Saturday, September 5, 2009

she can't, she's a vegetarian...

Exciting news! I replaced my battery charger for my digital camera! So hopefully the picture quality will be better now. Also, I've started another blog that revolves around Top Chef! Check it out: Top Chef Wannabe. I won't go into that many details on here, but I was making Ossobuco for dinner, and one of my guests was vegetarian. So I made a vegetarian version of the dish. I substituted the veal shank with baked tofu.

Braised Baked Tofu alla Milanese with Parmesan Risotto and Garlic-Sauteed Spinach

2 squares of prepacked baked tofu
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable broth (or enough to almost cover tofu)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper

3 Tablespoons parsley, minced
2 Tablespoons dill, minced
1 Tablespoon sage leaves, minced
1 garlic clove, minced/made into paste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in medium-sized pot on medium-high. Saute onions and tomatoes until caramelized. 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt. Incorporate tomato paste, then add tofu. Sear on both sides, then deglaze with wine. Cook for a few minutes until wine is almost dry. Then add vegetable broth until tofu is 3/4 of the way covered. Simmer on medium-low for 1-2 hours or until broth has reduced to sauce consistency.

While you're waiting for tofu to braise, prepare the gremolata. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Adjust seasonings. Should taste fresh and citrusy. Leave in refrigerator until tofu is ready.

Serve over sauteed spinach and risotto or your vegetable and rice of choice. Pour remaining broth/sauce over tofu. Top with gremolata and garnish with parsley.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

we all scream for ice cream!

AHHH! I think I know where the little limerick "You scream, I scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!" came from... when it's unbearably hot, people scream "ICE CREAM!!!" Well at least that's the first thing that came to mind. It's hotter than a roasted pepper outside! The only logical activity would be to make ice cream.

My friends gave me an ice cream maker one year and it's one of my favorite kitchen appliances! If you don't have one, I guess you're going to have to find some tins and roll 'em around for half an hour. Or you can just invest $50-$60 and enjoy homemade ice cream for those triple digit summer days (Oh boy, I sound like an infomercial, please buy me). And trust me, homemade ice cream is better than store-bought. All the kids I taught said so!
French Vanilla Ice Cream


4 egg yolks (this is what makes it French and creamy!)
1 cup milk
1 cup double/heavy cream (if you don't have heavy cream, just use another cup of milk)
3/4 cup fine sugar
1 vanilla pod (can substitute 2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract)


Pour the milk and cream into a sauce pot and bring the pot slowly up to boiling point. While it's coming up to a boil, slice the vanilla pod lengthwise to expose the seeds. Scrape seeds out into pot and drop the whole vanilla pod into the pot. Give it a good stir.

In a bowl, beat and mix together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar until thick. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar into the milk mixture when it starts to simmer. Dissolve the sugar, then slowly pour the milk into the mixture of egg yolks and sugar, stirring constantly (Tip: literally add a few drops at a time in the beginning so that the hot milk doesn't scramble the egg mixture. This is called tempering).

Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, stirring until the custard thickens - DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL OR IT WILL PROBABLY CURDLE. When you can see a film form over the back of your spoon it's time to remove the saucepan from the heat. Leave to cool.

Transfer the whole mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Now, for you lactose intolerants and vegans, here's an animal/dairy-free frozen treat:

Vegan Mexican Mocha Ice Cream


2 cups almond milk (or rice milk, soy milk, etc.)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 Tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of cayenne


Bring almond milk to slight simmer in a medium sauce pot. Then add rest of ingredents to the pot and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Using a whisk, make sure everything is dissolved and fully incorporated. Let cool, then add to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.

Stay cool and enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

let's try this again

When I asked my friend what he wanted for dinner, he said he was in the mood for pasta with a tomato-base sauce. Spaghetti is pretty boring, so I went back to this vegetable bolognese recipe from Giada's show Everyday Italian. I remember trying it out a couple years back, but with my new culinary skills and knowledge, I tackled it once more.

Instead of putting the raw vegetables directly into the blender, I sauteed them first to caramelize them and develop more flavor. I also added 4 roma tomatoes to the vegetable mixture.

The recipe calls for red wine, but I didn't have any, so I opted to use Port Wine. I reduced it all the way instead of just halfway with the mushrooms. It takes some time but it's well worth it. It definitely adds another dimension of flavor.

Anyway... this was 10 times better than when I made it a couple years ago! YUM! So here's my version of the recipe along with photos of the dinner. I accompanied the pasta with a red onion bruschetta, garlic herb-roasted potatoes, and a marinaded radish salad in a lemon vinaigrette (not pictured). I really need to buy a replacement battery charger for my camera! I'm ashamed of these photos!

Penne Pasta with Vegetarian Bolognese

1 package of penne pasta (or rigatoni)
1 medium pot of boiling water
1 tablespoon salt

2-3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
4 roma tomatoes, quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon basil, chopped

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup port wine

6 oz mascarpone cheese

1. Start boiling a pot of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to water. Add pasta when water starts boiling and cook as directed on package.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large deep skillet or medium pot on medium high. Add roughly chopped carrots, onions, and peppers to pot and 1 teaspoon of salt. Saute for 2 minutes or until vegetables start to tender and all sides are slightly browned. Add tomatoes, garlic, and rest of herbs and seasonings and saute for another minute or two.

3. Add cooked vegetable medley to blender or food processor. Puree until no chunks are left. Set aside.

4. In same pan or pot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Add assorted mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute for 2 minutes until mushrooms shrink in size. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add port wine and cook until dry.

5. Add vegetable puree to the pot of mushrooms. Mix, then add mascarpone cheese. Stir until cheese is fully incorporated into sauce. Taste for flavor, and add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt if necessary. Let simmer for 6-8 minutes to let the flavors develop, stirring occasionally, then add to strained pasta (with a little bit of pasta water left). Garnish with grated parmesan if desired.

Tips: Really, you can use any kind of pasta you want, but I like the tube pastas like penne and rigatoni so that the sauce gets trapped inside. The pasta water helps thicken the sauce, a little more. It's also great the next day! Also, you can use any assortment of mushrooms you'd like. To make this vegan, omit the mascarpone and substitute with Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese" if desired.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

curry fried rice

I meant to say this in my last post, but I want to apologize for the poor quality of some of my recent pictures. I seem to have misplaced my new camera charger! So I have been taking pictures with my 2.0 Megapixel camera phone. ::sad face:: It'll have to suffice until I find the charger, or until I give up my search and just buy a replacement.

Anyway, I'd like to share an impromptu recipe with you guys. I had some leftover rice and veggies, so I decided to make fried rice! Then as I opened my spice cabinet, I decided to make it CURRY fried rice! Brilliant! This is a totally flexible recipe, but this is what I ended up with:

Curry Fried Rice

Yields: 4-6 servings

3 cups cooked 1-2 day-old rice
1/2 brown or white onion, sliced
1/2 head of broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, sliced into rondelles
1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok or large deep skillet on high. Add in onions, broccoli, and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent and broccoli is bright green. Add garlic, and saute for another minute.

2. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, curry powder, and cumin. Mix well with vegetables.

3. Add day-old rice and break it up with a wooden spoon until all the rice is mixed well with the veggies and sauce. Add salt and pepper.

4. In the meantime, heat another pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the beaten eggs and cook until just dry.

5. Add scrambled eggs to rice mixture and stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Adjust seasonings as desired. (I like a lot of curry flavor with a little bit of sweetness)

Tip: If I had these on hand, I probably would have added grilled pineapple chunks, 2 tablespoons pineapple juice instead of the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and roasted cashews to make a Curry Pineapple Fried Rice! Mmm! Really, you can add any vegetables you'd like!

Happy eating!

Monday, August 17, 2009

jack of all cakes

Hello World! That was the longest hiatus yet! Well, a lot has happened since I last updated.

So let's zoom past the boring stuff: I completed my externship at Real Food Daily in West Hollywood, where I learned how to prepare vegan food and pastries. Then I had my graduation ceremony in May. After I graduated, one of my friends created cooking classes for his extensions program at LA Harbor College for me to teach. I taught a few Saturday courses of varying cuisines. Then I taught kids cooking classes in the summer for six weeks. It was kind of a nightmare (if my friend/boss is reading this, just kidding... but not really)!

Now onto more exciting news...

I've decided that I want to go into cake decorating, and maybe become a private chef. In order to do so, I will have to do more training on my own. During my free time, I will develop my own recipes and try them out at home. When I'm satisfied with the recipes, I'll post them on here for you guys.

As for cake decorating, my spark of interest began when a former coworker of mine asked me to make a cake for her niece's 4th birthday. The theme was Alice in Wonderland, so I made my first whimsical topsy-turvy fondant cake. It was also my first multi-tiered cake. It sure was a grueling process, but the end result left me wanting to create more!

I'm thinking of creating a separate blog just for my cakes, but I will think about that. Here are the rest of the cakes in my arsenal so far:

I have deemed myself, "Jack of All Cakes."

So that's that... I hope to update more often again!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

please pack your knives and go

Hey! Sorry I haven't updated about my last three weeks of class, but I was trying to find an externship. That was a whole fiasco, but I'm finally set. I've been working with Project Angel Food and I'm starting at Real Food Daily on Monday. Anyway... more about that later.

I really enjoyed International Cuisine. This class was really refreshing, because we cooked A LOT. We presented full dishes and practiced full-service buffets. We even had time "windows" when the chef wanted our courses.

We made cuisines from Italy, worked our way to Morocco, all the way to South East Asia.

Osso Bucco

Spanish Buffet

Indian Platter

Chinese Buffet

We made a lot more individual dishes, but I didn't feel like they were worth taking pictures of. There were definitely some awesome dishes, but there were also some that were just okay. I'm really glad we ended our classes this way.

So this probably concludes photos from the school kitchen, but hopefully I'll have more time to post more often now. Until next thyme!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

advanced garde manger

Another three weeks down, three more weeks to go! I finished my last class "Advanced Garde Manger" last week with a bang! We learned how to make sushi. It was delicious, but I think I would still rather just go out for sushi. Variety is one of the things I look for in sushi, and it's just too expensive to achieve at home if you don't have a lot of people to feed.

Going back to the first week, we worked with a lot of meat (mainly sausage-making). I'll just say, that I never want to work with that much meat again.

We finished off our little "sausagefest" with a BBQ buffet.

Our salt dough center-piece
Another group's salt dough center-piece

Week 2 was probably everyone's least favorite. Not only did we have to deal with a lot of meats, but the food that we produced seemed almost inedible. However, we did get to work with a lot of powdered gelatin. My favorite part was making the Chaud Froid platter. My design was inspired by the Solar System.

And here we have the Chicken Gallantine, Vegetable Terrine, and Pate en Croute:
These cold meat concoctions and the vegetables coated with balsamic gelatin are definitely NOT kosher.

And for our last week, besides the sushi, we also made one of my favorite dishes since my time in culinary school: Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad)

I know the ingredients (heirloom tomatoes, mozarella, basil, spinach, and a balsamic vinaigrette) were quite simple, but it was extremely refreshing and tasty.

We also pickled a few things and made an antipasti platter.

I'm not sure if you guys can tell the difference, but I got myself a new camera for Christmas! Hopefully the pictures come out better. I sure can tell the difference!

I can't believe I'm in my last three weeks of culinary school. After that, I will be doing an externship for 6 weeks, and then I have my graduation ceremony in April. It is going to fly by like no other!

Right now, I'm in the middle of setting up an externship at Providence with the head chef at our school. I was quite honored when my Advanced Garde Manger chef approached me about it, because Providence looks AMAZING. It's unpaid, but the experience alone would be awesome. More updates on that later! I'm super excited for what's to come! =]