cooks at home
TASTE FOR ADVENTURE
Jen Gurecki’s appetite for new experiences extends to food.
WRITTEN BY JEANNE LAUF WALPOLE
PHOTOS BY TY O’NEIL
Jen Gurecki removes her cooked pasta from boiling water with a handmade
strainer from Kenya, commonly used for homemade potato chips in that country
As chief executive officer and founder of both Coalition Snow in Reno and Zawadisha in Kenya, Jen Gurecki lives a fast-paced life of dual passions. An avid skier, she co-founded Coalition Snow, a manufacturer of skis, snowboards, and outdoor apparel made entirely for women. A dedicated social activist, she established Zawadisha as a nonprofit that provides small loans to rural Kenyan women to enable them to gain access to renewable energy and water. Gurecki’s robust, can-do attitude enables her to frequently travel between countries as she runs both entities with a team approach and the latest technology. With one foot firmly planted in Reno and another in Kenya, she’s equally at home riding her bicycle with the Maasai people in Kenya or skiing powder with friends at Tahoe.
Carving out time to cook
Gurecki’s love affair with food began in her undergraduate days at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“I got into cooking with my roomies in college,” Gurecki says. “We lived in an old Victorian house, and we’d cook and have dinner parties.”
Sharing home-cooked foods with friends continued to be important to her through the years while she earned a master’s degree in non-formal education at Prescott College in Prescott, Ariz., and then entered the world of work.
“I love to cook. I’m definitely a foodie,” she says. “I don’t have any problems spending hours toiling away in the kitchen.”
As she juggles career responsibilities, community involvement, and travel in her busy schedule, Gurecki still finds time to chef it up in the kitchen of her Midtown Reno apartment while chatting with friends.
“I don’t see cooking as a chore. It’s creative,” Gurecki says. “I like to have a dinner party with six or so and then we can have interesting conversation. I like people to come during the cooking, so then everybody just sits around the kitchen table. Also, cocktails are a must.”
Her go-to menu usually showcases pasta, which she delights in making with her pasta machine.
“I make the pasta up in my head,” she says.
She also relies on Suzanne Goin and Teri Gelber’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, her favorite cookbook, where she finds recipes for dishes such as roasted pork loin, green rice, and persimmon hazelnut salad.
Gurecki always has the fixings for a meal on hand and keeps her pantry well stocked with staples such as olive oil, risotto, polenta, vegetable stock, wheat and semolina flours, quinoa, and black beans. She keeps her refrigerator supplied with a variety of hard cheeses and greens, along with garlic and red and white onions. When she heads out to buy groceries, she says, she tries to be a smart shopper by being price conscious but also particular about the quality.
“I buy healthy foods that are good for me. I try to do as much organic as I can, but I’m not a fanatic,” she says.
In keeping with her sense of adventure, Gurecki loves to discover new dishes, especially as she travels the world.
When traveling to Kenya, she looks forward to indulging in chapati, a fried flatbread that’s a staple in the local diet.
“Chapati is the most delicious thing you can eat,” she says. “I’ve tried to duplicate it, but I never have gotten it quite right. The key is to have lots of oil.”
At the time of this writing, Gurecki was busy packing her bags for another African trip. This time, it’s not all business: She’ll also be joining friends for a 68-day bike ride across the continent from east to west. Undoubtedly, the route through Nairobi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia will offer a plethora of culinary delights for Gurecki to discover. You can follow her on this latest venture on Instagram at @Yogurecki.
Freelance writer Jeanne Lauf Walpole greatly admires Gurecki’s zest for life and spirit of adventure, including her appetite for any kind of food.
Jen’s Homemade Pasta for Two
(courtesy of Jen Gurecki, co-founder of Coalition Snow in Reno and Zawadisha in Kenya. Serves 2 to 4)
½ cup semolina flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon water
Mix flours and egg together, and add water to make a tacky dough. Knead dough for about 5 minutes, cover, and let it rest 10 minutes. Then knead all dough into 4-inch-diameter disks and put these through pasta roller of your pasta machine, first on setting 1, then 3, then 6. Lay resulting sheets out to dry with dusting of semolina. Then run sheets through noodle attachment and toss noodles into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and serve with sauce.
3 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, diced
1, 14.5-ounce can roasted tomatoes
Squeeze of tomato paste
Handful of capers
Handful of black olives, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Olive oil, to taste
Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until translucent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and a good pour of olive oil, to taste. Simmer 5 minutes, then add capers and black olives. Pour sauce over freshly cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.