate an even number”, she explains,”Odd numbers look better. the eye looks for symmetry with an even number. It’s better to stick with 3 or 5 pieces when plating similar items like this.” She decorates the colorful persimmon dumplings with shaved fennel, a dash of pomegranate seed, and on a whim, a drizzle of maple syrup. The dense filling dances on our tongues as we chew through the lightly sweet persimmon dressed in olive oil and tangy sumac. Flannery may be small, but her dishes and her personality, pack a big punch. Till next time, we’ll be craving more of this gal’s flavorful company.
Level: easy peasy
Yield: 4 servings at 5 ravioli per serving
PINE NUT “CHEESE”
- 1 cup pine nuts, soaked in water for 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley
- 1/2 cup loosely packed dill
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
- kosher salt & cracked pepper to taste
- 1-2 persimmons, sliced thinly on the mandolin
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 bulb fennel sliced thinly on the mandolin
- 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- fennel fronds
- grade B maple syrup (optional)
- cracked pepper