Food Buzz


Friday, April 30, 2010

Comfort food

Hey all,

So sorry to have been missing for a while but I had to have my appendix out last Saturday and I have been recuperating  at home with my mom and my Murphy at my side.  After being on a liquid diet for 4 days (tea, juice, broth, repeat) I was finally able to eat something substantial on Weds... scrambled egg with american cheese.  It was possibly the best egg and cheese I've ever had. The next day was also a cheesy day for us (cheese always = comfort in my book) and mom and I decided to make mac and cheese. To feel better about gorging ourselves with more fromage, we decided to make broccoli mac & cheese from mom's Good Housekeeping magazine.  It came out pretty darn good!  I think I might add something next time to give it a little more "oomph" - maybe some sauteed onion or a shot of hot sauce.  We made ours with whole grain pasta for another health boost.   This time I needed mild and I got mild, with a side of green veggies. 

On another note, I really missed going to class this week, I heard from my classmate and Chef that our team made a carrot souffle and shrimp and grits.  Looking forward to getting back to the grind next Tuesday.

Chow for now! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Scotch eggs = delicious! Who knew?

Last night in class each team made some form of egg dish or a baked good made with eggs.  TWe ate eggs benedict, gougeres, churros, egg fried rice, two frittatas and lemon poppy seed cake.   Our team made scotch eggs. More on that later... Everything except for the fried raice came out really good!  My favorite was the pâte à choux dough which is used for both the gougeres and the churros.   I look forward to trying that recipe at home!

Since we have not had a chance to work with any meat products in the last few weeks, Chef let our team pick out the dish we wanted to make.  We figured Scotch eggs would  be fun since none of us have ever made it before and it required using the deep fryer... which is both scary and fun.

For those of you who don't know what Scotch eggs are or who have never seen them before, the process consists of hard cooking an egg, wrapping the egg in a pork sausage mixture (with herbs and spices), then breading it with flour, egg and bread crumbs and deep frying it  It's like deep fried breakfasty goodness in a little package.  Apparently it's great hangover food and very popular over the UK (you can even find them prepackaged in grocery stores).  I took a pic with my camera but it didn't come out great, so here's a pic from the web:

I find it quite funny that it looks like there is a glass of scotch in the picture....  We served ours with Dijon mustard and I have to say they were delicious (and Chef raved - which is always a good thing).  The recipe is below - try it out!

Scotch Eggs
yields 4 servings

1 cup breakfast sausage
1/2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
4 hard cooked, peeled eggs
all purpose flour (for breading)
1 egg, beaten
dry bread crumbs (for breading)
corn oil for frying

1.  Combine the breakfast sausage, herbs, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a bowl.
2.  With lightly floured hands, divide the sausage mixture into four equal portions.  Flatten each portion into a thin patty.  Dust the eggs with flour and wrap each egg in a portion of the sausage meat.  Be sure the meat is even thickness and there are no cracks.
3.  Bread the sausage covered eggs by dipping them in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs.
4.  Deep fry the eggs for apporximately 7-8 minutes at 350ºF or until sausage meat is fully cooked.  The eggs may be finished in the oven if they begin to get too dark in the fryer.
5.  Serve the eggs halved or quartered lengthwise, hot or cold, with Dijon mustard.

I didn't get to make the Hollandaise sauce for the eggs benedict (Ellen - I'll send you the recipe!) - I'm very interested in perfecting the mother sauces... but I can try them from home.

Have any of you spent any time in a foreign country and tried something really different from your usual diet?  If so, please share your stories!

Chow for now! :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pardon me while I wipe the cheesecake off my face...

Yum.  I'm eating a slice of cheesecake (and yes, I'm aware that it is 11 am) made yesterday and chilled for the alloted number of hours.  I have to say, not a bad job, chef Lisa!  Can you believe I'm from NY and have never made a cheese cake until now?  What inspired me to do so was a chapter in Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires.  It was the first of many of her own recipes that she added to the book and one of the first I decided to try!   Recipe and pictures below.

NY Cheesecake:
1½ cups graham-cracker crumbs (about 6 ounces)
1 cup sugar
½ cup melted unsalted butter
1½ lb. cream cheese, preferably without gum, at room temperature
4 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla extract
~ Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the graham crackers with ¼ cup of the sugar and the melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch ungreased springform pan. Chill while preparing the filling.
3. Beat the cream cheese, ½ cup of the sugar, the eggs, 2 teaspoons of the vanilla extract, and the lemon zest until smooth.
4. Pour into the chilled crust and bake 50 minutes to an hour, or until the cheese is set and starting to turn golden in spots. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on) and cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.
5. Stir together the sour cream, remaining ¼ cup of sugar, and remaining teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread over the cooled cake, then return to the oven for 12 minutes or until glossy and set.
6. Cool completely, cover, and chill at least 8 hours

This content is taken from Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires:

Some notes on the cheesecake: I found her suggestion of using cream cheese "preferably without gum" intrigueing and set out to find such a thing.  She is referring to stabilizers such as carob bean gum and locust bean gum.  Every cream cheese at Ralphs from the generic Ralph's brand to the Horizon organic no rBGH cream cheese had some form of "gum" in it.  So I'd love to know where she finds such a thing (makes it herself?  Goes to Whole Foods?).  I'm also curious whether that changes the texture of the cheesecake.

Also, i substituted 8 ounces of neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese) for regular cream cheese and 8 ounces of low fat (NOT FAT FREE) sour cream for regular sour cream just so I wouldn't feel SO guilty about eating a piece or two.  I found that the flavors and textures were really good so I don't think this changed much other than fat and calorie count.

Finally, during the first cooking process - my cheesecake went from this:

to this after cooling:

I call it "my cheesecake's Mona Lisa smile." ;)  Lucky for me the final step required spreading the sour cream/sugar mixture on the top and placing it back in the oven.  The final cake looked like this:

And I was very happy with the result!

Next time I make a cheese cake I will likely cook using a water bath so that I limit the chances of my cake cracking.

Do you have a favorite cheesecake recipe?  Have you made the Italian style with Ricotta?  Which do you prefer?

Chow for now! :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Please join me in helping children make better food choices!

I've been on Spring Break this week, spending time in the outdoors in Big Bear (spring skiing at Snow Summit) and catching up on my reading and homework for class.  It's been a relaxing week but I'm anxious to get back to class and to get that brain working again! :)

I've also been following Jamie Oliver in his quest to make school foods BETTER, HEALTHIER for our children!  I think this is such a worthy cause and recommend you read up on it and sign his petition.  So far over 300,000 people have signed it.  Jamie will eventually send the signatures to the white house to show them just how much we support this cause. 

The website is great - in addition to the petition, there are healthy, easy and fun recipes for you to try out (invite your kids to cook with you!), and information that you can provide to your schools to help them prepare better food for your children.

Once kids get involved in choosing, growing and making the meals they eat, they enjoy it more. I've seen it work at The Garden School.  Once kids understand that healthy food can actually taste good, they might actually eat more of it (and less sugar, french fries and soda).  In order for it to work, it has to start with you.  Please check out some of the recipes on Jamie's website today.

Chow for now! :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Oh cheese (and prosciutto!), how I adore thee.

As many of you know, I was very excited about going on a "field trip" with my culinary class last night (Chef made up some lame excuse about our kitchen's power not being on full blast this week but secretly I know she wanted someone to eat cheese with!).

So our field trip consisted of visits to two of her favorites: The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and The Farm of Beverly Hills.  Chef has a 30 year relationship with both places, having bought cheeses from the Cheese store for her catering business and having met Fran Berger, the owner of The Farm when their kids were in preschool together.

Before I hit the Cheese Store, I drove in a few blocks further on Beverly and picked up some french Macarons from Paulette Macarons.  Chef is always talking about how she wishes she could find the "real thing" in the US (as opposed to flying to Paris to find them).  And these were really delicious - crunchy top leading to creamy soft center - I tried pistachio, Italian almond and Madagascar vanilla.  I ended up buying a few for me and a few for Chef.  Needless to say she was very excited to try them at home (and thrilled to find somewhere in LA to buy them in the future!).

Once I got that errand done, I headed over to The Cheese Store.  If I was blind, I would have found this store by sense of smell would have sorely missed the beautiful sights inside.  The second you walk up to the store and open the door you get a very potent whiff of... you guessed it, CHEESE.  Once you are inside for a few minutes the smell dissipates and you can enjoy the not only the amazing array of cheese, but also vinegars, truffled products, dried meats, olive oils, wine and bread, to name just a few of the items for sale.

Chef introduced us to Norbert, who gave us our "cheese tour." And what a tour it was.  We sampled cheeses from across the world (US, Italy, France, Belgium) and from different animals (cow, sheep and goat) and of different textures and strengths (gorgeous, young, mild burrata, all the way to very strong, smooth camembert).  Some of these cheese tastings had toppings (muffeletta with the burrata, sun dried tomato with the parmesan and -- are you sitting down -- truffle honey with one of the goat cheeses - To. Die For.).  Thank GOD I am not lactose intolerant.  Of all of the cheeses we tried in just over an hour, I enjoyed most if not all  I think my favorite was the stilton (blue) cheese with cranberries - meant to be a dessert cheese.  I bought a hunk of that to go.

Along with the tasting, Norbert included some really interesting facts about cheese.  For one, burrata can be filled with cream or ricotta (if you haven't tried Burrata, please do asap).  Parmesan has to age for 18 months in caves before it can be called parmesan.  Normandy is the best place to get butter and camembert.  Brie only has 45% milk fat (as compared to 75% milkfat of triple creme cheese and 60% of cheddar!).  So we dubbed brie - "diet cheese."  We learned about the AOC (The Appelation d'origine de Culinaire) which oversees the regions of France and the products (specifically wine, cheese, butter) which are made in their terroir.  All in all a fun lesson and a tasty one at that.  Below some pics from the tasting:

At the end of the tasting, Norbert told us we would be having a contest!  He asked three questions about the history of cheese (which he had told us over the hour) and guess what!  I answered the first question correctly! AND I won a hunk o' prosciutto worth about $90 (see pic below)!  Craziness!  I asked him for some advice on what to do (aside from eat it) and he recommended treating it like bacon, keeping it chilled and even freezing it if I can't get through it all soon enough.  Facebook friends also gave me some suggestions (melon or fig wrapped with prosciutto, slicing and using on sandwiches, etc).  I can't wait to try - now if I only had a commercial meat slicer!

We had planned on going to The Farm in order to eat a light dinner but most of us were full of cheese.  We did sit down and a few of us had coffee, iced tea or a salad and chatted.  It was a nice time to get to know some of our classmates and also Chef who talked a little more about her life, including some fun stories about traveling in France.

What a fun night - I truly love learning about food.  Have any of you learned something new about food that surprised you?  Please share!

Chow for Now! :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

But sharp knives CAN make you cry!

I just finished reading a great book for anyone who is a foodie, a chef, or just enjoys cooking.  It's also a book for anyone in between careers who isn't sure what to do next.  The book is called "The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flinn. Kathleen got laid off (sound familiar?) and decided to take her savings and attend Le Cordon Bleu (the original, in France) to follow her dreams.  She wrote a best selling book and well, the rest is history!

I love how she talks about the French chefs (oh, did I tell you her classes were in French... a language she knew very little of) and she cooks SERIOUS French classical food (aspics and rabbit and hake oh my!) and at times both loves and hates it.  She's hard on herself, competitive with herself and with  her classmates and she does her best, which is, as we all know, the best we any of us can do. 

I am now following her blog - I find her writing fun, entertaining and GOOD.  It's really a lovely thing.  I highly recommend reading her book and anything else she writes about (including recipes, blog entries and probably even shopping lists).

Chow for Now!  :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Giada book signing

Passing this info on to my fellow Giada lovers out there...

Giada DeLaurentiis will be signing her book: "Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California"
April 30 : William Sonoma : 1600 Montana Avenue , Santa Monica, CA 90403 : 310-586-1018

Chow for Now! :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Baby shower ~ spring menu

I am so sorry to leave my readers without a food related post for the last week+... Been a busy girl!  
Last Sunday my mom, dad and I hosted a baby shower for my very cute and very pregnant sister, Jenn and my brother in law, Nat.  It was a day that required lots of planning and prep and it turned out to be a beautiful day.  Mom flew in from NY so a lot of our planning was done over the phone prior to her visit.  We hadn't decided 100% on a menu until she arrived on Wednesday so we spent the next three days planning, shopping and cooking up a storm!  Here is the final (very spring veggie oriented) menu:

mixed olives
tomato and basil bruschetta
brown sugar and honey glazed nuts

antipasto platter
chopped salad
bowtie pasta and sun dried tomato salad
mom's meatballs

"oh baby" sheet cake with lemon filling
fruit salad
strawberry shortcake cookies (take home favors)

We decided not to cook a turkey breast or something time consuming and hot because we ended up with 85 degree weather on Sunday.  It was a smart decision!  The food came out great - although the chefs (mom and I) had a couple of mistakes in the kitchen (for example: my first puff pastry for the asparagus tart "puffed up" too much so I had to make another one), I don't think anyone at the party had a clue of our mistakes though.  Everything looked great and more importantly tasted delicious.  The one thing I was dissappointed with was the strawbery shortcake cookies which tasted amazing right from the oven, but didn't fare well wrapped in wax paper and placed in the chinese take out box favors (pics below).  They got soft and mushy... but it was nothing a warm oven couldn't fix!

The cheese torta was a favorite of mine and also of my brother in law's. :)  This made me happy.  We made this in class during our cheese night and I was happy that was able to recreate it at home.  I added a link to a similar recipe online above.

Some pictures from the day:

Can't wait to meet my niece!

Chow for now! :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

This post is not about food

I am published!  Today The Bark magazine's April?May issue arrived at my door and there it is on page 46 - a picture of Murphy and my article: "Tips on Unemployment from my Four-Legged Friend" by... me!

I'm not sure if it's going to be easy to read here but they haven't released the electronic version of this issue yet so it's not on their website.  I'm so excited - my first published (and paid for) article!

I couldn't have done it without my mom (her writing genes and her assistance reading and editing).

More food later... Gotta send some emails.

Chow for now! :)