Thursday, July 30, 2009

More of Julia...In the Kitchen

A quick follow up to yesterday's post on Julia Child. This month's issue of Bon Appetit magazine did a feature article titled "Happy Birthday, Julia!" to correspond with next Friday's film opening. To celebrate her birthday, the mag features a full night's menu from her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Below is just a tasting of what's on the menu.

Pissaaladiere Nicoise

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds onions, very finely chopped (about 5 3/4 cups)
  • 1 medium herb bouquet (4 fresh parsley sprigs, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/2 bay leaf, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 2 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 partially cooked Pâte Brisée Tart Crust, cooled
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 16 oil-cured black olives, pitted


  • Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, herb bouquet, garlic cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté 30 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until onions are very tender and golden brown, stirring often, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Discard herb bouquet and garlic. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cloves. Adjust seasoning. Cool slightly.
  • Position rack in top third of oven; preheat to 400°F. Spread onions in cooled crust. Arrange anchovies over in fan-shaped design. Scatter olives over. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until pissaladière is heated through, about 15 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm in 350°F oven about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Gently run small knife around s ides of pastry to loosen; carefully remove pan sides. Transfer pissaladière to platter.

Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence (chicken saute with herbs de Provence)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed, patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or savory
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in spice mill or with mortar and pestle
  • 3 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine or 1/2 cup dry white vermouth
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, fresh fennel fronds, or fresh parsley (optional)



  • Melt butter in large wide pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, add chicken pieces and cook only until golden, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken breast pieces to plate. Sprinkle remaining chicken pieces in pot with half each of thyme, basil, and fennel seeds, then salt and pepper. Add garlic to pot. Cover pot; reduce heat to medium and cook 8 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle chicken breasts with remaining thyme, basil, and fennel seeds, then salt and pepper. Return breast pieces to pot; baste chicken with butter in pot. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, turning and basting occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer to hot platter; cover.
  • Remove peel from garlic cloves; mash garlic with spoon or fork in same pot. Add 2/3 cup wine to juices in pot; boil until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, occasionally scraping bottom of pan, about 8 minutes. Pour reduced pan juices into measuring cup and reserve for sauce.


  • (For more detailed instructions, see our tip on emulsifying eggs.) Off heat, whisk egg yolks in heavy small saucepan until beginning to thicken. Whisk in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon wine. Gradually whisk reserved pan juices into eggs, 1 teaspoon at a time. Set sauce over very low heat and whisk constantly until warm and slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. If desired, whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Remove from heat. Stir in herbs, if desired. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Julia Child...out of the kitchen, on the big screen

When I think of Julia Child, the following comes to mind: a wonderfully exuberant chef with such a distinct, sometimes quirky, presence and stature, standing tall at 6'2", who dashed onto the scene in the 1960's - at the age of 40 mind you - and changed the way Americans view food and French cooking. She successfully brought "gourmet" into the home kitchen with ease...well, relative ease. And her outlook on crash diets makes me an even bigger admirer. Two notable quotes from Ms. Child herself as posted by Savory Tv (a blog devoted to chef recipes and culinary tidbits):
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
“In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.”
Clearly, Julia was onto something all those years ago. And she's coming back strong on the big screen next weekend with the August 7th release of Julie & Julia. The film, adapted from Julie Powell's blog turned book, finds Julie the writer as herself, a bored secretary who decides to plunge into a massive culinary project and heads to her tiny Queens apartment kitchen to cook up all 524 recipes laid out in Julia Child's cult classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a year's time. The film dovetails Julia's life, entry into the world of French cooking and beyond, with Julie's experiments, mishaps and victories as she sifts through each and every recipe. Meryl Streep as Julia, Amy Adams as Julie. Bound to a tasty and inspiring flick for sure. You can catch the trailer here:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eating your way through NYC without blowing your waistline

Some weekends just end up being culinary extravaganzas when you live in such a food-focused city like NYC (hmm...maybe that's why my wallet's always in such a sad state). One of my best friends was in town for the weekend and having moved away from the city a year ago, she was in desperate need of some NYC food-lovin'. Always happy to host and plan an eating-centric weekend, I geared us up for brunches, lunches, dinners and coffee stops throughout the city. So how does a health-conscious food lover like myself work such a gastronomic few days into the picture without blowing the calorie bank...and the scale? One word. Balance. You've got to pick and choose your battles people. Well, in this case, pick and choose where to allot indulgences while maintaining a simple consciousness around portions and making the most of your plate while ordering what you really want. This theory can apply to virtually any big blowout weekend, long holiday, a wedding weekend, vacation getaway, etc. You name it and balance applies so you don't find yourself in a food coma and 5 lbs heavier at the end of the weekend. So here's how the theory pans out. My weekend of eating detailed out for your reading pleasure. Sadly, my camera did not make it out with me during our dining excursions, you'll just have to use your imagination.

Saturday -
12:30pm Grey Dog's Coffee (University & 12th St.): one of my all-time favorite brunch/lunch and coffee spots in the city (and my good friend Katie's as well). It was a no-brainer to start Katie's weekend off with a proper lunch at Grey Dog in Union Square. Recognizing that I'd be in for a long weekend of eating, I went with a lite pick off the expansive chalkboard menu. The Country Salad with a scoop of tuna salad and a slice of rye toast. Tuna salad? Mayo!? Heaven forbid. Yes, Grey's Dog tuna is to die for and sometime's a girl just needs to get her fix. Grey Dog's portions tend to be pretty generous, so I moderated and finished off about half the salad and half the tuna. Perfectly satisfied, no ounce of deprivation, calories still intact for the remainder of the day. As for the rye toast, I generally go with 9 grain, but nothing goes better with tuna than rye and it's actually a pretty decent choice on the nutritional bread scale. Unsweetened iced-tea for my beverage. Done deal.
5pm Ran home after far too many errands and grabbed a peach and a handful of stone-ground wheat crackers and a small piece of cheese for a quick, lite snack so I wouldn't be starving by dinner and ready to scarf the entire menu down.
9pm DBGB (Houston & Bowery) - best new burger place in town. Thanks Daniel Buloud. I'd been to DBGB twice before for a drink or two, they've got a great bar and beer selection fyi, but I was pretty excited to taste-test their signature burgers. I opted for the "Frenchie" burger - adorned with arugula, tomato-onion compote and moriber cheese. In nutritionista fashion, I started with the Chop-Chop salad (watermelon, avocado, carrots and ginger dressing...amazing combo!) and split it with a friend. You know I'm a big fan of getting veggies in somehow at most meals to balance your plate out and fill up on fewer overall calories. The burger came next and was pretty darn phenomenal. So good, I could only eat half -- which actually left me a bit of room for a few fries which are most definitely on my top 5 food list. I love French fries and I accept it. Everything in moderation, there were a lot, so I had a handful or two and was good to go. Great meal, albeit a little heavier, but I'm always able to even things out in the long run.

Sunday -
1:30pm Clinton Street Baking Co. (Clinton St. btwn Houston & Stanton) You know you've hit up a killer brunch in a brunch-obsessed city when you voluntarily (with sheer excitement) wait on line for 90 minutes, yup, 9-0, for brunch. In my opinion, Clinton St. serves up one of the best brunches in the city - possibly THE best, and that's a bold statement. They're known for their pancakes (blueberry or banana walnut). Not exactly a defining symbol of healthfulness, more like a mountain of easily-digested carbs with some fruit thrown in (a plus). But, sometimes things are well worth the extra few minutes spent sweating at the gym. You can minimize the damage however, by taking on a keen strategy and sharing with your brunch partners. One order of pancakes will more than satisfy the tastebuds of 4 people. Luckily, Katie and I bumped into two of our other friends waiting in line and we joined tables. So shared blueberry pancakes it was along with a shared omelet of the day - filled with seasonal roasted vegetables and goat cheese (which is a naturally lighter, lower-fat cheese I might add). The portions ended up being perfect. No bulging stomach post-brunch.
5pm After walking a good 5 miles throughout the city, Katie and I ran into Grey Dog again for a quick beverage break. Mint iced-tea and iced coffee. Very refreshing.
7:30pm L'Artusi (West 10th & Hudson) - Gearing up for our last stop of the weekend's culinary tour, we knew it could be a long, alcohol-soaked dinner with friends. Katie and I have eaten enough meals together that we know how to work certain situations. Scope the menu, find a few items that look tasty and on the lighter side and share. Plain and simple. L'Artusi's dishes have incredible flavor and fairly delicate portions, so we were to share 3 light, summery dishes and still leave room for a glass of wine and a shared dessert. A salad to start with escarole, ricotta salata and tomato; roasted mushrooms with egg; and grilled octopus with chilies, potatoes and pancetta. Dessert was incredible and perfectly tiny -- a great way to end the meal without needing to be carted home.

All in all, a solid weekend of quality eating. Balanced out every bite of the way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Making the most of what's in your fridge

We all have those evenings when you come home after a crazy day of work, haven't had the chance to hit the grocery store yet for the week, and stand in front of your open fridge wondering what the hell you can possibly throw together to create a decent meal. Welcome to the world of "off the cuff" creative cooking -- working with the random ingredients at hand and making them work to your advantage...and actually coming up with a tasty, satisfying dish. Schedules are hectic in the summertime, so having some basics in the fridge and pantry can facilitate a simple meal in under 15 minutes - easy. Here's how my "off the cuff" dinner last night panned out, and I've got to say, I was pretty pleased.

Arugula salad with grilled summer zucchini, balsamic peaches and fresh mozzarella
8:15pm - go
t home from work, opened fridge, assessed the scene and grabbed some leftover basil and a zucchini and a peach that I picked up from the farmers market walking to work yesterday morning.
8:17pm - heated up grill pan on medium-high heat. sliced zucchini and lightly drizzled olive oil and sea salt over it. sliced peach and marinated in a Tbsp of balsamic vinegar.
8:19pm - placed zucchini slices on grill pan. grabbed some leftover baby arugula, fresh mozzarella cheese and the remains of a can of chickpeas (gotta have some protein in there somewhere). grabbed a few olives -- always a staple in my fridge for easy snacking and tossing into salads, sauces, etc.
8:25pm - added peach slices to grill pan. slices 3 thin slices of mozzarella. arranged arugula, chickpeas, chopped basil leaves (3-4) and mozz. cheese on plate.
8:30pm - remove zucchini and peaches from pan, arrange atop salad. drop 4-5 olives around plate. drizzle additional balsamic and olive oil around salad. DONE, well-
balanced, and ready to eat in 15 minutes flat.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Day OFF in the Life of a Chef

Being part of a generation of "Facebookers," I admit to taking interest in how people spend their days...a little insight into the lives of others. Combine that intrigue with the profile of one of the top chefs in the city and I'm hooked -- at least for a few solid minutes of procrastination time. I'm referring to a small article tucked away in the Metropolitan section of yesterday's Times (you know, the section most people never read). David Chang, famed chef of the Momofuku empire in the East Village shares what he does (or in this case, doesn't do) on Sundays, his day off. Aside from being a phenomenal chef, Chang also grew up in Northern Virginia just like moi, so I have additional reason to give him a quick shout out.
Here's what Chang does when he's not in the kitchen:
David Chang, 31, is a noted chef and the owner of four establishments in the East Village: Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ko, Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar. He lives alone in Chelsea, hates cooking at home and tries to do nothing on Sundays.

SURFACING Around 9 a.m., I might wake up. And go back to sleep. Or occasionally if my girlfriend’s there, we’ll go out for lunch or dim sum at Oriental Garden in Chinatown. These are very rare occasions. Usually, if anything, I’ll order from Grand Sichuan. I’ve been ordering their dry and sautéed string beans with minced pork. This might happen when they open up at noon. Then I drink water. And go back to bed.

HIDING OUT If it’s the most beautiful day in the world outside, I’d still stay inside until 2:30 p.m. Because it’s just as nice inside as it is outside. I love outside, but inside is nice. People think I should feel guilty. They say, “You should go out and do this.” I’m like, “No, it’s nice inside.”

ZONING OUT I try to do nothing. I don’t know — I’m not trying to reach nirvana or anything, but doing nothing is awesome. I’m trying to do more of nothing. I wish I could say, “Hey, I’m reading The Paris Review or crushing The New Yorker.” But you know what? That’s not happening.

TUNING IN Usually that’s also the day I watch a lot of TV. I DVR a bunch of stuff. A lot of VH1 Classic. I try to catch up on all my Charlie Rose. And all that weird Discovery Channel stuff. And “Dhani Tackles the Globe.” And I catch up on ESPN and sporting events, definitely, definitely if the Redskins are playing — I’m from the Washington, D.C.-Virginia area.

SUNDAY BLUES One of the terrible things about Sunday is that you can’t watch movies in theaters because everyone’s watching them. That’s one of the best things about having days off during weekdays. Nobody has those days off. And brunch is totally overrated. Who wants to wait in line for that? It’s just too crowded on a Sunday. I’d rather stay inside in my little cave.

HOME COOKING I think I might’ve only cooked twice in my kitchen, and that might’ve been drunkenly. I have nothing in my refrigerator. I don’t like cooking at home; it really loses its luster for me. It’s so much better to cook at the restaurant. We really have the best things, nice ingredients. I don’t have to buy stuff that I’m not ever going to use.

WORK COOKING Maybe around 5 p.m., I go to the restaurants. I hit Ssam Bar all the time. And Milk. Then I go to the office and then to Ko and then to the Noodle Bar. I try to stay out of everyone’s way. I try to sneak out around 9:30 p.m. I don’t know. This year has been strange, a lot more travel going on, and a lot more food events and stuff like that. There is no repetition in my schedule. It is the one good and bad thing about the job and the life that I live.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pro Food...and what it means to you

There's a been a ton of chatter lately around the whole sustainable, farm fresh, whole food issue -particularly with the recent release of the food industry documentary film, Food Inc. It's a little crazy to me to think that we actually have to defend and promote the concept of eating good quality, fresh, real food, but the reality of it is that we've gotten so far from where we started, that we've now got some work and rethinking to do in terms of how we produce, transport and simply eat food. Thankfully, I happened to stumble on Huffington Post blogger and food entrepreneur Rob Smart's post last week which further defines this whole "pro food" movement, with a distinct entrepreneurial twist on food distribution, production, preparation, linking community to farms and food sources. Smart really explains it succinctly and sincerely. I liked it so much that I think it's worth highlighting here. So with that's Rob's post, happy reading!

What if I told you that America’s food system is broken? What would you say?

Would you defend it by pointing out the abundance of choices offered in today’s average supermarket, estimated to be over 45,000 items? Would you cite that per capita spending on food has dropped significantly over the last 50 years, freeing up incomes to improve quality of life? Would you talk about how American innovation is not only feeding our citizens, but is also feeding the world? Or would you quietly ask what a food system is?

While perhaps it’s not “broken,” America’s industrial food system, which dominates food sales, has developed side effects that are accelerating in severity, especially diet-related health (e.g., obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies) and environmental (e.g., chemical toxins, soil degradation, carbon emissions) issues that can no longer be ignored.

The food industry’s insatiable drive toward cheaper, more convenient products has also disrupted the simple pleasures of cooking, eating and/or sharing meals with family and friends, turning food into an accessory, a lofty drop from once being an intimate part of our daily lives.

The good news is there is an increasingly vocal ground swell of advocates and experts working to reverse the downsides of industrial food, with the high-profile personalities becoming lightning rods for the powerful, entrenched corporate interests being challenged, which commonly label them as “elitist” or “anti-ag.” Such claims, both untrue and unfair, are designed to minimize any impact these knowledgeable voices have on public opinion and consumer spending. Look no further than industrial food’s aggressive reactions to the Food, Inc. documentary to see it in action.

One thing is clear, we can no longer allow industry to control the dialog, but fighting fire with fire, especially the use of fear to influence consumer behavior, doesn’t sit well, and would probably be less effective than other approaches. To that end I’ve attempted to define the concept of “Pro Food” based on a set of core principles that get at the heart of why I and others are dedicated to driving these principles into mainstream culture through communications and alternative food systems.


  • Inclusive – Everybody is part of Pro Food, since everyone can gain from its success.
  • Pro Farm – Fresh, healthy, and sustainable food starts with the farmers who grow it. Without their dedication, stewardship of the land and tireless labor it is difficult to envision Pro Food getting out of the gate.
  • Pro Consumer – Today’s conventional food system has invested billions of dollars in constructing a food infrastructure designed to do one thing: sell as much food as possible, as quickly and cheaply as possible. This strategy has been good for bottom lines, bad for waistlines and even worse for personal healthcare costs. Pro Food envisions bringing farm and plate together in innovative retail experiences that go beyond convenience to embrace flavor, taste, seasonal rhythms, community and health.
  • Pro Cooking – Where would we be without cooking? Unfortunately for the last few generations, cooking has been left by the wayside in exchange for cheap, convenient substitutes as people became increasingly squeezed for time and energy. In many ways, Pro Food is based in the home kitchen, the best place to ensure we eat sustainably every day.
  • Pro Eating – The only thing possibly more important than cooking is eating. And while Pro Food places an emphasis on awakening America’s home kitchens, it also recognizes that many institutions (schools, hospitals, corporate cafeterias) and restaurants are doing their part in bringing the same healthy, flavorful and sustainable food on to every plate they serve.
  • Community-Oriented – Pro Food recognizes the simple pleasure of bringing people together around food. Information is shared, bonds are strengthened and friendships are made. It also appreciates the economic benefits it can bring to regional food economies. Sustainable food can be imported (in the absence of local options), but increasing demand being met through local channels, there will be incentive for farms and processors to participate, as well as for existing providers to transition to sustainable production. Keeping money circulating longer within regional economies is key to Pro Food efforts.
  • Entrepreneurial – Building a meaningful Pro Food presence in a food system dominated by massive conventional players with deeply entrenched interests (and reach) will take a lot of hard work, innovation and old fashioned luck. Fortunately we can leverage America’s entrepreneurial spirit in systematically building the ever-broader foundation needed to move Pro Food forward.

What Pro Food ultimately becomes is up to those who recognize and embrace its ideal of healthy, sustainable food systems and make it their own. For it is up to all of us, from farmers to eaters, and everyone else who cares about the food they eat, to carry Pro Food forward and make its vision, its values a reality.

In some very interesting ways, Pro Food draws parallels with the early years of the Internet, when it was still isolated from the mainstream in government and university labs. People, especially entrepreneurs, were starting to eye the Internet as something that could revolutionize communications and collaboration, that could democratize things long centralized. At first, they had no idea what was going to stick, but began applying time, energy and money in search of winning formulas.

This is where I see Pro Food today, which makes it financially exciting for those with solutions to the problems we face. I look forward to joining them and others on this exciting journey.