Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food Porn: Eggplant Overdrive

When I dropped off my elephant cookies, the customer (my day job boss) happened to have just harvested his eggplant crop, hoping to save them from the impending storm. He generously gave me three of them.

Beauties aren't they? I was very excited to take home my bounty. I thought they were gorgeous. For the first one, I decided on thinly sliced and breaded disks for a cheese-less eggplant Parmesan. I had whole wheat seasoned break crumbs and some diced tomatoes for a fresh sauce. Perfect comfort food to get anyone through a storm, right?

First things first. Slice them. Up. As you can see, that's my Baby on the cutting board; 12" W├╝sthof Classic Chef's Knife. She went through culinary school with me. Although not used as much since I got my Santoku, she's still a favorite of mine, no matter what. I love uniform, thin slices. It's fun getting into a good rhythm and going to town. What isn't there to love when it comes to this stuff? It's near perfection sprung out of the ground! I love eggplants. I wish I had the yard space to grow them.

Anyway, you cut them up like this, and then it goes to balsamic, olive oil and garlic bath. Eggplants are like sponges. If you fry them, like I'm going to do, they tend to soak up the oil and it's just hell on the diet. The breading and then the oil is just asking for trouble. By giving it a quick marinade in the balsamic, I'm tossing some flavor into the flesh, and I'm putting something else there so that the oil has less place to seep into. I also just love balsamic vinegar. I'd probably find a way to put it in everything if I could.

Next up is dredging and breading. I skip the flour part, and dunk my salted and peppered slices into a seasoned beaten egg mixture. What did I season it with? Italian seasoning blend; parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. I also threw in some powdered garlic and onion for an extra little kick. Why not? The more seasoning you put into the levels of your dish, the less seasoning the final eater will every have to put on the meal when it gets to their plate. I get very offended when someone feels the need to salt and pepper their food. It pisses me off even more when they do it before they even taste it. That's just some bullshit, right there.

So, this may be where I went wrong. Perhaps a heavy salt hand in the egg or maybe the seasoned breadcrumbs, where I may have thrown in a few shakes too many. I'm not rally sure where my salt hand went nuts on me. But, inevitably it did. There were so many places this could have happened, but I'm sure it started here.

Look at the color on my sauce!!
So, after they were all breaded and coated and what have you, I took out a brand new pan and dropped in a few splashes of olive oil. VERY little oil. Beauteous, isn't it? =) Traditionally, these babies are deep fried, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. Even with the marinade, it's still too easy for eggplant to sponge up the extra oil.
Veggie pasta!

After all my eggplant frying is done, I saute some garlic in olive oil, throw in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of crushed tomatoes, a handful of herbs and I boil all that down into a lovely sauce. I may have over-salted at this point, as well, but it all tasted good when I first took a nibble.

I don't really know why I stopped taking pictures at this point. I thought I had some nice shots of my layered and sauced masterpiece, but there is nothing of the sort of my camera. Poop. =(

I'll be honest. Although it was very tasty and the eggplant was just perfect, it was MUCH TOO SALTY. Yes, I went nuts with the salt. I have no idea where I overdid it, but it was too salty, and after everyone took a polite piece at dinner, no one took seconds.

Just another classic example that you can never take any step for granted when cooking. I ruined this multi-stepped dish by having a generous hand with the sodium. I'll just have to be more careful in the future.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Elephants on Parade

When I got this order, I was already very excited. First of all, it's not cake, they gave me a solid direction that they wanted to go but left artistic creativity to me. You can't ask for much more than that!

I ordered the pricey copper cutter from www.coppergifts.com . Yes, they cost a pretty penny, but they have an abundant variety of shaped copper cookie cutters, and there are many pictures of finished cookies to give you some good project ideas. I would gladly buy from them again in the future.

With that being said, I had only a couple of colors to work with for this job; grey, yellow, and white. After doing several sample cookies and witnessing the colors darken as the royal icing dried, I opted to go with classic grey and white. I did the whole colored sanding sugar on the ear to give it a pop, but it looked amateur and sloppy rather than finished and clean.

My first batch was ruined. Burnt cookies from a moody oven. Soggy cookies from a humid Dungeon. Hurricane Irene humidity fucking up the drying time of my royal icing....It was all seriously fucking up my very enjoyable order!!!

Well, after buying myself some time from the client, I took a break for a run and went back down to finish my elephants. I think they came out precious. I think the borders still look a little sloppy and obvious, but overall, I'm very happy with how they came out and my customers actually paid me DOUBLE what I charged her. She said I earned it. Damn....Imagine? Why can't all my customers be like that?

I had some leftover cookies that I wanted to decorate all funky-like. I really wanted to make pink elephants in homage to my favorite song from Disney's DUMBO movie. However, the humidity from the impending hurricane made the cookies too soft to decorate. They crumbled and got all limp in my hand. =( Story of my life!

Anyway, enjoy the pics!






Friday, August 26, 2011

Nanananananananananananananana--- BATMAN!!!








Certainly NOT the best superhero cake I've made, but considering it as last minute on a budget of $30, I think I did it justice.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hiatus

Hello, my peeps! I have been remiss in my Food/Business/Industry posts. A combination of an extremely busy work schedule, a very cramped personal schedule, and plain old "I don't have tiiiiiiiiiime!" whining has contributed to this lapse.

I have some very exciting posts coming your way. Product reviews, professional-quality photos, and plain old me going off on whatever food-related thing is going on in the world.

Thanks for sticking it out with me. I'll do my best to get back to my old self as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Professional Envy

Last Saturday, I had to hire Joel again to help me with a party in Brooklyn. We did the initial setup, but had to wait a couple of hours before we could go back in and serve, and then take back my display. While we killed time, he told me he was teaching classes in a community center in Queens. After describing how he handled his class of 50 people, I was thoroughly envious.

I wrote his reports and papers back when we were in culinary school because the man could barely string together a coherent sentence. I reworked his recipes, organized his kitchen logs, and even corrected huge mistakes he would often make. He passed the academic side of school because of me.

Now, he's doing what I always wanted to do! He is even using recipes that he and I created during our own catering days. I grumbled a stoic "congratulations" to him and wished him well. But, I'm thoroughly green over this. He isn't even using very challenging demos. Some of his techniques are all wrong. He still pronounces "mirepoux" as "minnie pwa".

He's a speed demon in the kitchen. His food tastes good. While I loved doing the more fancy dishes we learned about in school, he was all about the fast, hearty, "regular" food that you could probably pick up at any cafeteria luncheon. Lasagna, penne alla vodka, sliders, stir-fry, etc. Nothing fancy. Easy food. I guess the people he's teaching sort of want that kind of food, but what a waste of an education.

I know I sound like I've got a mouthful of sour grapes, but I expressed this very opinion to him. His reply? 
"This is what I like to cook. I can get you a guest class if you want. You can do a really good baking demo if you bring in your Kitchenaid."

I turned him down, even though I was tempted to accept. This was his gig, not mine. I probably wouldn't have been as generous with him if the roles were reversed. And the topper? I wrote down my favorite port wine reduction recipe just to show my support.

If there's one thing I can say about that ex of mine; he makes things happen for himself. Most of the time, he's picked the wrong things to happen, but he makes shit go. Maybe I should take more pages out of his book of getting shit done.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cash, Checks, Credit Cards & Chucks

I'll take it all!

I actually got these babies about a month ago. They are crazy and over-the-top, but do you expect anything less of me when it comes to my kicks?

A customer of mine had noticed me splendid array of various colored Cons. He mentioned that I can design my own custom pair online. I played around with different shades of purple but ultimately didn't go through with the order because my credit cards are off limits and it was going to be a lot of money. With shipping and tax, one pair would have set me back nearly $85. I just don't pay that much money for ANY pair of shoes. For Christ's sake, I'm a size 5. There's barely any shoe there to begin with.

I sent him some of my crazier designs via email as a joke. He made fun of my gaudy love of all things purple, and then ordered a set of cupcakes for his grandmother's 80-something birthday. A  set is three dozen cupcakes at 3 different flavors. I get the order done, and the day of the party, he calls to tell me he needs to cancel because he grandmother was in the hospital. He also said he'd still be more than happy to pay me for the work, it's just that no one would be around to accept the cupcake delivery since they would all be at the hospital.

His grandmother happened to be in LIJ, which is 5 minutes away from my house. My aunt is also a nurse in the ICU, where she was put due to heart trouble. He wasn't lying. She really was there, and his family was there in the waiting room, too. I took a short drive and gave them the cupcakes. Free.

They were already made. Everyone in his family was ready to celebrate this milestone birthday of his grandmother's, but all ended up in the waiting room of a hospital with just an express Au Bon Pain to keep them fed. I've been there many times. It's not a fun place to spend a Friday night.

I showed up at the hospital and gave my friend a quick call to make sure he was in the waiting room. He was. I dropped off the cupcakes, and he tried to pay me. I insisted it was a gift. Geez, God-forbid his grandmother passed away- how shitty would I have been to take money for her birthday cupcakes?

Anyway, the cupcakes helped his family pass the time in the ER and my buddy was very much appreciative. I got the warm and fuzzies for doing a good deed, and that was that.

Well, his grandmother was moved to a less critical recovery center not too long after that. Again, my buddy tried to pay me. I wouldn't take it. Hey, what are friends for? I came home one day to find a package from Converse waiting for me. Inside were these crazy sneakers!!!

First of all, the original sneakers I designed were NOT this loud. I never even knew they had a cupcake print available because I didn't bother to check out their print fabrics. I'm not a print type of girl.But, I guess he saw it, took all the crazy elements from all the other shoes I had previously put together, and then smushed it all together in this obnoxious shoe!! I've worn them out four times and have gotten looks each and every time. Whether they're good or bad looks I couldn't tell you. I don't care.

The creme de la creme- He embroidered my tag onto the sides!! I didn't even get that far when I was designing my Cons! I wonder if he paid extra for it. Anyway, have a look!

After the row of shitty customers I've had this year, I'm very grateful to the one's like this. He was a casual acquaintance of mine, known through a friend of a friend of a friend. He's ordered from me in the past, but it wasn't anything regular. Just because I did him this little favor, he went out of his way and got me these!!

Besides the fact that I am a Converse Whore, I love purple, the cupcakes represent my trade, and I am conceited enough to love my tag on ANYTHING---I'm just surprised that some guy went out of his way to get me such a personalized gift. Who does that?

Sometimes I doubt whether or not what I do makes a difference to anyone. This time, I guess it did. =)

Check out my new kicks!!!

Can you get the full effect now?

Oh, but I do love to see my name on things! 

Cupcake print sneakers- who knew?

A whole lotta purple going on...

What people see as I walk away.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Need A Vacation

I have a big work weekend coming up the last weekend of August, but I thought I'd be able to get away before then. However, the orders have been rolling in. With unexpected expenses coming up, I know the money is necessary.

 I just really wanted to take a break this summer and go away....anywhere!

Well, if I play my cards right, I'll have a wedding cake to make next weekend!! Isn't that exciting? =)