Monday, January 31, 2011

Mexican!

And we're not just talking baja. Class yesterday was again, so very good! Very hectic preparing because of time constraints, but fairly easy. This is what I made...


Guacamole

Chile Rellenos con Salsa Crema

Mole Negro Oaxaqueño

My plate, showing another 10-course lunch 


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parallels

Only three classes in and I'm already thinking a lot about land, agriculture, weather, cultivation, harmony, nutrients, bodies of water, bees, etc. These things dictate what happens in food culture. When learning about the food and wine regions in France and Italy, I couldn't help but be thankful for all my travels around Southern California. When the teacher was going over fruit trees, and herbs grown in a particular region, I envisioned California's Central Coast and valleys we have visited and tasted wine. Sure enough, along with grape vineyards, I typically see rosemary, thyme and sage bushes, persimmon and pepper trees, and fruit stands selling almonds, cherries, etc. It was like when the teacher was talking about certain areas, I already knew what went together, harvest-wise, taste-wise and agriculture-wise from observing similar regions in California. It made me grateful, as well as hungry for a roadtrip! I can't afford Europe right now, but maybe I can pool together enough for doggie daycare, gas, wine-tasting fees and a motel!
Wine club idea: pick a spot in California, find out its parallel, and find the corresponding region in France or Italy (or wherever) and confine the tasting region to these places..

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fail harder

My teacher is encouraging us to LET GO of the recipes, and cook with our instincts, skills and knowledge, off the cuff.. Funny, she said that at first our food will get worse. I'm glad she said it, because it took the pressure off. I can't get better if I don't make the leap, and I can't expect it to be really good right off the bat.
Last night, I made that jump. It was ... edible. But NOT wonderful. Too salty, too burnt-tasting... Not the right techniques together, etc. I TRULY want to get away from reading and re-reading each and every laborious step in a recipe. It's just so much work. I want to develop instincts and confidence and the ability to evaluate, at a critical time what needs to be done, what can save the dish, or make the dish.
So yeah, marginal food. But I'm proud to have failed so well, and can't wait to fail some more.
Brussels done two ways: as a Salad with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts, also Steamed then Fried Brussels with the crispy bits from the pork skillet, and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

Mediterranean!

How much do I love Mediterranean Cuisine? A whole LOT! In the last class we made food, mostly from the Eastern Mediterranean. Everything was so fresh-tasting, bright and harmonious together. I want to make ALL of the recipes again.


Clockwise: my plate, Dolmas, Hummus, Baba Ganoush

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cookbooks


I flip through cookbooks, the way that some people flip through travel magazines and dream about future excursions. I dream about being there too. In the market, in the kitchen, experiencing the aroma, the taste.. where I will shop for ingredients, how relaxed and masterful I will be while everything fits into place around me. It will be some work, but it will appear effortless. The results perfectly seasoned, precisely timed and scrumptious.
The cookbooks I'm flipping through now are: 
STIR, the Cookbook by Barbara Lynch. I've tasted at least one thing from this book and it was fantastic. There are many other recipes that look great. And:
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. So far, I've read about the author's career leading up to Zuni. It's interesting to hear someone's story and identify with those thoughts and feelings. Or be surprised how different a perspective someone so successful can have. The upcoming sections are about technique, concepts, and pointers in the kitchen. I haven't even gotten to the recipes yet, but I really like this book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Watching, reading...

watching- mondovino, a documentary
reading- cookbooks of course
listening- eli "paperboy" reed and fitz and the tantrums
looking- phonography exhibit at blind lady ale house in san diego
cooking- brussels sprouts in new and interesting ways, like making a salad with them

Monday, January 17, 2011

c'est la vie

Darn it- I was so interested in eating the delicious French food that we prepared in class on Sunday, I completely forgot to take any pictures of it! The one thing I can say about the dish I made -Celery Root and Pear Salad with toasted walnuts, tossed in a rémoulade - tasted really good, but would not have made a pretty picture on my iphone because it was so many shades of white and pale.
Maybe I need to take a food styling and food photography class too..

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Class!

Hooray, I just started a new class yesterday. 10 weeks, different regions each week, wine and food pairing, education at the farmer's market, and menu planning. Should  be fantastic, so far so good!
Yesterday was all about Italy. I have said it before, and I'll say it again, if I had to choose only one cuisine for the rest of my life, it would be Mediterranean. (side note- after eating Roberto's I usually say Mexican. But in that event, I'd be two tons of fun).
Anyway- the correlation between landscape, wealth and cuisine is interesting.  It's also fairly obvious, but still, there's a lot to learn. And taste. Here are a few pics from yesterday's class:


My plate, at least, the first round

Gorgeous dessert that I did not make, but had to photograph anyway. Olive oil cake with Candied Tangerines and Whipped Cream

THESE I did make. Grilled Winter Endives and Porcini Pork Chops


Steak, murdered

I bought a BEEE-YOOT-ee-ful steak at the best butcher shop I know, PlowBoys in Huntington Beach. Worth the trip down the 405. I had a loose game plan, I executed, I doubted, I overcooked. I ruined a $24 steak...
But I'm not going to let it get me down. It was a valuable experience. Sometimes you need to make the mistakes, and be able to identify exactly when you slipped. Then work on it, and get it right.




Coupla things I will do better next time:
• Not wait till starving to begin cooking
• If I notice the butter/oil combo already burned in the pan before placing the steak in, stop right there, and start over
 Preheat the oven, so that after searing, this will be the final cooking method
 Review my notes on how to cook the perfect steak
 Have a plan, stick to it
 Remember carryover cooking, and 
• Be strong, be patient, don't cave and throw it back on