Friday, May 29, 2009

A Late Night Snack

Planning for dinner is something I always do. Mostly every evening I head to the market and pick up a few fresh items and it's off to cooking I go! But, I almost always (unless I am entertaining) forget about dessert. For this reason, I try to keep a pint of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream on hand as you can easily make a chocolate sauce with nut topping, caramelize a few bananas or pineapple in brown sugar and a shot of bourbon, or serve it on top of an espresso. Not that pure vanilla ice cream cannot be enjoyed as is, but it really is more fun with something to accompany it, even if it's cornflakes! Point is yesterday I again forgot about dessert and to top it off I had no ice cream in the freezer. Too tired to get dressed and head over to the grocery store, I began a search for a dessert that would be easy to make and of course be delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Doughnuts seemed like a fantastic idea!

Fortunately I found a simple, fairly graded 3 forks recipe for Warm Miniature Doughnuts on Epicurious. The recipe couldn't be easier and 99% of the items should be things that are kept on hand (actually I will write a list of these items shortly in another blog!)

Shift the dry ingredients over a large bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices--cinnamon, nutmeg and I added about 1/8 tsp of cardamom for a warm freshness and A Pinch of Salt and set aside. In a smaller bowl melt some butter in the microwave. To it will go an egg and 1/2 cup of buttermilk.

Side Note, I learned from a "Instant" Pancake Mix recipe by Alton Brown that you should separate the egg. Add the yolk to the slightly cooled melted butter and add the egg white to the buttermilk then combine all. So that's what I did. Also, if you don't happen to have buttermilk simple take a cup of milk and add an 1 tbs of acid--distilled vinegar, or fresh lemon juice would do, then let sit for at least 5 minutes in which you will see the milk begin to curdle this "soured milk" is a pretty much buttermilk. Okay, back to the recipe.

Heat oil to about 325/350 or until you can add a sprinkle of flour to the pot and see it begin to sizzle. We are deep frying so you will be using quite a lot of oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix only to combine (don't want stiff doughnuts!) The recipe suggest using 2 spoons to form balls, I think using a mini ice cream/cookie scooper would be nicer (will do next time). Then fry about 6 of them at a time as they brown up quickly, turn each over and repeat until golden 1 to 1 and a 1/2 minutes then lay on paper towels to remove excess oil. While warm top with powdered sugar or perhaps a combination of cinnamon-sugar. Lastly, enjoy while warm as they are delicious! (esp. alongside a cold glass of milk!) Enjoy!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The "Blue Box"

Boxed macaroni and cheese is all I ever made as a teenager. My mom would argue that even that I couldn't master. I must admit, my mac and cheese didn't always produce the cheesy goodness my family was after. There were plenty of times I fed them bits of flour after having failed to properly break up the powder before mixing into the macaroni.

Now that I finished culinary school and am actually teaching others how to cook--go figure--I think the person I amazed most was my mother. She is blown away that the same daughter with the famed mac and cheese incidents can now put together a real meal--no pouches or powders included--that is tasty, satisfying, well thought out and quickly executed. She is one of my biggest fans, as all good mothers are. But looking back on it I am ever so grateful she never pressured me to cook, although it was something she always did and I always looked forward to. I am glad that cooking was something I myself decided to build on especially after living with my husband and not being able to pull off a real consumable meal. Were it not for my mother passing on her love of flavor and food, and for my countless mac and cheese mess ups who knows if I would have challenged myself to learn to cook and eventually find my passion. So for all of you who can relate to the old me, please keep positive. There is always hope as cooking can be learned through patience, consistency and repetition. And in the slight possibility that all else fails look at the bright side, mac and cheese now comes with a cheesy pouch that you simple stir into pasta unlike the powder stuff I had growing up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Market, To Market, To Market We Go

This morning I attended a mandatory meeting in order to become a Greenmarket Tour Guide at the Union Square Market. The program is a part of Spoons Across America a foundation that educates children on food and nutrition. I was very excited about volunteering for the program and using some of my down time for a good cause. As a tour guide we would work with students from nearby elementary schools and introduce them to the farmers market, encourage them to ask questions to both myself and the farmers and at the end hand them each a dollar to buy something at the market that they may have found tempting or interesting. The purpose of it all is to encourage them to eat locally, and appreciate fresh, healthy, organic food.

After hearing about the program I was excited to walk around the market and think about the places the children will find interesting like the fruit stands, the herb stands and the honey stands which show their bees in action. After meeting my friend we were off to hit the stands and I picked up shallots, ramps, arugula and apples for dinner and dessert that night. Along our culinary stroll we saw a very familiar face: Iron Chef Mario Batali, owner of Otto and Babbo. I was in shock! I mean, I know all true chefs shop for the finest, freshest ingredients, but just seeing him in person happily shopping as I was doing made me excited. So not only did I join a program with a great cause, did some leisurely food shopping with a dear friend, but I met a celebrity chef who I greatly respect. A very fruitful day indeed! (Thank you Ling for taking our photo!)

Btw, my first Greenmarket tour will be held this Wednesday morning, I will definitely keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Guilty Pleasure

I must admit after becoming a chef I have become a bit more critical on meals I consume. Even at places I once loved, I realize it no longer provides the punch it once did. But with fast food it's different. We know its not the best for you, we have all seen films like Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation, but I must admit it's predictable and thus reliable and sometimes that just works.

Don't get me wrong, I try to stay away from the popular fast food establishments, but there are some very decent and delicious franchises that I absolutely love: California Pizza Kitchen for its delicious Sante Fe or Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese Pizza (along with a full side Waldorf salad with blue cheese dressing and I am complete); Gray's Papaya for when I truly feel like a New Yorker and need a walk and eat type of treat (although tempting, I can pass on the tropical drinks--no offense)and of course Johnny Rockets!

Stumped on what to eat one lazy afternoon we headed for Johnny Rockets and had the Rocket Single with Half Half (french fries and onion rings) and a coke! Juicy burger and hot perfectly salted sides! Just delicious. So while these aren't fast food establishments, neither are they "healthy," but they definetly offer a level of comfort and consistency that sometimes you cant get at a restaurant. Sometimes you want to eat something that you know how it's going ot taste regardless to who is preparing it and that is simply okay with me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Making the Leap

A few weeks ago I did the My Secret Identity blog, well my secret is out! I no longer work for the firm, after 10 years my journey has ended and a new one has begun! Naturally, it feels weird and scary at times that I no longer have the safety net and level of comfort I had for the last decade. But, I am by far ready to embrace my new life! A life that is actually focused on what I sincerely feel happy doing.

Fortunately, I had already been working as a chef instructor in a few fantastic places and now have established certain bonds that I couldn't picture life without. Through these relationships I have gained confidence, received advice and gained strength. These people became family. Coupled with the constant and unconditional love I get from my actual family, makes me unstoppable. So as I plunge into the culinary world head first, and continue teaching others what I love, and learning about myself both in the kitchen and outside it, I thank everyone and God for the direction that my life has turned. Life is far too short to go through it doing something that you are truly unhappy with, or something that you have already peaked at and now can not continue to grow. It's beyond seeking financial gain, rather the search is for self gratification. That's what I have now. So as I embark on my dreams I look forward to teaching, cooking, and enjoying life by the day and wish you the same inner happiness, peace of mind and warmth in your heart and stomach.