This week Kelie and I are going to poke our noses into Trenesa’s house–she’s a high powered executive with a high powered schedule who wants to eat dinner with her family.  If I asked the rest of you: “Who else out there has to be superwoman to get the whole job (work, family, food shopping, cleaning, cute clothes or any clothes really, exercise, read the paper or a memo) done?” I’ll bet 98% would raise your hands, and the other two percent would agree if you could, but you’re sleeping on the job from lack of rest.

Trenesa needs help figuring out how to get home in time to make dinner with family possible and how to handle having to make both vegetarians and meat eaters happy.

Here are ideas I have about the menus:

Sag Aloo (you can enter it into the fayefood SEARCH option on the right of the page) with lamb skewers

Pasta Fagioli served with (no nitrite/nitrate) bacon on toast (pasta fagioli is also available in fayefood archives)

Broccoli rabe and sausage with orchiette (just leave out the sausage and throw in some chic peas for the veggies)

MOM’s famous Tacos.  Who didn’t have taco’s in the 70′s?  I like mine soft.  Little bowls of dark green leafy salad, refried beans, hamburg, cheese, tomatoes, onions, avocado

Buckwheat noodles with fried scallion, ginger, garlic, tofu, bok choy and shrimp (they won’t miss their meat)

Spinach and goat cheese risotto (this is Jamie Oliver) with a side of Chicken Paillards, with parm, bread crumbs

Vegetable stew with potato, artichokes and dumplings (save some to the side and drop shreds of roast chicken breast in there to heat through before serving for your carnivores.)

White bean puree with roasted tomatoes, croutons and swiss chard served with flank steaks

Roasted potatoes, asparagus, chive and arugula topped with thick toast, a fried egg (or lamb chop)

Corn chowder with mini burgers

Pasta with red peppers and onions with side of pork chop, olive tapenade….

Beautiful Soup

I have fallen in love with a tiny little bundle, and I have been using it like some girls use French perfume–nobody knows what it is, but everybody wants to know who just walked in the room.

In the same old mix of leeks and potatoes, I add the tiniest stalk from the inside of the celery–no bigger than my pinky, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of flat leaf parsley, and a bay leaf, and in 20 minutes, I don’t want to be anywhere, but with that soup and a spoon.  Last night, just as the potatoes were nearing tender, I added the tops of a stalk of broccoli to the mix and set the lid back on until they turned Spring green.  I blended the whole thing (remove the bay leaf first) and added a pour of heavy cream, a grate of nutmeg, and a crouton covered with slivers of Gruyere.

Hot Chocolate

It’s all about the feeling.

When you walk into the new Jacques Torres at Chelsea Market, the first thing you come to is the side of the espresso machine which takes your mind right to hot and delicious, which takes you to hot, delicious and chocolate. Jackpot. The barista was taking a moment’s pause and was leaning up against the counter. I started to ask him if he did shots of hot chocolate, and as he was pointing to the espresso cups, about to say something, another person working the counter, turned from the person she was speaking with, slapped a plastic menu on the counter and said, “here’s the menu.”
“Oh” I said, “I just wanted to ask…”
“if you want to order, that’s where you order from” and she pointed to the other end of the counter.
“I wanted to ask…”
“You order from there,” she said, and pointed.
I put my hands up like a criminal.
“I don’t want to order.” I said.
I am not an easy customer; I know that. There is no such thing as a 45 year old mother who gave birth with no drugs, living in New York City, who worked the night before until after 11 and woke up before 5 easy customer. But the truth is, we are everywhere. And you know what else? We are the ones buying chocolates and cocoa. We are the ones that need that cocoa. Mr. Torres makes a spicy hot chocolate that will knock your socks off, but his No Manners Manager took that warm and wonderful feeling of chocolate love and cracked it into tiny bits of sugar shard.
I went home–which is probably where I should have stayed anyway and made my own hot chocolate.

2 cups whole milk
4 ounces of best quality bittersweet chocolate (non of that baking chocolate)
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of dutch process cocoa (Droste is a good one)
2 tablespoons of heavy cream

Chop the chocolate into fine bits. Heat the milk. Stir the chocolate into the cream. Sift the sugar and cocoa together and stir into the milk. Adjust to taste with the heavy cream.

Feel it.

Winter Tonic

I’m practicing being a vegetarian again for our next show.
In the Tiger Milk 70′s my mother decided that white flour, white sugar, all red meat, and poultry were no longer welcome in our home. In the bat of an eye, no more Hamburger Fridays, Twinkies, Ring Dings, Pop Tarts, Spare Ribs or Chicken and Dumplings. We couldn’t believe it. If there had been such a thing as Sugar and Meat Protective Services, we would have called them. Kids at school who had never felt for me before, felt for me. “What do you eat”, they would ask me, “What is there?” “Well, you know,” I’d say, “macaroni and cheese, omelettes, cashew chili…” And then they would say, “Oh my God.” Maris Brayfield, who in the past wouldn’t give me so much as a Cheeto, would offer up Skippy and Fluff on Wonder without my even asking for it.
I would never have thought that I would say “It wasn’t all that bad.” In fact, if I could have heard me now, I would have said, “Sit yourself down–you’re old and you don’t remember.”
It’s just about the list. If your list has chicken and dumplings and short ribs on it, the brain freezes up like a case of lock-jaw. You forget all about The World of Vegetables. It can include but not be limited to: frozen peas, frozen corn, spinach, potatoes, and then leap to slow roasted tomatoes, braised leeks, sweet potatoes, and sauteed wild mushrooms. And the thing about vegetables is–they’re quick. You have the whole bean and legume family that cooks fresh in seconds, or dried can be simmered and then frozen or even bought ready in a can. Almost any vegetable can be braised in a little deliciousness liquid with a drop of olive oil, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and a piece of shallot until tender and then eaten with a piece of cheese and bread. Roast them for pastas and warm grain salads.

Last night we had a whole family of friends and though I compulsively put a little chicken into the soup I made for the kids, the rest was completely vegetarian. Mushroom risotto with shitake and cremini mushrooms, leeks, onion and shallot with a stock made from the stems, carrot, leek, celery, onion, thyme and parsley. A platter of roasted tomatoes, white bean puree (cannellini, sauteed shallot, garlic, rosemary, pepperoncino, olive oil, balsamic and lemon) and niciose olives, and a salad of arugula, homemade croutons, pan roasted asparagus and parmesan shavings.
Today for lunch to keep the momentum going I cooked a shallot with a clove of garlic, a sprig of thyme and some flat leaf parsley in olive oil and then added chic peas. Stir the chic peas around on the flame for a while. I could have eaten them just like that, but I cleared out the pan, added some peeled cubed tiny bits of potato and let them go til they stuck to the pan with a bit of golden underneath. Back in went the chic peas along with a good spill of water to make a sort of soup. At the end I added some baby beets I had braised and tossed with just a tiny bit of dijon vinaigrette for extra flavor. Tom Cat makes a gorgeous bread using a sourdough starter and I toasted it, drizzled it with olive oil, and poured the soup over. To top it, baby arugula leaves (although I think swiss chard would have been beautiful as well) with a shower of parmesan.
Call me Popeye.

Mission Happy

There is something very magical about a bite of something.  It is the seduction of a stolen kiss.  Or the step onto the only stone between you and the other bank of a rushing stream.  It is a day so full of life, that the essence of it lasts forever.

This is the opportunity and challenge of a cupcake.

In a single creased paper no bigger than a silver dollar can be tender crumbs of the memory of a birthday in yellow cake covered with chocolate and showered with a kaleidoscope of color.  You could give Fall to someone in six chews with a fresh apple batter and a cap of caramel.  France could fit into the tiniest of a deep, dark souffle with a velvety midnight center and a crackly-as-a-silent-lover’s-quarrel crust.

And for all of that, and all of the love it takes to make a cupcake right, there is no more commitment than the minute it takes to eat one.

I love cupcakes; I would keep them in my pockets if I could.  Bake them for the pure tiny joy of it.

Romesco Sauce

It makes sense that Romesco would come from Catalonia, a corner of Spain that has a firey history of not wanting to be part of Spain at all.  A Romesco sauce doesn’t blend in, it stands out.  It says WAKE UP and LIVE A LITTLE!  It’s snowing like crazy outside which puts me off making today the day that I conquer the world, so I’m making Romesco instead.  Hopefully you’ll have some ancho chiles in your pantry so you can make some too.  Start with 5 chiles–they come completely dried out and need to be soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes after you take off the stems and get the seeds out.  Toast a quarter cup of whole raw almonds, watching them like a hawk so that they don’t burn.  Fry a slice of the best bread you can find in olive oil so that it is brown on both sides. Rip it up.  Chop up the drained chiles and add to the saute pan with a little more olive oil.  Halve and remove the seeds from about 3 Italian Plum tomatoes.  Roast them until the wilt–you can roast a bunch of them and keep the rest for something else.)  Swirl the tomatoes around in the food processor with the bread, the chiles, 1 smashed clove of garlic, a little fresh parsley, a bit of sherry vinegar, the nuts, and about 1 cup of olive oil that you add in a steady stream.  Add lemon juice to taste.  If you have the patience, you do the whole thing in your mortar and pestle.  I still have to buy one that would be big enough.

Serve it with pork chops with greens and polenta on the side.

My Credentials

There is a little magazine published in my neck of the city, that I really like.  It is all about–food.  I sent off an idea to this magazine that Kelie and I had, about us penning a column in an Ann Landers advice style, of How to Make eating a Home Cooked Dinner a Regular Reality.  Kelie has worked as a writer for Fairchild Publishing so she is a no brainer for writing an article.  The problem is Moi.

In my initial contact with the editor I included fun facts like, I am a cook, I write a blog, and I teach cooking.  When she wrote me back she said, “you know, if I gave everyone a column who wanted to write a column for this magazine, there would be room for nothing else.”  Fair enough and kudos to the mag for A.  being popular B.  checking credentials.

I sent her my credentials, and this was her reply:  did I go to culinary school, am I a professional cook and do I write my blog as a hobby?

This set me back for a minute.  If we had been in high school and face to face, I think it could have been a “situation.”  Which is a reminder to me that A.  I am in not in high school and B.  I need to think about what she is asking.  What I heard was:  Liar.   What she most likely meant was:  Prove it to me.

I have no name and no connections, although I have cooked for some famous people.  Does that make me a better cook?  I don’t think so.   In my mind, requirements for cooking are the same if you cook for Michael Jackson (I never cooked for him) or Joe Schmoe.  In my experience, the fact that a person is famous, does not guarantee knowledge of food; and a cook cooks to the best of her ability whether cooking for Jackson or Schmoe.
Last night I lost sleep because when I wrote her back, along with the links that prove I am a professional, I used the names of the well known people who are my clients or have been my clients in connection with trying to prove my worth. In all my years of cooking, when someone wants to know if I can cook, I say, “yes.” I back it up with how long I have been cooking, what kind of cooking I have done; I might throw in that I had my own restaurant for a few years…but there was something about how after I gave her my information she implied I might be cooking as a “hobby” that threw me over the fence.  And so I stooped to name dropping as if just because I work for people who the whole country knows and are at the top of their game, that makes me official.

I am so high school.

For the record:  I have never gone to culinary school–I learned everything I know on the job.  I started out washing chickens and cleaning dishes.  Without deserving it whatsoever, I was awarded the job of “pastry chef” my second day at the sink, just because I happened to be the only one working in the kitchen at that moment who knew anything about making a cake and–I offered to make one for 300 people in a crunch.  The cake was for a famous person, but I swear I would have made it using exactly the same techniques if it were for my mother.

I have never been employed to work at a restaurant (other than my own) as a cook.  I have done a stage cooking at a well known restaurant, I have eaten at well known restaurants, but I grew up professionally in catering, where I was eventually referred to as head chef of a reputable company.  I teach in the Tuscan hills of Italy, and the garden of France.  I know how to chop, sear, and braise my way through just about anything.  My claim to fame is a state senator (here I go nameless name dropping again) refusing to rush for his plane because he wanted to finish every last bite.  My other claim to fame:  my seven year old loves to eat wholesome food. I have written nearly everyday for the last four years about food, including a cookbook that I published and love as much as I would if I had been paid by someone else to publish it.  At the end of the day, I walk a path just off the main road.
What makes a cook?  Experience and knowledge. And even if I didn’t get paid by all kinds of people to cook–you can be as brilliant at home as you can be on the job.  And I do both.  So there.

(Talk to the hand, and if the hand is not available take it to the elbow.)

Now that I have that off my chest:  a repurposed recipe THAT I MADE UP MYSELF!

Get your beets on!!!

Filed under: Food — fayehess @ 10:19 am Edit This
blogff0007.JPGAllow me to step up onto my soapbox under this tent, and hand me the microphone–”it is time to peel and grate, to roast and toss, to gently braise and season, to NOURISH your bloodstream, to clean your insides and PURPLE your outsides. I am a well woman now–my feelings are in order, my eyes are clear, my head is hopeful, and I put it all to the beets. Be brave. There is no substituting canned–you wouldn’t substitute canned for fresh watermelon would you, when you are sitting on fresh sand with fresh salt in your hair and a real sun heating up your program, would you? No. Buy fresh beets, and peel them. This is the very same pasta dish I told you about two days, ago, but this time I want you to make it. Start small if you have to and make enough for two. Peel and grate one medium sized beet. Get a little sauce pan full of water and add a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Peel another beet and chop it up in small pieces. When the water boils, turn down to a simmer and throw the chopped beet in. Cook until just tender. (you need the cooking water from this–save the beet for a salad). Heat up a pour of your good olive oil with a tablespoon of butter. Finely chop one shallot and two cloves of garlic. Saute over a very low flame with a pinch of salt. Add a 1 teaspoon hand crushed fennel seeds and few tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley. Breathe deep to get that aroma into you. Add the beet. Stir around with a wooden spoon every once in a while until they are cooked, but still have a little snap. Grate a good handful of parmigiano reggiano on the big side. Wash and dry some tiny arugula leaves (a cup). Boil your pasta water and cook either 5 ounces of orchiette or farfalle (I like De cecco) until al dente.Taste the grated beets for salt and give them a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Drain the pasta and tip it into the frying pan with the beets. Another squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a tab of butter, the parmesan, a grind of black pepper, a few spoonfuls of the beet juice, and the arugula. Before you toss everything, give the arugula leaves a tiny drizzle of your best olive oil. Now toss. Taste. You should be feeling better already.

Cheap Date Cupcakes

If you put a platter of these on the Valentine’s Day table with a bunch of hearts that you cut out from yesterday’s newspaper sprinkled everywhere like confetti, you are looking at huge rewards for very little cash.

Ingredient List:
1 dark chocolate bar that you would love to eat
1 can Hershey’s cocoa
vegetable oil
baking soda
a little leftover milk
a little leftover coffee or yogurt
vanilla (if you have it)
plain sugar
plain flour
half pint heavy cream

Mix together and then sift onto a piece of wax paper: 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup of cocoa, 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt.
In another bowl, combine 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil with 1 cup of any combo: yogurt, coffee, milk. If you have the vanilla, add 1/2 teaspoon. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and pour into greased cupcake tins, about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean.

Reserve 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream and beat the rest, just until soft peaks form. Pipe into the bottom of the cupcakes if you have a pastry bag, or just take an apple corer or small knife and cut a tube shaped hole out from the bottom and then put the whipped cream into a ziploc bag, cut off a 1/2 inch corner, and squeeze the cream in to fill the hole. You can cut coin sized disks from the tubes of cake you took out and use those to plug up the bottom.

Chop up the chocolate bar and heat the reserved cream to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate to melt. Stir until smooth. Pour this over the tops of the cupcakes.