Thursday, August 24, 2017

Insecure with Blue Apron Founder Matt Salzberg

Following the mention of Blue Apron during a steamy sex scene in HBO's Insecure, which may have been the funniest product placement ever (did Blue Apron pay for that?!), I remembered my impromptu interview with Blue Apron founder Matt Salzberg at the Builders + Innovators Summit in 2015.
If you haven't seen the show, every character is seeking respect in some way, in their personal and/or professional lives. This leads me to question whether they are all insecure and what leads to that state of mind. Blue Apron actually ties in nicely because so many people are insecure about their cooking skills. Salzberg mentioned to me that their mission is to make cooking so accessible that no one should feel intimidated by the prospect. Here's our interview:

Is Blue Apron for people who need handholding? MS: There's a misconception that it limits creativity but we inspire you to try new things so you're not cooking the same thing again and again. We're expanding your culinary repertoire and horizons.

What do people discover beyond how to cook a recipe? MS: We think about people eating at home in a holistic way. New ingredients, the suppliers, stories of families, and entrepreneurs behind new farming techniques. Also, we design our recipes to be accessible to the beginner but interesting and fun for experienced chefs, so they become better cooks. It's lifelong learning. Even great cooks get introduced to new recipes and ingredients. The longer people stay with us, the more likely they'll stay much longer.

What have you eaten through Blue Apron you otherwise wouldn't have eaten? MS: Chickpea burgers, soba noodles, and hearty grains are a few examples. Blue Apron is meant to introduce you to new things, new varieties. Every week we feature an ingredient or technique in our deliveries such as the varieties and history of lentils. We help preserve and teach the culture of food.

Your software allows you to predict demand and costs, so do you see trends and do you create trends? MS: People tell us about their preferences and dietary restrictions, so we have an idea which recipes are more or less popular. Fundamentally, designing a great recipe is not number-crunching regression analysis though, it is about having great chefs who create food that people love.

What would you like to know about people and food if you could snap your fingers and have the research done, as on Petridish? MS: I think it's what Sweet Greens did, and Dan Barber did. How to take food waste from the supply chain and put it to use. How to better use our agricultural resources to reduce waste.

What would you say to people afraid of failure, who suspect or know they're bad cooks? MS: There's no reason food should be intimidating. Our mission is to make it accessible to everyone. People used to learn to cook by starting with basic skill primers but our recipes are accessible even to the completely novice chef.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Baked Lemon Blueberry Coconut Crustless Tarts

I've never liked pie or tart crusts, because they're dry and dull and I don't appreciate the extra calories. What I like about this "tart" recipe is that the lemon filling is so dreamy, you don't need added richness from a crust, so you can make these tarts in ramekins. You can also make them in easy puff pastry shells, if you prefer.

The filling is from the C Restaurant cookbook's baked lemon tarts recipe by its executive chef, Robert Clark. If you're looking at alternative lemon tart fillings, I do not recommend a lemon curd filling over this one, nor the lemon tart recipes made with extra egg yolks (you can identify those by the yolky color of the filling). This is an exquisitely bright, fresh, and creamy filling that is also more sophisticated, cheaper, and easier! It's a recipe that even kids can help with as mine did!

3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Grated zest of one lemon
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and juice. In a separate bowl that was chilled in the freezer, whip the cream at the highest speed, until it just holds its shape. Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture.

Spoon it into small ramekins and bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. These can be served after they've cooled or can be served after longer refrigeration (3 hours will set it for sure, overnight works too - just cover them so they don't get an off-taste from your refrigerator). Top each serving with a few fresh blueberries and unsweetened coconut flakes (I love Let's Do Organic brand, found at Whole Foods) before serving.

To make the puff pastry tart shells, use two sheets of puff pastry dough (Pepperidge Farms is fine, Dufour is my favorite brand) and follow this procedure. After the shells are ready, spoon the filling in and bake them and refrigerate them the same as you would in the ramekins. Before serving, top them and warm them 15 seconds in the microwave. If you don't warm them, the dough is tasteless and stale like a croissant on the second day.

But before you decide on the puff pastry shells, let me explain why I prefer ramekins for this recipe: First, the dough shells are an unnecessary expenditure of money, time, and energy; second, the dough tastes better warm so it adds a complication to the serving time; third, the dough hides the taste of the coconut and dulls the fresh taste of the lemon filling; and fourth, the dough adds unnecessary calories. However, if you don't have enough ramekins to serve all your guests, don't want to do the dishes, or need finger-food desserts, then go the puff pastry route and try to cram in as much filling as possible. The more filling in each tart, the tastier it'll be. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Melt In Your Mouth Alsatian Tart ~ Bacon Crème Fraîche Puff Pastry

If you want to maintain your sanity, you shouldn't be reading this. This Alsatian tart is outright intoxicating. More euphoria-inducing than bacon crack. More luxuriously soft on your tongue than a croissant. More comforting than your favorite pizza. More nurturing than a warm glass of milk with nutmeg. More scintillating than your first kiss. It's also easy to make, never fails to please, and presents beautifully when entertaining. If you have any regard for your well-being, just don't make it. Turn away now, lest ye be seduced.

 Melt In Your Mouth Alsatian Tart
  1. Thaw puff pastry per packaging instructions (approx 3 hours in refrigerator). My favorite brand is Dufour.
  2. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Line baking sheet with baking parchment paper.
  4. Prepare egg wash by beating 1 egg yolk  with 1 TSP of milk. Set aside for later, along with a brush.
  5. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup fromage blanc and 1/2 cup creme fraiche with 2 TSP nutmeg, 2 TBSP flour, and 1 beaten egg. If your mixture is very runny, add a touch more flour. Set aside with a spoon.
  6. Cook bacon until browned on medium-heat frying pan, don't let it get crispy. (It will crisp later in the oven, when it's on top of the tart.)
  7. Remove bacon from pan, allowing a couple of tablespoons of fat to remain in the pan. Drain and dry the bacon on paper towel; This is an important step because otherwise the tart dough will get soggy from the bacon drippings. Chop the bacon into rough bits.
  8. Add a bit of butter, 1 thinly sliced large onion, salt, black pepper, and caramelize the onions (i.e. cook until they are soft and golden).
  9. Add 2 TBSP white wine and stir gently to release any flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is evaporated. Again, it is important to cook off the liquid because otherwise the tart dough will get soggy.
  10. Add back chopped bacon and stir well.
  11. Spread your thawed puff pastry dough onto the lined baking sheet.
  12. Leaving a one inch empty border on all sides, top the puff pastry dough evenly and in this order: first the wet nutmeg mixture, then the bacon and onion, and then the grated cheese.
  13. Fold over the untopped dough edges, pressing the dough into itself to seal the edges into place, forming a one inch border.
  14. Brush the border with the prepared egg wash.
  15. Bake until the tart is golden brown and the bacon is crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Rotate halfway through. Don't take it out if it's not golden brown; cook it longer with frequent checks.
  16. Sprinkle with baby arugula. This doesn't only enhance the flavor, it also cuts into the fats.
  17. Cut into individual square serving slices and serve hot. This can be slightly reheated in the oven.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Biscuits Monstre Gloups Pour Halloween

Les enfants de classe maternelle de ma fille ont lu « Gloups ». Ils ont adoré le gentil monstre vert ce qui fait des bêtises. Gloups veut manger le chien dans son sandwich, il veut manger sa petite soeur, la robe de sa maman, des livres, les assiettes à la cantine, toutes les glaces à la glacière, et la dame des manteaux. Alors, pour Halloween, j'ai décidé de réaliser les biscuits gloups avec ma fille. Voici les photos de mon premiere essai à la décoration et les premiers essais de ma fille. La prochaine fois, je vais utiliser les guimauves plus savoureuses et les couper comme des crocs et je vais utiliser de plus petits yeux blancs.

Vous ne devez avoir pas une recette parce que j'ai seulement utilisé les produits prêts à l'emploi:
Tube de glaçage vert de Betty Crocker
Tube de glaçage blanc de Betty Crocker
Les yeux flippants en sucre jaune et vert de Wilton (non recommandé)
Jimmies verts de Wilton
Minis guimauves blanches de Kraft (non recommandé)
Biscuits au sucre, prêts à cuire, crues et congelés de Immaculate Baking Company

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Best of Pinot Days San Francisco 2015

From Food and Wine Maven Ben Nelson comes this review of Pinot Days, San Francisco 2015:

The annual Pinot Days festival came and went this past weekend in its hip new spot at the Metreon.  As someone who has attended every Pinot Days tasting since the very first, people often ask me who the winners were.  I don't provide tasting notes, but I lean toward wines that exhibit strong balance, great mouthfeel, and an X Factor that can begin a conversation. After tasting over one hundred wines at this event, here are my winners for this year (in no particular order):

  • Freeman showed two beautiful Pinots from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast (both 2013, $44 and $45 respectively), which were perhaps the two best Freemans I have ever tried. 
  • Martinelli's 2013 Bondi Home Ranch Pinot was fantastic, following a strong showing in 2012.
  • Kanzler's 2013 Sonoma Coast was their only wine on show and it was excellent.
  • Sojourn's 2013 Sangiacomo Pinot was outstanding (in 2012, I preferred the Gap's Crown).
  • Furthermore's 2012 Gap's Crown was fantastic.
  • Both of Windy Oaks' wines were phenomenal — the 2013 Estate Diane's Block and the 2012 Estate 100% Whole Cluster.  
  • In the value category, Teac Mor's 2009 Pinot was on sale at $120 per case (definitely worth it) and their 2012 was offered at $120 per six pack (also worth it).  If they will extend the same offer to you, I'd go for it for everyday drinking.
  • Two wines that were very, very close but just missed my cutoff for buying were the 2012 Weir Pinot from Talisman and the 2013 Fox Den from Dutton Goldfield.  If you have enjoyed Talisman or Dutton wines in the past, don't hesitate — both are very good.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top 5 Most Luxurious Food Gifts

$850 Richart Chocolate Vault

A completely hand-crafted burlwood vault, made in France by a seasoned artisan. It takes four months for each temperature and humidity gauged vault to be made. The vault presents 7 drawers of Richart chocolates totaling 112 chocolates that weigh only 4 grams and contain only 15 calories per piece, which you are suggested to eat in a certain order. If you want to pay more, it's available for $857 at AHAlife. If you're a sybarite but can't afford the whole vault, try a Richart holiday box.

$5,000 - $13,000 Yubari King Melon

The Japanese city of Yubari, Hokkaido has become famous for a tasty melon cultivar that’s a cross between two cantaloupe varieties. This orange-fleshed melon is prized for its juicy sweetness as well as its beauty. Yubari King melons are often sold in perfectly matched pairs and are a highly prized gift sure to impress a host or employer. In 2007, a pair sold at auction for just over $16,000. In 2008, the pair sold for over $26,000. In 2009, the recession brought the price down to $5,200 for a pair. If you'd like to taste these melons without the price, you can buy the seeds on Amazon for a few cents or pay a few dollars for the organic version. For about $10 per can, you can taste it in juice form or you can try it in a $33 pudding.

$6,000 Black Watermelon from Hokkaido

Yet another type of luxury melon, the Densuke watermelon was grown and auctioned off in Japan in 2008 for nearly $6,000. The high price was not only due to the unusual color but it was also one of the first 65 harvested that year. Japanese buyers are often willing to pay more for the prestige of owning the very first ones of the year. Nine thousand more black watermelons were expected that year, which were expected to retail at department stores and supermarkets between $188 to $283. If you're ready to give these a try in your garden, the seeds are available on Amazon as well for just a few bucks.

$11,363 Almas Caviar (per pound)

The most expensive caviar in the world is available in a budget size for $1192. A rare Beluga white caviar from Iran, the Almas (meaning "diamond") brand is available exclusively at the London-based Caviar House & Prunier in Picadilly. I've read reports indicating the caviar is white because it's from albino Beluga sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea. Other reports indicate the eggs are lighter because they come from mature fish, which get lighter with age. (To me, this screams high mercury content but the Caspian Sea is supposedly pristine.)

$325 Gläce Ice Cubes & Spheres (50 pieces)

You may have seen soapstone or stainless steel ice cubes that cool your drinks without diluting them. Now feast your eyes on tasteless cubes and spheres of ice made from purified water, meant to avoid contaminating the taste of premium liquors and drinks with the minerals, additives and other pollutants found in tap water. In addition, they melt much slower than regular ice. The company claims the spheres and cubes are meticulously crafted and individually carved.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prison Food: A Taste of Freedom

Most foodie experiences are so indulgent that daily meals pale in comparison. If you're losing gratitude for everyday fare, get thee to a prison food tasting.

The historic Eastern State Penitentiary now gives visitors a taste of prison life, with dishes ranging from a typical inmate dinner in the 1830s of "Beef, Salted and Broiled, with Indian Mush" to a 1949 inmate meal of "Hamburger Steak with Brown Gravy and Harvard Beets."

ESP also samples Nutraloaf, described as "the modern version of 'bread and water' punishment meals used in most prisons today." While some states officially decry its use as a punishment, prison officials use it for exactly that purpose and have seen inmate assaults on staff significantly reduced.

As one dining critic wrote: "Nutraloaf is a culinary triumph; any recipe that renders all 13 of its ingredients completely mute is some kind of miracle."
Can states argue that Nutraloaf is meant for behavior modification, but not punishment, when it is wholly repugnant? If Nutraloaf is officially only for inmates whose "current behavior is such that service of hot food or use of standard service wares would present a danger to the inmate or staff," then why does it incite 8th Amendment "cruel and unusual punishment" lawsuits from inmates? Surely the food scientists of Aramark can create a food safe enough to serve dangerous inmates, which also has some flavor (usually the addition of salt or fat is all that's needed).

As the first solitary confinement prison in the US, ESP drew visitors such as Dickens and Darwin. I myself visited for Halloween entertainment. New visitors may be drawn in by a Nutraloaf tasting but if you'd rather eat it in the comfort of your own home, here's a recipe (every state has its own recipe) for a tasteless hunk of food.

Now what we need to round out the full prison food experience is to be imprisoned. Sometime in the 1920s, a San Francisco restaurant named Dungeon operated near Union Square (47 Anna Lane). This "subterranean" (a euphemism for "basement," I presume) prison-themed restaurant featured a mess hall and waiters in fetching convict garb. More adventurous diners could choose the private jail cells, where they were locked in while eating. Each cell was labeled with a particular crime, including bootlegging, theft, and forgery. The type of food served is unknown, but I like to imagine they served haute prison cuisine.


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