Monday, August 29, 2011

What a crazy month!

So as you can see its been some time since I've updated a post. It's been a CRAZY, but in such a fantastic way.
To start I was asked to create items that would “jazz up” the sandwiches served at a new local coffee shop named Eat Gallery. The Eat Gallery is a Culinary Art Gallery featuring the Edible Artwork of community’s emerging culinary artists. I was honored to be asked to be a part of this.
I make a Spicy Cilantro Pesto as well as the curry Mustard. The first time I saw this I swooned!!
Artisan Spreads that's ME!
The other Culinary Artist are Vegan food truck owners and Chefs Rodney and Maddy of Green Seed Vegan, Ella Bella (not her real name I just call her that) the cookie pusher/creator owner of E-Dubalicious cookies she has 35 (and counting) different types of scrumptious cookies, Bread Boy Bakery who makes some amzing Rosemary bread and Chef Chris of Lucille's. This was a week long event that kicked off with a private rooftop dinner where all Chefs involved cooked a 3 course meal for a very very eclectic mix of people. There where politician, artist, promoters, business owners and community leaders.

My AMAZING team was there, Verlonsky, Marshelle and newbie Tomika. 

Tomika toasting the Rosemary Bread
Marshelly and Verlonsky plating

Our menu was:
Passed dishes showcasing Bread Boy Bread and the following from me:
  • Ginger-Pear Butter
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • Spiced Garlic Infused oil
Amuse Bouche
Causa- Smoked cumin purple potatoes, yellow curry potato and coconut cauliflower mashed, layered with avocado, cucumber and mango chutney, paired with lemon fried shrimp crisps.

Main Course:
Herb Crusted chicken breast stuffed with Roasted Garlic Spinach and mushroom, accompanied with warm summer vegetable Israeli couscous salad, lentils and Marsala sauce

Marshelly came over to help make this..

Berry Frangipane

Marshelly came over to help make this..

Right in the middle of the 2nd course it started to rain so they moved everyone downstairs.. Everyone was so amazingly cool, and receptive. Everyone seemed to LOVE the food that was presented to them from me I felt like I was off the a GREAT start.

Next was my satellite tasting at  Melodrama Boutique

The menu there was:
Sweet potato with Brown Butter and Basil Ravioli
Making these raviolis where very very easy

Plantain puffs with Chimichurro
Mango/Coconut Rice Sushi with Basil foam
Great Foam Success!!
It ended up on top of the Coconut Mango Sushi

Curry - Petatou (potato salad)

Fruit Salad/ Wonton chips
Coconut Polenta topped with Bacala Salad

It was just me and Verlonsky for this one, and despite the close quarters the owner Jackie was Amazing accommodating, the turn out was fantastic and it was a great success.

Next up was my artist talk, where I got another opportunity to have tastings of my food as well as an AMAZING rooftop performance from Michele Thibeaux.

The Menu:
Sweet and Savory Cream Puffs
Sweet had pastry cream topped with Chocolate ganash, the savory was a Gougers with whipped curry potato on the inside the puff was mixed with herbs
Sweet potato with Brown Butter and Basil Ravioli
Berry Frangipan
Coconut Polenta topped with Bacala Salad
Caribbean Petatou topped with Mango chutney
Vegetable spring rolls
Plantain Chips with Spicy Chimichurro sauce

This time none of my dream team was there but thankfully I had some amazing volunteers!

This has been an OVERWHELMING experience, the feedback on my food was amazing, I'm soo charged up and ready for the next event! Up next is a Foe dinner.. stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventures in Culinary School...

I currently attending the the ArtsInstitute, in the Houston. So this semester I'm taking the lab that I've been waiting to take for sometime now you have to wait till the end of your tenure here at AI. (I graduate in December) The class: Art Culinare it's a the study of the dishes of world renowned  Chefs. Thus far we have done dishes from: Charlie Trotter, Charlie Palmer, and Alain Ducasse. It's taught by Chef Hernandez who from early in my schooling he has been one of my favorite Chef Professors. He's one of the few that actually push you.. and I mean hard, hes a thinking Chef that makes you look at ALL angles.. and I love it. So now we are 3 weeks in and I wanted to share some of the delicious dishes we have created in class:

Seared Scallop on a Potato Cloud, that is sitting on a roasted garlic burre blanc, with speckles of a orange reduction. Garnish of supreme orange and parsley

Prosciutto wrapped Halibut and sage, on a carrot puree and Cabbage and prosciutto slaw, topped with sliced apple and Fried Sage

Roasted Beet topped with herbed Goat Cheese, with beet  reduction and spinach/parsley infused green oil..

Broccoli Soup garnished by creme fraiche, lardons, and fried portabella mushrooms

Foie Gras on toast with a Port grape sauce, brown butter peal onions topped with apple, grape, peach compote

Roasted Garlic and portobello mushroom Ravioli, with a red wine olive sauce, garnished with brown butter asparagus spears and fava beans

Pork loin on leek and bacon slaw

Marshmallow with chocolate covered banana and raspberry jam (the marshmallow were soo good!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Books I "heart"...

So I'm always being asked, what cook books do I love to read so ever so often I will post up the books both cooking and regular that have shaped me and led me to following my passion.. That said, my first book is..

Culinary Artistry
During my very first semester at school, I participated in “chopped” type of workshop were we where given a mystery basket. It was also the first time I met Chef Fernandez, who I would find during my time at school to be one of the BEST chef instructors at the school. 

After a dismal (and I do mean dismal) first effort he must of realized something in me (passion perhaps) because he pulled me aside and recommended that I get the book “Culinary Artistry”, he said it's the book that he keeps with him at all times, he didn't really explain what was in it, he just said it helps with flavor pairings. So off I went to the school library and checked it out.. 

Let me break it down for you.. Culinary Artistry is written by Andrew Dorneburg and Karen Page, I believe they may be husband and wife, they are James Beard award winning authors for their plethora of culinary related books.. (a few of them I will share here). It's part reference, part real world stories, part recipes.. I was struck and stuck when I read this passage under the title Sensory Perception:

“Food is something we ingest, we judge it carefully, critically and instinctively. All of our senses are used to evaluate whether to put the food in our mouths, and then whether to swallow it. First, you look at it, and the you might smell it, Is it safe. Is it appealing. If a food appears hot for example you may first try to touch it to gauge the temperature, will it burn your mouth? If it passes muster and you bit into it, your first experience is texture. Is it soft, crispy? If crispy, you hear the crunch in your inner ear a split second before its flavor begins to register on your taste buds.... then goes on to say.. Taste is existential, sensual experience..”
I was hooked.. Then I turned the pages to find that this book, ties all food, and I mean all food together with every other food it taste well with.. ie its flavor pairing.. It clues you in on seasonality, and menu themes, holiday and international food ideas.. it is FABULOUS!.. So much so for the next two years I checked it out of the school library for entire quarters.  I finally got around buying it so now I own it  (its all highlighted and tagged)..Watch  yours will be too.. enjoy!

You can buy the book at

and you can read more about the authors here: Andrew Dorneburg and Karen Page

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Whats for dinner?

Bok Chuy, Chili Black Bean broiled Salmon, on a bed of Jasmine Rice, Sprinkled on the side is a Japanese rice seasoning called Noritamago Furikake, which consist of seseme seeds, wheat, dried egg yolk, bonito flakes and seaweed.

Salmon fillet
3 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
5 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp Lee Kum Lee Chili Black Bean Paste

Heat oven to 350
Create a foil basket add all ingredients fold to close and bake for 25 mins till salmon is done..

1 bunch- Kale
1 tsp-Olive oil
½ tsp- Sesame oil
2 tbsp diced onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp – grated ginger
1 tsp or to taste - red pepper flakes
¼ cup c. stock
¼ cup rice wine
To Taste - soy sauce
Clean Kale by removing the stem and then Julianne (thinly slice) the leaves.
Add both oils to pan over medium heat, add onions cook till transparent (abt 2 mins), add garlic cook (do not brown)
Add Kale, toss well to coat with oil, add rice wine cook for 5 mins till liquid is reduced by ½
Add c. stock cook 7 mins till reduced by ½ add grated ginger, and red pepper flakes.
Note- Kale does not cook down like spinach or bok chuy, it remains pretty full, so when you grab that bunch know that, that's the qty you will end up with after cooking

1cup Jasmine rice- follow cooking instructions on the bag ;)

To serve take a look:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For E.McIntosh - Salt.....

So when on of my very, very best friends asked me to research salt for her (now that I'm typing this I'm not sure why she needs this info) I ecstatically agreed, because hey, research for her means research for me, so down the rabbit hole I went.

First off, who knew there was an Institute of Salt, I sure the hell didn’t but nevertheless there it was, and thankfully because it provided a wealth of information.

Salt is an essential nutrient. Let me repeat this, salt is an ESSENTIAL ingredient, meaning with out it we don't exists. According to varies sources :
An essential nutrient is one required for life that the body cannot produce itself and which is required for good health. For humans, salt is as essential as water. We can perish from too little salt as we can of thirst. The human body contains about eight ounces of salt. The amount of salt is regulated in our bodies by our kidneys and by perspiration. “
Holy crap! Who knew??

There are 10 different types of salt and they come in an array of colors:
There was NO way I was going to write about all of them, besides there are only 3 of them that we can cook with. The 3 basic types of salt are:
Table Salt, Kosher and Sea Salt..

But let's back it up a bit. I know that for my family hypertension or “pressure” is an ever constant nemesis. So much so that my mother and grandmother do not cook with it at all. So why use it?
Here’s how salt helps food:

Preservation – helps protect against microorganisms, bacteria through dehydration and preventing growth of bacteria, which slows or prevents spoilage.
Texture Aid – in bread making, allows the dough to rise by giving helping the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide. In meats it improves tenderness and in cheeses it aids in consistency of the cheese and the hardness of the rind.
Color Developer – in ham, bacon, and other processed meats it helps obtain the desired color. It also helps create a golden crust for breads. 

So now what where those 3 types of salts again? Lets start with Table salt. This is what we see most often and in most restaurants (not on plantation F though, we use fine sea salt) other types of table salt include:
Pretzel salt – large grained, does not melt quickly.
Rock salt – large crystal salt with a gray color, due to minerals not removed from normal table salt.
Popcorn salt – very fine grained salt which is flakier version of table salt.
Iodized salt – contains a small amount of potassium iodide and dextrose as a dietary supplement to prevent thyroid disease.
Seasoned salt – table salt with herbs added like onion, hickory smoke or garlic.
Pickling salt, Canning salt, Coarse salt, Gos sel This is similar to table salt, but lacks the iodine and anti-caking additives that turn pickles dark and the pickling liquid cloudy. Pickles made with table salt would still be good to eat, but they wouldn't look as appetizing.

Next up is Kosher Salt. Kosher salt coarser and flakier than table salt so it disperses more easily and since it is a lighter salt, there is less after taste with it. It is also recommended to use Kosher salt for cocktail glasses for drinks like margaritas. Kosher salt is used most commonly amongst chefs because it dissolves fast and its flavor disperses quickly. 

Lastly is the mother of salts: Sea Salt unlike the other salts, this one is not mined, therefore its the purest of the three, but of course that makes it the most expensive of the three.. Here are a few other Sea Salt varieties and their uses:
Black Salt, Kala Namak, Sanchal - Significant for its strong sulfur odor (India) this salt is a pearly pink gray. It is used in Indian cooking.
Grey salt, Celtic salt, Sel Gris – The gray or light purple color comes from the clay in the region of France where it is harvested.
Hawaiian sea salt – Has a distinctive pink hue from the Alaea added to it. The Alaea is volcanic red clay with a high content of iron oxide. This salt is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes like Kahlua Pig and Hawaiian Jerky.
Coarse salt, Gos Sel, Gale Grosso – Is a larger grain salt which resists moisture and is intended to be ground. Uses include flavoring for soups and salt crusts on meats.
Fleur de Sel, Flower of Salt, Flor De Sal – This is considered a great condiment salt; also good on grilled meats, in salads and on vegetables. The flavor, like wines, varies depending on the region it is harvested from. Typically it is from France though some is produced in Portugal.
French Sea Salt – A coarse salt, this is good for salads, vegetables and grilled meats.
Italian Sea Salt, Sicilian Sea Salt, Sale Marino – Harvested from the lower Mediterranean sea by hand using traditional methods this is a delicate salt which is good on salads and in sauces.
Smoked Sea Salt - The salt is smoked over real wood fires to add the flavor to the crystals. These can be used in soups, salads, pasta and also in grilling foods like salmon.
Lastly now that you have the knowledge of salts here are some tips in using them

Add a pinch:
When whipping eggs to create fluffier eggs.
To enhance the flavor of coffee and in overcooked coffee helps remove the bitterness.
To whipping cream or egg whites to get them to whip faster.
To milk to have it stay fresh longer.
To icing prevents them from sugaring.
To improve boiled potatoes, salt after draining - this gives them a fine mealy texture.
         Keep salads crisp by salting immediately before serving.
With Chicken
Rub the chicken skin with salt to remove pinfeathers more easily.
Improve the flavor by rubbing salt inside and out before roasting.

Salt + Water =
Salt makes water boil at a higher temperature which reduces cooking time.
Boil eggs in salt water to ease the peeling process.
To set the whites of poached eggs, boil over saltwater.
Place an egg in a cup of water with 2 teaspoon of salt, a fresh egg will sink, a floating egg may be spoiled.
Washing spinach, lettuce and other greens in saltwater will keep them crisp.
Lightly salted cold water helps maintain the color of apples, pears and potatoes.
Soak in saltwater for hours to make shelling pecans easy.
Dampen a cloth with saltwater and wrap around cheese to prevent molding.
Sprinkle ice with salt, place gelatin salads or desserts on ice to get them to set more quickly.

For miracle Uses for salts not related to cooking visit the Salt Institute

For more on salt visit the sources is used to compile this information:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farmers Market Excursion

If you live in the “H” then you've heard about the Urban Market Farmers markets right? Believe it or not, there are four of them during the week and weekend, every week, rain or shine.. YES, I said FOUR!.. It peeked my absolute interest when I heard about them a while back I wanted to see what each one had to offer, but normally I'm in school during the weekday hours. Now that I'm on summer break I've decided to go to all of them and share my findings with you.. (see you KNEW there was a reason for visiting this blog often ;)

Here's how it went down...

Wednesday - Downtown Farmers Market
To be fair, it rained.. 

raindrops falling on my head
The first rain in like forever, so that meant slick streets, crazy drivers, and not so many people at the market. I had the foresight to call ahead and make sure they would still be out there and sure enough they were.. So I trekked to the other side of town to pick up my partner in culinary crime Marchelly and we were on our way in the rain..

Let me just say I don't like Downtown’s', they're ALWAYS confusing, with their one way, turn a whole block to get the the other side type of style, all the tall buildings ALL look the same, so am I going the right way? I digress, we finally find the blue tents and park. The market is right in front of city hall (Marshelly was all to happy about that) so you can't miss it if you know where that is, further more there is a succession of cop cars aligning the street. 
 As soon as we pull up, I'm a little disappointed I clearly see that, well it's looking a lil' anorexic here.. 

 Our first booth was Nisha's they sell Naan bread and different curry chutneys and sauces, samosas and such. Marchelly bought some their yogurt dip, I choose to pass, ( I mean really I am from the Islands, these flavors and chutneys are things I can make at home)

and move on to the next booth..

Unfortunately I didn't take as many pics as I wanted, holding an umbrella and non waterproof camera is not so easy, and I didn't gather cards, because take- away where sparse due to wind and rain there was this one lady. Not sure what her booth was but She was a vegan. I asked her, "What can I use as an vegan adhesive for bread crumbs and panko, as if I was making say an eggplant parm" Her response was "flax seed", ground flax seed to be exact over at Fields we used a slurry to adhere panko to the eggplant, but flax seed? Use it the same way you would flour in a SBP (standard breading procedure) 

Then we came across this guy

A literal farmer bwoy, cute no??.. I had to capture his excellent display of corn.. See there he cut a lil window in the husk so you can see the quality of the kernels..

Overall talking with.. and seeing the windows was the highlight of this endeavor. This week is the last week for this market till next season. I will revisit it again then, hopefully it won't be raining.

Oh and I have to make a special mention to Marchelly's AWESOME rain boots..

Saturday - Midtown Market
A Hint GET THERE EARLY it starts at 8 am we got there at 9 am and had  to look for parking.. I got excited as soon as I pulled up, because it reminded me of the Sunday Hollywood market. Roxie Poxie and I used to go every other Sunday with J and her son Carlos. Blocks and blocks of every orange, apple, plum, grape, honey, flowers, herbs, meat, cheese, honey, you can possibly think of, songs, drum circles for kids, food, juices on and on and on... I used to buy a humongous bag of kettle corn and take it into the office.. I wonder if he is still there? This was waaay before the actors and paparazzi types actually caught on to it, it was in its purest form back then.. So when I drive up and hear the music and see the booths and the wicker grocery bags I get antsy. I meet up with my food twin Verlonsky we squealed in delight (no really we did) and was on our way..
Our first stop in, I see fresh figs.. YUM.. I don't try one (yet) but I LOVE figs.. 
  There was the most colorful vibrant yellow squash I had ever seen..

Next up Grateful Bread. 

This guy was at the Downtown market on Wednesday he had awesome sauces on Wednesday but on Saturday he brought out the big guns, bacon, confit chicken, which by the way I purchased after he explained every ingredient he used to brine, the process and ingredients he used to confit this heavenly chicken breast, he had his home make sausages, 100 % super pure vanilla, mustard, salts and dips. He was SOO informative and see sweet, I was not going to miss taking his picture again OR purchasing the loverly confit from him. Check out his site Grateful for a complete listing of his products, but to honest meeting him in person is wayyyy better..

Then we came across a tent only selling a plant called “Air Plants”Verlonsky seemed smitten by them. So much so he took a pic with it..
Not really my cup of tea, I would've loved to see flowers.

Next we came across these.. Super squash..
and came the array of loverly colors.. baby root carrots, burgundy, white, orange
  We didn’t notice the soup nazi like line, we literally bum rushed the place taking these pics...

I was so completely entranced just absorbing it all in I was completely oblivious to the organization of this tent. When Verlonsky and I came to, we shuffled out to get out the way of those patrons who where waiting patiently to speak to the farmer guy and purchase their delicious veggies. Nevertheless he had all of these fantastic things in there I was drawn “like a moth to the flame”

Moving on we came across natures splendor.. I mean take a look really.. this is a yellow oyster mushroom..  The way to cook this is roast it.. Foil basket, v.oil, citrus (lemon, orange vinegars) salt and pepper some herbs for about 5 mins. By cooking it this way it will preserve the yellow.. I can wait to use this.. soo pretty..
The camera does these beets no justice. They were HUGE.. hum.. perfect for a ravioli...
After absorbing what has got to be a sensation overload (and that’s putting it mildly) we came across family owned..Knopp Branch Farms
where they had samples of their figs.. I picked one up put it in my mouth annnd....
It was complete heaven.. Like literally.. so super perfect soft and sweet. These are NOT the figs from your grandmothers/uncle/aunties backyard, these figs are amazing, these figs need nothing but to put on a plate (with a lil port reduction, maybe) and then proceed into your mouth. 

Next up was Steve Borne, of Premier Sharpening  He sharpens knives..
Verlonsky and I immediately thought (being twins and all) the same thing when we came across his tent “Knives in car, YES!” So we checked  how busy he was and ran back to our cars to get our knives. He taught us how to correctly sharpen our knives on our stones..How to hold it, how to look at them and tell where the imperfections are... Thanks to Steve my knives are kung fu.. He's extra special for culinary students, if you get my drift (wink wink ) you can find  him here

Thankfully Texas Hill Country Olive Company was here on Saturday. They where also out in the rain on Wednesday and I tried their three different oils with some bread.. DELICIOUS.. Who knew that there are olive oil farms right here in Texas.. Danny the owner was fantastic.. Check them out here

Overall, there was a lot to choose from fresh, local, sustainable meat, cheese, desserts, vegan, vegetarian, fruits, veggies, bread, music, sun, fun, I definitely will recommend it to not just my fellow chefs but to everyone who has a Saturday morning open, and has an appreciation for fresh, sustainable local foods.

Sunday has two markets. I choose to go to the Discovery Green one after church.. This is what greeted us we we walked in.. 

  There where a lot of people there, but you walk a little further, catch a “piece of art” or two
and you make to the farmers market.. 
Dismal.. (Prices of Right loser song plays) There was maybe 5 tents out there.. Texas Olive Oil was there as was Nisha's.. Can't knock the hustle..I'm not giving up on this one.. I will try it out again..

Of all the markets thus far as I still have one more Sunday market to check out in Highland Village the star is Saturday in Midtown there is pretty good parking, great selections, and a friendly atmosphere. I left there super inspired, and so excited to come back.. More adventures to come...

For more  on Urban Markets visit there site here