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The Cheese Lover' Champion speaks

Kelly won our last recipe contest with her spectacular salmon goat cheese maki. Her website - The Pink Apron - is a recipe blog that marries tried and true techniques with modern flavors and quality ingredients, including lots and lots of cheese.

When and how did you develop a passion for cooking and a love of cheese?
I cooked here and there when I was a kid, but I really developed a love for cooking when I lived alone after college. I was on my own and I didn't have a lot of money so if I wanted to eat something I had to make it for myself. And then somewhere along the line cooking went from something I had to do to a hobby and a creative outlet.

And cheese, it's always been my favorite food, but in the past few years it's become something I'm incredibly passionate about. A year ago I took an 7 week class where ever each week we tasted 8 cheeses around a theme and it really opened my eyes to the almost endless varieties of cheese and the stories of how they came to be. That's part of what excites me about cheese, as many varieties as you've already tried there are always more out there that are different and unique.

When you decide to create a new recipe, what's the first step?
I have to say, it's a little bit different every time. Sometimes an idea just pops into my head inspired by a restaurant dish or a flavor combo I've seen and I set out to make it in a more organized fashion. Other times I'm just in the kitchen winging it based on the ingredients I have on hand.

Explain how you came up with your delightful maki - the winning recipe?
When I was living in Boston a local sushi restaurant had a creative maki roll that included apple, salmon and cream cheese. It was my absolute favorite and I always ordered it without fail. I knew I wanted to recreate it at home and I found myself thinking that it would be even better with fresh goat cheese since it pairs well with apple and salmon. My friends and family thought I was crazy but it really worked, I loved how the tang of the cheese paired with the richness of the salmon and the tartness of the apple.

What are some of your favorite things to serve in the spring and summer months and how does your cooking change with the seasons?
When it comes to spring and summer, I love cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables. I tend to cook simpler, lighter food that really lets the ingredients shine. For example, one of my favorite things to do is toss hot pasta with some goat cheese or Brie, lightly sauteed vegetables and fresh herbs. Or I'll make a simple chutney with fruit from the farmers' market and pair it with blue cheese on a slice of crusty bread if I'm having friends over.

How has having blog changed/improved your cooking?
I've always liked trying new things and being creative and the blog has amplified that because to keep readers interesting, I have to come up with new dishes they might not have thought of on their own. It pushes me to be more adventurous and try new things.

What is your favorite French cheese and why?
I love Saint Marcellin. It's so rich and creamy. I love having it on crusty bread with a little fig jam. I think a lot of people only think of Brie when they think French cheeses but it's such a shame because there are so many others that are fantastic and so delicious.