Ashley Rodriguez’s kitchen creations have earned her blog a devoted following.
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When Ashley Baron Rodriguez ’03 studied abroad as a Seattle Pacific University student in Italy, she didn’t care much about finding perfect designer boots to haul home. Instead, Rodriguez found herself scouring the region for the best pizza, pasta, and gelato around. Of course, the art major toured museums and studied famous art, as her courses required, but she also discovered what would become her calling: cooking, photographing food, and teaching and writing about food.
Not Without Salt, the blog Rodriguez began in 2009, brings this calling to life for a broad Internet audience to devour — quite literally. Filled with stories of parenthood, marriage, and food “so delicious, I just have to tell you about it,” she refers to the blog as her “Internet home.”
Whether she’s teaching readers how to candy mint leaves to top chocolate cupcakes, or chronicling her struggle with postpartum depression, Not Without Salt draws readers in with honest storytelling. Featured in Food & Wine and voted the top cooking blog of 2013 by Saveur magazine, her site, notwithoutsalt.com, has more than 100,000 visitors a month.
Now a mother of three married to Gabe Rodriguez ’03, Rodriguez’s career path hasn’t been traditional. She taught herself to make chocolate in a tiny Queen Anne kitchen; landed, fumbled through, and eventually aced a dream pastry line job at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills, California (without a whiff of training); and built a successful wedding cake business called Artisan Sweets. But these days, storytelling is the heart of her work.
“It’s the writing, the sharing, that’s what food is all about,” she says. “It goes beyond what’s for dinner. It’s not necessarily what’s on the table. It’s what goes on around the table.”
Next up for the Ballard foodie: Date Night In, a cookbook inspired by a series on her blog called “Dating My Husband.” “It’s the story of nourishing our relationship and the food that connects us,” she writes. “It’s a bit grubby-delicious in the way that’s not afraid to use cream and butter, and yet it’s loaded with vegetables and uses all real ingredients.”
And although Rodriguez doesn’t teach art to high school students as she once imagined, Professor Emerita of Education — and fan of the blog — Sharon Hartnett agrees that Rodriguez has found her niche.
“I think she’s giving us beauty,” Hartnett says. “I actually feel that food is a ministry. Ashley is giving us permission to make beautiful things — be it a bowl of homemade soup or a fancy sorbet — that we can give to one another. It’s wonderful.”
“A hot oven never ceases to amaze me. I sit in awe in front of the oven window watching butter, flour, and water turn into flaky pastry. Now I’ve turned to the oven to transform fresh berries into a sweet, tart, and jammy mix that makes a simple strawberry milkshake into something pretty magical.”
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Place strawberries on a parchment-lined sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Toss the strawberries with the sugar and vanilla seeds and place the vanilla bean on the pan with the berries, too.
Roast 30–40 minutes until some of the edges of the strawberries have crisped, the berries have softened, and a pool of ruby red juice covers the pan. Cool. Remove vanilla bean.
For the milkshake: Place about a pint of vanilla ice cream into a blender or food processor along with a cup or so of cooled roasted berries and their juice. Blend until smooth. Pour into cups and serve with whipped cream.