Chef Sherri Kimball experiments with... lingonberries on pizza.
The recipe: Lingonlovers' Pizza
For some chefs, the love of cooking is like an heirloom lovingly passed on from parents or grandparents. For them, the kitchen is a place of love and creativity, with drawers full of treasured family recipes. Not so for Sheri Kimball.
“I began cooking when I was young simply because my mother couldn’t,” she says. “My mother didn’t like cooking, and we ate mostly prepared or frozen food. So I started experimenting in the kitchen by myself. Then in high school for dates, we’d just cook instead of going out to eat.”
Pretty and lively, Kimball has opened the door to her fabulous Connecticut kitchen, which is so spacious and well organized, it’d make a Cordon Bleu chef sigh with bliss. It’s the kind of kitchen that makes you want to cook.
Kimball says she had a feeling early on that cooking might be something she had a serious knack for.
“After school, I worked in the pastry business in Boston for awhile,” she continues, “to see if it was what I really wanted to do. I also worked at a bed and breakfast, and catered to weddings.”
After an unhappy stint with accounting – “too boring” she says – Kimball entered the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, widely known as one of the top training institutes for culinary arts in the United States.
“I’d already done some pastry, so I chose the Culinary Arts Program; that way I’d get to do savory cooking, too,” she explains. “The CIA was great – it’s such a hands-on institute, as they encourage tasting and handling food.”
But cooking – great cooking – cannot possibly be reduced to measuring flour, julienning vegetables, or making the perfect hare pâté served in an earthenware terrine. It takes passion and, one would guess, a delicate and responsive palate.
“You have to have some kind of passion or desire,” Kimball says. “And you have to want to understand how ingredients work together. You think about flavors, you taste and you figure out what’s missing.”
After Kimball and her husband – who doesn’t share her passion for cooking, but loves to sample the results – eat out, she often tries to replicate the dish at home. Most of the time she does all the cooking and baking from scratch, as enthusiastic about it as ever.
“I still experiment a lot in the kitchen. I like the whole process of making a complete dinner. My sons like cooking, too. My eldest cooks dinner once a week, and the younger one really enjoys working with me. He says he wants to be a chef when he grows up.”
Most Scandinavians shudder at the mere thought of putting lingonberries on pizza, but Kimball’s pizza is not only beautiful to behold – covered as it is with the bright red berries – the combination of the salty prosciutto, sharp cheese and sweet berries creates an amalgam of tastes to match. Her Lingonberry Pizza was inspired by a focaccia dish she once had at a Boston restaurant.
“It had prosciutto, blue cheese, and some sweet berries, but not lingonberries,” she remembers. “I think it might have been currants. But I decided to try and make it with lingonberries. I like making pizza a lot, and I think this particular recipe works so well because the saltiness of the prosciutto, the tang of the cheese, and the sweetness of the lingonberries really complement each other well.”
Written by Eva Stenskär
Photographed by Henrik Olund