A Musical Diary
Sometimes, shouldn’t get complicated. An unlikely and wonderful friendship happens when two creamy components come together.
Crunchy warm toast, coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, black pepper, sea salt…
What just happened??? A really great snack just happened. I spent the night at a friend’s house and she pulled out the ingredients listed above, among a random array of fruits and vegetables. Breakfast à la hung over girls happened.
It was strangely addictive.
I have to add ingredients really matter with this simple concoction. Coconut butter will not work. The neutral quality of coconut oil is the best when making this snack. I also recommend using a whole grain wheat or seeded bread to toast, a creamy & ripe avocado, flaked sea salt, a good olive oil, and fresh cracked pepper.
Coconut Oil and Avocado Toast
1. Toast Bread
2. Spread 1/2 T. Coconut Oil on toast while warm.
3. Spread ripe avocado.
4. Sprinkle lightly with flaked sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of a good olive oil.
I’m back. My first time traveling alone unraveled lots of insecurities and falsities that stresses in life have given me. I fell in love with Italy when it opened up to me, or was it when I opened up to it.
Unorganized, unplanned and it was just what I wanted. I encountered the traveler with just a ticket, the organized boutique traveler, the backpacker, the traveler to whom just wanted that passport littered with stamps, the lusty traveler, the party traveler, the farmer traveler, the other persona traveler…
Traveling is part relaxation, part adventure, and part learning about the people the places and the culture. Of course that always includes the food.
What traveler was I? I was the naïve traveler, the unorganized traveler, the lonely traveler, the one to be ignored, the voyeur. The one who really wanted to sit down in someones home and eat a home cooked meal.
Traveling unraveled itself in my 20’s when I worked as a waitress at a local Irish bar, I met countless people who backpacked, or traveled through Europe, Asia, South America. I vicariously lived through their stories and as my glazed eyes stared into space, I placed myself in a time when I could finally do this myself.
I flew into Heathrow and found out that my room in Rome was already rented, and that my money was refunded. There was no time to assess my surroundings, I had landed and planted myself at Roma Termini, and I quickly had a love hate affair with Rome. The train station slapped me in the face. My body felt weightless, like being suspended on a bed of clouds, still trying to take in the fact that I had no bed secured for the night…
I highly romanticized Rome, and thus far the act of the lonesome traveler…I had no idea what I would be expecting.
Freshly jet lagged and tired from carrying a heavy backpack through terminal after terminal, I was ready to tear up. Frustration peaked through and made me weak.
In my first Roman taxi, the driver questioned why I did not know the language and it was only then that I opened myself up tospeaking the language. My voice trembled and my adrenaline rushed when I told him “Io non capisco l’Italiano”, I felt like jumping out of the taxi and not paying him after that comment, but I understand. After coming across so many tourist that just speak English and don’t even make an effort, flocks of disrespectful tourist is a recipe for the angry taxi driver. To him I was just a number, until I made that effort.
In Italy… I met a stranger and together we ventured off to Cinque Terre and Venice, stayed at an all women’s hostel formerly ran by nuns sleeping in a room with 13 other women, then there were magical times like waking up to the sounds of church bells, hearing Italian children whining for their mothers in the early morning, beautiful seaside towns, Venetian alleys, seeing an a little old woman canning tomato sauce, but of course I also had encounters with aggressive men, sleeping at an airport, holding the frail hand of an Italian nonna, went to the hospital and got treated for dehydration in Milan, drinking prosecco and valpolicella while eating lunch with an Italian family, drinking lots of wine, trying horse meat, and donkey meat in one sitting, walking…walking…walking…pizza pizza …pasta… pasta…
It was in Milan and Verona that I felt the safest and the most at home. I can’t give thanks to Mateo and Valentina enough, I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with Dido, Antoinetta, Domenico, Anna, Nico, and their whole community of friends and family.
When asked what I would do differently, my response would be absolutely nothing…but it would have been nice to just have more money on the trip. Especially when I saw that hefty green wool Dries Van Noten coat that was heavily discounted at a little boutique in Verona. Most importantly after feeling so weak, I was able to gain back the strength that laid dormant after my father passed away.
While laying in bed I found myself planning my day…should I walk to the Duomo and head to the Pinacoteca today? Should I go walk to the park? What else can I do? Still in a bit of a dream state…still waking up. I miss most, the sounds of Italian conversations, and the hand gestures, and the cheeky kisses
I’ve gotten the bug.
So many new and exciting things are happening. I am leaving for Italy in about 6 days.
I don’t know if I will do much posting in Italy. But until I know, here is a quick recipe.
In 2005 I spent a couple of months living on my friends couch. Claire and Dee were awesome enough to let me sleep in the comforts of their cozy little home. It was also during this time that I ran into another friend Victoria McKillop, she lived in a very cute little studio apartment on the bottom floor of a San Francisco Victorian, just around the corner from us. I came over one morning, and she whipped these delicious soft, and just hauntingly comforting crepe like pancakes. She whipped them up so fast that I was thoroughly impressed with the ease of the recipe. She didn’t even need to measure! We ate them simply with extra butter and a little sugar, and I don’t even remember using plates. I have always been fond of this recipe, and it is up to the cook to add more eggs, and or milk and adjust to their preferred consistency. Victoria’s Swedish grandmother made these, and she too was fond of very them. I love most just how easy this recipe is. It’s quite a non-fussy recipe that just requires some basis ingredients. Clarified butter isn’t even needed to brush the pans, regular butter is fine but be careful to watch the heat so that the butter does not burn.
These aren’t like your normal American pancakes that are fluffier and sometimes even a bit dry. Those that need the assistance from maple syrup to flavor and or to moisten them. Instead enjoy these delicate and satisfying Swedish Pancakes just as they are or adorned with seasonal fruits. They are a great recipe to have in your entertaining repertoire. These would also be great savory, stuffed with cheeses, or vegetables, and to do this exclude the vanilla and sugar.Swedish Pancakes *This makes a small batch fit for an intimate brunch party of 4-6. 2 C. AP Flour 4 Eggs 1 1/2 C. Milk 1 T. Vanilla Extract 1/4 C. Sugar 1/2 C. Melted Butter pinch of salt. Softened butter for brushing the pan. Melt butter, just enough to liquify. In a separate bowl, add milk, eggs, sugar, melted butter flour and vanilla extract with a pinch of salt. Whisk till thoroughly combined. Add more milk as needed, you will be looking for a fairly thicker crepe batter. Thin enough to swirl but thick enough to fold without breaking when they are cooked. Not as fragile as a crepe. Heat pan, lightly brush bottom and sides with clarified butter. Add batter and swirl around until bottom surface of the pan is evenly coated. Let cook till edges brown, or top of pancake is dry to the touch. Fold in half, then in half once again (as seen in the picture), and overlap. Serve with fruit compote or jam of your choice. Or simply with powdered sugar and lemon juice. *The pancakes pictured above were served with warm bourbon apples.
Nothing goes together like
chicken and clams. Nevermind…
Surf and turf they call it. Long associated with stained red lobster claws and tails, a hunk of juicy aged steak butter and potatoes. Nothing says steak house like good ol’ drawn butter a bib and meat. I like the flavor that clams and other seafood creatures lend to land critters when thrown together in a pot. Just when I thought I was cooking for two, I then found out that I would be welcoming a third, so I decided to head down to my local seafood monger and bought some clams. As I tasted the broth I knew that clams would be a great addition, not only would it stretch my meal but it would also give the braise additional broth when the clams open.
There is a heavy Italian influence here. The kitchen staples to work, aromatics to start with and creating an inviting and aromatic dish. This recipe allows the avid home cook to gain access to cooking a basic and delicious nonchalant dinner. From this simple dish you can add olives, lemons, different meats, different herbs. Allow yourself to experiment with other root vegetables, as well as spices, as well as using canned verses fresh tomatoes.
The marjoram and fresh herbs in this dish as well as the freshness of the tiny plum tomatoes sweeten and freshen the braise. Instead of a braise it becomes a juicy stew, and thus is lighter than a thick and unctuous sauce. Served over rice, or over pasta, maybe cous-cous, and even polenta it creates a delicious dinner for a mildly breezy summer night.
My pantry needs, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lemons, Onions, Garlic, eggs, herbs, and canned tomatoes. If I have that I can make and create a dinner in no time. .Chicken and Clam Stew w/Plum Tomatoes and Herbs over fresh Tagliarini Serves 2-4 3-4 Chicken Legs 12-16 Manila Clams 1 C. Red Wine 1/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar 1 Medium Yellow Onion 1 C. Carrots 3 Cloves Garlic 1 T Each – Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme Capers 1 1/2 C. Plum or Cherry Tomatoes Olive Oil Salt You will need a pot that could go from stovetop to oven. Salt and pepper chicken, let sit, pay dry. Heat pan, add Olive Oil. Add chicken and brown well. Remove chicken when skin side is well seared and browned. Remove some fat from pan. Add a bit more olive oil, and add onions and garlic and salt. After about 4 minutes, add red wine, vinegar scrape pan. Add herbs, carrots, tomatoes and 1 C. of water-cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes till tomatoes blister and pop. Assist the popping by puncturing the tomatoes with a fork if needed. Add Chicken, capers continue to cook for another 20 in a 375° oven. Take out of oven and add clams, place back into oven for another 10 min or so just enough until the clams pop open. Place atop fresh pasta and drizzle with some young olive oil. Yum. [youtube http://youtu.be/AdimD8Z-ppY]
I went on a little city hike yesterday. Tuna sandwich, cherries, and guava juice. I huffed and heaved hoed my way up the hill and came upon bushes and bushes of thorny branches, filled with ripe and unripe berries galore. I grabbed a couple, climbed over some railings and foretold of a bloody fall. Backing away from the sloping hill I grabbed what I could.
I continued up the hike to see more berries! Not now…I waited till I finished my hike before I succumbed to my greed. Berries…berries…berries! Some where not the sweetest nor were they the easiest to pluck. I put my sandwich bag to use, these downward facing hills wouldn’t detour me from dreams of making a city jam, but maybe the constant pricking of thorns might help.
My jam fantasy came true, my city hike gave me a mini bounty of fragrant dark gems to bring home. I had just enough time to cook and jar them before I went off into the night.
*I never add pectin into my jams. I add a little more sugar and leach out as much of the juices as I can then I reduce and reduce. The lemon always adds a nice brightness. The natural pectin from the pith as well as the acid always helps with thickening. Jams are not very complicated. Stir, watch it, and reduce it. For the home cook, nothing should be very complicated about making a jam. Just don’t burn it. A special copper pan would be nice, and a thermometer would be nice and that spoon test…forget about it all and just watch your jam like you would watch over a toddler in a kiddie pool.Blackberry City Jam 2 1/2 C. Blackberries 1 1/2 C. Sugar 1 Lemon Rinse blackberries of dirt and debris. Cut whole lemon into thirds or quarters remove seeds. Place berries & lemon in pot, add sugar. Cook on medium heat. Stir to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan. At this point you will see your berries shrivel and the majority of your pot will be taken over by the juices of the berry. This is a time to really watch your heat! Gently stir bottom of pan and sides. Turn heat to med-low, and just let this reduce to thicken. I recommend 20+min. Thicken it to about less than 1/2. If you insist on doing that spoon trick-stick a metal spoon into the freezer. Put some jam on the spoon and place back into the freezer, from here you can quickly see the gelling as well as desired thickness. Before placing into jars remove lemons and squeeze excess. Want it thicker? Cook it more-but be very mindful of not scorching your molten jam by stirring the bottom of the pan. Put into a clean sterilized jar eat and enjoy.
When I first stepped into a commercial kitchen I was blasted with the sights and sounds of what I had always dreamed about. What I always wanted to be right in the middle of…
Green…”Your a little green”, said the sous, trying not to sound too much like a novice I shrugged my shoulders, and ignored the statement. He told me that green meant fresh and that I was still very new. Why yes, yes I was and I still am. Every time I enter a new kitchen I do feel green, and I find that feeling appealing! It’s a as though I am taking a cooking 101 class all over again, a refresher course on what to do, say, and what to ask in these different environments.
I am also very new to the act of creating a soup for a restaurant…from start to finish. I mean how much, how will it taste, what will the restrictions be, will there even be any restrictions??? Little did I know that I would be asked back to Zuni Cafe to cover some line shift and even more surprisingly, asked to make some soups for service. It’s a pretty incredible feeling to see my creations on the menu. My sense of self was quickly restored, and with some guidance froms my Chef De Cuisine any worries or restrictions that I had were thrown out the window. START TO FINISH.
Potato and Celery with a Basil Pistou, Black Lentil with Roasted Pasilla Pepper Oregano and Orange Oil, English Pea Soup with Minted Yogurt, Artichoke Soup with a Fromage Blanc Crouton and Green Peppercorns, Roasted Poblano and Spinach Soup with Lime Crema.
Here is a recipe for one of my favorite soups from that week.
Roasted Poblano and Spinach Soup w/Lime Crema1 Quart Chicken Stock. 1 Pint Water. 2 C. Yellow Onions (diced or sliced) 2 Large Poblanos 1 lb. Spinach 1 Stick Butter Olive Oil Coriander Green Peppercorn (white peppercorns can be a nice substitute) Creme Fraiche 1 Lime (1/2 its juice and zest) Salt Oil and Salt Poblano. Set in broiler or on on direct heat to blister (If your lucky to have a wood burning oven, this is the ideal environment for doing so). When they are ready take them out of the oven, cover them and let sit. In a heavy soup or cast iron enameled pot add butter and onions and 1 T. of Salt. Melt the onions on medium heat stirring and watching heat to ensure that your onions do not brown or get any color. The onions should cook for 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat. Make a bouquet garnie consisting of lightly crushed coriander, and lightly crushed green peppercorns. Add this to the onions, also add the pint of water and chicken stock Let simmer. After 15-20 minutes add spinach. Add Spinach. Using a blender or a hand blender. Pulse till desired consistency. Season to taste. For Lime Crema: Add 1 Tablespoon of lime juice, Salt to taste, whisk in Olive oil. Drizzle over soup and serve.
Included in this post is a recipe for a lime-aid. The heated summers in Southern California in conjunction with strict parents lead me to experiment and spend lots of time in the kitchen of our home. So you know the saying, when life gives you…I made lemonade, and various juice drinks using what was lying around the house. I often made granitas during those very hot Southern California summers. Here is a more adult rendition using Piloncio, a Mexican unrefined sugar that you can get at your local specialty market. I was inspired to make this while working at Nopalito. Enjoy.
Piloncio Lime-Aid1/2 lb. Piloncio Sugar 2 1/2 Cups Lime Juice 3 C. Filtered Water 1 Lime to garnish – cut into whole rounds. Combine water and sugar in a pot, bring to simmer making sure sugar is dissolved. Juice enough fresh limes to make 2 1/2 cups. Grab your favorite tumbler, fill with ice of your choice (I really like crushed ice). Place one or two lime garnishes. Fill 1/2 of the way with lime juice and the other 1/2 with the simple syrup concoction. Stir and maybe let sit for a moment to meld together and SIP SIP SIP AWAY on a hot hot hot summers day. Because this is fairly concentrated I suggest maybe adding even spritzer water to your drink or a shake to dissolve. *Crushed mint or Basil would also be delicious in this refreshing beverage. *Rum, Tequila, Vodka, Gin or Bourbon would also be a great addition. *Alternative sweeteners could be brown sugar, turbonado, Agave, and or Honey.
A cough led me to this post. A cough led me to some rest.
This summer I did something new. Amidst my change I became the Chef at a local preschool. Sadly this gig soon ends.
Working, cooking with, cooking for, and engaging with children has made me realize that the little ones can get used to bland food, but that the introduction to flavorful food (though at times kids can be stubbon) is very rewarding!
My summer has been a great one combining two of the things that make me happiest; cooking and cooking for children. I have been extremely happy and satisfied with my days and as I transition into my nights, the act reminds me of why I cook. Especially when I hear expressions like this one: “This soup makes me feel all warm and cozy inside.”
Five year old Sterling recently won a sheep race at her local fair and obviously has a very explosive and energetic way of living. The image of her expressive face filled with feverish anticipation, her little arms and legs tightly hugging the sheep’s back…then ZOOOM! Pelt and all…she bolted to the finish line!!
It all makes me happy. It’s the feeling of being appreciated….or when parents ask me for my recipes…or when I walk into a classroom and hear the kids exclaim that they love the food. BUT they are honest, these kids. Their sincere comments often brighten my day or just shock me. “Try salt next time.” or simply “I don’t like it!” When there are about 80 kids to feed I suppose it would be nearly impossible to satiate the bellies of all the hungry little hippos.
Last week I asked one of the students if he was feeling alright. With a big breath in he slowly heaved a big cough out…onto my face. A week later I sit here trying to heal with broth, juices, teas and rest. Why would I have it any other way?
You’re totally going to change.
In May I wrote a guest blog post on Charlotte Druckman’s Tumblr. Charlotte is an accomplished writer/journalist living and working out in New York who regularly contributes to the WSJ.Com and New York Times T Mag Blog. She is also writing a book on women chef’s called Skirt Steak: Woman Chefs on Standing the Heat & Staying in the Kitchen due out Fall, 2012 on Chronicle books. During this time I felt ill with loss and separation from my accomplishments and felt much disappointment, but there was also rediscovery and rebirth which I continue to do. In response to that post there were some great chefs that contacted me and told me to keep on
looking actually MOVE forward. I needed that, I yearned for the voice and participation of other women in my field that have stuck through it. Here is the link (finally) to those who haven’t read it…
During that time I kept busy and not so busy passing the time by questioning my motives. It was too hard to try to forget that moment when I looked in the mirror with utter despair, and told myself everything was going to be okay. The images of other chefs telling me to not give up, and with Charlotte’s help I was able to speak to different chefs, and some allowed me into their kitchens, because this is what they do.
Happier times ahead… fruitful ones realizing that I have put just too much on my shoulders. Giving myself a bit of time to inhale and exhale.