“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” Quoted from John Lennon
I took many interesting courses over the last semester, one of which was called Molecular Gastronomy. I loved this class because I was able to learn the science behind cooking processes, in other words, I learned exactly what I should do in order to theoretically perfect everything I cook! Each week focused on a different category of food or method of preparation. I learned about the composition of various ingredients, the effect of the senses on a taste experience, and even about different ways that I can alter foods using additives. I thought that the most interesting week by far was the class focused on meat preparation. I spent hours reading about protein makeup and how it changes when being cooked. The journals and articles explained the differences between light and dark meat in terms of texture and flavor and even went as far as to explain how the amount of exercise an animal gets can impact the taste of each muscle. The readings then went on to depict the processes that occur as meat is exposed to heat, how the protein fibers constrict and lose their water content, eventually changing in color from red to grey. I was so intrigued by the readings that I remember sitting on the subway squinting my eyes in an attempt to read from my iPhone. One thing was clear to me that evening, I needed to eat steak for dinner. I just had to test out my newfound knowledge and see if I could create the perfect steak!
Essentially what I came away with from the readings is that moisture is key. As meat continues to cook it loses water and becomes tougher as well as less flavorful. Therefore one should not overcook meat and should attempt to infuse as much extra moisture as possible into the dish. I entered the kitchen that night equipped with a ten-ounce filet, a few seasonings, and hard-pressed determination.
I decided to get creative with the cooking process and not only implement techniques that I read about but also expand upon some of the other principles. I had learned that one should cook meat by first searing the outsides on a high temperature and then reduce the heat to slowly cook the middle without burning the exterior. The searing process is supposed to help lock in the juices. Then cook the meat on medium heat until it is just a little undercooked from the desired outcome. The readings gave a whole description on how one should be able to tell how well done a steak is from touching it. The readings compared the desired texture to the pad on the palm of someone’s hand…this was sort of lost to me so I just mostly prayed that five minutes on each side was sufficient. The last step is to remove the meat and wrap it in foil for about five minutes after cooking, the steak will continue to cook a little bit more and the brief time off the stove will also allow the juices to redistribute into the meat. Anyway, here’s what I did different. Firstly, I began not by searing the fillet, but by sautéing some chopped onions and mushrooms. I thought this would add a little extra something, which it did. The other step I added was near the end of the cooking process. A few minutes before the filet was finished, I added about a half cup of chicken broth to the skillet and covered it with a lid. I thought that this would make the steak juicier and would also have the effect of braising the filet. I then removed the meat and continued to cook down the liquid with all its bits, onions and mushrooms into a thick sauce. My experiment paid off. I anxiously cut into the center of the steak, nervous to see if it was cooked enough. As you can see from the mouth-watering photo, the filet turned out perfect! I was overjoyed with the result of my experiment. This is just one more testament to show how much I am truly taking away from my classes.
For some reason lately I have been obsessed with seafood. I think it is because there is this amazing store on the first floor of the building of my internship (Chelsea Market) called “The Lobster Place” This store is phenomenal! Not only is it a gigantic fish market that offers every seafood imaginable, but the store also sells prepared foods. For example, you can walk passed rows of brightly colored tuna steaks and twenty pound salmons to go right up to chefs preparing fresh sushi from that day’s catch. In the back of the store there lies a mountain of freshly steamed lobsters of which you can take your pick to have disembodied in front of you and served with a large bowl of drawn butter. Next to that counter is a row of every type of fish chowder you can imagine and a little window from which you can order a range of “rolls” from tarragon shrimp rolls to lemony lobster rolls and more. I love the idea that a market combined itself with a ready to go style restaurant. I know that when I go there I am getting the freshest options available.
Anyway, I blame The lobster Place for my incessant seafood cravings. Last weekend two of my roommates were busy and I was left for a night in the apartment with my other roommate Natasha. We decided to have a wonderful candlelit evening complete with white wine and a seafood stew. I was absolutely shocked at how well the meal turned out. I had never attempted anything of the sort before and was worried the meal would turn out very fishy, but it didn’t. The dish actually did end up different than I had originally envisioned, however it was even better so I didn’t mind. I was aiming to make a sort of steamed mussel dish in garlic, butter and wine, but instead made a brothy and diverse fish stew. I simmered many types of seafood, an entire bottle of wine, chicken stock, garlic and fresh herbs to create a heavenly flavor experience. There was only one issue, I panicked halfway through the cooking process when I tasted the broth and found it to be extremely bitter, almost acidic. I tried to remedy the issue by adding a dollop of crème fraiche, which helped significantly. However, as it turned out, the broth had only tasted of acid because the alcohol from the wine hadn’t fully cooked out yet, so by the time the dish was finished I was left with a light and delicate, multi-layered broth with an added depth from the touch of cream. Natasha loved it so much that she requested I make it for her birthday dinner in the spring. Along with the stew we made a side of roasted vegetables. We ate the leftovers the next night and it was equally as delicious. I was heartbroken when we reached the bottom of the pot.
August and September are prime harvesting months and I couldn’t be happier. One of my favorite pastimes is wandering through the union square farmer’s market to people watch and shop for fresh seasonal delights. I like to go with no pre-determined ideas in mind for what dishes to create. Instead I just wander and pick out the best, most fresh and unique produce that I can find. I then take my goods home and lay it all out. It’s always really fun because I feel like I am creating my own little version of an iron chef competition in which I have to make delicious meals out of random ingredients. One such meal that I recently made was fresh pappardelle pasta with a homemade pesto sauce. Pappardelle is my absolute favorite type of noodle, especially when it is freshly made like the day I bought it at the market. This meal perfectly embodied the mood of the day. The dish was light and fresh with all of the delicate flavors of summer. That day at the market had been sunny with a breeze and as I made my way home to cook my dinner, I knew that there weren’t many days like that left in the year.
• Pappardelle Pasta
• Olive Oil
• Lemon Juice
• Lemon Zest
• Minced Garlic
• Sea Salt
• Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
• Red Chili Flakes
• Parmesan Cheese
One day this summer I was fantasizing about different meals I wanted to create and I happened to mention the idea of buffalo chicken stuffed shells to Devon. Now that we have reached September that means it was also her birthday! Out of nowhere she pulled out the idea from this summer and requested that I make the stuffed shells for her birthday meal.
I started my preparations early yesterday by hopping on the subway to 125th street. I recently discovered Fairway market, and let me tell you this is the most magical grocery store I have ever seen! I feel extremely dorky about how excited I get when I try to describe this place to other people but it’s like a wonderland to me! I could spend hours in that store, they have absolutely every food anyone could ever dream of from every country. Anyway, I journeyed to fairway and bought all the necessary ingredients to make dinner and was then off to class for the evening. Before I left for school I boiled the chicken and shredded it, then left it to marinade in a homemade buffalo sauce. I had never made shredded chicken before but it was very easy. Once boiled and cooled, I simply pulled it apart into small pieces. with two forks. When I came back home I threw the rest of the meal together in a few simple steps with the help of my sioux chef roommates. I boiled the pasta while some bacon crisped in the oven. Meanwhile, I made the cream sauce by sautéing shallots and garlic in butter and adding cream, parmesan, bleu, cheddar and cream cheese. Once the pasta was al dente, I shoved spoonfuls of the chicken mixture inside and laid the shells side by side in a baking dish. I poured the sauce over the shells, topped the platter with crumbled bacon and threw the dish in the oven for about fifteen minutes.
Jumbo pasta shells
Frank’s Hot Sauce
Chili Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper
Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Salt and Pepper
As of right now, this may be one of my favorite dishes that I have created to date! It is definitely an indulgence that one shouldn’t eat very often, but it was absolutely delicious. The cheesy pasta sauce cooled down the spicy chicken and the bacon was the perfect addition as a topping. Do not skip the bacon. This should be a rule in life.
Years ago, on one of my first trips to New York City, my parents and I had brunch at a funky restaurant called The Breslin. I ended up ordering this delicious baked egg and tomato dish that I have never quite forgotten. Fast forward to the present. On this particular day, Devon and I were getting ready to go to an all day music festival called soundest. It was ninety degrees outside and we knew we were going to be running around all day so it was really important to get a good start. Back in New York, Devon and I have a favorite brunch place in the lower east side called El Camion, which serves a delicious $10 brunch. I decided to combine the idea of the baked egg breakfast from The Breslin with a Mexican flair since I miss out brunch outings. The result was an oven-baked skillet layered with tortilla chips, black beans, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. The meal was perfect with the side of fresh guacamole and lime.
I made this low calorie pizza hearty and satisfying by piling on the veggies and seasonings. I am obsessed with these whole-wheat wraps that I found at the grocery store because they are so versatile! I began with a wrap and then put on a thick layer of homemade tomato sauce. The sauce was extremely simple and quick to make. I merely sautéed sliced garlic and diced tomatoes with some olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and dried oregano. Next I topped the flatbread with very generous portions of sliced mushrooms and heaps of spinach. I finished off the flatbread with just a sprinkle of both mozzarella and parmesan cheese as well as a drizzle of basil pesto sauce. At first the flatbread looked anything but what its name entails since it was piled so high with voluminous spinach and multiple layers of mushrooms, but as the flatbread toasted, the veggies condensed and the bread became crispy. This dish rang in at under four hundred calories and it’s filled with tons of vitamins from the fresh vegetables. YUM.
By the time I left New York this year, I was completely out of money. In my last few days I had to get very creative with feeding myself because I only had random leftover ingredients to work with. Surprisingly, it turned out that I had almost all the necessary ingredients to make risotto! All I needed to buy was an onion, which I bought at the deli a block away from my new apartment and which I paid for by scrounging through the entire place until I found a dollar in assorted change.
Instead of parmesan, I had some scraps of cheddar cheese. Instead of wine or other seasonings, I pretty much only had some chipotle hot sauce and other more middle-eastern type spices. However, I did have chicken broth, Arborio rice, onions and garlic. I decided to make an American comfort rendition of risotto. I threw in all the extra ingredients I had in the fridge. I call it my leftovers risotto. It was great! Luckily the meal was very rich so I was able to stretch it out for my last few meals before I went home.
Who doesn’t like spinach artichoke dip? I for one am absolutely obsessed with the side dish. In the last year I have found many ways to make it part of my life, from making it during spring break in Miami, to eating it on a regular basis at one of my favorite stops “Artichoke Pizza”, this concoction has proved to be magical to my taste buds. For anyone wondering, Artichoke pizza is an ingenious concept of a fast food joint that has figured out a foolproof recipe for making a pizza topping out of spinach artichoke dip. It sounds simple but I doubt that anyone could ever quite copy it to the same standards. One day I was thinking about how great the combination of spinach, artichokes, and cheese is, when I came to the conclusion that it’s madness that no one has yet turned the idea into a pasta creation. Thus, the spinach artichoke pasta dish was born, and my, was it tasty. I will have to make it again soon. The flavors of the spinach and artichokes were more pronounced than in the characteristically muddled mixture of dip. Take that in conjunction with the smooth creamy cheese sauce and the interestingly shaped pasta, Devon and I had a great break time meal from the stresses of school and moving apartments. Bon Appetite!
This is my go-to stressed out meal of choice. I know it is sort of odd, but macaroni salad has been a comfort food for me since I was a little girl. I remember when I was hitting pre-teen age I got my first cook book, of course it was called something like “The Teen Cook Book”. Even though it was cheesy it had the best recipes! I’m sure I still have it lying around the house somewhere. Anyway, the tuna macaroni salad really stayed with me throughout my whole life as something delicious and comforting during hard times. I remember making it when I was still pretty little and my step grandpa Opa tried it. He thought it was great! Surprisingly, this meal and Opa’s reaction was one of the first confidence boosters that I ever got in the kitchen. This last final exam period was exceptionally hard on me, and luckily the ingredients required for this recipe are very inexpensive so that’s an added plus.
I actually wrote a short blog about this dish during the fall semester final exam period, however that story was about a disaster experience! Luckily this particular concoction turned out fine without any pepper-mill mishaps.
Corn (not normal for my recipe but I had it on hand and figured why not)
On this particular day I was really starting to run out of groceries and only happened to have a few potatoes, some garlic, mayonnaise and a lemon at the dorm. It happened to be a Monday, which meant I had four hours of class to sit through. The night before I watched the movie Julie and Julia and for the life of me, all I could think about that Monday was the scene when Julie made Julia Child’s recipe for artichokes with hollandaise! I was craving some artichokes. They’re in season during the springtime so I figured the artichokes would be fairly inexpensive. In the end I suppose I was mistaken for even thinking they would be readily available! Unfortunately, when I get my mind set on something, I really cannot stop thinking about it until I get to eat it, so I ended up walking to four different grocery stores after class until I finally found one with artichokes in stock AND I happened to get the very last one! I proceeded to go home and make artichokes with a garlic lemon aioli dipping sauce and homemade pommes frites on the side. I cannot begin to explain how comforting and satisfying that meal was after the amount of work that went into making it.