Sunday, June 2, 2013

Culinary Research

Okay, I have been extremely negligent in my blogging and in my baking for that matter. It's now June, when did this happen?! I've been busy traveling and discovering new foods and am extremely pumped to get in the kitchen and start testing recipes out. I also had the opportunity to attend a food and wine tasting where I learned from some local chefs some great recipes (and tricks of the trade). I'm equally pumped to test those out. And it's now officially summer which means all kind of fresh fruit and luscious desserts (liiiiike strawberry rhubarb pie).

Well first and foremost, I traveled across the world (literally) to Hawaii for my first tropical vacation ever! Surrounded by volcanic rock and deliciously fragrant flowers, I ate all kinds of fish and fruit. Mangos for breakfast? Right on! It was a rough life, lounging by the water all day and snacking on fruit and pina coladas all day. Some of my favorite things foods from the trip:
Such fresh mango
  • Coconut Creme Brulee- as if creme brulee could be more delicious, this had a tropical twist. It was very sweet and while I would love to recreate it, I think I'll leave the blow torch to the pros and just enjoy this as a night out dessert.
Both coconut creme brulee and macadamia nut cookies
  • Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies- I have a renewed obsession with macadamia nuts. I kept a list of foods I sampled as I traveled and there were so many recipes based on macadamia nuts. So these were really dry cookies but only in the sense that they weren't gooey out of the oven. Almost like a biscuit? Again, not like a roll biscuit. But it was great! I'm still searching for a macadamia oatmeal recipes, most of them contain chocolate chips though. Also, macadamia nut brittle. Who comes up with this stuff?! Good luck, family, you all are getting this in your stockings for Christmas. Your waistlines have been warned.
  • Fish- all the fish, so much fish. And sometimes it had macadamia nuts on it. One of the more exciting things that I actually learned to make, was fish curry. My friend's mom taught me how to make authentic fish curry (which can be substituted for chicken too) so look forward to that once I find all the ingredients (like lime leaves....).
 The second culinary adventure I found myself on was an out of the blue opportunity to attend a test drive event with seminars with top chefs and wine connoisseur. Side note, test driving a sports car was aaaawesome! Other passion: driving. Don't eat and drive though--or drink and drive, duh.

The first session was with Hedy Goldsmith, who, if all else fails, could be a comedian. She was unbelievably charismatic as she taught us how to make Basil Panna Cotta. Not only was this delicious, and a perfect summer treat, but she also taught us some tips about the ingredients. Like who would ever add basil into a dessert? Hedy. She also recommended using a wood shaver for lemon zesting. I would recommend keeping two: one for fruit, one for wood, no splinters in desserts please! And lastly, something I found rather interesting, was she suggested not using classic iodized salt in desserts. I always assumed that fancy sea salts was just that: fancy and not necessary. But it turns out it does make a difference. Oh darn, I guess I could add that to a list of things to explore at a farmer's market or spice shop. And now farmer's markets and spice shops are on my to-do list. And Hedy's book as now been added to my desired library.
Snapshots from Hedy's demonstration
 Secondly, we spoke with one of Food & Wine's best new chefs, Barry Maiden. He owns a restaurant called Hungry Mother (awesome, awesome name) and added some southern style to his dish. I'm not sure I could ever cook or prepare crawfish but he also had some fried catfish (oh look, we have a theme: see Hawaii) to make Cornmeal Catfish with Crawfish Remoulade. He went through the steps of making your own mayonnaise. Apparently one egg yolk can absorb (hold?) one CUP of oil. Whaaaat??? And this is why people avoid mayonnaise. But it's so gooood. Especially if you make it yourself.

Somewhat lastly, we went through a wine tasting, complete with salted chocolate (delicious). Now, I've been to wine tasting before but I still walk into a store completely confused about how to select wine. Or how to order in a restaurant. Now, there are a lot of factors to good wine, hardly none of which can be told from a label. So basically don't believe that a higher price means better wine. Go with what you like and know that wine from warmer climates will be sweeter and more alcoholic (wooo!) because the grapes have more time to ripen. Also, if you're bored while drinking white wine, try biting a lemon and seeing if it changes how you perceive the wine. Fun times. And fun wine connoisseur, Michael Green.

Crawfish and catfish
Now actually lastly, we spoke with Michael Psilakis. He did a Greek twist on an American staple: Gyro Spiced Sliders. But more importantly, he spoke of the important role food has played in his life. Sure he is a famous chef and has restaurants and books but he spoke of an epiphany he had. As he passed down family traditions from the kitchen to his son, he was reminded of when his dad did the same for him. We received an autographed copy of his book How To Roast a Lamb with the inscription "plant seeds".
Michael Psilakis, Gyro spiced sliders and the grab bag
So I once again recommit to cooking and baking but also encourage everyone who might find this to do the same. Food is not just about food but the experience. Maybe that's why I've come to enjoy cooking and baking, I love to share the food and bring people together. Build memories people, get off your phones while you do it too!

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