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Missed me? Good. I missed you, too. All the writing I’d done over the last year and a half about my love for cooking, and my dream to turn this passion into a bill-paying hobby now has come to fruition. The fact I’m here so seldom these days is due to my fully booked schedule. Yoohoo!
Last month I was working closely with my dear friend and a talented vegan chef, Melissa Costello of KarmaChow, on a project that involved cooking three meals a day for a group of 15 people over a period of three weeks. You can imagine our hands were full. However, I returned home with a roster of recipes that will serve as an inspiration to my own meals that I’ll then exhibit on these pages for you to enjoy.
Instead of a recipe, however, today I want to introduce you all to an Australian food stylist and a celebrity chef, Donna Hay. OK, some of you may not be that impressed as you and Donna go way back. Good for you! I myself, however, only discovered her last year, and, what can I say, I was head over heals for the Aussie gal and her culinary chops.
There are books, videos, an Australian TV show on food styling, and the magazine I’m a fan of. Only six or seven issues a year, which come to America with an irritating delay. Nonetheless, I am able to snatch each one every two months or so from my local Barnes & Noble. And so can you. I invite you to look through its pages for not only a gold mine of brand new recipes, but also the stylings of the dishes Donna and her team put together. Her signature color, pale blue, transcends across most of the recipes creating a casual, somewhat relaxing, and yet very elegant image. Juxtaposed against that gently humming background are vibrant reds, greens and yellows that make all dishes presented jump out of the pages. Literally! The arrangements on plates are an artistic expression in its own right. Simplicity screams through all Donna’s creations. Each element on the plate is exposed while being a coherent part of the entire dish, and yet there’s no chaos. Brilliant!
Even Oprah (I can’t believe I’m mentioning her visit to Australia once again, as if there wasn’t enough talk about it already) knew who to call when in the Aussie Land in order to have a feast of senses of her life…
It’s only fair to mention that my attitude towards Oprah is rather bitter-sweet, to put it mildly. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with BITTER-SWEET, especially when it comes to such chocolate bites sprinkled over thick slices of French Brie and topped with fresh basil chiffonade, then enclosed within two crispy slices of sourdough bread and melted in a panini maker. Aha! That’s a little secret I know from my gal, Giada De Laurentiis, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me spilling the beans.
And just like that I snuck in a recipe. A little bonus before I get down to sharing more of my own culinary tips and ideas. Check out the Australian cook extraordinaire and try something new today. Let your curiosity be stirred and your taste buds tickled. Always try to use the best, the purest, the freshest ingredients, and the pay off will be ongoing though your lasting satisfaction, infectious happiness, and vitality!
When my brain shuts down on me, and no sensible sentence comes to mind no matter how hard I push, and how long I knead my grey cells, at some point I just say SCREW IT and reach for my camera instead.
The study subject for today: EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL AT SUNSET.
It’s ORGANIC of course. Have I mentioned?
Also, no flash. Jason will be proud.
I wish. To travel along the rebel who knows food like nobody I know in person, I wish. To learn about carta di piano from the mothers and grandmothers of a Sardinian village while raising a toast with wine made locally, I wish. To walk among golden fields of wheat and rye, to sink my teeth in a tomato bursting with flavors and straight off its vine, I wish.
I’ve been watching lots of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. Can you tell? I guess it’s only fair that I mention I’m a fan of the show on Facebook as well, so that I can get their updates and feeds about the upcoming episodes like:
As if it wasn’t alarming already, I follow the guy on twitter, too, because, well, he’s there and clearly wants to be cyber stalked.
Alright. I get it that it’s not quite Tony himself. It’s the producers, the marketing team, the network even, who the cracker knows. Tony is some other place every time a new twit appears online. Duh.
Have you noticed how familiar I got with Mr. Bourdain? It’s because his book “Kitchen Confidential” is sitting on my night-stand supported by no other than the most recent of his penned bricks “Medium Raw”. He’s everywhere I turn my eyes whenever the lights are on. I feel like I KNOW the guy in person. If he happened to be strutting down Sunset Boulevard right in my neighborhood, I would merely throw at him…
… without so much as a wink, and keep walking Cosmo hoping for a rapid poop, so we can turn around and go home finally. Man, that dog takes FOREVER to empty his bowels! WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT PATCH OF GRASS??
I don’t even know how it all began, that boyfriend-approved affair with another man. Jason hasn’t shown any signs of jealously in fact since I took a break from watching “Dog Whisperer”. Back then he would ask me biweekly at least…
“ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE ME FOR CESAR MILLAN?”
…I haven’t heard that phrase in a long, long time.
I will take my assumption even further. I am convinced Jason would not reject an offer of some sort of a ménage a trois, if we were given an opportunity to shlep along chef Bourdain across Europe for example. I mean it in a professional sense, of course, where our job would be to attend any finger-licking tastings and youth-reviving feasts. In such a setting I would gladly share a seat with Mrs. Bourdain, with their offspring gleefully hopping on Jason’s lap. Think sequel to “European Vacation”.
In my tribute to Tony (Yes, we go WAY back!), I’ll be writing today about PORK. My sweet Ms. Piggy in a flurry of crispy bibb lettuce and a nest of pea shoots resting right on thy head, make yourself at home.
No recipe is needed for this pink perfection. Simply season the loin with salt, pepper, a touch of olive oil and maybe fresh thyme as well; place it in a roasting pan, add a cup of white wine or chicken stock and shove all into a preheated oven (at 350°) for 35-40 minutes total. Take it out, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes. While the meat is gathering its juices, you make a glaze: 1/2 cup of port wine + 1-2 tbsp of honey in a small sauce pan. Let it come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer away until reduced two-thirds or so. When the liquid gets thicker and sticky-er, pour it over the slices of your roasted pork loin.
You know how I am–always chicken this, chicken that (the happy, organic kind of course). However, pork tenderloin is lean and healthy, rich in vitamins of the B family, then zinc and of course protein. Since it’s also referred to as the other white meat, I no longer feel like a cheater, well, because… how much chicken can I eat for my ass’ sake?
I made this dashing, juicy, bursting with flavors PORK LOIN last week and fell for its tender and oink pink flesh instantly. So did Jason. Now, guess who’s coming to dinner this week? The red carpet is ready for you, my dear Ms. Piggy.
Weeks ago, just a few, I encouraged you to go for the organic chicks when grabbing your meats for the week at the grocery. Organic poultry comes with a price tag, as we know, but there’s a way to get every last penny out of the bird. In that mini series ORGANIC FOR PENNIES I shared my ways of utilizing one chicken for a week worth of dinners for 2 or even 4, if you help stretch that buck.
I buy a whole chicken every couple of weeks, and make my stock, marinate the breast and the legs, and scrape the leftover meat from the cooked carcass into a separate bowl. Every couple of weeks I’m faced with a new challenge to reinvent the wheel.
Last night I made this:
The chicken was mixed with chili peppers, grated garlic and ginger, low sodium soy sauce, and Hoisin sauce. A few scallions thinly sliced at an angle were tossed into the mix. Then I added my medley of cooked grains (brown and wild rice, black barley, red quinoa) and sautéed everything for a minute or two. To serve it, I wrapped the Grain Medley & Chinese Flavored Chicken in quarters of Blanched Bok Choy.
That’s it. The Asian theme is simply accidental. I use my Polish roots for inspiration in the kitchen just as often.
Life’s too short for pointless ramblings. Hence, let me get right to it.
This is my second approach to GAZPACHO. Recently, while taking my regular cyber walks among many culinary sites, I’ve stumbled upon a new and wonderfully enticing version of the Spanish Chilled Soup. In fact, within one week I saw three different interpretations of this trendy this year–it seem–flavor blend. I felt challenged and decided to tackle this one myself as well.
Even though I haven’t followed any particular recipe, and all I knew were the two basic ingredients, it’s not incredibly original. Here’s the log of my efforts, nonetheless, and for whatever it’s worth, it’s really E.Z. to make. Take it or leave it.
- 1 sm seedless watermelon
- 3 lrg heirloom tomatoes
- 1 med red bell pepper
- 1 sm red onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
Cut the watermelon in chunks and remove the rind. DIp the tomatoes in a bowl with boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and push the skin off. Peel the onion and garlic and chop both roughly. Put half of the vegetables into a food processor or a blender (Well, that really depends on the size of your equipment–you may need to do it in three batches.) with a touch of olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning, and whizz away until all is liquified.
Pour the juices through a sieve into a large glass bowl (it should be big enough to contain all the soup), and using a wooden spoon, press as much liquid out of the pulp as possible. Discard the pulp, and continue with the rest of the vegetables and fruits in the same manner. When all juices are separated, check for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and store in a refrigerator for several hours.
I was only able to give you an actual recipe for this refreshing delight, because I made it (up) yesterday. It’s still fresh in my memory, and my mouth is watering for more as I’m typing these letters.
We enjoyed our shots of GAZPACHO with puff pastry that I stuffed with a mixture of cooked potatoes, two different cheeses and caramelized onions. They baked in the oven for 15 minutes. Those hot and comforting buns turned out to be such a wonderful compliment for the chilled and spicy soup with a veil of mild sweetness on the front side of the flavor.
And you wouldn’t believe how satisfying a meal that was.