Friday, March 13, 2009

Tulip Petals Taste of Cucumbers

Written by Rebekah Peppler (2 Flower recipes included)
Ah… to add the taste of sweet, spice, mint, floral or citrus to a meal. To sprinkle flavor on top of a finished dish, tweaking the final result, enhancing that last dimension of texture, color and taste is divine. No, this isn’t a fanciful description of the virtues of freshly-cracked black pepper, fragrant Herbes de Provence or robust ground cumin. In fact, there’s no need to reach for the spice rack at all; simply reach for the flower pot
Edible flowers of all varieties can be found in many innovative kitchens across the country, adding a touch of elegance and a surprising balance of texture, fragrance, color and flavor to many dishes, both sweet and savory.

What’s even better is the wide variety of choices: tulip petals taste of cucumbers and fresh sweet peas, nasturtiums lend a peppery watercress flavor, and lilacs evoke pungent lemon. While carnations are surprisingly sweet, young dandelions taste of honey, and miniature pansies leave a tinge of wintergreen on your palate.

Start off simply with quick and easy way to make sugared flower petals. Brush a thin layer of egg white all over the petal and gently toss in a bowl of granulated sugar and allow petals to dry on a rack or nonstick surface for a few minutes. Voila! You have a gorgeous garnish for a dessert, the perfect accent to your champagne cocktail or a surprisingly tasty snack. If you’re looking for a way to amp up your weekend omelet, add a few petals of violet to the mix and proceed as normal. Or, simply, toss a few lilac or carnation petals into your next salad.

As fun as edible flowers are, it’s imperative that cooks either grow their own organically or choose flowers that have not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. Also, while many flowers are edible, some are toxic. Cooks should be aware of what they are putting in their dishes by doing some research. If you have any safety concerns – skip it till you can learn more – there’s always the backup spice rack.
Easy Caprese Salad with Edible flowers
Serves 4
Heirloom tomatoes 4 medium; sliced
Fresh buffalo mozzarella 1 lb; thinly sliced
Edible flowers

Balsamic Dressing
Balsamic vinegar 1 cup
Fresh rosemary sprigs 2
Butter 2 Tbsp
Black pepper
Sea salt

1. Slice the tomatoes and cheese 1/4" thick. Arrange the slices of tomato and cheese on a serving platter.

To make the rosemary balsamic reduction:
1. Place 1 cup of balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.

2. Add the rosemary and boil gently till reduced to about ¼ cup.

3. Remove from heat, add 2 Tbsp butter and mix to combine. Remove rosemary springs and drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella.

4. Garnish with edible flowers, a nice crack of black pepper and sprinkling of sea salt. Serve with extra reduction on the side.

Meyer Lemon Crème with Beurre Noisette Shortbread Crumble and Edible Flowers
serves 4
Meyer Lemon Crème
Meyer lemons juice 1/2 cup
Meyer lemon zest from 3 small meyer lemons
Tangelo zest from ½ medium tangelo
Granulated sugar ½ cup
Whole egg 1
Egg yolk 1
Butter 4 Tbsp / 2 oz / 56 g; cut into small, even pieces
Heavy whipping cream ½ cup / 4 oz / 115 g

Beurre Noisette Shortbread Crumble
Confectioner's sugar ¼ cup 
All-purpose flour ¾ cup
Unsalted butter 6 Tbsp 
Thinly sliced almonds 1/4 cup; toasted
Salt pinch

Confectioner’s sugar
Edible flowers

To make the Meyer Lemon Crème:
1. Zest the lemons and juice through a sieve. Whisk together zests, juice, sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl set over a bain marie. Stir constantly until thickened; 10-15 minutes.
Test to see if it’s finished by drawing a line with your finger across a wooden spoon; if the line stays and no liquid slips down the curd is finished.

2. Remove the bowl carefully from heat and stir in the butter till completely melted.

3. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any curdled egg yolk and zest. Chill completely.

4. When curd is completely chilled. Beat the heavy whipping cream to a soft peak and gently fold into the lemon curd. Cover and chill until ready to use.

To make the Beurre Noisette Shortbread Crumble:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat till browned but not burnt; stirring frequently. Allow to cool slightly.

3. In the meantime, finely grind the cooled, toasted almonds in a food processor.

4. Sift together the confectioner’s sugar, flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and almonds and mix just until combined.

5. Evenly spread the dough about 1/4 inch thick on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake until the top and bottom are lightly browned about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely then crumble with your fingers to the desired consistency. 

To assemble:
1. Spoon the Meyer lemon cream into a small bowl or plate, sprinkle shortbread crumble generously on top. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar and decorate with edible flowers such as such as pansies, nasturtiums and/or geraniums.

Chef’s notes:
* The Meyer lemon curd will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Once you incorporate the heavy cream serve it the same day.
* Orange zest may be substituted for the tangelo
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Little Italy starring Andrea Scalici

Fresh Linguini

Welcome to Food Films, a web series to show simple ways to make delicious meals. We take our experience at the French Culinary Institute to create dishes that can be made at home. With menus for every budget, skill level, and schedule, you’re bound to find something you enjoy! To watch this video in High Quality, play the video then click the upward arrow located at the bottom right hand corner of the video screen (under the YouTube logo), and Select "HQ" for High Quality.


1 c flour

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Pinch salt

Drizzle of oil or water if needed 

Pour flour with salt onto work surface, make well in the middle.  Add mixed egg + yolk into middle of well and work together.  Add moisture of oil or water if too dry.  Work with hands, kneading into ball for 10 minutes.

Let rest in fridge 10 minutes and roll out with pasta maker into desired shape.  

See Sage and Sausage Butter Sauce to Accompany Pasta

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“Stop! These are not AREPAS!”

Written by Diana Chiodi
My culinary guard was put to the test one day walking through a street fair somewhere downtown. I was not expecting to find anything more than the usual fried dough and chicken kabobs, until I came across a giant sign that read “Arepas”. The word transported me back to my grandmother’s kitchen where I would watch her grill the corn
patties on the stove and prepare my favorite breakfast with a side of fresh white cheese and churned butter. Could it be? In hindsight, I should have been more skeptical but my desire to believe it was possible soon extinguished the doubt.

My mouth watered as I thought of biting into one, my hands rushing for my wallet before I had even crossed the street. But much to my chagrin my hopes were vanished as soon as I saw the so-called corn cakes sizzling on the griddle. These were far from the golden brown patties that I remembered. They were ugly yellow mounds with cheese oozing out the sides. I was turned off by these cheap imitations and somewhat insulted by the gall of the vendor to consider these unrecognizable grease patties as arepas. A sense of urgency to warn all onlookers rushed through me. “Stop!” I wanted to shout, “These are not arepas!” Instead, I turned around away from the giant yellow banners and their false advertisement, lamenting my experience to no one in particular and yet determined to set the record straight one way or another.

The traditional bread of Colombia and Venezuela, the arepa (pronounced ah-reh-pah)dates back to pre-Columbian times with the Native Americans. In those days, to make arepas required a series of steps which started by removing the grains from dried corncobs and then boiling and grinding the metate until a dough was formed. The dough was then formed in round patties that were then cooked over the fire. According to historians, the name arepa is derived from the word erepa, which Spanish colonists used to describe food or bread that was cooked on the round griddles, or aripos, that the natives used to cook.

Today, the corn flour is conveniently found precooked, so making an arepa is a lot easier than back in the day. Depending on the country – Colombia or Venezuela – the arepa takes a particular shape. In Colombia, it is about 6 inches in diameter and about ¼” thick. In Venezuela, it is smaller – about half the size but three times thicker than its Colombian cousin. This version is easier to slice open and stuff with any filling of choice. Additionally, the corn mixtures can vary from yellow or white. Cooking methods also vary depending on the cook’s preference. Regardless of its size, cooking method or accoutrement, however, the arepa is a delicious alternative to bread. It can be the perfect snack or fulfilling meal, and it is well suited for anyone looking for a satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The basic recipe for an arepa is simple. The following one results in a flatter arepa, much like the Colombian version, but you can increase the ratios to yield more dough, and instead of completely flattening out the balls, you make them thicker for stuffing (keep in mind though that these will take longer to cook).

Arepa Recipe
(Serves 4)
1/3 cup precooked white cornmeal
1/3 cup warm water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter for cooking

1. Combine all ingredients and gradually knead with your hands until a soft yet firm dough forms.

2. Divide the dough into four balls. Take a ball of dough and gradually start flattening it out until it is about ¼” thick, all the while maintaining a round shape. (This takes some skill and patience since overworking the dough may cause it to crack or dry out, so an alternative would be to place the ball of dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and with a heavy pan, flatten it to the desired thickness).

3. Melt the butter in a pan set over medium heat. Place the arepas and cook for about 2 minutes on each side until they have a golden color.

Once the arepas are done, you can let your culinary imagination run wild and pair them with either a sweet or savory topping. Of course, if you prefer to skip the recipe and have it done for you, you can visit Caracas Arepa Bar ( Offering two locations, (one on the lower east side and a newer, larger one in Brooklyn), Chef Ilse and her team will delight you with the arepa combinations available from her menu. After one bite, these authentic Venezuelan arepas will turn any amateur into an arepa aficionado and teach them to distinguish the true from the fake!
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FeedBack to F.C.I from Y.O.U

Do you love your chef or your classmates? Are your books beneficial? Is there something missing from the curriculum? Tell us what you love about F.C.I and what can be improved on. This is a survey to aid in the efficiency of The French Culinary Institute. Your suggestions can be anonymous so speak your mind!

p.s. Vulgar suggestions will not be posted. 

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Changing Careers to Culinary

Written by Chad Fraley, Brandon Johnson and Andrea Scalici
FCI has proved over the last nine months to have not only a diverse curriculum (despite the “French” designation) but also a diverse group of individuals with which I have made this journey. One thinks upon enrolling in culinary school that he or she will be surrounded by prospective cooks and sous chefs to fill all of the restaurants in New York City. But the truth is, at least in my class, that those with aims toward the line are in the minority.
We knew from the first night of class with a room filled with paralegals, PR and marketing professionals, even a make-up artist that we were an assorted group. They called us “career changers” as we were venturing into a new culinary profession while working during the day. With interests in restaurant ownership, culinary websites, food writing, executive chefing, food media, and catering, we began our first day. Now with graduation in our sights, a mere week away, the inevitable question now facing all of us is “what’s next”…

For Brandon this question begins with a return to the beginning. To the first time it was asked of her after high school. From “Are we there yet?” to buying sketchpads and T-squares for Parsons’ summer program, her trips to New York always brought her back to D.C. After that first NYC affair, she would return with her fashion degree to her Logan Circle apartment, and to scheduling her next date at a restaurant she’d never been to. The life of a graduating 24-year-old lead to a budding career in marketing and lots of dinner parties with stuffed peppers, poker, and experimental spirits. Living in D.C., a short walk away from P Street’s Whole Foods, Logan Square Park and U Street, Brandon never forgot New York. New York was the place where the artist in her emerged, where the French-tipped acrylic nails and mascara came off, where she found De La Guarda, the Green Market, and glass noodles. So with five years of marketing under her belt, she took a step closer to New York by feeding her creative gene. She went to work as a creative associate for nothing more than the satisfaction of exercising her imagination on short films, videos, television hosting, and catering. It was the for fundraiser aspect of this job that Brandon would cater and host for upwards of 40 of her close friends and colleagues, where she saw generational artist of and before their time. As photographers, architects, film directors, painters and dancers savored spinach pie with swiss cheese, stuffed pasta shells, and sage and rosemary roasted chicken in eclectic settings, that she realized her calling… Fast forward 3 months and a trip to Japan later, Brandon had her foot in the door at The French Culinary Institute in SoHo with plans to turn her once brief affair with the Big Apple into a long term relationship…

In Chad’s case the primary question wasn’t “what’s next” but “what now?”. After being laid off from two jobs in Texas, he had the perfect opportunity for change. The biggest of these changes might have been moving to New York from Houston, it might have been his first real winter and the zero-degree weather, but it was also definitely the brand new culinary world that was laid out before him upon his descent into Newark Airport last June. The city was a spectacle of surprise for Chad (and still is at times). He had to learn his way around the subway stations and keep up with schedules and routes of Metro North and New Jersey Transit. He found creature comforts where he could, like the familiar commute through Hoboken to his temporary accommodations in the Garden State and experienced new emotions like walking down Broadway after class on September 11 and seeing those magnificent blue beams of light shining straight up in place of the towers. After moving to a new home, he appreciated October in Connecticut, with the most beautiful assortment of colors he had ever seen. He describes the trees in transition as like looking through one of those kaleidoscopes with shades of colors that Crayola can’t make, worth the rolls of film he went through trying to capture it. When we got hit with our first snow of the year back in December, he thought “Oh, that wasn’t too bad”. Little did he know that he wouldn’t see his yard again until the last week of February...

And myself? My culinary bug came at a very young age. Growing up in an Italian family you can’t help but spend most of your time in the kitchen, trying to fight your way to the stove to sample Nonna’s secret sauce. Cooking became part of my identity but I never thought until much later to make it my career. I thought my path would be very different, which is what led me to my Public Relations degree from Penn State. Though I value my education and my time at college very much (Go Nittany Lions!), nothing ever sparked for me in the classroom or at my internships. My spark came when I was in the kitchen on any given evening preparing an impromptu meal of Chicken Romano with sautéed spinach and roasted tomatoes for 14 people or sharing my recipe for Mascarpone Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust with my friends. My inspiration, however, came from a totally different place. Upon graduation, ready to move to the Big City, I called upon my hometown connections from Cooperstown, New York, "Home of Baseball", to help me pay the bills. At first, working at was exciting, the fast pace and big names a distraction from the fact that I wasn’t doing anything that I actually cared about. I was envious of the passion I saw around me from my co-workers for this sport and bringing it to a worldwide audience of more than 8 million people per day. They had the spark for baseball like I had the spark for cooking. A light bulb went on with the realization that I too could make this happen. The stars aligned and within two weeks I took the plunge into my new education at culinary school three nights a week so I could keep the bills paid during the day…

Ok, ok so really, we’re a mere week away from graduation. Reflecting on those months of beheading lobsters, making fresh stocks, working on this student blog, tasting cow jewels, sampling wines and cheeses, and learning the technique of cutlery, it’s time to get our Mise en Place in order to answer the question… what’s next!? After all, if we pass the final March 21st, we’ll finally be crowned with our official chef’s toque.

As a hopeless romantic with a commitment to New York, Brandon is led by love to catering and event planning. The entrepreneurial bug is also biting and encouraging her to start a food arts company, which includes catering, creative events, products, and food media. With an anxious excitement, creating a company with all the culinary bells and whistles is her next move. As she sears rosemary lamb skewers, makes seaweed salad, and creates hors d'oeuvres menus for the next event, she will progress in her new career. But not before taking a trip four hours south on I-95 to the nation’s capital, and abroad for some much needed R&R.

Chad has met a lot of interesting people and made some great friends in New York and at FCI. He wouldn’t change a thing. But he must move on as just any other traveler in time. For now, he is being called back to Texas. He has applied at a few 5-star establishments in the Austin area. With a great music scene and home to the University of Texas, it has a thriving culinary scene with a southwestern twang. His wife, Kati, along for the journey in New York, has applied for new jobs in her field of cardiac rehab at the hospitals down there as well. It will be closer to family (but not too close), and warm all year round. He hopes to keep blogging, bringing news from the South to us here at Eat Life. And while Chad signed up for the “career-changing” program, it proved to be a life-changer.

The timing being what it is now with the economy in an upheaval and the start of baseball season around the corner, my graduation from FCI probably won’t lead me imminently into my new career. But the space in my schedule that the night classes leave behind will soon be filled with – yet another – internship to usher me into the food world. With a “go big or go home” attitude, I will hopefully join the team of a New York institution like Daniel or Jean-Georges to earn my chops. After time served, I am open to anything that may happen… A full-time kitchen gig? My own business? A stint in food media? True for me, and my classmates on March 23rd, the world is my oyster.

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If We Are What We Eat, We'd be Corn

Written by Adam Wile
There are few questions we will face in life as often as the question “what’s for dinner?” While this may seem like the simplest of questions it is actually one that deserves far more time and consideration than we often give it. After all, how simple can the answer be when the local grocery store alone will provide us with nearly fifty thousand choices? Couple those fifty thousand with a myriad of fast food, delivery, dine in, take out,
and street vendor options and it is amazing we ever choose what to eat at all. Indeed as Michael Pollan writes in his enlightening book on the food we eat, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “ when you can eat just about anything nature has to offer deciding what to eat will inevitably stir anxiety.”

This is the essence of the omnivore’s dilemma. Nature has given humans the gift to eat almost anything. With increased globalization in recent decades it is now possible to get any food at any time of year. The problem now is that we are faced with so many options, we have stopped thinking not only about how what we are eating affects ourselves, but also the world we live in. Pollan, through three different meals he refers to as the Industrial, the Pastoral, and the Personal, examines where the food we are eating comes from and how it affects the world we live in.

There is a famous saying that we are what we eat. Michael Pollan would disagree. His answer would be rather that we are what we consume, and thus American’s specifically are corn and fossil fuels. In search of his model Industrial meal Pollan visits a corn farm in Iowa and a feedlot in Kansas where he learns the negative economic and environmental affects of America’s broken agricultural system, which helps neither the land, the farmer, nor the consumer. Pollan shockingly describes the amount of corn in almost everything American’s eat, and the copious use of fossil fuels in order to make this possible.

Pollan’s second meal is one he refers to as the Pastoral, however he divides this into two sections; the big organic pastoral such as Whole Foods, and the beyond organic which finds from a polyculture farm in Virginia. Pollan starts off by browsing his local Whole Foods where he reads wonderful stories about organic free-range chickens and small farm asparagus flown in from South America. What Pollan finds upon further inspection is certainly far from encouraging. What once had started as a small movement has now been taken over by the industrial to meet an increasing demand. In doing so it has become only marginally better for the consumer, the environment, and the animals themselves than its non-organic counterparts. But what about small organic? Pollan then explores Polyface Farm, where owner Joel Salatin works along side nature in a shining example of how sustainable agriculture is possible on a small scale. The animals are treated humanely and next to nothing is wasted. Chefs from the local community all rave about the product. As Pollan later himself learns while eating his Pastoral meal, the closer the farm is to your table and the more natural the farm is, the better the food is going to taste. Polyface chickens taste “chickenier” while the big organic asparagus was described as woody and lifeless.

Pollan’s final meal is what he entitles the Personal. In this meal he attempts to hunt, forage, and gather all of his own food for a meal. He forces himself to kill a wild boar and forages for local mushrooms and fruits. While the final meal is admirable, Pollan makes it very clear that it is by no means the answer to how we should be responsible eaters. As much as McDonald's was “fast food,” this meal was the epitome of “slow food,” and like the McDonald's meal, should not be eaten every day.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a must read for anyone who is interested in sustainable foods or just wants to know more about where the food we eat comes from. Unfortunately, while Pollan's argument is well informed, it lacks real solutions. Pollan ends his quest satisfied that anyone who reads his book will simply be better-informed and, when given the opportunity, would choose food from places like Polyface Farm. But the truth of the matter is Pollan’s primary readership was probably doing that already. The question Pollan leaves unanswered is what can we do to advocate sustainable farms as our food supply and how can they meet national demand? Are we doomed to eat Walmart's version of organic if we don't have access to the good stuff? If so, we may eventually have to ask the question “what’s for dinner?” under much more grave circumstances.

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Project 5: Fat

There are few seemingly innocuous words that are associated with such stigma and, well, fear. I hardly need to explain myself – and I know from experience that convincing the average American that “full-figured” women used to be considered beautiful is
a futile task. Columnist Dave Barry is quoted as saying “Cigarette sales would drop to zero overnight if the warning said CIGARETTES CONTAIN FAT”. Diet soda, margarine, diet pills, low-fat, egg whites, and skim are household terms. Having lived in a city like Los Angeles, where naked salads come alongside your eggs instead of buttery potatoes and the Lemonade Diet is advertised at Whole Foods, I’ve seen extremes. But times are changing. Pork fat’s deliciousness seems to outweigh the saturated fat – here in New York it’s practically a trend. Grub Street of even claims “Time Out’s Favorite 100 Foods of the Year Are a Celebration of Fatty Fat Fat”. Perhaps with a bit of help from Dr. Atkins and a decade of “foodies” and food TV, we have begun to embrace that part of food culture that we have shunned only in the last generation.
Olive oil was the first to be in vogue, touting itself as a cholesterol-lowering, “heart-healthy” oil. But every fat has some kind of benefit, as Houck outlines in his article: fat is a necessary nutrient, it provides a perfect cooking environment (and storing, i.e. confit), and it’s delicious. The fact that we need to consume necessary fats that our bodies do not make (essential fatty acids), and that many important vitamins, including A, D, E and K are fat-soluble (absorbed in our bodies with the help of lipids) is a clear argument for fat intake. Fat also protects vital organs and is used for the production of cell membranes and compounds that regulate many of our regular body functions such as the nervous system and blood pressure (Houck 2). When Atkins’ predecessor attempted to prove that man could healthily live on protein alone, he discovered that today’s lean meats would not suffice: he immediately fell ill. However, when fat was reintroduced into his meats, he lived sans health problems for a year under medical supervision. Not necessarily any doctor’s advice, but still an interesting morsel to consider.
So here I am, post three nutrition lessons at the FCI, seeking to find alternative uses for the delicious substances lumped together in the category: FAT. Experts are claiming that getting about 30% of our daily calories from fat is actually healthy. What makes most sense is that there are indeed “good” and “bad” fats. Many cultural diets, such as the Mediterranean diet include around that much or more yet have 20 times less heart disease and 10 times less cancer than Americans (Jibrin 1). However, a traditional Japanese diet includes only about 10% fat. The links appear to be the omega-3 and omega-6 ratio, which is favorable in both diets, and a low intake of saturated fats. As Americans, it is critical to be conscious of these things, since we are not limited in the scope of our diet.
It’s about choice. What kind, where from, how much. Still, if you’re like most of us, you’re shaking your head in doubt at this short discourse, obesity and heart disease statistics coming to mind. We’ve been well culturally conditioned. Trying different kinds of fats is worth exploring for flavor alone, but hopefully we’ll eventually accept it as a part of our diet, as opposed to just something “unhealthy” from which we instinctively abstain. “I love fat, whether it’s a slice of fois gras terrine, its layer of yellow fat melting at the edges; rich, soft marrow scooped hot from the bone; French butter from Normandy redolent of herbs, flowers and cream; hot bacon fat, spiked with vinegar, wilting a plate of pungent greens into submission…I love fat; I love the way it feels in my mouth and I love its many tastes”, says Jennifer McLagan, author of Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient. She’s also quite thin, in case you were wondering.

Fat Menu (select dishes to view recipes):
Spinach Salad with Spiced Walnut Oil Dressing 
asian pear, grapefruit, toasted walnuts, red onion
Cauliflower Soup with Basil-Pine Nut Oil
 seared bay scallops, croutons, toasted pine nuts
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce
crisp sage
Pork Belly and Cucumber Salad
sesame garlic confit
Duck Confit and Duck Fat Rice Cakes
shitake mushrooms and scallions

Maple Walnut Tart with Suet Crust
olive oil ice cream, caramel sauce

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Don't Fool Yourself, You Always Eat Fat.

Recipes by Susan Oak

WALNUT OIL: Spinach Salad with Spiced Walnut Oil Dressing, asian pear, grapefruit, toasted walnuts, red onion

Fat Fact: Walnut oil has a low smoke point and therefore should be used as a garnish or in a dressing. They are a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Walnut Oil Salad

1   cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2   Tbsp honey
3   Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Suprêmes from 2 grapefruit, and juice reserved
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup walnut oil
Salt and pepper to taste
12 oz baby spinach
½ medium red onion, peeled, sliced thinly1 Asian pear, julienned

1. Heat honey, balsamic, reserved juice, cinnamon, and cumin. Whisk in walnut oil off heat. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with spinach, onion and grapefruit suprêmes. Top with pear.

PINE NUT OIL: Cauliflower Soup with Basil-Pine Nut Oil - seared bay scallops, croutons, toasted pine nuts

Fat Fact: Cauliflower serves as a mild base that is enhanced with the addition of a flavorful oil.

Cauliflower soup

1 head cauliflower, cored and sliced evenly

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, ciseler

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup walnut oil

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chives, chopped

Pine nuts, toasted

2 slices white bread, crusts removed and cubed


1. Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add cauliflower, sweat briefly. Add nutmeg. 

2. Cover with milk, stock, and cream, simmer until tender. 

3. Puree in blender. Add pine nut oil and blend to combine. Season to taste. 

4. Sauté bread cubes in butter, season with salt. Top soup with chives, pine nuts, croutons, scallops and a swirl of basil pine nut oil.

Basil Pine Nut Oil

1 bunch basil

1 cup pine nut oil

Puree basil leaves with oil in blender. Simmer for a few minutes. Cool, and then strain with cheesecloth.

Seared Bay Scallops

24 bay scallops

2 Tbsp blended oil

1 Tbsp butter

2 1/2 Tbsps paprika

2 Tbsps salt

2 Tbsps garlic powder

1 Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

Combine dry ingredients. Season scallops with mixture. Heat saute pan. Add oil, sear scallops briefly. Add butter to pan as necessary, being careful not to let it burn.

Garnish soup with chives, pine nuts, croutons, scallops and pine nut basil oil.

MILKFAT: Butternut Squash and Ricotta Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce crisp sage

Fat Fact: This dish can be paired with a Sauvignon Blanc such as the Chalk Hill 2006 from Sonoma County, whose dry lightness would complement but not overwhelm the pasta, while the acidity would balance the butter.  Brown butter makes for a delicious, nutty sauce on it’s own that goes beautifully with pasta.

Ravioli with Brown Butter

A 2-pound butternut squash,

cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

Olive oil

1 medium onion, ciseler

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 garlic clove, ciseler

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

Pinch of nutmeg

60 wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen

Sage leaves

1 cup unsalted butter

30 fresh sage leaves

Toasted walnuts, crumbled

1. Grease baking sheet with olive oil. Roast squash, flesh side down for 30 minutes at 425°F or until tender. Cool. Scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Saute onion to golden brown in butter. Stir in garlic, cook for a minute to fragrant. Add to cooled, mashed squash. Stir in ricotta and nutmeg just to combine, season to taste.

3. Bring salted water to boil. Put 1 wonton wrapper on lightly floured surface, mound 1 tablespoon filling in center. Brush edges with water and place another wrapper on top, pressing down around filling to force out air and seal edges well. Dry slightly.

4. Brown butter to noisette. Season with salt. Add sage leaves, cook for a few seconds. Transfer to dish so as not to burn butter.

5. Gently boil ravioli to tender. Drain ravioli. Toss with browned butter and top with walnuts and sage.

DUCK FAT: Duck Confit and Duck Fat Rice Cakes shitake mushrooms and scallions

Fat Fact: Duck fat fries are becoming an increasingly common menu offering. Here, a take on the same, with duck fat rice cakes. Pair with a medium-bodied dry red with some acidity to cut the richness of the dish, such as the Ridge, Geyserville 2006 from Alexander Valley.

Duck Confit and Rice Cakes

4 duck legs confit

Duck fat reserved from confit

3 oz shitake mushroom caps, stems removed

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ lb rice cake logs

2 Tbsps sugar

3 Tbsps soy sauce

1Tbsp plum sauce

1 Tbsp grated onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

1 chili pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 bunch scallions, sliced into strips

1. Remove meat and skin from confit legs. Heat oil in a pan and cook meat over low heat so that the skin renders and crisps.

2. Slice mushroom caps into thin strips. Sauté in a little bit of duck fat with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cook rice cakes in duck fat to brown and crisp slightly.

3. Combine sugar, soy sauce, plum sauce, grated onion, and garlic. Add confit meat and skin, and heat through. Toss in mushroom caps, season and cook a few minutes longer.

4. Serve with rice cakes. Garnish with sesame seeds, chili, jalapeno, and scallions.

Duck Confit (FCI Recipe)

4 duck legs

60ml kosher salt

Pinch of pink salt/curing salt

5g minced garlic

10 black peppercorns, mignonette

1 bay leaf, crushed

1 sprig thyme, chopped

500-750ml duck fat

1/2 head garlic, crushed

1 whole clove

1. Trim duck legs. Mix all the ingredients for cure. Rub legs all over with mixture, and place in a suitable container, adding any remaining cure form the bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.

2. Remove duck legs from container and brush off marinade with a damp towel. Melt fat  and add duck legs and extra garlic and clove. Cook meat for about 2 hours, until very tender. It should not exceed 190 degrees F.

3. Remove meat when cooked. Place in clean container. Strain fat over pieces of confit, making sure they are completely covered. Cool and refrigerate.

SESAME OIL: Pork Belly and Cucumber Salad, sesame garlic confit

Fat Fact: Sesame oil is commonly used in Korean cuisine. This dish is a take on a very common Korean meal of grilled pork belly, often cooked at the table and dipped into a simple sauce of sesame oil, salt and pepper. Try it with a traditional Korean rice wine, like Baekseju.

Pork Belly with Cucumber Salad and Garlic Confit

1 lb pork belly, in ½” slices

2 lbs English cucumbers

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

2 heads garlic, peeled

2 Tbsps sesame seeds, toasted

2 bunches scallions

1 cup sesame oil

1. Slice cucumbers on mandoline lengthwise. Salt lightly with 1 tsp salt. Toss, chill at least 1 hour to very cold.

2. Cover garlic in sesame oil and simmer 20-30 minutes, until very soft. Strain garlic, reserving sesame oil.

3. Grill pork belly or saute in pan with garlic sesame oil on high heat until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

4. To serve: toss drained cucumbers in 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Top with garlic confit and sesame seeds. Place pork on bed of scallions.

SUET and OLIVE OIL: Maple Walnut Tart with Suet Crust , olive oil ice cream, caramel sauce

Fat Fact: I thought it would be interesting to use suet and olive oil in a less conventional way. Suet (beef fat from the kidneys) is relatively flavorless, but makes for a very crisp and flaky crust. Butter adds color and flavor. A Moscato d’Asti is always a nice dessert wine, as the sparkly sweetness tempers the sugar in the dessert. Marenco 2006 from Piedmont is particularly delicious.

Maple Walnut Tart

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

3/4 cup golden brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups walnut pieces

Suet Crust Dough

1. Stir syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Cool slightly.

2. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Roll out crust dough on lightly floured surface to fit 8 small tart shells. Freeze crust until firm, about 20 minutes.

3. Whisk eggs, vanilla and salt to blend. Gradually whisk maple syrup mixture into egg mixture. Place walnut pieces in each tart shell and pour filling just below top. Bake pie until filling is slightly puffed around edges and center is set, about 25 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack.

Suet Crust (McLagan)

1 Cup flour

pinch sea salt

2 T unsalted butter, diced

3/4 cup finely grated suet

1/3 cup ice water

1 T Sugar

1. Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse again just to mix the suet. Add water, stir with fork. Knead gently. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Olive Oil Ice Cream

 3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

9 oz sugar

1/2 cup cold-pressed olive oil

1. Place the milk and heavy cream into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, and remove from heat.

2. Blanchir yolks and sugar. Add the oil and whisk thoroughly. Temper the cream mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook gently until the Crème Anglaise thickens slightly and reaches 170 to 175 degrees. Strain and cool about 4 hours, or overnight.

3. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions, approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow ice cream to harden. 
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