Liquid Ginger

Organic Ginger Syrup A few years ago while visiting Vermont, I was introduced to the most unexpected and, as it turned out, heavenly concoction known as Organic Ginger Syrup, a product made a company called the Ginger People. Think maple syrup, except ginger and not maple. Crazy, right? I can tell you’re intrigued. I honestly don’t know what caused me to think of this product a few weeks ago…. craving? sense trigger? insatiable lust for ginger? Whatever the case, I needed to have it, so on the internet I went. After several weeks of waiting from backorders and shipping, it finally arrived. Three bottles of it! And just as good as I remember.

Now the next hurdle: what to do with it? This isn’t technically *that* difficult of a question since there is a laundry list of things one can do without much of a stretch, the most obvious being to use it wherever you would use maple syrup or honey: pancakes, waffles, sweetener for ice tea, cakes, cookies, frosting. But, as you know, the starving artist thrives on creativity and thinking at least slightly out of the box. And besides, this is a whole new ingredient I’ve invested in – throwing it on pancakes simply was not enough for me. Photo Aug 04, 6 34 09 PM

So, as I always do, I poked around my kitchen and noticed that I had some fresh cherries and blueberries in my fridge. Combined with the peaches on my counter, I do believe I had a fruit salad.  And what better way to dress a fruit salad than with some ginger syrup? I simply prepped the fruit and tossed it altogether with a generous pour of syrup and a few dashes of ground Cardamom. A divine summer breakfast, or a perfect complement to any barbecue/picnic.

But this is only the beginning. With three bottles of this in my cupboard, you can expect this to special ingredient to be popping up again in the future. And do share any ideas you might have in the comments below.

More Ahi

Ahi_StirFryI get the feeling you’re all dying for more fresh ahi tuna. Well here it is. For the second of my two amazing tuna steaks, I decided to go even more simple and healthy. Behold, seared ahi with stir fried vegetables. In my wok I stir fried zucchini, then asparagus, then cremini mushrooms (removing each one to a bowl before adding the next). Once all were cooked to my liking, I returned all of them to the wok, added a pressed clove of garlic, a few squirts of Sriracha, and a generous helping of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (basically soy sauce that is gluten free and packed with protein).

If you read my last post, you know that I seared both steaks at the same time, used one right away, and kept another wrapped tightly in the fridge for later use. Both recipes I’ve shared would work equally well with either freshly cooked or chilled from the previous day. Totally up to you. I confess that in all actually these steaks could have easily been split up into four meals or at least shared with other friends…. however I just ate it all myself in two sittings. I mean, come on, how often does a starving artist get to enjoy himself like this? But I tell ya, now that I’ve done this once, I can’t wait to do it again with a group of friends. Especially those sandwiches.

One More Idea!!

So after I had already eaten the tuna as displayed in these two posts, I came up with another idea. If making sandwiches isn’t quite up your alley or you want to impress a dinner party with an amazing starter, try some ahi tuna lettuce wraps. Take your seared ahi steak (completely cooled) and mince it. Yes, chop it up really small. Place it in a bowl and toss with a pinch of kosher salt and a dash of sesame oil. Seal the bowl air tight and put it in the coldest part of your fridge for at least an hour. Meanwhile, get a head or two of iceburg lettuce, chop it in half, hollow it out so you’re left with a few layers of the big outside leaves (use what you removed for a salad later). Spice up 1/2 cup of soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) with 1 tsp of prepared Wasabi in a tube (or powder, which ever your prefer). When you’re ready to eat, serve the ahi tuna in a bowl, super cold, with the lettuce leaves, spicy soy sauce, sesame seeds, and lemon on the side. Place about two tablespoons of the tuna in one of the lettuce leaves, top with the soy and the sesame seeds – an amazingly cool summer starter. Or, eat with some seaweed salad and miso soup from your favorite local sushi place for a light dinner. You will be so happy.

Also, if you’re feeling brave and/or you happen to get your hands on fresh Sushi grade tuna, skip the searing altogether and use completely raw tuna for this application. It’s amazing.

Hooray for pay day!

Pay Day Ahi

Ahi Avocado SandwichI know it’s common practice to associate “starving artist” with poverty. And rightfully so – I mean, they call it “starving” for a reason. This is no different for me, though, as you can see in this blog I am never *really* starving. And that’s because much of my life is spent being creatively frugal with what I find. But one of the things I love most about being a starving artist is that, every now and then, all the hard work and struggle pay off. The stars align, the paychecks roll in, and suddenly you find yourself with a bit of extra cash to spend. It’s a wonderful feeling. What’s even more wonderful is when you have enough cash to catch up on your bills and still have a bit left over to treat yourself to some divine cuisine.

July has found me in this very position and true to form, I have wasted no time in making a higher end food investment. Those of you who are loyal readers should be not at all surprised to find that it is seafood. One of my best friends, whether I’m rich or poor, is Costco, and one of the things that I’ve always looked longingly at is their fresh seafood counter. A bargain, yes, but still an initial investment beyond my normal budget… until a few days ago. I made two purchases. A beautiful large whole filet of wild caught sockeye salmon for $35. And a pack of two sizable fresh wild ahi tuna steaks for $20. Honestly, considering the purchase, these prices are a steal. Hefty, but not so much that I’m going to be totally broke and have nothing to do with it. And, what’s better, because there is so much, that means I have lots more to play with. Bargain AND multitasker? The starving artist’s dream.

For this post I’m focusing on the ahi. First, because I saw no point in freezing this gorgeous fish for later use, I decided instead to cook it right away and use it over the next few days in various ways. Cooking ahi is best kept simple – super super high heat, brush with a thin layer of olive oil, sear for two minutes on each side, done. No seasoning  (that comes later), no fuss, nice rare tuna with an even sear layer on all sides. Gorgeous.

Tonight I was inspired to make a sandwich. It turned out to be one of the best things ever created. The key? Simplicity. Above you see the fruits of my labor: seared ahi tuna sandwich with avocado and wasabi spread. Are you freaking out? You should be. Here’s the run down.

  • 2 slices of toasted Ezekiel bread (it’s flourless and low glycemic – try it)
  • 3 slices of ahi, cut against the grain, seasoned with kosher salt
  • sliced avocado, seasoned with kosher salt
  • 4-6 paper thin slices of cucumber (shave it with your vegetable peeler or use a food processor)
  • wasabi spread (1 tbs soy free veganaise, 1 tsp prepared wasabi, few drops soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, mix all ingredients thoroughly)

And that’s all there is, friends. Toast the bread, cover both slices with generous amounts of wasabi spread, layer on the tuna, the avocado, then the cucumber. Simple, elegant, and utterly divine. I won’t lie, I ate two of these, and also gave one to my roommate. It was so good that I felt he needed to experience it. And the best part? I still have another tuna steak!

Birthday Raviolis

Homemade RaviolisThose of you who know me know that April 24th was my 30th birthday (same birthday as Barbra – we’re bffs). If there’s one thing I’ve learned about birthdays, it’s that if you don’t make a big deal about it, no one will. And come on, it’s your DAY – why not make a big deal?

This year my parents came to visit, making the entire week a celebration… and lord did we celebrate. There’s so much I have to report from this week. Some of it you’ve already heard about from me. Like the ridiculous pancakes we had on Tuesday at the Griddle Cafe or the life-changing gnocchi for my birthday dinner at Osteria Mamma. And let’s not forget my favorite chocolate birthday cake. Some of it warrants separate blog entries, like the remarkable fish and chips with mushy peas I had in Santa Barbara or the unexpectedly delicious and refreshing Ahi Tuna Lettuce Wraps I ate in Palm Springs. Oh and there was the OTHER favorite birthday cake I had for the first time on my actual birthday. Dear god….

But today is not about cake or pancakes or fish and chips. Today is about raviolis. HOMEMADE raviolis. My grandmother Emma, god rest her soul, the one famous for her Easter Pie, was also famous for her incomprehensibly thin and delicate raviolis. Both of my parents learned from her and have continued the tradition with the rest of my family. They all gather and make them together, then freeze them and divvy them up amongst themselves. Shockingly, I had never been present for one of these parties and hence never had the opportunity to make them at all. Criminal! So of course when my parents were here I declared that this just needed to be fixed. And, being the only child birthday boy, it did. ::halo appears over my head::

Emma’s recipe is simple:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cap full of vegetable oil
  • warm water
Making Ravioli Dough
Mom kneads the ravioli dough.

On a clean, floured surface, one forms the flour into a pile with a well in the middle and cracks the eggs right in. After adding the vegetable oil, one scrambles the eggs with the fork and then begins to fold in the flour and mix it all together while another person begins to drizzle in warm water until a dough is formed. After 15 minutes of kneading, the dough sits for 30 minutes. During this time you make the filling, which is simply 1 large container of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper, all mixed together and refrigerated until ready to use. The rested dough is divided into four portions, then, using a well-floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface, one rolls out the dough until as thin as possible – borderline see-through. Then, one dollops the filling out in an equidistant line on the dough and folds it over. Using a glass, you cut out circles around the now covered dollops of filling and voila – raviolis.

For being such an impromptu session and with neither of my parents having made them in over a year, I say we did pretty damn good. The picture above shows them served with a butter sage sauce (just melted butter and fresh sage). You simply boil the raviolis until tender (about 3-4 minutes when fresh) then cover them in the sauce. Of course homemade red sauce would be equally divine, but the butter sage is simple, quick, and fresh. Nothing better. Emma was notorious for keeping count of the raviolis she made and would take a tally of everyone’s intake, making sure every single one was accounted for. We were not quite so ceremonious, but of course we joked about it. I tell ya, of all the eating and celebrating we did that week, this event was perhaps the most special, and clearly the most delicious. Food and love – what more could a starving artist ask for?

Now as mentioned above, usually the raviolis are made then immediately frozen for later use. Since we were looking to eat them right away, we cooked a batch of them fresh and froze the rest. Some of you might be raising your eyebrows at the thought of freezing fresh pasta. Let me tell you they are still equally delicious when boiled directly from the freezer. In fact, the ones that were in my freezer may already be gone….

Easter Pie

Easter Pie I realize Easter is long over, but considering you haven’t heard from me since BEFORE Easter, I thought this would be a good place to begin my blogging catch up.

Most of  you may look at that pie pic and assume it is filled with fruit or some other sweet concoction. Well, you would be wrong. This, my friends, is Easter Pie, a family recipe that originates with my grandmother Emma Pizzi, god rest her soul. This tradition is perhaps the most revered of all my stepfather’s family and I am so happy that I can carry it on and share it with my friends and of course, all of you faithful readers.

So what exactly is in an Easter Pie? Meat. Lots and lots of meat. Italian cold cuts to be precise. I’m not entirely sure why this particular combination is reserved for Easter, but I do know that my grandmother was very devout and observed the tradition of refraining from eating meat during all of lent. So when Easter arrives, what better way to celebrate than a pie full of meat? According to my stepfather the recipe was actually handed down from my stepfather’s father’s mother Michelina, to whom my grandmother was very close. Who knows what prompted her to chop up a bunch of cold cuts and throw them into a pie crust, but we are sure glad she did.

Easter Pie (Recipe PDF)

Easter Pie SliceNow the original recipe calls for something called fresh cheese or “basket cheese“, which, according to the linked article, is an Italian delicacy made only at Easter time that apparently is like a blend of ricotta, cottage cheese, and fresh mozzarella. I’m sure it’s divine, but personally I have never been able to locate it, so I have always just used a bulb of fresh mozz you find at any grocery store. It works beautifully. Also according to this article, Easter Pie is a fairly common tradition with countless variations, which probably explains where Michelina got the idea…. but don’t worry. Ours is the best.