Monthly Archives: June 2012

Preview of Cook Out NYC with Kimchi-Making Demo by Mama O’s Premium Kimchee

Have you been out to Governors Island yet this year?  If not, here’s another terrific reason to plan a day out of the city (sort of) to check out this bucolic spot just a short ferry ride away from Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Cook Out NYC will be taking place July 7-8 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  This event will feature delicious dishes prepared by fantastic local chefs, refreshing brews by Sixpoint Brewery, and for all you kimchi lovers, a Spicy Kimchi Eating Contest to be held on Saturday.  I’m pleased to be able to offer you a $5.00 discount on tickets to this event, courtesy the sponsors.  Enter the code “BlogOutNYC” at check-out.

Kheedim Oh of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee

As part of the press launch for this event, several fellow bloggers, local media folks, and I gathered at Jimmy’s No. 43 last night for a kimchi making demonstration by Kheedim Oh, the founder of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee. Both Jimmy and Kheedim met when they each had stands at the New Amsterdam Market.  Kheedim started off by explaining the origins of his four-year-old company.  After relocating from Maryland, he missed his mother’s kimchi and hadn’t been able to find any store-bought version that stacked up to her homemade one.  After convincing her to teach him how to make it, he would travel to and from New York with coolers full of it.

Ingredients for Kimchi

Not able to eat all of it himself, he offered it to friends who told him that he should be selling it.  A butcher in his Lower East Side neighborhood fell in love with it and started to carry it.  Things grew from there, and now his product can be found in many Whole Foods stores in the region as well as at Murray’s Cheese Shop and other specialty food retailers.  He said he goes through about 500 pounds of cabbage a week making kimchi.  He treated us to a brief explanation of how it all comes together:

Explaining how to prep the cabbage for brining – slice it lengthwise

After 24 hours – unbrined (left) vs. brined (right) cabbage

Making the spicy paste – pounding garlic by hand (he did most of this by machine)

Making the spicy paste – slicing ginger

Making the spicy paste – pulverizing ginger

Making the spicy paste – juicing a few limes (with help from the audience)

Making the spicy paste – adding dried red pepper

Making the spicy paste – adding more dried red pepper

Making the spicy paste – oh, let’s just add a little bit more dried red pepper

Spicy Red Pepper Paste

Cutting up the brined cabbage (cut out the core at the bottom and discard it)

Slice a few scallions

Chop up a pile of cilantro

Give it all a good toss together

Guests were able to pack it up to take home with them

My own personal jar of kimchi, ready to go home

Thanks so much to Kheedim for his highly-entertaining demonstration of how to make kimchi.  I’m not sure I’m going to try doing this in my own kitchen, but I’m looking forward to tasting the results of last night’s event when they are ready.  Remember, Cook Out NYC will be taking place July 7-8 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  There’s a $5.00 discount on tickets to this event when you enter the code “BlogOutNYC” at check-out.  I’ll be there as well, covering this event for my website courtesy of Food Karma Projects.

Buon appetito!

What I learned in the Culinary Techniques Course at the International Culinary Center

About a month ago, I mentioned that I had started the Culinary Techniques course at the International Culinary Center.  This past Friday, our band of about 20 hearty souls finished up this intensive program to develop our cooking talents.  With apologies to my classmate who said that “someone needs to write an article about what it is really like to be in culinary school,” I’m not sure that I’m putting together a post that is quite what he had in mind.  I can only relay here some of my impressions as well as a few of the many things that stood out for me in taking this course.

Lobster a l’Americaine

Sometimes you just need to add that extra bit of lemon (or some kind of acid) and a pinch of salt to make a dish really come together and sing.

Almost everyone who has taken a hands-on cooking course will have a negative epiphany about how much salt they’ve just used to prepare the dishes for the class.  We all did as well, even though most of us knew it was coming.  Still, many of the more successful plates that I put before the chefs for evaluation had an extra squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt added to them at the last minute just before presentation, as well as a bunch of salt added along the way, like this Lobster a l’Americaine that I made on the last day.  Upon tasting it, the chef’s eyes opened wide, and he said, “That’s really quite good.”  Whew!  He’d been one of the more challenging instructors to please with my efforts, I thought, so I was happy to go out with flying colors on the sauce front.

Filet of Sole Bonne Femme

As a corollary to the above: Season, Rectify, and Correct.  

These instructions were given to us as to how to build layers of flavor into our dishes by one of the guest chefs who taught us on a few days.  He also taught us that if we don’t know what to do with a sauce, we should add some Butter.  If we don’t know what to do with it then, we should add some more Butter.  Needless to say, we went through a lot of butter in this course, including for the dish in the photo above, which he dubbed “Toe-curlingly delicious.” (He actually wanted me to use that phrase in a post on this site.)  It really was that amazing, maybe due in part to all that Butter, and a pinch or two of salt added at the end.

Rendered Duck Fat

It’s amazing how passionate people are about types of fat (and what you post on Facebook).

I let my cooking partners take home most of the daily leftovers from our culinary exploits except the Duck Fat that was rendered by compiling all the trimmings from our efforts at making Duck a l’Orange.  This container is now sitting in my freezer waiting for the weather to get cool enough for the duck confit or duck rillettes project my friends and I have been discussing for a while.  It also generated quite a lot of response when I posted this same photo on my Facebook page; the majority of folks said I should use it for roasting potatoes.

We used at least all of these potatoes in one class

I also realized that being the oldest child in a traditionally-structured, Irish-Catholic family has its comparative advantages.

As the eldest daughter in a large family, I was co-opted into the kitchen at a young age to do things like, oh, peeling potatoes, speaking of those.  So when I walked into class on Potato Day and my cooking partner, elbow-deep in brown peels with a bowl of naked spuds sitting in front of her, said to me, “Chef told us to get started, as we need to peel at least 13 potatoes, including 2-3 for him to use,” all I could think was, “that sounds like Christmas dinner at our house,” and I delved into the fray.  We were done in no time.  I could look around and see folks who were struggling with their peelers, hacking away at this poor innocent vegetable.  In one case, I actually felt pain on the part of the potato, it was being butchered so mercilessly.

Burn from oven

Even the most accomplished, most talented of cooks/chefs can have a bad day.

We all have them from time to time, those days where nothing seems to go right.  Rolled omelettes fail to flip out of the pan correctly (seriously, I really can make those at home), things stick to the bottom of the pots, and dough just doesn’t cooperate.  At times I felt like I wasn’t really keeping up with the rest of the group, but then, as the course progressed, I realized that each team had days where they were in the lead and where they lagged and that we all had times where our dishes flopped or just didn’t turn out as we’d anticipated that they would.  Lots of people cut themselves with the knives, as I did on the first day, and several of us managed to burn ourselves on the blazing ovens, as I did, too.

Crème Caramel

It is really, really cool when you get something you’ve never made before to work on the first time.

The oven injury actually came on the same day as that of one of my personal triumphs, making Crème Caramel.  I’ve never even attempted making it before, nor any other kind of molded custard or panna cotta.  It was kind of awesome to have it turn out pretty close to perfect on the first try, from the dark, almost toffee-like liquid caramel to the silky smooth, vanilla-studded custard.  One of my classmates told me it was one of the best he’s had.  Maybe I really can do this cooking thing, I thought to myself.

Thanks so much to all of the chef instructors, my fellow classmates, and the staff of the International Culinary Center for a wonderful and educational experience.  For a photographic tour of many of the dishes we made during the Culinary Techniques course, please see the photostream below.  Note that these photos are copyright and may not be used without my express written permission.

Buon appetito!

Melt Bakery Opens Storefront on Orchard Street

Melt Bakery‘s new storefront

At a little before 12:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I showed up at 132 Orchard Street, probably just a little more excited than a kid at Christmastime, in eager anticipation of the opening of Melt Bakery‘s new storefront location.  I’ve been following these guys around (literally) since I fell in love with their ice cream sandwiches with that first bite of the Jack (pumpkin ice cream nestled between two crisp, spiced molasses cookies) at the initial Grub Street-Hester Street Fair food festival in 2010.

The Lovelet (Red Velvet Meltcakes with Cream Cheese Ice Cream)

Since then, I’ve gotten to know co-founders Kareen Hamady and Julian Plyter and have watched from the sidelines, usually while nibbling on a Lovelet or a Morticia, as they have taken their business from a single cart at the Hester Street Fair to an additional spot on The Highline to participating in local food events, like the upcoming Cook Out NYC, with their fan base growing by leaps and bounds along the way.

Cart on The Highline

It’s no wonder that their followers keep coming back for more of these sweet treats.  Julian’s well-crafted, perfectly formed cookies with their mix of crumbly and chewy textures combined with cool, dreamy ice cream in bold flavors, make these the ideal snack to indulge in while shopping in the markets or taking a stroll in the sunshine.  It’s not a surprise, then, that each season their creations appear on the must-eat lists of the local magazines.

The Morticia (Crackly Chocolate Cookies with Malted Chocolate-Rum Ice Cream)

“We’re excited to be here and have opened after a two-week delay,” Julian told me, a stop-work order on the storefront next door indicating a potential explanation as to the reason for that.  As I ate my first Morticia of this ice cream season, I watched passers-by, families with strollers, hip young things, clothing hawkers, and tourists stop by the brightly-labeled ice cream cart to take a peak at their selections and to talk to them about this new neighborhood locale.  “That red velvet was f-ing fantastic!” exclaimed one customer, returning to the cart just to express his delight.

The ice cream cart outside of 132 Orchard Street

“How many calories?” another one them asked.  “More than an apple and bigger than [a fast food burger],” replied Julian.  The customer sighed, sly child-like grin on his face, and picked up his ice cream sandwich, heading on his way.  “Oh, man!  I’m going to come back,” said another, “Ice cream sandwiches.”  It’s really great to see that the Melt Bakery guys have found a home and some more ardent fans on this ever-changing stretch of the Lower East Side.

Kareem Hamady with their first customer – from the shop next door

Buon appetito!

We Have an Herbivoracious Cookbook Giveaway Winner!!!

Congratulations to Valerie Mabrey whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway!  I think that potato salad, in one version or another might have won over the other entries.  It’s one of my favorite things to bring to a picnic or cookout as well, but as I know that things with mayonnaise and other dairy sit out for hours at those events, I try to find versions of the dish that won’t become gloppy or toxic.  That’s why I really loved the recipe I made from this cookbook for Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto.  The vibrant colors are also seasonal and appealing.

Thank you, too, to the wonderful folks at the Harvard Common Press for the opportunity to have this giveaway and for the invitation to meet Michael Natkin in person when he was in New York promoting his book.

Buon appetito!

Cookbook Giveaway: “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin

This past weekend, I whipped up the Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto from Michael Natkin‘s Herbivoracious, but that is just one of the many recipes I’ve tagged to try in his book filled with colorful photos of delicious-sounding vegetarian dishes.  What I really enjoy about flipping through the pages of this volume is that he has captured a variety of cultures, cuisines, and tastes, bringing each dish to life through the beautiful pictures that he took to go along with the recipes.  He caters to the sweet toothed among us, as well, with a whole section of enticing dessert suggestions.

Thanks to the publishers at the Harvard Common Press, I have a signed copy of Herbivoracious to give to one reader.  The giveaway instructions and details are listed below.

The Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only

To Enter: Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following question: What is your favorite side dish to bring to a summertime cook-out?

You must also have a valid screen name (NOT “Anonymous”) with a corresponding email address to enter this giveaway. I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner. If you list “Anonymous” or do not have a valid email address with your comment, you will be disqualified. I do not share these addresses with anyone, and they are only for the purpose of entering this giveaway.

Deadline: Is Monday, June 18, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. EDT*, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments. (I’m going to be very strict about this and make no exceptions.)

The Outcome: Only one winner will be chosen for this cookbook giveaway. I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.

*Please note contest deadline has been change due to a glitch in the commenting system. 

Buon appetito!

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto from Michael Natkin’s “Herbivoracious”

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto

With barbecue season now in full force, I’m on the look out for some portable, flavorful dishes that I can contribute to the buffet tables at these get-togethers.  Yesterday, some friends had located a space where we could grill outdoors, not an easy thing to find in New York City, and had asked everyone to chip in with desserts and salads.  I’d earmarked this recipe for Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto from Michael Nakin‘s recently published cookbook Herbivoracious as one to try out, so this gathering seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it.


I’d first seen this book at the IACP Conference Taste of 5 Boroughs event on the publisher’s table.  After flipping through it briefly, I was taken in by all the gorgeous, colorful photos of the tasty-sounding vegetarian dishes that Natkin had created.  At Eat, Write, Retreat last month, I had a chance to hear him talk about the book and how the community of people who have followed him and his blog Herbivoracious had helped and inspired him along the way.  I also had a chance to taste some of the recipes from his book at an event held in New York by his publishers.

Michael Natkin

Filled with seasonal ingredients and bursting with lively flavors, this salad turned out to be an ideal accompaniment to the grilled meats my friends had prepared.  It’s also relatively simple and quick to prepare.  The potatoes are boiled, green beans get a quick blanch, and the components for the pesto can easily be whipped together in the food processor.  The vibrant, verdant colors pop on a picnic table laden with other salads, chips, and nibbles.


The arugula gives the pesto a peppery upfront bite.  The mint provides lift of freshness while the cheese brings it all together and adds a slightly mellow note to the mix.  My only regret was that I didn’t make an extra portion of the pesto to enjoy on other vegetables, maybe even on the shell peas that are also now in season or to spread on toasted bread or to toss with pasta.

Arugula Pesto

I think I would also have carried the cooked potatoes and green beans to the party separately from the pesto and have added that at the last minute, as the color of it started to change from being more preppy kelly green to forest hued after a while.  I think that tossing everything together in advance also took a way some of the intense, bright taste of the pesto as a contrast to the creamy potatoes and slightly crisp beans.  I opted not to add the extra black pepper and walnut pieces, as I thought that the dish worked well without them.

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto

Everyone at the party seemed to enjoy this dish.  It was devoured very quickly, making me realize that I could have probably quadrupled the recipe (I had doubled it.).  This is definitely one that I’ll be keeping on hand in my files for upcoming potlucks or even just as a light side dish for a hot summer evening.

Buon appetito!