Archive for September, 2011
On September 24, my class at the Natural Gourmet Institute had its brunch—our first opportunity to cook a la carte in real time. Friends and family were invited to come to the school and enjoy the students’ offerings and see what things they’ve learned. Guests ordered off a menu and we students worked in the kitchen to give them the best brunch we could muster up. (See our menu below.)
It was a busy day, which began at 9:15. We had an hour overview of the recipes and how things would work. Then we began prepping. We chopped, measured, assessed components, and discussed presentation. Sometime in the afternoon, we got a 20-minute break, which allowed me to run out for a cup of coffee. Mind you, we’re in uniform when we’re cooking and we’re not allowed to go outside in our uniforms. This means that running out for a cup of coffee requires changing into my street clothes, going out, coming back, and changing back into my uniform. Normally, when we have an intense day with little time for lunch, I don’t bother. Even when we have a full hour I sometimes don’t bother because it’s a pain in the neck to do all of that. But on that day, I so needed a cup of coffee (which, having just learned in our Kitchen Pharmacy class, causes fatigue, seemed counter-intuitive, but it was no time for logic). As soon as I got back, I had just enough time to change and we had to go back into the kitchen.
I was on the crêpe station. I made Moroccan-style chickpea crêpes with mango sauce. The batter was made with chickpea flour and the filling was coconut-curry chickpeas and spinach. I cooked fresh chickpeas, then sautéed them with onion, curry powder, coconut milk, spinach, and a few other ingredients. That simmered until it was thick and flavorful. And it was really good. I wasn’t sure I’d be crazy about it because coconut curry is not my first choice of flavor profile. But when I tasted it, it was really good!
My first crêpe was questionable, but by the second one, I had it under control. It was unfortunate that not many people ordered the crêpes—I was looking forward to improving my technique with each one. But the students enjoyed the leftovers and the dishwashers got to have a taste, too.The mango sauce was more of a challenge than it should have been. The first couple of mangoes I was given were rotten. The instructor got me two more mangoes, but they were not quite ripe. That meant that the flavor needed some boosting. I tried adding different things, from apple juice to lemon juice to, finally, coconut sugar. I finally got it to a good flavor and consistency. Although I don’t think it was as good as it would’ve been if the mangoes had been ripe.
When the time came to start desserts, the Crêpes Suzettes turned out to be quite popular,so I stepped in to help with those. Again, my first one was questionable, but each one got a little better. What remained the same was that the other two students making the Crêpes Suzettes did a much better job than I did. I think I added too much Grand Marnier to a couple of them, if the flames in the pan were any indication. But, overall, I don’t think I did too badly for someone making them for the first time.
I also experienced a moment of adrenaline-driven disaster. Well, not a disaster, really. It was more of a little trip-up. I had poured my batter in two small pitchers, to make it easy to pour. When I made my first chickpea crêpe, I turned to the prep table behind me to plate it and proceeded to knock over one of the little pitchers of batter. It went over and the batter went right into the garbage pail. I let out a firm “son of a bitch” and finished my crêpe plate. I guess if my batter had to spill, it was lucky that it went directly into the garbage.
It was also an opportunity for students to meet each other’s loved ones. We met husbands, parents, grandparents, and friends. It was nice to see these people who my fellow students have been talking about for months!
At the end, we were exhausted but, I think, exhilarated at our first real meal service. It’s getting better and better. Next event: Buffet.
(Photos by Elyse Prince)
CTP 197W Brunch Menu
Salad (choice of)
Spinach Salad, Crisped Shiitake Mushrooms, Pickled Red Onions with a Sherry Vinaigrette
Mixed Greens, Roasted Beets and Walnuts with a Creamy Horseradish Dressing and herbed Goat Cheese on Toast
Omelets with Choice Filling of:
Tofu Scramble with Pine Nuts, Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic, and Spices
Belgian Waffles topped with Fresh Fruit and Whipped Cream
Moroccan Style Chickpea Crêpe with Mango Sauce
Tempeh Reuben on Housemade Spelt Bread with Sauerkraut, Pickles, Tomatoes, Avocado and Russian Dressing
Chocolate Pudding with Optional Whipped Cream
Crêpes Suzette with whipped Cream
A great opportunty opened up for me–and chefs/chefs-in-training all over NYC–to volunteer at the Food Network NYC Food & Wine Festival. The festival is from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, 2011, and benefits Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, great organizations in the fight against hunger.
Events will be taking place throughout the Meatpacking District, on the West Side, and many celebrity chefs will do demonstrations, dinners, wine seminars, tastings, and more. I’ll be working at the ShopRite, KitchenAid/Buitoni event. It should be a lot of fun and I anticipate learning a thing or two.
If you’re interested in attending any of the events, tickets are available directly from the festival site. Hope to see you there!
Hi, all. We’re entering autumn (a hell of a lot sooner than anyone anticipated), and for food lovers, that means so many wonderful, delicious things: root vegetable gratins, hearty soups, pumpkin and other squashes, and apples.
Apples are a culinary treasure because they can be consumed raw, cooked in both sweet and savory dishes, and as beverages. They’re so versatile that almost any kind of dish can be prepared with them. They give butternut squash soup a slightly sweet edge, provide cakes with moisture while making them lower in fat, and give meat dishes more complexity.
Although apples are not native to the New World, they have become a staple of American farms across the United States and are ranked in the top 20 crops in the U.S. Although there are more than 7500 varieties of apples worldwide, most of them are not available commercially. Many are wild varieties or varieties that grow on people’s private properties.
So, to usher in autumn and glory in the abundance of apples, here are some recipe links for apple dishes.
Here’s my apple galette that I made in school: Apple Galette with Vegan Crust
Apple Strudel from the Food Network: Apple Strudel
Apple Pie and Apple Pecan Pie: Apples!
And some more great recipes from:
Some people think that bread is the enemy, when in fact it is a staple of much of the world’s diet and without it, many people would starve. A few fairly inexpensive ingredients come together to form a filling, comforting food that goes a long way. And it’s been made for thousands of years from many different grains, from spelt to millet to teff. Bread has held serious significance throughout history, from being payment to soldiers and rent to landlords, to being symbols of abundance. The Bible refers to bread as the staff of life, and the words “bread” and “dough” are slang words for money. Some of our language is based on the importance of bread. The word lord is derived from the Old English word hlaford, meaning “master of the house and keeper of the bread.” Lady comes from hlaefdigge, “kneader of the dough.” Until the 19th century, Germans called their employers brotherr, “bread master.” And the convenience of presliced Wonder bread, available after World War I, was so spectacular to U.S. housewives that the expression “the best thing since sliced bread” became part of our vernacular.
Let me tell you, my class pulled off some beautiful loaves. There were bagels, challah, spelt, olive bread, and others. I made a whole wheat poppy seed loaf (see recipe below). Most of us started with a sponge, which is a mixture of flour, water, and yeast that rises for about 30-45 minutes, and again for about 20-30 minutes. The rest of the ingredients get incorporated into that, which makes for a flavorful and texturally pleasing bread.
My loaf rose like a dream and baked even better. Because it was a whole wheat loaf, I wasn’t expecting it to come out as good as it did, but it had a nice, nutty flavor without being too whole-wheaty (that’s because I used a little white bread flour). Per my instructor’s suggestion, I added some lemon zest and it really made the flavor pop. I added additional poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds on top and it was beautiful, too.
Bread is my weakness—I absolutely love it and can eat it endlessly. Or so I thought, because after tasting 10 or 12 different loaves, I’d had enough. All I thought I would want for the next week was salad. It’s how I felt after grain class—like one big walking, bloated, glutinous blob. But unlike grain class, I was ready to eat bread again the very next day.
The instructor practically swooned over my loaves, which made me extremely proud. It was as if the rising of my bread mirrored the rising of my pride. Okay, that’s corny, but it’s true. I’m slowly finding myself in culinary school. I’m not saying that I’m the best culinary student ever (because I know I’m not) or that I will be the next Cat Cora (only in my fantasies), but there’s a side to myself that’s been waiting to come out. Yes, I’ve been a personal chef and that was rewarding, and yes, I have a cookbook published, so cooking is not new to me. But there’s something about going through a formal program and excelling at it that validates what you’re doing. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that my French knife skills suck, so where technique is concerned, I still have a way to go. But there’s a side to cooking that goes beyond technique; it’s the heart and soul that you put into your cooking that really makes it shine. Your technique can be flawless, but if there’s no “you” in your cooking, you’ve failed. People will “ooo” and “ahh” over beautiful food, but eating it will get boring if it’s not satisfying to both the palate and the soul. I’m not the most technically proficient cook in the world, but I think my cooking has heart and soul and a lot of “me.”
I’m confronting some personal demons in culinary school and, as one person I know would put it, I’m taking them out for a beer. I’m opening up a dialogue with my demons and trying to figure out why they’re still hanging around me. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to kick them out of my head.
All this from bread?
Whole Wheat Poppyseed Bread
1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup rice syrup
1 cup unbleached white bread flour
4 – 5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1-2 tbsp lemon zest (opt)
1-2 tb poppy seeds and/or pumpkin seeds
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In large bowl, combine yeast, water, rice syrup, 1 cup of the bread flour, and 1 cup whole wheat flour and stir until thick like batter. cover sponge with plastic and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 30-45 minutes.
2. Add oil, salt, poppy seeds, and just enough of remaining floru to creat a dough that pulls away from sides of bowl.
3. Knead on talbe for about 10-15 mintues or until smooth.
4. place dough in alrge, clean, lightly oil bowl and cover with clean damp cloth. Proof in warm palce 20-30 minutes or until doubled in size.
5. Prepare bread pans or sheet pans iwth parchment.
6. Gently punch down dough. Let rise again about 15 minutes. Cut dough into two or 4 equally sized balls; shape as desired. Cover with damp cloth and let rise another 15-30 minutes.
7. Bake approximately 30-30 minutes or until golden and firm to touch.
This week, my class at the Natural Gourmet Institute began our recipe testing on our entrees for Friday Night Dinner. My team (group B) has decided on Peruvian. We were originally going with a winter harvest theme, since our dinner night is so close to the holidays. I had been thinking Peruvian all along but everyone seemed so into the harvest theme that I didn’t say anything in the initial planning class. Then, afterward, I casually mentioned my idea, and everyone really got into it. So I’m pleased that the team liked my idea; however, if it ends up sucking, I will feel so responsible. But I think we’re going to rock Friday Night Dinner. For our first recipe test, we did a pretty awesome job.
Our menu so far consists of causa as the main entrée. Causa is a Peruvian potato pie with layers of different ingredients and topped with the ever-present black olives and egg slices. I created a version for my next cookbook and offered it to the class. We modified it to suit the class requirements and everyone’s tastes. And, of course, no eggs on top, since the meal has to be totally vegan. On the side, we’re having a couple sauces—one green, one red—sauteed greens, and curly sweet potato strings for garnish.
After much debate and discussion about form, we finally decided to try a terrine mold. We layered each element (more on that later) and flipped it over. There are some things we need to tweak, but overall, the dish was pretty and delicious.
We haven’t settled on an appetizer or dessert yet. I’m a little disappointed that no one
really wanted to go with my dessert suggestion of Suspiro de Limeña, woman’s (from Lima) sigh, a traditional Peruvian dessert parfait made with dulce de leche and whipped cream. It’s a beautiful dessert and unique. And traditional. But we’ll work it out.
I’m sure we’ll come up with a great menu.
This past Friday, I did my second Friday Night Dinner shift at the Natural Gourmet Institute. It was a lot more mellow than the last one I did, which was quite an experience (you can read about it HERE). On Thursday, I cleaned and prepped what seemed like an endless supply of mushrooms. We had portobellos, chanterelles, oyster, and cremini mushrooms. All of them were beautiful specimens. The oyster mushrooms were so huge, they were twice the size of my hand (see photos). By the time I was done cleaning and slicing, my fingernails were brown. Four days later, I’m still trying to get the brown out.
The kitchen was kind of chaotic and I think the students whose FND it was found themselves a little overwhelmed, which I can see happening. It is a dizzying situation when you’re trying to get everything prepared at the same time and get everything plated and ready to hit the pass in a smooth progression. In a really small kitchen, there are about 15 students, the teacher, 2 dishwashers, and, during service, servers coming in and out. It’s hot, it’s crowded, and it’s crazy.
Pizza has an interesting history, which I talk about in my cookbook, What, No Meat? Here’s an excerpt:
Virtually every culture in the world has one form of pizza or another. In the last couple of decades it has even found its way to the most culturally isolated countries. You probably knew that pizza is an Italian creation, but did you know that it goes back to the ancient Romans? The Romans made what they called moretum, a plain baked piece of dough that they ate with onions. Near the beginning of the 2nd second century A.D., the word picea entered the language to describe a piece of round dough dressed with various toppings, perhaps influenced by the Greek word pièzo, “to flatten.” It finally became pizza soon after. (Sauce didn’t enter the picture until the 18th century.)
The pizza that we know today was created in Naples in 1535 in honor of the marriage of Bona Sforza to Sizismondo I, King of Poland. Despite its grand origin, it became a food for common folk. Pizzerias started out as little holes-in-the-wall, selling pizza to the local peasants. As pizza’s popularity grew, pizzaiuoli (pizza-makers) began adding tables and chairs to entice people to enter. Little by little, they began to decorate and beautify their establishments by putting in colorful tiles or fancy brickwork.
Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in the U.S. in New York in 1905. Over time, it became very popular and more pizzerias opened all across the country, becoming a favorite gathering place for people of all classes. Today, pizza is just as American as it is Italian. According to one urban legend, U.S. pizza is so popular that in the 1980s, college students in England ordered pizza to be shipped overseas. Papa John’s pizzeria filled the largest pizza order in history by delivering 13,500 pizzas in June of 2006. This surpasses the Guinness World Records champion, Little Caesar’s, who delivered 13,386 pizzas on August 19, 1998 to employees of the VF Corp. of Greensboro, N.C. at 180 locations in the U.S.
(Excerpt from What, No Meat?: Copyright © Roberti Roberti
Do not reprint in ANY form or media without express written consent.)
Wednesday night was pizza night at the Natural Gourmet Institute. It was probably a little awkward for some because our bread class was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. Irene hit us full-on on Sunday, August 28, 2011, but the city began shutting down on Saturday. Mayor Bloomberg ordered all mass transit to halt service at noon. This meant that people could get to class but they wouldn’t be able to get home. So, the school closed. That was a relief to me because to make up those classes would have been a pain in the behind for me.
Logically, bread baking should be a prerequisite to pizza making, but circumstances precluded that. But the students in my class are pretty quick learners and in the end, we made some pretty tasty pizzas and focaccia, some of them gluten free. (However, I must say that I did not agree with all the toppings that were made available to us. I just don’t think that tofu belongs on a pizza, no matter how tasty you make it.)
First, we all started by making sponges, a starter made with yeast, water, and flour and is set aside to ferment. Some bakers make a sponge and let it sit for days, even weeks. Some starters—often called “mothers”—have been around for years and years. This is achieved by making a dough with the starter, then taking a piece from that dough and setting it aside, making a dough with that starter, taking a piece, and so on. Artisinal bakers are known for doing this, as it supposedly makes a superior bread.
One of the gluten-free versions of the pizzas was slightly gummy. The bottom was crisp but the part just beneath the toppings had the appearance and texture of undercooked dough, even though it wasn’t undercooked. But the flavor was quite good—better than you’d think from a gluten-free dough. The texture of a gluten-free dough can never be that of regular dough, but you can still get a really good pizza, with a nice, fluffy texture and, with the right toppings, a complex flavor.
We were each assigned a specific recipe. Mine was pissaladiére, which is a French pizza made with caramelized onions, Niçoise olives, and anchovies. I thought it came out pretty good, although I refused to use anchovies. Sorry, all you anchovies lovers, but I just can’t stand the sight, smell, or taste of them. And that pizza was delish! I split my dough into quarters, so I wound up with 4 small pizzas. (See the picture below.)
It was a scramble to get a pizza stone. We actually had lines forming because there were only a few pizza stones and each person had multiple pizzas to throw into the oven. But, eventually, everyone got theirs in and we feasted! At the beginning of class, I was starving. By the end of class, I was stuffed.
So, here is the recipe for pissaladiére, as I made it in school. Enjoy!
¼ cup warm water
1 ½ tsp dry yeast
2 Tb unbleached white all-purpose flour
½ cup warm water
½ tsp sea salt
1 Tb olive oil
1 ½ cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
cornmeal for coating peels
1/3 cup olive oil
4 lbs. onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled, whole
2 Tb Herbs de Provence
½ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Niçoise olives, pitted
6 plum tomatoes, sliced (optional)
In small bowl, combine ¼ cup water, yeast, and 2 Tb flour; stir until thick like batter. Cover sponge and set aside in a warm, draft-free place for 20-30 minutes.
- Add ½ cup water, salt, olive oil and just enough of the remaining flour to create dough that pulls away from sides of bowl.
- Knead dough on table about 10 minutes or until soft dough is created.
- Place dough in medium, clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until dough has doubled.
- While dough is proofing, place pizza stones in preheated 425 oven, and prepare toppings.
1. Heat olive oil in medium pan over low heat. Add onions, garlic, Herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Slowly cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are very soft and translucent (don’t brown). Remove garlic.
2. Gently punch down dough and cut into 2 equally sized balls. Stretch out each ball of dough into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. Place on peel.
3. Spread cooked onions on top of each dough. Add tomato slices and sprinkle olives over the top. Fold edge of dough over onion mixture to cover about 1 inch around. Let rise 15-20 minutes.
4. Slide pissaladiére onto hot pizza stones and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.