Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Barber

One of my good friends is from Texas where Landry's Seafood was located just down the road from his childhood home. The owner, I learned also owns the Golden Nugget Casinos and has a "colorful", shall we say, cast of characters in his family history, one of which simply went by "the barber." With images in my head which I would imagine could only lend themselves to such a nickname, I began to cringe as I saw the name Dan Barber show up on Williams Sonoma's Instagram feed. This "barber", I learned to my satisfaction, is an entirely new breed of restauranteur.

As the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in New York, Dan Barber has pioneered an effort to combine agricultural ethos in the fine dining setting. Much like this blog, Barber seems to engage eating as an educational endeavor, particularly urging eaters (everyone) to view and assess the agricultural practices which allow for good eating both for the body and the environment. Sourcing ingredients from various farms in New York and New England, the "Know thy Farmer" Link on Blue Hill's website features various videos introducing individual farms to potential diners. Furthermore, following his emphasis on sustainability, Barber recently hosted a "food-waste pop up dinner" (recently featured on the Williams Sonoma website; you may access the Instagram photos here). Turning Mackerel into fish mouse and frying up spring onion end, this man surely makes me want to eat my own ethos. ;)

Thursday, March 19, 2015


On her fascinating website, 101 Cookbooks +heidi swanson often posts a "Favorites List". This unique amalgamation of items often includes books she wants or likes to read, foods she's looking forward to eating, etc. I, myself, like to make lists but they often come in the redundant form of "to dos" which, I'm happy to say, often helps me in my daily life. One list I don't make are the places I'd like to travel to. At this point in my life, I fantasize more about going to see a movie than to Venice but... with my emerging interest in all things culinary, that all may change.

While I believe in the importance of exposure to other cultures and taking in different perspectives, my budget has resigned me more to colorful books than international flights. In terms of vacations, I may be just a little too puritan to really enjoy a beach in the Caribbean when I could possibly go to the one by my house. However, when true interest calls I can often find a reason to posit my travels as a "practical" pursuit. This practicality comes from the fact that we all have to eat but in my case... I may try to do it thousands of mile from my house.

In Chicago, a restaurant called Fat Rice was featured on an episode of The Splendid Table. Within the episode, owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo spoke about the Macanese food they serve up at their restaurant. In viewing their menu, elements such as fatwater pickles and bacalhau jump off the page but unfortunately, not into my mouth. This is why I might make the trip to not only see a new city but experience and new restaurant. In the meantime, I may just need to make bacalhau in my own kitchen.

Moving on, the second restaurant I fantasize about visiting is a bit further west. Located in Los Angeles, Bar Ama features an eclectic mix of Tex-Mex fare. Items such as slow roasted beef belly and broccolini torrada (not too mention their SUPER NACHO HOUR) definitely put this place on my list.

Finally, completing my west by midwest (and back again) triumvirate is a restaurant called Qui in Austin, Texas. Completing the triumvirate not only in its location but also fusion of Asian and Latin flavors (in some cases) Qui offers items such as kanpachi lumpina tacos and kinilaw, a mix of kanpachi, hearts of palm and coconut vinegar. From the colorful photos which graced the "pages" of Williams Sonoma's Instagram account, it, it looks like a fun and delicious place to visit.

Through the various restaurants on "the list" I am once again brought back to my love of Spanish and Asian foods, both of which place a heavy emphasis on vegetables and the use of spices to season each dish. As Lynn Rosetto Kasper states in regards to each style of cooking, "there are seasonings that are used with the same kind of balance of flavors... the tart, the...sweet...", etc. For me, the lack of dairy and abundance of chilies and fish make these regional cuisines and perennial favorite and with any luck, will aid me in getting back on the (traveling) horse... or plane.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hurried Curry

A few things are on my mind this week. One is the recurring frustration with spice mixes marketed on shelves which can easily be produced at home. The featured "spice" this week which has grabbed my attention is curry. Curry, a blend of spices ubiquitous in Southeast Asian cuisine is traditionally concocted from a variety of spices native to the area. Often containing chilies, curries may also include cumin, turmeric and/or leaves from a curry tree (which, ironically, is not often used in the sauce or spice mixture), depending on the region in which it is produced. Curries from Northern Indian, for example, often differ from the curries or vindaloos of Southern India due to their use of coconut and peanut powder. The "alpha" curry, however, or prototypical recipe for the blend which had so many variations is simple, containing only four ingredients: garlic, onions, ginger and chilies (as well as a little cinnamon). To hear about this "base" curry recipe on The Splendid Table, click here (start listening about the 34 minute mark).

In the West, however, where convenience is king, curries are packaged and sold resembling little of the original recipe stated above. In fact, it was not until I viewed an episode of Chopped that I found one could create curry using simple ingredients in from the kitchen. Having seen rows and variations of curry paste on the grocery shelves or dry curries in the pantry section of Williams Sonoma, I had grown to think that curry was a spice in itself, like cinnamon or cardamom, not some exotic blend to be adjusted and adapted to one's tastes. Furthermore, in viewing the variety of curry pastes on the shelves, I noticed many contained an abundance of sodium and other synthetic ingredients, unlike its homemade counterpart. (To view the nutritional facts of a commercial curry paste, click here. If one chooses to "submit" to the homemade version of curry an abundance of health benefits await, including vitamin C from chilies and anti-inflammatory benefits from the ginger.)

So, in celebration of homemade variation, I offer you a site featuring a variety of curry dishes and in order to drain the last bits of "Winter" from out sinuses and prepare ourselves for warmer weather. Here, Jamie Oliver's site provides a variety of recipes in which one can cook and sample the different types of curries which exist throughout Southeast Asian cuisine. When looking to use your homemade curry in a simple dish, however, feel free to make The Splendid Table's recipe and combine with rice, carrots, cauliflower or meat. The options are as endless as our tastes! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Equinox Pickling

Winter, as referred to in the last post, is "turning the bend." In some ways, still referring to the last post, I'm growing sick at the sight of Winter vegetables and in other ways, it seems as though my days of fall pickling are not far behind me. When search Cathy Barrow's blog today, Mrs Wheelbarrow's Kitchen, I came across a recipe for giardiniera, a dish which I remember making not so long ago. Again, referring to the last post, Spring often gives me pause with it's major influx of new vegetables. As I imagine the "running of the brides" must have been like in Filene's Basement, I'm often compelled to use as many new vegetables as possible prepared in the most interesting ways before Spring runs out like some kind of abnormally fast clock. While I might bemoan the lack of options in Winter, at least I know what I'm working with and how I like to prepared it (soup, soup and more soup). However, once my spring fever goes down, I am brought back to basics, cooking the foods I like to prepare in the manner I like. Mainly, in Spring and Fall, the seasons of the equinox, I enjoy pickling.

In fall, pickling is often a method of preservation for one's bumper crops. Before of the era of freezing and refrigeration, pickling often served as a reservoir of food throughout the winter months. In general, I have just ordered several seed packets from Happy Cat Farm, and with 250 seeds a packet, I imagine I'll have some vegetables left over. Beyond the use of pickling for preservation however, I find it often lends a light complex taste to spring and summer veggies. Just mix and boil some white vinegar, sugar, salt and water and you have your "brew" for pickling all manner of delicious veggies. Afterwards, you can add any combination of spices you'd like such as peppercorns, cardamom or fennel seed, to name a few. For the canning process, it's always important to place your pickle jars in a water bath for a specified amount of time. For canning information, a few good tomes include, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as well as Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation.

Giardiniera, an Italian blend of pickled vegetables often features the triumvirate of peppers, cauliflower and and carrots, a combination which adds color to any dish. While I'm not huge on presentation, it's difficult to contain the dopamine in your head once you see this medley of vividness. I often eat members of the "giardiniera family" solamente but, as +Cathy Barrow implies, you can put it on something as far off as hot dogs (in terms of flavor profiling). Not only did Ms. Barrow feature giardiniera on her blog but was also featured on an episode of the The Splendid Table in which she spoke about the ins and outs of pickling spring vegetables. Apparently, Spring is on everyone's mind and if you'd like to access some helpful hints and new recipes provided by Ms. Barrow on the aforementioned show, you can click here.

Turning the Bend

They say you add a few pounds in Winter, perhaps to insulate you from the cold. I've always liked this idea. When it turned horribly cold a few weeks ago with the arctic air pushing south into the continental U.S. and with it, the mercury in the thermometer, I felt my appetite skyrocket. It's as though one's appetite might be inversely related to the temperature. For me, the Winter is a time for soups and while I began to turn sick at the sight of a root vegetable a few weeks ago, their hardy structures make for great tartines and stews. Onions, turnips, parsnips: they all lend themselves to a great caramelization with their stores of sugar. I remember hearing once that the starches in root vegetables are what lead to its higher content of sugar compared to other, more water-dense ones. Either way, they are great to convert into a hot dish on a cold day. Speaking of soups, I recently downloaded the Blackberry Farm app from the eponymous resort's website. In it, one can find various recipes related to each season of the year. Under Winter, a simple recipe for roasted parsnip soup makes my mouth water and I would urge anyone to download the app and make the soup before we are full swing into Spring.

Spring, of course, is fast approaching and with it, a slew of new ingredients to be incorporated into new and different recipes. As I am relatively new to the field of cooking, my mind is abuzz with what to make, which vegetables to use and if I am preparing them in the best way possible. Enter: Manger, Mimi Thorisson's beautiful blog on all things epicurean. Offering anecdotes on French-country living, she also supplies readers with a vast array of delicious recipes. Flipping through the recipe section today, I came across one for vignarola, a Roman dish made with spring vegetables. Fava beans, spring onions and mint are just a few of the ingredients included in this "stew" of sorts. In earlier times, according to Thorisson, such vegetables often grew in the vineyards and to which they owe their namesake. In current times (i.e. today), as we turn the bend into warmer weather, I can't wait to shed the weight of winter vegetables and move towards the (quite literally) lighter vegetables produced in spring. I've loved you, root vegetables, but it's time for the cellar.

P.S. When posting the page to Google+, I noticed a recipe featured under +Williams-Sonoma  "Recipe of the Day". For #MeatlessMondays, Williams Sonoma featured a recipe for Artichoke, Spring Pea and Mint Soup. Guess everyone's getting in on this action!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


As you may have seen, I have changed my blog title to, Eat Your Ethos. It had a better ring to it. The "address", however, will remain the same.

Scandinavian Dreamin'

I have been blogging a lot about Scandinavia figures in the food world. As Freud said, "there are no coincidences." As the winter has settled and sent living things back into their shells, (read: vegetables in the ground) I have turned to Scandinavian cooking and its familiarity with a cooler climate as a means to develop creativity and flavor in the season's bounty. In doing so, I have kept traveling the path to Sweden, if you will, finding more and more references to its culinary history along the way.

I began with my general interest in Marcus Samuelsson and his breathtaking smile. His first restaurant of employment in the U.S., Aquavit further provided an abundance of information of Scandinavian cooking including references to foraging mushrooms and preserving blueberries as a means of insurance against the cold weather. Finally, my meandering path brought me to an article written by Robert Simonson (I've also seen these -son names everywhere on my quest to learn more about Nordic cooking including Kim Severson who wrote the article Starve the Landfill reference in the last blog post). The article entitled Nordic Food is a Gateway for Scandinavian Spirits connects the trend of Nordic cuisine to the growing visibility of beverages once (possibly) consumed by Scandinavians alone.

Aquavit, a Scandinavian alcohol distilled from either wheat or potatoes is often flavored with herbs, most commonly, caraway, anise or dill. In short, the high proof beverage is used as a "wake-up call" to Scandinavians weary of the cold. The article, however, references a company on the other side of the pond called Bittermans which currently produces aromatic bitters in New Orleans. Run by Janet and Avery Glasser, Bittermans has sought to bring artisanal bitters to the American market through the use of organic and perhaps unconventional ingredients such as orange peel, herbs and spices. In addition to making such concoctions here at home, however, the Glassers have begun importing Scandinavian spirits such as aquavit and schnapps through their alternate venture Dala Spirits. Through Dala, and their experience in the creation of bitters, the Glassers created and marketed a schnapps in Sweden which was received quite well. Since then, they have begun selling the schnapps, entitled Baska Snaps, as well as other Nordic influenced spirits here in the US.

In general, the practice of drinking a bold liquor to warm oneself in the chilly months is intriguing. I remember viewing a photo in National Geographic of Russian man throwing back a shot of vodka and, even in my youth, I got the sense there was something to the practice. Learning that one to Dala Spirits liquors was based around the Italian digestif, fernet, I quickly ordered a bottle online. Much like tea, however, what intrigued me most was the method of creating bold flavors in a liquor through the use of herbs, spices and even fruits. Like Kim Severson article points out, there are now a multitude of ways for non-edible components of food to be included in our diets rather than the trash. A few years ago, I attempted to make limoncello by steeping lemon rinds in vodka. While my version didn't turn out so well, the lesson of using all components of food stuck with me. Today, I would love to start creating my own aquavit blends through the combination of various herbs and spices... and winter citrus which is quite literally a ray of hope in the winter months. If you wish to not go the high-proof route, Marcus Samuelsson has also included a recipe for citrus-infused vodka which you can reference here. Whatever you wish to do, skal!

Southern Hospitality

I was born in Connecticut, raised in Rhode Island and went to school in the South. Growing up in New England was not exactly a sensory experience in the real sense of the word. The trees are dark (ever) green, the ground is rocky and the sky is gray. It's easy to see why the Puritans settled in an area which environmentally reflected the severity of their own daily lives. This is perhaps why I settled in the South.

On our first visit to Washington D.C. we sat at a white, linen table and discussed how our food had bit of a kick to it. "They make things spicier in the South," my mom said. Just like the doctor explains to Tom Cruise at the end of Vanilla Sky that his life was directed by a handful of images which impacted his subconscious, this small experience began my love affair with the South.

When I got to college, (I chose the South, obvi.) I roomed with two girls who were from the "country chambers" of Virginia. Going to a large, state school, many students hailed from the staid suburbs outside D.C. My roommates, however, came from Roanoke, a small city in the southwest of the state. Coming from the region, they spoke with a more relaxed cadence and cooked using anything (natural) they found in the fridge. "Kitchen sink cooking" I called it after my roommate pulled out a chicken carcass from the fridge after a large dinner with our respective families. "We can make soup," she claimed. Growing up in New England and being perplexed by the jars of Campbell's Soup which read Cream of Broccoli ("how did they extract cream from broccoli?" I'd ask) I knew nothing about the fundamentals of making soup from scratch.

These days, things have changed, I now know the basics of broth making (although I rely pretty heavily on bullion) since I've begun educating myself on the fundamentals of cooking. As I've done so, I've found the basic tenants of my grandmother's cooking increasingly helpful compared to those of my mother's generation. Enter and article by Kim Severson entitled Starve a Landfill.

In Severson's article written for the New York Times, the author details the rise of a generation increasingly concerned with the preservation and use of whole foods and a league of top chefs who are following suit. As an example, Severson notes the practice of "red flagging" cans in Seattle with decaying organic material which could otherwise be put towards compost. This trend, Severson claims, arises from a recent paradigm shift in which the waste of food is "unfashionable". Call it budgeting, call it a concern for the environment or our own health (which can be traced back to budget if we consider health and the possible avoidance of pesky medical bills) but "kids today" are cooking more like their grandparents, Severson notes, than their parents.

In a few posts back, I reference Avec Eric, particularly the show which featured Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, spoke about how his grandmother was the type to, "[do] roasted chicken [one day], the next day... do chicken soup and the third day... do chicken dumplings." Hearing this quote brought me back to those salad days of college when my roommates would make their "kitchen sink soup". As I have grown older, gained a budget and learned more about cooking, I have adapted my own version of sink... Or, let's say, "Southern Sink Soup." Know your roots, ya'll.

On a recent episode of The Splendid Table, host Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviewed two women who spoke about bone broth. Recounting her past, one woman spoke of how she suffered many ailments as a child yet only found healthy eating as an adult as a means to remedy the situation. One factor in her healthy regimen was bone broth, which both women used. Throughout the week, both women collected food scraps, a natural byproduct of their cooking. Some scraps included the natural paper surrounding onions or garlic cloves, pits of fruits or the bones from meat. Thrown into the pot at the end of the week, covered with water and barely simmered for twenty-four hours produced their mystical broth which struck me as an ingenious idea. For weeks, to the possible aggravation of my roommates, I collected food scraps in a plastic bag to eventually give to my neighbor who had a large and consistently used compost bin. Now, I collect like items in a sealed, plastic container (I need to make a date to buy glass Tupperware!) and use them at the end of the week to make a starter broth for sink soup.

Since I don't eat a lot of meat, my small amount of scraps are mostly composed of vegetable trimmings but, unlike buying specific ingredients for vegetable stock at the store, I'm able to save time and good buy simply using what I have in my pantry. This points to another issue brought up in Kim Severson's article, Starve the Landfill. In Seattle, there is a pastry chef by the name of Brandi Henderson. At the Pantry, a "collective kitchen" where cooking classes and culinary events are hosted, Henderson makes it a point to teach techniques in "food preservation" to those wishing to learn. Just like millennials are skipping a generation by going back to the more natural foods of their grandparents, the concept of food preservation can also extend beyond our parents freezer as we learn to be smart and creative with parts of food previously deemed as disposable. In her own words, Henderson states that, "[s]o much home cooking waste is from shopping from a recipe... Someone will use that weird curry paste once and then won't have the confidence to think: 'Hey, this curry paste is really good. I'm going to make some fried rice with it or saute some shrimp." The general transfer of ingredients between recipes is attainable with a knowledge of basic flavor profiles. Does it taste salty? You can probably substitute it for soy sauce. Is it an allium? It can likely be substituted for onions. At this point, since healthy cooking is a matter of budget, I often substitute several cloves of garlic for onion or water with soy sauce for chicken bullion. However, eating natural foods additionally provides the environmental benefit of using their remnants in soup stock. At the end of the week, I throw all my scraps in water and boil them down, giving me a new stock and a good feeling of making the world a little more sustained.

For more tips on how to reduce waste in your kitchen, you can click here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Follow Up

Today I will be purchasing the Hydra-Repair Day Cream from Grown Alchemist. At $35, who could say no?


I seem to be titling my posts after songs, so for the full experience of Beyonce's Halo, click here. The blog post is not named after the song, however, but instead, references an article on dietary fads I read awhile back. I can't quite recall the source of the article but I do remember it covered the "goods" and "bads" of different diets including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. As I was beginning to lose my taste for dairy, I was curious to read up on the pros and cons of veganism. Written for the reader yet to travel far down any one of these paths, the article essentially referenced the author's sister who claimed to feel bounding energy and "radiance" at the start of her vegan diet but then claimed about after a week, "the halo wore off" and all she wanted was a burger.

Having traveled down the vegetarian and vegan paths (mostly accidentally) quite often as a result of a mostly vegetarian family, I can say that at this point, I'm used to defaulting towards meatless options as a matter of course. I don't necessarily condone this options, we all know our bodies best but I am thankful it's not too much of a struggle to each healthy foods... boiled in chicken bullion. My beauty regimen, however, is just emerging and as I begin to embark on natural methods of cleansing, I can sometimes feel the "halo" of using oil or honey cleansers wear thing and I just want something in a tube. Enter Grown Alchemist.

Feeding my Net-A-Porter addiction this morning, I stumbled into the beauty section to find a fairly-priced, quirky-looking tube of moisturizer. Reading up on the product, I saw it acted as protection against free-radicals and immediately knew I should look up the company. Based in London, Paris and Australia, Grown Chemist employs a league of chemists who develop effective skin and hair care from organic, botanical ingredients. Noting that harsh chemicals are, "potentially carcinogenic", Grown Alchemist seeks to use only natural ingredients which will be accepted by the body and not further the aging process. Furthermore, by understanding the science behind skin and the again process, the company seems to work towards the goal of supporting key components of our skin, such as elastin and collagen type-I, through there exacting, biological based formulas. Including such botanicals as olive-leaf, sandalwood and pink grapefruit in their concoctions makes them smell good while doing it.

While I'm not so concerned with the aging process (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), I have to say I'm thoroughly impressed with their use of natural ingredients which can help fight the free-radicals we often encounter in daily life. Whether we consume alcohol (yes, please), smoke or are simply exposed to UV rays, we are at risk for the damaging effects of free-radicals. Luckily, the Grown Alchemist makes it a point to use organic ingredients which have a higher amount of antioxidants which fight such harmful elements. Additionally, the company employs sustainable growing practices towards it ingredients, lending itself to a better environment devoid of pesticides. Finally, its price point is on point. Check it out for yourself at Net-A-Porter or on it's own site.

Eva Kolenko

'Nuff said. Eva Kolenko is a beautiful photographer. You can access her work here. I came across her name when I was, where else... Williams Sonoma.