the confidence to follow your heart…

Things always have a way of working itself out. Confidence is the key to everything.

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a magnificent story…

I absolutely love this quote!

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Heart shaped potato

Heart shaped potato

I’m not sure about the origins of this picture, but I suspect that I probably found it randomly while surfing the web. It’s beauty lies in the imperfections. A perfect example of what a freak of nature is: a heart shaped potato.

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March 7, 2013 · 10:31 pm

My time at The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

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Just a couple of weeks ago, from February 7th– 9th, The Roger Smith Hotel hosted its 3rd annual Cookbook conference. Held in the midst of a brewing winter storm “Nemo,” with threats of high winds, heavy snow and flight cancellations, only adding to the excitement that already filled the air. There’s always something happening in my NYC! I was ecstatic that I finally had the chance to attend.

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Kitchen Class Wars Panel lead by Linda Civitello, Najmieh Batmanglij, Poopa Dweck and Aylin Tan.

The popularity of the food industry has peaked to new heights and I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a field where we hold the power to improve lives, one bite at a time. Food is life, and the old adage is true: we are what we eat, and how we eat is another story altogether. Our quality of life can be determined by diet. It has an effect on how we feel, both physically and mentally.

There are new discoveries about food and nutrition popping up everyday. Stemming from how local and seasonal our food should be, the question of whether a particular food is organic or not, down to what pasture did that cow graze upon… where’s our food coming from?!

With all these dietary restrictions and sudden influx of food allergies, (I’ve even developed a stupid peanut & walnut allergy out of nowhere) we have grown more concerned with the origins of our comestibles. Haven’t you noticed? It seems that almost everybody is allergic to gluten nowadays. I’m beginning to believe that even I might be developing a gluten intolerance. But maybe I’m paranoid and led by the power of suggestion? I will find out soon enough, though. Why is this happening??

Classic cookbooks for sale.

Classic cookbooks for sale.

As an individual with a new catering start up, and a strong desire to write a cookbook of my own, my intention is to seek every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the world of food, and contribute some of my own ideas. What better way to do this than by rubbing elbows with the experts? I want to surround myself with those who can enlighten me. This is why I was so eager to be a part of The Roger Smith CookBook conference. I must say, it was a learning experience to be savored.

Click here to learn about the different panel discussions:www.cookbookconf.com

During the conference, among many other inspirational folk, I had the chance to meet and speak with Lucinda Scala Quinn, who currently has her own cooking show called “Mad Hungry” on the Hallmark Channel. (Actually, this is the second time I cross paths with her, I saw her at the food blogger’s conference last year.)

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My mid- morning snack of fresh fruit.

The Roger Smith Hotel was like a playground for me as I explored the different panels. I was fascinated by all the topics, especially the discussion on Wartime cookbooks, all written during a time when people had to be creative with recipes due to the rationing of food. Just outside the Starlight room, there was a beautiful display of rare classic cookbooks, many of them out of print. There was also an assortment of pastries, fresh fruit and coffee available for us to nosh on whenever we wished.

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One thing that never occurred to me is to create my own recipe scrapbook, and I was inspired during one of the many interesting discussions. Now I have a use for all those recipes scribbled on coffee/ wine stained cocktail napkins and cutouts from magazines and newspapers.

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Yummy boxed lunches being stacked containing fresh fruit, salad and sandwiches for both the carnivore and the vegetarian.

As a caterer, business woman, blogger, writer, chef, mixologist/ bartender and true lover of all things delicious and nutritious, I fully intend on making my mark in this vast world of food. I’ve always lived to make people happy, and now I want to make them happy & healthy. After all, that’s what this business is all about.

The Roger Smith Cookbook conference is something to be experienced in person. There’s so much to learn. Maybe I will be on one of the panels sharing my expertise in the cookbook conferences of the near future. ;D

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February 25, 2013 · 1:35 am

Oh, My Sweet Goodness!

Sweet Goodness

Keeping warm in the cold with hot cocoa & whipped cream with caramel sauce drizzled on top. Though I do wish it were colder here in NYC!! ;D

Hot cocoa & whipped with caramel sauce drizzled on top

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December 9, 2012 · 11:18 pm

Pulpo a Feira (Galician Octopus)

Oh sweet creature from the ocean, get inside my belly!

My, my what a handsome octopus! Its been awhile since my last post and I wanted to say that my time away from blogging has not been spent frivolously. I’ve been working on business plans for my new catering start up (stay tuned for the unveiling soon).

I’ve been spending lots of time and having a blast in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. Particularly tapas style dishes, or meals that entertain. For some reason, I’ve had octopus, aka pulpo on the brain, and I’m no stranger to this mysterious creature, as I grew up with it on the table (my Mama’s famous ensalada de pulpo, yum!). I just want to learn about the different approaches to octopus and adapt some recipes of my own.

Today, I’m inspired by the Spanish tapas dish, “Pulpo a Feira” meaning Galician octopus, served on warm, sliced potatoes, covered in a sauce made from olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, fresh sliced garlic and paprika. Yes, please! 😉

The other day, I went on a quest to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue to a fish market notorious for super fresh seafood. It was a little pricey, $22 for a 3.5 lb octopus but I knew it would be worth every penny! The superior quality would make a big difference in my recipe. If you ever visit Little Italy, be sure to stop by Cosenza’s fish market, in business since 1918.

In my mind, octopus is not a fish nor is it a meat, but perhaps an integration of both? At least when it comes down to taste. (Actually, if you want to get technical, its a cephalopod, an ocean dweller). You can compare it to the texture of chicken breast with an essence of the sea flavor. If you can get past the purplish- pink color and the alien- like tentacles covered in suctions cups (note: you can always remove them) you are in for a wonderful treat!!

Suction cups, up close and personal.

Octopus submerged in simmering broth, I added a cork because its believed to help tenderize the delicate flesh.

Octopus can be a tricky thing to make. If cooked for too long, it takes on a tough, chewy consistency, no bueno!! If you use too much acid, like in a salad, it might become too fibrous. If boiled in water for too long, it dilutes the natural “sea” flavor. There are methods to render a more tender octopus. Some beat the octopus, because it literally bruises the flesh, but I refuse to treat my food that way. Others say that if you purchase a fresh octopus, freeze it and then thaw it out slowly, which can tenderize it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the two days required to freeze and then to defrost. I also read in a Spanish recipe somewhere that suggested dipping the octopus into boiling water 3 times for up to 10 seconds each time, then simmer for 2 hours. Okay, that works for me. Another method, which seems silly, is to place a cork in the cooking water. It didn’t hurt to try. In the end, the last two options are what I went for. I prayed for some tenderness!

Sauce made of olive oil, sliced garlic, paprika, fresh lemon juice, octopus water.

Ingredients

Pulpo:

  • 1 medium to large fresh octopus, beak removed, and cleaned
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • wine cork 😉
  • sea salt to taste
**4 Idaho potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut into 1/2 inch slices**

Sauce:

  • 1/2 c. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 ladle full of octopus broth or 3/4 cup white wine
  • sea salt to taste

Instructions:

First, I filled a large stock pot with enough water to submerge an entire 3.5 lb octopus, and brought it to a rumbling boil. To the water, I added 4 fresh garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, one medium white onion, cut in half. 1 tbsp of peppercorns, and sea salt to taste. Then with a pair of tongs, I submerged the octopus 3 times for about 10 seconds each time. I covered the pot, and allowed the pulpo to simmer for 2 hours, turning it every so often.

About an hour into cooking, I peeled 4 large Idaho potatoes, cut them into 1/2 inch slices and placed them into salted boiling water until tender.

As for the sauce, which ties the dish together, I took a cup of extra virgin olive oil, about 3 garlic cloves, sliced, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of paprika and 1 ladle full of octopus water in a medium saucepan over low heat, allowing the flavors to mingle.

To assemble, cut the octopus into half inch chunks, place on top of potato slices, douse it with the garlic- paprika sauce mixture, and serve with a glass of tempranillo. Enjoy.

P. S. The triple dunk and cork method definitely worked, because the octopus was tender and delightful. You can’t go wrong with a little love and top notch quality.

Fuzzy photo of my my finished product, I didn't realize that there was oil on my camera lense.

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November 29, 2012 · 11:33 pm

A room with a view

This blog post will have nothing to do with food today (though I’m thinking about food at the current moment). It does, however, have to do with where pieces of my inspiration originate. During private moments of quiet contemplation when ideas flow freely within my mind. Midtown, in the near, yet far distance at different times throughout a span of more than two years. I’m moving soon, but its okay, in my memory, this view shall forever be ingrained.

Spring Sunset

There’s a thunderstorm brewing!

Summer thunderstorm.

Daytime in the summer.

Cold and crisp night.

Hurricane Irene, as she left NYC.

My pink sky at dusk.

Winter sunset.

Clouds in the evening sky.

Early morning with the moon still shining.

As I walk into the sunset. Same view, at ground level.

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September 5, 2012 · 9:34 am

I just came across this blog post and it tugged on my heartstrings in big way. I wanted to share it with you.

I had a date with my past a few nights ago. Mum brought over some boxes that came from my bedroom in our old house. Most of the things I haven’t seen for ten years.

Here’s what I learnt about my previous self:

In my late teens, I was hot.

When I was in Year 6, I was not.

Michael Crawford is a kind man…kind enough to send a girl a personally signed photo of himself, all the way from England.

My grandma Joyce was matriarch and Queen Of All Things, especially the Christmas pudding.

My beautiful friend Margot, who passed away when we were 20, wrote me a card from Paris.

And so it seems that someone else wrote me a card from Paris.

And so did someone else.

And so did someone else. Maybe people think about me in Paris.

I learnt I kept a lot of journals…

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My tiny urban garden, part 2.

June 13th

June 23rd

July 4th

August 1st

August 16th. My, my you’ve grown up to be quite a beauty, let’s see how delicious you taste!!

Stay tuned for basil recipes! ;D

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Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child.

Julia Child in her kitchen. Image courtesy of www.thewholegang.org

Last Wednesday marked the 100th birthday anniversary of  Julia Child, and I’ve had her on the brain everyday as I relentlessly poured over recipes from her two volume food bible, “Mastering the art of French Cooking.” Julia’s charismatic on camera personality and her tremendous passion for a fine meal have always had a great impact on me as a food enthusiast.

Julia introduced Americans to the fine art of French cuisine during a time when it was thought of as better to dine on TV dinners. Her distinctive warbly voice and sense of humor made her show “The French Chef” not only a source of education, but entertainment as well. Even as she made errors with her technique, and fumbled with ingredients, she kept going. She was a fantastic teacher. Julia Child is the “Shakespeare” of the culinary world and her name will continue to live on forever.

Of all her recipes, I decided to re-create her classic “Coq Au Vin” dish. There are a few steps to this recipe, but the preparation is pretty straight forward. This is one of the sexiest dishes I’ve ever made, chicken drenched in red wine while cooked slowly, as it produces melt in your mouth meat that falls straight off the bone. Yum.

Chicken thigh doused in flour.

I love the natural juices that earthy cremini mushrooms produce when slowly cooked. The original recipe calls for button mushrooms, but these were readily available in my fridge.

About to de- glaze the mirepoix

Smoky! (I should’ve cut the carrots into smaller pieces, but oh well, what’s done is done ;))

Peeling each individual Pearl onion was a very meticulous process, but so worth the extra effort! They taste deliciously sweet when stewed. ;D

In goes about an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, (I reserved half a glass for myself 😉 )

Chicken thighs and drumsticks simmering in a hot, bubbling bath of red wine, cognac, chicken stock and juices exuding from the veggies. The fragrance traveled out into the corridors for everyone to enjoy.

Coq Au Vin

Ingredients

  • 3lbs of chicken (legs & thighs)
  • cup of flour (to coat chicken)
  • about 20 white pearl onions
  • 1 package of cremini mushrooms (roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 cup of lardons or bacon (chopped)
  • 3. 5 cups of cabernet sauvignon or another deep, red wine.
  • 50 ml of cognac (mini – bottle)
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 carrots cut on the bias
  • 3 celery stalks cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 can of tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley (for garnish, if desired)

Wash & pat chicken parts dry, season with salt & pepper. Rub chicken with minced garlic and thyme. Place into the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, chop carrots, red onions, celery and mushrooms, set aside. Peel pearl onions, set aside. In a bowl, take about 1 cup of all purpose flour and coat chicken with flour (it will thicken the sauce, too).

In a stock pot, add pieces of bacon in about 1/2 cup of water. Allow it to reduce slightly for 3- 4 minutes and get it screaming hot. Brown the chicken on all sides (about 3mins per side), remove from pot. Add one tbsp of butter, carrots, celery, red onion and a pinch of salt & pepper until the veggies tenderize and onions are slightly translucent. De- glaze the pot with the cognac (it intensifies flavors of the dish and makes cleaning the pot much easier, too).

In a separate skillet, saute mushrooms over medium heat in one tbsp of butter and a pinch of salt & pepper until tender. Pour mushrooms and their natural juices into the stock pot along with the veggies. Add chicken, chicken stock and red wine to the stock pot. Cook until boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer for an hour. Serve over egg noodles, rice or potatoes and garnish with fresh minced parsley. Serve with a glass of red or whichever spirit you prefer. 😉 Bon appetit!

Image courtesy of www.eclectique916.com

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