You’re now starring in a humorous Kind bar campaign to select some new flavors. Do you ever make health bars at home? “I do a chocolate, almond bar. So, I’ll make it with almond butter, ground flax seed, ground oats, cocoa, a little bit of honey or maple syrup, and sea salt. And I just press that down. I make a lot of granola and I have a paleo-granola that doesn’t have any grains in it. But I haven’t done an actual bar like this, and my next big push with Kind is to let me make my own flavor.”
What would your flavor be? “Interestingly, last September I took you to a Mediterranean restaurant, I happen to go in that direction a lot of the time when I cook. This bar [holding up a sample] with the figs and pistachios is very akin to what I’d love to see. I am on this savory kick.”
So, like a hummus, pistachio nut, fig bar? “You could totally do dried chickpeas. I love Old Bay Seasoning and I kind of love the idea of an Old Bay bar. It would be amazing.”
It would be a best seller in Baltimore. “Maryland would love it.”
I’m going to assume we’re both halvah fans. “I love halvah.”
There’s a place in Chelsea Market… “Seed + Mill. Literally my dream. The soft serve with halvah…As a kid I loved Butterfinger on soft serve and this is the 1,000 times better version of that because it melts as you’re eating it. It’s so good.”
As a kid, I remember my cousin always had big blocks of it but I didn’t like it then because it was too bitter. “I didn’t love it as a kid either but I love it now. What I hated to find out was that it’s one of the most calorie-dense foods in the entire planet. Sesame seeds are like 70 percent fat.”
How big is your spice rack at home? “Here’s the thing, I weened it out a lot because you need to replace your spices every six months. My spice cupboard is pretty serious. Spices and herbs are what I rely on day in and day out to make simple preparations that feel really celebratory and indulgent without having to change the process too much. One of my favorite spice blends, I literally stole from a spice nut mix that found in England that used rosemary and thyme and brown sugar and cumin and nigella seeds. It’s sick and twisted. It’s so good. That little hit of brown sugar in with all the spice is pretty nice.”
Are you on the lookout for herbs and spices when you travel? “Always. First of all, when I’m in Turkey I’ll go to the bazaar and get saffron. They do interesting spices and spice blends over there that are a little harder to find here. I try to get spices whole as much as I can and grind them myself because you’d be terrified by how much of your ground cumin is sawdust or remnant shelves and not actually spice.”
Do you use a hand mortar? “No, I use a spice grinder. We have one for coffee beans for my husband and one for spices for me. I do use a mortar and pestle but more for pesto and things like that, and I do a lot of gremolatas. I’m a huge fan. I call them flavor boosters. Olive oil, citrus zest, a little garlic, and fresh herbs. Done.”
Are nut butters something you fix at home? “You know what’s funny? I don’t make a lot of my own nut milks or butters purely because when we did that in culinary school it was so much effort for so little reward. One thing I have never made myself that I’m dying to try is yogurt.
You make your own culture. I’m really, really wanting to do that.”
How good are you turning leftovers into new dishes? “One of our best segments on The Chew is when we make dinner based on what you have in your fridge. A viewer will send in a picture of their fridge and whatever leftovers they have and whatever random things they have. We’ll have to make a dinner out of those things. As somebody who loves food and loves flavor pairings and loves being creative in that way, it’s super exciting to be able to find something that works. You have beef stroganoff leftover and you want quesadillas, so how are we going to do that?”
Interview has been condensed and edited.