Monday, August 23, 2010

Nori Rolls or How To Use Up All Those Julienned Vegetables


I was pretty sure that when I moved to New York, at least 10 pounds were going to melt off of me with very little effort on my part. I knew I would be walking everywhere instead of driving and I guessed that the heat and humidity would be enough to serve as my own personal sweat lodge.

This may be true for some new inhabitants of New York, but not for me. If, like me, you happen to be attending culinary school, The French Culinary Institute in particular, then the increase of butter and cream in your diet is enough to offset any good that pounding the pavement of New York might have done.


Needless to say, when I am not in school, I am doing my best to keep my meals on the lighter side. These nori rolls have become one of my go-to snacks. I eat them like hand rolls, but I have also been known, in my lazier moments, to thrown some brown rice in a bowl, top it with veggies and use a sheet of nori to scoop everything up with my hands. These are delicious and good for you either way. Also, if you happen to be in culinary school, they have the added benefit of using up all those julienned vegetables you have laying around if you have been practicing your knife skills. If you haven’t been practicing, these rolls will give you a great excuse to start.


Nori Rolls
Makes 4 rolls

2 sheets roasted nori
1 cup cooked brown rice (leftovers work great here)
1 T Japanese fish sauce (preferably Ayu for its great, mild taste)
1/2 carrot, julienned
3 green onions, julienned
1/4 avocado, sliced thinly

Toss the brown rice with the fish sauce and set aside. If you just cooked the rice, let it cool before assembling the rolls. Cut one sheet of nori in half lengthwise to make two strips. At one end of each strip of nori, pile 1/4 cup of rice, leaving the bottom corner of the nori sheet exposed so you can use it to start rolling. Place a quarter of the julienned carrots and green onions on the rice on each sheet along with one or two slices of avocado. Fold the bottom corner of the nori sheet over your pile of rice and vegetables and continue rolling the sheet into itself until you form a hand roll. Use a bit of water to moisten the end of the nori sheet to get it to stick to the roll. A bit of brown rice may fall out as you are rolling. Just tuck it back in to the roll when you are finished. I eat these plain, but you may also serve them with soy sauce or extra fish sauce for dipping.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Simple Salad for a Simple Summer Morning


It is only 73 degrees outside right now. I think that is the coolest it has been since I moved to New York. The boyfriend is in town for the weekend and I cannot wait to get outside and take advantage of the drop in temperature.

Tomorrow morning we head to Philadelphia for the day to visit the neighborhood where my boyfriend grew up, picnic in Valley Forge and if I’m lucky, eat a cheesesteak on South Street before heading back to New York.

Before I get started with all of that, I need to share this delicious summer salad with you. It is so simple. If you can use a knife to cut a tomato, you can make this salad. Because of its simplicity, it is vital that you find the juiciest, ripest, heirloom tomato you can get your hands on. I recommend hitting your local farmers market, even better if you have a plant or two going in your own backyard. If all you can get your hands on is a flavorless, bred-for-shelf-life grocery store tomato, don’t bother with this salad. Everything hinges on the flavor of the tomato.

If you haven’t had raw corn before, trust me, it is delicious. Cut straight from the cob into the salad, it tastes even juicer and sweeter than if you were to cook it for a few minutes on the stove or grill. Finish the cut vegetables with a few torn leaves of basil and a glug (technical term) or two of olive oil and you are finished. It is that simple. You do not need the recipe, but I will include one below just in case. Now get outside and enjoy the summer weather.

Simple Summer Salad

1 juicy tomato
1 ear of corn
6 – 8 leaves of basil
1 T good quality olive oil
1 t vinegar (your choice, I used balsamic)
Kosher salt to taste

Cut the tomato into thick slices and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Cut the corn from the cob and arrange around the tomato slices. Tear the basil leaves in half or quarters and add to the plate (smell your hands to enjoy the basil scent left behind). Drizzle the salad with a little olive oil and vinegar and share with someone you really like. This is summer on a plate.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A New York View


This, to me, is a quintessential New York sidewalk scene. Perhaps if I had shot it looking through the fire escape that sits outside my living room window, it would be even more so, but then I would have interrupted the beautiful view.

My quiet (relatively), tree-lined street is why I love where I live. The trees, the front stoops, the fire escapes, they make me feel as though I am walking through a movie set as I walk though New York. It all has a tendency to feel a bit surreal. At least it did.

This is the end of my third week in New York and I noticed yesterday that, even if just ever so slightly, New York is starting to feel a little less like a movie set and a bit more like home. It happened in the simplest of ways.

I was heading out to meet a friend from out of town. I had a place to be and a set time to be there (a rare occurrence for me these days). I arrived at my subway station only to learn that the train I needed was not running this weekend. No bother. I came back up to the street, and without even a glance at my subway map, walked one crosstown block to the next line over. Then, when I reached the end of my train ride, I came back up to street level and started walking to my destination. No pause to try and sense which way was North, no reaching for the iPhone to use the direction of the one-way streets to orient myself, I just walked. I walked and I reached my destination five minutes before I was supposed to be there.

It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless and one that made me feel I may just get to know this movie set (err city) after all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rice Pudding, I’m just not that into you (usually) and why I want to be Noelle Carter


I’m not that into rice pudding. I’m really not. So, when I heard that I needed to try the rice pudding at Lazy Ox Canteen in Los Angeles, I didn’t give it a second thought. Thank goodness not everyone is as chocolate-focused as I am when it comes to dessert. On visit number three, a dining companion ordered it and I got a bite of what is now possibly my favorite dessert in any restaurant in Los Angeles. It is unlike any rice pudding I have ever had. It is light and fluffy and most importantly, lacking the gloppy quality that I associate with rice pudding It is so good that it set off a month-long craving and a newfound need to sample rice pudding wherever I went to see if I had been wrong all this time and was ignoring a dessert that I should actually love.

I was not wrong. I do not like rice pudding. I threw away the rice pudding from my otherwise favorite market on Third in Los Angeles and never took more than one bite of the stuff anywhere else. It always has that gloppy consistency and glop is not appetizing.

So, as one of my last meals in Los Angeles before moving to New York, I returned to the Lazy Ox in an effort to quell the rice pudding craving. A month of hankering had not grotesquely raised my expectations; it was even better than I remembered. I tried to sweet talk the waiter, but he wouldn’t offer forth so much as a hint. I then stooped lower. I waited for my boyfriend to leave the table, put a big smile on my face and let the waiter know I was moving to New York and wouldn’t be able to return to eat rice pudding for a year (poor me). Still no movement. I pushed harder and pleaded with him, letting him know that I was moving to attend culinary school and wanted to be a food writer and I was sure there was some whipped cream folded in at the end, but what else was going on that made this rice pudding such a standalone…nothing.

Enter Twitter one month later. I was checking my feed and noticed that Krista Simmons of the L.A. Times was on her way to Lazy Ox. I immediately messaged her to let her know that she would be my hero if she could secure the rice pudding recipe for publication. She then responded with surprising news. Noelle Carter had secured the recipe and it was already published.

If you are a measly culinary student begging a waiter for even just a hint at the recipe you get nothing. If you are Noelle Carter, head of the L.A. Times test kitchen wielding the power to provide a restaurant with mass amounts of publicity through publication in the L.A. Times food section, you get a full written recipe. Have I mentioned that I want to be a food writer?

Thank goodness for Twitter and that I happened to see that Krista Simmons was heading to Lazy Ox. I had missed the Culinary S.O.S. column the week the rice pudding was included because I was coordinating my move to New York. I am certain I would have found it eventually when the craving struck and I again tried a desperate Google search for any semblance of a recipe, but now I have been saved the trouble, and you, dear reader, are about to experience dessert bliss. Seriously. Make this now. I do not care if rice pudding isn’t your thing. It wasn’t mine and I think I would be happy eating only this dessert for at least the next year or so. Make it! And thank Noelle Carter for getting us what I was unable to secure.


Lazy Ox Canteen Rice Pudding
Adapted from Chef Josef Centeno by way of the L.A. Times
I did not make the almond brittle included in the original recipe found here

Rice Pudding Base
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican (canela)
1 quart half and half, more if needed
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup condensed milk
1 t vanilla bean paste (the recipe calls for extract which is fine too)
2 cups whipped heavy cream to finish

Rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear. Bring the 2 cups of water, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Add the rice and simmer until of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the half and half and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring to keep anything from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan. Stir in 1/2 cup of cream, the brown sugar, condensed milk and vanilla. Continue to simmer 20 – 30 minutes until the mixture is very creamy and the rice has no bite. Remove from the heat and add up to another 1/2 cup of cream if the mixture is too thick. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools so you want a loose consistency. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and chill until firm (overnight in my case).

Fold the whipped cream into the rice pudding to achieve a light and fluffy consistency. Spoon into bowls or shape into quenelles (as pictured above and demonstrated here) and drizzle with caramel sauce (recipe included below).

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 orange peel
1 cup heavy cream
2 T unsalted butter

Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture caramelizes to a light golden brown. Keep a pastry brush in a glass of water nearby and occasionally brush the sides of the pan to keep sugar from crystallizing on the sides. While the caramel cooks, place the cream and orange peel in a separate saucepan. Scald the cream and set aside to steep. As soon as the sugar caramelizes, use a wooden spoon to slowly stir in the butter. Remove the orange peel from the cream and slowly add the cream to the caramel. Season the caramel with a pinch (or two or three in my case) of salt and set aside to cool slightly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Roasted Beet Timbale


Week one of culinary school is officially behind me. In only four classes we covered knife skills, taillage, tournage (turning vegetables into cocottes and other maddening seven-sided football shapes that I am pretty sure are going to give me carpal tunnel), ServSafe and all the many ways I can kill you if I don’t handle food properly, cooking a l’anglaise and a l’etuvee, ratatouille, timbales, and a vegetable dish made up almost entirely of cocottes. At least, it was supposed to be made up entirely of cocottes. I have a long way to go before those seven sides come out evenly. It was an exciting if not slightly frenetic week and though I am not yet working during the day, I was grateful for this past weekend to catch my breath, find my footing and prepare for this week’s lessons.

A roasted beet timbale was the most attractive dish we made last week. For that reason, and because of its surprisingly simple preparation, I recreated the dish at home to share with you here. Well, those reasons and I snagged the extra roasted beets from class. Aside from the precarious beet juggling it took to get them home on the subway without a bag, I was thrilled. Extra beets meant I could make this timbale for you without even turning on my oven. At the risk of beating a dead horse I must say, the idea of turning on my oven for anything is still a bit off-putting.


Once your beets are roasted (or donated by a generous culinary school instructor), this salad is just a few simple steps of chopping, mixing and stacking. It looks slightly intimidating because of its lovely composition, but trust me, this is simple stuff. I did not even look at the recipe the second time I made it.

In a few hours I am off to school for lesson five – stock night. I have made my fair share of chicken and vegetable stocks so I am hoping for a beef or veal stock assignment. Though I am not sure we will even make those in class this evening as they need to simmer for longer than the five hours we have available. Perhaps we will set them to simmer overnight and tomorrow’s day class will take it from there.


Roasted Beet Timbale
Adapted from The French Culinary Institute Level 1
Yield 4 Servings

3 large beets (approximately 1 lb), roasted
2.5 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 oz white wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon, chopped
1 granny smith apple
4 oz goat cheese
1 T chopped parsley
6 chives, cut into 1-inch segments
1 T chopped chervil
1/4 head frisee, picked, washed and dried
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the beets and cut into a small dice (to be exact, we cut them into a shape called macedoine which is a 1/2 cm x 1/2 cm cube). Place the chopped shallots in a small bowl and add the vinegar and a sprinkling of kosher salt. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil. Add the tarragon leaves and adjust the seasoning. Use a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette to dress the beets and set aside.

Peel the apple and cut into a small dice (again a macedoine if you want to be exact). Dress the apple with a bit of vinaigrette to slow oxidization and set aside.

Bring the goat cheese to room temperature. In a small bowl, work the goat cheese until it is spreadable and season with salt and pepper. Blot the beets with a paper towel to remove any excess liquid. Place a 3-inch ring mold on a plate and put the beets in the mold, pressing down slightly to create an even layer. Top with the goat cheese, smoothing the top so it is flush with the mold (my ring mold was too tall so the goat cheese was not flush with the top of the mold). Gently remove the ring mold.

In a separate bowl, mix together the herbs and frisee and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to lightly coat the leaves. Top the goat cheese with the small herb salad. Place some of the apples around the plate and spoon the vinaigrette over the plate in a decorative manner.

Note – you may have some leftover vinaigrette, salad and apple. Do not feel as though you have to fit it all on the plate. Toss them together and enjoy separately from the timbale.