The kitchen is former Nevada assemblywoman’s happy place.
On the first of this year, former Nevada assemblywoman and University of Nevada, Reno professor Jill Tolles stepped into her dream role: executive director of the Guinn Center.
“I’ve always said my dream job would be executive director of the Guinn Center because I’ve always been driven by policy and how policy impacts people’s lives,” she says. “This just felt like the perfect next step to continue on nonpartisan policy research and pull together the smartest minds from across the state to find solutions based on facts, data, and good evidence-based recommendations.”
At home, she is the primary cook, a role that has changed dramatically in recent years.
She and her husband, Par, are now empty nesters; their two daughters are away at college. Jill has gone from being a cook by necessity to one who adores the time spent preparing meals for herself and her husband, often with his help.
Each Sunday, she spends two to three hours preparing meals in bulk for the week while listening to her favorite tunes. She veers away from the common casserole or other large dish to serve as leftovers, however.
At the market, she purchases ingredients for multiple mix-and-match meals. For example, she’ll start with sweet potatoes, rice, or quinoa as a base. She then roasts vegetables or chops some up for quick salad making, and cooks a protein such as seasoned turkey meat, chicken, or salmon. Or she’ll make a chili or soup. This allows the Tolles couple to build myriad meals without much thought throughout the week.
If loved ones are sick or have fallen on hard times, she will double her recipes to make enough to share. Her freezer always is stocked with soups and extra meals to help out friends and family in need.
“[Cooking is] my relaxed, happy place — I’m nourishing myself, nourishing the week, I’m nourishing our home,” Tolles says.
Friday is experimentation night for the couple. They’ll test new recipes on each other, and if they love something, they’ll prepare it for guests in the future.
Tolles is especially excited about several new culinary toys she’s been using since recently remodeling her Caughlin Ranch kitchen.
While her air fryer may be her new bestie in the kitchen, she found an appliance that seems almost magical, and that even inspired awe in the installers.
Seeking to reduce energy consumption during her remodel, she researched induction stoves and found one that could be hidden into any countertop she used. Her Invisacook is an induction cooktop disguised as a white marble countertop, so as not to break up her beautiful island’s aesthetic.
This type of product is popular among owners of small kitchens, so the space can be used for both cooking and prep. Tolles says her Invisacook will warm to the touch but not enough to burn you; it also will heat and boil water quickly, and it uses far less energy than more commonplace cooktops. Plus, it expands her workspace.
Lately, her favorite recipes include a rack of lamb divided into chops, then individually coated with Dijon mustard and Herbs de Provence before grilling. But, currently, her most beloved dish is an air-fried Chilean sea bass with honey soy glaze, topped with crispy air-fried onions.
Though she found the recipe on one of the cooking sites she uses for inspiration, Tolles says that she’d “put it against any five-star recipe.”
Freelance writer Natasha Bourlin loves easy kitchen tricks and inspiration from home chefs like Tolles.
Air Fryer Honey Chilean Sea Bass
(reprinted with permission from Cooked by Julie. Serves 2)
1 pound (2 filets) Chilean sea bass
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees F and spray basket with cooking spray. Let the Chilean sea bass sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before cooking it. Otherwise, if the fish is too cold, it will cook unevenly.
Season fish generously with kosher salt and black pepper on all sides. Place it skin-side down in air fryer basket and cook 10 minutes.
While fish cooks, combine honey, soy sauce, fresh garlic, and crushed red pepper. After fish has cooked 10 minutes, brush it with glaze, increase temperature of fryer to 400 degrees F, and cook for 2 minutes or until it’s fully cooked and the top is crispy and golden brown. (Make sure you cook the fish for 10 minutes before glazing it; honey burns quickly and if cooked for 12 minutes, it will burn!) Serve with fresh lemon.