Monthly Archives: October 2009

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Bananas over chocolate!

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Today, in Advanced Baking, we had  our first written exam, as well as a practical.  I have a feeling I received an A on the written exam and I think I performed well on the practical.  I was tested on making the chocolate hot souffle and banana’s foster.  They looked much better than the ones I produced last week.  Check them out!

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This time, I added powdered sugar and my creme anglaise was the perfect consistency.  My chef instructor said, “everything is excellent”.  The other chef instructor in my class said, “Wow!  You should teach a class on making souffles!”.  What a compliment!  And how delighted I was to hear such good feedback.  A souffle is supposed to have good height and the sauce should not be too thick or too runny.  I was assigned a window, which means I had to present the souffle at an assigned time.  My window was at 7:50am and I made it right on the dot.  My good notes and planning served me well today. :)

IMG_0971Today’s production of  bananas foster turned out much better than last week’s practice run.  I had a beautiful and lengthy flambe’ that I was really stoked about. In addition, my plate was warm (as required) and it actually looked like I put some thought into my plating this time around.  My chef instructor was so flooded with students’ plates that she didn’t have time to give me an individual critique.  I’ll find out what she thought tomorrow.

I was done with my practical at 8:10am and kicked back with my classmates that finished early too outside the classroom until 9:30.  At 9:30, we all went back into the class, cleaned up, and listened to a lecture on chocolate.  Chocolate containers were passed around for us to try and I maybe ate 10 pieces of chocolate.  In addition to that, earlier I had ice cream and a chocolate souffle.  I consider all the sweets I ate in class to be my lunch, so I skipped an actual lunch today.  The chocolate lecture was a segue into chocolate candy-making! I can’t wait!  Tomorrow, we’re making fillings for chocolate candies and there’s one in particular that I’m really excited about, the marzipan with cherries.  My favorite See’s Candy chocolate candy is the Mayfair, which I think is a marzipan with cherries, with the addition of a walnut, I believe.  No one in my family likes the Mayfair chocolate.  I was one of those kids that loved Cadbury eggs during Easter and red jelly donuts.  Marzipan with cherry and walnut is one of those things I just love.  My family always said I was very unique.  I just think of it as having good taste. :P

Now, if you’re thinking my favorite chocolate factory is See’s Candy, you’re wrong.  I don’t think they have the best quality chocolate.  I’m still in search for the best chocolate I’ve ever had.  I really like Dove dark chocolate and symphony bar chocolate, especially the ones with toffee bits.  I also like those huge Milka chocolate bars from Europe that have those awesome cookies tucked into the chocolate.  One good chocolate memory that I had with a couple girlfriends was during college.  Our friend, Donna, came back from a month-long trip to Europe and stuffed one big suitcase with a bunch of gifts, which included a lot of chocolate and wine.  That warm summer night, we popped open a few bottles of red wine and devoured a 3-foot bar of Milka chocolate.  It was divine.

Chocolate is one of my life’s greatest loves… when I make chocolate candies tomorrow and next week, I will be reminded of my sister, Janet’s, favorite I Love Lucy episode, where she works in the chocolate factory.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wp3m1vg06Q

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I’m back!

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Yesterday I had a rough day.  Not only was I sick, but I also experienced a personal problem that kept me awake through the night.  I probably had 30 minutes of sleep before I went to school, and I’m used to having at least 5 hours.  Happily, my personal problem was resolved last night and I am back to normal… even better than normal.  I have more love in my love tank and I’m back to being happy, smiley Yvonne (curious about a love tank, refer to the book Five Love Languages).  A special thanks goes out to my good friends who expressed genuine concern and offered support.  I have been blessed with such kind and loving friends.  Now, enough about my personal life, let’s get back on the topic of food!

Since last Monday, I’ve been in Advanced Baking.  I’m happy to be back in baking!  However, I miss chowing down on savory foods.  I get so hungry in class… I don’t get a chance to nibble on a piece of carrot or celery in baking!

I’ve made several desserts so far.  We make desserts that would be featured in a fine-dining-type of menu.  Along with learning how to make sweet treats, I’m learning how to plate and balance desserts, and I find it to be a lot of fun!.. I just wish we had fresh raspberries to work with.. I think they’re so pretty and add more life and elegance to some dessert plates.

Here’s what I’ve made so far

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I made a roulade out of sponge cake and raspberry jam or nappage.  It enwraps a Bavarian cream.

Charlotte Royale

Charlotte Royale

I made a border out of pistachios and garnished it with fruit coolie and whipped cream with pistachios.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse cake is so rich and delicious.  It happens to be my favorite of all the desserts we’ve made so far in class.

IMG_0938We practice writing the alphabet in chocolate.

Banana's Foster

Banana's Foster

This is the first banana’s foster I’ve ever had and it was delicious!  Obviously, I had trouble plating it, but my chef instructor said it was fine…she was grading me on my sauce consistency and ice cream.  I’m being tested on this tomorrow and will need to come up with a well put-together plating presentation.

Cassis (black currant) Frozen Souffle with berry coolie garnish

Cassis (black currant) Frozen Souffle with berry coolie garnish

This was really good when frozen…almost like a rich frozen yogurt.

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These are chocolate hot souffles, one has creme anglaise.  It was yummy. :)

IMG_0947This is my abstract piece, with vanilla bean ice cream and nutlace umbrella cookie.

IMG_0953Last Saturday, in class, I baked more French bread.  I made spicy tomato soup again and it went very well with the bread.

Cupcakes from Susie Cakes

Cupcakes from Susie Cakes

My SWEET friend, Viviana, brought me some cupcakes from her workplace, Susie Cakes, in Brentwood.  When I used to sell real estate in Brentwood, I’d visit the establishment for a sweet treat :)

Chocolate Pot de Creme

Chocolate Pot de Creme with Earthquake Cookies

My instructor said she enjoyed this so much, it almost made her cry… well, at least that’s what I think she said.  I gave this to another chef instructor at the school and he said it was so good!  Luckily, I brought 4 home to have for dessert.  I actually just had one now with my lunch and I agree- it is quite scrumptious.

Vanilla Bean Flan

Vanilla Bean Flan

I was concerned that I went overboard with my caramel garnishes, but my chef instructor, Chef Lomeli, said that the spacing made it work, and it looked good.  Those 2 balls are caramel coated hazelnuts.

Creme Brulee with Sable cookies

Creme Brulee with Sable cookies

The creme brulee was quite good.  I just need to add a bit more sugar to get enough browning.  The sable cookies were a challenge.   I need to practice these.  Too bad, they don’t taste very good.  If I make these at home, I’d add more sugar or something with flavor.  When we bit into our cookies, a lot of us had a look of disgust on our faces.  It’s more like a cocoa powder and flour cookie… very blehh.

This concludes what I’ve produced so far in class.  We have our first test tomorrow.  I should get to studying now.  I don’t like that I always find ways to procrastinate before a test.  I will get to studying now…after I wash my clothes, do some work, and take a nap :P

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Empty love tank

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Today has been a really sad day for me.  I’m going to sleep and hope to wake from this nightmare.

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I’ve been Yelpin’

I started Yelping not too long ago and foresee more Yelpin’ to come.  I decided to post my Yelp reviews to my site and will add in the ones I already have right now…. FYI, my ultimate favorite restaurants are not posted.  I want to go back to those restaurants to make sure they are still as great as I remembered.

Pho Hana Restaurant

22815 Hawthorne Blvd

Torrance, CA 90505

(310) 373-7560

Category: Vietnamese

Neighborhood: Torrance

5 Star Rating

10/10/2009

Pho Hana, in this Torrance location, is my favorite place to get pho in Los Angeles.  I always order a small chicken pho and egg rolls.  I wrap my egg roll in lettuce, dip away, and enjoy.  Also, I add a touch of sriacha and hoison sauce to the soup to make it even more flavorful and delicious.  Their chicken pho and egg rolls never fail to hit the spot.  I can eat their pho when it’s cold or hot outside.  Their Vietnamese coffee works it’s magic- keeping me wide awake throughout the day.  Prices are very good.  Service is quick!  Parking is abundant.

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Javan Restaurant

11500 Santa Monica Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90025

(310) 207-5555

Categories: Middle Eastern, Persian/Iranian

4 star rating

10/10/2009

Their beef koobideh is the best here.  Also, their ghorme sabze is quite good.  I like starting with their shirazi salad, tadiq with fesenjon, and maust’ khiar (if I have people to share it with).  Service is good – always friendly and nice.  I highly recommend Javan!

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Flame Persian Cuisine

1442 Westwood Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90024

(310) 470-3399

Categories: Middle Eastern, Halal, Persian/Iranian

Neighborhood: Westwood

4 star rating

10/10/2009

Flame and Javan are my favorite Persian restaurants in WestLA.  Lately, I’ve enjoyed Flame a bit more since their fesenjon is wonderful (although Javan’s beef koobideh is SOOO good).  Flame is very nice and elegant, however, they also mix in flat screens to the decor that play music videos, which I find to be interesting…can be entertaining.

The last time we went to Flame, they allowed us to bring in and open our own bottles of wine without a corkage fee.  We brought Darioush reds – Shiraz and a Cab Franc.  They paired very well with Flame’s rich and delicious dishes.

If you don’t have much experience ordering Persian food, here are some suggestions.  Side note: my boyfriend and his family, who are Iranian/Persian, taught me a lot about Persian cuisine. His mom makes the BEST fesenjon.  When we can’t make it to her house, we make a trip to Flame or Javan.

So back to menu recommendations.  I always order family style and share with my loved ones at the table.  Start with a Shirazi Salad, Maust’Khiar, and Tadiq with Fesenjun.  Then, for the main course, order Beef Koobideh, Fesenjun, and Ghormeh Sabzi.  Finish with earl grey tea and their traditional ice cream or Bakhlava.

If you haven’t checked out Flame yet, I highly recommend it. Rate it 4.5

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Green Papaya

1800 W Valley Blvd

Alhambra, CA 91803

(626) 282-1291

Category: Thai

Neighborhood: Alhambra

5 star rating

10/9/2009

This is my favorite Thai restaurant in all of California.  If you like authentic, fresh, and spicy Thai food, Green Papaya delivers.  Whenever I have a craving for Thai food, I eat here and have an emotional experience – somehow they just got it right.  Everything I’ve had here is delicious, especially their Yellow Chicken Curry, Tom Yum soups and Pad Thai.  Try their Thai iced tea or coffee – they are fantastic.  The cooks here really know what they’re doing!  I heard that the owners of this restaurant will soon open a high-end Downtown LA restaurant called Soi 7, coming soon.  Can’t wait to see what they come up with over there.

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Loteria Grill

6333 W 3rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90036

(323) 930-2211

Category: Mexican

Neighborhood: Mid-City West

4 star rating

10/9/2009

Growing up in San Diego and being so close to the border, I’ve had more than my fair share of Mexican food.

Loteria Grill sets themselves apart, serving a different style of Mexican cuisine.  Although I order their food from a stand at the Farmer’s Market, in comparison to other Mexican food joints in Southern California, the food at Loteria Grill has a much higher level of sophistication.  The rice is original and impressionable, the black beans look lard-less, and you just have a taste of their mole…it makes everything better.

I only order one thing when I go there these days, Chicken Enchiladas de Mole.  The mole seems to have been made with a lot of love – it’s rich and delicious, served with a delightful green rice and black beans.  I pour my black beans on my rice and since I like heat, I ask for salsa and add a little to my rice and beans.  So good.  Not sure what’s in the rice, but I love it.

Sure, it’s more pricey than Poncho’s Tacos down the street, but hey – you’re at the Grove…rents must be costly… it’s expected.

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Daikokuya

327 E 1st St

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 626-1680

Category: Japanese

Neighborhood: Downtown

5 star rating

10/8/2009

Dailkokuya serves the BEST ramen in Los Angeles.  Although we’re always number 12 to 25 on the wait list, Daikokuya’s Daikoku ramen and gzosas are absolutely worth the wait.  To pass the time, while waiting in line, we usually grab a drink at the Far Bar, located a few doors down (south), in what looks to be an alley or courtyard.  After we’ve had a drink, we make our way back to the restaurant and our table is ready.  As we are seated, I notice their unique Japanese music, which transports me to the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Disneyland, and like the ride, I have a very pleasant and enjoyable experience.  At Daikokuya, you will consistently receive very friendly and quick service.  I’ve been here countless times and their ramen continues to be soothing and comforting.  Not too heavy, not too light – just right.

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Vinolio

1634 N. Cahuenga Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90028

(323) 856-0888

Categories: Pizza, Italian

Neighborhood: Hollywood

4 star rating

10/8/2009

When you take a nice ambiance and mix in good friends, a couple bottles of wine, and delicious food, you end up with a great experience.  That’s exactly what we got a few Fridays ago at Vinolio.

When you walk into the restaurant, you notice warm brick walls lined with dimmed, rustic sconces and light fixtures. To your right, stands a long, cool wine bar, topped with natural marble. Next to the bar is an open kitchen, where you see Chef Andy Pastore and his team working their magic in top light speed.

We started the night with a few good bottles of wine at the bar, then, as we made it to our table, a live jazz band with the sounds of Getz and Gilberto started to play.  It added to our experience, making it more warm, soothing, and comfortable.

So that we could have a taste of what Vinolio has to offer, our spirited table of ten ordered several plates and passed them around, family-style.  My only disappointment was that not all the plates made their way to my side of the table.  Everything was quite good.  However, there were a few dishes that left a lasting impression.  The fennel salad was sublime.  The bolognese with fresh pappardelle pasta was the best I’ve ever had- noodles were outstanding.  The calamari was perfect – seasoned well and crisp, served with a mouthwatering marinara sauce.  The proscuitto pizza was delicious – the crust was fantastic.  I was only able to taste 2 types of pizzas, the other being pepperoni, which was wonderful. I have to go back soon for the fennel salad, calamari, and to try out more pizzas and specials noted on the chalk board… and we may be going back tomorrow for dinner yet again!

Overall, it’s a great place for groups and even for a nice date. Also, great place to go before and after hitting the bars and clubs.  They’re open until 4am from Thursday to Saturday.

If I had the option, I’d give Vinolio 4.7 stars.

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Pearl Chinese Cuisine

11666 Avena Pl

San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 487-3388

Category: Dim Sum

5 star rating

9/25/2009

I went to this restaurant for a banquet-style wedding reception last weekend.  Not a big fan of Chinese food, I didn’t expect leaving the reception happy with my dinner.  I grew up in San Diego, eating at many Chinese restaurants with my family and eventually grew a distaste for Chinese food.  The typical oily, starchy, impersonal style and flavor of most Chinese restaurant food turned me off.  To my surprise, after trying 10 courses of Pearl’s Chinese cuisine, my perspective on Chinese restaurant food changed instantly, and for the best.  Pearl knows how to serve Chinese food in an elegant, personal, and authentic style.  It’s as if there’s a magician in the kitchen whipping up masterpieces.  The Tea-steamed Chilean Sea Bass was out of this world, the Shark Fin soup was outstanding, and the spicy lobster was amazing!  I know that a lot of the animals sacrificed for these dishes make it on the endangered species list, but did you know that tuna and salmon rank higher on the endangered species list? (Side note: Our grandchildren will probably never get a chance to eat salmon and tuna.) It’s okay to eat the food served here.  There are many sea bass and sharks with fins in the sea and we only live once, so I recommend trying these dishes at least once in your life – you will not regret it.   After this experience, I am a big fan of Chinese food, well only if I go to Pearl Restaurant.  I, too, would consider holding a big celebration at the restaurant.

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Lisa’s Bon Appetit

3511 Pacific Coast Hwy

Torrance, CA 90505

(310) 784-1070

Categories: Sandwiches, Caterers

Neighborhood: Torrance

4 star rating

6/23/2009

I love Lisa Bon Appetit’s red velvet cupcakes! My sister and I consider ourselves to be cupcake connoisseurs.  We’ve tried all the cupcake shops in the Southbay and a lot of other cupcake shops/bakeries in other parts of LA.  After tasting these cupcakes about 2-3 weeks ago, I have to say this is my favorite red velvet cupcake.  It’s moist, there’s a surprise whipped cream center, and the frosting on top is delicious. Great job, Lisa!

My sister also has purchased cakes from Lisa Bon Appetit for parties.  I love the white or vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream frosting.  It’s simple, fresh, and delicious!

As for the German Chocolate cake, we’ve had it once when it was perfect, then we ordered it 2 times after that (we have a big family – lots of birthdays)… the last 2 times it was so crumbly when we cut into it…almost dry-looking.  Maybe it was a backup baker that made it on the Saturdays we picked them up.  I wish it stayed together more… overall, it was good bcus of the flavor.  I would order it again to see if it’s improved.

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Izayoi

132 S Central Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 613-9554

Category: Japanese

Neighborhood: Downtown

5 star rating

6/23/2009

Izayoi is the Japanese spot where my boyfriend and I have dinner religiously at least once a week.  We start off with a bottle of cold sake and their green salad, my favorite! It’s packed with beautiful color and texture from an assortment of greens and thinly sliced onion.  There’s also a nice crunch from what I think are thin strips of fried daikon.  The salad dressing is wonderful with a special miso flavor (I think)- I could eat this everyday!  Izayoi has a unique menu.  They have your traditional raw fish varieties as well as small plates that have an authentic feel and taste.  Some are very inventive, like the toro cutlet (panko-coated fatty tuna belly that is deep-fried) that’s served with 2 dipping sauces…it is sublime!  Yellowtail sushi and BCD(?) roll is delish!..the macarel sushi is wonderful.  We try different things every time and it’s so good, we keep coming back to try more.  While the food has an authentic feel, the restaurant is contemporary in style.  I love this place. :)

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Strata – A Savory Bread Pudding

Quiche

Quiche

My friend, Cindy, who I used to work with at MGM Studios in the accounting/finance department, asked me to send her recipes for Strata and Quiche.  She will be traveling with her boyfriend to London and Paris and wants to make a nice breakfast for him one day.  I just hope she goes out to eat in Paris every day that she’s there because she’ll be in the culinary capital of the world, being in France.  Since I put a lot of time into writing out the strata recipe, I wanted to share part of my message to her with you.

In class, I made a beautiful quiche.  It was cooked perfectly, however, I didn’t enjoy eating it.  The quiche we made was so plain and boring.  I like a quiche with more personality and texture.  A good quiche-like dish I’ve made several times for people comes from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe repertoire, a Pancetta Parmesan Torte.  It’s super easy. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/pancetta-and-parmesan-torte-recipe/index.html.  I usually serve it with a side salad or as a starter.

Strata

Strata

As for the strata recipe… when I learned how to make it in class, we made it in disposable tin pans which were about 2″X6″ (big estimate) — they were mini bread pan tins which we were able to cut to force out the strata. For our class’s breakfast buffet,  I made a massive strata which fed a group of about 50-70 people.  We didn’t cut it up.  We just scooped it out of the serving dish, so you can scoop it out if you multiply the recipe and can’t force the strata out of the pan… I will give you the recipe that I learned and if you want, you can double or triple it and use a regular-sized bread pan…  For some reason, we were given a different recipe in our recipe packet.  On the day that we made this in class, we learned a completely different recipe.

Here it is.

Serving Size – 1 or 2

Strata (this is a savory bread pudding)

Ingredients

1/4 French baguette, cut in 1 inch cubes (bread that has been sitting out, even stale bread works best)
3 Eggs
4 oz. Milk
1/2 Italian sausage (casing removed)
4 Mushrooms, diced
3 Slices of good, thick-sliced Bacon (regular bacon is fine too)
1/4 Onion, chopped macedoine (1/4″ X 1/4″ X 1/4″)
2 oz. Cheddar, shredded
2 oz. Butter

Directions

1- Prepare loaf pan. Heavily spread and coat butter in loaf pan to ensure that the strata does not stick.
2- Render bacon.  In a saute pan, add bacon.  Let the fat melt and cook the bacon until it is crisp.  Once, bacon is is crisp, remove from bacon and set aside on a napkin to drain.
3- In the same saute pan, sweat onions in bacon fat.  Add a dash of salt to help with the carmelization of the onions.  When it’s almost translucent, add mushrooms and cook them till they have some carmelization (some browning).  If the pan gets dry, add some oil…Mushrooms soak up moisture.  Add another dash of salt to aid with carmelization.  Add a dash of pepper too.
4- Set the onion and mushroom mixture aside to cool in a bowl.
5- In the same sauce pan, place the sausage in the pan (with the casing removed) and break apart and cook until browned.  Once browned, set aside to cool.
6- In a large bowl, prepare the custard.  Whip together the eggs and milk.
7- Add the cubed bread and the cooled mushroom, onion, and sausage mixture to the custard and allow it to soak up really well.  For at least 15 minutes…even better if soaked for 20-25 minutes… you want the bread to be completely drenched and soaked with the custard…to be one with the custard.
8- Once the custard has soaked up all the custard, pour mixture into the bread tin.  If overflowing, press into the tin.
9- Grab a nice-sized piece of foil and heavily butter the part that will be touching the top of the strata…you don’t want it to stick.  Wrap the tin lightly, as it will expand a tad.
10 – Once again, wrap the tin lightly and place in a preheated 400 degree oven.
11- When is is set, you can feel it’s bouncy, it’s pretty much done.  Remove the foil and add cheese to the top and bake without the foil until the cheese is melted.
12 – Once cheese is melted, remove from the oven and let it rest.
13- As it sits, the strata will set, about 6-10 minutes..
14 – Once set, remove from tin.  You can pull the tin away from the sides, or even cut the strata out.
15 – Slice the strata and serve with pan gravy on the side.

Note, while waiting for the custard to soak up the custard, you can make a pan gravy.  Optional.
With the browned bits in the pan, you can make a pan gravy… I don’t really have a recipe for making gravy… I just eye it.  What you can do is make a roux. Equal parts of flour and equal parts fat… if you have fat in the pan, add some flour to the pan.  If you added too much flour, add some butter.  You want to cook out the taste of the flour.  So, continue to stir it…  add either some milk or chicken stock to make it into a pan gravy.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cook until it is at the right consistency.

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Garde Manger class is over… it was fun :D

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I just finished Intro to Garde Manger.  It was fun.

I bet you’re wondering what Garde Manger is.  Pronounced “guard ma-shay”, Garde Manger means “keeper of the food” or pantry supervisor.  It refers to the task of preparing and presenting cold foods. These typically include such food items as salads, hors d’œuvres, cold soups, aspics, and charcuterie.  In class, we made a lot of eggs, salads, and sandwiches…and one soup that we made on the fly.  Although soups are not cold dishes, I wish we learned how to make soups…  I love soup with my salads and sandwiches!

My favorite restaurant, Lucques, is my favorite because of their changing lunch menus.  I love their soups and salads (and, of course, all their other food).  After lunching at Lucques, I always leave feeling really good!  Not only are my meals incredibly delicious, the food at Lucques is so clean, light, simple, and fresh.  I don’t feel guilty, or like I’m going to have a heart attack when I walk out their carriagehouse doors.  I wanted to walk away from my Garde Manger class being able to make soups and salads as memorable as Lucques’.  I didn’t.  That’s okay because we were just learning technique and the more standard salads and sandwiches.  I either will have to work at Lucques (or a similar restaurant) to learn how to make a salad or soup (and their other food) as delicious as theirs.  Right now, I need to figure out where I’ll be doing my externship.

A chef at school asked me if I wanted to work for him already, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.  I just hope the school is okay with me externing with him.  Otherwise, I’d like to work for Suzanne Goin.  Once I speak to that particular chef, hopefully tomorrow, I will feel more certain and relaxed about the externship situation.  If it’s not going to work out with Chef X, I will have to advise my connections and do my best to get into one of Suzanne’s restaurants as soon as possible.

I’m ready to commit myself to a chef’s schedule, working most weekends and evenings, because I can.  This is a perfect time!  I don’t have kids and am not sure if I ever will at this rate.  (side note: having at least one or two someday in the far future would be nice.  Hopefully my (future) husband will take care of him/her/them in the evening when I go to work.  I will have to plan for that when/if that comes.)

Right now, I’m just really excited about this culinary career/adventure, although I will miss seeing all my classmates and chef instructors so much when we graduate in February 2010!  Time flies by so fast!

Today was our final day in Garde Manger class.  Below are pics of the food I produced in this class.  I forgot my camera for two days… so some dishes are missing, like the contradictory Bacon Salad and Balsamic Vinaigrette tossed onto Mesclun.  My favorites were the canapes and tea sandwiches because along with good pairings and seasonings, I was able to add my artistic flair!  For those that know me well, I am very much into design and pulling looks together… (I once wanted to be an interior decorator but found I mostly had fun decorating my own home and my friends’ homes)…

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Spicy Tomato Soup

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It’s cold outside and nothing feels better right now than a hot bowl of hearty soup.  Here’s a very simple and easy spicy tomato soup recipe that I like to serve with a nice piece of crusty bread.  Tonight, we’re having it with a toasted piece of French bread.  Try it.  I think you’ll like it.

Spicy Tomato Soup

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Time: 35 minutes

V, GF, DF, GFV, CFNF, NF, SF, SRF

Ingredients

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 (26-ounce) jar of marinara sauce (San Marzano brand is good)

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup small gluten-free pasta (I like non-gmo corn pasta)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper


Directions

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add onions, carrots, celery and garlic.  No need for oil since the water in the vegetables will cook them.  Saute until soft, about 10-15 minutes.  If the bottom of the pan starts to brown, add a little filtered water to deglaze the pan and scrape the browned bits.

2. Add the jar of marinara sauce, vegetable stock, cannelini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt, pepper, and dash of coconut sugar (if too acidic).  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.

3. Ladle into bowls and serve.

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September – Meat and Seafood Fabrication and Identification

My apologies for not keeping up with my posts this last month. During August and September, I was in a class called, Meat and Seafood Fabrication and Identification. It’s actually one of my favorite classes thus far in the program, since I learned a ton, I enjoyed my chef instructor’s lectures and humor, and I enjoyed the dishes we cooked. The class required a lot of reading and memorization, sort of like biology, so I spent most of my off-time studying and reading.

When I told friends that I was in Meat and Seafood Fabrication class, many asked if we made sculptures of meat and seafood out of plastic or styrofoam. A lot of people, including myself, associate fabricating with the production of an item using such materials as plastic and styrofoam, or other non-animal materials. Really, what fabrication means in culinary school is to take a whole fish, for example, scale, de-gill and eviscerate it, then cut it up into marketable forms like fillets skin-on or skin-off, or steaks. Animal carcasses that we learned to fabricate included: chicken, duck, round fish, flat fish, beef, veal, pork, lamb, shrimp, and more. In class we would fabricate, cryovac half of what we fabricated, then we’d be assigned to make a dish out of the other half. It was neat, we were responsible for fabricating meats for other classes in the school to use.

The anal germaphobe that I am, I took my time fabricating because I don’t like fish or any other animal guts on my face, neck, or any other part of me besides my gloved hands. This explains the lack of pictures I have of my fabricated pieces of fish, meat, and poultry. No way was I going to pick up my camera to take a picture of my fabricated masterpieces. Believe me, even though I was very careful to not splatter guts all over me during my speedy fabrications, people at the dishwashing station never failed to spray innerds, chicken skin, scales, and guts on me. At the start of the dishwashing station, there’s a scraping station that we use before the wash station, where there’s a spray that can scrape off gunk from dishes. When I’d be at the washing section after fabrication, more often than not, a classmate would spray their dishes in a big rush and get guts and junk all over me and my face. Once, a piece of chicken flew onto my lip. It was truly disgusting and made me sick – not literally, just psychologically.  I’d rush home to shower and I washed my hands repeatedly, leaving my hands very rough.  I still wash my hands a lot.  Peyman calls my hands “sandpaper hands”. Thank God, I didn’t take this class in the Winter, as my hands would be bleeding from cracking all the time.

With that, the only pictures I have from the fabrication and identification portion of the class are below, with the exception of a lamb (it was too sad to post)…these pictures are taken from lecture. Brace yourself.

After leaving this class, I am so proud of myself for learning and memorizing all the parts and cuts of beef, chicken, and all the other animals. Now, I feel confident that if we ever, by chance, run over a cow, I know that I need to let it rest (rigor mortis), I’ll know how to cut it up, store it properly, and know which cooking method to apply, depending on the cut. Also, if we ever go fishing, I know what to do to the fish, how to fillet or cut it up, and how to store it properly.

This is one of the reasons why I enrolled into culinary school. I’m learning a lot, wish I could learn a lot more…. but I will be pushed into the real world soon where I will learn hands-on from the top chefs of Los Angeles.

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