In the kitchen with Pam Gelsomini

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 7:00am
Category: 

Spice. 

That’s what Pam Gelsomini thinks we need more of, especially in the kitchen.

Gelsomini, after a career in sales and business, has started a second phase of her life that centers on the creations she conjures up in the kitchen. Those recipes can be made by anyone who visits her new blog, “Dish Off The Block,” where she shares her ideas and dishes about the foodie life. 

It’s a foggy day when two visitors step into Gelsomini’s spacious kitchen on Block Island, but none of the gloom has crept into that warm space. The aromas of recently cooked foods — crab cakes, stuffies, mussels — is welcoming, as is Gelsomini herself.

The line from sales and business to a life of creating recipes in the kitchen may not be all that disconnected, at least not for Gelsomini. When she was in sales, she’d bring her clients banana bread, and she joked that the sweet bread was the most anticipated thing about her visit. 

She grew up in Medfield, Mass., but her family owned properties on Block Island and she summered here as a kid.  In her family, “food was a big deal in terms of being a mode of celebration. My grandmother was a good cook, she made amazing meals. My death row meal would be her mashed potatoes.”

Her sales job took Gelsomini to far-flung places — China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Denmark. “I brought back a lot of inspiration” that furthered her use of “bold flavors” in her recipes. After her trips, she said her goal was to cook “and get everyone around the table.” She’d take a Saturday and go shopping “and look at all the foods and think of the things I could dream up,” she said. 

Gelsomini also said you have to be familiar with the culture of the place where foods come from “so that you can do them justice. You have to know the history.”

After she sold her business, and inspired by the reaction her cooking received by friends, family — and the judges of the contests she has recently entered — Gelsomini was encouraged to start the blog as perhaps the first step of a much larger business model.

The blog is colorful and chatty. The posting on May 20 is titled “I once drank some wine in Nantucket” — a headline ensuring a more thorough read — with another titled “A competition too Gouda to be true.” (The entry includes the recipe for Gouda corncakes.)

Gelsomini is not just telling stories. She’s knowledgeable about food and how flavors can complement each other. Here she is writing about her award-winning recipe for stuffies: 

“I tackled this traditional treat and added my own twist… a little corn for a sweet pop of flavor and color. It was clearly a good idea because after the very first attempt, mine were deemed winners of the Block Island Stuffie Contest in 2015…. Although, I will say that there are other ingredients in my stuffies that worked together in concert to contribute to my victories… like a little heat from chorizo and jalapeno and the sweet smoky punch from bacon. The breading comprised of bacon-soaked ciabatta bread, Ritz crackers, Italian breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese added both flavor and texture without overpowering the clammy essence. A delight in every bite that just won the 2018 Irish American Club Stuffie SmackDown in Newport, too!” 

She’s been in other competitions and TV shows, such as the “Sargento Chopped at Home Challenge,” a version of the show “Chopped,” which she won (the blog posting on that was titled “Busting my Chops”), as well as the World Food Championship, which she plans on competing in again this year in the seafood category. (Rich Tretheway and Rob Tierney are her sous chefs.) 

Like any adventurous cook, Gelsomini used to experiment freely with measurements and ingredients, “But now I have to write everything down because I put it in the blog. You have to be precise with measurements,” she said. 

She also has to be precise in keeping up her social media presence; survival depends on a constant diet of new content. Gelsomini said the Dish Off the Block Facebook page is updated daily, and she expects her blog to have new postings every two days or so. She also hopes to publish a cookbook of original recipes, and to perhaps partner with a winery. 

When asked if Americans are changing their attitudes about food — the U.S. is famous for creating, and exporting, fast food franchises that market cultural foods, whether it be Mexican or Chinese, that have little resemblance to the actual foods of those countries — Gelsomini said, “We’re such a melting pot. We can absorb all these foods in one place, and we are getting more sophisticated palates.”

This gets back to spice.

“You have to have it,” said Gelsomini. “Things need to be seasoned. People don’t use seasoning enough.” Its use adds both flavor and color, because, as Gelsomini said, “You eat with your eyes first.” 

For recipes and more information, visit www.dishofftheblock.com.