Corn Pesto Orecchietti with Crispy Bacon

May 10th, 2012

The closer summer gets, the more I start to crave food that’s a little bit on the lighter side. My body naturally wants me to be eating whatever it is that the season is providing. And in the summer, keeping it light seems to be a common theme. But I also want to make sure its comforting at the same time. For me, a pasta dish made with super fresh ingredients of the summer offers as much comfort as a hearty, rich bolognese sauce would in the winter. For me that’s really the important thing about eating seasonally. If not for anything other than selfish reasons. I try to feed my body what it craves. In this particular instance, my body craves corn pesto with orecchietti and bacon. The reason I choose orecchietti is because they are like little bowls. Since I also mix in whole corn kernels with the corn pesto, I want my little pasta bowls to fill up with the pesto and the corn so you get that juicy pop in every bite. Cooking with love really just means thinking about the little shit while you’re cooking. That extra ounce of thought is the difference between good and great.

Ingredients:

1 lb of Orecchietti Pasta

1 handful of fresh basil, washed

4-5 ears of Organic corn, if you buy one thing that’s organic, make it corn.

3 Cloves of garlic, sliced

5 strips of good quality bacon

1/2 – 3/4 of a cup of Pine nuts, toasted

Half of a lemon, juiced

Olive Oil

Pecorino Romano for grating

Salt & Pepper

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The thing that will take the longest in this recipe will be getting the pasta water up to a boil so put that on the stove first. Then get started on the pesto.

First, toast off the pine nuts in a dry pan just till they begin to brown a bit and give off a nutty aroma. Make sure they do not burn by tossing them around every so often.

While the nuts are working, remove the corn kernels from the ear. You do this by cutting off both top and bottom of the corn so that they can stand up straight. Then you simply cut down along the sides of the ear of corn, making sure you remove as much of the corn from the stalk as possible. Corn is the best this way, in my opinion.

When your corn is ready, slice up your cloves of garlic and also prepare your basil for the blender by plucking the leaves from the stem.

When the nuts are done, transfer them to a bowl. Then add the cut up bacon bits to the pan and slowly cook until all the fat renders out and you have crispy bacon bits to top the pasta with when the dish is finished. When it’s done, transfer it to a paper towel to let the excess oil drain out.

In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, add the corn and the sliced garlic and cook on high heat for about 5-7 minutes.

While that’s cooking, in a blender, add the basil and the pine nuts.

Right before you add the corn to the blender, juice a half a lemon to add some brightness to the corn.

Then add about half of the cooked corn to the blender and reserve the other half to mix into the pasta.

Add about a half cup of olive oil to get the pesto going, and add more if you see its a little too think to blend properly.

It should look something like this. Mine looks a little more green than normal because I only had 3 ears of corn when I should have used 4-5 but it should not affect the taste that much. The more corn you use, the more yellow the pesto will be. So don’t think you did something wrong if it doesn’t look as green as it does below.

By this time the water should be boiling. Add the pasta and cook untill its almost done, or al dente. The pasta will continue to cook even after you strain it so make sure you don’t cook it like 1 minute before its perfectly cooked.

Before you drain the water, take a coffee mug and reserve about half a cup of the starchy, salted pasta water. Italians use pasta water religiously when making their sauces (that is, if they are not making a tomato sauce). Since the water is starchy from the pasta and seasoned with salt, adding a little bit to the pesto not only helps to loosen it up and gives it body to help become a sauce, it also flavors the sauce as well.

Drain the pasta, transfer it back into the pot, then add the pesto and stir it up.

Then add in the remaining corn kernels…

…then however much pecorino romano you’d like…

…then finally the crispy bacon.

I like eating orecchietti in a shallow bowl, it just seems easier to eat that way. To plate, spoon the pasta in the bowl, grate some more cheese on top, sprinkle a couple pieces of bacon and then finish with some fresh basil. Guys, this is not hard at all and is actually delicious. It only requires a pan and a pot so clean up is easy. Please give it a shot, it’s for your own good.

 

 

 

Lemon Vinaigrette Marinated Wild Coho Salmon, Shiitake and Cremini Mushroom and Sauteed Ramp Ragu

April 25th, 2012

On my days off, I make sure I take the time to eat some soul satisfying food. That usually means I’m gonna be making it myself. But, even though I want to cook, I’m gonna keep it simple and try to make my life as easy as possible – after all, it’s my day off.

My family is going through a sort of health craze. There was too much take-out being delivered, so, my mom asked me to make salmon and figure out something to go with it. Grocery shopping is fun as long as the market isnt a piece of shit. A new Whole Foods opened up near me so I decided to go there.

I picked up some salmon, then I strolled on over to the produce aisle and just took it all in to figure out something that will go well with the fish.  I found some really nice looking mushrooms, I grabbed some shiitakes and some creminis. Then I caught a glimpse of one of Spring’s finest contributions, ramps (see picture below). If you don’t know what ramps are, they are like a garlicy mix between spinach and chard. They are deee-licious. If you can’t find ramps, a nice substitute would be spinach, chard, or a combination of both. Salmon, mushrooms and ramps are all aboard the cart at this point. I thought sautéing the mushrooms with the ramps and cooking it down in a little sauce, kind of like a ragu, would be a nice bed for some kind of marinated salmon. I knew the dish wouldn’t take longer than 30-40 minutes to throw together, which is why I thought it would be a nice
recipe to share with you all.

The better I become at creating a concept for a dish based on the quality and freshness of what’s available at the store, the happier I am; it’ll also help me be better at my job. The way I see it, if you own a food business, even if you’re not the chef, you need to be able to understand what it takes to make great food. The only way to do that is be a great cook. If you just know how to run a business but you don’t know much about food or cooking, you’re at a serious disadvantage. That’s why I love food shopping, I know it’s viewed as a
dreaded chore for most people, but for me, this “chore” keeps me on my game…and I love it for that!

Ingredients:

4 Wild Coho Salmon Fillets, skinned

1 1/2 lbs of Assorted Cremini and Shiitake Mushrooms, scrubbed with damp towel

1 lb of Ramps, washed

1 tablespoon Fresh Chopped Thyme, chopped

4 Garlic Cloves, sliced

1 Lemon, juiced

2 cups of Vegetable Stock

1/2 cup of White Wine

1 Tablespoon of Butter

Salt and Pepper

 

Salmon Marinate:

1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

4 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

1 Small Lemon, zest and juiced

1 – 1 1/2 cups of Olive Oil

1 tablespoon of Agave

2 Gloves of Garlic, grated on microplane

Salt and Pepper

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First thing to do is marinate the salmon. It should take about 20 – 30 minutes to prep everything which is plenty of time for the fish to marinate. Toss the fillets into one of those large ziplock freezer bags with a really tight seal that you would trust to slosh around. Add all the salmon marinate ingredients listed above and then mix it all up really good to form the marinate and to make sure the surface of the salmon is nicely coated. Then open the “zipper” a little bit and try to get out as much air as you can from the bag. Try to make it as airtight as you can, if you know what I mean. Let that sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

 

Now get chopping! After you’ve cleaned the mushrooms, you have to cut them. Its always important to remember that when your cooking vegetables, you want them to be relatively equal in size so they can cook evenly. I see the shittakes are about twice the size of the creminis. Also some creminis are much smaller than others. So in order to keep them the same size, I cut small cremini’s into quarters, bigger cremini’s into six and the shiitakes into eight or even ten depending on the size. I think taking the time to think about that makes a big difference.

Next up, ramps! Once you’ve cleaned the ramps, dry them, and then bunch them all up like they are below and cut them into little strips, stems and all.

In a sautee pan on high heat, or if you stove is really strong (mine sucks), medium high heat, add some olive oil and throw in the mushrooms and thyme and saute until the mushrooms are brown and cooked through. Keep tossing them around making sure they are getting color on all sides and not burning. You don’t want to salt mushrooms too early. salting will extract all the moisture causing the mushrooms to steam rather than brown.

Once the mushrooms are about done, add in the ramps and the garlic.

Cook it down for about 2 minutes, until its wilted down and everything is incorporated. Now is a good time to season everything well with salt and pepper, its gonna need it at this point.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon in there…

…then add the cup of wine. Let that reduce for a minute.

Then add about 2 cups of vegetable stock. Let it reduce by about half.

At this point, you should be about 10-12 minutes away from being complete which means you gotta start cooking the salmon. The coho is a thinner salmon so I choose to cook it about 4 inches below the broiler. I do this because I want some color on the salmon. Simply roasting it will cook it nicely but it might get over cooked before the outside gets any color. The broiler will cook it through and also give it a nice char. It should take about 10-12 minutes for perfect salmon, depending on the thickness of course.

You know its perfect when it starts to flake at the slightest touch. It should still be slightly pink in the center. Nothing worse than overcooked salmon. Let it rest while you finish off the sauce.

Once the stock is reduced, turn the heat off and start to swirl in small slices of butter slowly to give the sauce some body. It should be finished. Taste it to make sure there is enough salt and then you’re ready to plate.

To make a beautiful presentation, all you have to do is spoon some of the ramps and mushroom “ragu” on to a plate, lay a piece of salmon on top and spoon over some of that sauce on top to finish. It’s really a simple dish that doesn’t take very much skill at all. But simple is usually the best and its simplicity is what I think is most impressive. I must advise you to give this one a try.

Orange, Banana, Watermelon, Pineapple Smoothie with Greek Yogurt and Granola

February 27th, 2012

 

A funny thing about the food industry that you don’t necessarily realize until you dive in is; despite always being surrounded by food, you often can’t find or often lose your appetite. Whether its stress or being super busy all day working on the cart, sometimes I go all day without eating anything. As a result I’ve been feeling really worn-out lately. So this week I’ve been trying to make myself a smoothie every morning packed with really good stuff to give me all the nutrients I need to get through the day without wanting to take a nap every hour.  If you’ve been following me on twitter, you may have seen a string of posts for a  “twitter recipe” (for lack of a better name) for a smoothie recipe; in a short format on twitter. I shot it with one hand using Instagram and I really like the photos so I decided to use them and post the recipe.  I love Instagram because it makes me feel like a better photographer than I actually am. I digress, nonetheless, ever since I started making these smoothies I’ve been feeling a lot better. If you’re interested in getting into this kind of thing, this recipe might help you get started. It only takes a few minutes to throw together and it’s also very tasty.

Ingredients: Makes 1 -2 Smoothies

 

1 Orange

1 Banana

2 Cups of Watermelon

1 Cup of Pineapple

Granola

2 Heaping Tablespoons Greek Yogurt

Ice

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I must admit, I took unnecessary steps with this orange. You do not have to do this step, I just do things like this sometimes to practice my knife skills #foodfreaks. You can totally cut it in half and squeeze the juice in the blender like a normal person. But if you’re interested in learning how to cut out the segments of an orange for a salad or something, like that this is how. Cut the top and bottoms off of the orange and then take a sharp knife and just cut around the orange taking off all the pith and rind of the orange.

Carefully use your knife to cut out each individual  juicy, delicious piece of pure flesh from the orange and toss it in the blender.

Then take the remains of the orange and squeeze out all the juices.

Cube up the pineapple and toss it in the blender.

Do the same with the watermelon.

And one more time with the banana.

Throw in some of the Greek yogurt and a couple handfuls of ice and liquify it!

 

This particular mix of fruit will inherently has a lot of liquid with the orange juice and the watermelon which will result just the right consistency. I won’t be too thin and it wont be too thick. If you find it is too thick, either add some apple juice or orange juice or another juicy fruit.

Once its blended nicely, add two handfuls of granola. I love drinking the smoothie and getting little crunches of granola throughout. Its completely a personal preference, feel free to leave it out if you’d like, some people don’t like that sort of thing.

Blend again…

At this point, you’re looking really good. Just pour that sucka in a glass and top it with some more granola and swallow it down. If you don’t feel its affects through out the day, keep drinking them because you will.

 

What to expect from Food Freaks in 2012

January 12th, 2012

Last year changed my life. This time last year, me and my partners had just gotten word that the NYC Parks Department was looking for vendors who could offer quality food in city parks. It was the perfect opportunity for us to get our foot in the door and create a name for ourselves. Needless to say, we jumped on that, real fast. Literally, exactly one year ago I was sitting at a table with Dave and John putting together a proposal, anxiously anticipating the possibility that we’d actually make this 3 year old dream a reality. It turns out that dreams actually do come true and all our hard work paid off. Its not just some bullshit people throw around to give a false sense of hope. It actually can happen. My life has completely changed because now I have the ability to actually build upon my dream and make it into a company that, hopefully, changes the game.

Food Freaks isn’t a grilled cheese company. It’s also not a company that plans on solely operating food carts. Food Freaks is a food company. We want to build an awesome place to work for passionate, hard working people looking to be treated with respect and who happen to love food. We want to develop innovative and creative food service businesses that are centered around the food and hospitality. We also want to be progressive and innovative with our presence online and the way we communicate with our customers and sell things. The things we do will range from selling grilled cheese from a cart to publishing innovative digital recipes and even selling “Food Freak Approved” products online that my fellow food freaks and I love using. We’re no one trick pony…we’re trying to get wild. We want to be an authority in food.  We have a ton of ideas on how to achieve that and we are likely going to try most of them.

This year is our time to start building. Our goal is to do it in interesting, maybe even unconventional ways. This year we want to take Food Freaks to more places, both online and off.

We are in this thing for life. I just turned 26, I have a lot of time to do a lot of things and I have two great partners with the same vision. All three of us are huge clowns, but we are dead serious about making this thing happen.

In light of what has happened to me in the last year, I feel obligated to tell you that this year should be the year you decide to stop doing shit you don’t want to do. I was miserable working my job for three years before I started Food Freaks. Now, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. You cannot be good at things you hate doing. You’d be surprised what could happen if you just tried.

Food Freaks Grilled Cheese…a video introduction…

December 19th, 2011

This short film was made by Jonathan Mann, a super talented young Fort Greene filmmaker who approached us to do a video. We were more than happy to oblige. What Jonathan was able to produce is one of the coolest little films I’ve ever seen. But I guess I’m a bit biased. Bias or not, it is one hell of a video. Jonathan is a super nice, really cool and clearly talented individual and I just want to thank him for giving us the opportunity and making it look so amazing.

I also want to thank my good friends Frank Dal Pra and Ignacio Uriarte of The Blazing Saddles for letting us using their music in the video. It was the perfect song for the video. I appreciate their help. Check out the full song below:

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