Archive for the ‘Notes on Cooking’ Category

Achtung! Die Küchentricks der Profis

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Die Kuechentricks der ProfisNotes on Cooking has been published in German! Die Küchentricks der Profis (translated as “Kitchen Tricks of the Professionals”) is available on amazon.de. Here’s how the German publisher, Bassermann, describes it: Besser kochen leicht gemacht! Dieses Buch ist ein kleines Schatzkästchen mit den wichtigsten Profi-Regeln für den besten Umgang mit Rezepten, Lebensmitteln und Garmethoden. “Öl oder Butter? Welche Pasta – welche Sauce? Vorher oder nachher würzen?” Diese und rund 200 weitere Fragen werden in diesem Buch beantwortet.

Inside the Mind of a Chef

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Getting inside the mind if a chef isn’t as elusive as it might appear. Thanks to master chef Daniel Boulud, now you can walk right in seven days a week at his new restaurant, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, on the Bowery. Just steps away from what once was CBGB’s, this new venture was designed to be a place that a cook would want to frequent with a menu to match. The menu is eclectic and substantial, ranging from the scrumptious and very modernly presented escargots to matzo ball soup. There is a beer sommelier, a house-made sausage menu, and a hamburger whose garnishes include Daisy May’s pulled pork. Need I say more? Well, maybe I should just mention that they have ice cream sundaes with homemade marshmallows, cookie bites, and mini meringues so fantastical in appearance they put Willy Wonka to shame.

I have had the pleasure of eating there twice so far, most recently Saturday night with my good friend, Tim. Chef Daniel was there, and he came by to say hello (he so generously endorsed Notes on Cooking). We were praising the food and service, of course, but I was most excited to share my husband’s observations with him about the space (Sean and I had eaten there together the week before). As good as the food is at DBGB, the design and decor are even more clever.

Interior of DBGB Kitchen & Bar

Interior of DBGB Kitchen & Bar

When you approach the restaurant, you are confronted with a wall of glass windows, covered in quotes from culinary gods like Brillat-Savarin and Julia Child. As you enter the restaurant, the surrounding walls of mirrored glass in the bar area display more quotes and the extensive menu. Once you enter the main dining room, you are in a giant and handsome charcoal grey dining room that is remarkably light and open. The bright white and stainless steel kitchen is visible through glass and forms an “L” along two walls. Wherever else there is wall space in the room pantry items like kosher salt, matzo meal, and wine are displayed on wooden shelves. The finishing touch that makes the whole concept come together is a full border of copper pots and pans from all the great American and French chefs, a veritable culinary heritage museum. Everyone of Chef Daniel’s friends from Alain Ducasse to Tyler Florence has donated a favorite copper piece to be displayed. It is both thrilling and humbling to walk around the the perimeter of the dining room to admire this cookware and ultimately their owners.

There are other amusing details like bathroom wallpaper – pages of a French cookware catalogue from another century that feature such frivolous items as a jambonniere (a ham-shaped pot to cook…what else?…ham). This type of detail might be lost on those who are ignorant of or uninterested in food history; to them it’s likely just an attractive aesthetic choice. But to those in the know, to a cook like me who lives and breathes this stuff, it was so stimulating. My husband and I absorbed all these details when we first waked into DBGB. As is typical, Sean put it best: “This restaurant is like the inside of a chef’s mind.”

So, I quoted this to Chef Daniel, telling him all the reasons that led us to feel that way. No one had put it that way to him before, he noted, and he loved that way of seeing the space. “I’m going to use that!” he said. Well, just when I thought it was not possible for him to flatter me more…then again, all the credit for articulating that observation goes to Sean!

I can’t wait to get back to DBGB Kitchen & Bar. It is a delectable and authentic journey into the mind of a GREAT chef.

My Top Tomato Tips on YouTube

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Click to Watch Chef Lauren Talk about Tomatoes

Nothing tastes quite like summer as do heirloom tomatoes. My last blog post was about tomatoes, but I had to post the following video to make sure everyone knows the best way to procure and store them. Check it out on YouTube by clicking the photo to the left.

Top Five Tomato Tips:

1. Shop seasonally.
2. Shop locally.
3. Wash whole in cold running water.
4. Store in a cool, dry place.
5. Only refrigerate once sliced.

Fun on the Farm

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

There is a very special place, just 40 miles northwest of New York, called Rainbeau Ridge. A small, family-owned farm, Rainbeau Ridge is the realization of a dream and an admirable example of sustainability and community. They grow fruits and vegetables, sell fresh eggs in spectacular shades of blue and brown, and raise livestock to make arguably some of the best goat cheese there is (Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns certainly agrees). I have been very fortunate to spend countless, joyful hours there over the years and July 16th was no exception.

Lisa Schwartz, owner and farmer extraodinaire, invited me to spend an afternoon at the farm to sign books and meet her Community Agriculture Partnership (CAP) customers. From noon to 4 o’clock I met with people who love the ingredients they use just as much as they love to cook. It was inspiring to see how many people deeply care about the quality of their food, from farm to table. One woman, Shirley, is in a book club where Alice Waters’s “The Art of Simple Food” is on the list. Oh, what a fun idea for a book club! Maybe “Notes on Cooking” will be next? How wonderful that would be…especially if I am invited to join!

To entice people to chat with me and browse through the book, I bribed them with a little treat: a tomato tart made with Lisa’s Mont Vivant goat cheese. Everyone was raving about it, no doubt due to that delectable chevre! Flaky puff pastry, scrumptious tomato jam, heirloom tomatoes paired with basil from the garden, and a little extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt were a savory backdrop for Lisa’s cheese (she impressively makes it all herself). Try the following recipe for just a little taste of Rainbeau Ridge. Better yet, go visit the farm or a local store or restaurant where Rainbeau Ridge cheese is sold.

Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

for the tomato jam:
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
6 whole shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

for the tart:
1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup tomato jam
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 pint small heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered
frehsly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400F.

To make the tomato jam, combine the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and thyme in a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the shallots have caramelized and softened. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor. Puree for several seconds until more or less smooth. Allow to cool before assembling the tart.

To make the tart, line a sheet pan with a nonstick liner. Place the puff pastry on the sheet pan, then spread the tomato jam evenly over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese, then place the tomato pieces evenly on top. Top with freshly ground black pepper and bake in the 400F oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are golden brown and have puffed. Remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with finishing salt, and sprinkle with whole fresh basil leaves. Serve warm or room temperature.

The tomato jam may be made up to one week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.