Category Archives: Fool proof recipes… fool-tested… fool-approved

100 Reasons to Break a Diet

So it’s a big day…  Today is my 100th post.  Wow… I don’t know whether to be proud, embarrassed, or depressed.  I think I’m a little of all three, but I’m going to say that I’m leaning towards the proud in order to justify my most recent purchase… a new digital camera.  No, I didn’t splurge for the SLR because 1) I don’t think my little-seen photos warrant buying an SLR and 2) I literally felt sick to my stomach forking over the change for my new Canon point-and-shoot, so I probably would have triggered a full-on ulcer if I had dropped SLR change.  Oh, and on day 3 of owning my new camera, I’ve already been asked to bring it to my last event helping out Dave Arnold at Star Chefs…  Disaster waiting to happen?  Yup.  Did I remember to get insurance on this puppy?  You betcha.

So to celebrate this mini-milestone and my new camera (mostly justify the camera purchase), I decided to bake up some strawberry scones.  Actually, it all started because I was trying to be healthy and bought a quart of strawberries on the cheap.  I bit into one and it actually tasted like a strawberry, which is pretty remarkable since outside of Tristars, strawberries have been tasting a lot like… well, like nothing.  I ate half my quart and then cut up the rest and bought myself some buttermilk.  I know most scone recipes call for dried fruits, but there’s something amazing about using fresh berries in scones.  It’s a little like baking your jam right on in there, but it’s not gooey or sweet.  Dense scone gets interrupted by tart, juicy, naturally sweet strawberry goodness.

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For my 100th post and as an homage of the food tech life that I’m leaving behind, I decided to add one more element.  I love Earl Grey tea, have loved it since I was a child, and I think it’s actually a hereditary obsession that I got from my mom.  Specifically, I just love Bergamot.  Every morning before school, my mom would make me Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar, and while it was brewing, I would sit and sniff the foil envelope from the tea bag.

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And… perhaps you saw the episode of Top Chef Masters where Nils Noren used a smokey tea (Lapsang Souchong) to infuse into whipped cream, for which he was criticized with people complaining it was “too smokey.”  All I want to say is that I have had that whipped cream and I have had it infused with even more lapsang… and it’s DELICIOUS.  I’m using Earl Grey because I am mainstream, but the lapsang and the idea as a whole is Mastery.

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For the home cook, use a wine bottle that you’ve cleaned out thoroughly and a Vacu Vin stopper.  Add your (very cold) cream and loose leaf tea and vac like crazy until your arm hurts when trying to pull out anymore air.  Let it sit in the fridge while you work on the rest of your scone mise and strain when ready to use.

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I food processed my butter into my dry, added in some chopped strawberry and pulsed to coat in dry ingredients, then pulsed in my buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.  I was trying to skip a step today, but I think I will go back to combining my liquid into my dry ingredients by hand as the food processor juices the berries a bit and the batter comes out a little pink, which bakes up a little too tan.  I also have a “scone pan” that I got online for cheap years ago.  It’s actually ridiculous and useless, but I have to use it now since I bought it.

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Brush the scones with leftover buttermilk mixture and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.  Bake it up and make sure to eat one straight out of the oven… then eat one when it’s cooled slightly… then eat one toasted after it’s cooled… each one tastes different, I swear!!!

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So what have I learned after posting 100 times?  How to use WordPress… somewhat.  That and losing weight is a losing battle.  At least I’m losing something, right?

Thank you for reading and laughing with or at me.  Either way, I don’t really care as long as you’re laughing.  But if you’re laughing at me and I find out about it, I’m going find you then slap you with a rope of cheese.  Just a warning.

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Strawberry & Earl Grey Scones

2.5 cups AP Flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt (I like to use a healthy pinch on scones – a little salt is kind of nice here)
6 tablespoons butter (ice cold and cubed)
1 pint diced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (make sure they’re cooled)
1/2 cup buttermilk (add a little extra to compensate for loss from pouring out of the bottle)
2 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey (feel free to use even more)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Demerara sugar

  1. Mix loose leaf tea into cold buttermilk, pour into clean wine bottle, and vacuum down with Vacu Vin as much as possible.  Keep in fridge – can be done the day before.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toast & cool the walnuts.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine.   If making by hand, just stir to combine.
  4. Pulse in the cubed butter to create pea-sized little lumps or cut with a pastry cutter until pea lumps are achieved.
  5. Add in the strawberries and walnuts and pulse quickly just to coat in dry ingredients.
  6. Strain buttermilk and measure out ½ cup.  Gently beat one egg to combine and mix in buttermilk and vanilla to incorporate.
  7. Mix all ingredients by hand (literally use your CLEAN hand) quickly – DON’T OVERWORK THE FLOUR!  When just combined, dump out onto a flour work surface and gently fold a few times with another ½ cup of flour or so until you can form the dough together into a disk.
  8. Cut disk into 8 pie pieces, brush with leftover buttermilk, and sprinkle with Demerara.
  9. Bake until golden and crisp on the outside, but not overly dried out in the center – anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes depending on your oven.  Rotate half way through.

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What’s wrong with a gin sour with muddled rum-soaked cherries?

Answer: Nothing.  It’s called a Zelda and it’s going to single-handedly send me back to my gastroenterologist so he can disapprovingly shake his head while scribbling in my file that he thinks I’m an alcoholic.

Last night, I invited my friend, Angie, to join me for a drink at Pegu Club.  After she got through the 30 minutes of laughter at the name (which apparently sounds like the Chinese word for “butt”), she trekked down to W. Houston to be my bar buddy.  Right now, Pegu is working its way into my heart as my go-to bar.  If you treat imbibing with the same scrutiny that you treat eating, then save your drinking dollars for places where it’s worth it.  Pegu makes enjoying your cocktail the forefront of your evening instead of relegating it to just an accompaniment to dining.

What’s funny is that this is my second trip to Pegu in a week.  Stop shaking your heads and judging, I had to go for work!!!  Sure, maybe once that work was finished (quickly since it was just a delivery), I could have left without sampling a cocktail (or 4), but I’m weak.  What else is new.  So after my delivery yesterday, I sat down at the bar and said hello to Scott, inventor of the Zelda, which basically makes him the mastermind behind my downfall.  A Zelda is a muddled cherries take on a Fitzgerald, which is basically a gin sour with bitters.  It’s tart, not too sweet, has that aftertaste of bitters that lingers on the back of your tongue, and comes with the fun of watching the millisecond ignition of a round of lemon zest’s aromatic oils.  And topped with a skewer of more of those rum-soaked cherries…  trouble.

As I waited for Angie, I placed my Zelda order, leading her to be able to use the classic, “I’ll have what she’s having” when asked her drink order.  Like me, Angie fell in love with Zelda, which is where the trouble began.  As we caught up and discussed the meaning of life (as everyone should do when a good cocktail is inspiring you and loosening your reserve), our laughter decibel crept upwards.  Eventually, poor Scott had to call in the reserves and Del was forced to tag team in and cover our next drink order.  This time, I went with the Little Italy, one of the smoothest Manhattans that I’ve ever had that’s topped with, of course, those damn rum-soaked cherries.

Our Little Italy round encouraged us to start making friends with any unfortunate soul who happened to be sitting or trying to work within a 10 ft radius around us.  I tried to help the couple to my left make a love connection on what looked like a first date while Angie chatted about Dante and Italy with Del before finding out that her neighbor on the right went to school with her friend’s good friend…  My efforts to set up the couple succeeded in the sense that they seemed to bond over their common desire for me to leave them alone.  At least it was more successful than my sober attempts to set people up.  And then of course we missed Zelda so much that even though we shouldn’t have had a third round, two Zeldas found their way to our Pegu-crested napkins, which almost made us miss our reservation at Salumeria Rosi — more on that little piece of amazingness next week.

With Zelda-courage pumping through my veins, I was able to procure a few pictures, which are a Pegu Club no-no.  And I was about to post them until I wrote that last line…  Now, out of respect for Pegu and its rules (and a desire to return and see my good friend Zelda again), I’ve decided not to post them.  Sorry to disappoint, but if you’re curious, you should just go checkout the real thing.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to call in, wait in a phone booth, or find a hidden door.  Head over early and stay the evening: Pegu Club, 77 W. Houston St.

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Produce Shopaholic

Yes, it’s a term.  If it wasn’t a term before, it is now.  Produce Shopaholics know who they are.  It’s a sunny/rainy weekday/weekend and you just happen to be passing by the farmer’s market or a Citarella when all of a sudden, you pull a produce rubberneck.  Through the sweating window on a humid day, you see cool, crisp produce calling to you.  Or if you’re outside and rushing by the farmer’s market, perhaps the scent of a tristar strawberry or a Jersey white peach gently tickles your nose.  Whatever it is, a scent, a sight, a 6th-produce-sense, you have to stop.  You need to go where the produce is – its siren call won’t let you venture any further or continue on your way.  You’re a Produce Shopaholic.

The problem with produce addiction (a subset of just a food addiction) is that you tend to shop with your eyes and food imagination.  You start to see every piece of produce as a potential dish: “maybe tonight I’ll finally make collard greens” or “these peaches would make amazing peach preserves!”  You start to buy berries by pint and plums by the pound without really stopping to think how much fruit and how many veggies you’ll actually have time to consume raw let alone cooked.  Weeks later, if you’re like me, you’ll open your fridge searching for something other than anchovies and olives to eat (or ice-cold liqueur to drink) and discover one or more items of week-old produce start a mini-compost pile in your fridge.  Gross.  Thank God for Lysol wipes (or Clorox wipes — I’m not really brand-specific on these as long as they do their job and kill off bacteria!  Germaphobes unite!).

It’s not like you didn’t know your little mold colony wasn’t coming either.  You saw that peach getting ripe.  Heck, you SMELLED that peach getting ripe, its heavy sweetness permeated every kitchen breath you’ve taken over the past 2 weeks.  Yet still, you convinced yourself that it could hold on one more day while you thought about turning it into jam or making that peach ice cream with the ice cream maker that you’re still planning to by…  Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into rot.  There goes your peach and now your arm-deep in Clorox wipes taking care of its remnants.  What’s worse is that you LOVE peaches, it’s just that after that 8th peach, you couldn’t eat anymore for fear that you might develop a fruit allergy like that horrible mango incident of 2009…

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Here’s one way to save that almost-gone fruit: Cobbler.  When that peach or plum is just a little too squishy, its skin a little too wrinkled, to eat, but still not starting to grow its own antibiotics, Cobbler is the solution.  Forget that it’s delicious and easy and just let it evoke TV-induced memories of growing up in the south.  Which you probably didn’t, but sometimes dream you had while downing ham & pickle biscuits.  Thinking of cobbler makes me remember Dwayne Wayne from A Different World and his favorite dessert of Prune Cobbler.  Relax, relate, & release!  A warm, just-cooked in the center and crisp on the outside cakey dough surrounds sweet baked fruit that you’d never know was a day away from the trash bin.  Serve it warm with a little fresh-whipped cream mixed with a tablespoon of tangy crème fraîche or an ice-cold quenelle of vanilla ice cream and you’ll feel like you’ve prepared a special treat and not a quick-fix for almost-gone fruit.  Even better, you’ll save yourself some of that Produce Shopaholic guilt that always comes with tossing old fruit that you once adored.

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Cobbler Solver (An easy cobbler recipe for those of us not lucky enough to be born with a drawl)

Batter
1 stick Butter, melted
1 c milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ c granulated sugar
1 package Dried Yeast (¼ oz)
1 c AP (or Whole Wheat) Flour
2 t baking powder
Tiny pinch salt
Demerara sugar (garnish)

Fruit
4 c Stone Fruit (peeled & sliced peaches, plums, rehydrated prunes or apricots in rum are also AWESOME, etc.)
1 t Ginger (peeled & grated)
¼ -½ c Granulated sugar (to taste – if fruit is sweet, less sugar is best)
Lemon juice
Pinch Salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix yeast into milk and let sit while preparing the rest of the recipe.
  3. Peel, core and slice peaches, plums, and other stone fruit and place in a bowl – try and cut the fruit over that bowl so that you don’t lose any delicious juices.  I used peaches and also added some blueberries that I had lying around.  Plums and cherries would be insane, also.
  4. If using dried fruit like Dwayne Wayne’s prunes, cut dried fruit in half and let sit in dark rum for an hour or more (or combine, bring to a boil, and let sit if in a rush).  Drain when ready and consider using leftover liqueur for a badass cocktail or reducing it into delicious syrup.  It’s your call.
  5. Toss fruit with grated ginger and ¼ cup of sugar.  Taste a small cut of fruit – if it’s not sweet or tangy enough, add additional sugar and lemon juice until fruit tastes like Mother Nature intended before we hopped her up on more hormones than a baseball player: delicious.  Add just a pinch (pointer finger and thumb) of salt to bring out all of the flavors.
  6. Melt butter.
  7. Mix yeasty milk with vanilla.  Mix in Sugar and stir until as dissolved as possible.
  8. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to milk all at once and mix just until combined.  Don’t overwork the flour – if there are small lumps, just leave them be.
  9. Pour melted butter into a square baking dish/casserole/pie dish, then pour batter over the butter in a haphazard or zigzag patter – you want little pockets of melted butter to peak through the batter.
  10. Scatter the fruit on top of the batter and butter and then drizzle the macerated juices (rum) from the batter on top.  Again, make it as organic as possible.  Cobbler is rustic and earthy, not prim and proper.  It’s the Tom Boy of desserts.
  11. Sprinkle some Demerara sugar on top as a garnish (OK, so it’s a little girly) and then throw in the oven to bake for 20-45 minutes (yup, it’s that much of a spread depending on how nifty or cruddy your oven is – mine is on the cruddy side) until the top is golden brown (that’s the magic color for tans and baked goods) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean… or rather, it comes out not covered in batter goop.  It’s OK if it comes out covered in juicy fruit.
  12. Let cool slightly, but serve a slice/piece warm in a dish with a little fresh-whipped cream with crème fraîche folded in or an ice cold scoop/quenelle of vanilla ice cream.  The cobbler will be sweet, so it’s nice if the whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is a little more subtle to balance it all out.  Enjoy!

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As long as you’re eating “salad,” it counts as dieting, right?

I just found out that I’ve gained 13 lbs in the past 4 months.  Yikes.  It oddly coincides with the start of my little blog here…  so weird…  My doctor tested to make sure that on top of my MANY other issues that I’m not also suffering from some sort of thyroid disorder.  Post blood work, he called to let me know that my thyroid isn’t in fact having any difficulty and that it might be, just maybe, the fact that I don’t watch what I eat nor do I exercise…  could be…  I’m willing to consider it as a potential possibility…  He thinks he’s SOOO smart just because he’s a doctor who went to Harvard Med…

So as I stood in my kitchen the next day pinching my love handles as I often do nowadays when I’m deciding what to munch on (they’re smushy and comforting), I remembered this incredible Caesar salad that I had at Il Buco on Bond Street.  It’s my friend, Beyhan’s, favorite Italian restaurant in New York and she’s particularly in love with this salad.  The anchovy dressing is stunning – tangy, savory, nutty, garlicky and it happily reminds me of heavy and sweet ocean air.  It’s served over (notice how the dressing is the main component of the meal to me) raw Tuscan black kale, which is incredibly tender, not at all dirt-flavored, and carries rich, almost meaty flavor.  Crispy, rustic, ping pong ball-sized croutons and fresh shaved parmesan just transport this “salad” into something that I want by the bucket-full, the brightness of it perfect on a humid summer’s day.

chicken caesar salad

So love-handles in hand, I decided that I would try and make a “healthy” version of the scrumptious Il Buco “Cavolonero” salad (that’s fancy for Caesar).  It was a last-minute decision, so I didn’t have a chance to pick up any Italian kale and settled for some ho-hum romaine spears instead.  Still crispy and good.  I didn’t have any eggs, the typical binding ingredient in most Caesar dressings, but I did have a small jar of mayonnaise hanging out in my fridge door…  As I reached for it, I had a mental flash of me sitting in my exercise clothes on the couch, love handles popping out as they’ve outgrown my sports top, with a face covered in bomboloni sugar and pastry cream, Tivo remote in hand wondering just how tall Cat Deeley actually is.  Shudder.  I quickly looked around my fridge and found a nice container of cottage cheese which I keep around to dip potato chips into (a little tip from my friend, Amanda Panda).  Not quite mayonnaise, but I thought it might give nice body and texture to the dressing.

Some of the makings of low-fat caesar dressing

Some of the makings of low-fat caesar dressing

You know what else?  I love anchovies.  There, I said it.  Some people are anti-anchovies, but I love the briney deliciousness of what can only be described as their “anchovy” flavor.  That oceany, pungent saltiness is like Vietnamese fish sauce and it’s basically good with any savory dish.  It’s great in tomato sauces as well and I can’t make my bolognese (another post to come) without it (or porcinis).  If you don’t like anchovies, then you don’t like Caesar salad.  You probably also hate umami.  Why would you do that?

anchovy goodness

My Caesar experiment also accomplished another little goal of mine (besides pretending to diet): I got to try out my Magic Bullet blender!  You know, that ridiculous little blender from the infomercials???  Yup, I bought it.  Why?  Two reasons: I’m a sucker for all things “As Seen On TV” and I got a Costco coupon in the mail to get it at a discount.  Actually, my mom and I both got them several months ago, but neither of us had used them yet.  Of course, because I’m impatient and my own worst enemy, I threw out the instructions with the packaging when I initially bought it, meaning that I didn’t realize there were 2 different blending tops: one for puréeing and one, apparently, that just stirs crap.  Yeah, I used the stupid stirring one first and watched as my anchovies basically swirled around inside the container, unharmed, while the olive oil proceeded to get bitter.

magic bullet

Luckily, I dug around in the Magic Bullet’s handy carrying bag and found the puréeing top.  But wait!  There’s more!  I also found a small-sized grinding container for my 3/4 cup worth of dressing vs. the quart-sized one that I had used on my first attempt.  Even better, this allowed me to try and wash the anchovy smell out of two Magic Bullet tops and containers.  It’s a real gem being me…

looks like it's got mayo in it... but it DOESN't!  Thanks, Magic Bullet!

looks like it's got mayo in it... but it DOESN't! Thanks, Magic Bullet!

In the end, though, the Caesar dressing was so badass that next time, I may just throw it in one of the handy Magic Bullet grinding containers that Optimus Primes itself into a beer mug thing and drink that stuff through a straw.  Better not…  But as I served my homemade Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken and a healthy smattering of freshly-grated Parmesan (what??? cheese is good for you!) to my friend, Angela, who came for lunch, we both felt that if this counts as dieting, then we can definitely deal with shedding a few pounds.  As usual with my dieting, I have not consulted anyone on the right way to lose weight, nor have I actually calculated out the calorie and fat content of my diet Caesar dressing… which is only low-fat in my mind because I didn’t use mayonnaise.

Mindy’s “Diet” Caesar Dressing
– 2 t Salt
– 8 Anchovy filets (treat yourself to good ones – especially when on sale!)
– 2 Garlic cloves, medium-sized (smashed or rough minced – just to make sure you don’t get a giant chunk of raw garlic)
– 2 T Cottage Cheese (I used non-fat and it worked perfectly, but feel free to go whole hog)
– 1/2 c Lemon juice
– Worcester Sauce
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 1/3 c Olive oil (always extra virgin – where do you even buy non-virgin, streetwalker olive oil anyway?)
– 1/2 c Parmesan cheese (grated – you can reserve some thin slices for the salad or just be lazy and use grated Parm all over like I did)

1)   If using a Magic Bullet, make sure you have the purée top…  You can also use a mini-food processer or just mash the following ingredients together until they combine into a sandy paste: salt, anchovy filets, garlic cloves, & cottage cheese.

anchovy pasting

2)   Either add lemon juice to your Magic Bullet/food processer and blend, or whisk lemon juice into your paste to combine.

3)   Add pepper and a few drops of Worcester sauce.  Taste and re-season with more salt, anchovy, pepper, Worcester, garlic, etc – basically, make it your brand of delicious.

4)   Add olive oil and 1/2 c of your Parmesan (reserve 1/4 c to sprinkle on top) and blend just to combine or whisk into paste in a drizzle if combining by hand.  Don’t overwork your olive oil or it gets bitter.

tossing w/ dressing

5)   Toss with Tuscan kale or even regular kale (the curly leaves pick up a LOT of delicious dressing and add a little spice), romaine spears, arugula, whatever floats your diet boat.  Normally, I’m anti-overdressing a salad, but when it comes to this dressing…

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6)   Serve with slices of grilled, well-season chicken breast and croutons.  If dieting, substitute delicious Everything Flat Breads, which I don’t think really saved all that many calories but they’re delicious!  If I weren’t dieting, I might also have breaded some pounded out chicken breasts and seasoned with a little lemon-butter…  but if not dieting, I also might have still had this salad to pre-game for a big ol’ cheeseburger with bacon.

chicken caesar

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Chicken Salad for Change

Every rare once-in-a-while, I make chicken salad.  I never write down the recipe and I usually vary some element of it each time I make it, but it’s always delicious.  My husband could eat it all the time, but my chicken salad making is typically associated with picnic events, meaning that I’ve only made it ONE TIME in the past year, and that was by request.  My friends are pretty much the least demanding group of people you could be lucky enough to have (most of them), much like my husband.  It’s probably because it takes a certain mellow personality to deal with all the crazy that I bring to the table (my parents’ fault, obviously).  So this year, on the 4th of July, when I offered to bring something to a picnic, my friend, Eunice’s gut-response was, “no, just you!”  About a half-a-second later came, “Oh wait!  No!  Could you bring your chicken salad???”  This girl has gone BEYOND holding my hair back after a bad night (shudder… I will spare you the details and her the flashback), so how could I say no?

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I made about 2 quarts, none-of-which survived to the end of the picnic.  We literally scraped the inside of the tupperware clean.  Honestly, that’s the best thing in the world to see when you cook.  Anyone who has ever cooked for friends and family knows that watching people you love enjoy something that you’ve made is like a drug.  You can’t wait to do it again until you remember how much you hate doing dishes.  Recently, Eunice’s friend, Ye, asked for the recipe (which again, is all in my head) and it gave me an idea.  Why not take the joy you feel for cooking (and consuming) and take it to the next level???

halfway to demolished

halfway to demolished

About 2 summers ago, I was lucky enough to volunteer in Vietnam.  At one of the centers where we worked, I met a rascally toddler with cerebral palsy named, Tinh.  Her beautiful eyes, wide, toothy smile, and mischievous giggles instantly stole my heart and I fell in love (as do most people who meet her).  I try and send money back every six months to buy her Pediasure and diapers, and it’s getting to be that time of year again.  So here is my idea: I’m publishing my chicken salad recipe below and also offering a one-on-one lesson on how to make it (complete with butchering a chicken and poaching it) for $60 an hour, with all proceeds going to Tinh.  Please take your chicken-salad-summer-loving to the next level and help me send a little love all the way to Nam.  If you don’t want the full lesson, but just want to donate a little something (ANY amount helps), please let me know.  If you want to find another way to get involved and maybe even go abroad to give your time, check out the Global Volunteer Network (GVN) and all the incredible work that they do.

bite-sized on a bagel chip

bite-sized on a bagel chip

Mindy’s Chicken Salad for Change

(I like chicken salad that’s scoopable, so I like to cut everything into tiny dices. If you don’t like that or just don’t have the energy to care, keep it rustic)

 –       1 small poached/roasted chicken (de-boned and cut into ½” cubes. If you’re under a time-crunch, you can buy a good rotisserie chicken and eat the skin while you cube the meat.  If you throw the skin away… shame on you!)
–       2 celery stalks (washed and diced into ¼” cube-like pieces)
–       1 cup red, seedless grapes (washed and cut into ¼”-sized pieces)
–       ½ medium red onion (cut into ¼”-sized pieces)
–       1 cup toasted pecans (cooled and rough-chopped to ¼”-sized pieces)
–       ½ cup dried blueberries (or currants, or chopped dried apricots, etc)
–       ½ cup golden raisins
–       ¾ – 1 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann’s to ANY, including homemade)
–       ¾ – 1 cup whipped heavy cream
–       1 T Grainy Mustard
–       Sherry vinegar
–       Salt & freshly ground black pepper
(you can also add freshly chopped tarragon, sage, mint, add/sub Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped egg, curry it by whisking in curry powder to the mayo, etc. – experiment!!!)

  1. In a large bowl, season chicken with sherry vinegar and salt to taste – it shouldn’t taste like vinegar, but the chicken should be able to stand out in the salad and hold its on, so make it savory, tangy, and delicious.  Cover it and put it in the fridge while you chop everything else.
  2. Dice all the veggies, fruits and nuts (and dried fruit if you’re using something bigger than blueberries/currants).  You don’t have to get a ruler out or anything – I just like to make sure that the chicken pieces are biggest and that everything else is smaller.
  3. Add all of your diced foods to the chicken bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Fold together the mayonnaise, heavy cream, and grainy mustard.  Season with salt & freshly ground black pepper until the salt balances out the tanginess of the mayo (which will already be mellowed by the whipped cream).
  5. Add half of the dressing to the salad ingredients and fold together to combine.  Continue adding dressing if the salad looks too dry, but don’t add too much so that it becomes sludgy.  The salad should JUST be bound together.  Taste a spoonful and keep adjusting with sherry vinegar, salt, pepper, and dressing until it tastes just how YOU like
  6. Serve with crostinis, bagel chips, baguette, as a sandwich using marble rye, etc.  Just eat with friends and enjoy!

 

My girl, Tinh, with her ridiculously heart-stealing smile.  She's probably cracking up cuz she just did something crazy:)

My most-recent pic of my girl, Tinh (compliments of my friend, Shireen, who has a heart of gold and a liver of steel), with her ridiculously heart-stealing smile. She's probably cracking up cuz she just did something crazy:)

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Sunday, Bloody Mary Sunday

Gross name, though, right? Bloody Mary. Yuck. What a terrible name for such a deliciously, savory, spicy glass of happiness. Given my love of salt and my recent Dr.’s assessment that I need even MORE salt in my diet because of my ridiculously low blood pressure, I’m going to rename this beverage: Mindy’s Daily Vitamin Infusion. Doesn’t that sound better? Medicine never tasted so damn good!

Not that I ever need a reason to make a Bloody Mary Mindy’s Daily Vitamin Infusion (I’ve been known to make virgin versions by the bucket load and drink them for snacks), but today I have a special reason to do so.  My sister-in-law, Sophie, is curating her second art show and wants to serve Bloody Mary’s at her opening tomorrow.  Her exhibit’s going to be amazing.  It’s called “Sacrosanct” and it’s being held on a Sunday at an abandoned church.  And nothing’s better on a Sunday than appreciating art and washing it down with a refreshing cocktail.  She asked me for my recipe, which I’ve never written down before, so I was forced to remake my recipe today in order to send her the details.  It’s also a little cloudy out, which tends to make me feel a little blue and lethargic… obviously I needed my Vitamins to get me going.  FYI – if you’d like to attend the show, it runs for 2 weeks starting tomorrow at St. John’s Episcopal American Catholic Church on Lexington Ave between East 101st & 102nd.  The opening is between 4:30 – 7:30 PM tomorrow!

 

just some of the ingredients in my version of a bloody mary

just some of the ingredients in my version of a bloody mary

Mindy’s Daily Vitamin Infusion is a little different than a regular Bloody Mary in a few ways.  First, I like to make this classic cocktail dirty with a splash of spanish olive brine.  Second, although I hate that clamato crap, I love clam juice, so a splash of that goes in as well.  Even though I’m not from the south and I prefer my crab seasoned with just salt, pepper, and lime juice, I have a ridiculous love of Old Bay Seasoning.  RIDICULOUS.  This perfect blend of celery salt, pepper, spicy red pepper and paprika just does it for me.  I kid you not, I sometimes just sprinkle some on my finger and lick it off.  It’s basically like spicy MSG.  Last, being Vietnamese and a little obsessed with this magical little root, I just have to throw in some tangy ginger.

ginger

Mindy’s Daily Vitamin Infusion (aka Bloody Mary)

Pre-mix  (cold ingredients are best and/or chill mix before service) 
–       1 c tomato juice
–       2 T horseradish (grated – fresh if you have it, but jarred is fine)
–       1 T clam juice
–       1 T Spanish olive brine
–       1 T lime juice
–       1 t Worcester sauce
–       1 t cocktail sauce (yup, that’s right – it boosts the tomato flavor, thickens it, and adds sweetness)
–       3-10 Tobasco drops (10 is for my mom, the spicy-loving Vietnamese matriarch)
–       ½ t Old Bay Seasoning
–       ½ t freshly ground black pepper
–       ¼ t celery salt
–       ¼ t ginger (microplaned)

To Serve
–       1 c Bloody Mary / Mindy’s Daily Vitamin Infusion Pre-mix
–       2-4 oz vodka (ice cold, use more if you’re a lush)
–       celery stick (WASHED & trimmed)
–       3-5 Spanish olives (5 if you’re me and NEED sodium)
–       lime wedge (center pith trimmed off for easy squeezing)
–       Old Bay Seasoning 
–       Freshly ground black pepper 
–       Maldon’s salt

horseradish

Procedure
1)   Assemble all pre-mix ingredients (cold if possible) and adjust seasoning to your palate.  Chill mix.  If you’re making it immediately and need it cold fast, place mix in a metal bowl and place in another metal bowl filled with ice water.  Stir until cold.

2)   For service, mix 1 cup of the pre-mix with 2-4 oz of ice cold vodka.  Go ahead and use more if you’re a lush.  I’d rather just drink more of the whole thing, but whatever.

3)   Fill a pint glass ¾ full of ice and pour in your vodka mix.  Submerge a clean, trimmed celery stick (it’s gross to pull up your celery stick and see it coated in dirt, which also tastes bad).  Top with olives and a lime wedge, then sprinkle Old Bay, black pepper, and Maldon’s salt on top.  Enjoy!

mindys daily vitamin infusion

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Remember those pickled raisins???

I told you they’d be back!  After the Beer Experiment on Sunday, we kicked back and celebrated Bonnie’s win and Nick’s successful event with more food & drink, of course!  That’s the problem when you work with food vs. finance.  When something good would happen at work when I was in finance, I would celebrate with a glass of wine and a decadent meal.  Now when something good happens at work it usually already involves a glass of wine and a decadent meal and then I have to follow it up with more wine and more decadence.  I eat cause I’m happy and I’m happy cause I eat – vicious cycle.

Nick’s dad, Santi, had a great idea to barbecue duck breasts.  My whole life, I’ve grown up with barbecue.  My dad is a little OBSESSED with cooking outdoors, which INCLUDES but is not limited to barbecue.  I’ve lived in cities since I left for college at 18, which has meant never owning a little weber of my own.  This is going to sound crazy (most of my blog does), but I imagine that day when I’ll have a small yard and be able to put my own grill out there as a mark of having “made it.”  What will I have made?  Who knows, but I’ll know that I’ve made it by the smell of meat browning over hot coals.

Santi put me in charge of the marinade and I started to raid the Suarez cabinets and fridge.  While I did that, Santi pulled out the pickled raisins and suggested putting them on top of the duck.  Damn, those Suarez’s have a natural culinary gene that just stacks them above everyone else.  As I rummaged, I found soy sauce,pre-made Unagi Sauce (that sweet, thickened soy mix that tops your eel sushi), piri piri, rice vinegar, fig jam, honey, ginger powder, and Bonnie came back from the market with more duck breasts and garlic and scallions just in time.  Then, I decided to throw a handful of the raisins right into the marinade with the idea that afterwords, I could reduce the whole shabang into a yummy sauce. I wish I could give you exact amounts, but I just kept adding ingredients and adjusting as necessary.  It’s probably close to this, though – please adjust as necessary:

2 cups soy sauce
1 cup pickled raisins
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup Unagi Sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup fig jam
1 t piri piri
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 scallions (thinly sliced into small rounds)
yummy duck
The duck breasts marinated for under 30 minutes – too long and the vinegar starts to basically cook the meat. While Santi grilled them to perfection (literally – it was textbook medium-rare), I reduced the marinade with about a 1.5 cups of a Burgundy Chardonnay that added just the right amount of acid and bite. I added just a splash more of rice vinegar at the end to help boost the tartness to balance out the richness of the smokey duck. I loved the charring on the duck skin and how nicely the sweet and gamey duck benefitted from the grill flavors. Slathered in sauce with plump, savory and tart pickled raisins that had further rehydrated in the marinade, and I was in heaven. Good company, good food, and I didn’t have to do any dishes. What more could you ask for?
yummy duck2

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