I’ve got one word for you, and one word only: Whew.
So it’s over. I’m officially done with classes at The Institute of Culinary of Education. After months and months of chopping, blanching and sautéing, I’m here. I’m sitting here writing to you about what I’ve been up to since the day I was given my toque. Not only will I tell you about what a culinary school’s graduation is like, but I’ve got 2 great new dork-friendly recipes for you to try out with your dinners this fall.
Alright, so you wanna know how the very first day of the rest of one’s culinary life begins? Eight AM, you’re in your kitchen, preppin’. In my class, people worked in teams or by themselves. Me, personally; I chose to work by myself. I made roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta (totally dork friendly!) and red velvet whoopie pies with sweet marscapone (nut-free, seafood-free and sesame -free). But it wasn’t just about finely mincing the garlic, or whipping the filling. It was all about the plating too. Check out my cute little dishes for the sprouts!
Um, did I mention I had to make EIGHTY of these little dishes? Yup. Here are the whoopie pies I made. They went pretty quickly.
Anyways, after hours and hours of cooking and assembling little dishes and smushing cookies together, I plated all my goods together and they are put on display in a huge room. The guests will be coming soon, and I’ve got to go get dressed! After rushing to curl my hair, slap some on lipstick and shimmy a dress on, I head to the reception to meet with some friends…and the lone family member, my upstanding, amazing Grandmama (thanks for the pictures!).
For about two hours, there’s an open bar (no hooch, of course, but plenty of suds and vino to go around), and everyone walks around sampling each other’s dishes. I had rabbit burgers, seasonal soups in shot glasses, strawberry-jalapeno sorbet. Pork belly confit with salted caramel! Plantain mousse! Needless to say, there was plenty to eat. After all the food was gone, and all of my classmates had left, I hitched a cab home and slept off 9 straight hours of cooking, schmoozing and eating.
A few days later, my friend and I headed to Smorgasburg. Smorgaburg is an awesome food market full of all kinds of treats. Some are dork-friendly, some are kind of dork-friendly, and some….well, some might require an epi-pen if ingested. The day we went was pretty awful, weather-wise, but the food was pretty great. Here are some of the things my friend and ate:
That right there is a chorizo empanada.
How ’bouts some quinoa falafel?
The booth we bought this from was called Sunday Gravy. I was a little hesitant about the whole thing, due to the fact that I’m a bit of a lactard and a glutard. But, oh, word. Chunks of italian sausage and ragu! Oy.
And for dessert? Sorbet-filled mochi! These gluten-free, dairy-free suckers were pretty delicious and super-pretty. Smorgasburg is every Saturday in the East River State Park, right by the ferry in Williamsburg on N 7th Street and Kent Avenue. It’s open from 10 AM to 5 PM.
The very next day I headed out to the North Fork to begin my internship with 61 Local. Yup, that’s right. I got to travel to two vineyards in the beautiful wine country of Long Island and try out at least fourteen different wines. What an experience! And it all was for school credit. You can read more about it here, but here are some pretty gorgeous pictures from my adventures out there:
Oh yeah, lots of fun. Lots of wine, being somewhere that’s not Brooklyn…it was a great field trip.
I spent the next week relaxing and celebrating my birthday. I’m 22 now, can you believe it? Yeah, I guess I’m still pretty young. That weekend though, I had some of my best guy friends over for a post-graduate dinner. I made a New York strip steak with a balsamic demi-glace, maple-roasted acorn squash rings, sauteed spinach with wine-plumped cranberries and sunflower seeds. This is about what our dinner looked like:
Check out that squash. Soft, sweet with a salty kick. Made from locally-grown gourds, this seasonal sensation was made for your plate. Best of all? There’s not a drop of dairy or nuts. Or really anything that isn’t not dork-friendly. Pretty much…anyone can eat this dish, from dorks to vegans to even the pickiest of eaters. Yeah, it’s that good. Oh, would you like the recipe?
Here it is:
Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash Rings
2 large acorn squash
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice squash into 1/2″ slivers.
3. Separate the salt and sugar into small bowls or cups for sprinkling. In a bowl, mix together the maple syrup and spices.
4. With a pastry brush, brush all fleshy, orange parts of squash with maple syrup mixture.
5. Once all squash rings have been coated with the maple mixture, alternate sprinkling salt and sugar over the tops.
6. Pop the rings into the oven for anywhere between 20-25 minutes. Every 7 minutes, take the rings out of the oven and sprinkle more salt and sugar on them.
7. Once the rings are nice, soft and roasty–with some brown spots on them, you know–take them out. Serve hot!
Ohhh, yeah, there’s another side, too. You think I’d be gone for this long and leave you hangin’ with just one recipe? Let’s talk spinach.
It’s a pretty classic “fancy dish”. Spinach with almonds and raisins. But I’m allergic to almonds, and raisins? Raisins are so ’95, and not in a good way. So, how to dorkify it? We switch to dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. The result? This. Tasty. All the boys ate it, and by “ate”, I obviously mean “scarf”. I was dishing out seconds. Score one for team Dork!
Oh, yeah, the recipe.
Sauteed Baby Spinach with Wine-Plumped Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds
10 cups of baby spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup white wine
Salt, to taste
1. Combine dried cranberries and white wine in a small bowl. Let soak for up to an hour, then drain.
2. In large saucepan, heat up olive oil. Add spinach.
3. Saute until spinach begins to wilt.
4. Toss in cranberries and sunflower seeds. This is the time to season with a little bit of salt.
5. Continue to saute until completely wilted. Taste and season again, if needed.
And that, my dear friends, is how you get a bunch of dudes to eat some very fancy spinach.
All in all, I’ve been very, very busy. I do hope y’all can forgive me! Now that I’m out of school, I’m really going to try to have at least one recipe, review or SOMETHING a week, just like I used to. Do you have any requests? Send them my way! I’d love a new recipe to dorkify.