Life Lessons From a Meringue Cookie

Several weeks ago in class we whipped up a batch of Swiss meringue for twenty meringue cookies we needed for a special dinner. After a classmate piped the twenty-plus-a-few-spares and slid them into the oven, I noticed the still over-filled pastry bag on the work table. Our Chef Instructor reminded us these little cookies keep well stored in an airtight container… so I piped out the remaining meringue. All of it. And baked it into many tiny star-tipped cookies.

These little meringues have been sitting on the top shelf of our kitchen for weeks now, and I don’t think they’ve been touched. In their defense, they have fierce competition. But each time I notice them they make me think for some reason.

So, just for fun… Life Lessons From a Meringue Cookie

  • Learn to take a little heat- sometimes for longer than you’d like. While heavy heat can turn you dark and bitter, sometimes enduring a bit of low heat can actually make you stronger and more resilient in the long run.
  • Stay firm under pressure. So many demands in life can begin to shape who you are and who you are becoming. Be moldable… but only into shapes which remain true to your intent.
  • Lend sweetness. Some of our personalities are naturally saturated with sugar and may be most fully appreciated in smaller servings. Others of us may more subtly hint at sugar, but it’s present all the same. There is a place for each… and everything in between. Know yourself and dose your corner of the world accordingly.
  • Age gracefully. Maintain your integrity, avoid becoming discolored by your environment, hold on to your sweetness… and always keep a little feisty bit of crunch.

Cookie, anyone…?

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Snapshot: Mediterranean

Continuing our brief world tour through dinner snapshots… we reach the Mediterranean. As with most areas, there’s no possible way to cover every nuance of a region’s cuisine in one meal; but we enjoyed beginning to explore the most common flavors and ingredients.

Lamb tagine showcases traditional spices including cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika as well as chickpeas and vegetables. A tagine is a stew originating in North Africa that is usually cooked slowly to render a tender meal from tough, inexpensive cuts of meat. Tagine also refers to an earthenware pot with a shallow base and cone-shaped lid traditionally used to prepare this particular dish.

Hummus is typically made from chickpeas and tahini, or sesame paste, with various other spices… ours was a bit heavy on the turmeric.

A new arrival to my limited Mediterranean experience was moussaka. I decided to think of it- correctly or not- in the same family as a lasagna, but with eggplant replacing pasta, béchamel sauce instead of ricotta, ground lamb providing protein, and a flavor profile including not only parsley and oregano but also cinnamon and nutmeg.

Gazpacho- blended raw vegetable soup, served chilled- was kept company by a less popular lemon and egg soup known as avgolemono. Both were light and bright and provided needed contrast to their heavier lamb counterparts.

And last but certainly not least, when buttery layers of phyllo dough meet ground sugary nuts with cinnamon and cloves… and sweet honey lemon syrup… something completely beautiful is born. Baklava. In all its crispy, over-the-top-sweet glory.

Latin American Cuisine and Adobo Spice Rub Recipe

Along with the sheer fun of preparing our Italian meal for guests this week, we still continued our journey of exploring flavor profiles from various world regions in class.

Sadly, we are quickly approaching the end of Culinary Arts training. Sadly only in that I love it so much I could continue as a perpetual kitchen student indefinitely…  except for the net financial loss, which is an unfortunate inevitable result of school. But literally, there aren’t any other downsides. We’ve covered such a broad range of classic French techniques to this point that we’re now in the fascinating final chapters of applying those techniques to different cultures’ unique foods and spices.

So let’s explore a bit of Latin American cuisine. Seviche (or ceviche) is a preparation of raw seafood marinated in an acid mixture. Acids, such as vinegars and citrus, will coagulate proteins in seafood producing a texture that mimics that of cooking with heat. Scallop seviche… with fresh lime, onions, jalapeños, avocados, tomatoes and cilantro…

Fried yucca chips with cilantro salt and jalapeño garnish functioned as handy ‘scoopers’ for the seviche…

Escabeche is Spanish for “brine” or “pickle” and was developed in Mexico as a means of preserving foods by pickling them in vinegar mixtures. Today the technique has remained more for its flavor than for the need to preserve. Here we brined the salmon, but also grilled it and served accompanied by onions, garlic, tomatoes and jalapeños picked in cider vinegar with a hint of toasted cumin, allspice and lime.

Another classic flavor of Latin America comes from rubbing meats and game with an adobo spice blend. This simple adobo blend can be made in any quantity and stored: 15 parts powdered ancho or pasilla chiles, 2 parts salt, and 1 part each of dried oregano, ground cumin and black pepper. Two venison loins and a rack of antelope got the delicious adobo treatment…

Hope you enjoyed our little Latin excursion, and we might just venture to the Mediterranean soon. Baklava or tagine, anyone?

Please be seated… sparkling or still?

If our twenty guests at last evening’s dinner had half as much fun as we did planning, preparing, cooking and serving… then it could be considered a smashing success. It truly was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Please join me for the photo recap…

So please be seated, look over tonight’s menu, and make yourself comfortable. Sparkling water or still?

Apertivo: sparkling kumquat soda

Antipasto: white bean crostini with orange arugula salad

Primo: hand shaped potato gnocchi in roasted garlic and bleu cheese creme with baby spinach and crisp leeks

Pane: ciabatta

Secondo: lemon herb roast quail
Contorno: fungi and oven-roasted tomato polenta with sautéed rapini

Dolce: traditional tiramisu

Digestivo: house limonata with candied kumquat ice cube

Caffe: espresso with cubed sugar

Thank you so much for letting me share a meal with you… the food was fine and the conversation lovely~ 😉

 

Tonight- let’s do dinner

Today is quite a special day at school. Our team of six students will treat family, other classmates, administration and our Chef Instructor to a multi-course dinner.

We’ve developed our menu start to finish from scratch, created and tested our own recipes, planned plating designs, and sourced the freshest and most local ingredients possible to create an Italian feast for our guests!

My side job was coordinating table decoration, menus, and a welcoming place setting… which is half the fun! Enjoy perusing our menu and mission, and a full photo account will definitely follow soon. If it were up to me, I’d set a place for each of you… buon appetito!

26 April 2012

  • Apertivo: sparkling kumquat soda
  • Antipasto: white bean crostini with orange arugula salad
  • Primo: hand shaped potato gnocchi in roasted garlic and bleu cheese creme with baby spinach and crisp leeks
  • Pane: ciabatta
  • Secondo: lemon herb roast quail
  • Contorno: fungi and oven-roasted tomato polenta with sautéed rapini
  • Dolce: traditional tiramisu
  • Digestivo: house limonata
  • Caffe: espresso with cubed sugar

Our Mission

We are excited to share a menu with you today based on a rustic Italian family style meal. Our hope is that you will relax and enjoy being part of our big family for the evening. Italians have truly mastered the art of using fresh, local and seasonal meats and produce to create simple, ingredient-forward cuisine. There is beauty in simplicity executed with mastery, and that’s our goal today.

From hand shaped potato gnocchi and kumquats candied for three weeks, to carefully marinated quail and mascarpone made from a local dairy’s milk and cream, we have attended to every detail to make your meal and your evening absolutely wonderful. So meet the rest of your “family” for the night, enjoy the beauty of Boulder and…

…buon appetito!