Posts filed under ‘Appetizers’
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.
pot of water
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.
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.
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
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.
My best friend was having brunch at her place in Brooklyn Saturday morning and I agreed to bring something healthy to balance out the meat and carbs (Ashley’s succulent baked chicken wings, Kristen’s “crack” mashed potatoes, and Cresha’s flaky, yet moist biscuits, nicely browned sausage links, and bad ass mimosas) we were about to inhale before hitting the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
I was at my favorite grocery destination in the Lower East Side (The Essex Street Market) the night before and discovered ricotta salata in the dairy case. In addition to this mysterious block of cheese, I also bought endive and bibb lettuce. I already had a bag of baby spinach in the fridge at home so I thought how refreshing it would be to create my own “mixed greens”. I also had an heirloom tomato and a bottle of ready-made dressing at home in order to create the perfect salad.
The Food Network peaked my interest after watching a couple of shows that incorporated ricotta salata, but I hesitated at first since there was a presumption of having a sharp cheese flavor. It turned out to be pleasantly mild however, with a feta-like texture.
Candied walnuts or pecans are a great addition to the recipe below. Any mild flavored ingredient such as beets would work great with a salad that contains ricotta salata. Anything pungent such as sliced red onions or green olives may overpower the subtleties of the dish.
1 head bibb lettuce
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata
1 medium ripe vine or heirloom tomato (4 wedges)
Handful baby spinach
1/2 head endive (sliced)
Freshly ground black pepper
Favorite dressing – mine happens to be Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar
Toss various salad greens with dressing and add tomato wedges and ricotta salata. Grind fresh black pepper to taste.
When it’s warm and sunny outside, all I want to do is go out and play the whole day. Which means I want to do as little cooking as possible. I also want to save money by eating at home. The solution? Asian lettuce wraps. They make a satisfying, yet light lunch/dinner. This inspiration came from several SF Bay Area restaurants serving this dish in various ways. I’m not a big fan of the Cheesecake Factory, but their version was probably the best one I’ve tried. My recipe does not contain a dipping sauce since I felt there were already a lot of flavors in the dish that the sauce would overpower. I’ve also added just a few of my favorite vegetables to this recipe. Feel free to substitute any other varieties of vegetables you would prefer. For instance, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, and mustard greens (instead of leaf lettuce) would be a nice variation of this recipe. The key is to just have fun with it by experimenting.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 large leaf lettuces
Handful of carrot sticks
1 medium zucchini (cut into same size sticks as carrots)
1/2 medium yellow onion (1/4 inch thick slices)
1 1/2 cups of sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 1/2 tsp Hoisin Sauce
1/2 lean ground pork
Cook ground pork until dark brown over high heat. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce and cook for another minute. Place cooked ground pork to the side into a dish. Using same skillet (on high heat), add vegetable oil and sliced onion. Cook until it starts to turn brown. Add zucchini, mushrooms, and carrots until tender. Add remaining soy sauce at the last minute and cook only for another minute. Important to add soy sauce at the last minute. The sodium will draw out excess moisture from vegetables and would make the stir-fry watery. Add freshly ground black pepper.
How to assemble the wrap:
Smear 1/2 tsp of hoisin sauce onto one large lettuce leaf. Add 1 tsbp of ground pork. Then top off with one large spoonful of cooked vegetables. Roll lettuce leaf over to create a wrap. Repeat with remaining lettuce leaves.