Thursday, February 27, 2014

Consider the cronut. Or not.

A classmate brought some in recently.  Tried one.  Don't understand the hype.  And that's coming from someone with a healthy appetite for both doughnuts and croissants.

Every fad has its day.  Can't see this one lasting, especially when a doughy sweet tooth like mine doesn't become an instant, willing slave to your sugary, fattening concotion.

End of review.  Really, that's it.  Sometimes a doughnut is just a doughnut. Because that's all it needs to be.

Monday, February 24, 2014

At Venice Pier

Stopping to admire the scenery halfway through my channel-to-pier walk/jog (and back) this afternoon, made necessary by the fact that we started on pasta today in culinary school and ingested large amounts of carbs.  Tasty, delicious carbs, but carbs nonetheless!

Oh, and also because I really, really needed the exercise anyway.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week - Week 7

Monday was a holiday, so on Tuesday we kicked the week off with potatoes. Potato pancakes, potato gnocci (which I didn't care for because the texture reminded me of soggy bread) and Pommes Anna (which I'd never heard of, but loved). We also got to read about How the Potato Changed the World.

Pommes Anna

Wednesday we went over legumes (beans), which I'm not wild about in general. When soaking beans, don't add salt to the water (it slows down the softening of the beans - can add salt later). Also, soak them in the fridge - if the water gets too warm the beans can start fermenting. We made hummus, which turned out pretty good.

Thursday we moved on to grains. Rice is the most consumed grain in the world. Rice can be stored indefinitely in the freezer. Always rinse white rice before cooking (except for arborio, which is used in risotto and paella). Rinsing helps keep the rice from sticking. Rinse until the water runs clear. When cooking: 1 part rice to 1-1/2 cups of liquid. 

Quinoa is like tofu - it takes on the taste of what it's cooked with.

Then there's corn, which is the most prolific crop on the planet. 

On Friday we took our ServSafe test after a very comprehensive review. I'm confident that I passed and in fact may have done pretty decently. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last night's reading assignment

Gotta love culinary school.

I added the adult beverage to the assignment.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

If you can't own it, embrace it!

Week 7 starts today and I haven't exactly been wildly successful with culinary school like I had envisioned (at least not yet), so this is how I'm choosing to deal with that situation:

H/T to Happy, Sexy, Shameless on Facebook.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Under construction: Playa Provisions

This concept sounds great and could be a boon to Playa del Rey, especially since that location is one of those places that hasn't been able to sustain a restaurant (its most recent, unsuccessful incarnations were Tower 42 and Playa Cantina).

From Eater LA:
...a four-in-one concept setup reminiscent of a town country mart. First, a more casual breakfast-through-dinner counter called King Beach, an ice cream shop named Small Batch, a back room whiskey bar operating as Grain, and a more high end, sit-down dining space, Dockside, which will boast top-notch seafood and more.
The big question is how they're going to fit all those into that space.  Last weekend I was in the area and stopped by to see how the makeover was progressing.

Back of the building.
Heading around to the front (Culver Boulevard) side.
Front build out.
The old Tower 42 sign was still up as of last weekend.
Damn graffiti.
Corner of Culver and Pacific.
Side of building facing Pacific and the beach.
Pacific Avenue side.
The part that's been worked on actually looks pretty good, but it also looks like there's still a lot to be done, so I'm not sure they're going to be opening as soon as this month. The previous target date was December.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Words of wisdom and beauty

A few things snagged off my Instagram today:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 6

I can't believe it's been six weeks already! We covered raw produce Monday and Tuesday, went on a trip to the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday, then cooked produce on Thursday and Friday.

The school is season driven where produce is concerned. The next Advanced Culinary Arts class (June to December) will use different fruits and vegetables than our class, because they will use what is in season then.

Fruits are sweet, vegetables are savory.

We had kumquats in class. If you rub the peel, it will produce an oil. Also, you eat kumquats whole, peel and all. First time I've had them and they were good.

Organic means no chemicals are used in the growing process. Some organics are shown as "almost organic" because for some small farms, the organic certification process can be prohibitively expensive. Certification is costly and involves a lot of bureaucracy. I remember being at a farmers market a few years back and one of the vendors was explaining that she grew her produce organically, but didn't have her certification because she was in college and couldn't afford to get it.

Made a ton of salads Monday and Tuesday: Baby greens, granny smith apples, dried tart cherries, endive, pears, avocado, grapefruit, fennel, blood oranges, kale, toasted almonds, beets, carrots, celery root, mint, honey, green cabbage, red onion, zucchini, arugula, pine nuts, romaine, frizee, eggs and a variety of cheeses all factored into the various dishes.

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad with Mint.

Thai Style Cabbage Salad.

We discussed various types of cooking veggies: sweating, saute, dry heat, wet heat, frying, roasting, baking, grilling, braising, steaming, poaching, can do all kinds of stuff with them.

We made a Mushroom Fricassee that I absolutely loved. We also learned that you don't wash mushrooms in water, because they'll absorb liquid. You wipe them clean with a cloth.

Green Bean Persillade.

Cauliflower Au Gratin.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Field trip: Santa Monica Farmers Market

Another week, another culinary school field trip, this time to the Santa Monica Farmers Market. We've started produce this week, and this is the big one, the Wednesday market where a lot of local chefs get their produce for the upcoming weekend.

Reisha Fryzer from FarmBox Los Angeles was our guide. She's familiar with a lot of the farmers at SMFM and introduced us to several throughout the morning and we got to hear about their farms and produce. Some of her advice to us as shoppers:

  • Not all farmers markets are created equal. A big part of a good farmers market has to do with the Market Manager. Laura Avery is the manager for SMFM and a big part of what makes it great.
  • Feel free to ask the vendors questions. How to store produce, how long it's good for, or how to pick produce if you need it for a particular day. Use their expertise.
  • You need to be really assertive with produce purveyors to get the good produce.

Burkhart Organics:

Fair Hills Farms:

aka The Funny Farm.

Eggs from happy chickens!

This guy was awesome. He gave us each a Pink Lady apple to sample and totally sold us on them. So good I went back and bought a few more.

Flora Bella:

Friends' Ranch:

Harry's Berries:

Jimenez Family Farm:

Maggie's Farm:

JJ's Lone Daughter:

The $6, non-browning avocado.

Tutti Frutti Farms:

Weiser Family Farms:

That's Grandpa Weiser on the box.

After the Farmers Market, we headed back to school and each prepared a Salad Lyonnaise with frizee Chef had purchased from Maggie's Farm. The idea of a salad with a poached egg on top was strange to me, but it was great.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What we learned in culinary school this week: Week 5

We started dairy this week. So long stocks and sauces! (For now). We also had our second field trip, this time to The Cheese Story of Beverly Hills. It was awesome. See my previous post for that one.

Milk: Raw milk is straight out of the animal, not pasteurized. Raw milk can carry the same pathogens as blood, so unhealthy animal = unhealthy milk. Pasteurization involves heating to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be in the milk. In homogenization, the milk is subject to vibration so that fat molecules in the milk mix with water molecules, so that cream, fat and water stay mixed and don't naturally separate.

Goat milk is easier for human digestion, because it's closer to human milk than cow's milk.

Fat content: Whole milk = about 4% fat; smaller label/batches can be as high as 8%. Manufacturing cream = 40% fat. Heavy whipping cream = 35-28% fat. Half & half = 18% fat.

Always use unsalted butter for cooking. You can always add salt if needed.

The high fat content in butter gives it a long shelf life. It also means butter can sit out for a couple of days, because the fat keeps it from spoiling.

Cheese is made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, yaks or water buffalo.

We made ricotta, paneer and mozzarella cheese in class:

Mozzarella in progress.

Ricotta is served!

Eggs: Chickens can lay up to three eggs per day (2-3 is the norm). The quality of the eggs is determined by the quality of the feed. The color of the shell isn't an indication of quality, but it determined by the breed of chicken.

A lot of food labeling is misleading, and "free range" is one of them. All it means is that at least once the chicken was given the opportunity to go outside.

We also did souffles this week. FYI, yelling or slamming the oven door won't make them fall, but they will fall eventually when they're done. And chocolate souffles are YUM.

Not related, but came up in class: Only test a recipe twice. If it doesn't work after that, toss it.