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My Experience with Blue Apron

5 Nov

When it comes to food, I like to be in control. I like to be the one picking out groceries and I like to be the one cooking. But honestly, grocery shopping can be a pain sometimes.

Inspired by the discount offer of two free meals for first time users of Blue Apron (Blue Apron has also been sponsoring some of the podcasts I listen to lately), I decided to try out the services. With my discount offer, I paid about $40 for three meals intended to serve two people (regular price of about $60).

Blue Apron is a food delivery service that takes care of the grocery shopping, allowing customers to enjoy and focus on the cooking experience. After noting dietary preferences, Blue Apron ships three pre-shopped and pre-portioned meals on a week-by-week basis. The food gets carefully portioned and packaged and is shipped in a refrigerated box.

I wanted to keep an open mind, so I did not check off any dietary preferences to see what they would send me. The week before my delivery, Blue Apron sent me an email with the ingredients and recipes I would be receiving:

  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream
  • Greek-Style Braised Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes
  • Caramelized Pork & Congee with Crispy Shallots & Black Garlic

Each meal is slated to take an average of 35 minutes to prepare. While no nutrition information is provided for individual recipes, Blue Apron notes that each meal contains between 500 and 700 calories per serving.

Below I discuss the meals I received and cooked, showing pictures and providing individual feedback for each recipe.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I cooked the fish on my first night Continue reading

A Pie Class with Joy the Baker: Pics, Tips, and Memories

28 Oct

I started Figs in My Belly in June, 2009. At that point in my life, I was living in California, getting a degree in Nutritional Science, staging (interning) in the kitchen at a small handful of restaurants, working at a cooking camp for kids, and making dinners for my housemates at the co-op where I lived. Oh, and I was totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

That August, I heard about a rooftop picnic in downtown Los Angeles that Joy was hosting and jumped on the opportunity. I brought my mom along and we spent the afternoon enjoying Joy’s biscuits, fried chicken, coleslaw, and cupcakes while mingling with other Joy the Baker fans.

Cut to more than five years later, and I now live in New York City with a short (four-year-long) pastry cook career currently on pause while I finish up a graduate degree in Nutrition Education and a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. And, as you might have guessed, I am still totally obsessed with Joy the Baker and her blog.

Joy is currently on tour for her latest cookbook, Homemade Decadence. I attended her book signing at The Brooklyn Kitchen, and the following weekend, my friend Michelle and I drove up to King Arthur Flour in Vermont, where Joy was teaching a hands-on pie making class. Joy taught two four-hour pie classes on the same day. She is a warrior.

I’ve made my share of pies in the past, but pie still intimidates me, and I wanted to gain some pro tips to boost my pie confidence. Plus, my friend Michelle never made her own pie before, so this was the perfect opportunity to learn. We road tripped for pie! Continue reading

Easy Peasy Pasta + A Glimpse At My Life In A Restaurant

17 Jan

Easy Peasy. Dinner in a pinch.

Drop your pasta into salted boiling water. Add a few handfuls of frozen peas in the last 3 minutes of boiling. Saute a few minced garlic cloves in a skillet and add fresh spinach with a tiny splash of water. Cook down and add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Season with salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chili flakes. Dump the pasta and peas into the skillet, mix everything together and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

For when you want a healthy, no fuss meal thrown together quickly by taste.

After spending most of my nights making the desserts at Print restaurant, on my days off, all I want is a quick home-cooked meal. I crave salt, I crave savory, but below I want to show you a tiny glimpse of some of the sweet things I do at work.

Every night before the restaurant opens, the staff has the opportunity to eat a meal together. We call it “family meal.” Usually the meal is something super simple that can be thrown together quickly: think chicken and rice or pasta. There is always a salad. The pastry team tries to offer something sweet for family meal, too, sometimes. Lately we have been making Horchata. Mexican Rice Milk with cinnamon. We based our recipe off of David Lebovitz. Just a yummy drink to start the night off.

One of the first things I tackle when I arrive at work is preparing for the next morning’s breakfast service. We (in pastry) make muffins and scones and coffeecakes, yogurt (from Argyle farms in NY) and fruit parfaits (topped with homemade granola), and fresh fruit plates. We offer two flavors each of muffins and scones every morning. The scone pictured above contains walnuts, Asian pears, and flaxseeds. Check out that seductive sugar sprinkle on top. Hellooooo coffee and a pastry!

After I finish preparing for the next morning’s breakfast, I begin to set up for dinner service. We currently have 6 desserts on the menu. Above you see our most recent addition to the dessert menu: Hazelnut Parfait, Maple Yogurt Mousse, Grappa Candied Chestnuts, Espresso Syrup. There’s all sorts of warm and cool, soft, creamy, and crunchy to this dessert. Mmm mmm winter wonderland.

And when you get your coffee or when you order some house made ice cream, you get to try our rotation of biscotti. We are currently serving pistachio polenta biscotti with dried cherries. Dip and go.

Sometimes there are large parties eating at the restaurant. We offer a special dessert menu for these parties. One of the desserts consists of chocolate hazelnut mousse, fleur de sal, hazelnut streusal, poached pear halves, brown butter ice cream, and chocolate decor. I would describe chocolate decor as tempered chocolate cut into shapes. There’s all sorts of heating and agitating and spreading and cooling. It’s a science that I have yet to perfect. But it sure tastes good along the way.

I feel like I have to leave you with a savory item from the restaurant. The burger is on our lunch menu and sometimes pops up on the dinner menu. This gargantuan meat stack has cornichons, pickled red onion, gooey cheddar, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, and a toasted bun. Ah, swoon.

So now you have seen a tiny glimpse into restaurant dessert/food. Tiny.

And people always ask me how I don’t gain a zillion pounds working in pastry. I answer with: the stairs, the heavy lifting, the stirring, the rolling…I get quite the workout. So a few nibbles and tastes won’t spiral me out of control. I am constantly moving. And we work with so many fresh, local ingredients that I feel pretty darn good eating what I want.

Dinner Party For Rosh Hashanah

3 Oct

An excuse to have friends over for dinner and to cook a hearty Jewish meal… The menu:

  • Round Challah Bread, Roasted Garlic
  • Apples Dipped in Honey (Catskill Provision Honey)
  • Chicken with Figs
  • Israeli Couscous with Pomegranate Seeds, Feta, Chickpeas, Cucumber, Radishes, and more
  • Quick Asparagus and Green Bean Saute
  • Wine
  • Root

A small glimpse of the meal:

Pretty Pretty Blue Hydrangeas

Round Challah Bread; Apple Walnut Cake

Couscous Salad in the Making…(pre-couscous)

Flowers, Apples & Honey, Couscous Salad

Kosher Chicken #1 in the Pyrex, Before Baking

Kosher Chicken #2 in Cast-Iron, After Baking

Quick Green Bean Saute

Dinner is Served, Come & Get It

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For…Honey Ice Cream!

Rugelach, Homemade Jewish Cookies…you can’t just eat one

And there you have it. Just a small taste of the lovely meal that was enjoyed by many.

Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Rosemary Caramel Swirl

8 Sep

Greetings everyone.

I have ice cream for you. It has brown sugar in it, and rosemary infused caramel sauce. It is smooth and rich and keeps me coming back for more. The caramel sauce helps keep this ice cream nice and soft, which I LOVE.

Unfortunately I have trouble taking nice photos of ice cream. I just want to eat and lick up all of the dripping goodness. So sue me.

Alright. Now let’s get down to business and make some ice cream.

Rosemary Infused Caramel Sauce

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. water + 1/2 c. water

2 T. butter

1-2 large branches rosemary

1. Heat the sugar and 1/4 c. water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. It will eventually bubble and turn amber in color. Try to do minimal or no stirring. Once the bubbling turns vigorous and there is some smoke starting to form, then you can take a whisk and stir.

2. Remove from heat and slowly pour in a little bit of your 1/2 c. of water and STAND BACK. Stir, add a little more water, stand back. Repeat until your entire 1/2 c. is used. Keep stirring to make sure your caramel is smooth.

3. Add the butter and rosemary. Let the caramel sit with the rosemary in it for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove your rosemary and let the caramel cool.

Brown Sugar Ice Cream + Rosemary Caramel Swirl

adapted from Food + Words

6 ounces egg yolks (4 yolks)
8 ounces (either light or dark) brown sugar (1 cup)
16 ounces whole or reduced fat milk (2 cups)
8 ounces heavy cream (1 cup)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (I used Maldon)

Set your heavy cream aside in a large bowl with a mesh strainer over it.

Whisk your yolks and brown sugar together in a medium bowl for about 2 minutes, until well combined and light-ish in color.

In small pot, heat your milk until scaled (just about to boil but does not boil). Slowly whisk a small amount of the scalded milk into the sugar and egg mixture. Keep whisking constantly. Pour that back into the rest of the milk and keep heating. Now start stirring with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Keep stirring the egg, sugar, milk mixture over the stove until thickened slightly. This could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, so just watch closely. You will know when your custard is thickened when it coats the back of a spoon completely.**You do not want scrambled eggs, though, so keep the heat to medium.

Pour your thickened custard through the strainer into the cream. Add the vanilla and fleur de sel and set the mixture over an ice bath until cool. Once cool, place in the fridge to chill completely (at least one hour or overnight).

Churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker. In the last 30 seconds of churning, add as much caramel sauce to the ice cream as you want. Or, alternatively, once your ice cream is churned, pour some of it into your container, then pour over it a layer of caramel sauce, then more ice cream, then more caramel, then more ice cream.

Freeze in the freezer and enjoy!

A Few New York Secrets + Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

27 Jun

I have a few (New York) secrets for you:

Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Like a triple cross between Berkeley’s famous Memorial Glade and San Francisco’s Dolores Park and Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic or something… Sheep Meadow is a large flat park surrounded by trees and tall buildings and beaming with sunshine in the summertime.

Per Se. “The urban interpretation of the French Laundry [in Napa, CA].” The wine list is on an ipad. The cocktails are out-of-this-world. The servers are dressed in fancy suits. Sitting at the bar and ordering a drink is what you need to do. NOW. You will pay for your expensive cocktail and your server will bring you popcorn with truffle oil and large roasted peanuts. Sitting at the bar is actually sitting at your own private table. What a steal!

Bakeri and CB I Hate Perfume Gallery. Bakeri is a cute cute cute little shop with a blue painted entrance and an outdoor garden with a mini waterfall. Grab a light lunch, a coffee, and a little sweet snack and bask in the adorable-ness of this little joint. CB I Hate Perfume is right down the street from Bakeri. Tantalize your nose with perfumes that literally smell like Roast Beef, Bell Peppers, Graham Crackers, Snow, Rain, A Walk on The Beach, and Burnt Leaves. How does he do it?!

-Peeping at naughty nude bodies in the Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room. You are on the street. Nude bodies are way up at the top of the hotel. Voyeurism at it’s finest.

When I’m not exploring the “secrets” of New York City, I am exploring how to better myself in the kitchen (both at home and at work). I present to you an ice cream flavor that lies in the realm of decadence and sin and a pleasure that is meant to make you want to rip your clothes off.

Caramel-Buerre-Salé. Salted Butter Caramel. This ice cream tastes exactly how it sounds. Totally rich. Totally in love.

After tasting the famous ABC Kitchen Ice Cream Sundae (salted caramel ice cream, popcorn, candied peanuts, chocolate sauce, whipped cream) last week, my mind started to race. I began reminiscing about the Caramel-Buerre-Salé ice cream that I licked right off the cone last summer in Paris at Berthillon. How have I not already re-created this mind-blowing experience in the form of ice cream yet?

Here you go:

Caramel-Buerre-Salé Ice Cream (Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream)

From David Lebovitz

**A SECRET FROM DAVID LEB.: “The secret is to cook your sugar into a caramel far enough so it’s very-slightly burnt; otherwise it just tastes like syrupy sugar. You want to take it to the edge of darkness, then stop it there with the addition of a few pads of salted butter.”

makes 1 generous quart (liter)

2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
 4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
 scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
 1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
 5 large egg yolks
 ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

approximately 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or Maldon salt flakes

Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later). Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.

Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, drizzle in about 3/4 teaspoon of flaky salt.

**Even in the freezer, the ice cream will stay quite soft, which is exactly how I LOVE my ice cream texture to be. Perfect.

Care for another stellar albeit less decadent-tasting caramel ice cream from David Lebovitz? You are just one click away.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet

21 Jan

Oh yes, this dripping cone of chocolate heaven is SORBET. No cream, no milk, no egg yolks…but no skimping on the rich chocolate flavor. Oh no, no skimping. This is as pure as a frozen chocolate treat can get. Joanne Chang, the owner of a popular Boston bakery called Flour is responsible for this bittersweet chocolate sorbet recipe. She describes the taste perfectly: “It tastes like a frozen deep, dark chocolate bar.” Oh, lordy I couldn’t describe it better myself!

I was just in New York and discovered that there are some REALLY GOOD hot chocolates to drink out there. Like REALLY REALLY GOOD, especially when you dip a pretzel croissant into your hot chocolate. This sorbet tastes like the dark hot chocolates that I was drinking just a few weeks ago, but frozen.

I had some organic vegan ice cream cones on-hand that I used to make red velvet cupcake cones a short while ago, and these cones were a great way to enjoy this bittersweet chocolate sorbet.

I very much enjoy the process of making ice cream. I like the whole heat the milk, temper in the egg yolks, and pour into cold cream thing. But with this sorbet, I get to do the make a nice caramel, add some cocoa powder, and pour everything over chopped chocolate thing. I like this, too.

Chang provides a nice food-science explanation for using caramelized sugar instead of pure sugar in her bittersweet chocolate sorbet recipe:

“…caramelize the sugar before combining it with the sorbet base. Because there is no cream or milk in this recipe, it is a challenge to create a smooth, creamy texture. Caramelizing the sugar means you can use more sugar than you would normally (since straight sugar is pure sweet and the sweetness of the caramelized sugar is offset by its characteristic bitterness). The extra sugar-disguised-as-caramel helps to lower the freezing point of the sorbet base, which means it won’t freeze solid. The result is a creamier, softer, not-icy treat.”

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet

from Joanne Chang’s book, Flour

makes about 1 quart

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

3 1/2 cups (840 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

4 ounces (114 grams) bittersweet chocolate (60-70 % cacao), finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Put the sugar in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup (120 grams) of the water and gently swirl the pan to moisten the sugar. Place the pan over high heat and leave it undisturbed until the contents come to a rolling boil. Then continue to boil rapidly without moving the pan until the sugar syrup starts to caramelize. This will take 3 to 4 minutes: the sugar syrup will boil furiously, then as it thickens it will boil more languidly, and then you will see some of the syrup start to color and darken around the edge of the pan.

When you see color in the pan, gently swirl it in a circular motion so the sugar caramelizes evenly, and then keep swirling gently until the caramel is a medium golden brown. Turn down the heat to low and slowly and carefully add the remaining 3 cups (720 grams) water. Be careful, because it will sputter and spatter when it hits the caramel. The caramel will harden at the bottom of the pan; turn up the heat to high, bring the mixture back to a boil, and whisk for a few minutes until the caramel fully dissolves. Then whisk in the cocoa powder until fully dissolved.

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot caramelized liquid over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute, then whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a container, and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until cold.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Sorbet can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 week.