Monthly Archives: September 2009

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Hi Lalo!

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I just wanted to take the time to give a shout out to my friend, Lalo.  He said he was going to check my blog soon for a particular reason.  I wonder what he’ll think once he reads on… :-P

The two classmates I am most close to in my graduating class are Lalo and Yumi.  We share friendly competition and motivate each other to get better everyday.  Lalo kicks butt, though.  He is quick.  In this industry, speed is key and that’s what I think the chef instructors like so much about him.  That, and his perfectly cooked meats and al dente pasta, his great attitude, and oh…that great smile…can’t forget that.

Yumi and I have been getting the same marks in class, and we share the same instructors.  When it comes down to it, I think our marks are lower in comparison to Lalo’s because of speed.  After speaking with my instructor and taking in his suggestions for improvement, I already noticed progress.  I turned in my food in good time.  Yumi too.  I hope to see improvement in this week’s work performance versus last week’s.

Moving on to non-school-related stuff…

Lalo, Yumi, and I have plans to go to my chef instructor, Chef Pastore’s Vinolio Enoteca/Wine Bar/Ristorante next weekend.  I can’t wait!  From several sources, I heard it’s the best pizza in town, with the best crust ever!!! We could have gone this weekend, but I already have a committment to attend an out-of-town wedding.  The club I belong to at school, Neighborhoodz, is going to Vinolio this weekend.  They’ll try out a variety of pizzas that he will make especially for the club.  I’m jealous.  I’m hoping that Lalo can ask Chef Pastore to make a variety of pizzas for us too when we head over!  Lalo, can you ask him to hook us up?!!

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Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon with Egg Yolk Ravioli

Beef Bourguignon with Egg Yolk Ravioli

Today I made Beef Bourguignon.  It reminded me of something I haven’t mentioned.  A movie.  A woman named Julie cooks her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and the first recipe she makes is Beef Bourguignon.  My version of it turned out good.  My chef instructor said, “it’s really good”.  I will forever and always refer to Julia Childs when I make this dish.  Whenever I read the dish’s name, I can’t help but hear Julia’s voice in my mind…saying, Beef Bourguignon.

So, a couple of weekends ago I finally watched the movie Julie & Julia with my mom.  Besides Julia’s muffled voice, we enjoyed the movie very much and laughed throughout.  I am very close to my mom and talk to her every day.  Our topics normally include food, school/work, love, and life.  I share the good, the bad, and the ugly with her and she seems to be entertained every time.  We were both entertained by the movie because Julie and Julia’s experiences reminded us of myself – my life today in so many ways.

Julie, the main character, that blogs about learning to cook Julia’s French recipes, was 30 in the film.  I am also 30 and I also started a blog about food even before knowing about the film.  Other striking resemblances are our love of food and cooking, but especially the meltdowns in our small, sometimes dysfunctional kitchens.  I’d experienced quite a few meltdowns weeks before we watched the movie.

About 2 months ago, our sink backed up and overflowed onto the floor, into the living room, under the carpets – everywhere.  It wouldn’t have overflowed if maintenance answered a work order ticket.  It was horrendous and still is – the apartment management still hasn’t replaced the carpet, but only removed the carpet padding under the carpet, leaving half of our livingroom/dining room floor hard and uneven.  If you know me, you know how immaculate I like my home and how terrible a germaphobe I can be.  Living conditions like these can transform me into what Peyman calls, “a bizniotch”.  It took me a while to stop being so itchy and scratchy, and it took more than a week for me to get back into the kitchen.

One of the first dishes I made was a delicious Coq au Vin.  It’s not easy to make because it takes 2 days to come together.  I consider it a labor of love.  Coq au vin is marinaded overnight with a bunch of ingredients, including the best red wine you can afford.  It’s then braised for a long time the next day.  The apartment was filled with such an amazing aroma the day I braised the Coq au Vin and it made our mouths water.  Peyman and I were looking forward to this special dinner.  Here is what led to my meltdown.  I start every dinner with a salad or soup, and being in such a small kitchen, I was running out of counter top space.  I have spices, tupperware, oils, vinegars, mixing bowls overflowing out of the cupboards and onto the counterop.  As I was about to plate one of the most delicious foods I’ve ever made, I placed the pot on the counter, not realizing a little less than half of the pot was not on the counter.  Due to the weight of the meat, I sadly watched it slowly fall to the ground, next to where we press our feet to open the garbage can.  Right then, I had a meltdown. I yelled, “I hate this apartment!”, “I hate this kitchen!”..and I yelled out a few other not so nice things.  Peyman, looked surprised.  Being a very loving, understanding, and supportive boyfriend, he was upset too because it smelled so good, he wanted to taste it…but he calmed me down by just giving me some space and by eating something else in the fridge.  Watching the movie reminded me a lot of myself, my silliness, kookieness, and that I am very blessed to have such understanding people in my life, especially my mom, sisters and boyfriend- they are the most loving and patient people I know…they have to put up with a lot of my… idiosyncracies.

While we’re on the topic of idiosyncracies, I want to bring up Julia. Julia Child.  She was an interesting woman with a distinctive, peculiar voice and laugh.  I always thought she was a giant and came from a different country.  I was surprised to learn that she was actually American, and from Pasadena.  I have a few things in common with her too.  We both are Le Cordon Bleu culinary school educated… of course, her Le Cordon Bleu school is better, being the original campus in Paris.  She and I also have very similar dinnerware.  In 2001, I purchased my first blue and white Spode-style plate set, made in England, that resembles Julia Child’s.  I keep it at my mom’s house and she actually uses it for everyday use.  I may leave them there forever since I grew accustomed to my plain and simple white, Anna plates from Crate and Barrel.  Another thing that I have in common with Julie and Julia is the first piece of houseware Peyman ever gave me as a gift, 3 or 4 years ago- my first red Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  I love it and will keep it in my family always.

The greatest thing we all have in common- Julie, Julia, and I is our love for life, food, good relationships, and making great food, especially for our loved ones.  Speaking of which, I must get our pasta dough started.  I’m making Peyman and myself some spaghetti for dinner tonight.  As Julia Child would say, “Good bye and Bon Appetite”.

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What I baked this week…

Frangipane Pear Tart

Pear Frangipane Tart

This week, I made more delicious pastries, and my loved ones that live in LA were all smiles and very happy as a result.  Of all the baked goods I made in this class, I loved the Pear Frangipane Tart and the Cheesecake with the Berry filling from the American Berry Pie the most.  The Pear Frangipane Tart was also Peyman’s favorite of all my baked goods.

Friday’s conclusion of my first baking class was bittersweet.  I’m happy that I won’t intake as many calories every week, however, ending every meal with a rich and sweet confection was wonderful…I will miss my variety of sweet goodness.

IMG_0075My friend, Erica, is having a birthday gathering on Friday.  I think she’d appreciate and enjoy it, so I’ll either take a fig frangipane or a pear frangipane tart to the party.  I also think I’ll make this tart for every major holiday until my loved ones get tired of it.  What I love so much about the Pear Frangipane tart is the combination of flavors.  The pears were poached in red wine with and some interesting spices such as cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, cloves…then they were soaked over the weekend in the liquid, which made them even more potent and exciting.  The filling of the tart is a rich almond base with a hint of vanilla and rum and zest of lemon.  It’s not terribly sweet but it is sweet.  When paired along with the deep, full-bodied flavor of the poached pears, it is sublime!  Really, it’s so good that it sends shivers down me spine.

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Cookie Platter: Palmiers, Linzer Jewel Cookies, Linzer Window Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans

My holiday cookie platters don’t normally look like this.  I had to space the cookies out on my class cookie platter well enough so that when a party-goer picks up a cookie, he/she would not touch a neighboring cookie.  This was not the final cookie platter that I put together.  At the last minute, I replaced the Palmiers with a version that was less brown and carmelized.  Before I could take a picture of the final cookie platter, I took a bite out of the paler cookies.  They were very nice.  My chef instructor told me I made the right move- Palmiers shouldn’t be this dark.  I made more than a dozen of each of the cookies.  I ate about 5 total this week and gave the rest away.  I think they may all be eaten by now.

My very first Lemon Meringue Tart.

My very first Lemon Meringue Tart.

Growing up, my sister, Janet, would make lemon meringue pie.  In high school, she worked at Sears department store so that she could buy her own stuff, including ingredients for this special treat of hers.  I remember trying the filling and not enjoying it.  I’m not a big fan of very sweet and tart desserts, so this was my first crack at making a lemon meringue pie.  I was inexperienced with the tips and wished I had used another.  Below, is the lemon meringue tart I made for my final.  I was pleased with it.  My chef instructor told me the filling was very good, the peaks of the meringue were very nice, like kisses, but I need to watch the tips… if they burn or catch on fire, I need to remove the charred tips.  Hahaha… I was in such a hurry during the final, I noticed the burned tips, and don’t understand why I didn’t remove them… I guess I thought that she probably wouldn’t have noticed.

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Cream Puffs with Sweetened Chantilly Cream and Strawberries

Cream Puffs with Sweetened Chantilly Cream and Strawberries

Pate A Choux means “Cabbage Paste”… it’s what we use for cream puffs and eclairs.  I had such a great time making cream puffs and eclairs.  If I had used the right tip, I would have made these look more dramatic… My chef instructor liked my Chantilly Cream (cream, sugar, and vanilla) and the lightness of the pate choux.  We scooped some macedoine sweetened strawberries into the cream puffs , which I will never do again.  In a cream puff, I think cream is good on it’s own.  If anything, I’d put strawberries and cream on poundcake.

Eclairs

Eclairs

My chef instructor, Chef Knight, liked the mignadise (minature, bite-sized) size of my eclairs.  They were filled with a chilled pastry cream and dipped in chocolate.  They were really good.  You know that saying, “once you pop, you can’t stop”..well, that applied here.  So good.

Meringue Drop Cookies

Meringue Drop Cookies

Meringue Drop Cookies with Japonaise/Meringue Noisette and Coffee Swiss Buttercream

Meringue Drop Cookies with Japonaise/Meringue Noisette and Coffee Swiss Buttercream

My sister, Riva, was very excited about these cookies.  We both think they taste like the Filipinio dessert, sylvana, only with Hazelnut.  If I had a bakery, I’d sell these… they are so sweet though… I’d want to make them smaller in size so as to not overwhelm someone.

American Pie Dough with Berry Filling... American Berry Pie

American Pie Dough with Berry Filling... American Berry Pie

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American pie dough is quite good. It reminds me of Paula Deen because there is lots of butter and shortening in the dough.  This is the biscuit of all pie doughs… it’s nice and flaky and oh so good!  I didn’t think I’d like the pie, but to my surprised, it was so good!  I made a very good filling with about 24 ounces of berries, lemon juice, and sugar.  The berries were perfect and actually went perfect with the cheesecake.

The first cheesecake I ever made

The first cheesecake I ever made

I like cheesecake a lot!  I’ve never made one before because in my past life (my life 3 months ago), I was a health nut (at home).  I used to only eat nonfat dairy products and fake butter…. All has changed… I am now open to eating real butter and real cheese and I almost feel like I’m living again… almost like when I first had organic produce..I’m tasting the real thing and it is so much better than their artificial, mass-produced counterparts.  My key to eating what you want while staying a slim size is to eat in moderation and to get some exercise.  Life is good.  I have no complaints.  I can’t wait till my next baking class!  Baking, I miss you already.

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