i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeNicole Gulotta is a writer, editor, and tea enthusiast. She’s the author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017), and pens a blog by the same name. I first discovered Nicole’s website years ago, when looking for travel guides that encompassed both bookstores and great food. What gems Eat This Poem’s literary city guides are – written by those in the know, so it’s a local’s guide to goodness, when you travel. Nicole’s website is fill of musings on cooking – and life, and is one that I turn to again and again.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeImagine my elation when I saw Nicole’s new book being created, published, and released (next week!). I caught up with Nicole in sunny California, while snowbound in Michigan, and asked her about writing a combination of food and poetry. She noted that while she had been writing the blog for several years, and had felt rooted in the combination of food and poetry, she was approached by an editor about starting the book – and it felt like the right project at the right time. And while the gestation process for Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was long, she had been writing of these topics for years, had found her footing with it, and was excited to do something more substantial with it – for which I am grateful.

When I delved into her history, I learned that while poetry arrived early in her life, food came much later – and so it wasn’t a natural fit to pair the two. But Nicole noted that when you can step away from your life experiences and look at them, it enables those insightful moments to happen.

The Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

You know me – when I asked what she hoped readers take away from the book, Nicole said, “The idea of being still in a kitchen, and having food and poetry be an opportunity to do something that takes care of yourself and the people around you as well. Our lives are so rushed and busy and we have all these things to do…and I want people to feel like they can indulge in poetry and food and ENJOY that, even if only for a brief moment.”

And, when I asked about poetry, Nicole (a life-long poetry lover) remarked, “Poetry is so great because it really keeps you rooted in the moment/present, and if you read a poem it might take a short time (or longer), but it is a special, be-present time. You can do this and inspire your day!”

Indeed – food and poetry are the perfect combination for stillness, thoughtfulness, and a good life.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Something Italian, like bolognese that simmers for hours

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Homemade almond milk, Dijon mustard, a wedge of Parmesan, and eggs from the farmers’ market

What do you cook at home?
I keep things simple, especially Monday through Friday, like quick bean tacos, lentil curry, and pasta with whatever fresh vegetables are in season.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A good appetite

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Chewing with your mouth open

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Nigel Slater’s writing is so welcoming and poetic

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeYour favorite kitchen tool?
My Japanese chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Garlic. It’s the beginning of everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Dried fennel

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Empty the dishwasher

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Indian, and Mexican. But these days, anything I can get on the table in under 30 minutes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef, medium rare, with a touch of flaky salt on top

Favorite vegetable?
I know they’re technically a fruit, but tomatoes have my heart every summer. I also love roasted cauliflower.

Chef you most admire?
Suzanne Goin

Food you like the most to eat?
Always pasta, preferably spaghetti with a slice of garlic bread alongside

Food you dislike the most?
A poorly dressed salad

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Spend time with my son

Who do you most admire in food?
Anyone who helps support local farmers, treats animals and the environment with respect, and values seasonal cooking

Where is your favorite place to eat?
My kitchen table, or Bestia, in downtown Los Angeles

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero.

Recipe: Energizing Orange Smoothie

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender, add 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 chopped carrot, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 small piece of peeled ginger (1-inch), ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup ice.

Process until smooth, and garnish with chia seeds, if desired.

 

Find Nicole on social media:

Twitter: twitter.com/nicolegulotta
Instagram: instagram.com/nicolegulotta
Facebook: facebook.com/eatthispoem
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ngulotta/

 

  – The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with New Irish Table’s Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus Recipe

When we visited Ireland, I fell in love with the food. Not only that famous brown bread, and the smooth, creamy butter, but the seafood chowder that we ordered at almost every meal, and the hearty breakfasts, and the Guinness stew, and the seafood, and…well, you get the picture. But most of all, what I admired and happily ate was the creativity and local ingredients that went into each meal.

Imagine my joy at finding a cookbook, The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs , that celebrates new Irish food, by chefs that are leading the charge for creativity in Ireland’s artisanal food movement. They come from all four of Ireland’s provinces (including Northern Ireland), and each shares a menu of recipes.

i8tonite with New Irish Table's Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus RecipeI learned more about Ireland, and its food, than I imagined gleaning from a book – and am inspired to not only cook these delicious recipes, but to head to Ireland and visit their restaurants.

Luckily for us, I was able to chat with editor Leslie Conron Carola, who is the owner and director of Arena Books Associates, LLC, has produced many illustrated books, including Ireland: A Luminous Beauty; Spectacular Ireland, and Ireland’s Treasure’s with Peter Harbison. The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs is published by Charlesbridge.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Hmm-that depends on the season for particulars, but it’s always fresh, fresh, fresh and as-local-as-possible. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and again as-local-as-possible meat and fish (with exceptions, of course. I love Chilean sea bass, and salmon, and shrimp!).

Quickly sautéed and/or roasted fish or chicken with lightly steamed or grilled fresh vegetables, and/or a lightly-dressed salad. Fresh herbs and lemon and a bit of butter doesn’t hurt!

Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel
Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Chicken broth–homemade when possible; fresh vegetables and cheese, yogurt. A piece of chocolate.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Conversation- sharing ideas and the pleasure of eating a well-prepared meal, a meal engaging our senses. It doesn’t have to be a complex meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
No conversation and very quick eating without much enjoyment.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Alice Waters

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Vitamix and sharp knives

Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad
Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Natural, seasonal, fresh. And Italian and French, and, of course, what the Irish chefs are preparing!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken and pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Oof, this is difficult, I love many: spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, fresh tomatoes and salad vegetables.

Chef you most admire?
Alice Waters. And all these Irish chefs: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Martin Bealin, Ian Orr, Ultan Cooke, Noel McMeel, etc.

Food you like the most to eat?
Again, that depends on the season, but hearty soups, stews, and wonderful Italian food are lovely complements to wintry days. And lighter weather suggests lightly prepared fresh vegetables and meat or fish. With fresh berries or other fruit to top it off.

Food you dislike the most?
Heavy meat organs.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Concerts, operas, museums and galleries, and reading

Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup
Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford.

Who do you most admire in food?
In the U.S.: Alice Waters and the late MFK Fisher. In Ireland: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Ian Orr, and all the Irish chefs in The New Irish Table.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A comfortable home dining room or terrace, or a quiet restaurant.

What is your favorite restaurant?
U.S.: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA; Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Balthazar (for needed steak frites), and Eataly is a lot of fun in NYC. Lots of choices.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Not a one!

Recipe: Cod, Octopus, Purple Broccoli, Broccoli Puree, and Horseradish Mayonnaise

Recipe by Chef Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain, Co. Dublin

FOR THE OCTOPUS
2 qts/2 L court bouillon
1 octopus (2 lb/1 kg)

FOR THE BROCCOLI PUREE
2 medium size heads of broccoli, shaved and cleaned

FOR THE HORSERADISH MAYONNAISE
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mustard
1 lemon
2/3 cup/150 ml vegetable oil plus more to sauté the cod
2 tbsp/40 g horseradish, grated

FOR THE COD
4 cod fillets

FOR THE PURPLE BROCCOLI
¼ lb/100 g purple sprouting broccoli

In a deep pot, add the court bouillon and the octopus and simmer for 1 ½ hours until tender. Remove and chill. Portion octopus into 1 ½ in /4 cm pieces.

Place the egg yolk into a small bowl and add the mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the grated horseradish.

Bring a pot of water to boil and add a little salt. Cut and blanch the 2 heads of broccoli in the salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and squeeze out the excess water with a kitchen cloth or towel. Discard the water. Place the broccoli in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season and chill to keep a bright green color.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Heat a pan with a little oil on a high heat, and place the cod skin side down and turn heat to low. Cook for about 4 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden. Turn the fish over, add butter and lemon juice, and cook for 1 minute.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the purple broccoli for 1 ½ minutes until tender. Season.

Heat broccoli puree in a pot until warm.

Heat a little butter in a pan and toss the octopus pieces in the butter until warm. Season with salt and pepper, and add a teaspoon of chopped parsley or dill.

To serve, place a few spoons of broccoli puree and some purple broccoli on a plate and arrange a cod fillet on top. Garnish with the octopus and horseradish mayonnaise.

Serves 4
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Sanna-Mari Jäntt

Few people are experts, but then there are folks, like cookbook author and opera professional Fred Plotkin, who are knowledgeable on many topics. A native New Yorker, Plotkin became a student of opera while in college, working with various classical musicians and mentors, such as late mezzo soprano and director of the Lyric Opera House, Ardis Krainik, and well-known Broadway lighting designer Gilbert Helmsley. Always found in the back or front of the house, Plotkin has never graced the stage but has written compelling articles on the singing subject in books and articles. His bestselling and definitive tome Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, leads the pack for appreciation on the vocal art form. His literary essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph, to name but a few.

Apart from being a fount of operatic history and knowledge, Plotkin, who has traveled to Italy since the early 1970s, has become a resource for all edible things in Italy. In the nineties, he wrote arguably the greatest book on eating throughout the peninsula, called Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (Kyle Books), making him a famous food person on this side of the Atlantic.

He recalls, “Italy, being the birthplace of opera, was a must (life experience) for me. Of course, eating and learning about the regional food became another obsession.”

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Lana Bortolot

The book is currently in its fifth edition and, rightly, has become a must for all gourmands traveling to the boot country. Although still known as an expert on classical singing, Plotkin has become a foremost authority on Italian cuisine as well, penning another five bestselling and award-winning books including Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, The Authentic Pasta Book, and La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After writing about opera for many papers and magazines, Plotkin now finds himself interviewed about on all things epicurean, appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading food publications.

Plotkin can be found discussing his first love — all things opera — on Manhattan’s WQXR. And, in his New York City home, he resides in the kitchen with his mistress – Italian cuisine — making some of the best regional food from the country.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Everything Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Parmigiano-Reggiano; Organic eggs; Sweet butter; Greek yogurt; Austrian apricot preserves; Organic Italian cherry nectar; Whole organic milk; Prepared mustard; Still water; Oranges; Lemons; Limes

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The actual savoring of the food or drink being consumed.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Trendy, faddish foodiness, with no real awareness of what a food or ingredient means.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian; everything made with fruit.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Fish and seafood!

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Opera

Whom do you most admire in food?
Organic farmers; Seed-savers; anyone who provides sustenance to those who need it.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A tie: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria, two of Italy’s finest food regions.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Ristorante San Giorgio in Cervo (Liguria), Italy

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. If I did, it would be of a bunch of cherries

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

One of the most difficult things to prepare, and among the most gratifying when done correctly, are scrambled eggs. Doing it right required LOTS of practice. Here is what I do:

Break two large or extra large eggs into a chilled glass bowl, taking care to not get any shell into the eggs. Beat the eggs only until yolks and whites combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in any added ingredient, such as small dollops of scallion cream cheese or a grated cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere. Do not beat the egg mixture if you are adding ingredients. Instead, give the mixture a quick stir.

Melt 1 tbsp. sweet butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest heat possible. This should be a pan you only use for eggs and nothing else. Add the egg mixture, let it set for about 15 seconds. Then, using a non stick (and non metal) spatula, gently move the eggs about, occasionally stopping for a few seconds to let them set. Keep nudging them and sliding them in the pan. No violence…no intense heat, no flipping, no active stirring. Gradually the eggs will come to the degree of doneness you desire and then slide them out of the pan and onto the plate. By cooking slowly, you allow the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the eggs and also achieve the same temperature as the eggs.
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe’s Cornbread Recipe

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeWhat do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.

Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeStop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats

What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer

Your favorite ingredient?
Cilantro

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Liquid smoke

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Latin

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Golden Beets

Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught

Food you dislike the most?
Overcooked Beef

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe

 

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix

Directions:
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Four Seasons Chef Emmanuel Calderon & Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

The food world has many captivating stories, such as Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs: The Hunger for Food, Love, and a Search for Home, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. All feature great storytelling narratives detailing how food played an important part of their lives. However, Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Emmanuel Calderon is not only fascinating, but humble as well. Here’s his story.

When I first met Calderon, he was the banquet chef to Executive Chef Mel Mecinas at Four Seasons at Troon Nort, Scottsdale. I had been writing two Arizona Latino stories – one on Mecinas, who had won an Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame award as best chef, and his new restaurant sous chef Sammy Sanz, who was, at the time, the youngest female sous chef working in a Four Seasons in North America. To me, they are both interesting accounts about the rise of a Mexican-born man becoming one of the top chefs in Phoenix, and with Sanz, how a woman, born in Mexico as well, rose to the top of a luxury hotelier while working with two of the city’s best cooks: Chef Beau MacMillian at Sanctuary and Virtu’s Gio Osso, before heading to work with Mecinas.

Mecinas said to me, “I want you to do a story on Emmanuel. He is like a son to me. One day, he will be a great chef.” Of course, I agreed. However, things happen, Mecinas went on to a new position at a private club after more than two decades working for Four Seasons, and Calderon became the executive sous chef at the luxury hotel company’s Santa Barbara property, working at the breathtaking Bella Vista, helmed by Italian-born talented chef Marco Rossati.

Having just turned 30 last year, he has already received an award for Top Ten Chefs Under the Age of 30 while working for the Four Seasons Mexico. He’s also worked in the kitchens of Four Seasons Punta Mita, Scottsdale, Dallas, and many other of hotels, as well as the cruise line Holland America, which took him to Italy, Philippines, and throughout the Mediterranean. Through these excursions abroad from his homeland, it taught him different flavors and techniques. Not bad for a guy who was born in the tourist city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula and wasn’t planning on becoming a chef.

“I wanted to eat all the time,” says Calderon. “I think this has not changed at all. As a kid, I spent most of the time waiting for my grandmother and mom (serving up) the food.”

Now , as Calderon is an adult, we have the pleasure of eating his well-rounded dishes and get to explore the world through his global experiences.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
This year will be 14 years since I start cooking – but to be honest…not sure If I should consider the first couple of years, when I was just trying.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love seafood, I find it challenging and interesting to cook, plus reminds me: respect to the ocean.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas, habanero chili, limes, shrimp…………Negra modelo .

What do you cook at home?
On my days off, I like to cook easy but slow cooking food that allows me to do laundry and have food for a week…cochinita pibil, chicken soup, marinara sauce….this will help me to make a lot of turns up during the week!!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I really love when customers respect and make an effort to understand the menu and let themselves be surprised.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Modifications…I understand allergies but nowadays, you have people allergic to seafood that can eat lobster!! Gf that can eat pasta or vegans that eat FISH!!!!!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Marco Pierre White

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef Knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Chilies of all kinds

Your least favorite ingredient?
I haven’t met him yet!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
I think while you are in the kitchen everything is fun…even pastry shop, but my least favorite thing to do is office work!! It’s the longest hour of my day…

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican…..or more specific Yucatecan.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Corn…. My mom sells a beautiful corn on the cob and “esquites” in Cancun

Chef you most admire?
This one is difficult. Since I started, I had been having a model to follow – I’m used to admiring to the person who share his knowledge and passion. I still remember the name of my first Chef de Partie….. But If I need to say a famous chef, it must be Marco Pierre White and a Mexican – Carlos Juan Gaytan.

Food you like the most to eat?
I love street food like taco stands, pho places, and when in Mexico you find everything in the street nothing fancy. I found a tasty relaxation after work…

Food you dislike the most?
As a cook, it is difficult to me to dislike something, but if I think as a kid, I don’t like fish soup……something that my mom used to make me when I was a kid… It was a soup made just with the head of the fish…I love my mom, though.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…yet

Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

1# Clean Fish Fillet (could be any kind of fish; the least fatty fish the best)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 habanero chili
2 roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1 small size red onion
8 Limes
1 orange
½ bunch fresh cilantro
8 corn tortillas

Get 3 ea 5 oz clean fillets, skin off, at your local market.
Dice the fish in medium size dice. Marinate with lime juice salt, pepper, and oregano.
In a dry hot pan, put 1 habanero chili to literally get burned – be careful and make sure you have ventilation.
Once the chili is burned in a black color, squeeze the juice of 1 orange and blend, add mix to the fish.
Small Dice ½ red onion and add to the fish.
Keep at the fridge for 20 min.
While the fish is in the fridge, small dice roma tomatoes, small size medium avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro and reserve.
Also, I love to do oven baked tortillas instead of using commercial tortilla chips or tostadas. It is more healthy and traditional, too – we used to cook it in a comal until they get crunchy.

Put your oven as high as you can then place whole corn tortillas in a sheet pan. Bake between 7 to 10 min, depending your oven, until they are firm and crisp.

At this moment, the fish should be ready. The fish should have a white color now. Add the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. With the help of a kitchen spoon, mix all together – add more salt to taste, and enjoy!!!
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta RecipeManhattan and its boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens have long been viewed as bastions of great gastronomic experiences. From Elaine’s to The Four Seasons, Babbo to Per Se, no one doubts the Big Apple and how well it eats. Yet, as forecasters of doom say, “The rents are so high in New York,” what’s a budding restaurateur and chef do? If you are smart, such as Chef Chris Siversen, you move across the Hudson to Jersey City.

Born in Long Island and trained at The French Culinary Institute, Mr. Siversen, who proclaims himself a proud New Yorker, says, “After 9/11, my then wife and I started looking in different areas to buy a home and we came to New Jersey.”

As a chef, he had worked at landmark Big Apple institutions such as Alison on Dominick Street and the ‘21’ Club, as well as running the kitchen for famed caterer Pamela Morgan Flavors – and was looking to open his restaurant. “For me, pomp and circumstance matters, I want to see a show in the cooking,” he articulates.

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Five years ago, Siversen opened his restaurant, Maritime Parc, and continues to operate it with a business partner while he executes delicious food in the kitchen. Since the introduction, the 30,000-square foot dining hall, which includes 18,000 square feet of special event space, has quickly become one of New Jersey’s brightest gastronomic institutions, landing in New Jersey Monthly’s best ten list every year. With sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center, the slightly Nordic- and maritime-flavored experience has received accolades, including the New York Times, which stated, “…polished in presentation and execution.” No small words from The Grey Lady herself.

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

In late 2015, Siversen opened a fast-casual hamburger place called Burg, in Newark’s Military Park. With a variety of burgers from tuna to vegetarian and chicken to good old beef, it’s quickly become one of the city’s buzziest eating places. Open only in warm weather, when the kids are out of school and dining outside is de riguer, the 1800-square foot restaurant is packed with those coming from the other side of the tunnel.

Let it be known Chef Chris Siversen is smart – smart enough to move outside of New York City and into New Jersey…and of course, our bellies are better for it.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
23+ years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything with pasta

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Condiments-I’m a condiment junkie

What do you cook at home?
Simple-mostly based around my children’s needs

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Appreciation for food and wine and willingness to try new things

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Lack of manners and respect for others dining in the restaurant

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine at home and cocktails when I’m out

Your favorite cookbook author?
The late Charlie Trotter’s books were a game changer

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My 3” serrated paring knife is my crutch

Your favorite ingredient?
Vinegar and Salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Okra

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Drying the dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and Asian

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Mushrooms

Chef you most admire?
Daniel Boulud

Food you like the most to eat?
Anything with pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Not a fan of Offal other than liver and sweetbreads

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero tattoos

Recipe: Mushroom Pasta

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:
½ # Orecchiette Pasta
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Small Spanish Onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1# Oyster Mushrooms or a mix of your favorite
3-4 Scallions, sliced-from the stem up
1-2oz. Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Bulbs Peeled Garlic,chopped
Baby Spinach-Large Handful
Parmigiano Reggiano-a small piece to grate with microplane
1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
A few big branches of Italian Parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
Cook pasta according to directions of brand you buy.

Remove slightly early to leave room for cooking in sauté pan and reserve with a couple oz of cooking water.

While pasta is cooking, heat a sauté pan on medium heat-add olive oil then onion and cook until slightly translucent.

Add scallions and cook until barely tender.

Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and cook until slightly crisp on the edges-add more olive oil if the pan gets dry.

Add vinegar and cook until reduced to a syrup, then add back pasta with the cooking water.

Add the spinach, toss, and cook until barely wilted.

Finally, add butter and grate the parm cheese until well covered, then add the parsley.

Adjust seasoning and serve.

– The End. Go Eat. –

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

As 2016 began, it was planned that Nick, me and the kids — Holly, the 11-year-old pitbull and our 7-year-old Frenchie, JJ — were moving to Denver from Phoenix. Our intention after twelve months in the Sonoran Desert was to relocate to the Mile High City for his work. Our last stop was the Rocky Mountains. However, after all that, we have found ourselves back in Southern California, where we had originally started. Not in Los Angeles – coming full circle — but in Newport Beach, behind the Orange Curtain. Still for Nick’s work, but with a fluffier job description.

It’s a good location for us. Far from the histrionics of the world’s entertainment capital. Yet, we discuss missing Camelback Mountain rising out of the valley, the vast blue skies and, of course, the food. Phoenix taught me that good eating can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. It doesn’t have to be in one of the anointed culinary islands such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

While living in Phoenix, I discovered deep blended roots of Mexican and Native American food. Indeed, it’s common for local hunters born of Mexican descent to shoot game such as moose or elk during the holiday season. The braised meat is then turned into Christmas tamales and frozen to eat throughout the year. It’s a practice that goes well beyond the area’s 114 years as a state. Originally, Mexican settlers joined with the natives crafting unique food and then in turn, became Americans when the 48th state entered the Union.

I bring this up because I read a well-known restaurant writer’s suggestions of “best food trends”. In her lengthy piece, she proffered gastronomic extravagances in Copenhagen, Paris, and of course, the Big Apple which is where she is based. I can always choose what is great elsewhere, from Singapore to Argentina, France to Greece. However, I think it’s our duty to describe what is “great” in America. Our culinary prowess is the myriad of cultures creating our nation – borrowing from here and there, making our own indigenous taste profiles such as fried chicken, pot roast or apple pie. Derived from other places, but made here crafting American comfort. We need to recognize that we are great, looking only to our dinner tables.

Unlike the writer, who travels often, I didn’t get on a plane this year except a roundtrip to Vegas and Phoenix. After almost two dozen countries and nearly 250 cities, I’m not big about getting on planes anymore; plus, I love the dining scene in smaller cities such as Phoenix, Portland and even in Orange County, California. They aren’t massive but what’s cooking is robust and lively.

As go into the new year, as a nation, we have dreamed up all types of unique food – Mexican-Korean tacos, Japanese sushi with Brazilian flavors, Thai with Texas BBQ– turning it into one melting pot of goodness. The ingredients simmering on the American stove is where we have always been welcoming, tasting little bits of this and adding some of that. Authentic American flavor is made from our fusion of cultures right here at home and it’s always been great.

Hoja Sante stuffed with Mennonite Cheese, Gran Reserva Barrio Café : Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (Phoenix, Arizona).

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza should be a nationally recognized chef and it’s a shame she’s not. She is a proud Mexican American born in the United States and is un-WASP-like most Food Network stars such as Giada, Rachel or even Paula Deen.  At her five restaurant mini-empire based in Phoenix, her cooking is Mexican but with European techniques. At Gran Reserva Barrio Café, her new restaurant which opened in spring 2016, Esparza’s creativity is evidenced in the simplicity of a melty hunk Mexican Mennonite cheese, wrapped burrito-like in a large hoya sante leaf and served with two smoky chili pastes. Simple. Traditional and yet still other worldly.

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

The indigenous plant is not commonly found north of the border, and when it is, it’s usually used in stews and braises. Esparza uses it whole, instead of strips, allowing the anise flavor to compliment the queso’s milky texture. The venomous bite of the peppers is nulled by the dairy and leaving only smokiness. Texturally, the crunch of the leaf, emission of creaminess and a nullified heat is eye-opening. As I sat eating the dish, along with interviewing the Phoenix-based chef for Arizona Latinos, she imparted the history of the Mexican Mennonites and how they are still important to the agriculture of the country.

This gooey delicious dish is modest, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Chicken Liver Pasta, Sotto:  Chef Steve Samson (Los Angeles, CA)

On a media tasting invite, I went through a selection of items chosen by Chef Steve Samson at his almost six-year-old restaurant Sotto. The cozy space is inviting with blue walls, wooden tables and chairs as is Mr. Samson, who is one of the kinder cooks in the culinary world.

Going through his menu, which is all yummy the standout, became the housemade Rigatoni tossed with Chicken Livers, Parmigiana Reggiano and Porcini. It’s a daring dish for Angelenos to embrace. First, there are the carbohydrates but second the livers aren’t normally found on regular menus much less Italian. Having traveled often to Italy, I didn’t recall pasta and innards used in this way and asked Samson where it was based. It was his unique twist on the typical Bolognese ragu. Instead of throwing away something tasty, he invented this earthy and rustic dish. I’m not fond of chicken livers – and I don’t know many people who are – but this I would eat every day for the rest of my life.

 

Jardineros (Garden) Tacos, Taco Maria: Chef Carlos Salgado (Costa Mesa, CA)

Taco Maria is a high-end eating experience much like the Rick Bayless’ chain Red O or even Phoenix’s independent Barrio Café (see above). White tablecloths, waiters with crumbers and sparkling water served in wine glasses, my type of my place, where a diner feels special. Located inside a mall within a mall, it is an indoor-outdoor space which is a good showcase for the unique tastes presented by Chef Carlos Salgado.

Much has been written about Salgado and for good reason, his fusion of California agricultural and Mexican cooking produce, arguably the country’s best tacos. Ordering a la carte during lunch, there are a five varieties of the national south of the border food: chicken, beef, pork,  fish and vegetarian. Exceptional eats every single one, wrapped with the housemade delectable blue corn tortillas found only at Taco Maria. (B.S. Taqueria gets their masa from here too.) The standout is clearly the vegetarian (jardineros) made with shitake mushroom chorizo, a crispy potato and queso fundido. Separately, each one would make a great filling but together, they create something truly different. The minced fungi spiced with traditional south of the border flavorings texturally give the chorizo a meat-like consistency. However, it’s the flavor which is a standout.

Pasta dishes, Tratto: Chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

Legendary chef Chris Bianco is  renowned for Pizza Bianco. Matter of fact, his pizzas have been called the best in the world by former “Vogue” food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. Therefore, when someone invites you to Tratto, his new restaurant which opened in early summer 2016 in the same mall as his world-renowned pizzeria, you go – but not for his pizzas. At his new space, he has opened his creativity to showcase other goodness derived from Arizona farmers; mostly notably, the wheat growers.

Bianco does everything else but pizzas. Old-fashioned, Italian food but a real display of southwestern growers. I don’t mean peppers, tomatoes and cheese but bold pairings such as beets and gorgonzola roasted in a fig leaf. All ingredients are sourced from the 48th state, crafting Italian food. Don’t question it but eat his handmade pastas which are carefully crafted by Bianco. Get off the carb diet and have a bit of heaven.

Beef Tenderloin with Mole Negro, Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale: Chef Mel Mecinas (Phoenix, Arizona)

To reiterate, I’ve listed the dishes I’ve eaten over the course of the year which I remember fondly. Eating them, at the restaurant, the conversations around them and how good they are. Nothing comes as close to Chef Mel Mecinas and his mole negro and beef tenderloin.

Mole is probably one of the world’s most difficult sauces to make. Consisting of more than two dozen ingredients ground and simmered into a liquid, resulting in something edible which is complex, luscious and fortifying. Fish is too delicate for the earthiness but lean cuts of meat provide a great experience to taste the Mexico pottage which is what diners get at Talavera under the capable hands of Chef Mecinas.

Unfortunately, he no longer works at the restaurant where he was the Executive Chef for more than a decade. Greener pastures beckoned. However, one day I hope the world gets to eat his extraordinary mole.

 

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeOne of the great attractions of New Jersey are the small towns with picturesque streets, seemingly family values and charm. It’s no surprise than one of the area’s excellent restaurants, Serenade, in Chatham, New Jersey resides there. Great East Coast restaurants are starting to close as times change and rents become out of reach for independents. Yet under the guiding hand of chef/ owner James Laird and his wife, Nancy Sheridan Laird, their restaurant is celebrating two decades of delicious service.

Over the years, Laird has received accolades from The New York Times, calling him “one of the best classically trained chefs in New Jersey.” The glossy New Jersey Monthly has consistently rated his restaurant among “the best of the best,” and Crain’s NY Business stated, “Serenade is among the Garden State’s most rewarding dining destinations.” High praise for an autonomous cafe on the other side of the river.

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeHowever, it’s not surprising that his eating venture has lasted into a milestone old-age for a restaurant, as Laird has an enviable epicurean pedigree. Graduating from the renowned Culinary Institute of America, he traveled to Europe, gaining skills under a variety of noted chefs and increasing his knowledge of cooking. Upon returning to the States, he worked at three of New York City’s noted fine-dining establishments in the 90s – Lespinasse, The River Café, and Aureole – before becoming the sous chef at the culinary landmark Ryland Inn and eventually owning his own place.

Interestingly, Chef Laird says that rolling with the changing times has kept Serenade in the forefront of diners’ minds. “We used to serve foie gras when we first opened,” he says. “Now, we have a burger on the menu. We have a small (food listing) to keep the diners happy if they don’t want a full on dining experience. We also bought our building and it saves immensely on our overhead. We can create great dishes without passing on the high cost.”

As the dining scene changes around the world with quick service becoming the norm, it’s refreshing to see a chef feel comfortable in his surroundings and in his skin. One of the key reasons Chef Laird says he has a restaurant? “I love to cook.”

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

How long have you been cooking?
35 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fish

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, Limes, Coconut Creamer

What do you cook at home?
As little as possible, toast is great!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
A customer who notices all of the details

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Closed-minded customers

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeYour favorite cookbook author?
Joël Robuchon

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Butcher’s Steel

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme

Your least favorite ingredient?
Rosemary

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Scrubbing the grill

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Asian, French

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli

Chef you most admire?
Joël Robuchon

Food you like the most to eat?
Anything my wife cooks

Food you dislike the most?
Very Spicy foods

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No Tats

Recipe: Veal Ragout with Dill and Crispy Mushrooms

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 lbs. veal, cubed
1 quart chicken or veal stock
1 cup white wine
2 medium onions, diced
2 TBS. flour
4 oz. sweet butter
3 TBS. fresh dill, chopped (about one bunch)
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
10 oz button mushrooms, sliced

Directions
1. Dry and season veal with salt and pepper. Brown meat in batches in heavy pan, suitable for the oven.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Sauté onions in same pan in 2 oz. butter until translucent and soft. Add flour. Mix well and cook for two to three minutes.
4. Add white wine. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add stock and bring to a boil. Taste and season lightly with salt and pepper.
5. Add veal and accumulated juices to pot. Bring back to boil. Lower to simmer. Place in oven, uncovered.
6. Heat remaining butter in sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until very brown and crispy. Reserve.
7. Simmer in oven until fork tender. Remove from oven and stir in chopped tomatoes. Season.
8. Immediately prior to serving, stir in dill. Sprinkle mushrooms on top of veal.
9. Serve over buttered noodles or rice.
The End. Go Eat.
Recipe photo flickr cc: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/5032563727

All other photos courtesy and copyright Chef James Laird

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast’s Michael Zee and Idli Recipe

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeWhen I asked Michael Zee, author of the incredibly beautiful cookbook and popular Instagram, SymmetryBreakfast, what inspired him each morning, to create such lovely meals? Well, I bet you won’t be surprised by his answer: “I love to cook a lovely meal for Mark to make breakfast a special moment for both of us.”

SymmetryBreakfast incorporates world cuisines, contemporary design and a story of love over the meal of breakfast. Featured in the Guardian, Washington Post, Telegraph, Bravo, and endorsed by Jamie Oliver, it is also a favourite account of Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO and co-founder.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Dutch Puff

Michael studied photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth in 2003 and later went on to teach Art and Design in secondary schools in London’s East End. He then completed his masters in Museums and Galleries in Education and went to work in public programming at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

He now works on SymmetryBreakfast full time.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Tapioca Pancakes

Michael’s passion for cooking comes from his parents. His mixed English, Scottish and Chinese heritage. Weekends and school holidays would be spent working in his father’s Chinese and English chippies in Liverpool and teaching himself to bake for his mother’s sweet tooth.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Churros y jamon con cajeta–hurros with ham and caramel dipping sauce © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Michael created SymmetryBreakfast for his partner Mark in their Hackney flat in 2013. Mark’s hectic job as a menswear fashion designer means late nights and weekends in the office. Early on in their relationship, breakfast became a sacred moment in the day and Michael started on his mission to make each meal as celebratory as possible. Over 1,000 breakfasts later, Michael still wakes up early to make breakfast for Mark, looking carefully around the world and at home for inspiration, taking a simple idea and making it beautiful.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeHis new cookbook, SymmetryBreakfast, contains over 100 recipes from around the world. The book takes an anthropological view of how food shapes culture and vice versa and how in the many different ways we break the fast.

The book has been published by Transworld (part of Penguin Random House) in the UK and Commonwealth, by PowerHouse in North America and by Shanghai Insight in mainland China.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Kaiserschmarrn with redcurrants © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 5 years old in our family restaurant in Liverpool. It was a Chinese food and English fish and chip takeaway (very popular in Liverpool and probably nowhere else!)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh pasta. It becomes such an event and is so much fun to do with friends, whilst having a glass or bottle of wine, one person turns the handle and the other feeds it through. You get in a huff when it goes wrong, but it’s pure joy when it comes out perfect.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Pastel de nata-Egg custard tarts © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter. If there isn’t any then something is wrong

What do you cook at home?
Absolutely everything from every country and cuisine possible.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Being British, I only have one Pyrex thing in my kitchen and it’s a measuring jug.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All three in that order.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ernest Matthew Mickler of White Trash Cooking . One of my favourite books ever, too, food with soul and humour.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Magic grits © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku chef knife from Blenheim Forge

Your favorite ingredient?
Tea – its not just a drink! An Earl Grey infused gin or a tea smoked salmon are delicious and add excitement in so many ways. I have over 50 teas from The Rare Tea Company and I love that they can be paired in so many ways

Your least favorite ingredient?
Olives, can’t stand them.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Indian Slapjacks

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Doing the dishes. It’s a luxury to have a dishwasher in London. I’m very happy Mark loves doing the washing up.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I love cooking Middle Eastern food. There are some fantastic shops and markets in East London that you can get fresh pistachios or pomegranate molasses easier than getting white sliced bread.

I also have a soft spot for French country cooking, things like Soupe à L’oignon or Pot-au-feu. I also have a deep love for Comte cheese and particularly love a Tartine au jambon et Comte

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
A Japanese Breakfast Gohan Shoku Salmon With Green Beans And Tofu

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
I’d prefer to say a pig rather than pork. I love crispy belly pork or char sui pork, but lets not forget jamon and a glass of wine.

Favorite vegetable?
Aubergine, or as you might call it, eggplant. Roasted whole on a fire and mashed with some olive oil.

Chef you most admire?
Jamie Oliver – he’s changed the way the majority of people eat in the UK for the better.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese, in every form

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Cassava Porridge

Food you dislike the most?
Dark chocolate, I also hate it when people pretend to like it because it’s somehow cool. Give me the cheapest milkiest chocolate any day.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None!

Recipe: Idli – South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Idli-South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Makes about 20 idli

3 cups rice (long–grain is fine)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
3 tsp salt
Oil for greasing the pans

Start in the morning of the day before you’d like to eat – as I said, some forward planning is required. In a bowl, mix the rice with the fenugreek seeds and cover with the water. In another bowl, put the urad dal and cover with water. Leave both bowls for a minimum of 5 hours.

The evening of the day before eating, drain the water from the rice but don’t discard it. Put the wet rice in a blender and add 1⁄2 cup of the water. Blend until you have a smooth batter, adding extra water, a little at a time, until it flows easily. Decant this into a large bowl and repeat with the dal (start with 1⁄4 cup of water this second time, as you should have some residual liquid in the blender).

Add the liquid dal to the rice with the salt and mix together using your hands. The bacteria on your skin will help kickstart the fermentation. Leave this covered overnight to ferment in a warm oven; I leave the oven light on. Depending on the time of year, this process will give different results, but you should have a huge, bubbling white mass.

The day of eating, give the batter a good stir. The consistency should be that of thick cream.

Prepare your idli pan by lightly oiling each of the sections with either a brush or a paper towel. Fill the bottom of the pan with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the idli holder. Ladle in enough batter to reach just beneath the edge; you’ll get some rise but not lots.

Steam the idli for 20 minutes with the lid firmly clamped on.

Remove the idli with a wet spoon, running it round the edge of each pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.

Leftovers can be transformed into idli fry, a delicious snack of deep fried idli served with a dip, chutney, or sauce of your choosing and a cup of tea.

– The End. Go Eat  –

All photos courtesy and copyright Michael Zee/SymmetryBreakfast

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash​ Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFor over 25 years, Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Annie and her husband, Captain Jon Finger, run the Maine windjammer, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Not only is Annie a maritime captain, she also is the captain and chef of her galley, where she has been cooking meals on her cast iron wood stove, Lucy. In the winter, she continues to create new recipes and shares them on her recipe and lifestyle blog, At Home & At Sea. Her third cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea – Book Two is the second in a series of cookbooks featuring a collection of recipes, crafts, thoughts, and stories from Chef Annie’s adventurous life on the coast of Maine.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe
Lucy

Chef Mahle notes, “In Sugar & Salt, I share more memories, stories, and recipes that are inspired by my life on the coast of Maine. Whether it’s through my cooking, crafts, or gardening, I’m always creating, and I hope that this book will be a inspiration for the reader.”

 

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
My first cooking memory is of canning tomatoes with my grandma in her kitchen. Several years later, I had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. I started cooking professionally after I graduated from college and haven’t looked back!

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything from the garden but kohlrabi.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half and half, kale, leftovers.

What do you cook at home?
All of the comfort food.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love someone who is willing to try something new. Like oysters. And really savor that first bite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Boorish or selfish sorts who are unaware of how much airtime and space they take up.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Ball jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine. Red. Although I do love creating new cocktails.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lori Colwin, Laura Brody, Dorie Greenspan. I wish I liked James Beard more.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku. One day I wasn’t thinking and used the tip to pry something open. Rookie move. The tip broke. But then Jon, my husband, ground the tip down to look like a blunt sailor’s knife and I love it.

Your favorite ingredient?
Flour. Or eggs. They can become so many creations.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kohlrabi. Hate it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
The type you eat with family and friends.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

Favorite vegetable?
A ripe tomato picked just off the vine on a warm summer day.

Chef you most admire?
Is it a cliché if I say Julia Child? Well, it’s true.

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m loving poached eggs, kale, and avocado for breakfast right now.

Food you dislike the most?
Food that is too clever for its own good. The sort that looks like the height of art on the plate, but leaves you still feeling hungry and wishing for a burger.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but my crew has poked at me for years to get one. I think a tattoo would bore me after a time. If I did get one, it would be a ring of a knife, fork, and spoon around my wrist or bicep.

Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork.
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 cups diced parsnips, peeled; about 2 parsnips
5 cups diced red potatoes; about 11⁄2 pounds or 6 potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion; about 1 medium onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
Poached Eggs
Herbed Salt (recipe below)

Directions:
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the parsnips, potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar (from Poached Egg recipe) and poach the eggs. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.

Herbed Salt
Makes about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Store in a glass jar indefinitely.

– The End. Go Eat. –