Monday, December 1, 2008

La maestra

If my parents lived in Orlando I'd probably be like one of those Italian 40 year old guys that has their condo to impress the ladies, but actually lives at home with their parents. Free booze, free food, free laundry service. Why wouldn't I? Seriously?!

Anyway, back to reality (could I really get a girl if she found out I lived with my parents?) and my original thought. There are some people in this world that possess the propensity, talent, capability, etc to create something special (athletes, musicians, writers, chefs, actors...) Sometimes it's innate, sometimes it's learned over time and with experience. I know all of us have that friend from high school that was just naturally good at everything he/she did. Anyway, I know some chefs that have that ability...partially learned, partially innate. They can just take whatever is in the fridge and make something delicious out of it. One of these ingenious people is the young lady in the picture (we had slammed about 5 glasses of wine each before this picture - notice the half empty bottle in the foreground - and don't worry mom, we can talk about this, your friends probably don't read my blog). Now that I think of it, maybe her cooking is so good because of all the wine...we'll never know will we?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The tale of two eggs

I always hear and read that the ability to cook a good egg shows the ability of a good cook. My eggs are usually good, sometimes brilliant. The top left picture is of a simply boiled egg on a piece of toast sprinkled with some cajun seasoning. Simple...but brilliant...and I made it look good which is unusual for me. The other picture is of scrambled eggs with spinach, onion and bacon at my desk. I made that and actually lost $110 trading currencies...expensive breakfast!

Anyway, the best eggs I have ever had were in Spain. Huevos estrallados. There is a popular restaurant in Madrid where the King eats that serves these huevos estrallados. Basically, it's two or three eggs, sunny side up, over a bed of french fries...that's it. And the Kind of Spain swears by it. I have tried to copy it, but it just isn't the same. Maybe it's the oil...maybe the ambiance...maybe the 6 Heineken's I had.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Him, the man from Richmond


I am passionate about soccer. I love FC Barcelona. They are not only a club, but a nation, a community. "Mes que un club" - More than a club. If Barca does not win, the people get emotional. However, not only must they win, but they must win with beauty. 1-0 grind it out games are not only boring to the Barca faithful, they are not tolerated. The fans demand a graceful, classy performance. There is something to be learned by that. Not only win, but win with class and entertainment. There is also something to be said by the headlines that the Spanish speak with and their overall manner of speaking. Just imagine a Spanish radio announcer when the local team scores a goal. GGGGooooooooooooooooaaaalllll!!!!!!!!!!!! Passion at it's core. Maybe it is just the romance of a latin language, but I strongly believe this passion is easily transferable to food (By the way, the best food in the world can be found in Spain.). The best true chef's in the world are overrun with passion (Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsey, Jacques Pepin). From now on I will have FC Barcelona on my mind when I am writing about food. A RITMO DE CAMPEONES!!! To the rhythm of the champions!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are

Food is life. It gives us energy, it makes us who we are. I have friends that eat merely to provide proteins and nutrients. I have friends that eat because because they enjoy a good meal. I have friends that eat too much because they are gluttons. And I have friends that eat for the pure joy and exhilaration that it is to enjoy a good meal with good friends and family. Nothing brings friends and family together like dinner. The most amazing meal I ever had was in Umbria, Italy when I was 16 years old. I sat at a table with my father, his friend Marcelo Manfroni, a few of his family members, a few business associates, about 20 people in all. It was summer time. It was about 8 or 9pm, 70 degrees, amazing, life changing for a 16 year old boy. We ate in the garden with an epic view down at the valley and up at the rolling hills. Beautiful trees everywhere, a cool breeze, and the scent of poplar trees and the forest in general. I suppose it looked like the picture here. Everyone there was either Italian or could speak Italian except me, but it still remains in my mind as my best dinner experience ever. I sat by my dad at the middle of the table and some of the Italians tried there English with me from time to time, but it didn't matter. I was happy.

Anyway, remembering this dinner (I could go on for ages about the meal, spaghetti, rabbit, vegetables, etc), made me think of a place that would inspire good cooking and good eating. A condo in Orlando FL, while quite a nice place to live, doesn't really inspire mind altering meals. Umbria, Italy does. Great views do. Good people who also love to cook do. So I thought of 3 things that do inspire me to create a beautiful meal without the scenic vistas and perfect ingredients outside your back door in the garden.

First of all, remembering your past culinary failures is counterproductive. Don't worry about the meals you've messed up and focus on your previous achievments. Move forward. I seriously doubt that anyone who reads this has friends that would go hysterical if your short ribs were overcooked or overseasoned. Do you? Second, create a structure in your kitchen. Know where your materials are. Know where your spices are, your knives, your sauces, your vegetables...know your oven, how it cooks, you pots and pans, etc. Know when your guests tend to arrive, on time, late, early, and cook accordingly. Know your environment so you can focus on creating a good meal rather than focusing on where the heck the potatoe peeler is. Lastly, have a mentor. Mine has been, and continues to be my family, mother, father, brother, (my mother in particular). Someone you can bounce ideas off of and who can give you new ideas. Someone you have no fear asking questions of. These 3 things will hopefully provide consistency in your culinary adventures. Because remember, what you put in your body is who you are.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Results of the big day

Well, here are my mostly positive results from the previous day. Barcelona tied against a relatively weak Swiss team (still qualified so that's okay). I made 13% on my money shorting the EUR/USD in 8 hours (I shorted it at 3pm and closed the trade right in the middle of Obama's speech). And the food I made was quite extraordinary if I may say so myself. I made spicy teriyaki wings and my moms Swedish spare ribs. The wings are on the left side of the plate in the picture and the spare ribs are on the right side. I ate too much like my normal glutonous self. Unfortunately, only one of the 6 people I invited showed up so maybe my cooking isn't as good as I thought it was. They are republicans though, so maybe they were just in a bad mood. Maybe I should concentrate on trading rather than entertaining!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Big day

Big day today for me. We're voting for a new president. Barcelona plays in the Champions League. I shorted the EUR/USD. I'm not really anxious though. I've done what I think is right and hopefully it goes the way I'd like. All I know is that I'm throwing an election party tonight and serving some snacks. I'm planning on zucchini fritti (zucchini cut the size of french fries, into egg, then flour mixture that has spies and some parmesan cheese in it), spare ribs (with prunes, salt and pepper...simple, but amazing), teriyaki chicken wings (no idea, got it off foodnetwork.com), caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil), french fries (shoestring), and anything else I can find in the fridge that might taste good. We'll see how it goes. This evening, I could be wealthier and happy, or not. Either way, my stomach will be satisfied.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Redemption

Just when I thought I couldn't cook any worse, I go and do something like this...and totally redeem myself. This picture doesn't do last nights meal justice, but it was absolutely delicious. Simple, easy, healthy. I cooked another flounder, but decided to broil it in stead of pan fry it. I kept it simple by putting a bit of soy sauce, olive oil, slices of lemon and pepper on it...that's it. I placed it over a bed of rice (cooked in chicken broth in stead of plain water) and had some lima beans on the side (cooked in chicken broth again with some pepper flakes added). It was quite a memorably meal and I definitely regained my confidence after Sunday's debacle.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Nasty fish on the loose


Maybe it wasn't as bad as the slop in Oliver Twist, because you didn't see all those kids running out of the dining room vomiting, but the meal I made last night was pretty bad. I've been trying to get into cooking fish really well. It's healthy, tastes good, and other than last night, it's usually pretty easy to cook. Last night I tried to make flounder with a lemon butter sauce. It probably would have tasted butter if I had eaten it all tequila shot style...lick the butter, slam a bite of fish, and then down the lemon to take the edge off.

As you can see from the picture, it was not inedible, but I would not have served that meal to anyone. Everyone has kitchen disasters though I suppose. At least it wasn't for a group of critical people.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Napa Valley

I don't know if you can tell, but the statue in the picture is of a woman that has her arms outspread giving a sign of welcome. Robert Mondavi designed his vineyard after a monastery and all monasteries have statues such as this to illustrate to passers and other travelers the sign of welcome. The Mondavi vineyard is right in the heart of Napa and sports some interesting wines.

My tour of the vineyard was quite interesting as well. Of course you get the sweeping views of Napa Valley and hundreds of thousands of rows of grapes, but we also got to see the inner workings of the vineyard, the wine barrels, the fermentation barrels, etc. Our tour guide was quite the trip and probably both enhanced and worsened the tour. He knew his Mondavi/Napa valley history inside and out, but along with the scripted jokes, he was dry and boring. It's probably a good thing I wasn't there with friends because I would have been subtly teasing him all day long.



Anyway, I spent about 3 hours at the vineyard and overall it was incredible. I also hit what used to be the Coppola vineyard as well as the Martini vineyard...both incredible. I highly recommend Napa...preferably with a significant other. And yes, I did just come back from Oktoberfest where I drank 10 liters of beer per day and go to Napa Valley where I had a few bottles of wine per day. No big deal.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pork Knuckle


I'm shocked I didn't put this picture of German pork knuckle up until now. The pork knuckle looked like...a pigs foot, and it was delicious to rip the meat off of the foot of a pig. The sauce was amazing and the dumpling was above average as well. I had this pork knuckle at the Haufbrau House restaurant the same day as arriving. (I think the dumpling is still digesting in my stomach 2 weeks later)

Friday, October 3, 2008

True Chef


I'm an amateur chef, a passionate chef, but still an amateur. I often go into restaurants and am blown away by incredibly creative and successful chefs. This picture is an example of a chef at a French restaurant (forgot the name) in Charleston, SC. Not only was the fish incredible, but the mussels before hand were incredible and the crusty French bread was out of this world. Anyway, only a true chef can cook a whole fish and make it taste this good and look this appetizing all at the same time. Makes me wonder what it takes to become a true chef. Practice? Culinary school? Owning a restaurant? I don't know yet, but I think I'll try practice and find out for myself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oktoberfest II

I couldn't help myself. Here's another classy video of my time in Munich. (I'm not a film maker, and I had 4 liters of Haufbrau in me, so please excuse the quality) Notice the aged gentleman standing on the table with a liter of beer screaming German drinking songs. By the way, this occurred Friday night, the day BEFORE the official Oktoberfest even began. Oh, and I'm on my way to visit Wine Country in California on Tuesday, so I should have a different sort of video then.
video

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Munich - Oktoberfest 2008


Ah, Oktoberfest. Munich. Germany in the lovely autumn. Here's a quick recap of a quite lovely week.

Day 1: We arrive in Munich Thursday afternoon around 5pm. We knew that if we lollygagged in the hotel, we would just pass out due to the jet-lag so we decided to go to the Haufbrau Haus in the center of Munich. 4 Liters of Haufbrau and 1 pork knuckle later, we went to bed.

Day 2: We thought the festival officially opened today, but it didn't. We did the touristy stuff and walked around Munich and ended up at the Chinese Tower in the English Gardens and consumed a few liters there. We then went back to the Haufbrau Haus with a couple of new friends (Billy and Phil) and consumed beers and chicken until we could no longer.

Day 3: Hippodrom - The Hippodrom festhalle is a smaller, more local hall that serves Spaten. It was delicious and our waitress was a beautiful German princess.

Day 4: Haufbrau - The Haufbrau festhalle holds approximately 10,000 people, probably more and is absolutely insane. It is more international, the band plays 24/7 and the people sing, dance and stand on the table 24/7. We arrived at about 9am and left around 6am. That's about 9 hours of beer drinking for those counting.

Day 5: Lowenbrau - The Lowenbrau festhalle is a bit smaller than Haubrau and perhaps a bit less festive, but still crazy. We sat by 4 Australian lads that were very friendly and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Day 6: Flight home wreaking of beer.

Here is a brief video of our time in the Haufbrau Festhalle:
video

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Entertaining


Entertaining is a skill. A skill that is not innate, rather developed through experience. Through experiences of attending dinners and throwing dinners. My parents are skilled entertainers (in both attending and throwing!) I didn't really notice that skill until I got older and saw them entertain neighbors and friends. People always left happy, well fed, and thoroughly entertained. The key to making people feel comfortable is getting them drunk. Just kidding, there's more to it than that. Most importantly you must make everyone at the party feel comfortable. That doesn't mean acting fake, it means acting real and making people feel comfortable. It also means having a wide variety of drinks available. Vodka, Whiskey, white wine, red wine, good beer, champagne, perhaps some Tequila depending on the group. After that, music is essential to creating a particular mood, whether it's jazz, rock, rap, dance, etc... Mix all of these elements well and you get a successful party...if not, people won't come back or invite you to there party.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beach food



Too much food, not enough words.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's in the fridge?

A couple of nights ago I wanted to make an inviting, creative, healthy meal, but did not feel like going shopping so I looked in my fridge to see what I could come up with. After I passed by the beer and stale mixers, I saw some fresh Penne, Parmesan, cream, bacon, frozen peas, butter, olive oil, pepper flakes, all the good stuff...lovely!

  • I first cut up the bacon into smaller pieces and cooked it until crispy and than put it aside.
  • At the same time, cook the penne until al dente and put aside.
  • In a pot, slightly blanch the peas in water with a bit of bullion powder and then put aside.
  • In another pan (or in the pan you cooked the bacon if you want to get crazy) cook some onion, if you have it, and garlic on low/medium heat until slightly browned (in a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil). Add half a cup of cream or milk, a couple of tablespoons of butter and reduce to the consistency you like. Add the pepper flakes and any other spices you want to kick it up. Add as much Parmesan as you like
I added a decent Spanish red wine from Rioja to go with the Penne. It was really easy, cheap, somewhat healthy, not really, but pretty close, and quick to make.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Complete Meal

What is a complete meal? In which order should we eat? In the US, we eat bread first, than salad, than usually a large plate of meat with vegetables and a starch, and finally desert. In Italy, you eat the salad after all the main dishes and before desert. They usually start with a light appetizer, then have a pasta plate, fish plate, meat plate and than desert followed by an apperatif such as Amaro Averna. In Spain there is a lot of tapas and snacking and then the meal is served. In Sweden the meal is usually served at once similar to the US. In England they...well who cares about English food, seriously!?

Anyway, which method is best? Which series of dishes is most healthy? How fast should we eat? I remember growing up my family set the table and ate together every night, unless my dad was on a business trip or my brother in a tennis tournament. Looking back, eating as a family was huge in establishing the closeness we have now. I have no idea how my mom did it, my brother was a normally weird teenage and I was a fricking disaster, but she did it...and I'm glad she did.

Back to the subject. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how you eat, when you eat, how fast you eat, just as long as you eat with your family and friends as much as possible, eat healthy and definitely get creative and get your brain working. For some reason, most people in the US rush through meals and don't appreciate the importance of the nurishment of the body and soul while eating and don't take advantage of the opportunity presented every day. Whatever! I'm going to order a pizza tonight and drink a few beers while watching Entourage by myself!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jacques Pepin


I'm 30 years old so I figured it was about time that I challenged my comfort zone and attempted a few new non-Swutch style recipes. I started reading Jacques Pepin's autobiography, "The Apprentice" a few days ago and discovered an excellent meal he concocted over 60 years ago called Poulet a la Creme, (Chicken with Cream Sauce). It was actually the first meal he produced by himself when he was only 14 years old. I tried it on my usual Guinea Pigs Mark and Aimee. The result was that Mark loved it, I loved it, but Aimee surprised me with her new vegetarianism so she couldn't eat it. That's fine though, means I can further explore the unexplored world of fish.

Here are the ingredients (serves 4):
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Chicken (cut into 4 pieces - 2 legs, 2 breast all with bones)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup of fruity white wine (Chardonnay)
  • 1 cup of good chicken stock (I like Kitchen Essentials - it's a yellow box)
  • 1 small onion (peeled, split in half)
  • 1 Bouquet garni - Parsley (leave sprigs in), 2 Bay leaves, Thyme. I also put in Rosemary and pepper flakes.
  • Flour
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  1. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a sturdy, big saucepan along with some good olive oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides.
  2. Once the chicken is browned, add the wine, chicken stock, onion and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cover with tin foil for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with tin foil to keep warm.
  3. Add kneaded butter, about a tablespoon, with flour, also a tablespoon and whisk into sauce. Whisk aggresively. Bring to a boil and than add the cream and boil for another 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the sauce is boiling, you may want to remove the bones and the skin from the chicken. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve over the chicken and serve immediately.
Along with the chicken, I made brown rice (which I always cook in chicken stock) and added parsley to the rice. I also made my mom's salad dressing with arugala, avocado, yellow pepper, corn, tomatoes, and some other stuff I can't remember. Add a baguette to dip in the sauce.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Buddha Bar


I went to the Buddha Bar in NYC last Saturday night with my colleague, Lauren. Quite an interesting experience to say the least. It is in the middle of the Meatpacking District and at first sight, it has the look and feel of walking into a nightclub, bouncer, red carpet, velvet rope, etc. The music is eccentric and comes from a dubious origin, but is excellent for the character of the restaurant/club. While the place is enormous, the music holds its own and is never too loud or too soft. We arrived at 7.30pm and it was half full. By 9pm it was absolutely packed with people. We had chicken dumplings, spicy tuna, lobster rolls accompanied by a few nice, strong vodka and tonics and ended with some chocolate volcano thing. The experience was above average, nothing spectacular. The fact that the waiter was rushing us to get out of there and flip our table probably put a slight damper on my attitude, especially since we dropped $150 on the meal...(I've spent that much on meals around the world and the experience was 10 times better.) However, the Buddha Bar is in the middle of the Meatpacking district and the night life of that area reminded me of my old days in Madrid, Spain (La Marcha!!)...the events of that aspect of the night are for another blog th0ugh.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

I wish I could take credit for the creation of this meal, but I can not. Bart knew I was a bit homesick from Sweden and wanted a nice Swedish meal of Swedish meatballs, noodles and cold beer (Beer was actually Dutch, nice combo!). If you want the recipe, email me and I'll get Bart's email. You should want it because it was absolutely incredible and very comforting. The meatballs were tasty and the sauce was divine. Oh, and since we are training for Oktoberfest, we had a few liters to go with your meal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rack of Lamb

Two successful meals in a row. This time I made roasted potatoes, salad (heavy on the avocados) and rack of lamb. The potatoes and salad were the same standard recipes from previous blogs, but the rack of lamb and mint Chimichurri sauce were brand new and a raging success. First of all the rack of lamb. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and rosemary and a bit of thyme. I rubbed the spices onto the meat and let it sit for a couple of hours. The Mint Chimichurri sauce consisted of 1 big jalapeno, a whole bag full of Publix mint leaves, olive oil, 1 small shallot, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix all those up in a food processor. Ok, so now you get a pan scorching hot with olive oil. Sear both sides of the rack of Lamb for 3-4 minutes. (expect a lot of smoke) Then put the rack of lamb in the oven at 450 degrees 14 minutes for medium rare. This meal goes well with a robust wine to match the Chimichurri, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon. The meal was a resounding success as you can tell by Mark Sucking the bones and the Arugala in Casey's teeth and the crazy grin on Aimee's face.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More training


Oktoberfest is right around the corner. We are heavily integrated and committed to our training. We have the correct materials, as you can see here (yes, that is a liter of beer, almost 4 12 ounce cans when full), and the correct attitude. I recently heard that the alcohol percentage of beer at Oktoberfest is almost twice as high as normal beer here in the US, so we are just going to have to train twice as hard. All we need to do now is continue with our training, eat more pretzels and buy some lederhosen.

Monday, July 14, 2008


It's always a good feeling to know that you have created a memorable meal. That's the point of cooking obviously, to entertain and make others feel good physically and mentally. And of course it's always good to inflate the ego of the chef by complementing his culinary achievements.,,but be honest.

This night I made shrimp and chicken for the protein (marinated in soy sauce, teriyaki, sugar, spices, don't remember the other stuff), my moms fried rice (brown rice, bacon, baby lima beans) and a salad (with arugala, tomatoes, avocados and carrots) with the best salad dressing on the planet (not giving away this recipe). It was so good that I forgot to take pictures of it until we were pretty much done. All accompanied by Chianti Clasico and Peroni.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bachelor Party


My brother came to Orlando for his bachelor party this past weekend. (He's getting married to a great woman in two weeks.) Actually, it was his third bachelor party. Apparently he's popular. We didn't participate in most of the typical male activities for a bachelor party, such as tic-tac-toe sand bags and horseshoes. Sure, we went out Friday night and poured beer on ourselves and everybody around us, champagne style. But Saturday we just played golf and then hung out at the black hole for the evening (with a brief trip for some margaritas at the Beacon). In order to nourish our bodies and soak up some of the alcohol, I made a meal of marinated flank steak, lemon and teriyaki marinated chicken, french fries, corn on the cob and some broccoli. As usual, we ate on the beer pong table which has pretty much turned into standard operating procedure. But the food was either really good, or we were really hungry. Here's a picture of the bachelor party participants digging in.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spicy Fries


French Fries are my favorite food item on the planet and they are almost always better when actually fried, but they can taste quite good from the oven and I've been told it's healthier that way. I buy the shoestring fries and heat the oven up to 450 degrees. I put the fries on my baking sheet, making sure that they all touch the actual sheet so they get crispier. I then sprinkle them liberally with all sorts of seasoning before I put them in the oven. My favorite seasoning is: Cayenne Pepper, McCormick's seasoned salt, pepper, paprika, pepper flakes and finely chopped fresh parsley. Yeah, it will light your mouth on fire, but that's what dips are for. You can kind of see them in the picture. And yes, I served yet another meal on the beer pong table. I will grow up someday, I promise.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Grilled Chicken Kebab


I cooked Chicken Kebabs a few nights ago. The meal went along with my recent theme of multiple flavors in one meal. The tapas or meze sensation if you will. Growing up, I experienced 3 flavors every night. A meat, a vegetable and a starch. My meals were far from boring, in fact, I grew up eating gourmet EVERY NIGHT. The 3 footed meal works and it will be my bread and butter for the rest of my life, but having multiple flavors will excite your palate in new ways.

This particular evening I prepared Chicken Kebabs, Shrimp Kebabs and accompanied it with brown rice and spinach salad. The Chicken Kebabs were marinated in pretty much everything I could find in my fridge: garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, vinegar, creole seasoning, pepper, soy sauce, a ton of parsley, chicken broth...I think that's it. I then grilled the kebabs on a stick with red bell pepper, onion and zucchini. (Yeah, that's my DeLonghi Indoor Grill. My condo doesn't allow normal grills. Who in their right mind could do that?!?!?)

The shrimp kebabs were marinated in garlic, white wine, old bay seasoning, lemon, parsley, fresh ginger and olive oil. They were skewered with onion and pineapple.

I also made a nice, refreshing dip for the chicken. It's mayonnaise, with a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice, a ton of parsley and salt and pepper. It's refreshing and delicious with the spicy chicken and shrimp kebabs. It actually makes for a nice dip for anything spicy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tapas


I lived in Madrid, Spain for about a year and while traveling throughout the Iberian peninsula, I experienced the true essence of Tapas bars. You would go into a bar, have a beer or a glass of wine accompanied by a pincho of this, or a bocadillo of that, a piece of Jamon Serrano, some olives, a croqueta, chicken, shrimp, beef, whatever. You basically have a specialized tapa at each bar , have a drink and a tapa, and move on to the next, it's called a tapeo when you move from bar to bar. The beauty of it is that your palate never gets bored and you experience something new every bite. Logrono in La Rioja region was especially magnificent. They have La Calle de Los Vinos (The Street of the Wines) where each Bodega (Vineyard) sports their own vintage wine and 1 particular tapa. The street is about 15 feet wide and there are 50-60 different bodegas represented. Incredible!


That made me wonder why I don't relive my Spain memories more often. A few different mini dishes. I did it last night. I made Chicken Teriyaki, Spicy Asian Shrimp and a new chicken that I have no idea what it was called, but was the best chicken I have ever eaten. It was all accompanied by some rice and a small side salad with my moms vinaigrette dressing. So there were 3 distinct meat flavors, a salad and some rice.


On to the chicken. You can see by the picture how good it looks. It tasted better. All I did was cut up some onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. I cooked the onions for a few minutes in butter, added the mushrooms, added the tomatoes, added some pepper flakes, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and some other spices here and there that I could find. I let it saute for a few minutes and than added about a quarter cup of chicken stock. Once that came to a boil and reduced a bit, I added the cut up chicken and cooked it until it was ready. I have no idea what this is called, but it was absolutely amazing! Especially combined with the Asian Spicy Shrimp, Teriyaki Chicken, Asa's salad and the brown rice.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My favorite Pan


I have a favorite pan that I use. It's an All Clad - Emeril Lagasse edition. I have cooked everything in it. Shrimp, Chicken, Steak, Fillet, Crab Cakes, Vegetables, Pork, everything. This pan is involved in every meal I make. This pan is probably my prized possession. I mean, we've gone through a lot together. Hundreds of dinners, hundreds of washes, I've dropped it hundreds of times, etc. And to think, this little old thing has brought nurishment and enjoyment to hundreds of people (I actually probably haven't cooked for hundreds of people, but "tens of people" doesn't really make sense). All this glory from a molded piece of metal (I think, I guess it's steel or something, who knows) . This pan has been with me through it all. Pan, I salute you.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Caprese


Making a good Caprese Salad is really just about getting quality ingredients. I went to Costco a today and got an excellent ball of mozzarella cheese (as well as 8 bottles of wine). On my way home I passed by Whole Foods and purchased fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. I cut up the tomatoes and mozzarella in about a quarter inch slices and laid them on each other. I then took the basil and scrunched it up in my hand (apparently that brings out the flavor, but I'm not so sure it really matters) and then cut it up into little pieces (I believe the French call that chiffonading) and spread it on the tomatoes and mozzarella. I then added a touch of olive oil and some really good balsamic vinegar. That should be enough for flavor, but if you want to add some spice to it, add some salt and pepper and whatever other spice you like, but you probably won't need it because it is so fresh and good anyway. This was the appetizer for the evening. The main course was spicy meatballs with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and homemade gravy. Rick, the guy in the picture, did not eat the mashed potatoes. In fact, he has lost over 40 pounds in 3 months. Incredible! He did it by minimizing carbs and constantly eating small meals all day long. Good job Rick!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Two shades of dining in Thornton Park

When you walk into a restaurant everything counts. From the front door hostess (usually a female), to the decor, to the ambiance, even down to the bathrooms and cleanliness or not so cleanliness of the chefs. Everything can add or take away from your dining experience. I believe it comes down from the owners, through the management, and all the way down to the person who cleans the toilets.

For example, there is one restaurant close to where I live that does not get it. I won't mention names and I don't care to bash them, I'll just say that when you walk into the place the hostess seems to be way too busy to help you. Isn't her only job to help seat people who walk in?!? So immediately the experience is diminished. Compare that to Shari Sushi Lounge, which is also close to where I live. The hostess is always attentive. There are always a few people ready to take care of you at the hostess stand if she is not around. The staff seems like they all want to be there and that they're having fun. The sushi chefs all seem to be having fun. The manager with the weird shirts could crack an extra smile here and there, but even that guy clearly exceeds and takes pride in his work. The food is excellent, the service is excellent, the decor and ambiance is excellent. No wonder it's packed all the time.

Anyway, I just have never and will never get laziness and stupidity when it can so easily be replaced with energy and pride. Restaurant #1 has the second best location in all of downtown Orlando and they're just plain blowing it. Restaurant #2 has an excellent location and has been killing it for years. Both places have good food, one has good service.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eggs


This is a simple recipe. It's easy, quick, cheap, etc. You just take a couple pieces of toasted bread on the first layer. Butter them up if you want. A slice of provolone cheese, two pieces of Salsalito Turkey and then just fried an egg and put it on top. The red spice on top is the Swutch spice. In the background is Raspberry Saft which you can buy at any Ikea.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Beer Pong

There are many different house rules and regulations when it comes to beer pong. Different countries use different words and even different table owners can make different rules. First of all, the table. A regulation beer pong table is 9 feet by 5 feet. (Mine is 8 feet by 4 feet because it's all we could fit in the car) You can get a nice, hard piece of plywood at any Home Depot like store. Maybe $25. Then you need 4 Beer mugs. You can go to www.northcoteimports.com for the beer mugs. Make sure you get the 1 Liter Oktoberfest style Masskrug. Then just buy some ping pong paddles and a net and you're set. Oh, and a ton of beer of course. The goal now is to obviously get the ball into the mug. If it hits the mug and does not go in, it is one sip. If it goes in, you must chug the beer. Needless to say, copious amounts of alcohol are consumed during a battle of beer pong.

Here are some critical verbiage you must know in order to look foolish which in beer pong is not looking foolish, if you know what I mean.

  • Rim Sinker = When your opponent hits the rim of your mug and you react quickly enough to sink the ball directly into his mug. Probably the second most difficult sink in all of beer pong
  • Swish = When you sink the ball directly into the beer in the mug without hitting any of the mug. This is the single most difficult sink in beer pong.
  • Rim Job = Hit the rim of the mug, 3 sips for your opponent
  • Mug Hit = Hit the side of the mug, 1 sip for your opponent
  • Pong Dance = Not to be confused with pole dance. This is when you sink the ball in your opponents mug...you must celebrate.
  • Bouncer = This is the most humiliating way to be sunk. Your opponent bounces the ball into your mug while you are not paying attention.
This would qualify as a rudimentary introduction into the world of Beer Pong, but it will suffice for the short term. The truest and surest way to learn would be to actually play a few rounds. Many pictures to come!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bangers and Mash

Mmmmm, gravy!! I made a gravy/sauce a few nights ago that would make Homer Simpson go crazy. It was paired with some Bratwurst Sausages (Bangers) and mashed potatoes (Mash). I also made my typical light salad that went well with the richness of the mashed potatoes and to make sure everything went through cleanly, I added some baked beans. I almost licked the plate after this one, actually, I did lick the plate. Oh, and this meal would love some companionship and that company could be in a nice pint of Guinness, Heineken, Lowenbrau or just a diet Miller.

Mashed Potatoes (Mash):
  • Put potatoes in a pot with 4-5 cloves of peeled garlic. Add some chicken bullion and any other spices you might want to add. Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. When a fork can easily poke into the potato, it's done.
  • Mash up the potatoes and garlic with some cream or milk and add salt and pepper to taste.
Gravy:
  • I cooked some bacon in a pan and put that bacon in the salad. In that same pan, I then cooked the already boiled (in beer) bratwurst sausages. With the drippings from that, I added about half a pack of the Publix brand Onion gravy mix with about a cup of milk. I added my traditional spices (cayenne pepper, regular pepper, cajun seasoning, grill seasoning, etc). And you can add a touch of butter, depending how unhealthy you want to get.
  • Is it good for you? No. If you ate it every day would you die from a heart attack at 40? Yes. But you can put this gravy on steaks, add some mushrooms and put it on chicken, you could even throw some apples in there and put it on pork chops. Anyway, this is soul food and anything good for your soul, must be good for your body.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce


If you want a healthy meal that is spicy and has an Asian flair to it, try this one. I made it last night for my dear friends, the Hitchners, and they loved it. Well, they said they did anyway. I mean they didn't go running off to the balcony or a trash can. If you want, you can add to the decor and the overall loveliness of the meal by eating on a beer pong table like we did. Basically, just buy a 8 by 4 foot piece of strong plywood and put it on top of another table and you have a beer pong/dining room table. It really helps out with the overall atmosphere and ambiance.

Anyway, here are the ingredients:
  • Shrimp, bigger the better
  • Cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup of Orange Juice, maybe a bit more
  • 3 tblspns soy sauce
  • 2 tblspns honey
  • 2 tblspns rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tblspns chile paste with garlic (sambal oelek)
  • Canola Oil
  • 2 tlbnspn minced fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic gloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • Sprinkle the shrimp with the cornstarch and toss well to coat, but only a thin coating
  • Combine the juice, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and chile past in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. The recipe doesn't call for Cayenne pepper or pepper flakes, but I put them in anyway and it was worth it. It made it quite spicy, but no sissy boys or girls here.
  • Heat the Canola oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for about 30 seconds or until you can smell it. Add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Then finally add the juice mixture and the onions and cook until the shrimp are done and the sauce thickens.
I served the shrimp on a bed of brown rice with a side of peas. Next time, I will keep the rice, but probably make a fresh, fragrant salad in stead.

I think you'll like it. If you don't, call my dad because he's the one who gave me the recipe.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fillet me

I have developed a skill of cooking fillets that has not received one complaint yet. Except for that one time I dropped the 9 ouncer on the floor, but I had just cleaned the floor with Clorox, so no biggie. Anyway, I learned the technique from my father, Pappie. Take a pan and put about 2 tablespoons of butter. Turn on medium/high heat and let the butter melt and then turn slightly brownish. The part I do a little different comes before. I liberally season the fillets with a lot of cracked black pepper and seasoned salt with a few dashes of Worchesthire Sauce and a bit of A-1. I let the fillets get to room temperature as well. Who knows if that actually helps, but I do it and it seems to work. When the butter is turning brown and bubbling in the pan a little, put the fillets in and let them sear about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare (depending on the size of course) and 5-6 minutes for medium well. Then let the fillets sit for about 5 minutes after you take them off the heat. The end result will be a nicely seared and crispy outside and a juicy inside. Accompany the fillet with some french fries and spring mix salad with a light dressing.

The dressing is again, from my mom. 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar. 1 packet of sugar or Splenda. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix liberally. If you like an added kick, add some horseradish and/or dijon mustard.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oktoberfest 3

The ginormous, 1 liter beer mugs are in. They have also been through about 3 rounds of thorough testing. These ginormous beer mugs contain almost 3 twelve ounce beers each and weigh probably 2-3 pounds...without beer. They also provide an excellent swell of oxygen that flows while you are sipping thus increasing the ease of consumption. Not to mention the fact that you feel like a real man holding such a big mug full of delicious, frothy beer. The training goes on!!

Ballerina

I learned a strange dish/sandwich/snack when I was in Sweden a while back and I made it again today. I was looking around my fridge for something light and healthy. I'm getting a bit chunky, so I could lose about 5 pounds, but I have not had a meal without meat in it since I had a can of Italian Gerbers 29 years ago. Until today. Anyway, I had a ripe avocado and 1 egg left. Not much you can do with 1 egg. So I was thinking back to when I was in Sweden last and my cousin Ninna made a tasty snack one afternoon in Dandaryd (a town outside of Stockholm). She boiled an egg and mashed it up with a ripe avocado and put it on a piece of bread. Brilliant! I did that today only I added some lemon juice and spicy seasoning. Oh, and the reason the title is Ballerina is because Ninna is a professional Ballerina.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spicy Shrimp


Impressing dinner guests is difficult if you do not know what they like or want or can or can not handle. So you kind of roll the dice and see what happens. Last night I made spicy shrimp, with my mom's fried rice and a salad. I've already talked about the rice and the salad was pretty simple (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, mustard and some spices). The spicy shrimp were quite good. As you can see from the picture, I took it a bit late after we had tucked into the dish already.

I cooked the shrimp in olive oil, white wine (pinot grigio in this case), garlic, seasoned salt, pepper flakes, some cajun seasoning and some lemon. Cook it for a few minutes, maybe 5-7, and then take the shrimp out. In the pan with all the juices, add 2-3 tablespoons of butter and let it melt thus thickening the sauce. That sauce was great on the rice and the shrimp.

This post is a little more boring than others. I'm not feeling creative today, but, the shrimp were really good so I felt like sharing the recipe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bacon Basil and Tomato

Not a BLT, rather a BBT. I didn't have any lettuce, so I used basil in stead and it was incredible. I put mozzarella cheese, a little mayonnaise, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and of course a ton of crispy bacon on toasted bread. Simple and delicious.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Simplicity


Okay, so I cooked a quick, easy meal that was cheap and filling. Chicken, Spinach, Penne pasta and some parmigiana reggiano cheese, for Mark and I before going out and hitting the town.

Ingredients:
  • Penne Pasta
  • Chicken cutlets
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Spinach
  • Chicken powder
  • Garlic
  • Parmigaino Reggiano
  • Pepper
Seriously, are any of these ingredients hard to find???? No!!! Easy and cheap and festive.

Chicken - marinate it in Teriyaki sauce and some sugar for about 30 minutes to an hour, with any spices you might want. (I like my teriyaki spicy) I like to cut the chicken breasts in half to chicken cutlets so they cook quicker. Cook on a medium heated grill pan for about 4 minutes per side and let sit of at least 5 minutes than cut up into pieces.
Spinach - You could get fresh spinach and cook it in garlic and spices or frozen spinach. Either one works. Cook it separately and about as long as the box says, maybe a bit longer to let the spices marinate.
Penne - Cook for about 10 minutes (al dente) in chicken stock.

Basically mix all the ingredients in the biggest pot you have and sprinkle fresh parmigiana cheese all over the dish and mix it in.

It's incredible and it's fricking delicious and easy. It's a simple meal

If you love it. Let me know. This is yet another recipe where I took from my mother's knowledge and used it to the best of my ability. She is the best chef on EARTH!!!!!!!!!

By the way, I was 65 to 70 % drunk when I made this with diet Miller!

Dank ja wel!!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How to cook

Some people are scared to cook, some people are lazy, some people just aren't big into eating other than the necessary day to day enrichment of their body, and there are those who want to learn how to cook, but for one reason or another, do not. So for those who ask themselves, what can I do? I tell you that all it takes is passion and love.

Why do you think the best chef's in the world are the best? Because they are passionate and love what they are doing. Why do you think my mom is such a good chef? Because she used to put Kahlua in my chocolate milk when I was a kid and I didn't know any better. No seriously, because she has passion and an abundance of love. All you have to do is cook for people you love, or just at least like and get excited about it. Find some good, fairly easy recipes and just get going. What's the worst that could happen? You could light your kitchen on fire. I've done that. You could make someone vomit (I actually have not made anyone else vomit yet, just myself). So what? I'm a good chef now because of all of those incidents and they all make good stories. Cooking is like anything else in life, half the battle is won just by showing up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oktoberfest Part 2

Guten Tag once again,

Our second official training exercise took place at Bauern-Stube restaurant. This restaurant has been in Orlando, with the same German owners, yes German, for about 20 years, it is somewhat of a local icon. High school German classes frequent this place as well as plenty of German locals. The food was good. What I liked about the place is that it had a much more German feeling. The owners had accents, our server, probably the owners daughter, looked German and was very jovial and accommodating. More on that later. But first my theory on drinking attitudes.

Each nation has a different culture and mindset towards drinking and partying. One thing that is the same across the board is that almost every country in the world brews a national beer and/or imports beer. And almost every country in the world has a different attitude towards beer and a different reaction towards drinking. Americans and Canadians get really drunk and when they get drunk they get crazy. They seem to lose any sense of good judgment and don't mind making really bad decisions. Fighting, puking, driving, etc. English people are generally like this as well.

However, I must say that through my travels I have noticed that Germans, Swedes and the Irish get really, really happy and excited when they drink. They start singing songs, playing music and just having a good time. Plus the Germans and the Irish are the number 1 and 2 drinking countries per capita so maybe they just have more practice at acting somewhat normal and non-violent when they drink. So if you want to get your head bashed in by a maniac, go to Oklahoma. If you want to get your head bashed in by a happy drunk, go to Dublin.

Anyway, back to the restaurant. As I said in my last entry, we are focusing on Bavarian beers. We each had a Paulaner which was excellent and smooth as always. The beer mug was a liter (about 2 and 3/4 normal beers) and exactly what it will look and feel like in Munich during Oktoberfest. So of course the next day we purchased 6 liter beer mugs for authentic in-house practicing. But the expense is tax deductible because it all goes to our training.

Auf wiederhesen

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oktoberfest Part 1

Guten Tag,

I will be in Munich Germany September 18th to 23rd attending the largest outdoor beer drinking party in the world. Also known as Oktoberfest. I am going with a friend. I do not take going to Oktoberfest lightly and view the trip as a vacation, but also as a responsibility and commitment to all avid beer drinkers around the world and to myself. Thus our training has begun in January giving us about 8 months to complete all necessary preparations and be able to fully enjoy the experience. What is the primary "necessary preparation"? Well, we have to be able to drink a ton of fresh German beer, preferably from Bavaria. If we show up at the Hafbrauhaus at 10am, drink 3 liters each and pass out on the table with a Bratwurst and a pretzel hanging out of our mouths, that would be bad and a waste.

Anyway, the training begun January 15th at a small German restaurant here in Orlando. I had the Wiener Schnitzel and Bart had the Pork Knuckle. The food was served with red cabbage and sauerkraut. The restaurant was empty, but the food was decent.

Enough about the food. Let's talk about the beer. We each had 3 pints of Warsteiner which was had a smooth flow and an excellent tag line: "Because life's too short." I'm not sure why a beer company would say that? Maybe a travel agency. What are they trying to say? Life's too short so drink your face off until you have cirrhosis and your liver resembles a checker board.

Moving on. The Warsteiner beer is from the lesser producing northern region. Most beers are produced in Bavaria, to the south and that is where Oktoberfest is, so we made an executive decision to focus our beer drinking efforts on such brands as Paulaner, Haufbrau, Lowenbrau, etc.

Overall, it was an excellent experience, worth the trip, but not again. The beer was good, the food was above average. The fact that the owners were Indian did not diminish the experience at all.

Auf wiederhesen!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Say Hello to my Turkish Friends

A few days ago I prepared a meal for 4 Turkish people. They are in the US for 6 weeks and are all restaurantors. Needless to say I was a bit nervous to cook for people with such discerning taste. I thought at first that I should get them liquored up so they couldn't tell the difference between a fillet mignon and a flank steak, but they had just met me and were hesitant to drink diet Miller. It ended up being one of the best dinners I have ever served. I broke in the new fryer with some spicy Calamari Fritti. Then we had some Bruschetta with tomato, basil, and garlic. Then we had beef kabobs with mushroom, onion and peppers. All drunken down with some fresh diet Miller and a few bottles of Smoking Loon red wine. The booz was cheap, but good enough to get the job done. And the Turks opened up a bit after they had a few drinks in them. Despite their above average English proficiency, they were very friendly and open. But I like anyone who likes to drink and eat.

The kabobs and bruschetta are pretty easy to make (post a comment if you want the recipe), so here's the recipe for the calamari fritti: (by the way, this is yet another cheap recipe. 2 pounds of squid cost me about $6)

Serves 5 people as a small appetizer
2 pounds of squid
Flour
Milk
Cayenne pepper
McCormick's Season All
Old Bay Seasoning
Knorr's Aromat Seasoning
Paprika
Garlic Powder
Fryer with Peanut Oil.

  • Clean the squid. Take out the tentacles (cut them up to fry later, being careful not to break the ink sack). Be sure to take off the skin. Cut the squid into small round pieces about a quarter of an inch wide.
  • Soak the squid in milk for 1 to 2 hours
  • Heat the peanut oil to 350 degrees
  • Put about a cup of flour into a bowl and add all of the seasoning from above. I don't remember how much to put in. If you want it really spicy, put in a bunch, if not, don't.
  • Take the squid out of the milk (don't fully pat dry, just enough to make sure the squid is not dripping with milk when you put it in the flour mixture) and put it into the flour mixture.
  • Toss the calamari in the flour mixture until it has a very thin coat. It should not be soggy, but have a nice thin layer of the flour and spices.
  • Put one layer of calamari in the fryer for about 1 to 2 minutes, that's it!
  • Dump the cooked calamari on a paper towel and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.
  • The sauce I used was simply a store bought marinara sauce kicked up with some cayenne pepper, black pepper, and a bit of hot sauce.
Enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fry daddy, fry

I just got a fryer about a week ago and I have spent more than a few nights dreaming of dipping many things into said fryer. I've started slowly with your simple french fries. I got a little crazy with a roasted garlic mayonnaise dip and a spicy habanero ketchup dip. But let's take a step back and think about the versatility and history of fried foods. Can you think for a moment of any culture in the world that does not take the oil or fat of something and throw meat or vegetables into the cauldron to make it taste good? I mean it's brilliant. Pescado frito in Spain, Italian fried calamari, fried chicken, English fish and chips, potatoes chips are fried, Irish people batter fish in Guinness, the list goes on and on. I guess the dreaming of fried foods should stop as it will certainly shave a few years off of my life. But who cares? So will anything that tastes good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Swedish Cakey Recipe

Just finished this one.

Ingrediants: 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 4 large eggs, 2 cups sweidsh dried fruit (available at Ikea), 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 spoon salt, 1 cup brown sugar, juice of 1 lemon, swedish nuts, butter, 5 litres Acquavit (Swedish Fire Water)

First, sample the Acquavit to check for quality. Take a large bowl for mixing, but check the Acquavit first again to be sure it is of the perfect Swedish quality. Pure one cup, make sure it is level, then drink. Repeat. Turn on the mixer. Beat the butter until the bowl is fluffy. Check the Acquavit once again to check for the bestest of quality. Cry another tup. Break 2 legs in the fluffy bowl and add the Swedish nuts. Sample the Acquavit to make sure contistentlay good quality.

Next, measure the salt. Or something. Whatever. Who cares? Check the Acquavit agian. Strain in the Swedish dried fruit. Do something with the sugar after greasing the oven. Turn on the lemon juice to 350 degrees. Throw the mixing bowl off the balcony. Check the Acquavit again.

Sound good? Who likes Swedish fruitcake anyway?

Monday, January 21, 2008

My first blog

Dear fellow chefs,

Sometimes cooking is like writing. You put something out there in the public, for others to view or taste, and you are then judged by the quality and skill of your writing or cooking. Some people are untruthfully nice, some people are honest, some people just want a free meal. I think I am an above average chef, people have told me that, but I have no idea if I can write. Let's find out. And should you decide to comment, be honest. I can take it.

I learned how to cook from my mother who went to culinary school in Rome, Italy, as well as my father. My mother is the best chef I know. I have never had a bad meal from her in 30 years (except that Lobster Bisque still scares our whole family). The second best chef I know is my dad and the third is my brother. Throughout my life, my friends would always want to come over for dinner. I did not realize until later that I was used to eating gourmet meals every night and they were used to only an occasional good meal or just pizza and takeout. I enjoyed meals with tastes and flavors from all over the world. My mother is Swedish, my dad is Dutch (hence the Swutch Chef...half Swedish, half Dutch), I was born in Rome, Italy and lived in Madrid, Spain. If you are a food lover, those are some amazing places to experience good food and drink and also all very different. Anyway, enough about that, let's talk about what I cooked last night.

Some people are scared to cook fish. I know I was. I'm not anymore because it is 1) really easy 2) really healthy and 3) usually pretty cheap. On a difficulty level, this is about a 2 out of 5 (5 being making a mousse out of beef and 1 being a microwave dinner).

Last night's menu: Crostini with tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil, cheese and Anchovies. Tilapia fillet with a green sauce over a bed of Swedish fried rice.

So here's how you do the Crostini:
  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Take a loaf of French bread and cut thing slices, about 1/4 of an inch.
  • Line a baking sheet with tin foil (easier to clean up later).
  • Cut up garlic, tomatoes (I love cherry tomatoes), basil into small pieces so it can easily stay on the bread.
  • Put the above mixture on the bread, season with pepper and top of with a small anchovy fillet (anchovy is really salty, but amazing).
  • I also sprinkled mozzarella cheese on top. The cheese and anchovies are optional.
  • Put it in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the bread is crusty and the cheese is melted.
Swedish fried rice (quite cheap! All you need is a box of rice, bacon and baby lima beans):
  • Take a wok and cook cut up strips of bacon. Cook on medium heat. Once the bacon is cooked (I like it crispy), take the bacon out and leave the grease in the wok. If you want to be silly and lose flavor, you can pour the grease out.
  • In a separate pot, cook the brown rice (I almost always cook rice in chicken stock in stead of water)
  • Once the rice is done, put it in the wok, add frozen lima beans for about 5-7 minutes and when the lima beans are warm, add back the bacon and then serve.
  • By the way, if you are a vegetarian, just don't use the bacon and use vegetable stock. It will still taste great. You can also use peas in stead of lima beans, or even small pieces of broccoli.
The fish (I used tilapia, it's not too fishy, it's cheap and it's easy to cook):
  • Line the baking sheet with tin foil again and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add a thin layer of olive oil or butter to the tin foil so it doesn't stick.
  • Place the fillets on the foil. Thinly slice a lemon, put the lemon slices with a bit of butter on the fish.
  • Season with salt and pepper (I actually seasoned it with a mixture of Old Bay, Cayenne Pepper, McCormick's Season All, and pepper flakes, but that's only if you like a nice little kick in the tongue from time to time)
  • Cook for 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet
I highly recommend drinking champagne with this menu. But don't drink too much or you'll forget to use oven mits to take out the crostini's and burn your hand like I did. I believe I cursed.

The green sauce:
  • Add garlic, olive oil, cilantro, a jalapeƱo pepper (keep the seeds in if you enjoy punishing yourself), that seasoning I mentioned for the fish or just salt and pepper and blend in a food processor. Also the juice of half a lemon.
Everything I do is based on the way my mother cooks. Sure, we follow recipes, but most of it is just throwing stuff in a pan, tasting it, throwing more stuff in the pan, tasting it again. Just work off of a base of knowledge (aka: a recipe) It's really not rocket science. Just do it. In the beginning, you'll mess up and probably make a few people puke, but that's okay. I've made friends puke, have other bathroom problems, I've lit the carpet in my kitchen on fire by melting a cheap pot, I've lit my kitchen on fire more times that I can remember, I've sliced my fingers and burned my hands. And I am the definition of an amateur chef. I cook because it's fun, I can usually do it better and cheaper than restaurants, I can be creative and scientific at the same time and I usually have a few adult beverages while creating my delicacies. If you like being creative, saving some money, entertaining and impressing friends, having fun, then learn to cook. If you're lazy, than don't. If you are too busy, you are full of yourself because nobody is too busy to eat.

Oh, and guys, being able to cook will help you in your love life (I had previously written that statement a different way, but my mom will probably read this). And girls, the fastest way to a mans heart is through his stomach (again, that's not really true, but this is a food blog, so let's just pretend.)

I would love it if you would post a comment after reading this blog. Even if it says, "This meal is offensive and cruel to the innocent tilapia fish population."

Thanks and until next time,

The Swutch Chef