Tomato Harvest…even for a black thumb like me. Pickled tomatoes

Being gutsy back in May…I bought two tomato plants on a total whim.  Whim because plants don’t like me very much…maybe it’s because they realize that I tend to forget about them after lovingly planting them?  But guess what?  I think my tomato plants like me! They’ve been very good to me this season…

They’re still more green than red but it’s amazing how many tomatoes it’s pumpin’ out.  What to do with all the green tomatoes besides frying them (like the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes)?  Well – pickle them, of course.

So good that I may just have them at a restaurant that I will own someday~  Sweet, sour, salty with a good tangy crunch.  They’re awesome and so special as I certainly haven’t seen any in the market.  Couple jars picklin’ already in the fridge.  Let your imagination go wild and pickle away.

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home made…DIY food projects

been away for a while…and gettin’ bz in the kitchen.  here’s my brag picture book for today:) – random.

homemade tofu…courtesy of sensei at Hitachiya who shared the tradition of making tofu from soy beans.

kelly makes some kimchi at home

preserved lemons a la moroccan style…use sparingly in braised meats, great with pan-seared butterfish

turkey confit…this is what i made for thanksgiving…a new twist and so decadent.  hunting down duck fat was krazy but it’s here….crackly perfect.
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fractal….romanesco broccoli @ farmers market

it looks so freakish….it just spoke to me.  a hybrid in taste and texture between broccoli and cauliflower…probably closer to cauli but with a big sprinkle of broccoli.  best oven roasted and slightly charred – with salt, pepper, and good dose of olive oil.  amazing that it comes out of the ground!

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Feel empowered by making your own pizza dough

I’ve been in love with Jim Lahey’s cookbook, My Bread and his famous Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC telling many friends and buying them extra copies.  Mine’s pretty thrashed, with olive oil finger stains on the cover, dog-eared pages sandwiched with flour sprinkles and lots of lovely loafs eaten by many happy people.  With gorgeous pictures and simple, i mean SIMPLE recipes, he mentions that “you don’t need money or anything fancy to bake bread, just hands and an oven.”  My favorite part is when he talks about how he used sell them in the streets of NY and what he couldn’t sell, he’d give away saying, “here – try it – it’s good stuff, man”.  You just have to love the guy~ (I recommend going out and buying a copy right away!)

Flour + Water + Yeast = Crackly, rustic bread

Depending on what kind of a bread you want to make and how much patience you have for the dough to rise on its own, you make mods to the recipe, adding more yeast, letting it rise longer etc.  And it’s bit of a surprise too sometimes as your rising depends on the weather and your kitchen temperature.  Rises faster during summer, slower during winter, you get the picture.

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Hatch chili eggplant caponata~~~

It’s hatch chili time!  love me some hatch chili recipes now – so bring ’em ON!

I bought a whole box of roasted hatch chili last week from Bristol Farms, put Mike to work and with two of us, spent a few hours painstakingly taking off all the skins before vacuuming packing and freezing it to enjoy throughout the year. Ping me if you want some!  I’m will to share the wealth.

A quick and easy meatless Wednesday meal – a hatch chili eggplant caponata-esk lasagna minus the cheese.  With fresh summer vegetables with exponential taste, you really need a little else to make it pop.

What’s in it:

1 Italian eggplant (peel skin, sliced thick ~1/2 inch, tossed with salt and olive oil)

6 small sweet peppers sliced lengthwise (these have NO heat and they’re so awesome with all their beautiful colors.  And you know that you’re doing your body good by eating all these colorful vegetables) and again tossed in salt/olive oil

1 small onion (sliced thinly)

1 pint cherry tomatoes (drizzle heavy with olive oil, oregano and basil – roast at 325 for 1 1/2 hours – great to just have around in the fridge and make vinaigrette, pasta sauces etc)

about 7-10 roasted hatch chili (de-seeds)

1 bunch tuscan kale (leaves torn off – no ribs please).  Steamed for 3 min until the green color pops

What to do:

1) Grill eggplant, sweet peppers and onion over high heat (I used our gas bbq grill and a vegetable basket to prevent peppers/onion from losing them down the grate) until starts to blister/skin turns brown.

2) In a 9×9 casserole pan, layer them as you’d lasagna.  I put eggplant at the bottom followed by sweet pepper/onion mix, hatch chili, layer of kale and REPEAT until you run out of ingredients.

3) Drizzle the roasted tomatoes at top including all the olive oil leftover, roast at 350 in the oven for 1 hr and let it do its magic.

4) You can serve it cold or warm, doesn’t matter.  It’s that good!

happy summer~~

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Will Sasaya give me an interview?!?

Dear Sasaya,

Nine months ago, I found you through Yelp and after few slurps of your unforgettable homemade udon noodles that taste like love – I was hooked and since then have been religiously attending almost every week.  Partially regretting my review on Yelp, telling all my friends about you and now this post and hoping that not too many people find about your place because the wait for a table may even be longer. And when I crave that dough-y yet fluffy udon and an umami broth, I want it NOW!  Your egg flower chicken is bliss, shrimp and mochi tempura is divine, curry udon for the cold weather and the starter warm tofu’s just the right amount of comfort to get you seated.

With my quick and not-so-timely introduction today for an interview with the Udon Master (um…how timely to have left my wallet in my gym bag – Continue reading

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For all the beautiful things that make you happy…

I can’t believe how long I’ve been away.  The daily churns of life, zipping along like cars on a freeway; work, house remodel, chores and errands, blablabla…WAHHHH!hhh!!!  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Why does it feel that as you get older that life just seems to speed up? (anyone else have this problem?) You start hyperventilating that there isn’t enough time to do all the stuff you want to do, all the places you want to see, all the different kinds of food you want to taste…right as you’re looking to turning the big FOUR. O!

After several long deep breaths, I realize that you just have to make time for the things that are important, to you, and take what you can and know that while you can’t have it all, you can kick and scream and kick ass as much as you sanely and happily can, to soak it all in, whatever that keeps you going or makes you happy.  And catch the unexpected, as in these beautiful trees in late winter Chicago.

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Stage Lesson #2 – Cooking tips, factoids, fancy french terms

You could say I took a hiatus from the last post, perhaps from the disappointment of not being able to stage much much longer, short lived and due to some HR, “don’t want no liability for someone who doesn’t get paid to work there” policy, but I do have few stage lessons up my sleeves,  few tricks that I’m still using and constantly thinking about, so – thank you, Chef and know that I’ll be back soon;)

Factoids/cooking tips/fancy terms:

– A perfect sausage ratio is 60/40; that is 60% meat, 40% fat.  That also happens to be the flesh to fat ratio on a whole pig.  Pretty neat, huh?

– Vegetable blanching: green vegetables are always greener after blanching (as long as it’s not overdone).  And I have to correct the chef here, who said, “the oxygen inside the vegetable goes to the surface making it more green”.  What actually happens is (according to some research I did, thanks Hank from Cuisinology), the green chlorophyll of the veggie is surrounded by microscopic air pockets (i’m picturing bubble wrap used for shipping things) and when it’s heated, the pockets basically “pop” revealing the…tada!  greener broccoli, green beans etc.  Of course, too much and you go completely to the other side of nasty looking mushy vegetables.

– Roasting beets – add water.  Beets come out super juicy and easy to peel when you fill 1/3 of a roasting pan with water along with rosemary, drizzled olive oil, salt and cover with aluminum foil.  Luscious!

There are a lot of fancy words that kitchen use that I had to learn:

1) garde manger – the no-cook cold station chef (and probably the lowest of the totem pole in the kitchen making salads and cold appetizers) has literal French translation of “to guard/watch food” loosely translating to a cool well-ventilated pantry area or refrigerator.  Basically, a chef that doesn’t really cook with heat.  Almost everyone starts here and pays their dues.

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Staging at a four-star restaurant – lesson #1

Stage (pronounced “sta-je as in “Taj”): To work as a stagiare, a chef’s apprentice in a formal restaurant kitchen, or in my case, to be able to spend ~1 night a week when daytime job allows learning what I can in the kitchen.

I can’t say with whom I’ve been staging for fear of not being able to stage anymore, or being questioned by my daytime job/career for my dedication other than to say that I’ve been hanging out in this 4-star restaurant’s professional kitchen for about a month now.  After bugging the cool, collected and oh-so-damn-wise renown chef for ~6 months, I was finally able to gain his acceptance by what food knowledge I had and of course, my beaming smile and charming personality;)

Chef asked me my first day – what do you want to get out of your stage?  The dorky voice that sing-songs from what I realize is me says, “I just want to be immersed in and be exposed to all-things-food” – and so, here I am.

Lessons from stage #1:

1) A professional kitchen is like High School all over again.

Where else in a grown-up work environment do you spend the next 6-8, sometimes 12 hours with your co-workers in a confined space under massive heat, perspiration and all the yelling back and forth, each in their designated stations where naturally you can’t help but form special bonds and “cliques”?  Working as a team to bring together all the components into a single dish but always competing against each other, as each strives to move up, from garde manger to chefs that make sides and sauces to those making core proteins, sous chefs before leaving to become your own executive chef.

– You feel as though you don’t belong there.  You feel a bit like “Black Swan”.  You must prove yourself before you’re the new kid on the block.  Will you take orders but also have a brain to think on your own?  Are you cool enough to be hanging out with the rest of the kitchen team?  Maybe it takes three whole containers of peeling roasted beets before breaking you down.  Maybe you just keeping looking at them and thinking, how beautiful they are.  Doesn’t matter that you’re there just for the night and that you’re working for free.  You still are a “Black Swan”.

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o.m.g. is this Bodum French Press HOT or what?…

I’m sorry – not all french press are the same.  This one ROCKS!  Found it at a steal on good ol’ Amazon

Will have to tell you all about its features after I brew my first cup tomorrow~

Isn’t she a BEAUTY?  sexy, huh?

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