Monthly Archives: September 2011

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Cook fish simply

I spent yesterday celebrating my sister, Janet, and her husband, Memo’s, 40th birthday in San Diego.  It was wonderful spending quality time with my sisters, their husbands, and kids and Memo’s big family: his mom (who I call Senora), his brothers and sisters and their kids.  We all caught up with one another as we gathered around the gorgeous birthday cake Janet so lovingly baked and decorated with her daughters, and around Senora’s delicious Mexican feast and my herbed pear salad.  It’s amazing how well we get along with one another.  Our conversations always turn in the direction of love and passions – we discuss our relationships with our spouses, significant others, children, our communities and.. the subject of food always happens to come up.  We all, especially the women, love to eat.

The majority of the women I spent time with yesterday were full-time mothers and wives who also have successful careers.  Although the word “healthy” may sound like a dull, dry, tasteless word when it comes to food, we talked about healthy food and how it could appear appealing to picky eaters, big and small.  As busy wives, mothers, and women in the workforce, time is of essence and putting mindfully healthy food on the table is of importance.  I shared one tip that I recently shared with my sister Janet.  A movie that just opened in theaters, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” is an homage to my sisters and the hardworking women who make it all work.  This is one of many tips that I will share with mothers who have challenges with getting kids to eat better.

About a week ago, Janet asked me how she could get her picky kids to eat more fish and more vegetables.  I told her to keep it simple and to go to Trader Joes.  This is a very basic recipe.  Seriously, it’s a salt and pepper, heat and serve kind of recipe.  You can get everything you need at Trader Joe’s…

Grocery list/Ingredients:

Tilapia Fillets or Jumbo Sea Scallops

Brown Basmati rice

Soycutash

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and or cooking spray

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher Salt or Fleur de Sel

Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

Directions

-If you purchase frozen fish, either defrost the fish in the refrigerator overnight or under cold running water for about 20-30 minutes.

-Cook rice in advance, according to instructions on the package. At least 20 minutes before serving food or make it in advance and heat it when ready to serve meal.

-Heat a grilling pan on high heat.

-Meanwhile sprinkle kosher salt or fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the fish.  Set aside

-Add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan and swirl it around. Heat the oil. Right before adding the fish to the very hot pan, spray the pan with cooking oil to make sure surface of the pan is lubricated and is nonstick.

-Add fish to the very hot pan pan (make sure you hear a sizzle or it’s not hot enough!), do not overcrowd. May have to do this in batches.  I can fit 2-3 fillets at a time.  Cook on one side for 3 minutes – should be golden brown and crisp. Using a spatula, flip over for 2-3 more minutes. Should be golden (do not overcook!) Place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain off fat.

-While fish is flipped and cooking, place a bowl of soycutash (from Trader Joe’s) in a bowl and heat in the microwave, covered for about 3 minutes, until warm.  Stir. (doesn’t even need more salt…it’s really good the way it is).

The crisp, golden caramelization should give the fish lots of delicious flavor – sort of sweet and salty and the fish should still be moist but cooked through.

Serving – For an adult or big kid, on a plate, add at most 1/2 cup of brown basmati rice, a fish fillet, and at least 1/2 a cup of soycutash.

My sister did exactly this for her 4 children and husband, all whom are very picky eaters… and they liked it, ate it all, even ran out of fish.  It was amazing how something so simple could be so delicious and yet healthy, thought.

(A variation of this is along with salt and pepper to add Old Bay Seasoning… it gives the fish more flavor.)

I recommend serving this with a salad before the meal, as I do with all my meals.

In fact, I prepare this meal for Peyman on nights when I don’t have much time, always with a big simple yet delicious salad (which I will share with you soon).

One of my favorite things to do is to share simple tips that will help my friends and family stay happy, satisfied, and on track with a healthy lifestyle.  I’d like us all to live as long as possible so we can continue sharing birthdays and other celebrations together.  One major key in living a long life is to eat well- deliciously but health consciously.

Happy Birthday to Janet and Memo!  May we be able to share many, many, many, many more birthdays together.

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My message for Ryan Gosling

This post is not food-related…well maybe just a little.

Ryan Gosling

I watched “Drive” last night and it confirmed my crush on Ryan Gosling.  I remembered him from the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid, loved him in “The Notebook” and thought he was incredibly hot and effective in “Drive”.  I think he’s very talented – I’ve watched a few of his other movies, but the ones I mentioned are my favorites.  Honestly, “Drive” is my favorite movie of the year.  Not just because of Ryan…ok, maybe because of Ryan.  I wouldn’t have made it to the theatre if it weren’t for him.  His silence spoke volumes.  I could feel his pain and every other emotion he conveyed on the screen.  On screen and on print, he melts my heart when I see him smile or just move, walk the way he does.  This is obviously a crush.  Peyman knows about it and says he understands and says he’s okay with it.  I know it’s funny that I’m writing about it on a public site, but I’m a little neurotic this way.

I’m not sure what month it was this year – June, July (most likely July) or August, during Art Walk I swear I saw Ryan at Gorbals…at the bar with some guy.  I was sitting at the bar with my gay guy friends.  They were chatting away about a nerdy guy across the way that they thought was cute when I think I saw Ryan, wearing black and a black beret-looking hat.  I have a message for Ryan Gosling.  Was it you I saw at Gorbals during Art Walk this summer?  It had to be you.  I would love to cross paths with you again.  I just read online that you’re dating Eva Mendez. Okay, I get it – I bumped into her when I catered a CAA Oscar party last year and yeah, she’s hot.. But her acting can use some work.  Sorry Eva.  Ryan, if you’re reading this, I think I am comparable to, even better than Eva because I can cook and sing.  If you need a private chef or want to grab a drink or hang out, contact me.  I can harmonize and be a back up singer in your band…or can just jam out.  I know, I am silly… but that’s me.  You know where to find me. :)

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Remembering, 10 years later…

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On 9/11/01, at 8:10am I was aboard a plane, leaving the east coast, headed for California. Shortly after we were in the air, the captain announced, “Passengers, this is your Captain speaking. I’m sorry to inform you that the World Trade Center Bldg in NY has been hit by a plane.” You can imagine the chaos that broke out. Someone yelled out, “Was it a Terrorist attack?!” and everyone freaked out, babies were crying…we looked like caged animals. The FAA diverted our plane to St. Louis, MO airport where I spent 2 or 3 days. Getting off the plane, we witnessed the horror of the attacks on television and I heard fellow passengers calling their families to see if a loved one had gone to work that day. People were on the floor, enraged and crying. I called Riva and she helped make arrangements for me at the Renaissance Hotel St. Louis. Once I set my things down in my room, I opened the curtains to find a view of a cemetery. It was such an eerie and sad time. I will never forget that day and how blessed I felt that the towers weren’t hit the days prior, when I was at the World Trade Center. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the attacks and their families. And warm thoughts go out to the brave men and women who helped in the days following. God bless everyone and God bless America.

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Garlic’d Cauliflower Puree

 

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This recipe is for my sister, Janet, and for anyone else who is trying to add more veggies into their diet.  It’s a healthy alternative and great substitute for garlic mashed potatoes or rice.  My very picky client loves when I make this for her.  I serve it with another 1/2 a cup of another cooked vegetable, along with 4-6 oz. of protein.  Enjoy!

 

Garlic’d Cauliflower Puree

serving size 3-4 servings

Ingredients

1 large head of garlic

1 head of cauliflower

2 cups vegetable stock

½ tsp sea salt

½ Tbsp coconut oil or cold-pressed olive oil (optional)

Garnish

¼ bunch chives

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the heads on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil or vegetable stock and wrap in the foil. Roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30-35 minutes.

3. Cut florets, using ¼ of the cauliflower. Place them on a line baking sheet and toss with a little cold-pressed olive oil or vegetable stock.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and place them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender or browned.

4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining cauliflower and vegetable stock, and ¼ tsp sea salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook till tender. About 20-25 minutes.

5. Once the garlic has roasted, let it rest for at least 5 minutes.  It will be hot.  Carefully open the foil, pick up the bulb, and push the garlic cloves from the skin (peel), starting from the bottom up, pushing the roasted cloves out and into a blender.

6.  Strain the cauliflower and reserve the vegetable stock.  Transfer the cauliflower to the blender.  Add the remaining ¼ tsp sea salt and oil (optional) to the blender.

Add the remaining ½ of the reserved liquid. Blend and adjust the consistency. If the cauliflower is too thick, add more stock.

7. Season to taste and serve with caramelized cauliflower florets and chives.

 

 

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Fruit tart crust

My traditional fruit tart

My traditional fruit tart before being glazed

A few people have asked me how to avoid getting a soggy fruit tart crust.  Here’s a solution that will work for a couple days.

Once your pie dough has been baked and cooled, brush the interior of the pie crust with a thin layer of melted butter or melted chocolate with a tad bit of butter, cocoa butter or shortening in it.  Once brushed, let the butter or melted chocolate set in the refrigerator, then add your pastry filling and fruit.  The lining of butter or chocolate will act as a barrier between the crust and pastry filling, sort of waterproofing it.  I must say, the melted chocolate works best for my fruit tarts.  That’s because I like the combination of chocolate and fruit. Even lining the crust of a lemon curd pie with chocolate does wonders.

IMG_1832My Berry Delicious tart

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So long Tavern

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Working 8 hours a day in a top restaurant in LA is a wonderful learning experience for an aspiring chef.  It can be very challenging and intense, but fun and a joy at the same time.  Those things I’ve missed since the last week of August.

Working with some of the most talented and respected chefs in the business is an invaluable experience.  I wish I could be a part of such a team always and grow and develop such genius.  But..the scary thing about the restaurant business, though, is the business owns you.  One’s schedule can change every week, like mine did.  At first, I made a sacrifice for the sake of learning – I had to pay my dues.  But after over a year, my schedule was still changing and my pay went down due to hours being cut down (like many others) and I never received a pay raise, not one cent above my original pay.  Of course my morale would go down when I’d think about it, sometimes affecting my performance, but I kept going… I was addicted to the work.  I still wanted my own cafe or business of some sort so I chugged along for the experience and education.  I kept learning and would enjoy it more and more the more I learned and developed skills.  On top of that, my coworkers and I grew very close – I considered them my family.

To alleviate stress about finances, I was proactive and started my private chef business and decided to get back into selling real estate on the side.  To my luck, things were happening.  I experienced a boom in both my side ventures – so much of a boom that I felt I was being spread too thin and something had to be done about it.

I asked for a raise at Tavern, but it was not possible.  Pay in this business is so low because I guess they think we are replaceable (although the girl that replaced me, after searching for a month, quit and I still have not been replaced).  I think if I was paid more, I would have stayed and not held other jobs.  I would have been committed to just this one job and I would have been happy.

Sure, my restaurant job brought me a lot of joy and happiness in many aspects, but one thing that the restaurant business didn’t bring me was a sustaining income and flexibility, which then led to my ultimate decision to leave.

As I mentioned, I held other jobs at the same time in order to survive  financially– I have my private chef business, cooking for clients 5 days a week, and I am back in the real estate business.  Since I made commitments to my clients in my other lines of business, like planning/preparing menus and food, delivery…and listing houses for sale and showing homes to clients, I needed flexibility in my schedule and needed to be available to take phone calls.  In real estate, time is of essence and I need to make moves fast to facilitate the transaction… but in the kitchen, it was against company policy to have our phones on us.  Sadly, I didn’t have the flexibility I needed, holding my restaurant job.  I wish I did.  It was a tough decision, but one I needed to make in order to be an independent woman.

I had to leave the restaurant. I have to say that I am sad about it because it brought so much joy to my life- the lessons and skills I learned in cooking and baking, the tough love I’d get from my superiors that only made me stronger, the friendships I developed, the broken Spanish that I spoke with dishwashers and prep staff, the goofiness and silliness that emerged out of me that was once caged in me in my former life as an accountant, and my star-strucken-ness with celebs watching us cook through the larder window.  It was awesome!  Despite all the cuts, burns, and bruises I got in the kitchen, I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment, especially after a busy night’s service.  I will never forget the feeling of going into battle…almost feeling like we’d be at war and we needed to prepare before the war in order to complete our mission, the line of tickets that would accumulate at my station.  I don’t recall ever screwing up a dinner service.  As stressful as it was, it felt great to finish the night with success and with a glass of wine, shot of tequila, or beer in hand.

I was proud to be a part of the Tavern team of cooks.  I will never forget the experience and will always be able to say that I helped make the dessert for President Obama’s dinner at Tavern.

Many thanks and appreciation goes out to Suzanne Goin for giving me the opportunity to work within her esteemed family of restaurants, Lucques and Tavern.  Although I plan to continue working with Lucques Catering, as of the last week of August, I am no longer a full-time employee of Tavern.

Below, are a few memories I’d like to share… not personal stories we shared in the kitchen, but the actual fruits of our labor.  Memories… my tribute to Tavern.

Pictures taken during my last days at Tavern.

I’d get to work by 5am and bake off and set up larder pastries.  I now know what it takes to open a bakery/cafe.  It takes A LOT of work and sacrifice.  Many missed family parties and not spending time with my significant other/family when they’re available.  It’s a tough business, but I still loved it.

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At Tavern, I was able to work all shifts…I baked off all morning pastries and set up the larder; I worked in production-  made doughs, batters, sauces, ice creams, croissants, desserts…everything we needed for service, special orders, and the larder; I plated breakfast, lunch, and dinner desserts, fruit plates, cheese and charcuterie plates.

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I once overheard Breanne, our former pastry chef, say we had over 50 items on our production list. Big job. One must be organized to manage all of it!  Not only did we make items in these pictures, but for lunch and dinner service.  We would also make compotes and pie doughs for the savory side.  In the picture above, you’ll see chocolate sables, walnut shortbread, orange pistachio sables, lemon bars, dulce de leche brownies with cashews, famous Tavern chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, molasses/ginger/date cookies, upside down cake with seasonal stone fruit and blacknerry compote, blueberry shortcakes, bran muffins, blueberry muffins, monkey bread, pecan sticky buns, plain croissants, pain au chocolat croissants, walnut bundle croissants (my favorite!), black forest ham and gruyere croissants, pistachio tarts, and the best granola.

display case

Display case that was not fully set up.  Before I left, we added more of each item so that the case looked more abundant and plentiful.   From top left: crispy thin mint cookies, Tavern’s famous Snicker’s Bar (which was featured this month in Food & Wine magazine), chocolate cake and my favorite carrot cake.  From Bottom left: cookie dough logs, caramel chocolate tarts, chocolate-dipped honeycomb, variety of French macarons. We had vanilla, Mexican chocolate, and Coffee.  Since we changed to a new pastry chef, Sarah Kang put her creative cap on and developed some awesome macarons- lemon, peach, and some other neat new flavors.

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We made the best croissants I’ve ever tasted.  The difference is the love we put into them and a secret ingredient.  Really, Bouchon and Euro Pain can’t compare.  In the above picture, you’ll see the variety of croissants, monkey bread, part of a pecan stick bun, blueberry muffins and blueberry shortcakes.  I took a lot of pride in my baking skills.  I try out a lot of other local bakeries’ croissants and I always find they have too much color and they start getting dry..they also need more salt.  Tavern has the taste and texture down perfectly.  If you haven’t tried the pain au chocolat or walnut croissants, you must try them!!!

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For brunch, lunch, and dinner I plated cheese and charcuterie plates.  I am not a big cheese person (for personal health reasons) but could appreciate their beauty and taste.  And, Tavern has wonderful cheese selections and charcuterie, too.  They serve 3 and 5 cheese plates, Larder plates which include cheese, charcuterie and other accompaniments, and just plain old meat plates.  All are beautifully presented.

One thing you’ll also notice above the cheese case are mason jars of jams that were housemade at the restaurant.

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This picture is of Tavern’s larder section, where patrons purchase food at the counter.  There are 3 parts to the restaurant- the larder which is a more casual and cafe-like area, the sexy and swanky bar area, and the more formal atrium, where you get a neat feeling that you’re outside, on a patio (but you’re not, it’s enclosed).  The building is a lovely space.  I once ran into Benito del Toro outside, at the back of the restaurant..I said hi and he said hi back. (:P) .. He was smoking a cigarette and hiding from the paparazzi.  He said being at Tavern makes him feel like he’s in a restaurant in Toronto, and he liked it a lot.  Not sure what he meant by the Toronto bit – never been to Toronto before…I guess I have to go there to find out.  Oh Benito, he has a rugged and beat up look. Nevertheless, I find him attractive…even if he was wearing a muted floral sports coat.

Speaking of style, the designer of the restaurant made the space so elegant and rustic at the same time.  And really cool.. he’s on the Million Dollar Decorator show on the Bravo network, Jeffrey Alan Marks. Bravo to him.

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At the larder, you can purchase condiments, ingredients that we use in the restaurant, from special honeys, vinegars, and salts, to exotic Colombian and European chocolate and coffees.  Also, Suzanne’s book, “Sunday Night Suppers” is available for sale.

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Tavern has bread bakers that come in at 7pm, work through the night, and bake off bread fresh as early as 3am…in the very wee hours of the morning.  All bread is delivered to the family of restaurants : AOC, Lucques, Hungry Cat, and other restaurants that special order from Tavern, like Momed and the Farm.   Patrons can purchase fresh bread daily at the Larder.

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I will definitely go back to visit and have meals at Tavern.  But for now, so long, farewell my Tavern friends.  It was a good time.  Thanks for everything. Cheers!

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My last night of service with some of my kitchen buddies. They head chef popped open a bottle of champagne and Jose purchased a bottle of taquila for us all to enjoy! It was a very nice last night and celebration with my Tavern team!

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