Gluten Free Gingerbread

I have all of these celebratory memories of my mothers fantastic gingerbread cake from my childhood. It was always such a satisfying dessert for me growing up; topped with fluffy clouds of her thick, homemade whipped cream. An ever-present reminder … Continue reading

Date Night Dinner

Sometimes, date night is better suited in a warmly lit, comfortable kitchen, or on a nicely dressed picnic table in a field, surrounded by citronella and torches. Now that I have your visual imagination thinking, heres whats for dinner:::   … Continue reading

The Culinary takes on California

Recently, The Culinary Institute of America has developed a very modern semester away program for students at the Hyde Park campus in New York. This program allows Bachelor students to connect with their food and learn from well-known chefs, like Larry Forgione, on how food systems work. After an interview with Chef Forgione this past winter I had California on my mind. I decided to make the trip out to the Greystone campus in Napa to see just what this program entailed.

Image

After a rigorous interview process, these students were accepted into the semester away program in either Farm-to-Table studies or Advanced Wine, Beverage, & Hospitality Management. Upon arrival in May, the students immediately began a demanding schedule. Every week, the students volunteer up to nine hours of their time on the CIA farm and are required to attend BPS classes, like Business Planning and Wine Studies of Napa Valley. Wednesdays, they have Advance Cooking class, where they spend six hours preparing dishes that go with a specific theme arranged by Chef Forgione. Fridays and Saturdays are a different story, however. The students have to prep and manage a restaurant, named The Conservatory, that they helped open this past May. They collaborate with Mr. Bath, Crystal, and Chef Forgione to create a nine course menu with wine pairings, a wine list, and three specialty cocktails.

This venture is not for the faint of heart, but for determined and motivated individuals, such as Brooke Maynard (pictured above). Brooke is a leader in the CIA community, was the captain of the ACF team this year, is a competitor in culinary contests worldwide, and a philanthropist in many organizations. Students who take on leadership roles and who immerse themselves in the CIA culture, like Brooke, are the kind of students that have become a part of the program. After staging, observing, and finally eating in their restaurant on separate occasions, this has been my conclusive realization. Student leaders like Zach Hoffman, and avid writers for CIA, like Yosef Sahler, take on this program like a job; a part of their career. Each and every student brings one hundred percent to the table and put their best foot forward at all times. Whether they are pulling weeds out of gardens in the Napa heat or reading 600 pages about vinifera, these students take their tasks on with passion.

Image

Though the students in the wine program have many separate classes from the students in the farm program, their week is equally as demanding, if not more. Where the wine program lacks in laborious farm work and long days in the kitchen, it makes up for it with a constant stream of intense reading and writing about all things wine related. After talking to the Director of Wines Studies, Crystal, I am amazed at how intense the wine classes really are. The students value every minute of their work, however, which is a refreshing outlook to see in college students. As I hear Sophia Martinez and Lindsay Borenstein chat about their upcoming week of papers, projects, and heft of readings, my heart patters in remembrance of what it was once like to be in the BPS program. It amazes me that these students are able to pull it off and I am proud to know them as such hard-working individuals. Once their studying and classes are finished for the week, they also have to devise a plan for their wine menu on Friday and Saturday, as well as take on a specific job in The Conservatory.

The front of the house divides the students into a brigade: Manager, Captain, Back Waiter, Barista, Sommelier, Expo and Food Runner. They each hold several responsibilities of which the FOH Professors monitor, but they allow the students to take on each position as if they were a paid, rather than a part of a learning environment. This gives the students opportunity to learn the importance of self-management, a factor that is imperative in hospitality. The BOH is similar in this regard. Chef Forgione gives the students the guidelines and tools to manage their stations, but they take ownership of them. The cooks divide into groups of two and discuss ideas before presenting them to Chef. They collaborate with Chef Forgione mid-week, as well as Christian, the school farmer, to discuss what would work for the menu. They always keep in mind the vegetables and fruits that are growing in the gardens, first, then what they can get at the farmers market, and finally outsource from local purveyors. They create a menu and come in Friday afternoon ready to work. The teams divide by courseline: Amuse, cooked egg, pasta, fish, meat protein, and all of the dessert courses. Chef Forgione acts as a teacher, mentor, and executive chef, but the students manage their menu items and take on all the prep that is involved.

1064235_10201415260893483_987430991_o

Throughout my time spent with these students, cooking, farming and exploring California, I have developed a great respect for what they are doing. They are preparing themselves for what lies ahead in our industry. They take on this semester away with gusto and, because of it, have already achieved excellence and acknowledgements of their forward thinking. I see great things for their futures and for the future of food. It is like Elizabeth Meltz of the Batali & Bastianich Restaurant Group had once said to me, “[…] the future of food is going to be in the hands of people like you […] you, who are going to take it to the next level.”

1044323_10201472697169354_809859219_n

Lemon Maple Shortbread

These cookies are a delicious, refreshing treat from the everyday. I have always adored shortbread; it was one of the first things I’ve learned how to bake. This is a fun and interesting take on the traditional recipe.

Image

Lemon Maple Shortbread: Makes 2 dozen

8 oz Cake Flour

8 oz AP Flour

1/2 t Salt

11 oz Butter

6 oz Brown Sugar

6 oz Maple Syrup

1 Lemon (just zest)

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Egg Yolks

Cream butter, and zest. Add in the yolks, syrup and juice. Slowly add in the sifted dry ingredients. Chill the dough for an hour. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Form into circles of about 1/4 inch in thickness then bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Image

Detox Deliciously

Image

Detoxing, a culinary fad or a health trend? What once was seen as a retro crash diet has been newly deemed as socially acceptable and healthful! In fact, if you go to any of your local co-ops or Whole Foods markets, you’ll find dozens of different ways to detox your body and cleanse your corrupted colon. But, how do you know that your actually doing something healthy, or may just be shelling out dollars for the next big gimmick? Well, I’ve got the scoop on how to keep your money in the bank on the road to health, while also updating this retro food trend for the everyday health nut.

First, keep in mind the importance of your health. Detoxing is not something that should be done everyday. If you do decide to juice your days away, I recommend limiting it to three, maximum. Any longer could really derail your metabolism and very well cause you to binge for the next two weeks on unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. I usually limit my detox to two days, with a protein packed dinner on the second night.

A juice detox can be quite expensive, like that new Blue Print cleanse. Eighty bucks for juice? No thanks! Invest in a juicer, if you don’t already have one. They are well worth it and can be found at great discounts all over the internet. With one, juicing is much less expensive and you can control what you put in it, how it tastes, and how much you make.

For Breakfast:

I love starting my cleanse with a small bowl of fruit, hot lemon water, and juice! This one is a perfect wake up call.

Image

Simply, juice equal amounts of pineapple, carrot, and orange. Throw some mint in between, or pulverize it like making a mojito. This juice is full of carotin, vitamin C, and the pineapple & mint produce slenderizing effects.

Mid-Morning:

Feeling fatigued yet? Mid-Mornings are the worst for me. I always have to have a little something to perk me up and keep me going.

Image

Try broccoli, cucumber and mint, with a squeeze of lime! This juice has a lot of vitamin A & C. The cucumber is a fabulous de-inflammatory from too much salt in your diet.

For Lunch:

Protein time! By now, I’m sure that tummy screaming for something satiating. I am a true lover of smoothies. They are a great way to add protein and calcium into your cleanse. I usually try to keep mine low-sugar as well.

Simply blend fortified almond milk, soy protein, half of a frozen banana with a tablespoon of cocoa powder. For a little extra calcium and probiotics, I blend in half a cup of plain soy yogurt.

Mid-Day:

By now, my tummy pangs usually wear out, but to keep my blood sugar in check and metabolism revving, I resolve with some antioxidant dense beet juice.

Image

Juice equal parts of carrots and beets. Squeeze a touch of lime ontop for some acid to balance the sweetness. Yes, I said sweet! Im not sure why beets have such a bad rap. They are delicious and sweet, even more so then carrots.

For Dinner:

Don’t undo your day of wonderful detoxification with a scary midnight binge! I always end the day with a large salad of dark greens (like spinach, kale, and arugula) with roasted or steamed veggies. Ontop, I keep it light with a little Braggs apple cider vinegar, hummus or lemon. If your jonesing for some protein, try having a unsweetened soy or greek yogurt.

Image

A detox that involves mainly juicing comes at a price: hunger! Be sure to drink a lot of water all day to curb your hunger and prevent your blood sugar from jumping high & crashing quickly. Though you are drinking juice, that doesn’t mean you are getting enough of the stuff! I always carry a water bottle with me that is laced with lemon, lime and mint. It keeps me hydrated and helps me stay motivated. I also reccomend drinking green and mint blended teas. If slender is what you’re searching for, the tea will definitely help, while also helping curb your hunger. One last piece of advice I have is to remember to take your daily vitamins and probiotics. Though you are drinking in many different vitamins, you’re probably skimping out on a lot of them too (especially calcium), which can stifle the effects of your cleanse.

Though detoxing comes with an array of confusion and dilemmas, It is a great way to shimmy back into your bikini while also gaining a healthful, youthful glow. I hope I have saved you from spending a fortune on some miracle, slenderizing scheme. Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section.

Now get juicing!

the love part of my cooking

Whenever I am asked as to how I was inspired to go to culinary school images of my grandmother and mom cooking in her kitchen flash into my mind. I remember peering over the breakfast counter, pulling myself up with my little fingers and my mouth watering at the smell of garlic and tomatoes stewing. After my grandmother passed, I would relive those memories over the stove with my mother. She taught me how to cook pasta and tomato sauce, beef stew with mashed potatoes, and just about everything in between. Cooking has created a strong bond between us.

My mother is a huge part of my life and sometimes I wonder how I would be able to function without her. I don’t go a day without talking to her or asking her for advice. Her determination and work ethic has been my inspiration to keep pursuing my career and to keep broadening my horizons. She works very hard alongside my dad and still manages to get dinner made and all of my siblings where they need to be. Not to be cliché, but could call her superwoman. I hope one day to be just as wonderful as she is when I have my own little family to raise.

Happy Mothers Day to all of the mothers out there and to my beautiful mother who truly is like no other!

Ten things

My Food writing teacher asked us to write ten flavors/ingredients we cannot live without. Imagine, just ten things out of the millions and trillions that exist in our culinary world! What a challenge.

1. Olive Oil- Olive oil makes up the basis for most of our cooking in my kitchen. Regardless, I happen to adore the flavor. Every once in a while I buy a few different varieties of what I think is considered a good olive oil and taste it in some of my dishes. Good olive oil should be drizzled on top of a soup, or on a light tasting fish dish and should never be cooked. By doing so you really can taste the complexities and flavors of the oil.

2. Tomato- I find myself exploring the flavor of tomato more and more. Tomatoes are a big part of my families kitchen culture. A quick tomato sauce is instantly a meal with some pasta and parmigiana added. This is something I have been eating since I was a little girl and crave it. I love making tomato sauce. Adding the garlic to the olive oil and adding the canned tomatoes once the garlic aromatizes. Watching the bubbles as the tomato cooks. Crushing the whole ones and tasting it as it slowly cooks on the stove top. It brings my whole life back to me in an instant. Memories of my grandmother and cooking together for all of our holidays with my mom; all is remembered from a spoonful of sauce hot from the pan. As the smell fills the house it brings everyone to the kitchen it brings a warmth to our home and a smile on everyone’s face.

3. Peanut Butter- I have an obsession with peanut butter. The creamy texture and the flavor of the roasted and crushed peanuts is such a comfort for me. Usually I eat it with a bit of chocolate.

4. Dark Chocolate- My mom introduced me to dark chocolate. I make many desserts with this ingredient, as does she. When I was a child I would go into the cupboard and sneak pieces of bakers chocolate and I still do today. The bitterness of the chocolate with the creamy texture that melts in your mouth is why I love it. The little caffeine kick is such a pick me up from a long day.

5. Coffee- Most flavors that I cannot live without come with strong memories. As a child I loved the smell of coffee in the morning. I would jolt up from the smell, as if the scent alone was a caffeine kick. Every morning until I went to college I would wake up and sit with my mom as she drank her coffee and we would watch the news together. The house completely silent and peaceful, it was our twenty minutes of quiet together. Since, I have grown my love for it. There is a whole world of coffee that is much like wine. The beans all have their own terroir which create different flavors and complexities. The bitterness, full body, crema or oil slick at the top are all reasons why I love it. Right now I am very into Cinco de Junio, a coffee from Nicaragua. It is bold and full-bodied, but with low acidity so it can stand up to some soy milk and sugar without overpowering them.

6. Garlic- I don’t know how to describe garlic other than it is very strong, slightly bitter, and has a bite to it when raw. A flavor I use in majority of my cooking at home; I could not work without this aromatic.

7. Soy- I eat a lot of Asian cuisine and Soy is in almost all of that style of cooking. The salty, umami flavor instantly adds complexity to a dish that would be lackluster without it.

8. Salt- Sodium is necessary for life, but more importantly for flavor composition. We cannot eat most, if not all things without it. Salt draws out complexities that would otherwise go unnoticed and adds roundness to a dish.

9. Chili/ Spice- Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the flavor of hot sauce and chili peppers. This is really a love/hate situation because of the painful burning my heart feels once consumed, but, nevertheless, I can’t let it go. The burning sensation on my tongue and the complex flavor of the capsaicin is interesting and fun for me. It adds an unforgettable component to a dish, especially when my mouth won’t stop burning afterwords.

10. Vinegar/ Sour- The acidic, sour flavors of vinegar and citrus is an essential in my kitchen. Many fish dishes, especially, need a little acid and sour. It is very similar to adding salt, but adds a new roundness to the dish. For example a shallow poached salmon is instantly brightened with a little vinegar or lemon.

What flavors speak to you?