"you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever, because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path and that will make all the difference.” - Steve Jobs
“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author.” - Houlahan
I’m not sure about the origins of this picture, but I suspect that I probably found it randomly while surfing the web. It’s beauty lies in the imperfections. A perfect example of what a freak of nature is: a heart shaped potato.
Just a couple of weeks ago, from February 7th- 9th, The Roger Smith Hotel hosted its 3rd annual Cookbook conference. Held in the midst of a brewing winter storm “Nemo,” with threats of high winds, heavy snow and flight cancellations, only adding to the excitement that already filled the air. There’s always something happening in my NYC! I was ecstatic that I finally had the chance to attend.
The popularity of the food industry has peaked to new heights and I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a field where we hold the power to improve lives, one bite at a time. Food is life, and the old adage is true: we are what we eat, and how we eat is another story altogether. Our quality of life can be determined by diet. It has an effect on how we feel, both physically and mentally.
There are new discoveries about food and nutrition popping up everyday. Stemming from how local and seasonal our food should be, the question of whether a particular food is organic or not, down to what pasture did that cow graze upon… where’s our food coming from?!
With all these dietary restrictions and sudden influx of food allergies, (I’ve even developed a stupid peanut & walnut allergy out of nowhere) we have grown more concerned with the origins of our comestibles. Haven’t you noticed? It seems that almost everybody is allergic to gluten nowadays. I’m beginning to believe that even I might be developing a gluten intolerance. But maybe I’m paranoid and led by the power of suggestion? I will find out soon enough, though. Why is this happening??
As an individual with a new catering start up, and a strong desire to write a cookbook of my own, my intention is to seek every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the world of food, and contribute some of my own ideas. What better way to do this than by rubbing elbows with the experts? I want to surround myself with those who can enlighten me. This is why I was so eager to be a part of The Roger Smith CookBook conference. I must say, it was a learning experience to be savored.
Click here to learn about the different panel discussions:www.cookbookconf.com
During the conference, among many other inspirational folk, I had the chance to meet and speak with Lucinda Scala Quinn, who currently has her own cooking show called “Mad Hungry” on the Hallmark Channel. (Actually, this is the second time I cross paths with her, I saw her at the food blogger’s conference last year.)
The Roger Smith Hotel was like a playground for me as I explored the different panels. I was fascinated by all the topics, especially the discussion on Wartime cookbooks, all written during a time when people had to be creative with recipes due to the rationing of food. Just outside the Starlight room, there was a beautiful display of rare classic cookbooks, many of them out of print. There was also an assortment of pastries, fresh fruit and coffee available for us to nosh on whenever we wished.
One thing that never occurred to me is to create my own recipe scrapbook, and I was inspired during one of the many interesting discussions. Now I have a use for all those recipes scribbled on coffee/ wine stained cocktail napkins and cutouts from magazines and newspapers.
As a caterer, business woman, blogger, writer, chef, mixologist/ bartender and true lover of all things delicious and nutritious, I fully intend on making my mark in this vast world of food. I’ve always lived to make people happy, and now I want to make them happy & healthy. After all, that’s what this business is all about.
The Roger Smith Cookbook conference is something to be experienced in person. There’s so much to learn. Maybe I will be on one of the panels sharing my expertise in the cookbook conferences of the near future. ;D
Hot cocoa & whipped with caramel sauce drizzled on top
My, my what a handsome octopus! Its been awhile since my last post and I wanted to say that my time away from blogging has not been spent frivolously. I’ve been working on business plans for my new catering start up (stay tuned for the unveiling soon).
I’ve been spending lots of time and having a blast in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. Particularly tapas style dishes, or meals that entertain. For some reason, I’ve had octopus, aka pulpo on the brain, and I’m no stranger to this mysterious creature, as I grew up with it on the table (my Mama’s famous ensalada de pulpo, yum!). I just want to learn about the different approaches to octopus and adapt some recipes of my own.
Today, I’m inspired by the Spanish tapas dish, “Pulpo a Feira” meaning Galician octopus, served on warm, sliced potatoes, covered in a sauce made from olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, fresh sliced garlic and paprika. Yes, please!
The other day, I went on a quest to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue to a fish market notorious for super fresh seafood. It was a little pricey, $22 for a 3.5 lb octopus but I knew it would be worth every penny! The superior quality would make a big difference in my recipe. If you ever visit Little Italy, be sure to stop by Cosenza’s fish market, in business since 1918.
In my mind, octopus is not a fish nor is it a meat, but perhaps an integration of both? At least when it comes down to taste. (Actually, if you want to get technical, its a cephalopod, an ocean dweller). You can compare it to the texture of chicken breast with an essence of the sea flavor. If you can get past the purplish- pink color and the alien- like tentacles covered in suctions cups (note: you can always remove them) you are in for a wonderful treat!!
Octopus can be a tricky thing to make. If cooked for too long, it takes on a tough, chewy consistency, no bueno!! If you use too much acid, like in a salad, it might become too fibrous. If boiled in water for too long, it dilutes the natural “sea” flavor. There are methods to render a more tender octopus. Some beat the octopus, because it literally bruises the flesh, but I refuse to treat my food that way. Others say that if you purchase a fresh octopus, freeze it and then thaw it out slowly, which can tenderize it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the two days required to freeze and then to defrost. I also read in a Spanish recipe somewhere that suggested dipping the octopus into boiling water 3 times for up to 10 seconds each time, then simmer for 2 hours. Okay, that works for me. Another method, which seems silly, is to place a cork in the cooking water. It didn’t hurt to try. In the end, the last two options are what I went for. I prayed for some tenderness!
- 1 medium to large fresh octopus, beak removed, and cleaned
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 medium onion, halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- wine cork
- sea salt to taste
- 1/2 c. of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp paprika
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 ladle full of octopus broth or 3/4 cup white wine
- sea salt to taste
First, I filled a large stock pot with enough water to submerge an entire 3.5 lb octopus, and brought it to a rumbling boil. To the water, I added 4 fresh garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, one medium white onion, cut in half. 1 tbsp of peppercorns, and sea salt to taste. Then with a pair of tongs, I submerged the octopus 3 times for about 10 seconds each time. I covered the pot, and allowed the pulpo to simmer for 2 hours, turning it every so often.
About an hour into cooking, I peeled 4 large Idaho potatoes, cut them into 1/2 inch slices and placed them into salted boiling water until tender.
As for the sauce, which ties the dish together, I took a cup of extra virgin olive oil, about 3 garlic cloves, sliced, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of paprika and 1 ladle full of octopus water in a medium saucepan over low heat, allowing the flavors to mingle.
To assemble, cut the octopus into half inch chunks, place on top of potato slices, douse it with the garlic- paprika sauce mixture, and serve with a glass of tempranillo. Enjoy.
P. S. The triple dunk and cork method definitely worked, because the octopus was tender and delightful. You can’t go wrong with a little love and top notch quality.
This blog post will have nothing to do with food today (though I’m thinking about food at the current moment). It does, however, have to do with where pieces of my inspiration originate. During private moments of quiet contemplation when ideas flow freely within my mind. Midtown, in the near, yet far distance at different times throughout a span of more than two years. I’m moving soon, but its okay, in my memory, this view shall forever be ingrained.