Saturday, March 31, 2007


At first, it was easy to pass off as paranoia but lately it has become increasingly difficult to believe that he is not against me. The first time, I figured it was a simple mistake; maybe I typed the address in wrong, or the buzzer was broken. It is possible that all three notices fell down and then blew away, isn’t it?

It was only after I received this notice from Theo Chocolate (my favorite chocolate in the world!) that my worst fears were confirmed, the UPS deliveryman has a personal vendetta against me.

Dear Gourmet Peasant,
The package was returned to us today by UPS as undeliverable at this address:
Gourmet Peasant
Brooklyn, NY, xxxxx
or at least it looks like this is the box that the letter carrier checked. I find it odd that we entered the address into the UPS mailing system and that it was later rejected by them….(it is kinda strange isn’t it?) But that’s another story. Is there another address that it could be sent to? Please advise. We will resend on Monday. I am sorry for any inconvenience the delay may have caused…

“Undeliverable,” I can’t believe it! What did I ever do to him? There was that time I made
him wait outside in the snow while I got dressed, but it was early and I had been sleeping. I didn’t buzz him in because I live in an old building and I have to come downstairs to let people in.

It is also possible that he stumbled upon my post entitled Stood-up in which I describe the anguish of waiting in my apartment all day for him to deliver my new ice cream machine. Perhaps he was offended that I called him the UPS man and the delivery guy, instead of calling him by his name. If you are reading this Tom, Garret, Tony, Bob, what ever your name is, I promise to learn it by heart and to mention you by name in any future posts. I apologize.

As I scour my recipe books for tasty ways to make it up to the UPS deliveryman, I share with you all some helpful advice, don’t piss off your deliveryman! Don’t take him for granted like I did. If you like receiving your packages on time then, learn his name, stop and ask him how his day was, and never, I mean never, write an entry on your blog in which you imply that he may be capable of kidnapping your ice cream machine.

As for me, it is going to take a long time for me to win back the trust of my deliveryman but, with the weather warming up, ice cream may be a good place to start. I just hope he's not allergic to chestnuts.

Chestnut and Pear Gelato
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup of unsweetened chestnut puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 Pear, diced

  • In a medium sauce pan cook milk over medium heat until it bubbles around the edge of pan. Add the vanilla bean, scraping the seeds into the milk. Let stand for 30 minutes then remove the vanilla pod and reheat until milk bubbles again. Cover to keep hot.
  • In blender of food processor beat sugar and eggs until thick. Add puree and blend. With the machine running, gradually add the hot milk, then return mixture to sauce pan.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 6-8 min, until mixture thickens and covers the back of the wooden spoon.
  • Remove from heat and set in a pan placed within an ice bath. Stir for 2 minutes then mix in cream. Refrigerate for 2 hrs then place in your ice cream machine. Add pears during the last 10 minutes of freezing cycle.
*This recipe is based on The Chestnut Gelato Recipe from Pamela Sheldon John's wonderful book entitled, Gelato.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Leftover Salad

The wonderful thing about parties is that there are almost always leftovers. One of my favorite things to do with them is to invent leftover salads made with whatever happens to been in the fridge. Sometimes this works out easily, for instance with my Thanksgiving leftover salad made up of spinach, roasted winter vegetables, and toasted pecans, all tossed in a cranberry sauce and balsamic dressing, and garnished with thick shards of Parmesan; other times the task turns out to be a bit more challenging. For example, one time I ended up with limp mesclun greens dressed in a tahini dressing accompanied by wasabi smeared with tuna. What can I say, these were the ingredients I had to work with. This party, having been a pairing party, was particularly fruitful in the leftover department - cheese, fruit, more cheese etc. - and so composing a delicious salad was not a challenge.

Arugula, Fennel, Haricots Verts, with Grapes, slivered Almonds, Lemon Zest, and Irish Cashel Blue Cheese, tossed in a Rose Water Dressing escorted by two rolls of Roast Beef smeared with Olive and sun dried TomatoTapenade. OHG!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Winning Combination

Of course it was not intended that my pairing party be a competition however, there simply was one entry that stood out from the rest. It was a pairing that consisted of the choicest of ingredients, assembled with great care and an enthusiastic zeal that would fill any gourmet peasant with ravenous delight.

It is of no surprise that the winning combination belongs to Bernie Shanahan, a champion food and wine pairer in my opinion, and one of my favorite dinning companions. There are many a evening that I have found myself pleasantly sloshed after a night of heavy mixing due to the fact that the oysters must be joined by their handsome companion, Sancerre, and the Sea Bass by the very complimentary Sauvignon Blanc... oh wait is that a Tamarind sauce... you know, you could go with a red, for instance the Syrah. So red wine it is. To close, a port wine or sherry would invariably tag along after a luscious dessert. When having dinner with Bernie, I basically do as he advises and well, it has always proven a successful strategy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Road to Recovery

I Confess

I am writing to let you all know that I have not been abducted, nor am I being held hostage by little green Martian men. If I had, you better believe that I would be keeping you abreast of the culinary exploits experienced along the way. No no, my reason for being such a poor blogger over the last few weeks is in fact quite dull: writers block. There has hardly been a scarcity of exploitative material in my life or kitchen. I have struggled with custard (something that precludes being a good ice cream maker) and with the help of my mother, I have learned the art of gently tempering eggs in order to create rich and creamy custards. With this new skill I have moved on to create countless ice creams, some of them good and some of them not so good, and having eaten all of them, I arrived at the conclusion that there was an unfathomable choice to be made in order for me to maintain my current shape and size: ice cream or cheese; I like both of these in such quantities that there would only be room for one in my daily diet. Tragic, I know.

A Twisted Path

Each one of these experiences have provided me with countless photo opportunities and quirky anecdotes displaying my venturesome manner in the kitchen, my fanatical habits in eating, and dramatic withdrawals from one of my many sugar coated and butter filled indulgences. Yet still, every time I sit down to write, my fingers dance awkwardly across the keyboard weaving and winding down a twisted path that eventually leads to a impassable barricade that reads DEAD END you loser! Delete, delete, delete.

The Road to Recovery

So how does a gourmet peasant overcome writers block? I thought about it long and hard. Meditation was certainly an option. Perhaps all I needed to do was to quiet my mind in order to tap into my neurotic ramblings about food. In the end I decided on the road most traveled by troubled writers, booze. I decided to throw a Pairing Party, the idea being that guests bring a bottle of their favorite wine accompanied by some sort of treat, savory or sweet, which would compliment their alcoholic contribution. The results were interesting to say the least…

my entry:
Lussac-Sait Emillion (Bordeaux)
and mini focaccias served with tepinade and Goat Cheese and Potato, Portobello, and Fennel with Feta.

Matt's Entry:
Chardonnay with Jarlsberg and Gruyere

Kara and Darren's entry:
Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (Granache, Syrah, and Carignan mix)
and Saint Andre (my favorite cheese!)

Bernie and Terry's entry:

Rupert & Rothchild Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon mix with an Irish Cashel Blue enrobed in perfectly rare Roast Beef

Rioja and Yodels (a classic pairing)

Random entry:
I don't remember the gentleman's name who contributed this bottle, but I must say it brought back some crazy teenage memories.

A 40oz. of Olde English 800, accompanied by yet another 400z.

There were so many more creative and wonderful contributions that I was unable to take pictures of because I was too busy keeping track of my glasses of both white and red. There was Prosecco with strawberries, White Cotes-de-Rhone with trail mix, Pouilly Fume with Ginger Melon ice cream, and another bottle of Saint Emillion with Macaroons, YUM! All in all, the Pairing Party was a success, as the night progressed I found myself growing pleasantly tipsy untill I became overwhelmed with ideas for future posts. Was it the cheese? Was it the ice cream or the booze? Its hard to say. I like to think it was the combination of my favorite food and wines together with the most delectable group of guests. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's My Party and I'll...

eat all the Rose Water and Pistachio ice cream for breakfast if I want to.
I wish I had a better picture of this wonderful ice cream that I made, but unfortunately
I ate it all before I had a chance to snap a couple

It is fairly obvious that I have an obsessive personality, and so why should you be surprised to learn that this aspect of my personality carries over into all of my relationships, namely my relationship with ice cream. I love ice cream. I love it so much that I have a tremendously hard time not eating an entire pint in one sitting. When I am eating ice cream, it is as though I am transported to a lusciously hypnotic state of delirium. As I focus on the texture and flavor components of each bite I fall deeper and deeper into the well of this meditative state; there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow, there is only here and now and this rapturous sensation that transforms time and space.

The problem arises after this rapturous sensation comes to an end. As soon as I have swallowed my last bite, my spiritual condition quickly disintegrates leaving me in a frenzied state of withdrawal. I may decide to stop, to put the pint down and to walk away. 'I don't have to eat the entire thing' I tell myself unconvincingly. However, somewhere, in the back of my mind I understand that the battle has already been lost. As I move on with my day, attack chores, relax, exercise or what-have-you, I am all the time aware of that half eaten pint sitting in the freezer, lonely and deserted. Before dinner I sneak a bit. Two more after dinner. 'Oh what the hell!' I exclaim, 'I can eat it now or i can eat it later, whats the difference?' I ask myself as I surrender to the "now." Sometimes, like last night with my rose flavored ice cream, I muster the strength to restrain myself, to set the pint down and to forget about it. But, the next morning, as I brew my coffee, my keenly sharpened skills of rationalization (KSSR) go to work on finding some kind of logical reason for eating it all for breakfast. Lucky for me, this morning my KSSR did have to work too hard to find a reason as I had already woken up with the perfect excuse, my thirty-first birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

Now it is off to the gym - I won't have to search too long or hard to find a rationalization for that now will I?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

An Appetizing End to an Unappetizing Week

If you haven’t already noticed, I have been more than lax with my posting this past week. You may think that, because of the pleasantly deceiving warm weather in the past few days, I no longer care. You may even believe that there have been many appetizing events in my week that I have mischievously decided not to tell you about. On both counts I assure you, I am innocent. The unfortunate reality is that it has been an extremely unappetizing week, spent focusing on potentially hazardous food, and the 6 favorable conditions that help incubate the bacteria and viruses that cause about a trillion different foodborne illnesses. Fun huh?

The goal was to obtain my Food Safety Certificate - one in about a thousand steps I must take in order to open my desired Peasant Ice Cream Factory. And so, with the sun glistening outside the classroom window, it has been my plight to study quit a few of these foodborne illnesses (yuck), the kinds of havoc they wreak on the body (double yuck), and what I can do in the kitchen to prevent them from occurring (no objections here.) To be honest with you, the course has been unusually interesting and, well, alarmingly informative. In fact, all this talk about bacteria, hazards, toxins, botulism, and parasites has had me considering quitting the whole ice cream biz in order to wage a full-on war against the devilishly sinister microorganisms. It would seem almost immoral to dedicate my life to the production wonderfully flavored ice cream while bacteria were still being allowed to multiply two-fold every 20-30 min under favorable and encouraging conditions.

Friday, as I walked proudly out the front door of the Health Department certificate in hand, I briefly imagined a life clouded by the smell of sanitizing solution. Would I become accustomed to the scratching sound of the scrub brush against eternally mold collecting tiles? Would it be enough to mop the kitchen floor four times a day? Would I have the strength and will power to walk into a restaurant and order my steak (I clear my throat in order to whisper), well done? On second thought, maybe spending my time inventing creamy treats would prove more rewarding, if not less… dry.

When I got home the first thing I did was to hang up in the kitchen my newly acquired certificate, then I spent the next two hours cleaning and sanitizing - just because have decided not to dedicate my life to the termination of micros, does not mean I can’t dedicate two hours to it. With my kitchen sparkling and the snow falling heavily outside, I decided it was time to brave the battlefield of germs in order to end my week on an appetizing note.

Mango chili and Lime Ice Cream

2 mangoes
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup - sugar
Splash of rose water syrup
13/4 cup - milk
1/2 cup - heavy cream
1 tbsp – Limejuice
1tsp - cayenne

  • 1.) In blender or food processor, puree mangoes with limejuice, them pass through sieve and set aside.
  • 2.) Beat together eggs and sugar until thick. It should have a lemony color.
  • 3.) In a medium pot, heat milk and cream on stovetop, until almost boiling. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from burner and let stand for one min.
  • 4.) Add 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture. Mix thoroughly before adding the next 1/2-cup. Continue until half the milk mixture is incorporated into the egg mixture. Slowly add the egg mixture back to the milk mixture whisking it by hand as you go.
  • 5.) Heat the mixture on a very low heat whisking constantly (my mother says to whisk as though your life depends on it) by hand until the liquid coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  • 6.) Remove from heat and pour through sieve. Place mixture over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. Once cooled add the mango puree and cayenne.
  • 7.) Let mixture sit in refrigerator overnight before freezing in ice cream machine.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Marsupial Anyone?

While in school and finishing up my degree, I developed a fixation with BBC World News. Whenever I was in needed of source material to help me procrastinate from mountainous readings or tedious papers, I would surf the British news site in hopes of unearthing one of their random and offbeat stories that usually involved some kind of funny looking animal.

There was the story about a pack of flesh-eating squirrels off the cost of Russia who had viciously attacked and eaten a dog due, allegedly, to a recent pine cone shortage.

Then there was the story about roaches acquiring pet status in Australia – apparently the little buggers are popular because “the kids can play with them without getting hurt” Ah, what?!?

Who on earth covers these stories I would wonder while laughing with amazement. When China banned citizens from naming their children “Stinky Dog,” BBC World News was there (makes you wonder, was there really a surplus of people naming their children Stinky Dog?) When a woman in Sussex swallowed her cell-phone while fighting with her boyfriend, BBC World News was on the job.

As I rushed from school to my restaurant job, and from my restaurant job back to school I would often imagine myself traveling the world in search of new, unconventional, and completely trivial stories involving animals, insects, and incredibly stupid human beings. Was it possible that, one day, I too could be employed by BBC to cover wacky and unusual stories?

It was around this time that I was refining my paltry avocation; zeroing in on articles involving solely marsupials, of which there were surprisingly many. There were stories featuring flesh-eating marsupials, marsupials scared of there own noise, and, get this, marsupial recipes. A lover of Thai food, one recipe in particular caught my eye and sparked my interest, the question is, where can you buy some good Kangaroo around here?

Thai style salad of kangaroo and peanuts with lime

6 limes
2 tsp coconut-palm sugar (or demerara sugar)
1⁄2 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp fish sauce
1⁄2 tsp tamari paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
14oz kangaroo fillets, trimmed and cut into 6 equal strips
2 tsp rice, dry-roasted in the oven or in a frying pan until golden
4 shallots, finely sliced
2oz fresh coriander, chopped
1oz fresh mint, chopped
3oz roasted peanuts, coarsely ground

  • Method
  • To make the dressing, grate the zest of three limes, and squeeze the juice from all six.
  • Mix with the sugar, chili, fish sauce and tamari until the sugar has dissolved.
  • To cook the kangaroo, put the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a high heat and sear the kangaroo strips for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to over-cook.
  • Remove from the pan and leave to rest in a warm place for 2 minutes. Finally, slice the kangaroo strips thinly and put in a mixing bowl with the dressing, roasted rice, shallots, herbs and peanuts. Mix well, and serve on six plates.
Recipe by Peter Gordon
from Fresh Food

Photos taken from original stories for which the links are provided

Saturday, March 10, 2007

As Fundamental As The Earth...

For millennia, people have known how to cook their food. They have understood animals and what to do with them, have cooked with the seasons and had a farmer's knowledge of the way the plant works. They have preserved traditions of preparing food, handed down through generations, and have come to know them as expressions of their families. People don't have this kind of knowledge today, even though it seems as fundamental as the earth, and, its true, those who do have it tend to be professionals- like chefs. But I don't want this knowledge in order to be a professional; just to be more human.

- Bill Buford, Heat, 2006

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Spare Change and Bread Pudding with a Twist

I used to have a lot of sympathy, now I just have a lot less change…

A good friend once told me this in a conversation about New York City panhandlers. It seems that every city street houses one, some of them screaming, others whispering, some of them smiling, and others frowning. From the punk rock squatter kids on the lower east side you may hear a line such as, “spare change for a decadent life style,” or from a stumbling hobo in Time Square, as he sips his Old English from a plastic champagne glass, you may receive the very crude request for, “ f***ing change!”

I used to give almost all of them whatever change I had in my pocket, fully aware that only a fraction would be putting my contribution toward a meal. As time has gone by and my change pot has run dry, I have devised a new way of dealing with panhandlers, I don’t give them money; instead I offer whatever food I have handy. In the past I have donated restaurant leftovers, half of a lunchtime sandwich, a bunch of bananas from my grocery bag, and even once a tin of Christmas cookies I was bringing to work.

It is a plan that, for the most part, works well, except for the times that I don’t have food to offer. This happens to be case with my local panhandler. Every night I exit the train and am greeted by his warm smile and modest request, “Whatever you can spare would be greatly appreciated.” At night I rarely have food with me and so I smile, shake my head, and shrug my shoulders to indicate that I have no change. “ Have a good night,” he says to me in response. Do I feel guilty? Sure I do, and that is why last night, when a coworker was about to throw out the leftover bread from brunch, I stopped him. Tonight I would bring him chocolate bread from Amy’s bread! Unfortunately, when I got off the train, he was nowhere to be found.

What was I going to do with all of this chocolate bread?

Bread Pudding with a Chocolate Twist

5 pieces – Day old Amy’s Chocolate Bread Twists
2 tbsp - melted butter
4 – eggs beaten
2 cups – milk
3/4 cup - sugar
1tsp – Vanilla
sprinkle of light brown sugar and cinnamon (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Break bread up into small pieces and fill one 8inch or two 4inch cake pans.
  3. Drizzle bread with melted butter.
  4. Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla and pour over bread.
  5. Let bread sit for a few them push down on bread with a fork in order to soak up egg mixture.
  6. Sprinkle with light brown sugar and cinnamon then place in oven for 45 min, or until the center of the pudding springs back to touch.