One is the Loneliest Number

I find the hardest part of cooking for one (besides the utter loneliness) is amounting for food. Somehow I always purchase too much. Because I hate waste and have no dollars, I make sure to store all my food in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes convenience. Recently I bought a ton of vegetables right before going to Los Angeles for a long weekend; opting not to come home to rotten food I julienned everything, froze it, and am still enjoying carrots, asparagus, and zucchini. Similarly, if I have herbs that are on their way out I blend them with butter. Rotten bananas are reborn as bread and so forth. I don’t throw stuff out.

For me, it is essential to have food prepped ahead of time. If I don’t feel like cooking, there is no one else to do it for me. Take-out is amazing on occasion but it’s certainly not something that would satisfy my mind, body, spirit, and wallet on the regular. Cleaning and breaking down produce when I buy it feels annoying but saves my ass later on. Bagged lettuce is a rip-off and spoils faster; I buy romaine, cut it, wash it, and bag it.

Eating lunch on the go is also something I hate to do. Fortunately I worked in sandwich shops for a couple of years and am skilled at brown bagging it. For vegetarian lunch: clean and cut seasonal vegetables, broil or sauté with salt & pepper; use in pasta, omelets, and veggie wraps. For chicken: boil in salted water until cooked, drain, and shred; use in tacos, chicken salad, and quesadillas. Condiments will save you from boredom: pesto keeps forever when covered with a layer of olive oil, mash some chickpeas with oil and flavorings for humus (it’s not difficult), blend canned chipotles in adobo with mayo. Always pack yourself a cookie- you deserve it!

Something that I grapple with as a sommelier-in-training and single person is wine waste. I open bottles for myself and can’t drink them fast enough. I keep some around for cooking and pour the rest down the drain. I am trying to feel less guilty about the latter.

I think what’s so painful for me about cooking, eating and drinking alone lately is that I miss my family. Those are things that I have always shared with them and they continue to share with each other on the east coast. Even though we talk about it on the phone and video chat, it’s not the same. We don’t have the same wine available on each coast and my mom can’t ship me her new favorite homemade ice cream. When I sit down to a single table setting and glass of wine from a bottle I can’t finish my heart aches for New York. Then I remember that I am in beautiful San Francisco, doing my own thing, and missing them doesn’t ruin my love of food and drink, and cooking soothes my soul.

Below are some things I ate and drank alone this week…

RECIPES FOR GROUND TURKEY

Meatballs and a “Juicy Lucy”:

Combine ground turkey, chopped fresh fennel & parsley, red chili flakes, and garlic in a bowl. Pull out enough for a burger patty. To make a “Juicy Lucy” form a burger patty, make an indentation in the center and fill with white cheddar, form patty so cheese is enclosed in meat, pan sear until cooked through. With remaining meat mixture: add an egg and some breadcrumbs. Form meatballs and cook all of them. Store half in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

Fennel fronds grow naturally in San Francisco (as does rosemary). I found this on the sidewalk. Take that NY.

2010, Torrontes, Argentina, Crios. Clear with a pale gold core and translucent rim. Clean with med+ intensity and youthful aromas of honeydew melon, lemon/lime zest, and tropical fruit salad. Dry, med+ acidity, moderate alcohol, flavors of honeydew, lemon rinse, and white peach. Good quality, drink now.

This wine paired well with the turkey burger. The freshness of the herbs complimented the crisp fruit aromas and flavors of the wine.

BREAKFAST IN BED

Banana Oat Pancakes:

Mix 2/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine 6 oz milk, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients with 1 sliced banana, leaving the mixture lumpy. Heat non-stick skillet over medium flame. Test skillet by flicking water on it. The water droplets should dance and disappear in a matter of seconds. Spoon batter onto skillet and flip when edges brown and pancake bubbles. Make yourself a short stack and store the rest of the batter in the fridge. Eat in bed with a cappuccino the size of your face and watch Netflix.

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BBQ

When my father was visiting he discovered a grill in a pile of trash in my backyard. Except for the fact that the grill was poorly assembled, and therefore wobbles, it works great. After being cleaned with a grill brush and a roaring fire it was ready for its BBQ debut.

One of the best parts of working in a restaurant is that almost everyone working there loves food. We talk about food constantly and share it occasionally. Because we spend all of our time in the kitchen serving the people, throwing parties is natural. My manager, Nicole, is a young and talented culinary school grad and my favorite cooking partner. With similar tastes, style, and speed, cooking with her is like dancing. Kylie, a co-worker and friend, is also becoming a sommelier and is my favorite drinking buddy. Possessing an impressive tolerance for tequila, Kylie could probably drink me under the table. Her bubbly personality, approachability, and sensitive palate will make her a fine sommelier. This is my dream team.

Attending the BBQ were more work-friends and fellow service professionals from the market across the street from our cafe. It was great fun.

Honey Chipotle Whiskey BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup honey

few shots whiskey

four chipotle peppers in adobo, diced

1 tbs adobo sauce

1 garlic clove

1/2 red onion

few tbs white vinegar

chili powder

canola oil

salt & pepper

Preparation: saute onion and garlic with oil in a medium-sized pot and cook until tender. Add chipotles and adobo. Add everything else and cook over medium-low heat for about 2o minutes. You just want all the flavors to come together and for it to be a thick and sticky consistency. Puree with blender, food processor, or immersion blender. If you don’t have a way to blend the sauce then I guess you could use onion and garlic powder.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup cream

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

Preparation: heat the milk, cream, coconut milk, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add sugar. Whisk egg yolks. Slowly add the heated milk mixture to the egg yolks, beating constantly. Put mixture back into the pot over medium-low heat and add sugar. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon. Add extract. Chill in ice bath and run it through the magical ice cream machine.

Note: this is not a sweet ice cream so feel free to increase the sugar.

Grilled Pineapple

pineapple, cut into chunks

brown sugar

Preparation: coat pineapple in brown sugar. Skewer and grill. Serve with ice cream.

Kylie was instrumental in preparing the fire.

My beautiful sous chef of the evening, Nicole.

Formal buffet table and bar.

New and exciting product- solo cups that you can scratch your name onto!

Love you

I love Valentine’s Day because I love flowers, candy, and the colors pink and red. I don’t care that it’s a Hallmark-holiday. It’s fun with or without a partner. Obviously we should all show our love and appreciation daily, but sometimes we forget. If you are in a relationship: don’t fuck Valentine’s Day up. Make a card and get some flowers and be a hero; it’s that simple. If you’re not romantically involved then don’t let Hallmark get  you down! Love yourself. I buy myself flowers weekly. I realized how satisfying it is to treat myself instead of waiting for someone else to. I like to celebrate Galentine’s Day with my lady friends who I love more than anything. If your friends are all going on dates then eat take-out naked. This fake holiday can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways.

I sandwiched butter cookies with ganache and pomegranate jelly. I’m currently having a relationship with ganache. I can’t give you the recipe because it’s going to make me rich one day.

 

It’s also my day off from work so I made quiche with chard, turkey bacon, manchego, and parmesan. The last time I tried to make quiche it was a disaster so I am happy.

 

Quiche (adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

1 pie crust

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cream

7 oz cheese, grated

1 oz sour cream (heaping tbsp)

4 slices turkey bacon, cut into pieces

1 cup swiss chard, cut into pieces

nutmeg

salt & pepper

Preparation: For the crust I adapted a King Arthur recipe by using butter only. Roll out the crust, place in pie dish. Place a layer of foil on the crust and weigh it down with rice or beans then bake for 10-15 minutes in 375 degree oven. In skillet cook the turkey bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon from the pan and cook the chard in remaining grease, add salt & pepper. In a large bowl mix eggs, cheese, sour cream, cream, nutmeg, chard, turkey bacon, salt & pepper. Pour into pre-baked crust and bake for 45 minutes (until knife comes out clean). Serve at room temperature.

Ho ho ho

Christmas is the king of holidays. Indulgence is celebrated with no concern for price or calories. Grocery shopping is a grand outing that requires supreme organization; lists are divided by protein, produce, dry goods, and dairy and a team of shoppers is assembled. Seafood is ordered in advance at the local fish market and a brave trip is made the day of Christmas Eve to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

All of this planning and groundwork is done knowing that the reward is the best meal of the year. But, if we didn’t enjoy the work (fighting Italians in the Bronx for prosciutto bread and cleaning clove after clove of garlic) then we wouldn’t bother. Last year my family opted to take a break from the big Christmas production and ordered Chinese food. We didn’t just miss the traditional feast but everything leading up to it, especially the time spent together in the kitchen. For all these reasons I am happy that we have reinstated the Christmas feast.

Happy Holidays,

The Feast Beast

Last Christmas morning Breetel and I served up the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon buns and they were so good we had to do it again. I made the dough the night before and left it in the fridge overnight. This year we added my mom’s spiced pecans to half the batch; we just rolled the nuts in with the butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Maple extract is the best smell in the world.

On all holiday mornings it is essential to have cocktails with breakfast. We had Cava with pomegranate blueberry juice.

My father taught us how to make Rabbit Agro Dolce, a sweet and sour rabbit stew. Dad bought whole rabbits and I had the opportunity to practice butchering. The dish is prepared like most stews: meat is browned in a frying pan, the pan is deglazed with red wine, and everything goes into a pot of mirepoix with liquid and spices. The addition of brown sugar and red wine vinegar give this stew its unique flavor.

We couldn’t get a picture of the dish before plates were licked clean.

Braciole is beef sliced thin and stuffed with mortadella, Italian parsley, and pecorino. It’s browned on the stove and then finished in the oven with a tomato sauce. I don’t know if it’s traditional to throw potatoes in the pan but we did.

Arancini are rice balls that are stuffed, breaded and fried. It is necessary to chill risotto before hand. To form the arancini spread the rice flat onto your open palm, put the filling in the center, and close the rice around it creating a ball. For our filling we used pork, peas, and cheese. The balls are then coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before deep-frying. Served plain or with tomato sauce they make a tasty snack.

The winning dish was Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Eel Sauce. So easy and so fucking delicious. Wrap scallops in bacon and skewer them then cook in a very hot oven (about 500 degrees) until the bacon is crispy. Finish with eel sauce. Our sushi chef friend, Ben, gave us the eel sauce. If you don’t know Ben look for it in a store or ask your favorite sushi restaurant if you can buy some. I don’t know what eel sauce is but i love it.

Here are some other highlights…

Grandma’s antipasto buffet is a Christmas Eve tradition.

This is what elves eat.

Insalatta di Pesce Stocco made by Dad.

Clams also made by Dad.

Breetel and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanksgiving, a Week in Review

For the past week I have been busy eating and drinking with my family in NY. All our celebrations revolve around the meal and begin with menu planning. This year there were two teams: mom and brother on Team Add On versus dad and me on Team Progress. Team Progress felt the traditional Thanksgiving menu had too many starches and lacked innovation. Team Add On felt none of the traditional starches could be sacrificed but we were willing to add new dishes to the spread. Because dad is foreign his opinion on this American meal did not hold much weight; Team Add On won. There were two of everything: traditional stuffing and cornbread stuffing, roast turkey and smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, Beth’s cranberries and Pam’s cranberries. The meal was an overall success and no one wanted for starch. I look forward to a creative Christmas menu which we have already begun planning with Google docs.

Happy holidays,

The Feast Beast

Note: All recipes served fourteen persons with leftovers.

My dishes:

Wednesday’s cocktail:

Prosecco

cherry juice

lime

ginger root

Preparation: Mix to taste and drink all day in the kitchen.

Parsnip and Apple Soup:

small parsnips (one per person)

few honeycrisp apples (1/4 per person)

yellow onion

olive oil

vegetable stock

water

salt & pepper

cheddar crisp (recipe follows)

Preparation: Heat oil in large pot. Cut parsnips, apple, and onions in large chunks and saute with salt & pepper. Cover with combination of stock and water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cool and puree. Taste to adjust seasoning. Can be made ahead of time and re-heated. Garnish with cheddar crisp.

Cheddar crisp:

Grate cheddar by hand or with food processor. Sprinkle thin layer on sheet pan covered with parchment. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes and let cool. Can be made ahead.

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Fennel and Port Soaked Currants:

2 batches cornbread

2 cups corn kernals

1 cup currants

1/4 cup port

5 tbsp fennel seeds

1 sausage (I used Ndjua, spreadable salame, from Boccalone)

beef stock

Preparation: Make two batches cornbread and let cool. Roast corn kernals with whole chiles, salt and pepper in 450 degree oven until blistery; remove chiles and set corn aside. Heat port and currants in microwave or saucepan and set aside. In a skillet saute sausage with fennel until browned. Add currants to sausage and fennel and set mixture aside. Cube cooled cornbread and place in the biggest bowl you have. To the cornbread add corn kernals and sausage mixture. Toss with beef stock until wet and spongey. Place in baking dish. Bake in 350 oven about one hour. Can be made ahead.

Crispy Kale:

kale

seal salt

Preparation: cook kale until crispy in 450 degree oven. Salt. Eat.

Other highlights…

Dad’s smoked turkey wrapped in bacon.

They sat outside in the rain all day and it still needed to be finished in the oven.

It was delicious- like anything that’s wrapped in bacon.

Auntie B’s cranberry sauce. Made annually and enjoyed long after.

A vat of Mom’s mashed potatoes with bacon and scallions.

Smoked elephant garlic spread.

The whole plate with lots of other delicious stuff I didn’t mention. I was too full and liquored up to care about taking pictures of dessert. Dan made fried ice cream and it was awesome.

Fear and Frustration

Cooking brings me joy but it can also be a struggle. Like all things in life, dishes do not always turn out as you had hoped or planned. When this happens I usually become frustrated and angry. Becoming angry with myself not only feels terrible but prevents me from figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it. As an act of love and care towards myself this has to stop. I am human, I make mistakes, I move on, and I am better. My mom says, “make different mistakes” and I like this better than “learn from your mistakes” because it sounds like less work; I feel free to make new mistakes and trust that the learning proces will occur organically.

Here is a comic I drew about a month ago when I went to war with granola…