Sunday, September 20, 2009

First Day of Work

I had my first day of work yesterday and it was amazing. I showed up at 9am and didn't have any idea what I'd be doing all day, whether it was an orientation or actually cooking or what. No one was there to meet me. It seemed like I was the only new person around, which was strange.

I saw someone I recognized and he showed me where to get my uniform, so I changed into my cook's jacket and some hideous black and white checkered pants. I surprisingly made it back to the kitchen without getting lost and finally found B. He got me a chef's hat, an apron, and put me straight to work making caprese salads. All the ingredients were prepped the day before, so I was just assembling them and wrapping them up to go in the fridge. I guess I must be pretty slow because it took me all morning to make 20 salads. In the afternoon, I sliced up some turkey breast by hand because no one wanted to show me how to use the meat slicer on my first day, sorted the wet lettuce out of the salads we were making, and because we actually finished making everything really early, started chopping peppers in prep for Monday.

Near the end of the day, B asked me how I liked my fist day, and I had a huge smile on my face. I actually had a lot of fun. It was pretty much chaos for most of the day, but that's what I loved about it. Everyone is like a well-oiled machine and each person contributes their bit to making all this food happen. I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

I love wild blueberries.

We stopped at a fruit stand this weekend and it was impossible not to pick up a basket of fresh blueberries. We didn't buy quite enough to fill a pie, so I decided to try something new from the Joy of Cooking. The cobbler was a lot easier to make than a pie, yet surprisingly similar, and definitely as good a treat.

Blueberry Cobbler
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Yield: 6-8 servings
Print recipe

Blueberry Filling
4 cups of blueberries (washed and patted dry)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp tapioca
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon rind

Sour Cream Biscuit Dough
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.

  2. Combine all ingredients for blueberry filling and stir together. Place in an ungreased baking dish or pie plate.

  3. For the biscuit dough, whisk together in a bowl all the dry ingredients.

  4. Using a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course meal.

  5. Mix the sour cream and heavy cream together in a small bowl. Add the cream mixture to the dough mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Gently knead until dough comes together.

  6. Roll the dough to the shape of the dish, then place on top of the blueberries.

  7. Cut a few steam vents in the dough. Lightly brush with cream or egg wash and then sprinkle lightly with sugar (optional).

  8. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices have thickened. Let cool slightly.

  9. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Almond Croissant

We finally found it - the best almond croissant in the city. Maybe ever.

Reading all about food last week on the internet lead me to an article written about food in Vancouver that happened to mention "unparrelled almond croissants." I would never pass up an opportunity to follow up on an almond croissant recommendation, so this weekend, A and I optimistically made the trip up to North Van.

Our journey took us to the Thomas Haas patisserie, located in a strange, almost industrial-looking area of the city. You definitely wouldn't expect to find scads of people sitting outside one of the storefronts, sipping cappucinos and nibbling on pastries, but we did.

Inside the shop was pretty chaotic - people lined up, servers rushing around, customers seated in every nook and cranny of the tiny space. But we spotted the croissants and immediately knew we were in for a treat.

We ordered one each, one once-baked and one twice-baked, but there's really no need to mention the twice-baked version anymore since the former is by far the superior croissant. We sat outside on the bed of the truck and enjoyed the best croissant we've ever had. The pastry was exactly what you imagine for a perfect croissant - light and flaky, and the almond was fresh, not too sweet, and went all the way to the ends. As A describes it, magic.

P.S. I also got officially offered the job of third cook this weekend. The new hire orientation is tomorrow. Ahh!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi

With nothing planned for dinner last night, lots of inspiration from other food blogs, and plenty of time to google recipes at work, I decided to try to make gnocchi from scratch. Potato gnocchi is the most common type of gnocchi, but as we had eaten perogies the night before, it seemed a bit too similar, and I wanted to try something different. I remembered Anna making goat cheese gnocchi on an episode of Fresh, which I found the recipe for, but I guess I wasn't convinced because I eventually found a recipe for ricotta gnocchi on another blog. I think it was the description that caught my eye - the words "heaven in a bowl" and "takes less than 15 minutes to prepare" sealed the deal.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly (I used a whole egg instead of just the yolk), which is probably why they didn't turn out like the pictures I had seen. Mine were just a bit too mushy so it was hard to shape them and they didn't quite retain their form while boiling. However, they were delicious - very light and delicate, fluffy balls of ricotta goodness. I will definitely try the recipe again to improve on the appearance.

Ricotta Gnocchi
Yield: 2 servings
Print recipe

250 g Ricotta
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
30 g Parmigiano (or Pecorino), freshly grated
50-75 g all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board
  1. Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta's packaging may contain.

  2. Add Ricotta cheese, egg yolk, salt and freshly grated Parmigiano into a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden or regular spoon.

  3. Add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined. The dough will still be quite sticky. (Avoid adding too much extra flour at this point because the more flour you use, the denser the gnocchi will become.)

  4. To form the gnocchi, generously flour a board. Take a large spoonful of the dough and scoop it onto the board. Dust it with flour before rolling it into a finger-thick roll. Cut it into little pillows and place each gnoccho on a floured board or parchment paper-lined baking tray.

  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt, and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once so they don't stick to the bottom, then let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 2 to 4 minutes. Take out with a skimmer and serve immediately.

  6. Serve with a simple tomato sauce, browned butter with fresh sage, or any kind of pesto.

Recipe Index

Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Almond Toffee Bars
Amaretto Balls
Apple Brownie
Apple Strudel
Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Streusel Tart
Buttermilk Cookies
Caramels with Pink Sea Salt
Chocolate Almond Crackle Cookies
Chocolate Almond Torte
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Mint Cookies
Cocoa Wafer Sandwiches
Ginger Cake
Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Lemon Raspberry Tart
Linzer Cookies
Marble Sugar Cookies
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Oatmeal Chip Cookies
Peach Frozen Yogurt
Peanut Butter Cookies
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Rice Pudding
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies
Strawberry Pistachio Cream Phyllo Cups
Strawberry Shortcake
Vanilla Macarons

Angel Biscuits
Basic Egg Pasta
Beef Short Ribs in Cinnamon and Red Wine Curry
Broccoli, Cheddar, and Quinoa Soup
Butter-Poached Prawns with Cauliflower Israeli Couscous
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Buttermilk Marinated Pork Roast
Chicken Fingers
Chilled Seafood Salad
Cilantro Mint Chicken Curry
Cranberry Goat Cheese Phyllo Purses
Curried Dal
Garlic Bread
Ginger Calamari
Irish Lamb Stew
Lamb in Coriander, Black Cardamom, and Buttermilk Curry
Lamb Popsicles
Lamb Sausage
Lamb Shanks with Tomato, Chili, and Honey
Lentil Curry
Marinated Mozzarella Salad
Milk Bread
Mushroom Risotto
Mussels in Garlic Fennel Cream
Osso Bucco
Pan Roasted Duck Breast
Pasta Dough (French Laundry)
Pork Gyoza
Potato and Leek Galette
Potato Salad
Rabbit with Mustard
Ricotta Gnocchi
Rye Bread
Salmon Carpaccio
Salmon en Papillote
Salmon Tartare
Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit on Endive Spears
Spinach and Tomatoes with Paneer
Tomato, Yogurt, and Cinnamon Lamb Curry
Turkish Lentil Soup
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Vij Family's Chicken Curry
White Bread - Sponge Starter Method
Wedge Fries
White Bread - Straight Dough Method
Whole Wheat Pizza
Zucchini Lemon Slaw

Beer Batter
Blueberry Chutney
Hollandaise Sauce
Marinara Sauce
Mustard Crust
Red Onion Marmalade
Rhubarb Chutney
Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce
Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
Tartar Sauce
Tomato Salsa

Fromage Frais

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Food Blogs

Jo sent me a link to a food blog (cannelle et vanille) a few months ago, which honestly, has been a huge inspiration for me. It is written by a pastry chef named Aran who took some time off from work to raise a family and wanted to keep a pastry journal to force herself to bake everyday. I don't really have any way to describe her blog as anything other than 'beautiful.' Her food styling and the photographs on it amaze me every time I visit. Her desserts look pretty fantastic as well. I call it 'Aran's blog' now, as if Aran is someone I actually know.

Yesterday, Aran's blog linked to 50 of the world's best food blogs. Cannelle et vanille is second on the list, which doesn't surprise me at all. The first one on the list I'd never heard of before, so I immediately had to visit to see why it was number one.

The recent posts on Orangette are about a couple in Seattle opening a pizza restaurant. The author, Molly, quit a PhD a few years ago and started her blog because she loves food and writing. She too takes great pictures and her writing style is so easy to get caught up in - I couldn't stop reading about how her new restaurant is coming together. It sounds like a lot of hard work, but it's also something I dream about doing one day. Happy reading.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I had my job interview on Friday. I didn't really know what to expect, mostly because I've never done a culinary interview before, nor have I been to an interview where I already know I have the job.

There really wasn't much to the interview since B already knows me and my situation, so he pretty much just told me more about the job. He's going to hire me as a third cook, which sounds perfect for me. He also talked about all the different opportunities he's going to try to give me, like working in the restaurant, doing catering, even doing live cooking, like carving a roast or doing a pasta station.

The worst part about the interview was doing the Third Cook questionnaire. B didn't really care what my answers were, but I felt pretty stupid not knowing some basic things that I'm sure most cooks would know. The first question was about the order of certain foods on a rack. I didn't know the answer at all, so B explained that you would want raw meat to be on the bottom of the rack (to prevent leaks and contamination onto other foods) and finished products, like julienned carrots, to be on the top of the rack (as it is least likely to get contaminated being on the top). I also couldn't come up with what FIFO stands for, but then I knew it as soon as he told me (first in, first out). It all makes perfect sense in hindsight.

B told me to buy black shoes as part of my uniform and to invest in a set of knives for work. He also told me that my shifts would be mostly during the day, which made me really nervous about how I was going to coordinate that with my current job. I left the interview, and in fact, still am, very unsure about how everything is going to work out, but also with a huge sense of anticipation and optimism about what's to come.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Job Application

A lot has happened since yesterday.

Last night, I finalized my resume and cover letter and hand-delivered it to my future employer. I also emailed a copy to B, the sous chef, just to make sure he received it. Then this morning, I got an email from B saying that the kitchen is doing interviews this Friday and there a couple of spots still available. There is also a job fair next week, but for all types of jobs, not just the kitchen.

Nervously, I called him to arrange an interview time. He encouraged me to come in on Friday since the job fair will be pretty chaotic. But the best part of the conversation was when he mentioned that he talked to his chef about my situation. They are both willing to give me a shot, so the interview is essentially a formality. That definitely calmed my nerves in some aspects, but as soon as I hung up the phone, my heart was still racing, I think because I realize that now, it's for real. I'm scared, but excited at the same time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I have finished the first draft of my new resume. It actually took me quite a while to figure out what to write on it since I had to totally revamp the whole thing. My first step was to figure out what a functional resume is and how it is useful for someone changing careers. Then, over the past two weeks, I jotted down notes whenever I thought of transferrable skills that would be applicable to the kitchen, and last night, I finally put everything together. The result - a one page summary of the skills I think would make me a great chef. Next step - actually submitting it!