Open Face Egg Scramble

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There is something to be said about the weather and how it changes not only our mood, but the way we think about life, love, career, family, etc. The fall makes us all regress and contemplate our goals and aspirations. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to pay for school after graduating. I could continue to work at my current day job full-time and free lance as a food stylist on the weekends so I’d be able to pay my tuition within the next three to four years, but it’s not really feasible. There may be a limited amount of opportunity for free lance work on weekends and the bulk of the work could be during the week. This probably means moving back to Brooklyn and/or have a roommate or two will have to be an option. I wouldn’t mind being back in Brooklyn, but hopefully this won’t involve the latter…a roommate or two. At the moment, I’m living in the LES, but just like any apartment in NYC, it has it’s pros and cons. There are times when I have Brooklyn nostalgia. I still love strolling around Williamsburg and Greenpoint on the weekends. My friends and I had our usual brunch spot at Enid’s. They had salmon cakes that were to die for, but they have been known to make some mean bloody marys. The rent is climbing in this part of Brooklyn though, so the probability of saving on rent is slim to none, and living further into Brooklyn would make me crazy just because of the commute. My only other option would be to possibly bartend on my days off. I’ve heard it can be a lucrative job even as part time. This may be the best option. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when I graduate from FCI.

Other things on the horizon is a possible volunteer opportunity with NYC’s greenmarkets. This would definitely be exciting only because I want to learn more about the ins and outs of the food community. I’m going in for training this week and am crossing my fingers for any openings on the weekends. Finding volunteer opportunities is as challenging as finding a full time job it seems.

Several weeks ago, I had a chance to experience the fried chicken dinner at Momofuku. I have to say though, it wasn’t really impressive. The dry battered chicken portion was burnt and way too salty. The Korean style portion was good, but I feel that Bon Chon Chicken does a much better job. I have to give David Chang props for condiments however. The Chinese pancakes, with four different sauces and a side of fresh veggies and herbs were a great compliment, but if you screw up the main component of the dish, which in this case happens to be the fried chicken, then it becomes a “why bother” meal. I also ordered the pork buns and had to see for myself what all the hype was. This also became a disappointment because the sauce drizzled in the pork bun was way too salty. This interfered with the delicacy of the pork. I’m hesitatnt to come back for the ramen because I’ve heard the broth is salty as well. My recommendation would have to be Ippudo, also located in the East Village. The ramen was perfect. From the well balanced broth to the texture of the noodles, this was done masterfully. The pork buns were amazing as well. They cooked the pork a bit differently, but everything about it was amazing.

The last day of the edible garden in the Bronx’s botanical garden was a couple of weeks ago. Lidia Bastianich and Daisy Martinez both had cooking demos that day. They are as real as they get and were a delight to watch in person. The garden is enormous and only had two hours to explore. The conservatory and surrounding areas were beautiful. They grew everything from chili peppers to grapefruit and pineapples. It’s definitely a trip worth going back to next year when everything will be in bloom again.

For any of you who love free art as much as I do, there are a few exhibitions well worth noting. The Highline (that runs along the west side on 10th Ave from 23rd st down to 16th st.) is a sight to see! I would have to say the best time to go is in the spring because everything that was green and lush is now turning yellow and brown for the fall. Next time, I will remember to bring the suntan lotion because it beats going to central park for a bit of tanning.

Another notable exhibit (past already) was Kehinde Wiley’s Black Light at the Deitch Project gallery on Grand St. I’m a sucker for urban art.

The Woodward Gallery on Broome St. also has a great showing, which consists a few of Keith Haring’s artwork.

The best thing about all of this?  One word:  FREE!

Now that fall is here, I’m excited to be cooking a lot more. I can use my oven w/o having to turn on the air conditioner. Instead, it can be used to warm up the apartment. This week’s recipe is simple as always and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This is my version of an open face egg scramble.

Ingredients:
1 tbs oil
2 eggs
1 bunch scallions (diced)
s/p
Two slices of tomato
Whole wheat english muffin (toasted)
2 slices of cheddar cheese (none of the fake stuff such as Kraft singles)

Instructions:
Heat oil in omelet pan over med-high heat. Add scallions. Cook for about 3-4 minutes and add beaten eggs already seasoned with salt and pepper. Scramble eggs over medium low heat. Do not over cook. Toast english muffins and add cheese on each muffin. Then top with a slice of tomato and then egg/scallion mixture. Sometimes I also like to drizzle a bit of Sriracha sauce on top just for a little added heat and garlic flavor.

September 28, 2009 at 9:41 PM 2 comments

Homemade Ratatouille over Rice

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I’ve decided to do something different from my other entries in the past. This entry has been divided up into 4 sections: food trends, recent happenings, culinary school, and charities. These are a culmination of thoughts that I have been meaning to put into writing the past few weeks. Biggest complaint? So much to write so little time!

Food trends this past summer:
1. Vietnamese food – it has been getting a lot of props lately in NY, which has become such a relief for me. Back in 2002, I noticed there was a lack of a Vietnamese population that existed here. How could this be since this is a city well known for its diversity? I was convinced and told friends and family members that I was part of the 1% Vietnamese population that probably exists in NY. There were many times when taking a cab that the driver would ask what ethnicity I was. They always thought I was either Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or all of the above, but Vietnamese never came to mind for them. One cab driver, in fact, has never heard of Vietnam. I asked, “Seriously? You’ve never heard of the Vietnam War?” I don’t know what’s more insulting: being called “exotic” or not ever hearing of a country called Vietnam.

Mind you, there were Vietnamese restaurants around, but it wasn’t a place where all hipsters would flock to. Nowadays, there are hipster approved joints such as An Choi in the LES that serves up Vietnamese sandwiches aka banh mi and pho (vermicelli noodle soup) amongst other standard Vietnamese options. On Mondays, tucked away in the back yard of An Choi, sits Asia Dog. Asian Dog is usually set up at the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends. Their story was rather simple: they had backyard BBQs with friends all of the time and once the demand grew, they decided to officially make it into a business. Can’t beat grilled hot dogs coupled with Asian toppings of your choice! There are vegetarian options as well. Next time, I’ll be sure to try the bulgolgi burger.

Another example of the Vietnamese food trend’s existence is the banh mi cart that sits just outside of Hanover Square in the Financial District. The line is always long and many people are willing to wait as long as 45 minutes just for a banh mi sandwich. They also sell spring rolls if you don’t mind getting hit with severe food coma later at 3 o’clock.

2. People’s Pops
One of the more popular (no pun intended) stands at Brooklyn Flea is People’s Pops. After asking if they could make a Watermelon Mint pop (recipe found in Food and Wine magazine), strangely, they were already in the process of making them. So this became my number one mission: to taste the watermelon mint popsicle. The apricot lavender seemed to be a crowd pleaser. As my friend, La and I walked around shopping and sopping up popsicle juice drippings from our chin, others walked by with a nod of approval with their popsicle in hand. Pretty much the equivalent to a popsicle high-five! These pops became a summer favorite rather quickly. Not from marketing, but from word of mouth. This seems to be the most effective method of selling any product to the public.

3. Gourmet Food Trucks
Gourmet food trucks have been on the rise not only in NY, but in LA also. The Korean taco truck, Kogi seems to be the new rave. A similar truck just opened up in Jersey City. It’s only a matter of time when NY will have one of their own. The Dessert Truck closed unfortunately earlier this month, but will be setting up a storefront downtown very soon in November. Location is TBD. Other favorites seem to be the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, the Cupcake truck, and the Rickshaw Dumpling truck just to name a few.  The best thing about these gourmet trucks is that you can either fan them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter.  With all of these new gourmet trucks coming out of the woodworks, there has caused a bit of a turmoil for existing food trucks that have dominated the street vendor scene for many years. Such vendors include the hot dog/pretzel carts and halal/kabob carts.

Recent happenings:
I attended a cooking class at the Whole Food Culinary Center recently in celebration of Julia Child’s birthday that focused on recipes from her infamous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Overall the class was fun-filled and buttery, except for the two instances when I was paired with the cooking nazi. She apparently liked to be in control during most of the cooking process. Insert good thoughts here [___]. This weekend, I’ll taking another class with an emphasis on dim sum. This is going to be really fun. Our culinary teacher, Wai Hon Chu just wrote a book called “The Dumpling: A Season Guide” soon to hit shelves late October.

I have to admit, I was never a fan of Julia Child. I remember cringing everytime I saw her cooking shows when I was younger. Her voice really irritated me, but after the movie Julie and Julia came out, I can see her in a new light now due to much press as the revolutionary chef/home cook. I would rate the movie 3 out of 5 stars. Meryl Streep played Julia Child very well, while her husband’s role lacked personality. Although Julie Powell seemed so perky and loving in the movie, the real Julie Powell seems to be the complete opposite. Not that she’s a sad person full of angst, but they have very different personalities. The movie was disappointing in a way that the ending left us all hanging with the notion that Julia Child wasn’t very happy about Julie’s blog and passion for emulating her recipes. Julie seemed to brush it off with “I’ll stick to what I think Julia is like in my head and that’s what counts” sort of attitude. This seemed a bit too contrived for my liking, but it’s a Hollywood film so it was expected. Tom, who had finished reading “My Life in France” by Julia Child made a good point about the movie though. Julie made blogging look so easy and light hearted. On the contrary, the reality of blogging involves much contemplation on words and phrases. Editing and re-editing. It’s not as easy as it looks. Writing can be mentally draining and once it’s completed, there is a huge sense of accomplishment.

Update on culinary school:
I almost forgot how complicated the whole financial aid process can be when starting school. Its great that there are tons of scholarship/grant options, and different loan options, but because of the language and extensive paragraphs of terms and conditions, this is no easy task. This is also when I regret not doing more philanthropic work in the past. I have supported many charities financially however in the past, would this count? Probably not.

Charities:
1. To anyone who watched Top Chef Masters, I was so glad Rick Bayless won for his charity. His non-profit organization called the Frontera Farmer Foundation supports small sustainable farms throughout the Chicago area, which in turn helps to promote farmers markets and helps to build a better relationship in their community through food and their environment.

2. A charity that has been left under the radar is the UXO LAO organization. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on Laos made me realize how farmers have been affected by the Vietnam War in Laos. Many people are malnourished and/or out of work due to disabilities from land mines exploding while walking on their own land. I had no idea there were so many more bombs underground that have yet to be resurrected. This is definitely the US’ responsibility to clean up after ourselves and to not put innocent victims in danger because of our actions.

3. Last, but not certainly not least, I wanted to close this entry with another great cause. It’s an organization called KOTO, which hits close to home for me. I hadn’t realized there was such an organization until I watched Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie a few weeks ago. It’s a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program located in Hanoi, Vietnam that provides its disadvantaged youth a culinary opportunity to build a better future and at the same time reduce street crime. I am a huge advocate for this charity because I couldn’t imagine not being able to go to culinary school or training for something I am passionate about. Sometimes I wonder how difficult it must be for people who do not have a job and might not be qualified for a school loan, and/or financial aid.

In honor of French cuisine and Julia Child, I’d like to include this blog entry with a ratatouille recipe I’ve concocted myself. It was inspired from a wonderful dining experience at Zucco’s with my friend, Amy Lee (“AL”), who made a trip out to Paris a couple years ago. Zucco’s, a small hole in the wall, no frills, French diner that makes incredibly authentic French fare for a fraction of the price.
“Bon Appétit!”

Ingredients:
1 zucchini (sliced into half moons)
1 yellow squash (sliced into half moons)
1 small eggplant (sliced into half moons)
1 small yellow onion (sliced into half moons)
2 ripe vine tomatoes (diced)
1 carrot (cut into 1/2 inch widths)
1/2 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans low-sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium to large stock pot, combine all ingredients until it boiling then let simmer for 45 minutes or until it thickens into a stew like texture. Serve over rice. Also fabulous when served over scrambled eggs.

August 28, 2009 at 8:38 PM Leave a comment

Mashed Parsnips w/ Cucumber Oolong Tea

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I love to explore New York one bite at a time.  Today after a vigorous work out at the gym, I was able to resist a donut from The Doughnut Plant located in the Lower East Side.  Their donuts are truly amazing.  Still nothing beats Krispy Kreme’s glazed donuts coming fresh off the conveyor belt, but these do come in second best.  I opted for the iced organic coffee.  There was a hint of chickory flavor in the coffee, which made it have a nice depth of flavor.  Being a competitor amongst co-workers on a 2 month long fitness challenge, I have so far lost a couple of pounds.  I was surprised only because honestly, I haven’t been really been trying.  The winner who loses the most weight will receive a cash prize.  My ideal weight is to drop down one pant size.  The last time I was a size 8 was in high school.  My only concern with the weight loss challenge is that I have more muscle than some of my competitors, which means even though I might be down one pant size, I don’t think the number in pounds will be as dramatic for me.  The last time we weighed in, my female cometitors were either 10 pounds heavier than I was or they were 20 pounds lighter, but they were also 2 or 3 pant sizes bigger.  Crazy how measurements work.  We’ll see how this competition pans out.

On another note, I wanted to write about my recent revelation in regards to going to cooking school.  For years, I’ve always told everyone my main fear about being a chef.  It was that I didn’t want to get tired of doing what I love.  The fear was that if I didn’t want to cook at home because I cooked as a profession, would be the end of the world.  And although, I overcame this fear not too long ago, David Chang confirmed that it was okay to not have the urge to cook at home because it was a profession.   In the New York Times article, he talked about not wanting do anything on his days off, which means ordering take out and catching up on sports.  I realized David and I are a lot alike.  I don’t know what I would say if I ever ran into him except, “Hey, I think you’re the male version of me”.

This week’s recipes come from a blog that I subscribed to awhile back and unfortunately, can’t seem to find it among 50 other food blogs I read on a weekly basis.  If I find it at some point, I’ll be sure to link it to this entry.  I’ve always wondered what parsnips tasted like, so I figured this recipe was a great way to celebrate all its flavors and to incorporate into the the fitness challenge.  There are some recipes that combine potatos which I’m sure is a great addition.  The cucumber oolong tea came from being inspired at various spas that serve chilled cucumber water.  By far, this has got to be the most light and refreshing drinks for the summer.

Mashed Parsnips

Ingredients:

6 parsnips

pot of water

salt

1 tbs butter

Peel and dice parsnips into 1 inch chunks.  Boil in water for at least minutes or until tender.  Drain well.  Mash parsnips with butter and salt to taste.

Cucumber Oolong Tea

Cut hot house cucumbers into thin slices.  Brew oolong tea and wait until cooled.  Add ice and a couple slices of cucumber into chilled drink.

August 9, 2009 at 6:10 PM 3 comments

Asian Greek Pasta

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In continuation of my last entry, and careful consideration after touring each culinary facility, I have decided to apply to the French Culinary Institute.  It’s a 9 month evening program consisting of M/W/F classes starting in mid-November.  It’s official in a sense that I’ve already received the nod of approval from my manager at the office.  I’ll have to leave the office early those three days at 5pm.  Everyone seems to be really supportive, which makes me appreciate the team I work with on a daily basis.
FCI seem to be extremely organized in the adminission process and have an amazing support system.  Once you become a student, you have access to their resources for life.  The career services center has been really helpful and available for me whenever I needed them.  The tour lasted approximately 2 hours strolling along between their portait filled walls of celebrity chef alumni such as Momofuku’s David Chang, WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason, Food Network’s Bobby Flay, and program directors Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres (just to name a few). I had a chance to sample some of the best morsal of chocolate/carmel/nut goodness I’ve ever had in my life.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the loads of baguettes I’ve smuggled home from LA (long story).  We peaked into the bakery where some of the students who came in at 2am would start creating one of the best baguettes I’ve ever bit into.  It was moist and airy inside with a nice crackly crust on the outside.  That said, I was thorougly impressed.  The resources that FCI has to offer are astonishing.  The fact that they offer an online account for students to contact the above mentioned chefs (and then some) directly via personal email, is priceless.
And although I was sold at FCI, I still did not want to sell myself short of other possibilities.  FCI’s immediate competitor would have to be The Institute of Culinary Education, who recently won an IACP award for best culinary program in 2008.  Both schools have had plenty of recognition and awards so I’m not worried about FCI’s credentials in the least.  To sum up the brief tour (all of 15 minutes) for all four floors, I was not impressed.  Yes, their tuition is approximately $12,000 less, but I’ve decided to not go the less expensive approach in life this time.  I’ve learned in the past – “you get what you pay for”.  The tour guide was quick and unapproachable, which meant, he just wanted to get it over with and not have to answer any redundant questions.  There was no free baguette nor chocolate sample in hand, but a folder packed with tuition/loan information.  He was not thorough in explaining the programs and opportunities the school had to offer.  I was also not comfortable with a couple of questions in their application.  It asked, “How long have you been thinking about a culinary career?”, and “How serious are you about attending culinary school?”.  Is the latter question used for gauging how serious they should take their potential students or how much of an effort they should put into a tour?
What is it that I want to achieve after culinary school you ask?  Well, I would love to get my hands on food styling for various forms of media (movies, TV, periodicals, etc.) or work in a test kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated.  I would prefer not to work in a restaurant, but it may become a possibility if the experience is needed in order build my portfolio for a private chef  career.  I also wouldn’t mind being a chef instructor either.  Oh the possibilities are endless!  Perhaps in a couple of years, I’d also like to take a few courses at the International Center of Photography to perfect my passion for food photography. Here’s another success story of an FCI alumni I just happen to run into online while browsing the Yelp website [http://www.yelp.com/biz/yum-yum-chefs-brooklyn]:   http://www.yumyumchefs.com/chefs/vanessa_cantave.html.  For now though, I’m going to see where my interests lie as the classes progress.
When it comes to establishing a reputation in the culinary world, there seems to be a sense of comraderie amongst food lovers/chefs that I just absolutely love.  Yes, it is a competitive field, but what isn’t competitive in New York?  Just the lifestyle in New York is competitive.  I think I just might have this one in the bag, folks.  All of this is starting to sound all too familiar.  :)[http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/julieandjulia/].
My recipe for this week calls for a quick-fix after a long day at work and wanting to put a few ingredients together from the fridge/pantry in about half an hour.
Ingredients:
1 pkg of whole wheat penne pasta (boiled/drained)
1 broccoli spear (blanched 1/2 inch chunks of flowers/stems)
1/2 feta cheese
1/2 sliced yellow onion
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbs  soy sauce
1 tbs vegetable oil
Directions:
Cook onion until translucent.  Add cooked pasta and broccoli.  Then pour in all seasonings while stiring on high heat.  Let pasta brown a bit until a bit crispy.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese crumbles.

In continuation of my last entry, and careful consideration after touring each culinary facility, I have decided to apply to the French Culinary Institute.  It’s a 9 month evening program consisting of M/W/F classes starting in mid-November.  It’s official in a sense that I’ve already received the nod of approval from my manager at the office.  I’ll have to leave the office early those three days at 5pm.  Everyone seems to be really supportive, which makes me appreciate the team I work with on a daily basis.

FCI seems to be extremely organized in the adminission process and has an amazing support system.  Once you become a student, you have access to their resources for life.  The career services center has been really helpful and available to me whenever I need them.  The tour lasted approximately 2 hours strolling along between their portait filled walls of celebrity chef alumni such as Momofuku’s David Chang, WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason, Food Network’s Bobby Flay, and culinary/pastry program directors Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres (just to name a few). I had a chance to sample some of the best morsals of chocolate/carmel/nut goodness I’ve ever had in my life.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the loads of baguettes I’ve smuggled home from LA (long story), we peaked into the bakery where some of the students who came in at 2am would start creating one of the best baguettes I’ve ever bit into.  It was moist and airy inside with a nice crackly crust.  That said, I was thorougly impressed.  The resources that FCI has to offer are astonishing.  The fact that they offer an online account for students to contact the above mentioned chefs (and then some) directly via personal email, is priceless.

And although I was sold at FCI, I still did not want to sell myself short of other possibilities.  FCI’s immediate competitor would have to be The Institute of Culinary Education, who recently won an IACP award for best culinary program in 2008.  Both schools have had plenty of recognition and awards so I’m not worried about FCI’s credentials in the least.  To sum up the brief tour (all of 15 minutes) for all four floors, I was not impressed.  Yes, their tuition is approximately $12,000 less, but I’ve decided to not go the less expensive approach in life this time.  I’ve learned in the past – “you get what you pay for”.  The tour guide was quick and unapproachable, which meant, he just wanted to get it over with and not have to answer any redundant questions.  There was no free baguette nor chocolate sample in hand, but a folder packed with tuition/loan information.  He was not thorough in explaining the programs and opportunities the school had to offer.  I was also not comfortable with a couple of questions in their application.  It asked, “How long have you been thinking about a culinary career?”, and “How serious are you about attending culinary school?”.  Is the latter question used for gauging how serious they should take their potential students or how much of an effort they should put into a tour?

What is it that I want to achieve after culinary school you ask?  Well, I would love to get my hands on food styling for various forms of media (movies, TV, periodicals, etc.) or work in a test kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated.  I would prefer not to work in a restaurant, but it may become a possibility if the experience is needed in order build my portfolio for a private chef  career.  I also wouldn’t mind being a chef instructor.  Oh the possibilities are endless!  Perhaps in a couple of years, I’d also like to take a few courses at the International Center of Photography to perfect my passion for food photography. Here’s another success story of an FCI alumni I just happen to run into online while browsing the Yelp website:   YumYumChefs.  For now though, I’m going to see where my interests lie as the classes progress.

When it comes to establishing a reputation in the culinary world, there seems to be a sense of comraderie amongst food lovers/chefs that I just absolutely love.  Yes, it is a competitive field, but what isn’t competitive in New York?  Just the lifestyle in New York is competitive.  I think I just might have this one in the bag, folks.  All of this is starting to sound all too familiar.  :)

My recipe for this week calls for a quick-fix after a long day at work and wanting to put a few ingredients together from the fridge/pantry in about half an hour.

Ingredients:

1 pkg of whole wheat penne pasta (boiled/drained)

1 broccoli spear (blanched 1/2 inch chunks of flowers/stems)

1/2 feta cheese

1/2 sliced yellow onion

1 tbs garlic powder

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 tbs  soy sauce

1 tbs vegetable oil

Directions:

Cook onion until translucent.  Add cooked pasta and broccoli.  Then pour in all seasonings while stiring on high heat.  Let pasta brown a bit until a bit crispy.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese crumbles.

July 23, 2009 at 6:27 PM 3 comments

Rustic Beet Soup

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It’s been about a month since I last wrote a recipe entry. I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose and use of this blog for quite some time now, which can easily be translated as “writer’s block”. Little to my knowledge and with a dash of naivety, it’s been difficult to come up with a story behind each recipe. When I first started this blog, my intentions were to write a story that inspired my recipes and to submit one each week. Hence, the title. As the weeks breezed by ever so rapidly over the month of June, there were a few reasons for the writer’s block.

1.  allowing myself to think there is nothing interesting or important enough to share with readers
2.  lacking interest in writing; although still active in the cooking and photography part of the process
3.  starting to realize where my main interests lie (cooking/photography); not necessarily writing [if I no longer have any interest in writing, should I remove this blog altogether?]

I’ve also had culinary school on my mind and have registered to tour the FCI (The French Culinary Institute) and ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in a couple of weeks. The FCI would be ideal because Jacques Pepin has been my on-screen mentor for many years.  He and Jacques Torres developed the culinary program at FCI. So it must be good! However, the program does not offer the kind of flexible scheduling I need in order to maintain a 50 hour work week. Plus tuition is $40,000! I will most likely be taking the $30,000/9 month culinary plunge at ICE this fall instead. Thank goodness they offer flexible course schedules that take place 9am-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Not only does the thought of being $30,000 in debt frighten me, but the fact that my free time will ultimately be limited. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will only be for 9 months. I am going to recruit my best friend, Brian for strength and support. If he can somehow manage 4 years of working and maintaining a 4.0 GPA in college, then I can too, damn it! The realization of becoming a chef hit me last night (in a positive way) and the thought of having a career in the culinary world felt really satisfying. This may sound a bit surprising, but I’m embarrassed at times when I tell people (especially family members) what I do for a living. Coming from a family with a medical background, particularly in nursing. I haven’t felt like I’ve succeeded in life and I’m already 31 years old. I’m now more ready than ever to take the bull by the horns and go for the ride no matter how bumpy it may be. Another fear I have is not being able to live comfortably as I have been for the past 6 years. This is the main reason why I’ve committed myself to an administrative field. I know how it feels to be poor/unemployed. I know how it feels to live off of ramen, iceberg lettuce, and one egg a day. I know how it feels to not make rent for months at a time and to ask mom for help in desparate situations like these. And I know all too well how it feels to be delinquent on $15,000 in credit card debt. My goal since those first two extremely rough years of living in New York is to never be in debt again. I was able to wipe my slate clean after a couple of years by maintaining a job at a corporate insurance firm. Since then, I haven’t had much luck attaining a permanent position with any firm, yet I’ve somehow managed to remain debt-free. Long story short: to be $30,000 in debt can be quite overwhelming especially if it’s only for 9 months of school.

I’ve signed up for a couple more culinary recreational courses at the Whole Foods Culinary Center on Bowery coming August. My experience with the knife skills class last month really inpired me to take the leap into culinary school. Everything about it seemed so natural. Now I don’t mind, in fact, I love cutting and prepping vegetables whenever I can. It allows me to perfect and hone (no pun intended) the foundation to cooking.

This week’s beet soup recipe is perfect for practicing your knife skills because of the mirepoix that becomes the basis for the soup.  This recipe also comes from a cooking class “gone awry” taken several months back. It was taken through a meet up group a co-worker had introduced me to. The whole experience turned out to be a disaster. The kitchen location changed at the last minute (day before event) to a comedy club kitchen. We walked in and their was an electric stove, no mixing bowls, and porn magazines out in the open. I couldn’t believe my eyes! My friend, Lisa, on the other hand,whom I met at the aforementioned insurance firm, thought otherwise.  She has such a kind heart, that she went along with punches and never complained one bit about the whole experience. The bathrooms smelled like piss and there was no soap to wash our hands with.  From that moment on, I knew it was going to be a very interesting day.  We managed to mix our salad dressing in an old plastic spice container and we somehow managed to cook the soup (had no luck bringing it to a boil by the way) on the electric stove. The wild rice the “chef” made earlier that day was horrific. There’s nothing worse than eating cold half-cooked wild rice. I can’t believe she calls herself a natural health chef. Everything was vegan, gluten-free, and pretty much tasteless. I could see how this would become every carnivores nightmare. I used to be a vegetarian for 7 years and would cook food that was a lot more creative and appetizing than this. Cooking classes like this gave vegans a bad rep. However, I could see where she was trying to go with the soup, which is why I wanted to experiment with it and make it my own. Later that day, after we chewed and swallowed, the “chef” started to talk about the reason (other than her father’s heart disease related death) why she wanted to become a natural food chef.  She made  a couple book references that inspired her to eat and cook healthy as part of her lifestyle. The fact that I love reading how food affects people and their environment, peaked my interest. After researching tirelessly on Amazon.com that very night, I then realized she gave us the wrong name of the author for the book she recommended to us! I cursed under my breath and thought about how my Saturday and $65 all went down the drain unforgivingly.  Lesson learned:  only take cooking classes via Whole Foods going forward.

Ingredients:
Mirepoix
2 cans chicken stock
1 can water
1 red beet (halved/cut into wedges)
1 yellow beet (halved/cut into wedges)
1 peeled red potato (halved/cut into wedges)
1 medium rhudabaga (halved/cut into wedges)
1/2 cup chopped dill
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt/Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Follow mirepoix cooking instructions and pour in liquids. Add root vegetables and bay leaves. Cook for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Season w/ salt and pepper if needed. Add dill at the last minute before serving.

July 2, 2009 at 5:40 PM 1 comment

Orecchiette Pasta w/ Pancetta and Peas

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Apologies to anyone who may have wondered where my blog entry was last week.  Although, it was a 3-day weekend, I found it difficult to stay indoors slaving away behind a computer when I could be taking full advantage of the beautiful weather outside.   This is only one excuse.  The other excuse is that I really wanted to write a recipe for the Monkey Bread I made for Tom’s Antony & Cleopatra soiree over last Memorial Day weekend.  Although it turned out to be a big hit amongst others, the recipe and pictures turn out to be rather disappointing.

This week’s recipe was something I thought was going to be original until I stumbled upon Food & Wine’s version of the pasta dish.  I still like my verson more.  :)

There was plenty left over to put into small tupperware containers for nights when I didn’t have time to cook.  It froze surprisingly well.

Ingredients:

Orecciette Pasta (full box/pkg)

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup diced pancetta

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 white or yellow medium onion (diced)

2 tbs butter

1/2 cup white wine (your preference)

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Over medium-high heat, cook pancetta and onion together for about 5 minutes.  No oil is needed because the pancetta will release its fat during the cooking process.  Add frozen green peas, butter, and white wine.  Cook until the alcohol has been reduced.  Add cooked pasta, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese.  Mix until properly distributed.  Add freshly ground black pepper.  Cook until parmesan has melted and serve.

May 31, 2009 at 8:34 PM Leave a comment

Roasted Chicken w/ White Wine Sauce

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I decided to prepare dinner ahead of time before meeting my friend, Yahayra for brunch today.  Yahayra and I met at a firm almost 4 years ago when I was trying to launch a career into the paralegal world.  We’ve kept in touch despite our busy schedules, by seeing each other at least once a month to catch up.  She always cracks me up because of her no bull-shit attitude on life.  I’ve always admired her strength for not taking crap from people.  Rule #1 (if you want to move to NY):  build a hard outer shell unless, you want to be ripped to shreds.  I told her I had made an amazing chicken dish for dinner, and gave her the recipe verbally since it was rather simple to make.  I hope it turned out just as well for her.

So for dinner tonight, the recipe turned out to be a perfect example of why I love to cook.  I had a moment of true satisfaction after tasting the end result.  I think the secret ingredient is the dash of Maggi I put into the sauce.  It adds a nice depth of richness that makes the dish complete.  Just something I learned from cooking with the family numerous times.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts (bone-in/skin-on)

2 tsp butter

1/2 white onion (1-in slices)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of baking soda

1 pinch of sugar

1 tsp of Maggi (soy sauce may be used as substitution)

2 cups of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio from Spain. Tip: never use cooking wine)

1 carton of small portobello mushrooms (quartered)

1 bunch of broccoli rabe (cut into 1-in pieces)

1 cup of cooked jasmine rice

2 cloves of garlic

1 bay leaf (optional)

S/P (salt/pepper)

Directions:

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Toss white onion slices with olive oil and place into baking pan for the chicken.  Place chicken in pan as well.  Spread 1 tsp of butter onto each chicken breast.  Sprinkle w/ salt and pepper.  Bake chicken for about 20 minutes.  Place pan in broiler for 3 minutes to brown.  Place chicken onto separate dish (keep in oven to remain warm, but turn off oven) and transfer juice and onions to a skillet in order to make white wine sauce.  Onions can be removed for the sauce depending on personal preference.  On high heat, add white wine and bay leaf, stir w/ wooden spoon, and reduce until you cannot smell any alcohol left in the skillet.  Add garlic, mushrooms, maggi, and sugar.  Freshly ground black pepper is a nice addition, but not necessary.  Keep stirring until the sauce is thick enough to coat the wooden spoon.  Remove from heat.

In a large soup pot, add pinch of salt and baking soda to boiling water.  Baking soda will help keep the broccoli rabe a vibrant green and prevent it from turning brown.  Cook broccoli rabe until tender (5 minutes).  Then add to ice water in order to stop the cooking process.  Place in collander to strain after cooled.

Place cooked rice onto warm plate and add white wine sauce over rice.  Add roasted chicken and broccoli rabe on the side.

I thought about making a side of honey glazed baby carrots, but had left over rice in the fridge, so I decided to opt out of the carrots.  Maybe, next time…

May 17, 2009 at 10:15 PM Leave a comment

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