Archive | September, 2011

Food Fact #2: Oysters.

29 Sep

Ah oysters. What delectable creatures. Served raw, grilled, fried, baked (you name it),  these little guys are always out to please. I must admit, I have had a love-hate relationship with them in the past, as twice in my life I have eaten a few not so great ones and paid the serious food-poisoning-like price. In the last few years however, our bond has re-solidified and I have nothing but good things to say about these ancient mollusks from the beds down below (200 million years ancient that is). Using my handy Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND, as well as some random facts from oyster farms that I have researched online, prepare to be educated.

Oysters grow wild in estuaries, sounds and bays. Their taste is pretty much concerned with their origin, as they are filter feeders, which means they breathe water in and out through their gills, filtering algae and whatever else may exist in their lurking grounds. The salinity, mineral content, water temperature and chlorophyll content of the local plankton all affect the oyster’s flavor. I prefer the small, cold water ones myself as they are easier to swallow so to speak. It takes about three years of life before oysters reach the table, and some take even longer.

Oysters spawn through external fertalization, and are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they have the ability to be both sexes, just not both at the same time.  They are extremely fertile, all though sadly very few of their efforts will ever reach oyster-dom. If you and your significant other are trying for a little oyster yourself, these guys should definitely be part of your diet plan, especially for males, as they provide the highest concentration of zinc per serving of any food (essential for thyroid health and testosterone function as well as a key nutrient in sperm production), at more than 33 grams per serving. They are also a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids, B-12, copper, iron and selenium.

And lastly, how many oysters do you think the undefeated Guinness Book of World Records holder ate last year in 3-minutes?

233.

A round of applause to you fine sir- your 13 children must be proud.

Chimichurri, Per Request

28 Sep

Chimi

The first time I ever heard of/tasted this delicious Argentinian herb marinade was a few years back with my old roommate Domingo in San Francisco. Domingo was one of those people who could make whatever random ingredients were in the fridge taste like a completely intentional and wonderfully thought out meal. Now that I think about it, a few of the most amazing things I have ever eaten Domingo created, specifically a prawn dish he made on my birthday years back. Chilean by blood, Domingo truly understood the art of spice and flavor, as well as just about everything creative. I think I have him to thank for my obsession of adding lemon juice to everything. A shout out to you my long lost friend and sending my love to you down under, I miss you dearly.

On my trip to DC this past weekend to see my very pregnant and beautiful sister, myself and dear friend Lynn prepared a meal for the whole family to enjoy. One of the plates I made was shrimp marinated in chimichurri cooked on a cast iron griddle. As promised, here is the recipe for this fantastic sauce.

I believe chimichurri traditionally has more parsley than cilantro, but I personally do the opposite. I also add the juice of lemon and lime. So for all of you by the book people, this is kind of a play-on-chimichurri, consisting of a bit more acid and a lot more cilantro.

This sauce is great as an overnight marinade, tossed in a roasted fingerling potato salad, or served as a topping for anything meat or seafood. Skirt steak+chimichurri= instant gratification. The acid in this sauce is great with anything fatty.

Alright, here she is.

Note: these quantities are not exact so taste as you go and balance as needed. It should be cilantro forward, acidic, slightly spicy, with a hint of cumin.

Ingredients:

  • 1-cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2-cup chopped parsley
  • 2-medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-cup red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon & 1/2 lime
  • 1- heaping tablespoon honey
  • 1/2-teaspoon cumin
  • Generous pinch of red chili flakes
  • Generous pinch sea salt, to taste
  • Finish with 1 teaspoon or so of lemon zest

Directions:

  • Combine herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, citrus juice, honey, cumin, chili flakes, salt and lemon zest in a medium sized bowl. Mix together with a spoon and let sit for 15 minutes or so. Taste and season as preferred. Flavors will intensify with time so its good to let it sit before adding much more. Can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. Serve with whatever you please and enjoy!

Stay tuned for more tomorrow…

The BLT. Eat Them While It’s Hot.

23 Sep

So, BLT’s are probably my favorite sandwich of all time. The beauty of a BLT is that they are delicious when made with the finest of ingredients, and also usually  really damn good at your local dive bar.If I don’t know what to order, its always a safe bet.

This is my favorite combo for a homemade BLT, and since the days of beautiful, meaty tomatoes are about to become days of the past (for 8 months or so at least here in the NW), make them while they have the potential to be the best, as nothing on these sandwiches beats a perfect tomato.

Ingredients:

  • Good toasted sourdough bread. I find toasting in a pan leads to a more edible, soft toasted sandwich.
  • A ripe tomato
  • A few basil leaves
  • Your favorite bacon, (mine is the non-peppered bacon they sell at the butcher shop at New Seasons if you are from Portland. They only have 2 kinds so you can just ask for the sweeter of the two).
  • Lemon juice
  • Homemade aioli
  • Reduced Balsamic
  • Whole grain mustard
  • A good avocado, if you have one on hand
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  • Assemble in whatever order you please, drizzling lemon juice, and reduced balsamic over your food before topping with the second piece of bread.
  • Plate and serve with a salad or sweet potato fries and enjoy!

 

 

Green Tea Ice Cream, With A Twist

21 Sep

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to an alternative culinary school called Bauman College in Berkeley. At Bauman, myself and my 12 classmates spent 7 months learning to cook as you would at any old culinary school, but also learned extensively about alternative ingredients and therapeutic cooking, aka cooking for those with common illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, HIV, severe food allergies, thyroid issues and so on…

I, on paper, am lactose intolerant. I like to pretend like it’s not real these days, which works for me more and more as time goes by. When I was in school however, it was severe, so eating anything made of milk was definitely a really bad idea. That being said, one of my favorite recipes throughout the whole program was this one here for Cashew Green Tea Ice Cream. I am really not trying to be that person that truly believes fake ice cream can taste just as good as the real stuff, it just doesn’t. Nothing beats delicious, pure cream ice cream.  But this version with cashews is really great and pretty damn close as cashews have a very high fat content, so the ice cream is extremely rich and creamy.

You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, which is totally worth the $50.

Here we go:

  • 2-cups cashews, soaked in water for 30 minutes, then drained.
  • 2-cups unsweetened coconut, oat or almond milk. The fattier the better. *Note coconut milk will give you a bit of a coconut taste.
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2-Tbs vanilla extract
  • 1-large pinch sea salt
  • 3-Tbs green tea powder (matcha preferred), mixed with 4 Tbs hot water

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. You may need to blend for 5-8 minutes to make it really creamy, scraping down the side with a spatula as you go. Taste and season if needed. Put mix into frozen ice cream maker bowl and freeze for at least an hour. From this point follow your ice cream makers instructions, usually to mix in the machine for 20 minutes or so. As you see from the picture above this ice should get pretty thick. If too frozen, thaw before serving for a few minutes. Above it is plated with homemade Nutella and Hazelnut Shortbread. Recipes to come.

I say serve plain or with a can of mandarin oranges and enjoy!

Homemade Mayonnaise

16 Sep

I always feel sad when people come into work at lunch and ask for no aioli on their sandwich. It’s kind of like asking for a cake without frosting, or pasta without a sauce. I have heard the whole phobia-of-weird-white-cream-sauce-theory, but in my eyes it seems to be more along the lines that we as a culture think it is bad for us to consume oil rich foods, that these foods will make us fat, and that we wont be able to fit into our size two pants after one bite of the stuff. I am all about feeling healthy, and support whatever strategy works for anyone, but as far as homemade mayonnaise goes, take an extra walk around the park and live a little eh? You know you like it.

Here is a prep school recipe on making your own with a few simple ingredients. Fresh mayo is really a whole different ball game.

A few tips:

  • Works best when all ingredients are room temp.
  • Always beat the egg yolks for a minute or two before adding anything to them. As soon as they thicken they are ready to absorb the oil.
  • The oil must be added VERY slowly at first, way slower than you would think. Once the sauce has incorporated into a thicker sauce, you can add the oil with less precision.

Alright, recipe as follows.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 1 cup neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
  • note: make sure your oil hasn’t gone bad as you will most definitely taste it.

Directions:

  • In a medium metal bowl, beat the egg yolks with a pinch of salt for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened.
  • Add a squeeze of lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Continue to whisk rapidly.
  • Start adding oil by very slowly drizzling it into the bowl.
  • Keep whisking quickly.
  • Once sauce begins to thicken, add another squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Keep incorporating oil and whisking simultaneously until all oil is used.
  • Season with salt, pepper, lemon, and whatever else you please. I enjoy adding fresh herbs.
  • Sauce should be very mayo-like, not thin or flavorless.
  • If you mess up, try again! It’s really easy to mess up. On a positive note, it is also really simple to master. It just takes practice identifying the steps as they happen.
  • Keep in the fridge up to a couple of days and enjoy!

Steamed Mussels with Homemade Aioli

16 Sep


A couple of nights ago I had the urge to make steamed mussels, something I had never done at home before. I was amazed by how easy and delicious these were, not to mention inexpensive. The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1-medium onion, diced
  • 3 to 4-cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • butter
  • 2-cups white wine
  • 1-bay leaf
  • red chili flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2-pounds mussels, cleaned and bearded
  • homemade aioli (optional for a creamier sauce)
  • basil/green onions for garnish

Directions:

  • In a medium sautee pan over medium heat, melt a generous bit of butter (about a quarter of a stick).
  • Add onion and garlic and sweat for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  • Add wine, bay leaf, a good dash of chili flakes, salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley, and simmer lightly for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaf and add mussels, covering and turning heat up to medium-high.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan like you would when making popcorn (mussels are done when they open, discard the ones that never open).
  • Transfer mussels into a large bowl, keeping cooking liquid in the pan. Whisk in about 1/2 cup aioli to finish the sauce.
  • Plate by pouring sauce over mussels and garnish with fresh basil/green onions.
  • Serve with copious amounts of buttered toast, and enjoy!

A Week of Local Press

14 Sep

This week was a fun and exciting week as both the blog and the Cooking Matters for Parents class that I teach through the Oregon Food Bank were both in the local press here. I think the only times in my life I have ever been in any type of newspaper were in the police log in Carmel, and the one insane time that my ex Brendan and I were asked to dress up and march in the kings 50th anniversary parade in Thailand, and we woke up to find a picture of ourselves on the cover of a paper there(not kidding).

The article featuring the blog was an awesome piece by a co-worker of mine on homemade infusions. It included the infused honey article I wrote a while back and has some really great ideas for many other home infusion projects. Check it out here:

http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/news/2011/09/flavor_your_life_and_your_drinks_with_natural_homemade_infusions/

The cooking class was in the Oregonian last week. Check it out here:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/09/a_catholic_charities_class_hel.html

Again, I work for the Food Bank, not Catholic Charities, so if you live here in Portland and are interested in volunteering for a 6 week class that meets once a week as a chef instructor, shopper or lead assistant, go to the Oregon Food Bank Volunteer section of their site (http://www.oregonfoodbank.org/Volunteer), and sign up now. They just opened the registration for new classes yesterday.

Thank you for your support and stay tuned!

A European Breakfast, Baked Sweet Potato Fries and A Goodbye to Summer

13 Sep

On a stormy day about six months ago we holed up in the house, drank strong coffee and feasted on cured meats and fine cheeses for a better half of the morning. I also made a bowl of Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Truffle Oil, Sea Salt & Goat Gouda (recipe to follow). I stumbled across these photos today and which evoked a strange wave of happiness. There is something to be said about the long rainy days here in the Northwest. It is actually something I have grown to love, as it fosters bundling up and staying inside with those you love listening to the rain fall sporting your best wool socks. I love the food of fall and winter the most as well. Whenever summer comes, I am always happy to see the melons and the berries and the summer vegetables, but I can say without a doubt I would take a hearty stew and winter squash over a ripe peach on a cold afternoon any day.

We had a weird summer, all though I am catching on to the fact that I think they are always a bit weird. It’s like in the restaurant industry when you and your co-workers stand around and talk about why business is so slow. “We will be so much busier in the summer time, its always busy in the summer time”. Then summer comes and all the sudden, “It’s way too hot for people to eat.  Why would you go to a restaurant with weather like this? Fall is where the money will be”. Sun is supposed to come around the 4th of July every year, and this year it was more like the 4th of August. It is now the middle of September and the ten day forecast went from the 90’s last week to mid 60’s this week.  And when I opened the curtains this morning I found a nice cool breeze and the sight of gray skies, something I can finally say after two years here I am happy to see.

I hope you all had a wonderful sun filled summer, and may the approaching fall months find you well.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Truffle Oil, Sea Salt & Goat Gouda:

Ingredients:

  • Either 1 bag organic frozen sweet potato fries (I buy these all the time from whole foods and they are really good) or 2 medium sweet potato fries cut into large matchsticks, soaked for 30 minutes and dried.
  • Truffle Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Goat Gouda or any other cheese that would be good grated, such as Grana Padano or Parmesan.
  • 1/2 of a lemon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Place fries on baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, shaking tray half way to flip fries.
  • Once fries are cooked through and slightly browned, broil for 2-4 minutes, again not walking away to ensure crispy not burnt potatoes. Broil to desired “done-ness”.
  • Place in a bowl and toss with a good bit of truffle oil and salt.
  • Grate cheese over fries, finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy!

A Sad Day for California Foie Gras Lovers. Thank You Oregon.

8 Sep

A California law goes into effect as of July 2012, making Foie Gras illegal in California. Looks like these folks got their way…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/foie-gras-ban-california-_n_953067.html

(THIS IMAGE DOES NOT DEPICT MY BELIEFS, JUST TO BE CLEAR)

I never know how to answer people when they crack the door of the restaurant with their over sized ‘boyfriend’ wearing a utilikilt standing behind them to ask whether or not we serve Foie Gras. This happened a few times at my old job here in Portland and I always answered hesitantly, flinching slightly like I was preparing to take the blow to my face that just might take place at any moment. The response was basically either, “great, table for two” or, “fuck you waitress that has nothing to do with what’s served on your menu, you deserve to die a slow, painful death just like the ducks and I am going to yell it out loud, right here, every reason why”. There was even a mini protest on our patio and in the street that involved horse cops and all. I understand both sides of the fight here. I love animals, kids, things that are sensitive and fragile, but I have to say I also really love Foie Gras. It’s a specialty, it’s absolutely delicious, and in my eyes let it be an educated choice made by the eater.

For further knowledge on this topic, here is a very interesting article that I found a while back titled The Physiology of Foie: Why Foie Gras is Not Unethical. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are people out there fattening up these creatures in very unethical ways. This is just one side of it.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/12/the-physiology-of-foie-why-foie-gras-is-not-u.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+seriouseatsfeaturesvideos+%28Serious+Eats%29

I think it is important to understand where all the food we eat comes from, and the process it goes through before we get our hands on it. Hopefully those of us who decide to keep eating this delicacy can become more conscious of the treatment of the ducks from who we choose to buy it.

I hope this finds you well and my condolences go out to California…

Blood, Bones and Butter

7 Sep

Our first book post.

I thought this would be a great place to share reviews on food related literature, as well as favorite cookbooks and those that are discovered along the way.

Book number one is Blood, Bones and Butter by chef/owner Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in NYC. I’m really happy this book was recommended to me right before school starts up because I now feel like my reading muscle is back and fully toned. If you can really geek out over food, have worked in the industry for a large part/all of your life, and enjoy a good story with a twisted sense of humor sprinkled with a good dose of profanity, then I highly recommend this book. It’s about 300 pages and it took me about 3 weeks. That right there speaks for itself.

I hope you find this as a good resource and please don’t hesitate to share the favorites that live on your shelves and in your pantries at home.

More to come soon!