Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Late night reading.

Picked up the Blogger.com app for my Droid. Now I can add all kinds of wonderful tasting tid-bits any time, anywhere. Not too shabby!
Tonight, since sleep has felt so distant in recent days, I am working on finishing this insight into a mind: Ferran.
I'll tell you how it ends... He is wealthy and famous while the rest of us scratch our heads.
I've also created a wishlist on half.com consisting entirely of food reference and method text.
My tax return can't come fast enough.
Back to reading- and hopefully sleeping!
Delicious dreams, everyone. Xo

* So, that was a post at 11pm last night. I'm the type of person who becomes so consumed by things that I feel the need to own every text involved in that craft. My book shelves at home are organized according to activity ... Art/Painting, Gardening, Music, Yoga, Hiking ... and cooking.

In the nature of knowing that my tax return is on the horizon and the fact that I have a long list of titles to go until I'm satisfied, I made a "wishlist" on Half.com. Here are the titles I know will satisfy my craving for more information all the time:

The Essential Pepin ... Because I'm in love with Jacques Pepin.

The Escoffier Cook Book ... He's the father of modern cuisine. He's borderline mandatory.

Building A Meal ... Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism. It sounds like a dry read, but I'm up for it.

One Big Table ... I have several friends who swear by the unique recipes in this book ... around 600 of them!

Cuisine and Culture ... a history of food and people. Talk about insight into the minds of human beings.

The Professional Chef ... by the Culinary Institute of America. It's a crime that I don't already own this, but it's really expensive. Money has quite a say in anything I do.

In the mean time I got a call from the husband, anxiously monitoring the weather from Las Vegas. Rumor has it he'll probably be delayed in Denver. Is it strange that I'm slightly jealous of him? If you're going to get stuck anywhere, darling, Colorado is where it's at. Besides the fact that we used to live on its distant outskirts and have friends on all sides, it is quite a place for eating great food. Should he be stuck, I hope he at least leaves the airport for dinner.

I hope the rest of you "fly" safely tonight, too. When in doubt, stay in and cook. xo

I see where you've bean.

Glorious, golden, tasty soup!

Melissa is a fifth grade teacher and she has school vacation at the moment. We spent most of our Monday organizing the house, including the shared pantry and my office. Now, being a personal chef means I'm always prepared for meal-making. Someone needs something last minute? Worry not, I have what it takes to make a meal with any amount of notice. I see that as being prepared ...

My sister let me know that she wouldn't worry too much about the zombie apocalypse due to my over preparation. She concluded that we had enough cans of various beans to survive several months in seclusion.  I had to agree with her. 

Squash, too. We still have lots of that. But it's winter still! We have to eat those kinds of food and have much of it on hand so we're forcing ourselves to eat it. Seasonal eating is the right thing to do, I swear! So, with another meeting of the CPCBC looming in the not-so-distant horizon I had to figure out what to do with said ingredients ... beans and squash. 

TADA! Butternut squash soup with Cannellini beans. I didn't have *all* the ingredients that an epicurious recipe required, so this is my version of my new favorite soup. (No lies there, it is my new favorite.)

Chop up a few strips of bacon and render them in your pot. Remove the bits when they're crispy and leave the fat behind. Add to the bacon fat a medium onion and several cloves of garlic (like, 6- I told you this stuff was good!). When they're starting to caramelize, add three cups of vegetable OR chicken stock. I went veggie for this one (vegan, in fact). Let that come to a boil, then add a whole butternut squash, cubed. Also, add one can of cannellini beans (with liquid) and a can of diced tomatoes (with liquid). Don't forget to salt as you go!

The next addition was not my idea, but I'm glad I used it ... I took two more cans of beans and pureed them in my food processor, then added that to the soup mix. Instant thickening agent, zero slurry struggle. I like that.

So, let that whole mess cook until the squash is soft. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with bacon. I was so anxious to eat the damn concoction that I forgot to photograph my bowl with the garnish. [facepalm]

It was worth it. So satisfying, so filling. Ideal dinner right there. Plus, fairly low in fat when you consider that you really only use two tablespoons of bacon fat for the whole pot. Not too shabby.

Melissa winged this pasta dish and it came out great! Cherry tomatoes, peas, seasoned chicken breast, bacon, parmesan, whole wheat penne. Top notch meal, sister. Well done.

Allie's light, buttery, satisfyingly savory pastry puffs were filled with chicken, green beans, cream cheese ...
Allie, can you post the recipe in the comments section? This stuff was dynamite. I ate close to five of them. Very close.

Hanna rushed over from work, but stopped to pick up some veg on the way.
I braised these guys quickly, then added olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
So easy, but wicked fancy. You know it's spring when ...

AND there was bread. Hanna brought a rosemary loaf. So we dunked it in olive oil. 
I mean, what else *could* you do with it?

Casey came along for the banter and food ... two bottles of wine between us three gals and we were ready to call it a night. Mark and Hannah's significant, Josh, are both in Vegas right now enjoying the desert air and neon glow of where sin resides. The two could use a vacation, so us gals sat up watching Bizarre Foods, Unique Eats, really anything Food Network or Cooking Channel had to offer after 10.

Overall, a successful night was had. And there's left over soup for lunch. Now that's the way to put a Monday to bed:

Well fed. xo

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pin it.

 Ya'll know how passionate I am about food.

I mean, if you've read any of these posts you'd have an idea. It was a leap of faith to venture into the realm of entrepreneurship, but if I've learned anything in this short life of mine it is that anything worth doing is that which makes our heart sing with joy and pound with anxiety at the same time.

The reason I keep this blog running is to share my food passion with everyone. It's a great place for my new clients and colleagues to get a decent idea of where my heart lies when it comes to my career and what I bring to the table. My professional career started in journalism and I've made every effort to give myself a writing outlet no matter what job I've held. I'd like to think that people follow some blogs not just for the content they cover, but for a great read ... in some cases.

And then I was invited to join Pinterest.

Now, I dig Pinning. It's very visual and it's a nice way for great blogs across the internet to reach new audiences. But it's strictly visual. Photographs are fun to share, but what about the content behind them? I wish you could pin content, but that essentially pulls away from what makes Pinterest work. Pretty pretty pictures are what internet sharing is all about.

So ... here come some pretty pretty pictures ... as best I can provide them.

My Clean Plate Cook Book Club is what I look forward to every Monday. It's quite the way to end the first day of the week ... fantastic food and wine. I mean, what's not to like?

In fact, CPCBC is inspiring me to offer cooking parties as a part of my Forever Feasting repertoire. We make it happen for ourselves on a regular basis, but it's also a concept worth sharing.

If you're reading this, I'm sure you know a group of women in your life who love to cook and enjoy eating together. Wouldn't you love to get together to make a meal together with all the actual shopping and cleaning done for you?

Yeah, me too.

So, I just wanted to share some photos from our last CPCBC get together. We have another one planned tonight and I will post pictures from it as well. Sharing a meal is so satisfying. I'm so lucky that I get to do it for a living!

Fortunes from the cookies we dipped in chocolate fondue, thank you Shakira!

Kira and Allie in prep mode. These girls sure can cook. Allie made us all Vietnamese meatball subs. They were to DIE for. She always nails it.

I'm adding this photo because the concoction was amazing- though not a CPCBC creation. My roommate Matt spent time abroad in Australia and brought back the Aussie Burger ingrained in his memory log of all things delicious. Just layer beets (we used sliced canned beets) with a burger pattie of your choice (Matt makes his with turkey), then a fried egg, cheese, avocado, pineapple, bacon, tomato, and condiments of your choice. Sounds like a mouthful? It is. And it is delicious!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The making of a celebration

My husband's birthday was this weekend.

In years previous we've really gone all-out to ring in a new chapter, but this year was more low key. Mark asked that we offer burgers on the grill. He was attempting to go the easy route, but I wasn't about to slack. Food is my love language ...

On the menu, for 9 people:

Cole Slaw (without mayo- I prefer it that way)
Breaded Onion Rings
Design your own burger ...

For the Slaw I went a different route than I normally would. I had been spying the Chinese Flat Cabbage in the Asian produce section, but wasn't sure about its flavor. After walking away from it I noticed a gentleman putting some in his cart, so I took advantage of the opportunity and asked him what it tasted like. His assertion was correct ... sweeter (especially when cooked) and needing little in the way of flourish. Along with that I added some Napa Cabbage and Red Cabbage. This was quite the trio and I was thrilled with the results.

Hello, tasty friends.

I like to soak red cabbage in water before I let it mingle with the rest- it gets most of the dye out.

For the dressing, I winged it. But the end result was pretty awesome ... lime juice and zest, white vinegar, grape seed oil, a dash of dark sesame oil, salt and pepper. The slaw came out amazingly- with some great pungent flavors to cut the grease of the burgers and the fat of all the cheeses we had available. 

I like to make my burgers with few, but very key, ingredients. Salt and pepper (obviously), minced garlic and a bit of Worcestershire Sauce. I find it helps keep the burgers juicy- a lot can be left on the grill.

I *know* it isn't tomato season, but there were heirlooms at the store. How could I say no?!

And of course, there were onion rings.

Mark is a huge onion fan. As am I. My original intention was to make sweet potato fries, but we eat so much of them here I wanted to go for something different. TADA! I got this recipe from Gourmet with a date on it from a few years ago. SO easy. I wanted to avoid batter because it's a mess and I didn't want to have to make multiple batches if I miscalculated. 

2 very large onions (2 pound total), cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1 ¾ cups plain fine dry bread crumbs
About 1 quart vegetable oil

Equipment: a deep-fat thermometer

 This was made all the more easy because Abby lent me her portable deep fryer. I fell in love that night, folks. With 360 degree vegetable oil.

There's more to the recipe:

Separate slices into rings, reserving small inner rings for another use if desired.
Stir together flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
Whisk together egg and milk in another bowl.
Spread breadcrumbs out on a plate.
Coating rings in batches of 4, dredge rings in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and dredge in crumbs, shaking off excess.
Transfer to sheets of wax paper.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat until it registers 360 degrees F on thermometer.
Fry rings in batches of 4 to 6, without crowding, turning over once or twice, 
until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch.
 Transfer to paper towels to drain.

You can find this recipe at www.epicurious.com, which feels like the only legit way to find recipes online. That place is a treasure trove.

After the rings were done, the slaw was tossed, and the burgers were grilled ... everybody got down.

The lot of us around the island in the kitchen.

Check out that spread! Slaw, chippers, arugula, spinach, tomatoes,
an onion and mushroom saute, raw onions, julienne basil, 
a boat-load of condiments, and tons of cheese 
(cheddar, gruyere, blue, mozzarella, and brie).

That one is mine.

Melody made a Toll House cookie pie and chocolate chip cookies laced with coriander and cinnamon for dessert. I made some fresh whipped cream on the fly and by the time we were all done eating we could barely move. It was a great night. Later on we lit a bonfire in the back yard and sipped cocktails made with Kettle One and tropical fruit nectar like papaya, guava and pomegranate.  

The next day our tiny family went for a walk at the McLane Audubon Center in Concord.
That's where Mark and I got married over a year ago. We love visiting.

That night was a huge shin-dig for our friend Hannah (my Clean Plate Cook Book Club compadre who also shares a birthday with Mark). Hannah's menu was simple, but sophisticated. I helped with the caramel popcorn and hummus. Allie brought a Mediterranean couscous dish that everyone is still talking about ... I should have snagged the recipe.

There was punch, crudette, cheeses, guacamole, bruschettas, home made pita chips, peanut butter and chocolate brownies ... then Abby brought crustinis and some other delicious plates- of course by that time my memory had started to get boozy with all the Hendricks, Goslings, and Prosecco. *Whew!*

Hannah and Josh easily had 40 people at their house. A great way to ring in the big 3-0 for Han; the party was a huge success.

Birthdays are fantastic reasons to feast. Feasting, to me, isn't just about stuffing ourselves with food. To me, feasting is savoring ... taking in everything around us. Not just food, but friends, the space we share with others, the relationships we nurture, the planet we must sustain, the music we dance to, the place where we lay our heads at night. 

Birthdays are a great reminder for us to do this every day. It's our personal "New Year" celebration. We can continue on our path with renewed energy. To let every day be a feast for our minds, bodies and souls.

Happy birthday to all of us. May every day of your life be a feast. xo

Monday, February 20, 2012

It means Saint Diego.

San Diego Skyline

This post has been a long time coming ... and I appreciate that you're tuning in even though I've been stagnant for several days on end. It's not like me, but it was well worth it for the stories I have to share.

The American Personal and Private Chef's Association has been my business resource since I began this crazy journey. Every year they hold a chef's summit in some part of the country. They've been doing that for 19 years and with good reason. The amount of fantastic knowledge I gained was unmatched by any career experience I've ever had before. If you've ever had an inkling that this might be the career for you, look no further than www.personalchef.com. All your questions answered. No Bull. No runaround. Nothing but support and guidance.

If she sounds bright, cheerful, charming ... that's because she is all of those things and more. Meeting Candy Wallace, her husband Dennis, and their colleague Brent Frei was really the highlight of my weekend. They are tireless people and they are joyful at the same time. It's difficult to keep up with.

That's me with Candy and Brent. I caught them at the end of a long day. 
It's a rough photo, but still worth pausing for.

So, it wasn't all me pandering to myriad high profile chefs with brilliant ideas. There was a lot of learning on my part ... 21st century sauces ... local food diets ... holistic diets to cure disease ... canning and preserving ... how to run a food truck business ... how to acquire and maintain a relationship with a commercial kitchen ... how to make your dreams a reality. That's just the tip of the iceberg in brief. And when we weren't learning, we were eating.

My meal at Croce's... just one of the joints we popped in to. 
This was our last meal in San Diego, braised short ribs, 
beet greens, mac 'n cheese. BAMF! 
Also, some Pino. A must, in my opinion.

San Diego is really charming- and unseasonably warm this year. Bonus. Mum and I got there early and spent some time exploring, eating, a lot of walking ... We took in all that the Zoo had to offer- what a great idea. A cultural epicenter not to be missed, should you ever find yourself in the area. 

California polar bears eat carrots.
It's true.

The whole trip wasn't nearly long enough, but we left California feeling satisfied, nearly over-fed with new knowledge and ideas. It feels like there is so much more possibility now that I've mingled with my peers. All of them are talented and supportive. The universe has given me quite the tool box to build my future with.

I couldn't have done any of this- nor would any of it have happened- without the support of my parents and my husband. Mom was a fantastic travel partner, my trusted set of eyes and ears on what is good in a kitchen. Were it not for her, this California trip would not have happened.

Thank you, Mom!

There's no time to slow down ... just gotta' keep moving.

There is so much more to share. Keep following along and I will try my best to dazzle and surprise. 

Love and feasting to all of you. xo