Archive for April, 2011

April 25, 2011

Woman with a Knife! (and other fun things like how to cut an onion)

by Jen Wanous

One of the things I was most excited to learn about in culinary school was how to use a knife.  There is something so hot about wielding a dangerous instrument, executing a task with effortless precision.  I wanted to be that Wonder Woman that can fillet a fish and stop a bullet cold.  With back to back classes on how-to, I started to build my repertoire of julienne, bruniose, chiffonade and other fancy French cuts.  Last week I cut 14 pineapples into a small dice in preparation for a dinner serving 100 people at which I worked.  It took me about four hours to do so, my hands smelled sweet for a whole day after and I was dang proud of my symmetrical tiny pieces.

An onion is something we all cut often.  It saves so much time to have a method of how to cut one properly.  Below is a video on how I cut an onion.  Enjoy the video!  xo

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Always use a sharp knife.

2. To avoid tears while cutting, chill the onion for 10 mins.

3. Keep your fingers tucked back behind your knife–even your thumb.


April 18, 2011

Friends + Meringues + Alcohol (stir well)

by Jen Wanous

This week in school we covered a lot of ground—from eggs, to seafood, to grilling.  I was sampling oysters before 11am one day and another day whipping up hollandaise.  I was inspired to make some egg-centric treats for a party that my roommates and I threw last night.  The chocolate peanut butter meringues were a big hit, and one partygoer mentioned they would be perfect for a Seder dessert.  The recipe is below.

I also made a lovely little gem of a cocktail that may not or may not have inspired the dancing for the evening.  (That and some Michael Jackson!)  Though it was monsoon-like last night, we still had a great turn out.  I tell ya, our friends are really special.  People arrived with boots soaked, umbrellas broken and outfits wet.  Once inside, people warmed up, mingled and enjoyed.  There was no real occasion for our party other than that the three of us who live here have some really good looking, interesting friends and a little magic happens each time we stir our friend pot.

If you didn’t make it out, it’s probably because you got stuck on your couch or because you live in California.  I forgive you.  Make some meringues and mix up a cocktail in honor of spring and think of me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues


1 cup egg whites

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/3 cup coco powder

10 oz peanut butter chips


Electric mixer

Two baking sheets

Parchment paper

1.  Preheat the oven to 225 F and line two baking sheet with parchment paper

2.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then add the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time until the mixture gets still.

3.  Incorporate the coco powder and fold in the PB chips.

4.  With a spoon plop out little dollops of the meringue onto the baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 2½  hours.

Makes about 50 small ones

Lavender Lemon Cocktail 


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

¼ cup lavender flowers (baking grade)

7 lemons

1 liter seltzer

1 liter vodka


To make this springtime gem, you need to infuse the simple syrup with the lavender.  They don’t call it “simple syrup” for nothing!

1.  Combine sugar and cold water with lavender in a small pot.  Slowly bring to a simmer for five minutes.  Strain out lavender buds, let cool.

2.  Juice lemons.  Combine with simple syrup.

3.  Over ice, add about 2oz of the above mixture with about a shot glass amount of vodka.  Top off with seltzer.  Stir.

4.  Drink and dance.

Makes about 12 cocktails


April 11, 2011

Ode to New York: A Vegan Ice Cream Guide

by Jen Wanous

On my third year anniversary of living in New York, I would like to dedicate an ode to the best vegan ice cream this wonderful city has to offer.  Many of you know that I am lactose-challenged and as you probably also know, I love ice cream.  This makes for a challenging scenario, but with some digging, sweet, cool, creamy deliciousness can be found!  Below are reviews of what I have enjoyed here.

Right photo courtesy of Kelsey Leland, check out her blog at:

You see, I used to be able to eat dairy like a champ.  Hot days at the beach in my Southern California hometown would never be complete without some Thrifty’s ice cream, pizza was plentiful and cheddar cheese to complement all the Mexican food was essential.   Then came college and my earthy-herbal vegan days where I cut out dairy completely.  When I decided I was over it, I tried to go back to my decedent milkshake-loving ways and I quickly realized that I was doomed!! It was a particularly low point in my life.  I had indeed become lactose intolerant- joining the ranks of my mom’s side of the family- we would all pay dearly for our cheesecake indulgences on Thanksgivings.

It’s estimated that 75% of adults in the world are lactose intolerant. Your body is missing lactase, which is the enzyme you need to digest lactose.  Prior to pasteurization, milk contains lactase but the high heat process of pasteurization destroys it, making it hard for us to digest if we don’t already produce lactase.  If you can find a trusted local, raw milk producer, you might not have any reaction at all.  (In NYC, it is illegal to sell non-pasteurized milk…but ask around someone might be able to hook you up!)

Lactose intolerance is the heavy, stomachachey feeling you get from eating pizza, cream soup or ice cream.  (Lots of bubbles…you know what I’m talking about.)  Of course, the severity can vary.  If you tune into your body enough, you can start to notice what might bother you the most.  The sugar-lactose combo that is found in ice cream is particularly challenging for your body to digest.  It might be worthwhile to pay attention to any correlations you notice between symptoms like: stuffy nose, you have to clear your throat a lot (ehem), for kids- if they get ear infections often, asthma, snoring or just tummy aches in general.  It might not seem like such a big deal but over the years, I’ve noticed that I get totally grumpy when my stomach hurts, so for me it’s just not worth it to suffer through—especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives!

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April 5, 2011

Seaweed: It’s Delicious, Who Knew!?

by Jen Wanous

My mind was blown last week at school. Why you ask? Seaweed, simply. Who knew!? What barely has a life outside of a sushi roll has a plethora of uses and can taste rapturously savory in all its salty glory. Like deep fried seaweed- potato chip of the ocean! Yum! Did you know we already eat seaweed in an everyday food like ice cream (carrageen). (ehem, ice cream is an everyday food for me.) Seaweed is a useful thickener and flavor enhancer as well as its own shining star.

Here are some of its health benefits:

– rich in minerals and vitamins
– helps metabolize insulin for diabetics
– breaks down fatty deposits
– cleanses the lymphatic system
– aides in digestive disorders
– detoxes the body of radiation and heavy metals (have miso soup after getting an x-ray)

With a month of culinary school down, one question that keeps popping up is: “Have you learned anything you didn’t know before?” Well, seaweed met that mark in opening my eyes to a whole new world of food that lives beneath the sea.

Have you seen the snack packs of Annie Chung’s roasted seaweed? It’s a great gateway seaweed, so pick one up next time you’re at the grocery.

Below are a couple of simple ways to use it at home. When you experiment with seaweed, know that some have a stronger flavor (like a salty sailor’s panties) and some are more mild (like a mermaid’s subtle seduction). Hijiki is the sailor and arame is like the mermaid. (whatever floats your boat!) Nori is what we all know and love; it is the green wrapper that surrounds your most beloved piece of sushi. Dulse is Irish and is middle of the road mild. Click here for some wiki seaweed info. Recipes below.

Sea Chip
(super simple)
– 1/2 c Coconut Oil

– 15 Kombu Strips

Heat coconut oil over med/high heat. Dust off white saltiness from the outside of the kombu strips with a semi-damp towel. Make sure they are dry again. Place kombu strips in a few at a time, watch them balloon open and then remove quickly. Crunchy, salty goodness!

Agar-Agar Ahoy! Fruit Treats
(Mom Alert!)

– 2 Tbs Agar-Agar Flakes

– 2 c Juice (ie: apple, pomegranate, cranberry)

In a pot, mix the agar-agar flakes with the juice, be patient and wait about 10-15 mins until all the flakes are dissolved. Then slowly bring the mixture to a simmer for 5 mins. Pour into a small dish and chill. You’ll have a natural gelatin, and it’s way better for you than Cosby’s!

If you are feeling adventurous, you can try a can of Coconut Milk (13.5oz), the Juice of a Lime and 1/4 c Agave with the Agar-Agar. Follow the same procedures as above.

Enjoy! xo

In Japan now, the use of seaweed in diets will help in detoxing people’s radiation exposure. For those of us in the US, care needs to be taken when choosing your brand of seaweed. For the time being, I would use our local, Atlantic harvested seaweed from Maine: The Maine Seaweed Company. The two women in the pic below from class are from Maine and highly recommend this family-run, sustainable company.

Sea how happy seaweed makes them!?