I went to see the Sex and the City movie last night. Samantha was eating guacamole, and I got a craving for it right on the spot. The guacamole is a perfect combination of the rich, fatty avocadoes with the bright and fresh acidity of limes, and the heat of jalapeno.
RFF will be a new category for this blog and it stands for Random Food Facts.
As a student at the Culinary Institute of America, it is only natural that I am surrounded by food facts on daily basis – some of these facts happen to be random. The latest RRF comes courtesy of my Wine Instructor – Steven Kolpan.
We were discussing the ways that wine would be clarified before bottling, and one of the methods is fining the wine where the wine maker uses a colloidal agent, in this case egg whites to attract the sediment in the wine and force it to the bottom of the tank or barrel. (Egg whites perform a similar clarifying action in making of consomme – a crystal clear flavorful broth – except in the consomme, the egg whites form a raft on the top of the stock and pull all the impurities up, trapping them in the raft)
The fining method using egg whites was common Italy, leaving Italians with a lot of egg yolks. Rather than waste the egg yolks, the Italians came up with Sabayon/Zabaglione – an Italian custard of whipped egg yolks, sugar, wine, and flavorings. The egg yolks are placed in a bowl with sugar in a double boiler and whisked to thicken. Next they are transferred to a mixer, combined with wine and flavorings and whipped on high speed until cool.
Allow me to introduce myself, although many of you know who I am. I am Olga: Anna’s editor, friend (most of the time!) and of course her twin sister. As Anna’s twin, I know pretty much everything that goes on in her life, and in that capacity I will be a contributing writer for her blog.
You must have noticed that she hasn’t posted an update in quite some time, and that’s where I step in. You’ll notice that I like adding links, pictures, etc. Enjoy the read! And thanks for stopping by.
As I mentioned earlier, Anna has been quite busy the last few weeks finishing Mediterranean cooking class and starting a new class: WINE!
School related “stuff”
* apparently reading for school can be fun: Anna said that the Exploring Wine is one of the best written books she’s ever read and full of insightful information. She even mentioned wanting to sit under a tree and read it cover to cover…fascinating!
* Last week Anna went to “The City” aka New York City for a food tour of Greenwich village with her school. This is something both her and I wanted to do last year for our birthday, but the tour was sold out: maybe next year?
* in June Anna will be going to Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this is not a pampering trip; however, hopefully they will feed Anna and the other students. The purpose of this trip is to learn how to cook health-conscious food at a resort. Anna is contemplating staying in Boston overnight and doing some site-seeing.
* Anna made a grand return to salsa dancing. Obviously the salsa scene in Upstate NY is not nearly as happening as it is in DC, Dallas, Seattle or NY, but she managed to find her way to several clubs (thanks to the GPS my parents gave her), and the most recent visit to the Mariner’s Harbor in Kingston, NY was fun! She quickly identified a qualified dancer, approached and asked him to dance. He turned out to be great and introduced her to a very young guy who has been competing in Latin dance for a year. He was super young guy, but who cares? Dancing is dancing.
* There has been some scandalous activity a few weekends ago, but I’m not allowed to disclose the details. I can say that she finally made her way to Brighton Beach, where Russian language was heard everywhere.
* Anna found my “Rocker” tshirt! and finally is sending it back! Score!
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this mini update!
I hardly ever speak Russian anymore. My native language has become a tool I use when I want to make sure that people around me don’t understand what I’m saying – private conversations, personal comments etc.
Writing/reading in Russian happens even less often. I usually practice my writing skills when I sign birthday and holiday cards for my grandparents. (Communication with my parents happens in English, written and spoken).
So, as I am sitting at work today, I am signing a birthday card for my grandma.
A student comes over (I work as a tutor in a Learning Center) and asks me a question. I answer.
He says “thank you”
I say “pozhalyista” and realize that I just automatically said “you are welcome” in Russian.
When it rains, it pours. I suppose the same could be said about the amount of dancing I fit into the weekend.
As if salsa wasn’t enough on Friday night, I attended a milonga (tango) on Saturday night.
Held at Strictly Ballroom Studio in Newburgh, New York, the dance marked my overdue return to tango. In fact, I first started taking tango lessons in Dallas, prior to discovering my obsession with salsa. Once I began salsa, there was no turning back, and I stopped taking tango lessons.
However, from time to time, I would attempt to take tango lessons, but somehow the men in the group were never quite to the level of the women, and I felt held back. So I stuck with salsa, and would go tango dancing about once a year when visiting Lera (a tango extraordinaire) in Seattle. I always found tango sensual, dramatic, and hot.
So, off to tango I went. I thought that starting with a free lesson would be a good idea. I was greeted by a husband-wife team instructors, probably in their 60s. Not sure how else to put it, but they looked like tango dancers 🙂 There was a married couple and me who wanted to take a lesson. We started by walking to the rhythm and then learned a few steps.
The dancers started arriving, and this time the age average was about 40-50s. Just like with salsa, the tango community feels like a family. The members were very happy to see each other and welcoming to the newcomers. I got to dance with quite a few elderly gentlemen, staying as far from the close embrace as possible. Fun night. I made it back to campus without being pulled over by a cop.
It’s been my mission to find a salsa place around school. Today, the mission has been officially accomplished. I went salsa dancing in Kingston, NY in Rosendale Cafe.
Driving for 45 minutes along the curvy, woodsy roads of Upstate New York to reach my destination reminded of two things – #1 people in Upstate New York do not believe in lighting the roads and #2 I would go (drive) to great lengths for salsa.
The cafe, very cute and charming, with wooden floors and original photographs on the walls, was a far departure from the salsa clubs I am used to. The inhabitants of this salsa night were not the norm either. I felt like I was crushing a middle-aged suburban community dance. I was a good 15-20 years younger than the average person, reasonably overdressed, and not accompanied by a husband or a significant other.
But what is great about a salsa community, of any kind, at any location, is that it welcomes you. It invites you in. I danced, and eventhough I have danced in the past with much better dancers, I was happy to salsa again.
On the way back to school, my GPS system has failed me for the first time, and as I was trying to make some sense out of the roads, not being able to see much further pass the car lights, I saw bright flashing lights of the police car behind me. I felt so lost, that I almost didn’t care why I was being pulled over.
I stopped, rolled down the window, and waited for the officer to approach me.
The officer :good evening. Can I see your license and registration please?
Me: good evening officer. (wondering why I never carry my car registration with me). Is something wrong?
The officer: are you feeling alright? you seem to be having a problem driving. You are driving 30mph in a 55 mph zone.
Me: yes, I am alright. Except I am lost, and can’s see very well in the dark.
The officer: I see. I just wanted to check that you weren’t too intoxicated to be driving.
Me: (thank god I didn’t have that glass of wine at salsa!). Thank you. Could you please let me know how to get back to Hyde Park?
He gave me directions and got on his way. I tried to reprogram my GPS system, and gave it a chance to redeem itself, but once again, it failed, and I had to turn around. I finally made it back on campus, safely.
We were on the second day of Spanish cuisine in class today. Rabbit is one of the national ingredients in Spanish cuisine. We are serving a rabbit stew in class. There were 13 rabbits, one for each student (isn’t it ironic that 13 is a “lucky” number).
I fabricated a rabbit today. It came packed, skinned, without a head. It was my job to remove its front legs, then its back legs. Then the rabbit rib cage was cut off, and I carefully slid the blade of my boning knife along the ledge of the tenderloin, on each side, loosening the tenderloin meat, and then finally removing the back bone.
Next, I trimmed the tenderloin and the attached flaps, seasoned the rabbit with salt, pepper, a few dabs of butter and fresh thyme. I rolled the meat and tied it with a butcher twine. The rabbit got cooked in a flavorful tomato broth with a chocolate garlic sauce. The chocolate is the indication of Columbus’ discovery of new world ingredients and bringing them back to Spain.
I fabricated the rabbit. It reminded me of the days when I was in the Meat Fabrication class when I first got to the CIA – I used to think back then that I might want to be a butcher. There’s something almost satisfying in gliding the blade of the knife, sharp, thin, and flexible, through the natural separations of the animal’s parts, and seeing the immediate result of your work. It’s methodical. It’s messy. It requires a certain disassociation.
Did you know that Spain (Ispania) translates into “the land of the rabbits”? I bet you didn’t – I didn’t either. Apparently, the land was hopping (ha ha) with rabbits, and thus the name, and the country’s traditional dishes of rabbit stews.
One of the benefits of attending the CIA are the regular extra curriculum activities on campus.
In the past, I’ve attended caviar tastings, visits to local farms and wineries, food writer panels, etc.
Yesterday, after a long day in the kitchen, dripping with sweat and feeling overly gross and exhausted, I couldn’t think of anything better than a cool shower and a wine tasting. I was in luck, the wine club was sponsoring a $2 wine tasting.
6 generous pours of wine, and I felt much better. We were comparing wines made from the same grape but produced in different regions – Europe vs. US – to see the differences a certain terrain makes on the taste of wine. My palette is not developed enough to discern the specific differences, but I could appreciate quite apparent variations in taste, flavor, color, and body.
At the end of the tasting the students were encouraged to pour any of the undrunk wine (what?!) into trash receptacles. There were quite a few wine tasting sets that weren’t used due to a lower than expected turn out. Rather than pouring out the wine, my friend and I decided to do a different sort of cleaning – we drank the wine…obviously! It’s good to be living within a 2-minute walking distance, no concern of driving.
And my favorite wine of the night was the Sauvignon Blanc from California.
Time flies. The second issue of Cuisine at home that I had great pleasure of working on is now out in print – May/June 2008. The recipes I developed for the issue include:
* Mole Rubbed Fajitas
* Roasted Salsa Verde
* Grilled Vegetables
* Mexican Corn Salad
* Cremini Pizza
* Radicchio Salad
* Rice Veracruz
And here’s the cherry on top – I just got an email from the magazine with a letter from one of the subscribers:
“This probably isn’t the place to write this, but I absolutely must comment on how fabulous the mole rubbed steak fajitas were in the June 2008 issue. We cooked them for a cinco de mayo party this weekend and the steak was devoured by all of the guests. In Tucson AZ we have access to lots of Mexican food and we cook it all the time. The mole spice mix is a great addition to our repertoire of Mexican recipes. Thanks for such a wonderful recipe!”
A few months ago I wrote about drinking on a job – when I was at Cuisine at home I was developing a recipe for a Limoncello Mint Lemonade and obviously had to taste the product (more than once) to arrive to the final recipe which is currently gracing the backcover of the March/April issue of Cuisine at home.
The drinking continued, so to speak, but this time it was in class. Assigned with a project to develop a pear recipe for the Baking Class, my partner and I decided to make a pear pizza (thin crust, apricot marmalade, arugula, pear, goat cheese and prosciutto) and a pear mojito. With some free time on our hands, we worked on the pear mojito recipe in class yesterday. Delicious.
-simple syrup infused with mint and lime juice
-squeeze of lime juice
The Baking for Culinary class is almost over, I’m taking my practical final today (Lemon Meringue Tart) and the written exam tomorrow. I have to say that I really did enjoy the slower pace of the baking class versus the culinary class. The kitchens are more spacious, the temperatures are cooler, and there’s something very therapeutic about watching the dough rise, tempering chocolate, or sifting flour.
But let’s get back to screaming and sorbeing.
Yesterday we had a tasting of our handmade ice creams and sorbets. On the tasting were:
* Ice cream: chocolate, bacon
* Sorbet: black currant, green apple, lemon grass, coconut, chocolate
While most were good on its own, I loved the combination of chocolate ice cream and black currant sorbet.