Archive for June, 2011

June 27, 2011

Working Together to Create a Memorable Meal

by Jen Wanous

A Japanese and Peruvian fusion meal was the culminating experience of my culinary education, thus far.  As part of our final, our culinary cohort of eight had to plan a dinner for 100.  The dinner ran smoothly and Annie even ate the seaweed and cherry spring roll.  Coming from the event planning world, I know that these types of gatherings take a lot of front loading. The pay offs are all in the smiles of your guests, as you stack chairs and save flower arrangements.

As the co-team leader of the group, I had the tricky job of facilitating consensus, or at least majority  (as the NY State Senate can attest, it is a possible task).  With eight refined and diverse pallets, we managed to come up with a sophisticated and flavorful meal for our guests.  Through the process, I was reminded of some basic yet profound approaches to working with others.  Although it is a struggle to follow these guidelines at all times, they have helped me to keep perspective in a wide array of situations.

1.  Have integrity with what you say.  Avoid gossiping and say only what you mean.

2.  Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  You never know what someone is dealing with from their past, or even what just happened that morning for them.

3.  Don’t make assumptions.  Express what you really want and communicate clearly with others to avoid misunderstandings.

4.  Always do your best.   You can always do your best. This applies to the hard stuff as well as simply taking good care of yourself.

These are adapted from the Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz.  You can find the book by clicking here.  

Here are some pictures of our team on the night of the dinner.

Citrus Salad with Daikon

This salad was served as an appetizer for our dinner.  Its tangy sweetness is the perfect light pallet pleaser for summer.  If you don’t feel up for the pickle, just leave it out.  Enjoy!


1/4 pound daikon, thinly sliced

1/2 cup golden balsamic (or apple cider vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon salt


1 pink grapefruit

2 oranges

1 fennel, very thinly sliced

1/4 pound micro greens


1 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Place daikon on a paper towel and salt generously.  Set aside for about 45 mins.  Blot dry, in a small bowl, add vinegar and salt, set aside for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

2. Peel and thinly slice grapefruit and oranges into 1/8 inch thick round circles.

3.  Make the vinaigrette by combining the lemon and mustard and slowly drizzling in the olive oil while whisking.  (remember the slow drizzle while whisking is key to a good dressing. ;)

4.  Toss the micro greens with the dressing to coat.  Lay out the the slices of grapefruit and orange, layer with the fennel and pickled daikon.  Top with the dressed micro greens.

June 21, 2011

A Cookie Like Me

by Jen Wanous

This week, I celebrated my birthday.  It was to be a low-key event…but it turned into a very memorable one that lasted for days.

The lead up to my birthday actually started out as a big bummer when my bike was stolen.  As with most obstacles in my life, I tried to look for the silver lining.  Turns out, it was right under my nose within the reach of my friends and family.  I had the thought to reach out to my community to ask for support by setting up a birthday/bike fund.  The response I received was touching.  From five dollars to fifty, from inquires of concern and support, to offering their neighbor’s unused bikes–people gave generously.  It is hard sometimes to ask for help but it was good practice for me.  I was heartened by my community’s support.

My actual birthday fell on a school day.  It was our Raw Foods day and at first, I was not so excited about this.  However, it was actually a very delicious day–complete with cake and ice cream (well, raw brownies and fruit sorbet).  I brought along some vegan cookies to share with my culinary school friends who are vegan.  After some thought, I decided that these cookies are a lot like me; it makes the best out of what it has and it’s sweet, exudes calm and has a sprinkling of saltiness.  The recipe is below.

My birthday was punctuated by the best dinning experience I’ve ever had.  Annie treated me to a dinner at Blue Hill Farms.  This is a farm and restaurant an hour outside of New York City.  We saw deer frolicking and lightning bugs against the rolling crop lined hills.  Needless to say, this really impressed our city-slicker eyes.  They have a five course “farmer’s tasting” menu which leaves you in the masterful hands of the chef.  Each course offered seasonal awe and impressed us with its presentation.  A dinner highlight of a poached and fried egg that was perfectly circular when plated in pea soup and broke into a gooey goldenness.  Of course, Annie was cringing as she watched me eat this because she does not appreciate peas nor raw egg.  Luckily, there was plenty of other samplings to keep us both full and happy.

This birthday leaves me with a deep sentiment of gratitude to the many people who helped make this birthday a memorable one.  Even the person who, (as my friend Kristina said) “infinitely borrowed my bike”, had something to offer me this year.

Lavender Sea Salt Cookies

Yields 25 cookies

1/2 cup Earth Balance Spread (or one stick butter)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg replacer or egg

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons edible lavender flower (find at your local farmer’s market)

zest of one orange

1/2 teaspoon corse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare two baking sheets either with a silpat pad or with light oil.

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg (replacer).  Mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. Add the flour mix to the butter/sugar until just combine.  Gently incorporate the lavender and the orange zest.

5. On prepared baking sheets, scoop out 1 teaspoon sized balls and top with a hearty pinch of sea salt.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from sheet and cool on a rack.

June 13, 2011

Health and Well-being: The Spiritual Side of Culinary School

by Jen Wanous

It’s hard to believe, but this is my last month of school.  The heat has really been turned up as I have been preparing for our final dinner for 100 guests and have been working in some of NYC’s top kitchens, trying to secure an internship.  Long days that turn into nights have me delirious and wobbly on my feet.  Yes, I love to be working with food…but it is dang hard work!  Through all of this, I have come to rely on some unlikely lessons I have recently learned in school to get me through.

A big component of our curriculum at school is food and its link to health.  We have gone over the basics in nutrition and have also gone deeper with different theories of healing through food.  Macrobiotic is an approach to physical and emotional wellness through food and philosophy.  Below, I have outlined the ten conditions of health according to the founder of macrobiotics, George Ohsawa.

Getting a solid night’s sleep and gently practicing the other conditions have really helped me get through this grueling time.  In alignment with the ninth condition, I would like to thank you all, who read my blog and support me in following my passion.  I hope that you too can find health and well being through taking good care of your body and mind.  You are certainly worth it.

Ten Conditions of Health

1.  Good appetite.  Things that might interfere with this are caffeine, snacking, skipping meals, too much sugar and alcohol.  Also, don’t eat when you are worried or angry.

2.  Good sleep.  What time do you need to go to bed to get eight hours of sleep?  Avoid late-night eating; try not to eat three hours before bed.

3.  No fatigue. Pace yourself and listen to your body when it needs rest.  When you start to feel sick or you injure yourself, slow down and take it easy.

4.  Good memory.  The very basic of this ensures our survival.  Remember how you felt the last time you ate something.

5.  Good humor. Don’t take yourself or life too seriously.

6.  Precision in thought and action. 

7.  Honesty.  Be honest with yourself and others.

8.  Humility.  Be open to not knowing and to learning.  It is okay to not know something.

9.  Gratitude.  Have trust in the universe that there is an infinite amount of abundance.  When you start appreciating the good things, even small, more good will come.

10.  Love.  First yourself, and then others.  Accept yourself as you are and be open to this connection with others.


To learn more about macrobiotics, follow this link.

June 5, 2011

A Summer Salad of New Potatoes and Fresh Peas

by Jen Wanous

On a recent sunny afternoon at the Farmer’s Market, I spied some particularly robust peas begging to be snatched up and highlighted in a fresh, summery dish. During the same outing, I also saw a mound of new potatoes (aka, baby red potatoes) and I thought the two P’s should meet.

I had never actually shelled peas before; its so easy, and I was delighted to see how adorable the peas looked in their (now former) home.  Their canned counter part gives them such a bad rap.  The recipe below includes thyme and you can easily substitute dill or chives.  Fresh thyme reminds me of a summer day I spent in Paris, it’s one of my favorite herbs. I can imagine enjoying this dish in a sidewalk cafe, reveling in all it’s refreshing flavors.

New Potato and Fresh Pea Salad with Thyme


– 1 1/2 lbs New Potatoes (also called Baby Red Potatoes), quartered

– 1/2 lbs Fresh Peas, shelled

– Juice of one lemon

– 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

– 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

– 4 tablespoons olive oil

– 1/4 red onion, small dice

– 3 tablespoons thyme, mas o menos, minced

– salt and pepper to taste

1.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes (quartered).  Boil for about 15 minutes, until a fork stuck in the potato comes out easily.  In the last three minutes of cooking, toss in the peas.  Drain the potatoes and peas.

2.  For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking.  (This is the trick to get any dressing to emulsify–a slow drizzle of oil and a steady whip of the whisk.  Also, the dijon helps to keep it all together.)  Add in the thyme, red onion and salt and pepper (liberally).

3.  Toss the dressing with the potatoes and peas.  You can enjoy it right away or optimally, you can let it marinate for an hour or more.