Posts filed under ‘Gluten-Free’
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Everyone knows that the key to man’s heart is through his stomach. So I decided to make my friend, Tom one of my all time favorite comfort foods: a special Singapore noodle dish for his 30th birthday. It was raining out and didn’t have many ingredients in the pantry and fridge to work with except for a bag of frozen shrimp, a can of bamboo shoots, a bag of frozen peas, and a carton of eggs. The best part about making stir fry noodles is that there is so much room to improvise. I had originally planned on making this dish with shrimp, shredded celery and carrots with mushrooms, but time was limited. I had to make do. It turned out to be a hit amongst friends and family (although my noodles should have been a little more al dente).
1 pack of rice vermecilli noodles (thickness is personal preference)
3 tbsp Singapore Curry Powder (or regular curry powder will suffice as substitution)
2 large eggs beaten
1 cup of frozen green peas
1 can of bamboo shoots (drained)
1/2 lb halved shrimp (40+/- count)
1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tbsp fish sauce
Bring water to a boil and once noodles are al dente, rinse thoroughly in cold water to prevent from sticking. Pour 1 tbsp of oil in large non-stick skillet. Add eggs once pan is hot. Scramble until well done (not runny). Then set aside into a bowl once cooked all the way through. Using the same pan, add another tbsp of oil and sliced onion. Cook over high heat until well browned. Then add shrimp, frozen peas, and bamboo shoots. Stir for a couple of minutes on high heat or until the shrimp are cooked all the way through. Then add noodles, remaining tbsp of oil, scrambled egg, fish sauce, and Singapore curry powder. Use tongs to toss/stir noodles efficiently. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Serve warm and garnish with basil.