Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Braised Trip-Tip with Kielbasa

From market to table.

Chorizo, Mushroom, Omelet

Wow, it's beach season. I think it kinda came outta nowhere. And I think a lot of people are scrambling to eat healthy before they hit the beach.

Today I made myself a delicious and relatively healthy omelet. I rendered some chorizo in a pan, removed the chorizo, seared mushrooms in the chorizo fat, then tossed the mushrooms and chorizo in with the omelet. I ate it with guacamole on the side. It's feel good good.


Burgers, Beach, Bikinis. Those three words represent summer for me. But with the bounty of barbeques that I am bound to attend, it’s all too easy to get bored of burgers. Even without a bounty of barbeques, burgers can be boring. I always try to get the most out of each burger. If I’m going to eat a burger I want it to count. A plain burger on a white roll is boring and insufficient. My burger has to be decked out. It’s gotta be more than just a hamburger. With the right add-ons it can.

Beef: Grinding your own is preferable, but most people will never do that, so buy your meat from Whole Foods. I trust their meat over that of Genuardi’s or Acme any day. Go for an 80-20 meat to fat ratio for nice, moist burgers.

Cheese: I love bleu cheese on burgers, but it’s not even worth an attempt at trying to convince people of bleu cheese’s greatness. It just wouldn’t work. As an alternative I like gruyere on a burger. It’s a good melting cheese and has a clear flavor—but one that doesn’t overwhelm. Sharp cheddar is another good one.

Bun: I can’t stand just plain white bread rolls. They’re boring and unsubstantial and I don’t like to think about just eating plain white bread. I much prefer potato rolls which have a nice flavor, and an even better cushy texture. As for crusty rolls, I like them on sandwiches but on burgers, pillowy is preferable.

Other Condiments: I love caramelized onions on a burger. They add a complex sweetness that works well with the meat and is also a nice counterpart to the cheese.

Sauce: I’m not a huge fan of ketchup on my burgers. I prefer this really simple tangy sauce that is just a combination of mayonnaise, mustard, honey and Worcestershire. It’s not gross. It’s actually quite good. Seriously, try it.

Extras: Bacon. Maybe it’s excessive, but last time I checked, bacon could do no wrong.

So if you’re going to eat a burger make it count. Break away from boring burgers and go for something more substantial

Monday, May 24, 2010


Gimme a day or so but soon I will detail the preparation of my favorite burger.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Personal Dinners

Do you want to experience my cooking, to see what I cook when I need to prepare a fancy dinner, to see what kind of ideas are running through my mind? Do you live in the Philadelphia area? Then maybe we can arrange a dinner.

I've done a bunch of private dinners recently and would like to test my abilities and do more. Moreover, I need a medium for my ideas. I will cook for parties of 2-8 people for a reasonable price. E-mail me at and we can arrange something.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Self- Control

Note: This story is not completely true. Certain details have been altered to better fit my purpose. Overall however, the story is an accurate depiction of certain experiences at Lacroix.

It was a while back but I still remember it vividly. I was young and new and na├»ve and didn’t know what I was doing. I was altogether too green to be working in a restaurant, that at the time seemed like the devil’s workshop: burning hot stoves ran from end to end, long sharp knives, cleavers, saws were in abundance, and multiple meat slicers stood ominously in the center. Yet viewed from a different angle the kitchen seemed like heaven: all the chefs wore white and there was food, an ungodly amount of food, an absolute abundance of food but not just any food. Oh no, Lacroix only put out only the most perfect pastries and proteins, the most sublime starches and salads, and there was plenty for the cooks.

But I guess I got a little too comfortable in this gourmand’s glory land. One day, only a month or so after I started working at Lacroix, I was put in charge of making foie gras ice cream sandwiches. I had to butter then toast then chill slices of brioche, after which I would spread an already-prepared foie gras ice cream base on one slice and top it with another. Then I would cut the sandwiches into individual triangles and put them back in the refrigerator to chill. Everything was going along fine. I sliced the brioche without a problem. I buttered then toasted the brioche without a problem. I even spread the foie gras ice cream on the brioche without a problem. But as I cut the sandwiches into triangles, I started to have a problem. I cut the sandwich, then plopped the first triangle into my mouth, just to taste. It was delicious, and there was never anything wrong with tasting what you were cooking, rather, you were supposed to taste as you prepared food to make sure that it was being done correctly. But then I plopped a second one in my mouth. The combination of fatty foie gras and rich, toasted brioche produced a double dose of richness. I ate a third. I was like a pregnant woman—utterly unable to control my cravings. I ate a fourth and a fifth and a sixth. I was thirteen and completely susceptible to impulse. I stopped at 12, then put the rest in the fridge to chill. My tummy full and the job done, I moved on to my next task.

A few hours later I was cleaning lettuce for the salad station, and I saw him coming. The kitchen turned back to hell and he, the then-sous chef, a slender man with bright red hair, pointed features, and a large chef’s knife in one hand, was walking, no storming towards me. He was fuming, and though accounts from chefs that were present deny this, I swear his hair was on fire. I squeezed myself closer to the sink in defense. My fear was palpable.

“yes” I mumbled.
The rest of the kitchen was watching at this point.
“I, I, uh, I ate them.”
A few cooks snickered. This was great theatre to them.
“It was dumb. I apologize.”

Needless to say, I did as I was told. My cheeks scarlet and my eyes watery, I made 12 more foie gras cream sandwich triangles, and now, my symptoms of pregnancy, my childish impulses, and my lack of self-control, are absolutely and positively, gone.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

McCain on Farmer's Markets (read this one)

Recently John McCain and two other Republican Senators sent a letter to Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, condemning Vilsack's "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" program that was introduced last fall. The program aims to "Connect Consumers with Local Producers to Create New Economic Opportunities for Communities," by aiding farmers with the marketing and proliferation of their products (more can be read here). The Senators claimed the project was directed at “'small and organic producers' whose customers generally consist of 'affluent patrons of urban farmers markets.'”

As of now, that is largely true. Organic, sustainable food isn't very accessible to the lower and much of the middle class. The costs of production, and subsequently the final product are much inflated compared with those of big agribusiness which supplies the food to the megamarts. Yet this is a fundamental problem in the nature of the current agricultural system, a problem which the "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" initiative aims to mitigate. It seems that McCain and his cronies have missed the point. As of now farmers markets are places for prosperous patrons, but such initiatives as the one described aim to increase accessibility to, and with federal funding, lower the price of sustainable farmed food. This program isn't for the elite--the elite already have access to farmed food--its for the less affluent who don't have access to or can't afford such food.

With his letter, McCain is highlighting a pro-business position that demonstrates support for big agribusiness companies. Now remember, that he originally stated that he didn't support the program because it catered to the wealthy (which I don't believe it does), yet his support of the big farmer's, companies like Tyson and ConAgra and Monsanto, has that exact effect for a few reasons. The first is the fact that supporting such companies carries the connotation of supporting the big businessman as opposed to the humble farmer. The second is the fact that these companies are notorious for exploiting the small farmers and the "little guys" that work for them. The profits in these companies go straight to the top with few stops in between (See Food Inc. Read anything by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation and more). Therefore McCain's preference caters more directly to "affluent patrons" than does the "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" program.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scenes from the Market

The first week of this local farmer's market.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's freakin spring and I can't believe it. Was it not just a few weeks ago that I got hit with 20 inches of snow? HA! And now I'm looking for ways to cool down. It's surreal that it's fureal. In addition to being a great food season, spring almost equates to happiness, sustained happiness. It doesn't soon fade like that fantastic fall feeling does to winter, it endures through summer. Spring's enchantment lies largely in the fact that it serves in anticipation of summer. And indeed, the best part of many great things is anticipation for it.

I wish that spring was more of a new beginning, a fresh start, like it is for the plants in my garden. In my life it's more of a culmination but at the same time it's fresh (never frozen) from the winter. I see spring as a traveler, fresh out of a snowstorm, pioneering happiness through warmer climates.

My first butter lettuce is in. It's fresh from the garden. It's sweet, soft, and, well, buttery. My mom thinks it's sweet enough, soft enough, buttery enough, to eat without any dressing. Not quite, but minimally invasive dressing is preferable with lettuce this fresh. I made this salad with a simple champagne vinaigrette and I tossed it with cashews, ham and avocado.

Hopefully as my plants spring up and back into life, so will my blog :)