Katherine Humphus
  • Katherine Humphus
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To be honest, I kind of fell into cooking. I was a hostess at the Prado in Balboa Park and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I asked the chef at the time if there were any openings in the kitchen and he said, “Not really.” I told him I wanted to work in the kitchen and he said, “I don’t know. Do you have any experience?” I told him I didn’t. But he found me a spot in the kitchen anyway.

I loved every second of it. I came home and would report that I made 200 fruit pies. It seemed so foreign and exciting to me. I worked at the Prado for a couple of years and was promoted a few times. A chef told me to go to culinary school. He said I should pick New York or Paris and I said, “I’ll just go to Paris.”

My mom and grandmother were huge cooks and I loved eating all their goodies. Sometime in school I decided I wanted to be vegan for some reason, and I had to cook all my own food. Maybe that’s when I really got into cooking, although the vegan thing was short-lived.

In terms of putting the “Katherine” stamp on French cuisine, I just try to make it more approachable for people because a lot of the time, it’s just too weird. I try to use more common ingredients and explain things on a menu. Sometimes French words scare people off. I like to make it more fun and use opposite flavors. If I make something sweet, I’ll pair it with something tangy. I like to create food wars on my plate.

I love going out to places that are comfortable. Something comfort-foodie that isn’t too loud, like the hole-in-the-wall sushi place next door. If I’m cooking for someone it’s usually some sort of grilled steak. I don’t have a grill at the restaurant so at home I grill as much as possible. I’m mostly not fancy. There has to be an occasion for me to go crazy in the kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

  • (Serves 1 as a main course or 4 for appetizers)
  • 1 portobello mushroom
  • 1.5 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 splash lemon juice
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 3 T ground almonds
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 C arugula
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 3 T toasted sliced almonds

HOW TO DO IT

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and clean portobellos by holding the mushroom in your hand, stem side up, and tearing the top layer of outer skin off gently. Remove stem with a small knife so there is no remaining stump. Place mushroom face up on a lined baking dish.

Smooth Dijon mustard over gills of mushroom. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of the mustard. Squeeze lemon juice on mushroom, and then add the ground almonds on top of that. Place the thyme and rosemary sprigs over the almonds and bake for 12–15 minutes.

To serve, remove the rosemary and thyme from the mushroom and discard. Garnish a plate with fresh arugula. Cut the mushroom in quarters and lay decoratively on top of the arugula. Add a good amount of toasted sliced almonds on top of the mushroom. Finish with lemon wedges on the side.

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