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All posts for the month August, 2009

Paneer Palak

Paneer Palak

Palak Tofu

I have been doing #meatlessmonday for a few months now.  I love doing a meatfree dish every Monday for you, but I also love getting my weekly Meatless Monday email filled with new meatfree recipes.  (If you’re interested, you can sign up at meatlessmonday.com.)

I got really excited by today’s email because it had a recipe for spinach tofu curry.  Basically, this is a recreation of a famous Indian dish (palak paneer) which is cubes of paneer cheese cooked in a spinach gravy.

I’ve been wanting to try this dish for a LONG time since I really love the spinach gravy and I am frankly not so high on paneer cheese cubes.  (Note: there’s nothing wrong with them.  They just don’t tickle my fancy.)  The good news for me is that firm tofu has about the same texture as the paneer while having a more neutral flavor.

Anyway, check out the recipe on MeatlessMonday.com or go to the recipe’s creators’ blog at HEAL Yourself

My one contribution is finding a good image of palak paneer.  Yes, the above image is one of the prettiest I can find of the spinach gravy dish.  Like a lot of Indian dishes, I love the flavor.  The visual imagery, however leaves something to be desired.

Still, I wanted to let you know once the gravy looks like baby poop, it’s time to dig in.  (I’m actually serious on that one.)

Thanks to paper or plastic? for the picture.

Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo

Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo

So @CarissaRogers asked about how to make a chipotle dip and @Kate_Saunders asked if the recipe was on my blog.   It wasn’t.  It is now! 

Chipotle Mayo (And/Or Dip)

This same recipe can be used for mayo or dip, all that changes is the base.  Use mayonnaise as the base for chipotle mayo(duh) and sour cream or sour cream and mayo for a dip.  I suppose you could use the chipotle mayo as a dip, but I think it would be kind of heavy.  The sour cream will make the dip much smoother and have a more diplike consistency.

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Chef Jennifer Iannolo

Jennifer Iannolo

I knew there was something special about Jennifer Iannolo (aka @foodphilosophy) when she once tweeted her favorite meal.  The details have long since been forgotten except for the fact it started with “when me and Charlie” sat down for a meal. 

Now, for the rest of you who aren’t on a first name basis with the culinary greats, the “Charlie” she spoke of, was none other than Charlie Trotter, one of the best chefs in the world.  And the restaurant they ate at belonged to Alain Ducasse.  

I knew she was a great podcaster and food vlogger and I had visited her site at the Culinary Media Network (CMN) many times.  I just had no idea she was so close with Charlie (that’s Chef Trotter to the rest of us) and that she had so many great stories to tell. 

From listening to her podcasts and watching her vlogs, I always had this romantic notion that her days are filled with hob knobbing with chefs, eating their delicious foods, and then coming home at night to Tweet about it.  This, of course, would be her regular schedule.  On special days she’s jet setting halfway across the world to hob knob with chefs, eat their delicious foods, and then go back to the hotel to Tweet about it. 

When I finally chased her down, she slightly disabused me of the notion.  Apparently, there is more to being the CEO of the CMN than the whole hob knobbing/eating/jet setting thing, though that is a very visible part of what she does because she podcasts and vlogs about it.  (If you’re interested, you can see some of her work on the CMN site and on her own FoodPhilosophy.com.)  Still, despite all of that work, she’s a businesswoman first.

Using the business degree she earned from the Stern School of Business at New York University, she offers food consulting to various restaurants.  While she already has a presence in Web 2.0 consulting and media, there’s something else in the works that she hinted at, but now all I can say is that it is coming soon.  This project will allow her to consult with restaurants on the full range of Social Media marketing opportunities.  More to come…

In the meantime, she’ll have to content herself with all her other jobs.  Like the food consulting and being a cookbook author.  Together with her Culinary Media Network associates (including Chef Mark Tafoya who was interviewed earlier on the blog), she assembled The Gilded Fork Cookbook, a cookbook containing 3-4 years’ worth of recipes from the website.  Even though the recipes are on the web, “there’s something about a physical cookbook,” she says. 

The goal of the book was simple.  “We wanted to convey our idea of entertaining.”  Jennifer, Mark and the others all believe the entertaining should be fun and stress-free, which is why they’ve taken care of all the details, even the wine pairings in their book.  (A full review is coming, I promise.)

She also runs an online boutique, the Gilded Fork (shop.gildedfork.com), where she offers artisan products that are hard to find anywhere else.  The site features brownies, oils, flor de sel, truffle salt, black garlic, and a special Italian olive oil that “people buy by the case,” she says.  It’s a store “for foodies” by people who know food.

So podcaster, vlogger, social media master, online store owner, cookbook author, and a woman who rubs elbows with the finest chefs in the world, all describe Jennifer, but they still don’t form the complete picture because they don’t explain her philosophy.  For a woman known to many as @foodphilosophy, it’s important to know what drives her, because beliefs about food drive everything she does.

At heart, Jennifer is a sensualist who believes that food is something that can excite every sense: smell, sight, touch, sound, and, of course, taste.  It was something she experienced while working in the kitchens and in the businesses of some of the greatest chefs in the world : Thomas Keller, Charlie, Daniel Boulud, just to name a few. 

While working with these great chefs, she also learned quickly that being a chef is not a glamorous business, so she wanted to find out “what moved their [the chefs] souls.”  She wanted to find what it was about cooking that got them through the tough times and share that with her readers, listeners, and watchers.  She wanted to give them a chef’s point of view.

All of this culminated in, what she calls, a “moment of truth.”  She sat down and wrote an article called “On Food and Sensuality,” (read about it here) which was a phrase she used to describe food that was as pleasing to the mind and body as sex.  It was something chefs grasped intuitively, but as she wrote the article, she was not sure how the idea would be received. 

Fast forward five years and her article continues  to captivate readers and is opening up avenues which may or may not be suitable for a G-rated blog like this one, she explains while laughing.  It’s also allowed her to open “Bachelor Bootcamp” so that she can teach us guys a few things about the sensual pleasures of food and how to use it to accentuate the sensual pleasures of …other things.

Ultimately, though, I save the best for last.  After all the time in the kitchen, directing a “space camp for foodies” called L’Ecole des Chefs from Relais & Chateaux, managing the James Beard Award, and writing an article that is changing the way people think about food, there is one thing that amazes me about Jennifer: she has no formal culinary training.

When compared to being on a first name basis with Michelin-rated chefs or getting a cookbook out in three months (which is seriously how long it took to get The Gilded Fork out), it may not seem like much to anyone else, but she and Chef Mark are inspirations to any of us who want to play with a food for a living.  It may take some hardwork, but it can be done and for that bit of inspiration, we owe Jennifer a big thanks.

So when you’re done here, check out her site.  You can get a feeling for her recipes by checking out the cocktail below.  Oh, if you do go to the FoodPhilosophy.com website, that is actually her with the grapes.  Most importantly read her words, watch her have fun and know that this is a women who has inspired chefs to keep cooking, people to learn to be chefs, and more than one blogger to think about living and playing with his food.

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Okay, real quick, for this week of Fantasy Top Chef, we have retroactively changed the score.  There are now points for winning a Quickfire and the Elimination challenge.  Which means the scores now look like this:

Me: 2
Karen: 2
Josh: 2
Elise: 2
Colleen: 2
Debbie: 2
Michele: 3

This of course does not make me happy at all.  I want to WIN.  WIN!

—–

Okay, so I need to watch this week’s episode.  Right now I know I have a point for Michael V’s Quickfire win.  But I expected to be the clear blogger to beat by this point.  🙂

More after the ep.

—–

Okay, ep is over.  Now for the scores:

Me: 5
Karen: 3
Josh: 5
Elise: 4
Colleen: 3
Debbie: 4
Michele: 4

Okay, so I’m tied for first place.  So that’s good.

Part of my strategy in this game has already backfired on me.  I tried as hard as I could to trade with Karen for Jen C.  My last offer was Robin, 2 guest posts, a feature on BlogWellDone and a Teflon ®-coated pan.  No dice.  I figure Brain V and Jen C would make me unbeatable.  (Plus I have Jen C in my other Fantasy Top Chef game and then I don’t have to figure out who to cheer for.)

Oh well.

As for the show, this season has been been intense so far.  I can definitely tell there are some great chefs.  On the other hand, there are some really not good chefs.  I won’t give any spoilers here, but the chef who went home…not a surprise.  Still, the chef who won the Quickfire (one of mine!) also no surprise.

As it stands now, there are five chefs I can see going all the way: both Voltaggio brothers, Jen C, Kevin, and (strangely enough) Eli.  All of them appear to have what it takes.

Similarly, I think it’s pretty clear who is going home next time.  I am thinking it’s going to be Jessie.  I could be wrong.  I kind of hope I am.  We’ll see next week.

BTW, be sure to follow TNSmackdown.  There will be live blogging about every Top Chef every week!

Milagro Mole Burgers

Milagro Mole Burgers

We’ve got more Milagro Mole goodness from our friends at Big Acres® Gourmet Foods.  Tonight, why not try

Milagro Mole Hamburgers

Getting bored with your regular hamburger?  Looking for a new twist to bring that excitement back to the same old same old?  I was once like you friend and then I found Big Acres Milagro Mole!!  Now look at me!! (Sorry, I always wanted to write a script for infomercials…)

Actually, this particular burger masterpiece arose out of a simple desire: to extend my last bottle of Milagro Mole that Melanie (that’s @melanieyunk on Twitter)  sent me as long as I possibly could.  See, when I made mole beef, I used the entire bottle for one dish.  Granted, it was an amazing beef dish that made a lot of friends and coworkers very happy, but still the bottle was gone long before I was ready for it to be.

It’s hard to explain exactly what the Milagro Mole tastes like.  It tastes a little like the dried chilies that form so many Mexican sauces (think Enchilada sauce),  but then it dresses those chilis up in their Sunday best with the flavors of cinnamon, raisins, and a drop of sugary sweetness.  Don’t get me wrong, the sweet is not overpowering, but it’s definitely there and it makes the Milagro Mole incredibly complex.

Anyway, since I knew I wanted to keep the bottle going as long as I could, I kept waiting and waiting for the perfect use.  Something that would taste great, but would let me keep some of the sauce around for next time.  Then one night my wife decided she wanted burgers.  In a rush of inspiration, I brushed a good two tablespoons of the sauce on the burgers and let it form a nice crust as the burgers cooked.  After all was said and done, the sauciness was gone, but the heat had concentrated the sweetness of the Milagro Mole, accentuating the raisins and cinnamon and giving it a different, though definitely pleasant taste.

The earthy saltiness of the beef mixed with the sweet aftertaste from the Milagro Mole was surprisingly harmonious and was so good I forsook the normal ketchup bath and pickle treatment I subject most burgers to.  If you like burgers, even just a little, I highly suggest you give these a try.  They would be perfect sliders for an outdoor finger food party or dinner.

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Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant

You ready for some Italian?  How about

Grilled Eggplant Paninis?

The inspiration for this dish came from a great man and an amazing chef: Chef Jasper from Jasper’s restaurant in Kansas City.  He actually let me hang out with him for a Saturday (which, mind you is the ONLY reason I would wake up at 8 on a Saturday!) 

It was such an experience!  I got to attend his radio program, we talked food, we stopped by a grocery store, and he showed me how to tell when mozarella hasn’t been pulled long enough.  (hint: hard mozarella needs more pulling.)  I even got to hear about the real Jasper from his wife.  Amazing.

Part of my day was eating with Chef’s wife at Marco Polo’s, which is this amazing little deli connected to Jasper’s.  They fed me a startlingly refined, slightly spicy sausage sandwich from the deli.  It was topped with onions, green peppers and potatoes and came with a very unique barbecue sauce that was kind of sweet and kind of tangy.  A lot of times sausage sandwiches are greasy and taste like burnt sausage.  This one was perfectly balanced sausage sandwich with meat that didn’t overpower the other ingredients.  And I got to take some of the sausage home.  (yay!)

Anyway, last week I got hungry (like I do) and was in the mood for a sandwich.  So my buddy and I headed over to Marco Polo’s in the hunt for another sausage sandwiche.  Sadly, there was no one manning the grill!  Disappointed, but undaunted I headed in and ordered a fairly outstanding consolation prize: a grilled eggplant panini with mozzarella and roasted red peppers.

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Shawna's Tomatoes

Shawna's Tomatoes

Okay, we’re back with the 10th installment of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative.  This is the tenth time I’ve taken Shawna Coronado‘s delicious garden produce and I’ve made dinner for a family of four for under $11.50.  Tonight we’re doing:

A Tomato Dinner

I mean just look at those tomatoes.  How could they not make you hungry for a huge tomato meal?  There are so many lovely things you can do with tomatoes.  My only problem was keeping things under $11.50.  But I did it.  Barely. 🙂  The menu will include tomato ceviche, baked tomato pasta, and warm tomato sandwiches.  It’s going to be close, but we’re going to do it!

With tomatoes like that, you know the meal is going to be terrific.

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Okay, first post of the night.

Fantasy Top Chef

I wanted to give everyone a quick update on the game.  Here are the teams:

My mighty Culinary Gladiators:
Robin
Michael V

The rest of the less talented culinary gladiators:

Karen (blog):
Jennifer C
Jennifer Z
 
Josh (blog):
Bryan V
Jesse
 
Elise (blog):
Ashley
Preeti
 
Michele (blog):
Ron
Kevin
 
Colleen (blog):
Eve
Eli
 
Debbie (site):
Michael I
Mattin

I’ll be back with the scores later!

——

Edit:

Okay, here’s the scores:

Me: 2
Karen: 1
Josh: 2
Elise: 2
Colleen: 2
Debbie: 2

But…it’s still anyone’s game!

Oh, and be sure to follow TNSmackdown.  There will be live blogging about every Top Chef every week!

Creamy Potato Soup

Creamy Potato Soup

Yes, I realize it’s a day late.  But I like my #meatlessmonday posts and I LOVE

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

Actually, this little dinner is my wife’s specialty.  I merely suggest it and then sit back, kick my feet up, and get served a steaming  bowl of deliciousness about thirty minutes later.  Still, I know what you’re thinking…it’s August.  Why am I talking about soup?

Good question.  See the thing is, for some reason, it was in the 60s and rainy yesterday.  It was so dreary and so much like those cold rain storms that hit Kansas in late September, that a hearty, steamy bowl of something warm sounded comforting.  So out came the potatoes, leeks, and cream.  A few short minutes later, we had soup with fresh homemade bread and a side ceasar salad.  It was bliss.

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Okay, fantasy sports fans, have I got a game for you!!  More drama than fantasy football, more amazing than fantasy golf, it’s

Fantasy Top Chef

Okay, let me say that I am in NO way affiliated with Bravo TV, Top Chef, or any of its affiliates, nor am I encouraging gambling or anything like that (which can get you in a lot of trouble.)  I’m just a guy who hangs out with a lot of degenerate gamblers…

Fantasy Top Chef Rules

What I am advocating is that you get a group of friends together and pick chefs.  (I suggest a draft.  Draw numbers out of a hat and then go up the order and then back down.  So if you had 8 players, you go 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 then 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 to ensure fairness.)  Determine winners by either:

  1. The player with the winning chef
  2. You can do a points system

I was thinking about doing this:

  • 1 point for each Quickfire win
  • 2 points for each Elimination Challenge win

Highest point total in the end wins.

One Small Hitch

Now, Top Chef is weird since there 17 competitors so you’re going to have a few chefs left (since 17 is not divisible by anything.) If you’re doing points, that’s no big thing just leave those players undrafted.  If you’re doing pick a winner, you have a number of options.  The easiest thing to do is let players whose chefs are elimiated select from those remaining.

Just a thought.  Something fun to do!

Enjoy!

PS If other bloggers want to join in, I figure this is a great way to do a blog carnival. We blog about each other and the challenge.