Monday, September 30, 2013

A Meal for the Beginning of Fall

Here I am, just finished with school, and I've posted only three times on here in the last six months. So much for good intentions. Apparently I'm not terribly eager to go write about cooking after reading about cooking and actually cooking all day long at school. Perhaps that will change one day, but since I'm about to start a full-time job, I'm not sure I see that ever happening. Who knows. But don't stop checking back occasionally, just in case I've posted something.

Speaking of that full-time job, I've been hired as assistant to the banquet chef at a place called Sassi, a four-star Italian restaurant at the base of Pinnacle Peak in North Scottsdale. The pictures on the website don't do it justice, but take a look anyway. I've never seen a more beautifully situated or designed restaurant, I've never had better tasting food in my life, all the staff are incredibly friendly and I've so enjoyed working with each one of them so far. I don't think I could have found a more perfect place for me, and getting this job completely validates my decision to go to culinary school and pursue a career in the food industry. So I'm pretty thrilled.

Anyway, on to the good stuff. Last week I had to create a menu for a fine-dining five-course meal for four and write recipes to go along with it for a final school project, and I was so happy with the results, I decided I should share it with all of you. So here ya go, as a reward for waiting so patiently for so long, 9 recipes for the price of 1!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Strawberry Basil Scones with Lemon Balsamic Glaze

So if you tried my recipe for strawberry pound cake with basil whipped cream, you know how awesome the unusual combination of strawberries and basil is. When we made scones in baking class last week and I wanted to do an original variation on them, that was the combination I first thought of. I wasn't sure if the flavors would still work well together after the basil was actually cooked, but they turned out great, and the unique glaze which everyone was pretty skeptical about made them even more fabulous. Perfect combination of sweet, savory, and tangy, wrapped up in a scrumptiously soft, flaky scone. One of my chefs said they were "totally awesome."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Caramelized Beet & Grapefruit Salad

FYI, the salad in the post below this I have discovered is even better with kale instead of spinach!

More to the point, the following recipe was inspired by a challenge from my land-lady to make a better beet salad than she had at a restaurant recently, a disappointing beet salad at an upscale restaurant I went to recently, the presence of a beet and grapefruit in my refrigerator drawer that needed to go, and the principles of salad making I learned from my chef instructor at school. I must say this salad met and exceeded my expectations!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Culinary Student

Today is day 2 of week 2 of culinary school. I have never been so tired in my whole life, but I've also never had so much fun! It makes me so happy to be cooking good food every day. I'm enjoying learning new things every day, but also delighted to discover how much I really do know already, and that not all of it is bad habits that I'll have to break. I absolutely love my instructor. He's a good teacher, very articulate (not just a good cook, but an intelligent one!), and he pushes us hard, but he's also got a sense of humor and does everything he can to make learning easier for us. I enjoy most of my classmates. Haha. I chose the school I'm at because compared to other schools, it's a short program, inexpensive, comprehensive, and every time I visited it just seemed like a friendly, family-like atmosphere. I'm more convinced than ever that I chose the right school for me, and I'm so looking forward to what the next 8 months will bring!

My mom asked me to write a journal piece describing a typical day at school, so she could get an idea of where I'm at right now. If you're interested in mundanity, read on. If not, skip to the bottom where I will throw in a bonus recipe that I learned yesterday.

Chef Wolf gives us a grilling demo...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Original Skyline Chili

Print or download the recipe:
Cincinnati Chili

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Have you ever been to Cincinnati? I hadn't until after 20 years of eating my mom's homemade Cincinnati Chili. She got the recipe from a newspaper clipping that her native Ohioan friend found in the '70s. It was one of my all-time favorite meals growing up; the distinctive smell filling the house as it simmered on the stove would send me into ecstasies. Then I went to an actual Skyline Chili restaurant on the actual Ohio river, and it tasted exactly like Mom's. There are lots of recipes out there claiming to be Cincinnati Chili, and Skyline claims the original recipe is a well-kept family secret. But people? I'm pretty sure this is the real deal.

This is the same recipe my mom's used for years, with two minor alterations. There's more meat, because why not? And the cooking process is slightly reordered to achieve the most flavor possible from all the different ingredients (e.g. cooking the spices with the browned meat instead of adding them after the liquid). Here's the drill.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Zesty Asparagus Salad

I might give up on the whole step-by-step photo thing. At least most of the time. Because most of the time the best things I make are things I think up on the spot, like this asparagus salad. So if I keep limiting myself to posting things with step-by-step photos I'm going to keep blogging infrequently. Plus, there are some things I make that are just so simple there's no point to step-by-step photos. Like this asparagus salad, which I served alongside seared chicken breast and fresh-made croutons. It was a light, delicious, and refreshing meal. And pretty!

Here's the recipe:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Glazed Orange Cake

Print or download the recipe:

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When asked to bring dessert for dinner at a friend's place, I altered the Cook's Illustrated recipe for basic sponge cake and turned it into a wicked delicious glazed orange cake, which paired perfectly with the oriental flavors of the main course. Ah, I love it when things I invent turn out well. Unlike the chocolate mousse cake I tried to make a week ago which literally fell apart (but it still tasted amazing as a "trifle"), this cake turned out perfectly. It was light and sweet and slightly tangy and simply delightful.

So here's the scoop.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Herbed Pork Chops + Big News!

Print or download the recipe:
Herbed Pork Chops

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Yay, I'm back! It turns out one really has very little time for blogging when one is surrounded by brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces for two months. I've had a wonderful extended vacation, but it's good to be back west with my feet firmly on the ground for the foreseeable future. I'm settled in at my new home, and while I'm still looking for a job I have plenty of time on my hands, so I'm finally back to cooking, and intend to do a lot of it!

And while many of my good intentions fall flat, I'm pretty sure I can't escape fulfilling this one, because I just got accepted to the Arizona Culinary Institute! It's been a life long dream for me, to attend culinary school, and until a year and a half ago I always thought circumstances would prevent it. Now it's finally a reality (well, almost, classes don't actually start till April) and I am excited out of my mind. Like I won't even begin to try to express how excited I am, I'm THAT excited...

Anyway, here's the recipe y'all have been waiting for with bated breath. When I was visiting my brother and his family in Colorado a couple weeks ago they asked me to make something with the months-old pork chops in the freezer. I knew I'd have to do some serious marinating or sauce-making to hide the freezer-burned flavor and break down the fibers so the meat wouldn't be too tough. I normally like to cook with the freshest ingredients possible, but due to a couple feet of snow on the ground there wasn't a lot of fresh food in the house. So I decided to cook the chops long and slow and season them with a bazillion dried herbs. Thank heaven, I did have fresh lemon and garlic to use. I simply refuse to cook with bottled lemon juice or garlic powder. Well, it turned out fantastic, and my sister-in-law made me promise to put it on my blog. So I made it again last night and took pictures for your edification. Or amusement. Whatever.

↑ That's a serious punch of flavor, folks.