Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Harvest on Hudson

As a child, growing up in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I was familiar with a steady, yearlong rainy season. Aside from the short summer, maybe two weeks in the beginning of August when the temperature would reach the high 70’s, the seasons were not marked by any discernible landscape change. Moving to the Central Coast of California as a teenager my weather simply improved by an average of 25-30 degrees with still no distinction of actualizing the seasons. Fast forward to now... a change of locale as drastic as West Coast to East Coast, and the New York weather will not disappoint me when it comes to experiencing the seasons.

In an attempt at seeing the leaves changing, a friend and I rented a car and headed up the Hudson. Guided only by our trusty iPhones, we followed the river until our attention was grabbed by an open space just outside the Hudson River Museum. The parking lot lined with a glowing, warm palette of foliage overlooking the water set ablaze by a scorching sunset.

Our excursion continued up the watercourse leading us to the fantastically inviting dining room of Harvest on Hudson, a grandiose space in Mediterranean style that allows for large family gatherings as well as relaxed mingling by the bar. We were in the mood for a little ‘nosh and ‘tail so we laid claim to a comfy settee and began to quiz our wonderfully accommodating server to the details of the menu. Starting with a taste test of a couple of wines featured, my friend and I actually ended up choosing the wine the other had requested. A flavorful 2009 Rosé, Sables d’Azur, (Côtes de Provence, France with a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) surprised me with an aroma of bubblegum (which anyone close to me will attest I have a nostalgic affection for). Furthering the exploratory theme for the day we sampled and shared from the menu a variety of dishes that tempted us. A simmering offering of Brick Oven Baked Garlic Shrimp, the house made Pork Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and Sweet Peppers, a perfectly pounded "Sashimi Style" Tuna with Lemon, Olive Oil and Sea Salt and a lusciously hearty serving of Risotto with Granny Smith Apple & Frisee flavored with Harvest garden thyme, marjoram and grated parmesan. Every nibble more scrumptious than the last!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For the Love of Cookbooks

Where do you go to find the perfect recipe? Do you reach for the latest in modern cuisine in a shiny magazine? Or maybe a classic cookbook handed down from your grandmother, filled with notes and recipes that include ingredients rarely seen in the last three decades? How about the easy route? Click over to epicurious, type in an ingredient and just like that, the recipe that will impress even the pickiest of eaters at your table appears. Wherever you choose to do your recipe mining, keep in mind, that recipe in your hand or on your screen is simply a starting point.

A few years ago I was given a copy of
Cooking with Friends in part because I enjoyed cooking, and also since I was one of the millions of devoted fans of Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross. I thought “how silly”, recipes inspired by the show and all the preposterous situations the characters found themselves in. Well, that kitsch volume of memorabilia has since led me to some of my favorite go-to recipes beloved by my friends. I admit I may add a few key ingredients that make my versions of the recipes mine, but I am always amused when I reach for that cookbook knowing it was probably never intended to be the culinary resource it has become for me when comfort food is what’s needed. Not to knock the impressive new culinary memoir of Jacques Pépin, Essential Pépin, it has a valuable place in the canon... but you never know where you’ll find your taste inspirations.

Every holiday season I make a tasty variation of Cappuccino Biscotti with Chocolate Chips. I often create batches of Blueberry Muffins (with lemon zest) or Sour Cream Cake with Cinnamon Swirl for my morning treat to go with my coffee. When making a quiche I start with the Spinach Savory Pie tossing in a little of what I’m craving. And when it comes to chili, I HAVE to make the Flirting with Firemen Firehouse Chili to warm me up and fill my place with the smells of simmering tomatoes and spices.

I’ve added a few more fresh ingredients to the original pot and topped it off with a tangy cheddar cheese for added yumminess.

3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pablano pepper, finely diced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef or ground turkey
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth or chicken broth (if using ground turkey)
1 Tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and well-drained
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and well-drained
1/2 cup Corn Kernels (from 1 ear, or frozen and thawed)
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 scallions, sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, and onions, cook for about 6 minutes then toss in the pablano pepper and garlic cooking for another 2 minutes.

Add the ground beef or turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it is slightly darkened but careful not to burn. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the liquid thickens and flavors are blended-about 2 hours.

Stir in the beans and corn, continue to simmer until the beans are heated through. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To serve, ladle into warm soup bowls topping with grated cheese and sliced scallions.

This chili is particularly cozy when spooned over an earthy wild rice accompanied by warm, sweet corn bread.

Make Ahead: You can cook the chili in advance and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 3 months.

Friday, September 30, 2011

New York's Best Known Snack Cake

The beloved 80 year old “Twinkie” and some of his best friends have been given a make-over by the thoughtful bakers at Lulu Cake Boutique

Baked on site with the freshest ingredients and given some quirky spins, these delectable treats will have you forgetting the classic crave-able snack and ordering one of each new version. With scrumptious combinations like “Passionately Kissed ‘Twinkie” (a yellow cake with passion fruit filling dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled lightly with coconut flakes) or a handmade “Snowball” (chocolate cake with coconut custard filling and coconut marshmallow frosting) it’s truly a tough choice, so I say, you can always come back for more...I know I will.

Lulu Cake Boutique with 3 locations-New York City, Scarsdale and Brooklyn
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping

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I’m a FAN of tasty pastry with my morning cappuccino. It doesn’t need to be a sticky sweet, gooey donut (not that I don’t crave that from time to time too); but a flavorful spicy, crumb cake is perfect with a rich creamy strong cup of coffee. 

A few years ago, in an attempt to make my morning treat a touch healthier, I started incorporating whole wheat flour into my pastry baking. It was a simple step with no noticeable taste difference and a nod to the much touted whole grain movement. 

My Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping can be made with any type of berry you can gets your hands on which makes it a go-to any time of the year. It’s wonderfully summery with fresh raspberries or makes a cozy, holiday treat when tossing in re-plumped, dried cranberries around Christmas time.

Berry Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping
Crumb Topping~
½ cup Whole Wheat Flour
¼ cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Egg
1 cup Milk
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, melted
½ cup Sugar
2½ teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Ground Mace (optional)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Fresh, Frozen or Re-plumped Dried Berries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform cake pan with cooking spray.
To make topping, in a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Blend in the butter, using fingertips or a pastry blender, until the mixture is crumbly, set aside.
To make the cake, in a large bowl, beat together the egg, milk and butter. Add the sugar, baking powder, salt and mace; blend well. Gradually add the flours in two batches, beat until just blended. Gently fold in the berries.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake until a wood toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.
For flavor variation use any type of berry; blueberries, raspberries or dried cranberries with the zest and juice of one orange (blood orange when in season). 
To re-plump dried berries: warm a small bowl of water in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, remove from the microwave and toss in the measured amount of dried berries. Allow the berries to sit for about 5 minutes and drain.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Trip to the Market

Spend some time strolling through the foodie haven of Chelsea Market. Not only the home to The Food Network but an abundant array of gourmet delectables and tasty delights. Choose from shopping for creative ingredients to gather and bring back to your own cozy kitchen or pop into any of the prepared food shops and restaurants to be spoiled with some of the most unique dishes around.

A lingering browse through Buon Italia, a shop simply yet indulgently stocked with imported Italian goodies allowed me to feed my recent obsession with snacking on olives. A few with every meal seems to be my go-to as well as my constant treasure hunt at every gourmet spot I stumble upon. This medley caught my eye purely for the larger than usual, boldly bright red variety drawing me in (I have been accused of being easily distracted by something shiny, I guess bright colors work too.). The Red Bella di Cerignola Olive has become an instant favorite with it’s meaty flesh and mild flavor. This package of mixed olives is in a brine with no additional herbs so it’s perfect for me to experiment with my own flavor combinations of marinades.

Continuing through the refurbished industrial bakery leads me to The Filling Station, which lets you taste and try a beautiful collection of oils, vinegars and salts. My first trip to the station encouraged me to send my mother a bottle of Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar as an answer to her inquiry for a special vinegar for bread dipping. For myself, a jar of their White Truffle Salt, which they describe asExtraordinary when used as the secret ingredient in your mac-and-cheese recipe!” How could I resist?

A final touch and treat for the day has to come from Jacques Torres Chocolates who just happens to be the Dean of Pastry Arts at The International Culinary Center, yummy and stylish bite size truffles or perhaps a “Wicked Hot Chocolate” from no other than “Mr. Chocolate” himself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Apple a Day...

It’s that time of year, bring on the apples!

Find your favorite, most juicy and delicious variety and take advantage of this bounty. For me, snacking on a Honey Crisp or Jazz apple takes care of any craving I have for a sweet treat and gets me closer to that recommended nine (yes, I said 9!) fruits and vegetables a day.

Feeling creative? Bring that fresh picked delight to your kitchen and brainstorm ways to incorporate it into your go-to salad, perhaps a tiny dice whisked into a vinaigrette, or feeling really adventurous? How about a Crabmeat, Apple, and Mango Salad? Looking for a heartier dish, something to bring to the table that can sit center stage next to a perfectly prepared pork chop, try this Apple, Potato, and Onion Gratin.
But let’s face it...our first instinct is dessert! And call it what you want, Apple Pie, Tart, Tarte Tartin, Cobbler, Crostata...they all bring comfort and scrumptiousness to any day.

Creating such a dessert might seem intimidating, making the perfect dough, rolling it to just the right thickness, then do you go with a more rustic presentation allowing the beautiful filling to shine on it’s own or use that extra touch of arranging the meticulously thin slices just-so for a classic look. Don’t stress! Food, especially dessert is meant to be enjoyed and to make you feel good. Take the time to play in the kitchen and I can think of no better recipe to relax and have fun with than whatever your version of pie is.
My play day featured an Apple and Cranberry Tart. With all my ingredients gathered and my mind set on just that creation I was a little disappointed to find my official “tart” pan has not arrived from California yet (How was that not in the priority boxes?). Nonetheless, a “tart” was made. Using a spectacularly simple recipe recently learned at FCI, except I added a my own twist by tossing in a handful of cranberries, my dessert was a success.

Still want to roll that perfect thickness of dough? Get yourself an Adjustable Rolling Pin from JosephJoseph, I love mine.

Apple Tart
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup (or more) ice water
Filling~amounts determined by the size of your pan
3-5 apples (Granny Smith)
1-4 Tablespoons of water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
2-3 apples (Golden Delicious)
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
For crust~
Blend flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in processor. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1/4 cup ice water to processor and pulse until moist clumps form, sprinkle with more ice water if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. 
Roll out dough on floured work surface to approximately 3 inches larger than your tart pan, about 1/8” thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer to pan. Gently fill in the corners of the pan with the dough and create a side edge about 1/4-1/2” above pan walls or to desired finish. Chill crust while preparing filling.
For Filling~
Peel, core and chop the apples into 1” cubes. (Rub the apple with sliced lemon if necessary while cutting to prevent browning.) Combine the apples, water and sugar in a pan over medium high heat. Cover the pan with a parchment paper lid cut to the size of the pan with a whole in the middle. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until soft and resembling chunky applesauce. Add more water if needed throughout cooking. If adding the dried cranberries do so in the last minute of cooking, stirring in the berries allowing them to absorb some of the juices. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
For Finish~
Preheat oven to 350° F. Pour filling into prepared crust, spreading to form an even surface filling to 3/4 full. Peel, core and thinly slice the topping apples to desired thickness either by hand or with a mandolin for precise consistency. (Rub the apple with sliced lemon if necessary while cutting to prevent browning.) Carefully arrange the apple slices covering the filling completely since the slices will shrink slightly during baking. Brush the apples with the melted butter.
Bake for about an hour. The apples should be soft and browned slightly on the edges.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How's it goin'?’s been a while since I checked in, but I swear I have been busy...

Moving to a new city, finding an apartment, waiting for that apartment to be livable, shopping for furniture, unpacking the bare minimum to maintain some sort of daily routine, learning the public transit system, adjusting to the noise of the city since coming from my cone of silence a’top the hill, while all the while doing my best to absorb the abundance of information doled out to beginning culinary students so that later in the curriculum we can recall that specific little technique that keeps our precious Hollandaise Sauce from breaking. All that’s missing is a natural disaster, oh wait...I just experienced my first hurricane...aaaannnnnd done!

Here is a quick glimpse of some of the beautifully traditional, mouthwatering dishes created so far in my short time at The French Culinary Institute.

Among the recipes included above are variations on a Classic Sabayon with Strawberries, Marinated Lamb Chops, Steamed Mussels and Cream Puffs awaiting their filling.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Contest of the Cob

Dee...and Sickly in the background

My friends and family gathered for a perfect evening of California BBQ just before I left. In the planning of the meal my brother James and I started a discussion concerning our favorite techniques for grilling corn on the cob. He insisted that the ONLY way to grill corn was with the husks on, but I find that getting the char directly on the kernels adds that added yumminess from the grill...and so became “The Contest of the Cob”.

The Contest of the Cob-JSP

James’ version began by peeling the husks off down to just the last couple layers and trimming the tip of the ear off. He then placed them on a medium heat grill and cooked to desired finish (to be honest, I don’t know how long it was. I was busy mixing cocktails and prepping other dishes). In the meantime, he cut sheets of wax paper and added dollops of butter to later be used to wrap around the ears. He removed the corn from the heat and set them aside to cool a bit before peeling back the husks and removing the silks, cut off the end with the husks and placed the ears in the prepared waxed papers wrapping them like a Tootsie Roll candy and allowing the butter to melt and seep between the kernels.
My version of grilled corn came from a variation on a recipe I discovered from Master Griller Bobby Flay (hence the instant superiority over my brother’s corn). I did sway a bit from Chef Flay’s specifics but the result is what I was going for. 

The Contest of the Cob-SJA

I started by removing all the husks and cleaning the corn completely of silks, trimming the tip but left the stem intact. Placed the ears directly on the grill and cooked turning occasionally to spread the grill marks over the corn. I usually cook the corn for about 10 minutes but I trusted James to tend to the grill and I think he gave me the char I was hoping for. While the corn was cooking, in a small bowl I combined butter and garlic and set aside. As soon as the corn had cooled enough to handle I sliced the kernels from the cob over a large bowl using an upside down ramekin as a lifted base to cut on. I then mixed in the butter, garlic and a splash of fresh lime juice for a refreshing bite.
None of the diners were willing to go on record for an official vote but I had been telling them that no matter the outcome I was going to be declared victorious since it is MY blog. Although, I’ve decided to be gracious and call “The Contest of the Cob” a draw to be challenged again at a later date.
This post includes photo taken by me, my brother James S. Pinder and my sister Justine Coordt.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who’s hungry for more?

In less than a week I will leave my sunny corner of the California Central Coast Wine Country for a grand new plan at The French Culinary Institute in New York City. It’s a food lover’s dream program, of technique, exploration and classic cooking knowledge that only a few ever realize.

After a time in the kitchens of the school I will move on to create the dishes served in L’Ecole, the restaurant of The French Culinary Institute. It’s a dining experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Truffled Macaroni & Cheese at L'Ecole
Smoked Octopus with Warm Harissa Potato Salad