Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Secret...

To: Adam, Andrea, Chad, Jeremy, Megan, Rebekah and Tom:

The secret to Eat Life’s success is not only that we have a wonderful handful of creative writers but every person who was chosen gave an energy of trust, dedication, and decency. I want you all to know that I am better for having you in my life. Your talent and passion is infectious. Integrity and instinct is 90% of what drives my decisions, as seemingly good opportunities have been turned down, you were chosen first for your character and then for your tremendous gift of writing! It just so happens we have an artistic team whose talent and spirit match in significance. Thank you for being the heart of this growing program built on sincerity, beautiful words, and simply decent human beings!

May this New Year find you even happier and wiser than the last!


Brandon Johnson

To Meet the Team, Click Here

To Join Eat Life, Click Here

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Monday, December 15, 2008

5...4...3...2....WINE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

by Megan Moore

Whether it is Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava, sparkling wine always seems celebratory. Just in time for the New Year, wine stores all over New York are having tastings to lure customers during the busy holiday season. The good news is that there is a sparkling wine for every budget. While Champagnes are synonymous with 
luxury and decadence, there are definite values to be had.

A prime example of Champagne that almost everyone is familiar with is Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin. It is a classic champagne with small bubbles and biscuity, citrusy flavors. As an indulgence, Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin is reliably delicious. It is in the mid price range of about $40 a bottle at my favorite wine store.

If you are looking for something slightly different, Prosecco is a nice choice. Prosecco is the most well known of all the Italian sparkling wine and is slightly more affordable yet just as delicious. Less expensive does not mean lower quality in many cases and the trick is to always ask questions at your local wine store. One of my favorites of this variety is Mina, which is well balanced and slightly tart with some mineral tones. It is inexpensive enough to make into a Bellini yet is absolutely delicious on its own.

Of the three most common varieties of sparkling wine, Cava has enjoyed an enormous amount of interest in the past five years or so because of America’s current fascination with Spanish food. Cava is not the sort of thing I think of when El Bulli comes to mind, but it is the perfect wine to drink with friends while enjoying tapas. An excellent Cava to sample is Miro, which is one of the true modern sparkling wines. It is a blend of three very specific Spanish grapes: parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo. It is definitely dry, with bright flavors like lemon and green apple, and biscuity overtones. It is best served by itself, rather than as part of a cocktail.

Whatever the variety of sparkling wine, all go well with a nice toast and a happy celebration.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Fish to Die For

by Chad Fraley

We have all heard great stories about people staking their livelihoods at the poker table, but risking one’s life at dinner? What an interesting proposition... If you’re in the mood for gambling with seafood and betting your life, this is your dish. Fugu, Japanese for
puffer fish, is the most dangerous food being served today and has been for centuries. It is considered a delicacy in the two countries that allow it to be served, Japan and the United States (as of 2003).

The kidneys and the liver of this fish contain a lethal amount of poison called tetrodotoxin. This is a neurotoxin that will shut down electrical impulses of nerves if ingested, binding itself to sodium channel proteins in the nerve cell membranes. At onset, this causes headaches, nausea, exhaustion and dizziness, followed by paralysis. With paralysis comes not only the inability to move muscles, but also leads to loss of speech, and then breath. The victim will finally asphyxiate from the poison and be awake for the whole thing, enduring everything while conscious. Death typically occurred in 50-80 percent of diners within four to 24 hours of ingestion. The whole thing kind of reminds me of a bad episode from “Tales from the Crypt”. Currently, there is no known antidote for fugu poisoning. Trying to sustain the respiratory and circulatory systems are crucial for the victim to have a chance at all of survival. As of recently, however, researchers, along with farmers, have found a way to breed a non-toxic strain of fugu.

Not only is this a risky bet, it's also an expensive one. A single dish of fugu goes for around $50 (but has been found for as low as $20). If you want a complete fugu meal, it will probably be a little more, costing somewhere between $100 and $200. There are 17 restaurants in The United States that serve this dangerous feast, and 12 of them are in New York. These highly poisonous fish require a special license obtained by a chef trained to the Japanese standard of preparing and cooking fugu to certain, safe, specifications.

The most bizarre part of my research was that in some parts of Japan, a fugu victim is placed next to a coffin for three days and if the body does not start to decompose, it’s not dead. They then start a revival procedure that is not in any medical books. This happens especially in the most primitive areas of the country. There are some stories of victims showing death like signs after laying there for a few days and being completely conscious, then coming out of this coma like trance just moments before being cremated. I’m not sure if any taste is worth that gamble.

I have read and heard it’s a slight cross between flounder and the freshest of cuttlefish in flavor and texture. Rated by NY Magazine as having the best tasting fugu in New York City, is none other than Morimoto, at 88 Tenth Ave. The dangerous delicacy is served between October and March, which is prime fugu season. The Iron Chef has never had any fatalities after dining at his restaurant, undefeated, if you will (knock on wood). The fish are cleaned and dressed in Japan, flash frozen and flown over here, where they are safer by the time they get to your plate. The innards are disposed of in a hazardous waste container like syringes in a hospital.

I think I’ll keep my gambling to cards and leave the fish to those who dare to digest it. If you ever decide to try it, make sure you do a little research on it first, and eat at a reputable restaurant like Morimoto. Good luck and safe eating.

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Chef Wannabe

Dear Foodie:

I have been trying to recreate things I’ve seen on T.V. and magazines.  I am getting better, but just haven’t gotten where I want to be with cooking.  Do you have any tips or can you tell me what inspires a Chef to do what they do with food?  

Earnestly Trying,

Chef Wannabe  

Dear C.W.B.

Cooking is like everything else in life, it takes practice to get better.  Finding your way in the kitchen can be a fulfilling experience or on an off night, it too can be a bad day at the office.  These days happen to everyone, even Chefs, don’t get discouraged.  The passion about the food you’re cooking is a key ingredient to being a chef or a great cook as well.  Preparations such as mice en place, the right equipment, and the right attitude make all the difference in preparing a great meal.  A lot of getting better at anything is trial and error; my philosophy is “If it turns out great, do it again, if it doesn’t, don’t”.  Start out doing things you know you can do easily, such as easier recipes or a smaller amount of food, but bring them up to another level.  You can surprise yourself sometimes.  Just remember, bettering yourself, whether it is with cooking, golfing, playing a musical instrument  or any skill is a time consuming project so have fun with it, and remember, “If your aprons not dirty, you’re not cooking”.

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Payard Presents Buche de Noel

by Rebekah Peppler

As Christmas lights blaze and chestnuts roast, what’s left to complete this holiday season? Three words: Bûche de Noël.  

The traditional French yule log, composed of richly filled and rolled sponge cake, can be arduous to make. This year splurge on one of four upscale flavors from Payard Patisserie & Bistro.
I was honored to taste the staggeringly delicious Louvre, with its Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse and Hazelnut Dacquoise. I can’t imagine its siblings: the hazelnut-laden Piémont, mascarpone and strawberry-filled Montmartre or the chestnut-infused Bagatelle tasting any less decadent. Prices start at $26, available starting December 15th.

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Feast of the Seven Fish

by Andrea Scalici

In the Italian culture, there are a lot of traditions. Some make sense, some don’t, some can be explained, some can’t. We are so rooted in custom, often based around the Catholic religion, that most of the time the reasoning doesn’t even matter. One such tradition is the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, or La Vigilia. This celebration is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. Despite the fact that fish dishes make excellent meals anyway, the symbolization comes from (most popularly believed) the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Or, in the 13-dish version, it pays homage to Jesus and his 12 apostles. In Italy, what was served during the Feast also showed the wealth of the family with the well-to-do enjoying roast capitone (eel), and the less fortunate making do with baccalà.

In my family, the tradition was set long before I came along. My father’s grandparents brought it with them from Napoli and Sicily to Staten Island, like many of their neighbors around them. My dad and his siblings always recount the stories of the good ol’ days while cooking our own annual Feast. They talk about Grandpa Angelo, the baccalà guy, soaking the big cardboard looking dry cod in the bathtub 24 hours before Christmas Eve and how Grandma Rosie hated the smell. Angelo cooked the baccalà in a thin and spicy tomato broth with onion and celery (with pepper he called red cheese). This was my dad’s favorite, as was the oily eel that he baked with garlic and breadcrumbs. Naturally, my dad’s younger sisters don’t remember this because, as he points out, “Grandpa and I were the only ones who ate it!” Angelo also prepared clams oregenata (something we always try and recreate). Grandma Rosie did her thing with squid, stuffing the bodies with breadcrumbs, egg, parsley and garlic, and sewing them shut to cook in sauce. She always kept the skin of the eel to soak and put around sprains, which was supposed to take the pain and swelling away as it shrunk and tightened while drying. Another standby dish was the baked whiting, served hot or cold with lemon and parsley and crusty Italian bread. On the Sicilian side of the family, my dad’s Grandpa Antonino and Grandma Mary made "pulpo and scungilli", cold with oil, celery, parsley and lemon. This also still makes it to our table every year. The one thing in common in all Catholic-Italian homes however was, no meat allowed before midnight on Christmas Eve, so, as my father says, “we all slept with the fishes.”

Today many of the same customs live on, especially in the Scalici household. The baccalà has always been my dad’s favorite, but I don’t think it has ever been the same since the bathtub days. While we always have some variety of the basics, a baked filet (sole, flounder), a seafood marinara medley (shrimp, lobster, scallops), pulpo and scungilli salad, and clams oregenata of course, we put our own twist on things, making new memories with each passing Christmas (a “Mob Hits” sing-along ensues in the kitchen every year). And while we always have another extravagant feast of antipasti with sopressata and parmigiano-reggiano, fist-size ravioli, and a big roast on Christmas Day, nothing tops the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Though my aunt’s annual batches of biscotti and Venetian cookies are a close second.

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Seven Fish Holiday Recipes

7. Jumbo Shrimp with Pine Nuts and Currants 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium diced onion

4 Roma Tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts

1 Tablespoon black currants, plumped in white wine

2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 cup dry white wine

½ teaspoon fennel pollen

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp

Sliced fennel

Fennel fronds for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet until hot. Sautee the sliced fennel and toss so that it cooks evenly. Cook until tender and caramelized. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and reheat the skillet. Add the onion and sautee until golden. Splash in the white wine and reduce slightly. Add the tomatoes, currants, capers, pepper flakes, and bring to a simmer.

Remove the pan from the heat and on top of the tomatoes layer first the fennel and then the shrimp.Cover the skillet and cook the shrimp for 4 minutes. Let the skillet stand off the heat and keep the cover on for 4 more minutes so the residual heat finishes the shrimp. Sprinkle with Fennel Pollen and Fronds.  

6. Garlic Shrimp

2 pounds of medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined

3 minced garlic cloves

½ cup white wine

¼ Cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and drop in the garlic. Do not let the warm garlic brown. Sautee the shrimp quickly until they just curl. Add the white wine and let reduce until the sauce thickens and just coats the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with steamed rice.

5. Sautéed Sole with Lemon

6 Sole fillets

Flour for dredging

½ a stick of butter

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tablespoons of chopped herbs

Place flour in a shallow dish and season generously with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick pan, heat the butter until the foaming ends. Add the oil. Lay the fillets in the hot skillet and cook until golden brown, turning only once so that the fish does not get damaged.  Remove the fish from the pan onto a paper towel lined plate. Add the lemon juice to the cooking fat for 4 minutes. Place the fish on a serving platter, pour the sauce over the sole and scatter with fresh herbs. Serve at once.

4. Baked Eel with Bay Leaves

1 large eel, skinned, cleaned and gutted.

Coarse Salt

Fresh Bay Leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eel into 4 inch pieces and cover the eel in coarse salt and Bay Leaves. Place the eel on a baking sheet.  Bake for 35 minutes until a skewer goes into the eel easily.  Remove the eel from the oven and wipe off the salt. Serve immediately.

3. Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare)

2 cloves of garlic

4 lemons, juiced

2 pounds assorted seafood such as shrimp, squid, mussels, baby Octopus, and clams.

¼ Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil together. Infuse for 20 minutes and strain. Season to taste.

Poach (place food in boiling water for 2 minutes then place in ice water) the seafood and discard any shellfish that doesn’t open. Drain.

Pour the lemon dressing over the seafood and stir gently. Sprinkle with parsley. Let sit for 30 minutes to let flavors mingle.

2. Sarde in Saor

1 1/14  pounds Fresh Sardines

2 cups of Flour

2 onions, cut into rings

½ Cup Olive Oil

1 glass red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons raisins

2 Tablespoons pine nuts

Clean and gut the sardines. Rinse.  Meanwhile heat half the olive oil in a medium skillet until hot. Pat the fish dry and dredge in flour.  Fry  until crispy and drain on paper towels. Wipe skillet clean and add the remaining olive oil. Sautee the onion until golden sweet and  translucent. Add the vinegar and reduce slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Add the raisins and the pine nuts. Place sardines in a shallow dish and cover with the sauce. Set aside for up to two days to absorb flavors.

1. Puree of Salt Cod

1 dried Salt Cod

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper


2 Cloves of Garlic


Wash the cod and boil for 20 minutes. Drain and look for bones and cut into pieces. Put in a food processor and while it is running, drizzle in olive oil and add the garlic. The mixture should be creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grate some nutmeg over the Baccala  


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