By Anna Kocharian

Published on March 29, 2016

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Photography by Linda Pugliese

text by  ANNA KOCHARIAN
photos courtesy of  Linda Pugliese

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Photography by Linda Pugliese

Before Marley Spoon, Jennifer Aaronson spent her days in various test kitchens from Saveur to Food & Wine, gathering an enviable repertoire of culinary experiences. From a stint in profiling chefs and reviewing restaurants for San Francisco Magazine to her latest role as the Editorial Director of Food and Entertaining at Martha Stewart Living, Aaronson has been developing recipes for over 20 years. Her current position, as the co-founder of Marley Spoon, is only a natural progression into the expanding service that is the meal-kit industry. We caught up with Aaronson to learn more about her passion for food as well as the “smart cooking” method that sets Marley Spoon apart from the rest. Take a look!

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WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH FOOD AND WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

My love of food definitely comes from my family. My mother is an avid home cook, she rarely makes the same thing twice and always let me experiment in the kitchen with her. My father can barely make himself a cup of tea but is an extremely enthusiastic eater and enabler of good eats: loves to fish and go clamming, and will fire up the grill whenever asked! Meal time was always a celebration of what was on the plate, and it really showed me that power that cooking for people brings–it’s such a wonderful way of sharing love and time together.

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Her most important role, as a proud mother of two, has taught her how to develop delicious recipes for even the pickiest of eaters!

WHAT ARE THREE THINGS ONE CAN ALWAYS FIND IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Milk for coffee and the kids, Vermouth for martinis and as my go-to wine replacement in sauces and braises, and Dijon because I love it in and on just about everything.

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WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LAUNCH MARLEY SPOON?

I had spent so many years developing recipes for magazines without much interaction with readers. I was giving a loyal audience recipe ideas on a monthly basis, but they were geared more towards their dinner party and holiday needs.

With Marley Spoon, I can help people solve their daily dinner dilemmas, while avoiding menu planning and the hassle of grocery shopping. I was also drawn to the idea of eliminating waste. I knew from my personal experience that I spent a day each week, ridding my fridge of spoiled produce. At Marley Spoon, we send exactly what is to be used in cooking. No more soggy herbs filling up the produce bins, and no more expired bottles of expensive specialty sauces crowding the cabinets.

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HOW OFTEN DO THE OFFERED RECIPES CHANGE?

Marley Spoon offers new recipes every week! We have seven recipes to choose from for couples: three vegetarian, one fish, and three meat. Families have five options: three meat and two vegetarian, or one fish and one vegetarian.

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WHAT INSPIRES THE MENUS?

Our menus always start with what’s in season; we want to ensure we’re sending the freshest produce possible. We really think about what Americans will want to eat literally week by week, month-by-month. We try to feature something for everyone from a comfort food/meat-and-potatoes type of meal to an interesting, health-conscious vegetarian dish. We work with only sustainably sourced meat and fish, and try to keep our preparations simple to highlight the best of each ingredient.

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WHAT SETS MARLEY SPOON APART FROM OTHER MEAL KIT PROVIDERS?

My culinary team and I have over 25 years of experience creating delicious recipes that work. We focus on what we like to call, “smart cooking” — we seek to get the most flavor out of the fewest ingredients in the least amount of time. Our cooking techniques lead to surprisingly bold, balanced flavors with minimal effort and very little wasted time or ingredients.

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We also partner with local makers and producers thereby introducing our customers to products they might normally have known about or have access to. Because we deliver a meal in a box, we can include all of those hard-to-find, interesting products that make each meal feel like a gift.

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WHERE DO YOU SEE MARLEY SPOON GOING IN THE FUTURE?

We will continue to listen to and learn from our customer’s feedback and tailor our service as much as possible to serve an ever-expanding community of home cooks. We want to surprise and delight our customers with easy to reproduce, delicious recipes made up of well-sourced ingredients from trusted makers and growers.

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broccoli coconut soup with spinach and crispy shallots

This brilliant green soup is packed with antioxidants from spinach, cilantro and broccoli and has a smooth, silky texture from coconut milk. A little curry paste adds just enough spice and depth and crispy shallots scattered on top bring a delightful crunch. Cook, relax and enjoy!

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Attributes: vegan, medium-spicy

Calories: 375 kcal/person

Allergens: tree nuts, gluten

WHAT WE SEND:

  • 2⁄3 cup israeli couscous (3.5 oz)
  • 1 shallot (2-3 oz)
  • 1 lb broccoli crown
  • 1 oz fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp green curry paste (1 oz)
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can lite coconut milk
  • 2 oz baby spinach

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • neutral oil such as vegetable or safflower

EQUIPMENT:

  • 1 medium pot
  • 1 large potstrainer
  • small saucepan
  • blender, food processor or immersion blender

STEPS:

  1. Cook couscous

    Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add couscous to the water and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Peel shallot then slice thinly into rings. Roughly chop broccoli. Remove thicker cilantro stems.

  2. Start soup

    Place curry paste in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk and 3 cups water; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

  3. Add broccoli

    Add broccoli, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes.

  4. Brown shallots

    Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Separate shallot into individual rings and cook until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.

  5. Blend

    Remove soup from heat and add spinach and all but a small handful of cilantro. Transfer to a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender and blend the soup until smooth. Season well with salt.

  6. Serve

    Reheat if necessary then divide among bowls and top with couscous, shallots and remaining cilantro. Enjoy!

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homemade hummus platter with halloumi & cumin vegetables

This vegetarian platter combines a few of our favorite ingredients. Sautéed red kale, smooth-as-velvet hummus, warm chickpeas and salty halloumi cheese. Halloumi has a higher melting-point than most cheeses, meaning it holds its shape while turning a deep golden when seared in a hot pan. We sprinkled peppadew peppers on top, a slightly sweet and mild cherry pepper originally from South Africa. Cook, relax and enjoy!

Cooking time: 30 minutes 

Attributes: vegetarian

Calories: 870 kcal/person

Allergens: sesame, milk, gluten

WHAT WE SEND:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can chickpeas (15 oz)
  • 1⁄4 cup tahini (2 oz)
  • 4 oz yellow onion (1 small)
  • 1 clove garlic (0.2 oz)
  • 8 oz curly red kale
  • 11⁄2 tsp ground cumin (0.1 oz)
  • 8.8 oz halloumi
  • 1⁄2 oz fresh cilantro
  • 8 pickled peppadew peppers (2 oz)
  • Hot Bread Kitchen sesame lavash (1.5-2 oz total)

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

EQUIPMENT:

  • strainer
  • food processor, blender or immersion blender
  • large skilletnon-stick skillet

STEPS:

  1. Make the hummus

    Juice the lemon. Rinse and drain chickpeas. Place tahini, half of chickpeas, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth (or use an immersion blender), adding more water if necessary; season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  2. Prep ingredients 

    Peel and finely chop onion and garlic. Remove larger kale stems then roll up rest and chop. Cut halloumi into 10 pieces.

  3. Cook vegetables

    In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, kale, remaining chickpeas, and cumin. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and chickpeas are well browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining lemon juice and set aside.

  4. Griddle cheese 

    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add halloumi slices and cook until browned on both sides, 1-3 minutes total. 

  5. Assemble

    Spread hummus on a platter or plates. Top with halloumi and cumin-scented vegetables.  

  6. Finish

    Remove cilantro leaves from stems. Finely slice peppadews. Sprinkle peppadews and cilantro over vegetables and serve with lavash for dipping. Enjoy!