I was recently invited to join a Master Class in bread making at the L’Atelier des Chefs school in London. It is really a wonderful concept – a wide variety of classes are guided by expert chefs who have top restaurant experience and a great desire for teaching and sharing their knowledge. They have two locations in London - Oxford Circus and St Paul’s - and more in France and Belgium. Offering diverse cuisines and skill levels six days a week, it’s easy to find one that’s right for you. Prices range from just £15 (for their signature Cook, Eat & Run class which promises to teach you to cook a delicious main course in just 30 minutes) to £144 for their four hour Master Class.
My class was held on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the St Paul’s location, and I was joined by six other eager-to-learn students. It was an eclectic bunch, all ages with mostly beginner to intermediate cooking skills. There was a mother and her teenage son, who seemed less than thrilled to be there; a handsome bearded fellow from the northeastern part of France; two baby boomer types, one woman eager, the other somewhat timid; and a hip twenty-something guy, there on his third visit who shared rave reviews about his previous experiences. We were greeted warmly by the receptionist who presented us with new aprons (to keep as a souvenir) and led us to our classroom. The courses are conducted in a bright state-of-the-art kitchen with a large stainless steel work station which we gathered around to meet our instructor, Chef Daniel Stevens. Initially I had visions of Hell's Kitchen with some fire breathing Gordon Ramsey type instructor who would bark orders and humiliate us for any culinary mistakes
Did I read Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter? Yes. Is it why we went for dinner at Prune? Yes. Am I glad we did? Absolutely!
Our taxis slowed down on a narrow street in NYC’s East Village as our driver struggled in the darkness to find street numbers. All of a sudden car headlights appeared in back of us and laid on their horns breaking the peaceful silence of a short East Village street. Our driver assured us we were very close to Prune even though none of us could find the storefront. We exited the cab after ending our conversation on home cooking in his native Ghana and thanked him for our cab ride filled with stories. Once we were out of the cab finding Prune restaurant was simple. We could smell the aroma slipping through the multiple cracks in the painted black storefront. We followed our noses like rabid bloodhounds catching a scent.
Shabby chic? Most definitely! No, I don’t think a set decorator could fabricate the wornness of this restaurant nor would they want that on a resume. I think it earned its wornness over many decades. Maybe I am wrong and maybe it is faux but this place is a charmer and it is as comfortable as a pair of UGG slippers. It’s a place you dream of having in your neighborhood - but don’t.
The food isn’t perfect but it is just perfectly real. The salad greens we ordered were classically ‘too’ large but the olive oil that dripped from them was a luscious yellow green and I know that it was freshly pressed last month. So, if you go, pick up your knife and fork and focus on the realness. I loved the simplicity of the food and its surroundings.
I was methodically chopping chives into 1/4 inch batons to balance on top of the mini crabcakes I would soon serve. I was lost in thought about my 4 ½ year relationship that I had ended earlier that day. 4 ½ years. Sigh. I was thinking about the love and all the amazing moments we shared over that time. images (1)I have no regrets, only appreciation for the incredible man that Shannon is and an understanding that love sometimes changes into something else. I glanced down at the cutting board and realized I had cut enough chive batons to feed a sizeable army – which this crowd was not. I slid the greens into a bowl as one of the servers walked into the kitchen.
“Do you have sugar for the coffee and tea service?” the waiter asked the house manager of the apartment on the 33rd floor of the Ritz Carlton Residences where we were catering. The manager opened the ample pantry and started off-loading sweeteners to the side table. “We’ve got Splenda. We’ve got Equal. We’ve got Truvia. We’ve got Sweet and Low.”
A small herd of boxes – yellow, blue, green, and pink - collected on the table.
“We’ve got agave. We’ve got honey. We’ve got stevia. And we’ve got gluten free sugar.” We all stopped and looked at each other. “Gluten free sugar? Huh?” the waiter said. “I thought sugar WAS gluten free.” And he turned to me because, well, because I was the one in the chef jacket.
ANGELI CAFFE PASSOVER POP-UP - MARCH 21st
In preparation for Passover, EVAN KLEIMAN, host of KCRW's "Good Food" and former owner of the much-missed Angeli Caffe, and SEAN SHERIDAN, Executive Chef of the Skirball are hosting a sumptuous Italian-inspired Passover meal on Friday, March 21 at 7:00pm at the Skirball Cultural Center.
This special Passover dinner, served family-style, will reflect the bounty of the spring garden. Wine will be available for purchase, and select recipes will be provided. This meal is not certified kosher.
To see the menu and purchase tickets, click here. Registration closes on March 17th.
Is everyone at Kendall Square's Evoo and its sister, Za, right next door? It's Evoo for more formal meals like scallops with risotto or fig compote with lamb rillettes. You could chill out with pizza and salad at Za and slide over for dinner all without moving the car. I'll concede that we haven't but we might.
Right off, Evoo changes the menu often; each day but if not, for sure by the week which means they ax a favorite without warning. I just checked: what we had, the Pig Pile, you can't so wait for it. No matter, what you will not be is bored.
While many kitchens call their cuisine eclectic, Evoo has a gift for New American eclectic. And if you're going to write about novel dishes, take notes and get the menu on your way out because by the time you get around to it, they've thrown a curve and moved on.
First, Julie and I come for lunch. She's picked peppery fried eggplant with cucumber salad in minty yogurt and curried tomato sauce. It's all here in a tower of mashed potatoes, pea shoots, corn, grape tomatoes and onion. Eggplant should always be this good. I checked: chefs call eggplant vegetables and to botanists, eggplant's a fruit. She chooses for us the Atalaya garnacha tintorera monastrell that goes down in a swirl of cherry and chocolate. No one's going back to work.
As with so many foods in our lives, dishes served when we are young put strong imprints on our adult palates. Most nights when my father came home from work, he would settle into his leather recliner and watch wrestling on TV. While my sister and I set the table, my mother would serve him an appetizer plate and his cocktail of choice, a 7&7 (Seagrams & 7-Up).
His favorite appetizers reflected his Russian Jewish background. There would be plates of pickled herring with sour cream, chopped chicken liver, pickled beets and onions, anchovy fillets and pumpernickel bread that he ordered from a mail-order outlet in New York.
Wanting a father-son moment with my father, who was decidedly old school and not much into father-son moments, I would sit next to him and share the appetizers (and steal a sip of his 7&7 when he wasn't looking). I definitely developed a taste for the anchovies and chicken livers but not for the pickled herring with sour cream!
One day, with very little in the refrigerator, I wanted a lunch with a lot of flavor that wouldn't take much effort to create. With a box of pasta, a couple of chicken livers, a tin of anchovies, an assortment of aromatics and a few other ingredients, I put two and two together and made a dish that was light and delicious. I wonder if my dad would have liked it?
Brisket....I'm licking my lips. I love it. I've always loved it...as long as it's cooked right. Let's face it, it's a tough, flat piece of meat. It's a chest muscle. The only way to cook it right, is low and slow...which is why we braise. And the Guinness adds a nice layer of deep complexity to the sauce, just like red wine does to a pot roast. However, since the barley used to make Guinness is roasted, you get this really deep flavor in dished like this.
Braising melts all that intramuscular fat and works through the connective tissues. It's a three method process and worth every minute of time spent. Braising includes browning, deglazing and simmering, but really, the meat is in the oven most of the time...you might as well just forget about it and go read a book.
The torture comes in with the amazing smells coming from the kitchen....it leaves me hungry all day. ALL. DAY. I end up snacking on things I shouldn't because of that meat smell. UGH. Let's just say I might have eaten a few too many cookies yesterday. UGH. And why does smelling meat make me eat cookies?
I have such a fear of being that vegetarian: the one who shows up at a dinner party or holiday feast and realizes that there is nothing for me to eat. That is also known as the “Starving Vegetarian,” or the “Really Quite Put Out Vegetarian.” I try to do my due diligence, and let hosts know ahead of time about my dietary restrictions, even offer to provide my own dish if they don’t have the time or inclination to provide one for me. This is known as being the “Not Completely Obnoxious Vegetarian.”
When a host does ask me to bring my own dish, I’m not too annoyed: it’s another excuse to make my Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, which I will certainly be doing this March 17th. While I have very fond memories of my mother’s annual St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, I’m not sure what would happen to my insides, and subsequently my outsides if I ate it again after nearly two decades of abstaining from meat, which lead me to concoct what I consider to be a happy medium between traditional fare and a dry cleaners bill, “Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie”.
What I like about Irish baked goods is that they're always hearty and wholesome, like soda bread, scones, porter cake, and biscuits. And I especially like it when recipes are easy to make—ones that don't require yeast, rising dough, and all the things that come with it. One of the easiest cakes to make is porter cake, which gets its name from the Irish beer used. Yes, a bread recipe that uses beer!
In this case the beer is Guinness, the beer of Ireland: A rich, dark, and malty stout with a creamy head that requires a slow and steady multistep pour to get it just right. Guinness was first introduced as a porter in 1725, but its formula was changed to include roasted malt, which created a flavor profile that drinkers called "stout porter" and thus the name stout was born. Being that Guinness is my absolute favorite beer, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to bake this cake for St. Patrick's Day.
Growing up I ate a green salad pretty much every night with dinner. In Italy, we did the same, though it was served at the end of the meal. These days, I find it hard to convince my other half to eat salad. My solution is to make main dish salads. This one uses Belgian endive and is easy to make for one or a group. It has many delicious things added to a base of endive and fennel, namely candied walnuts, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.
Endive and fennel just seem to have a natural affinity for one another. Both are crisp, but fennel has a chewier texture and a sweetness, while endive is lighter and juicier and has a slightly bitter edge. You could use them to make a simple side salad but this one has lots of goodies to make it a main dish. Use a Champagne vinaigrette or a Dijon mustard vinaigrette to dress it. Or even just lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
I get excited when I see fresh asparagus standing tall in the produce department at the grocery store. It tells me spring is almost here. Although fresh-from-the-garden asparagus probably won't be available around here until sometime in June, I know that when spring hits the produce department it won't be long before we actually feel that season in northern Minnesota. Now, that's something to celebrate.
I've been blanching, steaming, sauteeing and roasting asparagus for the last week. I've discovered I love having blanched asparagus in the refrigerator. I can grab a spear and nibble on it just the way it is or dab it into some of the roasted red pepper and garlic hummus that I whip together in my food processor and store in the refrigerator for a healthful snack.
Asparagus with Hazelnut Crumble is a quick-to-make dish that takes advantage of blanched asparagus. On a recent evening I melted some butter in a saute pan. When it was hot, I added some minced shallot (because I had some in my little garlic basket on the counter) and cooked it just until tender. Then, I added blanched asparagus spears and kept shaking the pan back and forth so that the spears would be totally coated with butter.
by Phil Nigash
Three years ago, Stone Brewing wrote a post on their company blog titled "MustardGate 2010" in which they announced that the Stone Brewing mustard they've been shipping to their customers was missing an important ingredient - their beer. As it turned out, the company they hired to make the mustard for them never used the beer Stone sent them to...Read more...
by Susan Russo
It's big. It's bad. It's Boozy Beef Chili.
Full-bodied porters or stouts, such as Guinness, add complexity and depth to otherwise ordinary beef chili. Make it for St. Patrick's Day or anytime you feel like having a belly-filling bowl of hot chili.
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large green or red bell...
by Joseph Erdos
I love all types of savory pies, but one in particular is very special to me. The first time I ever heard of beef and Guinness pie was during my time studying abroad in London. I was so intrigued that I ordered it at a quaint, tiny restaurant that specialized in pies aptly named the Pie Room. It became the hang-out spot for my group of friends....Read more...
by Oyvind Tangen