How, What and Why?

I love to cook...ever since I discovered I could make a (semi-decent) living cooking, I have had a constant and wonderful love affair with food. Food has kept me company through jobs, relationships and friends; in good times and bad I have cooked and fed the people around me.
After a while, those people started asking me questions like "how do you cook an artichoke?" "what's the best way to cook a turkey?" "where can I find (insert new culinary ingredient)? and even "how do we fillet this trout we just caught?" over the phone, no less.
Lucky for me, my friends love to cook and eat as well and the more they cook, the more they wanted to know about different dishes, ingredients, recipes and techniques. foodFAQs came about as my answer to all those questions and more.
Through this blog, I hope to share my experiences in the kitchen while learning new things along the way, always cooking and eating. So please explore, learn, cook, eat and enjoy!

Soa

Healthy Living

Summer is upon us, and along with the sun, surf and sand, there is the dreaded bathing suit. If you are like me, and love to eat, it's very easy to let oneself go a bit during the winter. So galvanized by the thought of having to wear less clothing (and hoping not to scare anyone) as the weather warms up, I decided to start a vegetable cleanse. A week of no animal products, no starches, no processed sugars and no alcohol really made me realize how addicted I was to everything bad (but oh so delicious) for me - but not having those things for a week made me feel better plus my skinny jeans fit more comfortably. 


I'm not saying I want to become a vegetarian - I still love nothing better than a big, fat, juicy steak with a bottle of great red wine (or perhaps a Manhattan or two...) But now I will be having steak less, carbs in moderation and including more fresh vegetables and whole grains as a part of a healthier, happier life. 


Staying healthy does not mean giving up flavor however; here are a couple of healthy, but delicious recipes. 



Quinoa Tabouleh
1 cup quinoa
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup diced cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint 
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, as needed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch chili flakes
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rince with cold water. Drain well.
  • Bring 1/1/2 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Stir in the quinoa and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from heat, cover with tight fitting lid and let stand for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  • In a mixing bowl, mix together the quinoa with the tomato, onion, cucumber, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with chili flakes, salt and pepper.

Curried Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced 
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 large head broccoli, cut up
1 bunch spinach washed and trimmed (or 1 bag)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a medium pot with canola oil. Add the diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger and jalapeño to the pot with a generous pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. 
Add the curry powder and paprika and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Cover the vegetables with 8 cups water and bring to a simmer.
Add the broccoli and cook the soup for another 5 minutes before stirring in the spinach leaves. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh squeezed lime juice. (For a cooling twist, add a dollop of Greek style yogurt)

Prickly on the Outside...Thoroughly Delicious



Artichokes have an undeserving bad rap for being difficult and hard to work with. But no need to be put off by the thorns, peel back a few tough leaves and be rewarded by a nutrient rich, versatile flower. 


artichokeFAQs:

  • Artichokes are a perennial thistle (cynara) originating from North Africa and Southern Europe
  • Known as a strong antioxidant and diuretic, the artichoke aides in digestion, strengthens the liver and helps in gall bladder function
  • A serrated knife makes it easy to cut through the tough outer leaves (known as bracts)
  • Acidulated water (lemon juice & water) helps to keep the artichoke from oxidizing
  • Artichokes come in all sizes, use larger artichokes for recipes calling for hearts, use the small, more tender ones for roasting whole or frying 



To prepare artichokes to serve whole:
  • trim the stem to about 1 inch and using a sharp paring knife or peeler, remove the tough fibrous layer 
  • bend backa and snap off the tougher outer leaves known as bracts until you reach the paler green tender leaves
  • cut off the conical tip
  • trim each of the prickly thorns, using scissor

To prepare artichoke hearts (crowns):

  • slice off about 2/3 of the artichoke (hold onto the stem as leverage and use a serrated knife)
  • trim off the stem to the base
  • with a sharp paring knife, trim off the green outer layers leaving only pale yellow artichoke heart
  • to prevent oxidation, rub the artichoke heart with a lemon half
  • scrape out the choke (the prickly center) with a melon baller or spoon 

Artichokes Barigoule
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small leek, white part only, diced
3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 cup white wine
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
prepared artichoke hearts

  • Heat olive oil in a stock pot, add the onion, carrot, leek and garlic and lightly sauté the vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes.  
  • Add the white wine and 6 cups of water to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. 
  • Add the thyme, bay leaves and season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the prepared artichokes and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cooked artichokes can be used in a variety of dishes, the cooking liquid can be used in soups and vinaigrettes.

Roasted Artichokes

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Prepare artichokes to as to be served whole.
  • Cut the artichokes in half and remove the chokes with a spoon.
  • Place the artichokes cut side up on a baking pan, drizzle the artichoke halves with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pan with foil and bake the artichokes until tender about 25 minutes.
  • Serve roasted artichokes with garlicy mayonnaise.

A Big Pile of Food...

There is an immense pleasure to be had in eating with your hands. The act of grabbing something, tearing into it and feeding ourselves by hand triggers a primal sensory memory in all of us that is elemental to our need for sustenance and nourishment. And for me, nothing satisfies this like a Frogmore Stew or a shrimp boil as the weather turns warm. Sweet, succulent shrimp just barely cooked in spicy broth and dumped on newspaper for everyone to dig in to. It's great for a crowd...served on newspaper for easy clean up. All you need is something cold to drink and lots of napkins for easy entertainment!


Shrimp Boil
(inspired by a my friend J Brown's crawfish boil in New Orleans) 
serves 10
1 gallon water
½ cup salt
1 onion, cut in half
2 heads garlic, top cut off
½ cup Old Bay
1 tablespoon chili flakes or to taste
4 pounds small red potatoes
2 pounds Andouille sausage, 1 inch slices
3 dungeness crab (optional)
6 ears corn, cut in half
4 pounds shrimp, unpeeled


  • Fill a very large stock pot or turkey fryer with the water, add salt, onion, garlic, Old Bay and chili flakes and bring to a boil.
  • Add the potatoes and boil for about 15 minutes.
  • Add the sausage and dungeness crab and continue cooking another 10 minutes. When the potatoes are tender, add the corn and simmer for 5. Add the shrimp and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until the shrimp just start to turn pink. Drain and serve on a newspaper lined table with drawn butter.

Fresh, Flavorful and Fabulous Whole Fish

So many people are squeamish or intimidated by whole fish...but once you get over the initial consternation from your dinner staring back at you, the flavor of cooking and eating whole fish far outweighs the comfort of an anonymous fish fillet.
After cooking a whole fish and discovering how flavorful, dramatic (it will draw ohhs and ahhs) and easy it is, it will be hard to go back to the boring pieces of flimsy fillets from the supermarket.
Found the lovely beauties above at Citarella in the West Village. There are many different types of sea breams (sparidae family) including gilt bream, dorade and porgy and they are the readily available year round.  breams have a delicate flaky texture and mild flavor so they are great very simply roasted or baked whole.


Whole Roasted Sea Bream
serves 4
2-3 pound whole dourade or sea bream
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 springs thyme, leaves picked
zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Generously season inside the belly and both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.  Place the fish on a roasting pan.
  • Combine the olive oil with the garlic, thyme leaves, lemon zest, juice and cracked pepper in a blender and and pulse until fully combined.
  • Spoon the oil mixture over the sea bream and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, until a metal skewer can easily be inserted into the fish and, when left in for 5 seconds, feels warm.





fishFAQs:

  •  Always get fish from a trusted source and develop a relationship with your fishmonger, that way you can alway trust the quality and freshness
  • I recommend choosing fish according to Monteray Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide and whatever your trusted fishmonger recommends as freshest
  • If you ask really nicely, your fishmonger will scale, gut and trim your fish for you
  • Fresh fish should never ever smell fishy; it should smell like the sea or water
  • The gills should be bright red and odorless and the flesh should always be bright and shiny
  • The eyes should be glossy with a clear sheen
  • Fresh fish will be firm to the touch, with flesh that springs back (if it feels mushy it's usually a sign of age or that it was bruised during netting or transport)
  • The skin, scales and fins should be moist and blemish free, not dried or cracked at all