Lent Time

Two years ago I took the traditional Greek Orthodox path and gave up eating meat for Lent. It was actually an enjoyable and obviously spiritual time coming up with nutritious meat-free meals instead of just eating pizza, pasta, and prepackaged Morningstar Farm meals every day. I’m going to attempt it again this year, as Greek Orthodox Lent started yesterday. It’s gonna be sad to give up FOS, but I can always make a vegetable broth based version…

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Make Your Own Fucking Salad!

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I was out with my buddy Eric for a FOS date and I decided to make a meal of it. We were at Biddy O’Malleys in Northvale, an eclectic Irish bistro with an overall impressive (and tasty) menu. I decided on a Caesar salad to round out my meal. I am not a huge fan of overdressing salads, not even because of the calorie cutting aspect, which is a plus, but because of the taste and texture of something drenched in dressing. So, I ordered dressing on the side.

Not really paying attention to the menu, I brushed over the name, “Knife and Fork” Caesar Salad. When the dish arrived it all clicked in a classic what the??? moment. All I could say was I felt the restaurant was saying to me, “make your own fucking salad!”

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Side note, disappointed in the dressing…anchovy flavor overpowered all of it.

Anne Thornton – Justified Firing?

Pastry Chef Anne Thornton was fired from Food Network for allegedly plagiarizing recipes from famous food figures like Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten.

According to the Huffington Post article, the primary reason she was cut from Food Network was ratings related. I’m more inclined to believe this reason. I feel the plagiarism was more a scandal for press.

Here’s the thing. In these life and times, is any recipe out there TRULY original? Just about any dessert out there is based off a basic pastry technique tweaked with variations to make things interesting. I just don’t feel there are any truly original food thoughts out there. I’m sure many of my own personal recipes are out on the interwebs somewhere.

I remember when I was in culinary school, Food Network was in its infancy and much more focused on technique and culinary basics, it was less flashy at the time. As a result, we were often encouraged to watch as research. I remember watching Emeril Lagasse and feeling like every French recipe I learned in class in a given day was interpreted with bam and spice on his show.

I just get the feeling Ms. Thornton was not as marketable as some of her celeb chef peers and that ultimately led to the axing. Thoughts out there?

Cheese Addiction courtesy of Maywood Marketplace

ImageOkay, so Maywood Marketplace is not to blame, I have been addicted to and cheese has been my favorite food for years. I usually have at least six different types of cheeses in my fridge at any given time. This is particularly excessive as I live alone and am not home nearly enough to be able to consume all this cheese.

Earlier today I went to one of my favorite local grocery stores, the aforementioned Maywood Marketplace. They have amazing prepared foods, a huge produce selection, super fresh bakery items, and an impressive cheese selection complete with endless samples. It is my crack. I feel guilty from sampling and I cannot leave there without a minimum of three cheeses in my basket (so well done making me the target audience in terms of passive aggressive sampling as a selling technique).

Now I have not consumed all the cheese that is already in my fridge, and between a trip to Trader Joe’s yesterday and the marketplace today, I am overstocked. I really need to stop food shopping after the gym…

In any case, I just took an inventory of what is in my fridge. I need to either have a party or do some serious cooking this weekend. Here’s what I found:

  1. American
  2. Swiss
  3. Gouda
  4. Old Amsterdam
  5. Sharp Havarti
  6. Extra Sharp Provolone
  7. Cream Cheese
  8. Parmigiano Reggiano
  9. Grated Parmesan
  10. Ricotta
  11. Italian 4-cheese blend
  12. Manchego
  13. Ricotta Salata
  14. Herbed Goat Cheese
  15. Goat Cheese crumbles

I am probably missing something in there…so now I’m thinking of what to make. Cheese straws, mac and cheese, fondue, cheese crisps, nachos, grilled cheese all come to mind….what are some of your favorite cheese recipes?

FOS – When Onions Become the Foundation of a Healthy Relationship

When I was in high school, I loved comedian Paul Reiser’s book, Couplehood. There was a chapter in the book that discussed going out for coffee. It was a pretty elaborate chapter and I wish I still had my copy of the book to accurately quote what he was talking about, which was essentially there isn’t anything beyond coffee that people could meet up for without it sounding odd or complicated. By going out for coffee, the name coincides with the event, you know what you will do when you get there. I want to show Mr. Reiser how this has evolved and you can in fact get together for more than a coffee date and less than a full meal – the answer lies in soup. French Onion Soup, specifically. Or, how I like to refer to it and hope it takes over the world, FOS.

This very food has formed the foundation of one of my friendships, the man whom I also commissioned for the graphics of this blog and one of my Starbucks partners, Mr. Eric Shine. We didn’t hit it off when we initially met and he was just a customer in my store, it was upon interviewing him and offering him a job that everything fell into place. Now Eric and I are in very different places in our lives, not just because of our 14+ year age difference. I am practically mid-career and focused on settling down and finding someone to share my life with. Eric’s life, in a way, is just beginning – he’s finishing up high school and starting college in the fall. Over time, we discovered we had quite a bit in common, such as our sharp wits, love of technology, entrepreneurial spirits, and a love of food. All of these commonalities were slowly discovered bowl after bowl of French Onion Soup…and we didn’t have to be hanging out to bond over the soup. It got to the point that we would just inform each other when one party was eating said soup somewhere, and the rest of the conversations follow. As Eric would say, when we met, onions cried…

Eric has an un-quenching thirst for the combination of savory broth, sweet caramelized onions, French bread, and gooey melted cheese. It is just one of those dishes that he endlessly craves. Up until about three months ago I had never even attempted to make it at home, it had never crossed my mind, but over time and knowing Eric, I was up to the culinary challenge.

Since my first attempt, I feel I have perfected my recipe, though I will continue to meet for FOS.

It all starts with an onion

Slice about 5 - 6 large onions to begin...

Melt about a stick of butter in a large stock pot, preferably one with a heavy bottom. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

After about half an hour of stirring around the onions, they will start to brown and caramelize. Once they are brown, soft, and syrupy, you can add your seasonings.

For seasonings, I went with thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and some parsley

Add about two quarts of beef stock, and allow to simmer for an least an hour. Soup can be served immediately, or cooled to be reheated and served later.

When you're ready to serve...in oven-safe soup bowls, ladle in some hot soup.

Add your French bread...I had rubbed a bit of garlic on the bread and toasted it first.

Add your cheese. Gruyere, Gouda, and Swiss all work well. Here I have Gouda. Place the bowl under your broiler. I have mine on a sheet pan to make it easier to place in and take out of the oven.

In 3 - 5 minutes, you have your own French bistro fare, worthy of the finest of friendships.