Archive for the ‘animal’ Category

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Winners. (BELCAMPO MEAT CO.)

May 4, 2015
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On November 3 2014, The New Yorker released it’s annual food issue, thick with articles about how we react to, and with, food. An especially inspiring piece by Dana Goodyear featured California’s farm to fork Belcampo Meat Company, a series of pastures, slaughterhouses, butcher shops and restaurants with an impressively high standard. The article recently won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award (category: Profile), and really put into perspective the way a company can choose its methods to support its ideals, if creatively run.

Last fall was my first visit to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles and, in a taco frenzy, I almost dismissed another butcher counter full of mustaches, muscles and beautiful fonts. But the meat was too gorgeous to ignore. I admired the cuts (pictured above), purchased some jerky, contemplated a tote bag and moved on to more tacos, unaware of the fascinating back story.
Upon return to NYC, I sat down with the food issue that was meant for in-flight reading and, coincidentally, read all about the meat I was gazing upon so lovingly. As it turns out, the most fascinating thing about Belcampo, the focus of Dana Goodyear‘s article, is the company’s CEO Anya Fernald. The story goes on to detail her fierce dedication to teaching consumers the value of eating well-raised animals, despite the significantly higher prices. There are no plans of compromising the pristine practices of Belcampo, which are outlined in depth on their own site. Instead, she and the company will wait for the rest of the country to catch up, hopefully rejecting factory farming for good.

 
Belcampo supports the idea of raising animals in a pre-industrial fashion. Allowing them to graze a variety of plants, and letting them live a bit longer (over two years), benefits the animal, the farmland and the taste of the product. Consumers also reap the benefits of a more nourishing meal on the plate.
Nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef include increased levels of Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich carotenoids and conjugated linolenic acid with fewer calories and less fat. And although beef can’t compare to salmon in its level of essential fatty acid Omega 3, it’s still 5 times higher in sustainably raised animals than in cows from the feedlot, as reported by Ms. Goodyear.
 
To navigate the soaring costs of beef, especially in the midst of the devastating drought California is facing, Anya Fernald suggests eating smaller portions, (another pre-industrial concept) or by trying other animals such as sheep, rabbit or “drought resistant” goat.
Better consideration for the origins of the food we eat is the way of the near future, for the health of the planet and every body that inhabits it. Sustainable butcher shops are starting to be more prominent and grocery stores are beginning to offer better choices in sustainably raised meat and poultry. But it is obvious that Belcampo is in the lead. They hold themselves responsible for the whole supply chain, consciously making every decision for the greater good. They are determined to put meat back on the table, making a hearty, well-raised steak something good for your health, as opposed to the stigma of the last decade or two when red meat was, as recalled by Anya Fernald, “like smoking a cigarette –a guilty pleasure”.
 
*Lucky for us east coasters we can have a Belcampo experience via their webstore. Gorgeous selection of frozen meats and dry goods.
** yes, my vacation photos include a meat counter. yes.
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Handed down. (EMPANADAS)

March 18, 2015

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I was introduced to empanadas as a late night drunken treat in the deepest depths of Queens. The version we ate were greasy and deep fried, stuffed with ground up meat and some questionable, grizzly bits. Perfect drinking food. I will confess that Janine and I called them “Keebleros” because, in our boozy haze, we couldn’t remember what they were really called. We thought this was hilarious.

Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and are interpreted further still, by region. Colombia and Venezula deep fry their stuffed creations while Chile and Argentina bake theirs in the oven. In general, empanadas can be cooked either way and filled with anything; meat, cheese, egg, spinach, fruit, shrimp or squash, in infinite combinations. A basic (if not totally traditional) empanada is anything that tastes good wrapped in dough, which is almost anything. The key to success is pretty simple. As long as the filling you have created tastes great, your empanadas will be voraciously devoured by anyone you offer them to. Take into consideration, the doughy exterior will tone down the filling, so it’s important that whatever you are stuffing in is seasoned well.

Years after my experience with Keebleros, I befriended the lovely Erica and became close with her family, who relocated to New York from the San Juan province of Argentina. As a result of this friendship, I am introduced to a whole new genre of amazing tastes. Chimichurri! Alfajores! Maté! Malbec! When Christmas rolls around, among the many delicious foods served, one of the family’s traditions is a heaping platter of freshly baked empanadas; stuffed with beef (picadillo), a green olive and a small chunk of hard-boiled egg. Guests are encouraged to eat as many as they possibly can …and to compete while doing it! I couldn’t quite beat out brother, but I held my own, foregoing other dishes so that more empanadas could fit.

Then the learning began. There were years that we helped punch the homemade dough* into submission, years that we browned kilo after kilo of beef, and many lessons about twisting the edges just right. Often times, Erica would arrive at my family’s holiday party with a heaping platter just for us, and it quickly became a ritual anticipated by all.

Because of these awesome memories –and sheer deliciousness– I have adapted the very same empanadas sanjuaninas as one of my favorite celebrational foods too. They are a perfect self-contained party dish. Easy to transport (I should know, I used to fill my pockets with them), and effortless to serve. Heat them if you have the means, but I have never seen empanadas refused neither cold nor at room temp. It is obvious, just by looking, that they are made with love. And so, the excitement continues to generate.

EMPANADAS DE PICADILLO

(Makes about 10 empanadas using 5-inch dough circles)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

10 small pimento-stuffed green olives

10 Goya Discos para empanadas (1 package), thawed

1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Start warming a skillet over medium heat, add half of the oil and the beef. Wait for some sizzling sounds and occasionally break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. When the meat is thoroughly browned, lift it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put aside in a big bowl.
  • Wipe out the skillet and warm the second tablespoon of oil. Brown the onions (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and the next five spices until toasted and fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add a small splash of oil if dry.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the ground beef, combining well. Add hot sauce, if using. This is picadillo! Taste for seasoning. If needed add salt, pepper, etc.
  • Lay the dough circles on a work surface and brush half of each with the raw egg mixture.
  • Place a mound of picadillo (about three heaping tablespoons) on each circle. Put one olive and a piece of egg with the meat on each round.
  • Fold the dough into a half-moon shape over the meat-olive-egg pile and press to seal. Gather up small sections from the edge where the two sides meet and pinch them together in one-inch intervals, further sealing the dough. Another option is to push the two sides together by pressing down to ‘crimp’ them with a fork. Repeat with all meat/circles.
  • Place finished empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining raw egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crisped.

* I am a busy lady, (frozen) Goya discos are my secret weapon, and puff pastry could be a last-resort substitute. But pleeease feel free to make your own dough.

Here lies post from way back, it talks about a sweet-savory experiment:

RICOTTA AND FIG EMPANADAS

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Five more food photos. (BY ORI)

February 24, 2015

 

 

 

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Homemade pizza with ricotta and sauteed kale.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Spices for mulled wine.

Spices for mulled wine.

Hamachi crudo.

Hamachi crudo.

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Branching out. (FOOD STYLING)

July 10, 2014

It was like Thanksgiving in July (exactly like Thanksgiving in July, actually) on a shoot for Campbell’s classic green bean casserole that rolled out last year. I did not make/style the green beans (it had an entourage of its own) but I did cook the surrounding feast:

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See the whole commercial here:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/75y5/campbells-cream-of-mushroom-soup-wisest-kid-holidays

I’m into it. Keep me in mind for all of your styling needs: omcooking@gmail.com

 

 

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Don’t quote me. (THE CHELSEA MARKET COOKBOOK)

October 14, 2013

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A while back MG and I contributed some recipes to a secret project. Now the official Chelsea Market Cookbook is here! Let the world be exposed to Metalbelly‘s Texas Chili and my own golden garlic butter, that mysteriously tastes just like movie popcorn, as well as great stuff from people way more famous than us… lots of them! Check it out at Amazon.

One of my recipes, originally titled ‘Market Fish Stew’, was retitled Provençal Fish Stew and likened to a bouillabaisse in its description. While the use of leeks, fennel and pastis are typical of Provence, I have to admit my dish is way too simple (and adaptable) to hold court in the tradition of bouillabaisse. If the recipe I developed for the Chelsea Market Cookbook is a speedboat, the bouillabaisse I ate many years ago, at a tiny port restaurant in Marseille, was a French naval ship.

That first time, I didn’t really know what I was in for while hunting for the historic soup, but my goal was to find the perfect place to eat it. It should be noted, this was before personal opinions could be publicly accessed with ease. I couldn’t look at scores of reviews, there was no googling to be done. These were my early days of culinary exploration and because there were fewer resources, I was honing the skill of spotting a real deal restaurant by wits alone. With each new travel, in seas of tourist traps and among hordes of menus and foreign words, finding the local gem just by scanning the immediate details became my superpower.

The day I went shopping for bouillabaisse, I was on a solo mission with no one to translate or steer. As I wound through the streets of the port I scanned for a place with just the right light, a healthy level of sound, happy relaxed guests and staff, good smells. My ideal was smallish in size and maybe a bit off the path. Scan the menu, is it traditional and also unique? Is there variety, is there a clear specialty? This is the first glance.

I found my spot and ordered a bouillabaisse. Soon after, the waiter presented me with a plate of raw Mediterranean fish and various sea animals. However confused, I signed off with a nod. He disappeared leaving me to devour a whole basket of bread and rouille, a garlic and saffron ailoi, named for its color (rust). Rouille is a mandatory part of a bouillabaisse, meant to be sunk in the bottom of the soup, making the broth thicker and richer –not eaten as an appetizer. The waiter came back with a huge bowl brimming with the seafood in an incredible broth, thick with fishy shrapnel and a little gritty with seasonings. As I worked my way through that bowl of perfectly cooked fish, my guy refilled broth from a tureen and bread/rouille as needed. It was impossible to stop eating this bottomless bowl, and I probably took down enough for four people.

Sorry to report that I don’t know the restaurant name or the street it was on. I didn’t write notes on food then or take pictures of my meals with the enormous Nikkormat I was probably carrying. Since this momentous meal, I have researched and discussed many more details of regional French cooking, learning that there is much debate about what an authentic bouillabaisse really is; seasoning, type of fish, order of plating, etc. In my food-obsessed travels I realize that eating any dish in the place of its origin is such a unique sensory experience that it is hard to describe the final criteria when looking for the best local spot. One might say that you have to give yourself over to the place you are visiting, and its customs, in order to be admitted passage to an authentic experience. If you search for a restaurant with ketchup bottles on the table wherever you go, it is sure you will be denied this.

I walked Marseille top to bottom, letting it take me where it would. On a desolate road that ran alongside the sea, there were signs indicating boats in transit to/from Corsica, Italy and Algeria. I remember reading the exotic port names and feeling small and far away, isolated from the rest of the world (remember, no cellphones). I accepted that no one on the continent knew where I was at that moment and I could be anywhere according to the rest of the world. I continued into the ‘the pannier’ or old town which was a tight maze of narrow corridors. It must have been during a particularly quiet siesta because what was described to me as the must-see, crazy, condensed part of town was silent. The strange, lonely feeling deepened but didn’t last long. The noise level rose as the streets pointed back toward port and I turned a corner just in time to see an outdoor beer garden full of people (travelers) just like me. I hung with them for a bit before the desire to continue my loner journey resumed.

I bought some cheap cigarettes in an alleyway. I happened upon a gallery opening in a cavernous garage-like space with minimalist paintings and loads of wine. Way earlier that day I trekked around the moon rocks of the Calanques peering down at the very place the delicious bouillabaisse fish come from. Traveling with my stunning vintage Laguiole (like a good Frenchman), I sliced saucisson and broke bread under the immense statues of the Palais Longchamp before wandering the fine arts museum inside. At night I sketched the illuminated windows of St. Vincent de Paul and pretended I spoke only Bulgarian to maintain my solitude when approached by curious passers by.

I fell in love with Marseille and its briny breeze. Was intrigued by the local accent and its choppy Italian inflection, the cultural mash-up, the crossroads and that overall, “hey! we’ve got a port so we can go anywhere, but we stay right here” kind of feeling. And after taking all that in, I’m pretty sure I had a spot on bouillabaisse that day.

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Strictly speaking. (BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES)

January 29, 2013

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For a couple of weeks MG and I have rid our diets of sugar, caffeine (Coffee, I miss you), wheat (Bread! I didn’t mean it! Please take me back), dairy, booze, etc. As the 14 days of clean eating were coming to a close I was making up stuff to ease us back into our really fun and slightly decadent reality. The key word is ‘ease’ because I didn’t want all of that abstaining to wind up being in vain. So, for these cute little suckers, I allowed for a dredge of breadcrumbs. Without the dip in the crumbs, this version of the recipe would be all-of-those-things free and full of healthy protein, salmon. I used the canned stuff for the sake of speed cooking but using 1 3/4 cups of freshly cooked salmon flaked with a fork would be a million times better.

This recipe can be seasoned in different ways, scallions, soy, ginger, or with mayo or add an egg, some old bay seasoning, cayenne, chopped herbs, etc. Just make a delicious mixture and form into patties. I left it at easy, threw some cooked brown rice (for sticking power), garlic, shallot and rosemary in the mini chop and mixed it with the fish that I seasoned a little. Simple as bonjour.

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BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES

(makes 10-12 small croquettes)

1 can of salmon such as Icy Point, about 14 ounces

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

a splash of red wine vinegar

1/3 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or scant teaspoon dried

3 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon herbs or spices of choice*

Cooking oil, preferably in spray form.

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet in foil and spray (or drizzle) with your favorite cooking oil.
  • Flake the salmon thoroughly and mix in a medium-sized bowl with dijon, oil and vinegar.
  • Place rice, rosemary, garlic and shallots in a food processor until it forms a paste (or finely chop with a knife).
  • Combine the rice mixture with the fish in the bowl. Season well. Set aside.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the seasonings of your choice*.
  • Form the salmon mixture into 1/4 cup patties (not too big or they will be very break-y), dredge patties in the deluxe breadcrumbs and place on the prepared sheet pan.
  • After all of the patties are formed and crumbed, spray (or drizzle) the top of each one lightly with oil.
  • Place in the oven and cook as close to the heat source as possible until the desired color is achieved and croquettes are heated through. Flip once, about 8 minutes on each side.

* Here you can use dried herbs or any mix of spices to trick out the breadcrumbs. I used this blend from Penzey’s that I got from my rad sister.

Salmon croquettes are also excellent served on tiny bread to tiny people…

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And here is something I wrote about Icy Point Salmon back when I used to wear a thumb ring. I really do like this stuff.

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‘I think we can consider it a ‘whole food’, so much so that the salmon still has its bones! When you open a can of this stuff you are looking straight into a cross section of a beautiful Alaskan salmon. It is steamed in the can this way, bones and all, so that every part of the fish is edible and needs only to be broken up with a fork and used in your favorite recipe. It is a staple in my pantryXX’

The bones are soft and edible. What that looks like:

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That’s healthy but if it freaks you out, just cook up the fresh salmon. Ça va.
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New traditions. (MUSSELS IN CHORIZO AND BEER)

December 30, 2012

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When the Saints played the Colts in Superbowl XLIV (2010) I made up this dish, Mussels in Chorizo and Beer. It was the product of us being in a foreign neighborhood and running around trying to find cool ingredients for an extraordinary Superbowl concoction to make at our friends’ place. While it was being eaten almost no one yelled at the TV.

Even though it has no particular cultural alliance, once the mussels and chorizo came together I felt like it was reminiscent of something my Italian grandparents or great grandparents would have served back in the day. Back when Sundays were still a red sauce based, all day eating affair and calamari with the tentacles still totally freaked me out. (The ‘rubber bands’ were okay though.) All of my aunts, uncles and cousins would fight for a seat in the dining room, the losers sent to the card table parked in the back bedroom. I was the youngest and had my choice of laps to sit on, a great strategy especially at dessert.

The Christmas after that gourmet Superbowl when my cousins and I decided to honor the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I knew exactly what my contribution would be. We simmered pounds and pounds (and pounds and pounds) of mussels in the garlicky tomato sauce studded with spiced sausage. A side of pasta for folks like my dad and sliced up focaccia for the dunkers. The table groaned under six more fish, two more pasta dishes, salads and sides galore. It was a beautiful sight. All of the foods we were most excited about, all at once.

In more recent years we have experimented with some other seafoods and we have learned how to reign it in. This year, back by popular demand, we made the mussels again. I think they might become a regular addition to the table. We have some traditions and they are not strict, but it is sure that favorites will make an appearance; manicotti, antipasto with the biggest hunk of Parmiggiano you have ever seen, killer seafood salad, rum cake. Somehow even a platter of sushi has made it into the yearly mix. Our feast grows and changes a bit each Christmas, as does our family and by the same token it has a strong foundation in our history and represents the memories we share however hazy they may be. (Next year I promise to nail down the recipe for Pete’s Seafood Salad That We Think Grandma Used To Make.) The resulting dinner, both nostalgic and new, reflects everyone who has participated in it. And out of love, it also reflects all of those who eat it.

MUSSELS IN CHORIZO AND BEER

1 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 can beer

1/4 cup fresh dill or other fresh herb

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed

salt and pepper

  • Cook chorizo in a large saucepan, breaking it up into pieces until browned.
  • Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  • Add butter to the saucepan and sautee onion, shallot, red pepper flakes and fennel seed with a touch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add beer and dill.
  • Bring to a boil again and add mussels.
  • When most of the mussels have opened and are cooked through, Remove them and arrange in a large serving dish. Pick out and discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Boil the tomato mixture for about 3 minutes, add the chorizo back in and heat through.
  • Season well and pour over the mussels in the dish.

Serve with bread for dipping.

(Photo courtesy of Jackii Laurenzano)