For pasta making classes and more, find her at:
For pasta making classes and more, find her at:
Aunt Mildred returns from the grave and prepares “little boy’s shrunken head” as the main dish. Her neighbor, Sylvia, makes “eyeballs from a little boy” for dessert.
Main Dish: Squid Ink Pasta with Warm Burrata & Razor Clams in Pesto alla Genovese
Dessert: Clove Meringues with Dried Currant and Beet Juice
Lulu D’Adamo as “Sylvia”
For pasta making classes and more, find her at:
This 2017 Halloween Special is brought to you by:
Brooklyn, EAT your heart out! – It’s all about FOOD.
I recently went through a breakup with my boyfriend of 4 1/2 years. There was no anger – just the sad realization that we are on different life paths (I want to get married and have kids someday, while he doesn’t know if he even believes in the concept of marriage or when/if he’ll ever want a family). Fortunately, we realized that before any bitterness or resentment built up. I’d say we are some of the lucky ones to be able to end things on amicable terms. I’m grateful for that because I’m left only with happy memories from our time together. It doesn’t change the fact that the sadness was, and still is, overwhelming at moments. It digs a hole into your soul, and the only way to get out is to embrace it and push through the pain. Definitely easier said than done, especially when the only sense of relief you have is time, which feels like both a blessing and a curse…on my best days, I choose to see it as a blessing.
This wasn’t a perspective that I came to immediately. The first week I was a complete wreck. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much consistently. The day after our breakup, six people (essentially, half my class in culinary school) asked me what was wrong with my eyes. Not surprising given the fact that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, but what was actually surprising was the unexpected kindness and sense of comfort from my fellow chefs-in-training. First, let me acknowledge that I’m so blessed to have a wonderful group of friends outside of culinary school – not all from the same group, but a cherished assortment of personalities that I have collected over the years and love dearly for individually different reasons. I’ve relied heavily on a number of them during this tough time, and I can’t thank them enough for enduring the endless text messages, phone calls, and meet-ups to listen to me vent and watch the free-flowing tears without judgment. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some amazing new individuals through culinary school, whom I can now proudly call friends, and I owe each of them so much gratitude and thanks for helping me to cope. When you’re in the kitchen, there’s no time to think about anything else other than the daily – or in our case, nightly – menu. Life issues and distractions become obsolete, and the only thing that matters is the food. All parts of it – the recipe, the story behind the dish, the technique, the food preparation, cooking the dish so that it tastes as delicious as possible, assembling the dish and plating it on time, and, last but not least, enjoying the finished product family-style.
That first week, I lost all joy, including my joy in cooking. As much as I didn’t want to, I forced myself to find the motivation to go to class and, despite my puffy eyes, I’m so glad I did. Little by little, with each passing day, I found bits of joy coming back, and I thank culinary school and mainly my classmates for that. The kitchen is both an intimate and uniquely impersonal environment (at least in a classroom setting – I can’t speak from experience in a professional kitchen yet, but I suspect it to be the same); you get into a natural rhythm of moving around all of these other bodies and, in very close proximity with one another, you learn what makes each person’s personality tick, you come to know their food allergies and taste preferences, and you deal with tensions running high as the dishes pile up – all this without really knowing who they are as people because, in the kitchen, nothing else matters except for the food. That truth is strangely enough what I’ve found comfort in. It is nice to be asked how I’m feeling and if I’m doing ok, but at the same time, I appreciate the absence of it and being completely distracted with life in the kitchen. For those few hours in class, I’m able to forget about the sadness and suppress the pain of a broken heart.
The decision to attend culinary school was mine, but I owe my former boyfriend a lot of credit for helping me come to that realization. Our relationship was rooted in food from the beginning, something we both found happiness in and loved to explore and share with one another. We went on a culinary journey around New York City and were fortunate enough to have multiple opportunities to continue that journey around the country and abroad. I first discovered zapote on our visit to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, shared some of the best dim sum I’ve ever tasted in Vancouver, tried duck confit for the first time together in the Berkshires, got lost in the mountains of Puerto Rico while on the hunt for Lechon in Guavate, drank port in the streets of Lisbon, had my favorite bite of an egg at at gem of a tapas place in Seville, and learned to love braised lamb shanks thanks to Elote, one of our favorite restaurants in Sedona. Every dining experience at home and abroad was an excuse to taste new foods and share in that experience together. We were adventurous eaters, always eager to try something new, but one cuisine we always reverted back to and continually found comfort in was Italian. Sadly, we never made it to Italy together. I still plan to go someday (maybe with a new partner who loves food as much as I do), but until then, I’m taking a trip there in the only way I know how to right now: through my grief. With all things in life, change is inevitable, and the only way to survive it is to embrace it. In an effort to accept and embrace my new life path, which I still can’t quite see clearly, I ventured down memory lane and recreated a favorite Italian meal of ours, but with a unique twist, because I believe that’s what relationships are: familiar but ever-changing in an interesting and hopefully positive way. I leave you with my take on Tuscan ragu and tiramisu. To love and food! Enjoy.
Servings: 1-10×8 inch serving dish, roughly 10 – 12
After a harrowing panic attack at my desk on Wall Street – that desk: glossy, impervious, solid oak – the doctor ordered me to stop drinking coffee. It was “working my nerves.” Since that time in 2006, I transitioned from being coffee-less to a hated by everyone decaff drinker to an obnoxious half-caff drinker to finally ditching all caffeine modifications and going full throttle and returning to a healthy caffeinated state in 2016. I start my day with with a coffee brewed from a French press, then I pick myself up later with a macchiato.
The espresso is liquid art. Foamy and dark, it reminds me of loosely melted chocolate or like the velvet coat of a strong, majestic horse. And it’s créma, lending the appearance of wet-slicked sand on a stoic summer night.
The espresso is powerful, too. Try having a short espresso on an empty stomach. If you’re especially susceptible, it’ll buzz straight through your veins, leaving you jittery. Even still, my relationship with coffee is especially strong. It’s a sacred moment that first sip, like a junkie getting her fix.
When I think of great big cities like Paris and New York City, I envision warm, cushiony cafes. You have your bustling cafe and your lazy days cafe. Whatever rhythm of said cafe, they carry one thing in common: a promise of a state of bliss, a smile, stimulating chatter with strangers. Or, a state of hell. It is incorrigible to receive a watery, lukewarm poor excuse of a coffee and not instant happiness, like you expected. Coffee these days can easily run you approximately $5. For that price, I expect nothing less than greatness.
It was midsummer of 2011 when I started my research in coffee trends. While I’m not going to write about brewing techniques, I will mention that I discovered that a good cuppa Joe was not always contingent on the coffee bean or roasting method, but more often than not, contingent on the hands of the barista. A barista will give you what you ask for. A good barista is worthy of venerable praise. A poor barista just doesn’t care.
I’ve noted this by observing the barista. Allow me to elaborate – but before I do, I ask you to assume two things: 1) I always tip the barista, and 2) my order is always simple.
A good barista takes care of the espresso machine. They keep it clean, wipe after every use. They stick to the standard: calibrate the grinder to set the bean to water ratio for the day, use a scale to measure the amount of ground beans in grams, taste the espresso shots to ensure a good balance. This is known as dialing in. A good barista will handle the act with ease, grace, proficiency. They deliver with a smile. Even if they’re not the smiling type, the good barista understands that you appreciate a proper coffee beverage and will deliver just that.
A poor barista just doesn’t care. They will get annoyed if you ask for anything “superfluous” like decaff, soy milk, almond milk, etc. A poor barista won’t always greet you, much less smile, and will probably stand there, stone cold, expecting you to read their mind insinuating they’re ready to take your order. They will be bothered if you’re being specific about what you want. They will not wipe the steamer handle after each use, will brush you off if you try to make any conversation, and then watch with eager eyes to see if you tipped. The good barista can’t be bothered with all of that because they’re too busy being good at their job, perhaps envisioning opening their own cafe in the future.
When I was working at Bocca Cafe, all of 18 year old me didn’t understand the popularity of coffee. After a Finance degree followed by a Wall Street gig, I began to understand the high. Later down the road, when I’m sitting deep in my seat at my desk – that desk: glossy, impervious, solid oak – a co-worker said I didn’t look happy working in an office, that my personality seemed better suited for a cafe. I shot him a dirty look and thought of those late nights at the university library cramming for exams. I thought of ratios, formulas, excel sheets and the egregious student loan that haunted me. He was my peer and seemed to know me better than I knew myself. I scowled. I furrowed my brow and ignored him and slammed my fingers on the keyboard. Heart raced. Whirl of thoughts over my head. Embarrassed, blushed, cheeks ablaze. He found out. I’m not happy. I hate my job. I hate my life as long as I’m working on Wall Street. I didn’t understand why being nice to people, asking about their lives, and why laughing at things made me appear less professional. It was a deal breaker for me to stay serious all the time and to give in to that motto I’ve come to abhor, “perception is everything.” But still I caved in each time someone walked by my desk. In favor of that motto, I leaned into my computer and squinted my eyes.
Not anymore. Now I say to the doctor, “No coffee?! How about no Wall Street?”
When the winter comes it totally takes over your mood. Or my mood, rather. The sky is gray, the sun is hiding somewhere, and everything seems so dark and bleak. Including your (my) mood. After all, that’s why they call it the winter blues. I’ve beaten this dreary feeling by going with the flow and adapting the “wei wu wei” style of thinking: do without doing. And guess what? I’m as happy as a clam! At this very moment, I’m sitting atop my bed in my dress up clothes with my shoes off. I’m kicking back with my computer on my lap. In case you haven’t gotten the memo, this post is all about comfort and everything associated with the word. This winter, hubby and I have started watching the television series Parenthood. On our days off, after we’ve been productive for the day, we sit back for forty five minutes of unadulterated, feel-good, indulgent comfort. To add to that, we’ve been eating comfortably too. Yucca fries, chia seeds pancakes, rice and beans. Yup. I’ve been cooking up these meals (with a moderate mentality, of course) knowing that once the bite of winter weakens, I can go back to cooking less starchy meals. For now, it just feels right. It’s cold outside, so why fight it?
Oh, and let’s not forget how much harder it is to exercise in the winter. I have dumb bells at home, so every now and then I’ll pick those up and do a few reps followed by some stretches. I’ve even attempted a visit to the Y, much to my dismay. A total body conditioning class whipped my bootie so hard reminding me exactly how much time I’ve taken off and why staying at home with my dumb bells can work just fine until springtime. And these days waking up sore just means reading tons and tons. In bed. Current read: “Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food”, by Jeffrey Pilcher. Even the books I choose to read are keeping me as snug as a bug in a rug.
Well, fellow readers, I know my last post was on the very last day of 2012 and I’ve allowed 25 days to go by without a peep of what’s going on in my world blog-wise. Therefore, included in this post are some images of a few meals I’ve enjoyed in the comfort of my own home. All homemade!! Go ahead and click on the images to enlarge the photo. I may have kept quiet at the start of the new year…but sometimes silence is necessary. I hope that this year brings you all inspiration and fulfillment. Until then, seek comfort with action that is non-action. Brooklyn, EAT your heart out!
P.S. Due to lack of time and an incredible amount of comfort, recipes are not included in this post. However, if you see something you like and want my recipe, feel free to comment below and I’d be super happy to follow up with cooking instructions.
It is springtime in New York City. It feels great to be outside. These days, instead of running frantically on the treadmill, I run calmly outside. As I run, I take in all the sights of the neighborhood. I turn in different directions, onto different avenues, and different streets of Brooklyn. I love it. I notice every street has it’s own charm, from old ornate buildings with fire escapes, tattered-looking laundromats, and sustainable condos with immense balconies to streets blocked off due to construction. With the abundance of things to be grateful for during this season, one pleasantry that sticks out the most, for me, is dining al fresco. If you can’t find one of the many hundreds of restaurants in Brooklyn that has an outdoor patio, you’ll find hundreds more with a romantic backyard or rustic garden. Ahh, springtime…one of life’s truest pleasures in the city that never sleeps. Which brings to mind another pleasantry: a refreshing dessert.
One of my favorite food-related websites to visit is Gilt Taste. I love seeing what’s new in the food world through this site, and their stories are pretty entertaining, if not educational. I came across a recipe for the most refreshing rice pudding recipe ever. The cardamom and lime zest adds a perfectly refreshing and soothing touch to this rice pudding. Now, I’m very conscientious of the amount of sugar I take in, so this recipe blew me away when I found out it only calls for 2 – 3 tablespoons of sugar. This meant to me that it was a must make. I like my rice pudding less loose than what this recipe calls for so I adjusted the amount of coconut milk measurements required. Please enjoy the photos and if you want the recipe, click here.
I finally had the courage to make chocolate truffles knowing that I would have to muster every ounce of internal willpower to avoid eating them in one sitting. I made these not only to spruce up the variety on my blog, but also as an after dinner treat—my fiance and I love to snack on chocolate after a meal occasionally. It’s nice to have something small to share rather than a whole dessert. These truffles turned out to be too dense to have on your own–especially for someone like me who tries to keep my sugar intake at a very low level–but proved to be delicious for someone who lives life with reckless abandon. I admit, I did come home one night and popped one in my mouth after a night out on the town. I tried to hide it from Jim, but he caught me. Oh well. It happens.
Melt 6 oz. of semisweet chocolate in a makeshift double boiler. You can create one by steaming water in a saucepan and placing a heatproof bowl over the saucepan, making sure it doesn’t touch the steaming water underneath. Put the chocolate in the bowl and stir. As it melts, add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon of almond extract. I didn’t have any almond-flavored liqueur handy, such as amaretto, so I used almond extract as a substitute. Then I stirred in about a half cup of ground almonds and 1 3/4 oz. of confectioner’s sugar. When the chocolate is completely melted, take it off the heat and let it cool until it’s firm enough to roll into little balls. I used a spoon and then rolled it in my hands. Afterwards, I set the truffles into a paper baking cup, onto a pan, and then in the fridge to allow firming. Some balls were dipped in unsweetened chocolate powder, but I kept most of them simple, with no coating. Brooklyn, EAT your heart out!
Here are some lemon tarts made straight from scratch, from the tart shell to the whipped cream on top. The quality of these photos do not motivate me to write any more about these. But if you’re going to force me, I’ll fess up the ingredients.
Make your own tart shell by putting 1 1/4 cup of unbleached flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt into a food processor and then freeze it for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, set aside 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and 1/4 cup of water. Freeze those as well for about 15 minutes. (By the way, most recipes call for vegetable shortening instead of olive oil but I do what I want…just like you can!). Pulse the dry ingredients together in the food processor until you have the consistency of crumbs. Then add the olive oil and butter and pulse again until well combined. Add the ice water to the food processor and mix together until you get a dough.
Take the dough out and, on a floury surface, form it into a disc. Wrap it in clear wrap and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s thin (but not too thin that it breaks).
Take the rolled out dough and put it into the tart pan. I used mini fluted tart pans. Carefully and with a light touch, press the dough into the mini tart pan and roll out the excess dough with the rolling pin.
Fill the tart shells with dried beans so that the pastry doesn’t puff up on you…I used lima beans. Put the tarts in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
After 1o minutes, you’re going to take out the tart shells, remove the beans, and poke little holes in it with a fork. Put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and voila, your tart shell is ready. Now we’re ready to fill it!
While the mini tart shells are cooling, you can start working on your filling. It’s very simple. Whisk 4 whole eggs in a big bowl, add 2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar. Whisk everything together and pour it into the mini tart shells with a measuring cup. Bake the mini tart shells in the oven at 325 degrees for about 15 – 18 minutes. Now you’re ready to make the whipped cream. Again, very simple. Put 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a big bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar. Beat the mixture with a hand mixer until it becomes thick and makes a soft peak. Your whipped cream is done. See the final outcome below.