Thursday, February 24, 2011

A day in the life of a restaurant intern

brunoise shallots x 1/2 pint
chop garlic x 1/4 pint
brunoise onion 1 1/2 pints
brunoise fennel x 3/4 pint
pick fennel fronds x 1 pint
clean mushrooms (black trumpet, hedgehogs, maitake)
cut lemon wedges x 5 lemons
brunoise preserved lemons
slice/brunoise bacon for beignet x 4#
smash/pit olives x 3 pints
wash greens (escarole, little gems, arugala, spinach, broccolini things - sometimes all kinds but usually just some come in every day)
clip fava greens and wash
clean upland cress and wash
portion risotto x 25 orders
grate fontina and weigh x 1 1/2 #
slice bread/oil x 2 loaves
peel celery root x 5 if they are small, 2 if they are the size of an infant's head
peel sunchokes x 6 quarts
scrub sunchokes x 1 pint
wash/scrub delicata squash x 8
cut endive x 4 quarts
cut escarole into braisable pieces
peel cooked carrots

*This is a full day.  Some of these items are not needed everyday.  Unlisted tasks are cleaning and dealing with extra produce as it comes in, playing tetrus with the refrigerator so it all fits (includes constantly consolidating), extra tasks the other cooks might need help with, and constant clean-up to maintain an organized and clean station.  Most tasks are extra (up to double) on Saturdays.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preserved lemons are so easy

I'm so excited to use my batch of preserved lemons.  The sous-chef at the restaurant where I'm interning recommended I preserve lemons this way (as he does).  As the year goes by I will update my list of how to use them.  For now this is what I've got:

  • Throw one into a chicken tagine for added flavor
  • Cut the rind up into tiny pieces with garlic and parsley and sautee with vegetables (a little goes a long way)
  • Use in a marinade
  • Goes well with grilled squid
  • Goes well with olives
  • Try with salad dressings
  • I've heard it's nice in stews
  • Use it to flavor butter sauces (buerre blanc) or other sauces.  Could go with chicken, fish, pasta, lamb and more. 
  • Could replace lemon zest in a number of things.  When the lemon is fresh you only want to use the zest because the rind will have a bitter taste.  Preserving lemons takes away that bitter taste and makes the whole rind usable.
Any more suggestions?  Leave them in the comments section!

Preserved lemons:  lemons, salt

Cut the lemons into wedges.  Freeze overnight.  The next day take them out and let them defrost.  As they are defrosting salt liberally; the pores in the lemons will open up while defrosting.  Store in a jar or something, outside the fridge for at least a few weeks.  You could keep them in or out of the fridge once they are ready.  Turn over the jar once a day for the first three days or so to mix the salt and juices with all the lemons.When you use them normally you would discard the flesh and use the rind (a little goes a long way).  Easier than pie.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eating Animals book review

This is the book I've always wanted to write – almost. Jonathan Safran Foer takes a stance on the issue of eating animals – as in he doesn't for moral and ethical reasons – but the book isn't a straight argument for his point of view. He digresses from his line by allowing all kinds of people to speak without condemning their opinions. He shows that the issue of eating animals is not a yes or no question – there is a whole spectrum of shades of gray. I wasn't convinced by his personal argument for vegetarianism, but he did not set out to conquer and convince with this book. He set out to evaluate the topic and present points of view, one of which was his own.

Foer's book travels from the abstract philosophy surrounding the issue of eating animals to the shameful, dirty details of factory farming, and in between co-authors portraits of people related to the industry. He even includes anecdotes from his own life, demonstrating his former vegetarian-when-I-feel-like-it approach to eating animals, portraying his holocaust survivor grandmother's complex relationship with food, and his own moral struggle as he ponders what to feed his newborn.

Personally, this book has played a great role in how I look at meat. First off, I feel more shame – the burden of knowing. This is precisely why so many people turn a blind eye. Once you know – you have a moral obligation to do something. Growing up attending Hebrew school I was always taught during holocaust education that indifference is wrong – because you knew, could have done something, but didn't (speaking about those who refused to help the Jews). While this example is extreme it can be applied to so many lesser examples in life – from the schoolyard bully to eating animals. Time and time again the theme of people not knowing or wanting to know where their food comes from pops up in this book. And with good reason. Out of sight out of mind is essentially the most common response I receive from family and friends when I broach the subject of where that burrito came from. However, it is interesting how people seem to be consciously avoiding information – knowing that it exists but choosing not to know. Foer asks, if the current state of our farming system with it's suffering, health consequences, and environmental consequences isn't enough to change our ways – what is? And he asks, poaching from Hillel of the Jewish tradition,if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?” (243).

Now indeed. For better or worse I will never look at the meat on my plate in the same way. I will always wonder if it's free range, organic, or if that even makes a difference. Those are the few words that make us feel justified in our meal. Of course there is a “difference,” but thank you book for shattering my high hopes for these certification systems. The Last Poultry Farmer (as described in the book) explains what happens outside his utopian farm: “KFC chickens are almost always killed in thirty-nine days. They're babies. That's how rapidly they're grown. Salatin's organic free-range chicken is killed in forty-two days. Cause it's the same chicken. It can't be allowed to live any longer because it's genetics are so screwed up. Stop and think about that: a bird that you simply can't let live out of it's adolescence” (113). What deception that our organic bird is actually genetically modified. How disheartening. I am almost tempted to give up on meat altogether by this mirage of options. But, alas, I like meat. And Nicolette Niman (formerly of Niman Ranch farms), rancher and vegetarian, believes that eating meat isn't wrong, in fact it's natural. She, as some of the other portraits in this book did, reminded me that outside of animal agriculture, in the wild, animals don't die from natural causes. They are eaten or they starve to death; they suffer (though up to that point they have free reign over their lives). Then, she wrote something that I will remember forever: “When animal husbandry is done as it should be, humans can provide animals a better life than they could hope for in the wild and almost certainly a better death. That's quite significant” (207). I feel myself most aligned with Nicolette in this book, even though I am not a vegetarian. Raising animals for consumption allows us to give them a better life, but only if done properly, as Niman Ranch once did (and perhaps still – as 1% of farms in the US do). Ironic.

Reading this book I expected the topic to be complicated. It was. It's affected the way I look at meat and my eating behavior. I am an increasingly selective omnivore who sometimes betrays her better sense for a carne asada taco with who knows what meat. I guess I am guilty. But – I am choosing to eat less meat than usual, often opting for a vegetarian option, and I will pay that premium to support the best of animal agriculture. Anyone who is passionate about food can't help but be affected by this book. It's definitely a good read, life changing for some chickens and pigs – and perhaps yourself too. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heirloom tomato salsa

Salsa is one of those things that's so quick and easy to make and after you reap maximum tasty rewards.  Five minutes and you've got a quality healthy snack.  Normally I don't use tomatoes out of season.  In my opinion there's nothing worse than a tomato that doesn't taste like anything.  Tomatoes have such a great flavor you don't want them to be hard and under-ripe.  For this salsa I bought an heirloom tomato from Mexico since they are out of season and heirloom tomatoes usually have that great tomato-y flavor.  I made my salsa in the mortar and pestle because I love finding uses for it, but you could also make it in a bowl mashing with a fork, or in the blender, depending on how chunky you want it.

Salsa: tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime, salt, pepper

Cut the tomato into cubes.
Small dice the onion and then chop it into fine bits.
Same with the jalapeño - keep the seeds in to make it more spicy - add as much or little as you like.
Add all the pieces to a bowl and mash around.
Chop and stir in cilantro.
Squeeze lime juice in.
Add salt and pepper to taste.