Archive | July, 2009

Sprechen Sie Deutsches?

31 Jul

Nine. But I can cook a darn good German meal. Last night we have Ryan’s brother and girlfriend over for dinner. The menu?

Schweinefleisch Schnitzel (pork schnitzel)

Apfelmus (applesauce)

Grüne Bohnen mit Knoblauch (green beans with garlic)

Himmel und Erdekartoffeln (Heaven and Earth potatoes)

Sauerkraut (sauerkraut…that’s a hard one)

Brezelbrot (Pretzel bread)

So how was it? Delicious. In fact, I meant to take pictures to post here, but it was eaten so fast I didn’t get a chance.

How do you make schnitzel? It’s super simple…

Schitzel for 4

4 pieces of veal, pork, or chicken approximately 5 oz each pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

Standard breading procedure:

1 1/2 cups seasoned flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

Dip the pounded meat into the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a hot sauté pan. Add the breaded meat and brown on both sides (approx. 1-2 minutes on each side) Put the schnitzel into a 325 degree oven and cook until the meat is cooked through. (8-12 minutes depending on the meat) Serve hot.

German food is very high ranking on my list of favorites to make. Having German relatives and German blood running in my veins, there is nothing in my mind that couldn’t be improved with a good strong mustard. Here’s the thing I find really interesting…

Almost every culture has a very similar menu. If you were making Italian, you’d be making Pork Milianese. (i.e. breaded pork chop) If you were making American, Shake and Bake. (just kidding on the last one.) Anyway, the point is that sometimes you think that you aren’t going to like something, when in reality you are already eating it. It’s all about knowing how dishes are made. Doing a little research and making small substitutions like roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed escarole, leaving out the applesauce and pretzel bread and you’d have a classic Italian meal. Give it a try.

Always thinking of the next meal


The Chain Gang

30 Jul

So last night Ryan and I ate at Outback and it got me thinking. Ever since graduating culinary school, people ask me if I can eat at places like McDonald’s and Panera Bread. The truth of the matter is that education does not make (or at least should not) make you better or above what you once enjoyed. What education does for you is give you the sensibility to know what to expect and how to gauge a great experience from a poor one.

For example, McDonald’s promises fast, hot food. Beyond that there isn’t much. So if I go to McDonald’s and I get a cold burger that takes a long time. I have the right to feel disappointed. McDonald’s had failed to live up to the promise of a fast, hot meal. At a place that is a little fancier, say Le Bec Fin, the promises are a little higher and involved. Understanding what to expect is the biggest part of being happy with your meal out.

Last night, we were unfortunately disappointed. Outback promises a uniquely spiced steak at a reasonable price in an “Australian Outback” theme. So, why were we disappointed? Besides the slow service, the steak was not seasoned, not cooked  to the right temperature, and the sweet potato I had ordered as my side was closer to a dessert than a potato. And the amount of cinnamon butter on top of this so called tuber was melting all over the plate. This made everything taste like cinnamon and brown sugar. Not exactly the spices I was expecting on my meat. Ok ok, so I’m a little picky when it comes to my steak and I probably should have known better, but for 9.99 a 6oz steak is a deal.

I feel like in general that most chain restaurants fall into this category of disappointment. The food stylists and photographers that are hired to make the food at these place look amazingly mouth-watering do their job to the “T”. They get you in the door and then fill your plate with average, uninspired food. Don’t get me wrong, how can you miss the soup and salad at Olive Garden or the fried food at Friday’s during a game? But the honest answer is that you shouldn’t order the pasta at Friday’s, or the seafood dish at Olive Garden. If you do, you are just asking for trouble.

From now on Ryan and I will be sticking to the local individually owned places. They are always better. Or going to those places that we know to order the right things. Pasta at Maggiano’s, nachos or quesadillas at Chili’s, and burgers at Champps. Sorry Outback it will be a very long time before we return.

Always thinking of the next meal,


Dog Treats

29 Jul

I’ve discovered the best recipe in the whole world. Why? Well, it’s simple. It’s for my dog! First of all who loves you more than your dog, and second (and probably more importantly) dogs will eat ANYTHING.

For Christmas 2 years ago our dog Titus gave me a dog treat cookbook. There were a lot of interesting treats like Liver Crunchies and Tuna balls (yum…). I opted for something a little less umm… let’s say smelly. My choice? Applesauce Cheddar Biscuits. Here’s the recipe:

Applesauce Cheddar Biscuits

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup cold water
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 375. Combine the cheddar, applesauce, and water. Add in the flour, and oatmeal and mix to combine. Drop onto greased cookie sheet and press down with the tips of your fingers. Bake for 20 minutes, and cool completely before serving to your pup.

IMG_0709This is a shot of my dog Titus not letting me get a shot of the biscuits. You can take his word (or bark) for it that they are good. Since they are made with all natural ingredients and “normal” food you can actually eat them too. (Although, without salt or sugar I can’t image them being overly amazing.)

I’ve also made garlic treats in the past and Titus liked them to…and the peanut butter ones…alright Titus will pretty much eat anything. But, seeing as he knows when the cheese drawer in the fridge is opening I think these cheddar ones are at the top of the list!

Always thinking of the next meal-


Foodie Filosophy

28 Jul

There are few things in life that make you stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re thinking and change everything. For me that’s food. Eating it, cooking it, reading about it… it’s simply that thing that puts me in my happy place.

Truthfully, and without irony, I love food. I don’t have a favorite mealtime or favorite dish. I don’t even have that one dish that makes it all better. What flavors will excite me on any given day is a mystery. For a long time I thought that asking people what their favorite dish was would get me an in. I’d be one step ahead knowing that one dish that could cause mood changing, eye popping, and unending smiles. The reality is that it’s never about the dish. Food is the vessel that that carries our memories (Maybe that’s why I love food so much). The forgotten sensory sensation that ties emotion through our tastebuds.

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? I guess it’s partially because it’s what the Pilgrims ate it (although I’ve read they actually ate lobster and no turkey at all.) But mostly I think it’s based on tradition and the memories we have of that tradition. Did your mother dry the poor bird beyond the salvation of gravy? Maybe it was always filled with a bag of giblets, like a little turkey day gift from those thoughtful workers at Butterball. Whatever your memory is, now imagine Thanksgiving with a juicy bird, so perfectly cooked that it doesn’t even need salt. Well it sounds good to me, but it’s not quite what I remember as Thanksgiving.

This is why I love to cook. Because as a chef I make that connection between food and memories. I can somehow change the way people feel. Did I make an event special because my food was perfect. I sure hope so… but the truth is that the best food… even if it’s meant to be the star… sits quietly in the background. Modestly taking in the praise of the flavors and textures. Hoping that the post event conversation will include the buzz of fabulous food. And knowing that all in attendance shared the magic that something as simple as a meal can make.

Always thinking of the next meal (which I guess means the next memory)


It’s all Greek to me!

26 Jul

So I was asked o bring a salad to my cousins bridal shower. The parameters? WHATEVER I WANTED! The only thing I was my cousin wanted chick peas on the salad. I originally thought about making a Mediterranean salad with roasted red peppers and artichokes, but not knowing the tastes of the masses I thought I would go a little less fancy.

Most people like Greek salad so I thought, why not. When making salad for 30 people the best idea is to keep it simple. A few ingredients that work well together and make a big flavor impact. With Greek salad this is easy to do. As with all salads you want to seek a balance of sweet, salty, soft, crunchy, acid and spice. Greek salad embraces all of these elements.

IMG_0695Here’s how I balanced the flavors in the salad.

Sweet: Sundried Tomatoes

Salty: Feta cheese/olives

Soft: Chick Peas/Feta Cheese

Crunchy: Cucumbers/Onions/lettuce

Acid: Peppers/dressing/tomatoes

Spice: Peppers/arugula

The dressing is also a very powerful element in a salad. For a Greek salad this is where the acid, and herbal notes come into play. The dressing recipe follows, but important flavor components come into play through the dressing. Oregano, lemon, and red wine vinegar are in the dressing and play a key role in Greek cooking. Here’s the dressing recipes:IMG_0697

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Try this salad out it’s definitely a winner on a hot summer night. Add some grilled chicken or salmon for a little boost of protein.

Always thinking of the meal


Can food be a blanket?

23 Jul

There is much debate on what qualifies as comfort food. My definition is any food that makes you feel good. For some, it’s as simple as a cup of Campbell’s chicken noodle, for others, nothing can beat their Mom’s meatloaf. For me it’s brownies.

When I was growing up my mom never miss an opportunity to have something freshly baked in the kitchen when she could. Her favorite was brownies. We would have them for dessert in perfectly portioned servings. After the first serving we would notice little pieces disappearing from the pan. She had a funny little habit of sneaking tastes here and there. (A habit the whole family teases her about now.) She usually made the brownies from a box, but I like making mine from scratch. Here’s the recipe I use:


2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

5 ounces walnut pieces, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (2 inches deep) and line bottom and sides with wax paper, then butter paper.

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, then pour in chocolate mixture, whisking until combined well. Whisk in flour mixture, then stir in walnuts and transfer batter to baking pan.

Bake until top is shiny and set and sides have begun to pull away slightly (a wooden pick or skewer will not come out clean), about 35 minutes, for fudgy brownies; or until wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour total, for cakey brownies.

Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack. Invert onto a cutting board, remove paper, and cut into squares.

Give these a try. The recipe requires just a little more effort than the usual box, but the result is worth it. The longer you bake these, the cakier the brownies will turn out. Bake for at least 35 minutes but keep going if you like a cakey brownie. (Is cakey an offical word?)

IMG_0693 I Always use a different chocolate each time I make this recipe. This time I used milk chocolate (note the giant Hershey bar in the background of the picture) but I’ve used dark chocolate and a combination of chocolates as well. Enjoy.

Always thinking of the next meal


Salt is salt… right?

22 Jul

Salt is not just salt. Salt is an enhancer, the key to unlocking the best flavors that food has to offer. So if salt is the enhancer, then is there a way to enhance salt? The answer… YES! By mixing herbs and other flavors into the salt you can make it even better. For lack of a better word, you can make a “compound salt.”

You can really add whatever you want to salt to give it extra flavor. Fresh herbs work great especially if you grill a lot. A herbed salt will not only make you meat sing, but will add a kick of flavor to otherwise one note grilling. Since I’ve previously made a compound salt with herbs, I thought I would try something else.

I am prepping a Greek Salad for my cousin’s bridal shower and as part of that is a marinated tomato. I had to peel the the skins off the tomatoes in order to maximize the marination and I was left with the skins of 7 tomatoes. Really I could have just thrown them out, but now I have a wonderful tomato salt that I can use on fish, steak or vegetables.

Here’s the recipe:

Tomato Compound Salt

Tomato Skins of 5-7 tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup salt

in a food processor combine the salt, pepper and tomato skins. Spread the salt on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 250 for 30 minutes or until the salt mixture is dried out but not brown.


Give this one a try… it’s really easy way to jazz up the same old same old.

Always thinking of the next meal


Pie, pie, I like pie

21 Jul

So Ryan and I went berry picking on Saturday. We actually took it easy and picked 2 pounds of blueberries and one pound of blackberries. Now the question was what to do with all those berries. First and maybe most obvious, pie. I choose a double crust double berry pie. I used a Tyler Florence recipe as inspiration. His recipe was for a blueberry peach pie, but I used the blackberries instead of the peaches. Here’s the recipe…

Peach-Blueberry Pie

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence


  • 1 recipe Basic Pastry Pastry, chilled 30 minutes, recipe follows
  • Flour, for rolling
  • 2 pounds peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
  • 1 egg, beaten with a drizzle of water
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Move the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven.

Divide the dough in half and set one half aside; cover it with a towel or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 10-inch round. Loosely drape the dough round over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Press the dough over the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the edges to about 1/2-inch.

Toss the fruit with the sugar, lemon, and cornstarch. Pile the fruit into the pie shell and dot with the butter. Roll out the reserved dough to a 9 to 10-inch round and lay it over the fruit. Trim, and crimp the edges. Cut 2 or 3 (2-inch) vents in the top of the pie and brush with the egg glaze. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling up through the vents, 50 to 60 minutes. Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they brown too fast. Cool on a rack before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Basic Pie Pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 lemon, zested and finely grated

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and ice water and work that in with your hands. (Or do the whole thing in a food processor, pulsing a couple of times to combine the dry ingredients, then pulsing in the butter, and then the egg.) Check the consistency of the dough by squeezing a small amount together between thumb and forefingers: You want there to be just enough moisture to bind the dough so that it holds together without being too wet or sticky. If it’s still crumbly, add a little more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time. When you get it to the right consistency, shape the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic. Put it in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Yield: enough for 1 double-crust pie or crostata

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: none

Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes

Double Crust Double berry pie

Double Crust Double berry pie

So as I said I used 1/2 a pound of blackberries instead of the peaches and used 3 tablespoons of cornstarch to compensate for the extra liquid the berries let out. The crust was fantastic! It was flaky and just sweet enough. The filling is a little tart but is complimented but the sweetness of the crust and with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream it’s fantastic! Give it a try

Always thinking of the next meal


Mahjong Party

20 Jul

On Friday I catered my first official event! My aunt and grandma asked me to cater a party for 12 ladies playing Mahjong. The request was that everything was to be eaten with their fingers so they could eat and play, and I was told that the ladies were coming hungry. Because of the origins of the game I choose an Asian themed menu. Here’s what was served:

Crab Rangoon served with Sweet Chili Sauce

Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Asian Nachoes

Crisped wonton skins with chicken, plum sauce, cilantro,

scallions, and fontina cheese

Vegetable tray

snap peas, carrots, cucumbers

Chinese 5 Spice Popcorn

Mahjong Tile Cookies

Carrot Cupcakes

with ginger cream cheese icing

The food took approximately 7 hours to prepare. Each item I chose required a lot of prep and steps. In retrospect, tackling cut and frosted sugar cookies, cupcakes with icing, and spring rolls, all made from scratch (no boxes used here) was a little ambitious. But this was a great lesson. Knowing that my time was only constrained by the arrival of the guest, I was able to accomplish a more than if I had less time. The timing issue (if you can even call it an issue) will now be taken into account before I develop the menu.

So the bottom line? How was the food? Well, it received the best praise any cook could ask for… there was almost nothing left. The favorite was the crab rangoon, a wonton wrapper filled with a crab and cream cheese and dipped in a sweet chili sauce. The next favorite was the Asian Nachos. Toasted wonton skins topped with hoisin glazed chicken breast, fontina cheese, cilantro, and plum sauce. A fun fusion of the comfort and adventure.

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

Crab Rangoon

Crab Rangoon

Dessert can obviously not go overlooked. Between the cookies and the cupcakes the cookies were the overwhelming favorite. The Chinese lettering proved to be a little bit of a challenge for me, but I think that they turned out great in the end. Below are the event pictures. I’d love to cook for the Mahjong gals again. And hopefully they will be booking another party with me soon.

Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Always thinking of the next meal


Oh Robin…

16 Jul

The lox was unwrapped today. My small scale experiment was successful. The filet took the cure the same way the full side of salmon did. After the 3 days, the filet was firm and smelled like dill, and slightly sweet. The best part, I know exactly what went into to cure. No nitrates, or preservatives. Next time I’ll experiment with other flavors like lime and tequila and cilantro. We’ll see, my hubby is pretty picky 🙂

Always thinking of the next meal