What more can I ask for?

Where do I start?

I can start with a very joyous moment in my kitchen journey.  I have started a new station, and that station is the grill.  Day or  night I handle a live fire and I shovel coals.  There is immense pressure, immense heat and loads of exhaustion and possible dehydration.   It is however, very exhilarating to cook a piece of protein well, and handle that beast of a fire.  I come home with small blisters from flying embers that crackle off the coals that find themselves latching onto my skin.  I come home with cuts, knicks and burns from hot sizzle platters, and from lord knows what.

But I can’t step away.  When I was training a few weeks ago on the day grill I felt what it was like to almost be on the verge of a mental collapse.  All the tickets that were piling up…having to figure out the timing of each protein…calling out the time to the expediter…what cheese goes on what burger…what temp for each burger…toasting the buns…grilling the mushrooms to order…fish goes with that…pork goes with that…and a whole new setup?? DAMN YOU MODIFICATIONS!!!  Never before have I hated customers and their complicated orders and never have I really began to loathe the server.   I  had some very awful thoughts of failure, but I told myself to breathe through it, and that the day would eventually end…that day.  When the person training me had asked if I was okay, I soon went from internal frustration and  combustion to external and my eyes began to well up.  SISSY.  I know.

There is something so satisfying about he feeling that you have accomplished a day or night of work.  I have learned a so much since being on the grill and I am still learning each time I step on that place mat and shovel those dark black coals into the blazing hot fire and ash.

Skip to a few weeks later and I am working more night shifts on the grill.  Pork chops, flat irons, tuna, bass, halibut, grouper, salmon, pork tenderloin, grass-fed beef hamburgers.  Before this I had never really worked a hot line before except the fryer, and getting to know the feel of a protein and its doneness, and there is still more to come.

I have also moved into a more centralized and more convenient spot of the city.  Public transportation is abundant and now I have a nice little kitchen to cook in.  But I also have to mention that the best part about this new cozy home is the access to the wonderful lush garden that is my backyard.   Here I have access to a few superb varieties of herbs, and greens as well as beautiful violets and strawberry blossoms peaking through the soil.  But that’s not the end…

I have also began a small journey into feeling what it is like to be someones personal chef.  Vipul is his name and he recently hired me to cook for him.  In the past couple of weeks I have created a surplus of recipes, so many in fact that I have not had a chance to document or  keep record of what I have made for him.

I am hoping that changes and I will update the site with more recipes from the past couple of weeks.  Vipul said to me the other day that he had told some of his friends that he hired someone to cook for him and that he “…Really feel it you know?” Suggesting that he feels the power of good food. That’s what happens when you begin to eat well prepared meals that take time and loads of heart.   I just love cooking, and Vipul’s statement was one of the most flattering things a cook could hear.  Spending hours simmering a stock, hand peeling fava beans, hand mincing garlic, and other time-consuming processes in cooking can make a phenomenal difference in how your food tastes.

Merry Christmas.

Brunch!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  This recipe is for my sister in law.

This morning.  Bacon, rosemary scrambled eggs and Swedish pancakes with Blackberry preserves.

♥ Swedish Pancakes ♥

1 large egg
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
6 T melted Butter
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
Filling:
Any jam or preserve.
Top with powdered or confectioners sugar.

Directions:

Beat egg and milk together set aside.  In another bowl combine the flour sugar and salt.  Sift Dry ingredients into another bowl and continue to add the liquid mixture.  Add in butter.  Mix with a wire whisk till no lumps.

Heat flat griddle or cast iron griddle.  Add small amount of butter to pan.  Hold pan with one hand (make sure pan is hot) with the other ladel a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan.  Immedietly continue to move the pan in a slow 360° motion to distrubute the batter evenly.  Cook till top none of the batter is at its liquid state.  Flip over.  Continue to cook 20 seconds take off heat.  Add preserves or jams to 1/4 of the round formation and fold into triangle.

Top with a pretty soft dusting of powdered sugar and your set.  I LOVE YOU MOM!

Sardines!

In homage to my new haircut and the crisp seas I’d like to try out a new and delicious fish dish that is O so easy to prepare withno fuss ingredients.

So lets start by admitting that everyone  absolutely loves small flavorful plates! Tapas style plates are delicious smaller morsels of food that are easily shared and enjoyed by a party of friends.

The idea for this flavor combustion of ingredients came from my experience as a little girl eating tin cans of sardines in a tomato sauce with lots of black pepper with translucent slivers of onions and aromatic garlic.  The oily and meaty Sardine can be a hard thing for people to consider eating, especially canned ones.  Good sardines can give a lively yet flavorful bounty of fish flavor without the horrible smell or taste so often associated with overripe fish. They aren’t bad, in fact they smell and taste rather clean and not very salty.  It’s a great item to have in your pantry.  I love them!  This became an extremely quick-lunch today. I served this along some long slivers of sweet carrots and fennel tossed simply with olive oil and a bit of sea salt, it was a perfect and extremely tasty meal for 2.  Can serve 3-4 as an appetizer.

Sardine in salsa di pomodori con i fagioli bianchi e le erbe (Translates into Sardines with tomatoes and white beans with herbs)

1 Tin Can Sardines packed in Olive Oil  (drained)
1/2 Yellow Onion (sliced in wedges along the grain 1/3 of an inch thick.)
2 med cloves garlic
1 T Parsley chopped
5 medium leaves of Basil (rough chopped)
2 round slices from a lemon
Toasted rustic loaf slices
1/2 can white beans
1/2 cup white wine
2 med tomatoes (roughly diced)
7-8 Kalamata olives (pitted and rough chopped)
1 tsp.Cayenne
1 tsp. Paprika
salt
pepper
Olive Oil

Directions:

Heat up pan on high and sweat the onions and garlic 3-4 minutes turn down heat to medium.  Add the tomatoes, the cayenne and paprika.  Add the white wine and simmer.

Add 1/2 a cup of water.  Add your drained sardines and olives.  Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the lemon and simmer for 10 minutes then add beans. Do not over stir, just to heat beans through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Softly simmer for another 6-8 minutes.  Toast some nice 1/2″ slices of a rustic white bread.  Lay bread nicely on a platter and douse with a flavorful olive oil.  Pour the Sardines and tomato sauce over the bread and sprinkle with the rough chopped herbs.  You can remove the large rounds or coins of lemons but its nice to see them on the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

I can already tell that Sardines will continue to be a part of my diet for years to come.  This version is a bit of a change from the childhood sardines that I am normally used to.  I incorporated the creamy body of the beans along the savory zing of the olives and lemons for a bit of brightness.

I remember one lovely afternoon while watching the waves while all bundled up at the beach, my pastry chef reintroduced me to those wonderful meaty chunks reminding me how lovely preserved items can be.

And one of my all time favorite songs!

A Message to you

Wack wack wack slice slice slice pound roll boil bake.

I’ve taken on a new task and it has reintroduced fresh new inspiration into my life.

For the past 4 weeks I have been volunteering my time and have been giving cooking lessons as well as providing a hearty and delicious meal at a local non-profit. Most the kids are middle school aged and I was almost intimidated by the thought of them saying “EW…WHATS THIS” or even worst not connecting with them and feeling completely outta tuned with today’s youth.    I have to tell you the best thing that I have heard in ages must have come out of a 13 year olds mouth …“YO THIS IS HELLLA GOOD.”  Other comments such as “I like you better than the other cooking teacher…she was mean.”  Not to mention I think she also cooked them bland food.  It feels really good to connect with these youth, and I also vowed NEVER to play cheesy world music while cooking with them.  It also helps that we can talk about Rihanna and Jay Z as well as how to Julienne, chiffonade, slice, dice, bake, boil, roast etc…

In this post  I have included a video of Sting’s daughter singing a lovely tune that accompanies me in the kitchen, as well as a quick version of my sloppy joes.  Of course if I made this for adults and had a better budget the list of the ingredients would be a little more complex but not much!  Including Orange juice and lemon zest for the coleslaw with cilantro and I would use a beer or a wine to help with additional flavor to the sloppy joe concoction. And yes, hey call me MS. TINA

I made this dish before using a cast iron skillet and carmelized the onions also using some smoked salt, and a nice hearty wine (or was it beer?) I think I also added a bit of orange juice or pineapple juice.  SO enjoy this one for today.

This is today’s recipe.  I have 1.5 hours to prep, cook, clean, instruct, and sit down and have a meal with the kids!  I also have to use what we find at the San Francisco Foodbank, the programs Pantry but also some money comes out of the program directors generous pocket.

This is a quick ingredient gathering/list that I emailed to the program director!

Apple & Cabbage Coleslaw

3 Apples 4 carrots 1 cabbage mayonnaise 1 Green Onion 3 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander or Cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Apples:  Cut into slivers (please ask Ms. Tina)

Cabbage: Finely Julliened (Please ask Tina)

Green Onions : cuts into rounds.

Sauce: Add all other ingredients together but please ask and make sure all ingredients are present before you start to make the sauce.

Sloppy Joes – Keep in mind you might have some of these Items in the house

Hamburger Buns – enough for surprise guests and attendees.

Ground beef

1 Yellow Onion

2 carrots

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup Brown sugar

1 can chopped stewed tomatoes

1 can tomato paste ( I think you have this at the house)

1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar ( I think you have this at the house)

(as for spices I can work with what you have in your spice kitchen) So Dont worry about buying any of these I am just listing this for myself.)

Cumin, Coriander, bay leaves, Cloves, Thyme

If there is time for dessert then Lets buy some Vanilla IC. It would be VERY VERY easy.

Dessert?  Warmed Peaches with Vanilla IC.

I love it!! I love working with limited ingredients and making something delicious and comforting.  The past 4 (going on 5) classes were great! They were a bit hectic and many many surprise elements were thrown in, like having no time or the oven was at the wrong temp, extra kids to feed.  Most these meals become impromptu cooking lessons with the kids having some of the most awesome skills and initiative and having some of the greatest palates to boot! Fresh turkey meatballs with homemade marinara accompanied by a salad of fresh greens, to Shepherd’s Pie with fresh made buttery biscuits, to Smoked turkey legs with winter vegetable soup and a cinnamon apple crumble.   Today its Sloppy Joes!  I hope to put up pictures of the evenings. So until then …<3

Alexander McQueeeeeeeeeeeeen

I was inspired to draw a connection with the recent Spring/ Summer 2010 Alexander McQueen runway.

sp-about-mainimageHE IS AMAZING.  His conceptual response to fashion and the runway is major with it’s Avante Garde staging as an installation.   Going through his archival of runway shows I find myself saying over and over again “WOW” or “Oh my GOD!” even “WOWIE” was proclaimed.   Each show is  a meeting of massive multi dimensional morphing! Pure visual imagery and pleasure.  MY GOAL is to go through each runway show and create a multi faceted menu:

Just read the didactics from Fall/Winter 08: “

Based on the British Empire, the Queens of England, the Duke of Wellington, toy soldiers and punk princesses, this fashion fairy tale is dominated by an ancient tulle-wrapped tree referencing the work of the artist, Christo. For the first half of the show our heroine is dressed in beautiful rags: nipped waisted jackets, Victorian-line dresses with S-bend corseted tops, textured, hand-knitted mohair and washed tweeds all in dark or neutral colours lend a make-do-and-mend feel to the proceedings. It isn’t long, though, before our Princess meets her Prince Charming, at which point she descends from her treetop habitat and finds all the riches of the world at her disposal. Her clothing duly explodes into colour and references everything from the wardrobe of the young Princess Elizabeth –crimson velvet New Look dresses, ermine wraps and a bastardised Union Jack print – to the palaces of the Maharajas – a draped, predominantly empire-line silhouette finished with paper-flat embroidered slippers, each pair bespoke and created to complement its own outfit.”

Brilliant!  Is there a possibility that food and the runway can go hand in hand?  Of course!  The dark into bright juxtaposition of layers and layers evolves and just conjures up so many ideas that I could play with.  But with my food knowledge being only so modest what will I conjure up?  His details and his thoughtful selection of staging is just so inspiring.  The other day at work someone offered me a taste of Vietnamese yogurt to which I replied “It tastes like Hello Kitty…Theres that artificial sweetness” . I often times will taste and see food, which is why I have to close my eyes from other distractions and to focus on my palate…

In this link is McQueen’s 2010 line titled PLATO”S ATLANTIS I find playful inspiration sparking up inside me again. Haunting and awe inspiring, it revives my imagination so that it doesn’t relocate to a less creative space…and that BUILDUP!

YUMM.  This futuristic, reptilian, aquatic and hedonistic, fetish bound concept of this particular line sparked a vision of what I would be able to do with food.  Most the time food at its purist form is the most attractive and this connection with wildly exotic can conjure up rich stews, pastas, bountiful and beautiful greens layers of flavor, seafood game meats…It’s beautiful really, it evokes a playful passion that imparts the same attraction when viewed, and surely enough thats relevant with food.

Spellbound. WOW

Question of the day.

Waiting for the bus, heading home…the bus’ arrival.  I was in front of the San Francisco Public Library when someone stopped with the question…”ARE YOU A CHEF?”  I didn’t know what to answer…but nearly nanoseconds before he appeared I was watching a novelty bus line for tourists slow down; it wasn’t the #19. I wanted it to be but it wasn’t.  I instinctually ran towards the slow-moving bus in hopes of avoiding more prying questions.

When the bus kept on going I was left in this off and odd feeling. “Wait Waittt!” How do you answer that?  Are you a chef? I quickly turned around to try to see if the man was still there.  Maybe even give him an answer but, he was gone as fast as he had

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Birthday Dinner

appeared.  The guy looked like Joe Pesci.  Slicked back black hair with a NY Giants jacket, that’s how I remembered him.  My bus finally came. The whole time I was on the actual #19 bus I felt this nauseous feeling, riddled with anxiety wondering how the hell do I answer that.

I talked to my chef about it and he had a very abstract way of looking at the question.  COOK it’s what all chefs are.  CHEF is only a title of a person that would be the one higher grander scheme of control.  ‘ simplifying it…I can’t begin to write in detail about how he explained it.  It was a bit abstract actually.  Here, so that I won’t continue fumble over the whole brigade Wikipedia answers this question:

brigade system (Brigade de cuisine), documented by Georges Auguste Escoffier

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigade_de_cuisine

or this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chef

That answers MY question but, the majority of people who see someone in a kitchen or carrying a knife bag will automatically associate you with the word CHEF.  The hierarchs creates a sense of accomplishment  like a notch on your belt.  Without worrying about the regal hierarchy of it all, my friends and loved ones consider me a chef, I consider myself a cook and my title is Garde Manger/Pantry. Nothing too complicated with that.

I get choked up.

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It’s the start of a New Year.  Excitement is in the air and so is change and I am looking forward to new endeavors.  With that being said, I am letting go of a $1200 studio apartment.  I am finding it harder and harder committing to such a  heavy workload with such little pay.  I am going to go full force at this in hopes of learning more, without the stress and burdens that rain on me financially…we all know the kitchen is stressful enough.

So…Roommates.  Everyone knows what a task it is to find a room.  Particularly daunting is the thought of having somewhat crazy psychotic or worst a hippie vegan with staunch political views that won’t let me cook in the kitchen with animal products.  Those people exists.  Those people also wouldn’t want me as a roommate.  Roommate postings can range from sane to completely outrageous.  Vegans not wanting to share pots and pans, roommates wanting Taco TUESDAYS, must like this must like that must not do this must not do that.  It gets too much.  Viewings take on another rabid spirit.  When opening a door into a new apartment, there is sometimes that scary screeches from a soundtrack of a horror movie.   Think Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. I don’t want to live with Normal Bates.   Then again it’s San Francisco I also don’t want to live with a Cheech Marin who will wreak of Nag Champa and patchouli.

I will miss my large and new kitchen.  I will miss the oven, where I have created shortbread, and cakes, and roasts, and toasts when I lacked a toaster.

On to a new journey.  More twists more turns.

The other week I cried.  I snorted and blubbered through a moist towel.  I sighed and breathed and got choked up.  I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I don’t obsess over many things, or many humans, but I can sometimes obsess over food.  While watching the episode on Spain, I had a bit of an intense reaction to the beautiful philosophy that a culture had on food.  The innovation the soft beauty that was present in each family story.  Adhering to their roots…their culture, and transforming culinary traditions to create new ones.

It got me to thinking. I wanted to travel.  I yearned to.  I ache to.  I want to taste and savour the splendid tastes and aromas of regional cuisine.  I’ve gone on interviews with various chefs and talked about food, and when asked, “WHY?…do you pursue this…do you want this…what is it about food that you like…”

I’ve stated before that I can get pretty emotional with food, as well with art. But I was not expecting it to suddenly overwhelm me when I was watching the show. It evokes so much emotion in me.  A wonderful spirit.  Maybe it’s my fathers spirit lighting new hope within me ,when at times I thought all there was to this world was making my mother happy, and making money.

I couldn’t stop crying.  It wasn’t sadness, maybe it was envy maybe it was jealousy.  I wasn’t there to smell the wood burning, I wasn’t there to taste the seasonal farm fresh ingredients, overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of a different country.  The aromas, the language the sun all tied in a bundle around my heart.  Squeeeezing it sooo tight, that I really thought that my heart was about to burst.

It was just so beautiful.  And I want to experience that.  I love love love that.  The excitement the passion, and the tactile and sensory experiences.

I am exciting about this years change.  With $1200 of rent away…with getting my deposit back.  I am ready to move with no excuses.  With no looking back, no regret.  To be able to travel, catch that bug that my friends talk about.  Focus on expanding my palate with travel.  I can’t wait.  It will be a bit till I am able to save up for my culinary journeys, but it’s definitely going to happen.

I hail a toast to 2009 and beyond.  May the wine be bountiful and aromas be bright and warm.