Techno-Gastronomy in the Big Apple

17 Mar

logoImagine lots of food for thought by inspired thinkers who inspire others to probe both the virtual and the tangible corners of the edible realm. This is the food + technology conference taking place in New York City on April 3 through April 5th, and I can’t wait to go.

More auspiciously called The 2014 Roger Smith Conference on Food/ From Flint Knives to Cloned Meat, the line-up includes more than 100 presenters, 31 panels, workshops and receptions but, most importantly, the event promises an extensive three-day flirtation with culinary luminaries and like-minded scholars – more than 250 of them. From Modernist Cuisine to The Brave New World of 3-D Printing, there is something here to satisfy anyone’s taste for knowledge and thirst for the unknown.

Last year, the conference, held at the Roger Smith Hotel, was devoted to the erudition of cookbooks and featured a tantalizing array of speakers – from Mollie Katzen to Amanda Hesser. This year, Andrew Smith, the conference founder and driving force (along with organizers Roger Horowitz, Cathy Kaufman, and Anne Mendelson), imbues today’s food vortex with “ambiguity.” The sympathetic tag to the event’s flinty name is, after all, “Our ambiguous love, hate, and fear of food technologies.” I’m there.

The conference’s leaders describe food technology as “any imaginable means of using and manipulating food, from cracking nuts with a rock to molecular gastronomy. The very act of deciding what is or isn’t food is intrinsically bound with up technology.” Wylie Dufresne, a leader of the movement to integrate science with food preparation and presentation will be there. So, too, will be experts in milling, flour and bread baking techniques, sensory profiling, wine and terroir, and biotechnology. Other compelling subjects include “The Eight Minute Egg” and “The Technology of Cake.” A lecture on coffee would go nicely right here.

And there are workshops in social media for food writers, on the history of chocolate, and the truth about olive oil, led by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the author of The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.

Andrew Smith, a prolific writer and assistant professor of food studies at The New School, is particularly excited this year to have panelists coming from all over the United States and from six countries to participate. His latest book is New York City: A Food Encyclopedia (AltaMira, 2014); and his 3-volume Food and Drink in American History: A “Full Course” Encyclopedia was released by ABC-CLIO in November 2013. This is a man who can clearly handle a lot of information and knows a heck of a lot about New York City. If you already live in New York, this conference is a must. If you live out of town, it is an excellent reason to visit. For more information, to register, or book a room at the Roger Smith Hotel, go to foodconferences@gmail.com or http://thefoodconference.com/workshops.php.

And why does this conference matter? We are a nation obsessed with food and technology. The flow of one has always influenced the outcome of the other. Now we need to find out how they go together on one plate.

Spring Review

13 Mar

springreviewIt’s time for a Spring Review since beginning my blog in 2010. I’ve written more than 300 entries and wanted to share the best with you. Because of instantaneous access to one another via the Internet, the “world’s table” is now on public view. It is my goal, then, as a journalist, chef, author, restaurant consultant and food trends junkie, to help set the table with decades of perspective. When Vladimir Nabokov got around to writing his memoir, he called it “Speak, Memory.”  When writing my blog, I issue a similar command to myself:  “Taste, Memory!” I seek ways to connect the reader emotionally to his or her own gastronomic wavelength.

Just as Anna Quindlen writes about her keen observations about life – tying together politics, family, and one’s inner experience, often with whimsy — I have written my voice into daily, and weekly, connections to food, dining, cooking, history, biography and memoir. Each entry is a deliberate serving of the past, present and future – whether connecting the uprising in Egypt to my respect for Naguib Mafouz and my fondness for Egyptian cooking (with a contemporary photo of a young man preparing an ancient dish of ful mudammas); or experiencing the soul of Philadelphia-chef Marc Vetri through his singular approach to food and cooking and told his story by deeming him a “culinary bodhisattva.” A posting about “white carrots” informs the misinformed (which at times can be most of us), with an observation backed up with a bit of history, some speculation, and a few recipes to make the point. Included is a mesmerizing photo of carrots.

I believe that a younger generation of “food passionistas” – a term I coined for the group of dedicated, enthusiastic, and obsessively curious types about the world of food, chefs, and cooking – are in need of less hype, and more information, in an accessible  way. Inspired by the daily experiences of life in my kitchen, life in other people’s kitchens, learning at the hands of some of the industry’s most influential tastemakers, the purpose of my blog is not to attract advertisers or lure masses of readers; rather, it is an intimate, highly personal, often funny view of the world of food. Every blog posting puts my readers in-the-know about something timely. As a bonus, there’s always a “goody bag” in which one finds original recipes, ways to use new ingredients, food and wine pairing ideas, tips for entertaining, news about the coolest chefs and hottest restaurants. Or something more personal – a taste experience (ever try bitter chocolate, Parmigiano-Reggiano and sweet red grapes?); a mind stimulant (what about making marmalade from carrots?), or a new technique (like my deconstructed “wined-and-brined turkey,” or making cream cheese via “drip irrigation”).

Cooking is not merely about measurement and temperature, and the culinary world is not merely about gastronomy or nutrition. Food has deep historic and emotional resonances, and profound historical connections — think about “feast” or “famine” or “bread riots.”

Food is familial and simultaneously social: We break bread together and then divide the world into pig-eaters or pig-shunners.

When one writes well about food, all these factors come into play, consciously or not. One should know that The Gleaners in Millet’s famous painting reach backward historically to biblical injunctions not to harvest to the corners of the field, but to leave food for the poor. One should know that without the discovery of the Americas, there would be no tomatoes in Naples, no paprika in Budapest, no chocolate in Zurich. One should know something about why certain foods connect to certain religious festivals – why, for example, we serve lamb at Easter and also at Passover, and why both “feasts” relate to activities around the table.

What my mother cooked for the her family is different from what my readers’ mothers did then or do today, but they all set standards for how we view not just what’s on our plate, but how we will relate to a larger world – one in which even the present seems to vaporize in an instant.

Please take a moment to enjoy the posts below, and I encourage you to search the archives for others that may be of interest to you.

Cooking in Silence

Chocolate Dirt: Is it Art or is it Dinner?

Insanely Delicious Fresh Figs

Oscar Gold: Red Carpet Recipes

1 Mar

Whether you are hosting an Oscar party tomorrow night or simply want to make yourself a festive feast, here are some recipes that I put together for Lenox that are sure to delight.

tumblr_mhv3ppzdQt1rsdtszo1_1280SMOKED SALMON HORS D’OEUVRES

Here, three simple ingredients become bite-size luxuries: smoked salmon rosettes and smoked salmon pinwheels. Festive and sophisticated, these are the perfect match, in flavor and color!

ROSETTES

- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

Wash cucumber but do not peel; slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds, about 24. Slice the smoked salmon into 24 strips that are 1-inch wide by 3-inches long. Roll each piece loosely. Curl back the edges and flatten slightly so that it begins to look like a rose. Spread about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese on each cucumber slice and place rosette on top. Arrange on a platter.

MAKES 24

PINWHEELS

- 8 ounces best-quality, thinly sliced smoked salmon
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 4 kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Put 2 slices of smoked salmon slightly overlapping. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese to cover completely. Roll up like a jelly roll (beginning with short edge) and place in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the edges so that you have a small tight sausage shape. Chill well. Slice thinly and place a slice on a cucumber round.

MAKES 24

SEARED SCALLOPS ON SWEET PEA PUREEtumblr_mhv48ztfEe1rsdtszo1_1280

This is great any time of the year as frozen peas are always available. Trendy pea shoots can be found at this time of the year in many farmers markets. You can make the pea puree ahead of time and reheat while you’re cooking the scallops.

- 2 10-ounce packages of frozen petits pois
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 very large sea scallops
- 6 tablespoons dry vermouth
- Handful of pea shoots or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with salted water to just cover. Boil 2 minutes. Drain well and save 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender. Process until very smooth and thick (adding more liquid if necessary.) Add salt and pepper and return to saucepan.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for 2 minutes per side, until golden and cooked through. Reheat pea puree until hot; spoon a mound onto each of 6 warm plates. Arrange 3 scallops on puree.

Add the vermouth and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. cook 30 seconds over high heat until syrupy. Pour over scallops and top with pea shoots.

SERVES 6

tumblr_mhv5pluiI81rsdtszo1_1280FILET OF BEEF WITH WASABI-GARLIC CREAM

Kiss your butcher and ask him (or her) to cut you a nice 3-pound filet of beef and tie it like a roast. You can buy wasabi paste in a tube in most supermarkets and Asian food stores.

Serve with black rice tossed with a bit of grated ginger and your favorite vegetable: I’ve chosen diced carrots sauteed in sweet butter with fresh thyme.

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-pound filet of beef, tied
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet and toll the beef in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Rub into the top and sides of the filet (but not the bottom or it will burn.) Roast 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook stirring until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice.

Serve with the sauce.

SERVES 6

AWARD-WINNING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKEtumblr_mhv7mjvQM21rsdtszo1_1280

This is the world’s simplest and moistest cake: just be sure to remove it from the oven while the center is still quite soft. Edible gold leaf is available in food stores specializing in Indian food products and in specialty baking shops.

- 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 extra-large eggs
- 16 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, espresso powder, or fresh orange zest
- 2 pints fresh raspberries, washed and dried
- A few sheets of edible gold leaf, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. butter the sides of the pan with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 10 tablespoons butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Fold the chocolate mixture into te egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla (espresso or orange zest). Pour into the pan. Bake 18 minutes; the center will be quite soft. Let cool. Arrange the raspberries side by side on top of the cake. Top with gold leaf, if using.

SERVES 8

Olympic Gold: Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos

20 Feb

AFP 520158322 S SPO SPO RUS -I hope you have been enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I have. I’ve found myself wanting to indulge in a few hearty Russian classics, but how about a new-fashioned Veal Steaks “Stroganoff?” Priyatnogo appetita!

Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos
(Radically Simple, Rodale, 2010)

Flavors of fino sherry, espresso, and lemon “lift” an old-fashioned dish, generally made with beef, to something lighter and special.

4 thick veal steaks, about 9 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons fino sherry
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Rub the veal with the olive oil. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper and arrange on a broiler pan. Heat the cream in a large skillet until bubbly. Add 3 tablespoons of the sherry and all the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, thyme, espresso powder, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and then absorb much of the sauce, 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil the veal six inches from the heat for 3 to four minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes; thickly slice on the bias. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serves 4

Game Day Drumettes

2 Feb

photo(30)According to Claire Joyes, editor of Monet’s cooking journals, Monet had “perfected a ceremony” for his favorite fowl. He would remove the wings, sprinkle them with nutmeg, ground pepper and coarse salt, and hand them over to his cook to be flame-broiled. Since duck wings can be very tough, the James Beard Foundation blog has a recipe suggesting multi-step cooking.

Here’s a recipe that younger Super Bowl fans can help make. Not quite wings, but just as delicious.

Crazy-Leg Drumsticks (Drumettes)
From Kids Cook 1-2-3 (Bloomsbury, 2006)

The nice herby taste comes from pesto—an uncooked Italian sauce made from fresh basil, garlic and pignoli nuts. You can find it in any supermarket. A dusting of Parmesan cheese turns into a crispy coating.

1/3 cup prepared pesto
4 chicken wings and 4 drumettes
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spread pesto all over each chicken leg to cover. Sprinkle cheese all over leg (except the bottom where they will sit on the baking sheet—you don’t want the cheese to burn). Lightly press the cheese onto the chicken so it will stick. Add freshly ground black pepper.

3. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place legs on baking sheet.

4. Bake 35 minutes until chicken is crispy and golden. Makes 4 servings.

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 5)

1 Feb

chocolate chiliChocolate Chili with Cauliflower Popcorn
From Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes For Teen Chefs (Bloomsbury, 2009)

This delicious vegetarian chili is made dark and mysterious with a touch of semisweet chocolate and cinnamon. Chocolate and cinnamon are used together in several Mexican dishes. Small roasted florets of white cauliflower turn a simple idea into something that looks really dramatic.

½ pound dried black beans
2 large garlic cloves
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 large cauliflower
¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Put the beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander.

2. Peel the garlic and finely chop. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 4-quart pot. Add the garlic and onions and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, drained beans, cinnamon, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring often. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes until thick.

3. About 40 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into ½-inch florets. Put in a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes until golden. Shake the pan often during baking to prevent sticking. Remove from the oven. Ladle chili into bowls and top with “popcorn” and herbs.

Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 4)

31 Jan
Photo: Linda Greene

Photo: Linda Greene

Shrimp Veracruz with Rice, Corn & Green Olives

This is fabulously easy to make and so good to eat.  Serve with warm flour tortillas or crispy tortilla chips.

Prepare the components of the salad early in the day, then toss in the shrimp just before serving.  Serve with wedges of lime and hot sauce – green and red. Drink beer or tequila or make a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

Easily doubled for a crowd.

2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice (or basmati rice)
1-3/4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (or 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed)
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 pound very large cooked shrimp
16-ounce jar thick and chunky salsa (mild or medium)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large lime, grated zest and juice
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put 6 cups water, 2 cups rice, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 30 minutes until rice is just tender. Stir in corn, then drain. Transfer rice mixture to large bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Mix in scallions, bell peppers, and olives. Blend salsa, olive oil, lime zest, 1 tablespoon lime juice, cumin and smoked paprika. Stir half of the dressing into rice mixture. When ready to serve, add shrimp and remaining dressing to rice salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8

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