Friday, December 31, 2010

Culinary Resolutions


It's time for New Year's resolutions!  Ugh.  They're just no fun.  For the 15th year in a row I will resolve to floss more often.  And for the 16th year in a row, that probably won't happen.  We all resolve to exercise more, lose weight, be more organized, etc.  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

Let's have a little fun.  Let's make some culinary resolutions.  As Ina Garten says "How bad could that be?"  Here are mine:

1.  Meatless Mondays-Restaurants all over New York are doing it and I will too.  It may not always be on Mondays but I will serve at least one vegetarian dinner to my family per week.  It's good for the planet, good for our health and good for our palates and to broaden our culinary horizons.

2.  Pare Down-I resolve to make better use of my pantry ingredients.  Instead of running to the store for ingredients as new recipes pop into my head, instead I'll use up what's in my pantry.  Those dried beans, sheets of Nori, exotic jams, every variety of rice, vinegars and mustards...I'm coming for you!  In the meantime, in case of the next apocalypse you're all welcome to my house.  I can feed the world from my pantry.

Perhaps I need to pare down my utensil collection?

3.  Get Cozy with My Camera-I have a poorly lit kitchen which means it's difficult to get great shots of food as I cook.  If I'm cooking at night, I'm really doomed.  I resolve to get to know my camera better so I can improve my photography skills and my blogging.  Hey, we both win!

4.  Get Organized-I have so many recipes in various sources and files.  I keep them on my computer and in notebooks.  I live in fear of losing them.  I've just bought the MacGourmet software and can't wait to put everything in one spot and back it up on a hard drive.  This software will let me keep my business organized as well as at home.  It also has a weekly menu planner function and the ability to generate a shopping list from recipes.  I'm totally geeked about this! 

5.  Start a Cookbook Club-I have many wonderful cookbooks that I'm dying to make my way through.  But where is the time?  I resolve to invite a group who is also interested in cooking new things to a Cookbook Club.  I will choose a cookbook, invite everyone over for tea or wine and let them each flag a recipe or two that looks interesting to them.  I'll run upstairs and copy their chosen page and hand it off.  The next time we meet, we'll all bring our cooked dishes to sample and discuss. 

Yeah, I've got a few cookbooks.
What are your culinary resolutions?  New techniques or recipes you want to try?  Order more exotically when you eat out?  New cuisines to explore?  I'd love to hear what you'll be trying.  In the meantime, I'm toasting you with a New Year's Eve punch that is light, festive and won't leave you starting the new year in a world of hurt.

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
-T.S. Eliot

Prosecco Pomegranate Punch
From Food and Wine
Serves 12
1 quart pomegranate juice
2 cups fresh orange juice, strained
2 cups chilled limeade
One 750-milliliter bottle Prosecco
Lime and orange slices, for garnish
1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

In a punch bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, orange juice and limeade. Pour in the Prosecco; float lime and orange slices on top. Ladle into 12 ice-filled glasses, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Minute Shopping?

I've been naughty.  I am a bad, bad blogger.  Actually, I've been cheating on you.  I've neglected you due to catering jobs, personal chef clients and dessert orders.  But you know what, Mama's gotta bring home the bacon.  And isn't it nice to know you're reading the musings of a working chef? more apologizing.  I will strive to post more regularly in the new year but when duty calls, I answer the call!

If you have been too busy bringing home your bacon to finish your holiday shopping, I have a few last minute awesome gifts for people who love food and cooking.  At least, these are what I'd love to get as a gift...

Wine Sampler in tasting sizes-
For under $30 you can get or give a set of 6 different wines in tasting sizes (about 1.6 ounces) to try and compare.  How great to sample a $30 bottle of wine before you commit to dropping your cash on something you don't like?

Adopt an Italian Olive Tree-
For $109 you can adopt an olive tree in Italy and you'll receive all the extra virgin olive oil produced from your tree.  If you're wracking your brain shopping for the person who has everything, I'm betting they don't have this!  The bragging rights alone are worth $109.

Drool and bake-Baked Explorations is the second cookbook from the renowned Baked bakery in Brooklyn.  I just received this as a gift and cannot wait to dive in.  Every recipe looks homey and luscious and great for all levels of bakers.  You could even strike a deal that the receiver gives you a portion of all goodies baked from this book. $20 on Amazon.

Cheese-A gift certificate to Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC.  There is something for everyone here (other than the lactose intolerant). Choose from gift boxes, gift cards, cheese of the month clubs or build your own gift. They have one of the best selections in the world.

Lemon Juicer- Meet the only lemon/lime juicer you'll ever need.  It's $12, heavy duty and your kids will ask to squeeze the lemons for you.  Win!

Bench Scraper-They're not just for pastry.  Yes, I use mine to flip sticky doughs, cut biscuits, etc. but I also use it to pick up whatever I've just diced or chopped and transfer it to a bowl or pan. From $3-$10.

VitaMix Blender-Hello, gorgeous!  If you've got big bucks to spend meet the biggest, baddest blender around.  It can take the place of your juicer, food processor and coffee grinder.  It can crush ice instantly and make the smoothest purees and soups you've ever seen.  Cost is around $500 and for that price you should never need another blender again.  Just a side note, if anyone wants to buy me one I will let you. A girl can dream.

One final late-shopping-procrastinators trick.  If you are ordering something that won't arrive in time for Christmas, print out a nicely typed up "gift certificate" that shows them what will be coming to them via mail.  You know, like you meant to do it that way.