Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do you Ruhlman? 'Cause I'm Giving Some Away!

One of my very favorite food authors is Michael Ruhlman. The man is a total and complete food snob, but he owns it. You gotta respect that. (Check out his blog and you'll understand what I'm talking about ).

Ruhlman is all about not good, but exceptional food, how to make it, and how to get to the point where you can make it, which truthfully, most folks don't. He's working on another level, both on his own and with the most talented chefs this country has to offer.

The first Ruhlman book I read was The Making of a Chef. The book detailed his time spent at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) taking Skills One - the building block for the culinary program. Not only is the subject fascinating to anyone who has ever harbored a secret, or not-so-secret, desire to attend the CIA, but his writing is fluid and passionate without being slick.

I enjoyed the first book so much, that of course I snagged The Soul of a Chef as soon as it came out. Same essential idea as the first, but delving a bit further into the intricacies and hazards of the Certified Master Chef exam (yowza!), as well as an endearing (to me anyway) portrait of Michael Symon, now a well-known Iron Chef on tv, before tv became part of his routine. There's also a section on Thomas Keller, regarded by some as the best chef in America, and a co-author with Ruhlman on the French Laundry cookbook (you should visit French Laundry at Home btw, the now completed blog from the phenomenal and hysterical Carol Blymire-you won't be sorry you did).

When The Reach of a Chef was released in 2006, I'm pretty sure I purchased it the day it came out. I really love Ruhlman's writing, as it's thoughtful and in-depth, and of course relates to a subject I adore. This book is a little different. It seriously addresses the commercialization of chefs in this day and age, whether it's appropriate, and what it's done to cooking. Both Emeril and Rachael Ray are subjects, but aren't addressed in the slam sort of way typical by intense food lovers. Personally, I have always thought that folks missed out on the true appeal of these two cooks. Not the "Rachaelisms" or Bam!, but that fact that these two got people cooking and can indeed, be credited at least somewhat, for the role that food and cooking has taken in our culture. Food has always been appreciated by food snobs, but not until there is mass appeal can there be a movement. Maybe the style of these two popular "tv" chefs isn't similar to my own, but I can absolutely credit them for getting cooking out there to the public. It's one of the reasons I can do what I do.

Anyway...

Three awesome books by one very talented writer. And I'm giving them away.

These books have been loved and are from my personal collection. Two are hardcover, one paperback, all well-loved and fabulous.

Comment on this post, and let me know something you do that may be considered a little food snobby by your friends and family. Mine? I love offal. This doesn't appeal to most folks, and they tend to think I'm a little nuts. Doesn't matter to me!

Deadline in Friday at midnight (July 31). Post on my lovelies, post on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And the winner is...

SANDRA! I'm a sucker for a "really can't cook so had someone fake it for me" kind of story. Though, I must say, I liked all of your comments, even though there were just a few. I love to hear how folks come to cooking from all angles, whether it's poverty, love, or memories of mom. Kinda neat to see that it doesn't matter where you start, we've ended up with the same destination: a love for cooking.

Sandra, go ahead and drop me an email (info@kitchenstudiofrederick.com) so that we can sort out getting this fab book to you. You're going to love it!

Next up: A trilogy by Michael Ruhlman, food snob and culinary writing God, that you won't be able to put down. I'm also thinking that free cookies are definitely in someone's future in August.

And don't forget about Julie & Julia on August 7. I'm taking a group of folks to the movies to catch the premiere of this fine flick, after a scrumptious cocktail hour at TKS of course. Tomorrow we'll start looking for comments to see who will join us!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Let's Have a Giveaway, Shall We?

I am surrounded by folks who love to cook. Kids, grown-ups, and everything in between. I always love to hear what got each of them into the kitchen. Why do they cook? What is it that makes them keep coming back? And I'm talking about more than "I just loooooove food!" because we certainly are more than able to find really wonderful eats right here in our bucolic little hamlet.

So today, I thought I'd giveaway a book. In fact, this book:


Chef's Story is a great read where, you guessed it, chefs talk about what got them into the kitchen. Personally, my favorites are the essays by Jacques Torres & Lidia Bastianich.

So here's what you do: Just leave me a comment and let me know what got you cooking? Parents working? (That's mine). Love for the perfect cream puff? Desperation? A strong desire to never eat Ramen noodles again?

I'll pick my favorite and declare (drumroll please), the winner! If you're local you can swing by to grab it, if not, good old first class post will help it to arrive safely. Don't send addresses yet, I'll get in touch once the winner is chosen.

All entries must be received by Tuesday, July 21 at midnight. One teeny-tiny little note: This book is from my personal collection and has been previously loved. It's in great shape and is a great read. And hey, it's free, right? Happy commenting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Picky Eaters

So, got kids?

One of the great pleasures in my life is teaching teens and tweens their way around the kitchen. It is a total charge for me. The best part (aside from the fact that they constantly crack me up)? I loooooove when they try something new. Unusual. Out of their comfort zone. And I'm not necessarily talkin' sushi for 8 year-olds here. I'm talking about any dish they haven't tried before, be it chicken potpie, blueberry pie, or a crazy salad.

But...

Every so often, I get one. A picky eater. And sometimes, just sometimes, they are really proud of the fact that they are indeed, picky eaters.

I don't get it.

I didn't always like what my mom served for dinner. Ham & green beans. No thanks. Broccoli in any form? Double no thanks. Some of it was ooky. But I didn't really have a choice. It was what it was and that was my only option.

Nowadays, folks tend to eat out - a lot. I was thinking about it driving home today (don't ask me why). Have you noticed that children's menus include basically chicken fingers (bonus points if it's real chicken and not pressed and extruded), hamburgers, cheeseburgers, noodles, and lots and lots of fries.

Hmmmm.

How can we expect our kids to make wise decisions as they grow, if the only options we give them are chicken tenders and noodles? All. The. Time. At home or out to dinner.

What happened to eating the dinner that was made for you.

Most of the kids I know aren't going to starve anytime soon. A meal that's not a fave won't kill them. Skipping one won't either.

When I personal cheffed for a living, I often cooked for parents only. The kids would eat macaroni et al every night while mom & dad dined on whatever I had prepared.

When did things change, and why did we let them?

Just so you know, I'm not thinking of any student or child individually here, more thinking about the state of dinner as a whole.

If I remember correctly, it takes seven times to know whether or not you really like something. I don't know if I believe this, simply because I have never, not once, liked beets and I knew that one right off the bat.

But hey - I didn't like sushi the first time I had it. Or liver/pate. Or asparagus. But I like them now. Woo boy, do I like them now.

So do this for me.

Make dinner. And have your family eat it. Without options. Just dinner. And if you go out, don't let the kids order from the kid's menu. An appetizer usually costs about the same as a meal off the kid's menu, and the options are usually cooler.

It's time to take a stand and take responsibility for children's taste buds around the world. Just try it, 'k?

Just my opinion.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simple Summer Salad

Last night was one of those evenings where everything just comes together. The friends, the food, the Proseco...

I got home a little late from summer camps, but had a pork tenderloin I had thawed overnight ready to do something to (quick balsamic, rosemary, & garlic marinade, then popped it on the grill). We invited a few folks over to enjoy dinner with us and surprise of surprises, they all said yes!

I had a few more guests than I had originally planned for (which is almost never a bad thing) so I knew I had to whip something up that was fast, filling, and didn't require a trip to the store to stretch out the pork. Salad was the first thing I thought of. Here's what I used:

  • 5 ears of leftover corn-on-the-cob which I cut off and then milked the corn ears
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (smallish dice)
  • A nice handful fresh basil from the garden, washed and cut into a chiffonade (long, thin strips)
  • half a box of Ditalini (I thought it would "match" the corn)
  • a good tablespoon Dijon
  • a couple of tablespoons of Cider Vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

That's it. I combined the corn, diced tomatoes, basil, and cooked ditalini in a big bowl and stirred them all together, then I made a quick vinaigrette with the Dijon, cider vinegar and olive oil. I seasoned that with salt and pepper, then tossed the whole shootin' match together and seasoned it again. The acidity of the cider vinegar was balanced nicely with the sweetness of the corn. Ahhhhhh. Really, really good.

One quick note on vinaigrettes: A classic vinaigrette includes 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. I tend to like mine a little more tart, so I usually go 2:1, oil:vinegar. Combine the Dijon and vinegar, then drizzle in the oil while you whisk. It should keep everything together so that you don't need to re-whisk or worry about it separating. Also, I like things saucy, so I made around a 1/2-3/4 cup dressing for the salad. It was plenty, and it was delicious the next day too. When I ate it for lunch. And didn't share. Bad me. ;)