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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.

It is about nine-fifteen at night on a Saturday preceding our month-long trip to Europe and I’m not even packed yet. Instead, I am posting a few new pictures here to let everybody know I’m alive and kicking after a week of a non-stop sweat fest at Da Vinci.

One Bite

Last Friday we served my One Bite at the restaurant, and I was bouncing on the inside with pride for it was very well received by the diners. It was a Mascarpone Crab Cream with Smoked Cashews, Chives, and Spiced Rice Powder over Mango. I made another version with a slice of a strawberry on the bottom. Both looked spectacular.

We also sold out the soup of my creation. Can you imagine? I’ve just begun my apprenticeship there and the executive chef allowed me to make such a significant contribution to the menu. As the orders for the Soup of the Day started coming in, we poured into bowls this gorgeous orange nectar of a soup, my Carrot-Ginger Cream with Marinated Blood Oranges.

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Blood Oranges

The menu is full of wonders worth exploring. However, I want to brag only about my three pennies since, how shall I put this, it’s my blog.

My next installment should come with photos of some Polish classics, as I know my mom has been cooking for the last four weeks since she had learnt about our arrival in Poland. Yes, Jason and myself will travel to my homeland leaving tomorrow. I shall be in touch and keep ONE MORE BITE updated on a semi-regular basis. Get ready for all those European flavors as I’ll be bringing this and that from the Old Continent to the table.

February has come unnoticed, and perched quietly on a tree branch outside our bedroom. It’s the Month of Lovers, Juliets and Romeos, Juliets and Julies, Romeos and Ramons, Suitors and Darlings, Cavaliers and Sweethearts. What about FOOD LOVERS? When do we get chocolate hearts with booze filling and free tickets to WICKED? If there is a FOOD LOVERS’ DAY, can someone please pass on the memo?? Because I didn’t get it.

One month ago today we were sitting in a car with Jason moving steadily along I-10 heading west. We were driving back from Texas after the holiday break and Cosmo was still wearing his Santa costume. The drive, as I’ve mentioned before, takes two full days (in other words 24 hours plus a one night stand in a roadside motel), hence we stacked the car with books, magazines and monkey tricks to keep each other entertained.

One of the magazines was Rolling Stone; at the end of the trip the most ragged one, as Jason is fiercely passionate about music. His bond with music is legendary and of such magnitude I have all the reasons to be jealous. Let’s put it this way: if our house was on fire (knock-knock), and Jason had to choose between pulling my naked body from underneath the satin sheets we don’t have (but could have, as it’s a hypothetical scenario) and packing up his collection of vinyls, turn tables, and his iTunes library, I’m afraid he’d have gone for the latter.

Jason is a walking music encyclopedia. He knows not only the names of all albums of his favorite bands (and those go by the dozen), songs on those albums, all band members’ names along with their shoe sizes and childbirth marks on their asses. I know I tend to exaggerate occasionally, just a little tiny bit. Trust me, it’s not the case today. He loves to dig through the Internet for hours (when that luxury is available) sniffing out facts, news, interviews, music videos, logs of the creative process and predictions.

When he read Rolling Stone’s summary of the past decade in music epithets started floating inside the chamber of our car. Pepe we named it. The car, I mean. Jason disagreed with most of the magazine’s choices for their Top Ten Albums of the Decade.

Why don’t you make your own list?

I challenged him.

Why I will then.

He responded and took the nearest exit off the road in El Paso, where we stopped to feed the horses. At a Mexican restaurant I chased after a waiter and with my broken Spanish I asked for a napkin and a pen so Jason could vent his frustration with the magazine and lay it all out on the paper.

Pardon, me homie, el papel por favor.

The man with a thick mustache and a sombrero nodded with a smirk, which did not escape my attention, and started heading back to the kitchen. As the gap between us grew, I realized I forgot to ask about the pencil, and so I yelled at the top of my lungs:

Y uno mass, corazon – el lapiz un poquito por favor. Gracias, me hombre guapo.

The waiter froze, turned around on a ball of his foot and looked me deep in the eyes from across the room. He took a breath and threw back at me with the sweetest smile:

Si senora loca.

I loved that man.

Jason didn’t waste time and quickly scribbled his first choices. However, it took another month for him to have a moment to finish assigning each album it’s rightful place on his Top Ten. Inevitably some changes occurred.

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present you with the final version of

JASON’S TOP 10 OF THE DACADE:

10.  LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – The Sound of Silver

9.  PORTISHEAD – 3rd

8.  GIRL TALK – Night Ripper

7.  WILCO – Yankee Foxtrot Hotel

6.  RADIOHEAD – In Rainbows

5.  THE WHITE STRIPES – Elephant

4.  TV ON THE RADIO – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

3.  SIGUR ROS – Agaetis Byrjun

2.  ARCADE FIRE – Funeral

1.  RADIOHEAD – Kid A

Have I mentioned Jason is a little nutso about Radiohead? If Thom Yorke farts, Jason knows about it, not to mention any other of his creative endeavors.

Around the same time, just hours after we stepped back into our cosy abode, I also challenged myself with one of Ina Garten’s recipes for NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT SAUCE. I have tweaked it (hello!) by switching to organic and whole-wheat noodles as well as almond oil for canola oil, and agave nectar for honey. And then, of course, I changed proportions of some of the sauce ingredients, as the one made by Ina seemed way too oily for my liking.

Here’s my concoction:

-       0.5 cup of almond oil

-       3 tbsp rice vinegar

-       4 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium

-       3 tbsp toasted sesame oil

-       2 tbsp agave nectar

-       3 tbsp peanut butter

-       2 cloves of garlic, minced

-       1 tbsp grated ginger

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cook your pasta (whole box), drain, plunge into a large bowl, and pour the PEANUT SAUCE all over it while it’s still hot. The temperature will help the noodles absorb all those wonderful flavors like a sponge.

Blanch sugar snap peas (about 8 oz) for 1-2 minutes tops and shock them in an ice-bath. Drain the green bunch and toss in with the noodles. Julienne (cut in super thin strips) one small red bell pepper and into the bowl they go. Roughly chop a bunch of scallions and fresh flat-leaf parsley, and bang on top of that mountain of noodles. Sprinkle sesame seeds all over and mix it all together.

You can enjoy it right away, or cover with plastic and store in a refrigerator for later. The peppers and sugar snap peas give it a fun crunchy texture, while the PEANUT SAUCE wraps it all together like your lover’s arms on Valentine’s Day.

Countdown to the premiere of IMPORTANT THINGS WITH DEMETRI MARTIN is on. Tune in on Thursday at 10 PM on Comedy Central.

I am a cow. Or at least I have four stomachs like one. There must lie a hidden explanation somewhere in between those two possibilities that is responsible for the phenomena I actively participated in at the dawn of this evening.

I am genuinely embarrassed to admit in public how much food I deposited into my system a few quarters of an hour ago. But I will… in the effort to apply self-punishment. A plate the size of our dining table, and we have a dinning table of astronomical dimensions mind you, was placed before me (by yours truly, to be quite frank) filled with a scrumptious meal I humbly put together. The goods were shaped into a monumental cone, oozing a fragrant ruby red sauce and topped with a mist of fresh minced herbs. I wasted no time and sank a hungry fork into the mountain of food in front of my eyes.

The minute I tasted the first bite, a blissful quiet came over my entire being. The second gnaw only confirmed that state of mind. “I am so happy right now!” – I exhaled amid a series of hurried nibbles.

Once I finished committing the crime of stuffing my guts with this delicious meal, I sat at the table for circa half an hour and moaned. I moaned quietly for the lack of room for oxygen in my lungs. Those spongy bags, filled with life-affirming air, got progressively smashed against my ever-expanding stomach, like the face of a person walking into an impeccably clean glass door they didn’t notice, their steps observed in slow motion. Droplets of sweat scattered my forehead while I sniffled and grasped for air.

In the middle of the 37th moan (approximately!) I heard my blackberry vibrate ecstatically on a nearby coffee table, and its red eye winked at me flirtatiously. “You’ve got mail” – in my mind I heard it announce in the ancient voice of AOL, now as dead as Latin. My natural curiosity, so characteristic to that part of the human population born with a pair of X chromosomes, overruled the brain, and propelled my body forward. However powerful, the curiosity must stand down in the presence of the laws of physics. My body, unable to lift itself under the weight of its overflowing stomach, plunged right under the table with uncanny force. BAM! The pain from the fall pinched my butt, but who could possibly care when the phone was still blinking! From my vantage point beneath the table it now seemed silly close, yet still out of reach of my outstretched fingers. Damn it! I gauged the distance, calculated the effort, then curled into a fetal position and rolled myself over to the edge of the couch. From there it was EASY. One impetuous swing of my arm and the phone was mine again. PHEW!

A few minutes later the euphoria descended and adrenaline levels dropped, and I realized the inhuman amount of pressure I had applied upon my precious insides. Instantly I panicked, and a terrorizing thought crossed my mind – INTERNAL BLEEDING!!! I froze. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. One minute passed. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…3, then 9 minutes crawled by. I was still breathing. Another 15 minutes of that intensely silent lingering and the outcome was confirmed – I WAS ALIVE!

I then issued a long and echoing baritone of a burp that further released some space among the four chambers of my cow stomach, and I was able to breathe at last. Now, by no means do I intend to gross you out with this detailed report. All I hope for, truly, is that you understand the enormous relief I was granted by that simple, and oh so natural, digestive explosion. Only now was I able to extricate myself from the floor underneath the coffee table and beside the green couch, and somewhat steadily relocate to the writing desk in our bedroom. The events of the evening must be logged and archived for future generations to draw examples of behaviors less desired!

A vivid blush floods my face when I realize all that drama was stirred around my … balls. More precisely, meatballs sans the meat. Voluptuous boulders of ambrosial veggie balls rested randomly on the sides of the mountain of spaghetti, all bathed in a creamy and rich marinara sauce. Ah, the memory… !

Beet Soup It all started with the soup season in our house. My poor Jason has recently suffered from a minor and yet annoying physical condition (details of which I shall keep to myself) that forced him to rethink his diet. After thorough research and analysis of various dietary options he committed to soups exclusively. Luckily, I had learned a few tricks in that department, and so I was able to entertain him with a different lunch and dinner menu over a period of a couple of weeks.

soup Such monotony, however, forced me to exercise my creative muscle in order to keep it fresh and interesting each day. One morning, while peeling carrots for another vegetable soup, I reckoned that I might mix things up a little. I pulled out a food processor, purèed some of the veggies, and cooked the rest in big chunks in the ocean of soup. On that sunny morning my Cauliflower Soup, which nota bene is absolutely phenomenal, was brought to life.

It’s not the soup, however, that the tale is about. The purè of cooked vegetables, which are a staple in all my soups, turned out to be so flavorful and comforting on its own that I decided to translate it into an entirely new dish. As of today, I tested, tasted, and – dare I say it – perfected the recipe of Agi’s Veggie Balls.

Agi's Balls

I will now reveal the secret, and share it… with you… because I am such a giver… and I care about your well-being. And hell I am proud of myself, too!

Start with the following ingredients:

- 4 medium carrots

- 2 medium parsnips

- 4 celery stalks

- large leek

- large onion

- 4-5 cloves of garlic (peeled + smashed)

- 2 dry bay leaves

- 4-5 peppercorns

- 3-4 strings of fresh thyme

- 1 cup of water

- 1 tbsp of coconut oil (unrefined)

- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan, and add peeled and diced onion. Sautè for 5-10 minutes, and toss in the garlic. Now add into the pan the rest of the vegetables, previously cleaned, peeled, and roughly chopped. Throw in bay leaves and peppercorns with thyme, add water, and season with salt and pepper. Cook all until aldente. You do not want your veggies soggy and mushy. Turn the heat off. Discard the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Drain all liquid.

Now prepare the following ingredients:

- 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans

- 2 eggs

- 2 tbsp of grated ginger

- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill

- 1 cup of organic bread crumbs

- 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

- 1/3 cup of grated Fontina cheese

- 1 tbsp of olive oil

- 2 tsp of red paprika powder

- 2 tsp of cumin

- 1 tsp of turmeric

- 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg

- 1 tbsp of dry marjoram.

Place your cooked vegetables in a food processor along with drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and pulse into a coarse mass. Scoop it all out and into a large bowl, then add all the remaining ingredients except for the eggs and cheese. Mix well using a spatula. Now break in the eggs and stir everything well. Throw in grated Parmesan and Fontina and combine with the rest of the party in the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat your sheet pan with a layer of non-stick spray, add a sheet of wax paper, and treat it with the spray again. Using a teaspoon, scoop a small amount of the veggie mixture and place it into your clean hands. Now roll it into a small ball and set on the sheet pan. Continue until all mixture is formed into an army of veggie nuggets. Brush each ball with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from burning. Place into the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your, ahem… balls).

Baked Veggie Balls

Serve immediately with whole wheat, organic Spaghetti Marinara, sprinkled with a handful of fresh parsley and dill. I BEG YOU, however, to pace yourself! Definitely use caution when plating your meal. The aroma that will fill your house may intoxicate your reasoning, and all sense of proportions might get lost. Be wary! And learn from my mistakes.

Agi's Balls

Bon Appetit Everyone!

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