Lemon Tart with Salted Pecan Crust

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Spring emits feelings of lightness; airy, warm days that bring flowers to our garden and happiness in our lives. Citrus season is here, so in that honor I have whipped up a very easy, wholesome lemon tart. This tart has an incredible nut crust that adds a salty crunch to the music. In the curd, I used Eureka lemons. They are notorious for being extra juicy and tart; exactly what I needed to contrast the crust. The curd is subtle in sweetness, so as to not be overbearing. I find that a lot of lemon curds seem to taste like sweetened custard. Being a culinarian, I like my sweets to have a luscious texture and sharp flavor a.k.a mouth confetti. Every sweet treat should be a cause for internal celebration!

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Lemon Tart:

1/2 c Eureka lemon juice

1/2 Lemon Zested

1/4 c Coconut sugar

6 T Earth Balance

3 Egg Yolks + 2 Whole Eggs

1/4 t cornstarch (or arrowroot)

Crust:

1 c pecans

1/4 c hazelnuts

3 T raw honey, warmed (or maple syrup)

1 t sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1.5 c olive oil

Grind the pecans and hazelnuts. Add in the remaining ingredients and “rub” the crust together like you would a biscuit dough. If  it is too dry, add more olive oil until it can stick together. Press into the bottom of your tart shell and bake in the oven at 350 until slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove.

To make the curd, whisk the sugar, eggs and starch in a pot. I recommend making a slurry with the cornstarch, or sifting it on-top of your wet ingredients before whisking it in to prevent lumps. Once combined, add the lemon. Whisk constantly until it is thick and creamy. Once it starts to resemble a freshly made pudding, remove from heat and whisk in the earth balance. If you wait until it gets too set (too thick) you will overcook the curd. You should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it before removing it from heat. Strain it if you notice it has some lumps, or if you are in pursuit of curd perfection. Pour filling into tart shell. Pop back into the oven and allow the curd to set. About 20 mins.

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Gluten Free Spring

So these past few weeks I have really been trying my best to have enough time to cook dinner (or at least eat it). It is a challenge to get home at a decent hour to do so! On my days off, though, I love to make it. It’s considerably my playtime. This past friday I stopped in at Whole Foods and remembered why I oh so adore spring! So many beautiful vegetables! This pasta dish is entirely gluten-free, dairy free, and can easily be vegan without the egg. I used local eggs, all organic vegetables & aromatics, and homegrown herbs.

ImageSpring Pasta Dish: (4-6p)

1 lb. Gluten Free Pasta

1 bu. Asparagus

4-6 Eggs (1 per)

1 Myer Lemon

1/2 bulb fennel (and fennel fronds to garnish)

4 clv Garlic

1 tsp chili-garlic sauce

1/4 c vegetable broth

6 sprigs Thyme

8 leaves Basil

3 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs Vegan Butter

Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper

Mise en Place:

First, get two pots of hot water going for the pasta and the eggs; fill a smaller pot 2/3 of the way and a large pot completely. Wash the fennel and asparagus then slice into 1/4″ pieces.  Zest the lemon and cut in half. Mince the garlic, thyme, and half the basil. When the water (for the eggs) comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and add 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Gently crack the egg into the water once it has dropped in temperature. With a wooden spoon, hold the egg white over the egg yolk gently for about a minute; this is so when the egg has finished cooking it will be more rounded and less flat. Once the white of the egg is 95% cooked, remove it and place on a paper towel. Keep the water heated at a lower temperature to re-heat the egg.

Cook the pasta according to the box instructions. In a pan, combine the garlic, herbs, vegan butter, olive oil and allow to heat, once the garlic starts to perfume, add the Asparagus. Once it starts to become tender, add the Fennel, vegetable broth, and chili. Turn down the heat and add the cooked pasta. Toss the pasta, season with S&P, then allow to cook in the pan slightly (to meld all the ingredients together). Add the lemon zest and a little juice at the last-minute, give it a toss, and plate into a warmed pasta dish. Put the egg on a spoon and re-warm it for 30 seconds in the hot water. Place on top of the pasta. Garnish with the fennel fronds and some of the zest. A little salt atop will finish the dish.

 

Bon Appetite!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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The Culinary Institute of America News

Check out my recent article on Going Green with Elizabeth Meltz in the C.I.A’s Newspaper! She is the Food Safety and Sustainability Director at Batali and Bastianich restaurant group.

This issue also introduces me as the Editor in Chief, which I will be taking on from now on. This is a new, fabulous step in my life and I’m excited to see where this will take me!

Happy Memorial Day! Looking forward to cooking this weekend? Grilling is on my to do list for sure!

Cheers