Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Accidental Recipe

Cauliflower. I can hear the groans already. First kale and now he's trying to get us to like cauliflower? What's next brussel sprouts (well, maybe). Lately I've really been enjoying a very simple and tasty preparation of cauliflower, by roasting it. Just wash the head, take out the core and cut into small pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Put the cauliflower into a pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil (steams the cauliflower to start with keeping it moist) and place into a preheated oven at 400 degrees. Roast covered for about 15 minutes, take off the cover and roast for about 10 minutes more. Turn the cauliflower over and roast a bit more until the cauliflower is browned to your likeness (nice and caramelized). Now you can serve warm or cool it and make a salad with pine nuts, raisins and balsamic vinaigrette.

The other night I was making a Korean Garlic Tamari Soft Tofu dish with a side of brown rice. The vegetable bin was low with choices of vegetables except a head of cauliflower. I wanted a change from roasting and I thought a crisp salad would go nicely with the warm tofu and rice. Here's what I came up with.

Steamed Cauliflower with Carrot, Onion and 5 Spice Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6

1 small head of cauliflower, washed, core removed and cut in small pieces
1 carrot, washed and peeled
1/4 medium onion
juice of one lime
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon 5 Spice powder
2 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

  1. Steam cauliflower for 4-5 minutes, until still slightly firm, but cooked. Remove cauliflower from steamer and place in an ice bath to stop it from cooking anymore. Drain well and set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler cut carrot into thin strips and add to cauliflower.
  3. Cut onion into thin strip against the grain (salad cut) and add to vegetables in bowl.
  4. Meanwhile blend lime juice, rice vinegar and 5 spice powder in a small bowl with a whisk. Add both oils and whisk again. Pour over vegetables stir well and refrigerate for an hour or two or until the vegetables take on the flavor of the vinaigrette, shaking or stirring the vegetables every once in awhile. Serve chilled.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spare Parts Make a Great Salad

There is nothing more rewarding or satisfying than creating a meal or part of a meal from random ingredients, non-planned and with no recipe in front of you. The other night I made a vegetarian chile served on a bed of toasted millet and wanted to make a vegetable side dish to go with it. I came up with a salad that was bursting with flavor and really complimentary to the spicy main entree. It reminded me of salads that I've seen on menus or at least should be on one.

I had a number of ingredients that needed to be used sooner than later. They were: half a small head of frisee (curly lettuce), small piece of red bell pepper, blood orange, avocados and leftover lemon dressing. The result was in a beautiful delicious and nutritious salad. Since it was improvised and I didn't write down what I was doing while composing the salad the below recipe is estimated.

Frisee, Red Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad
Serves 4

Small head of Frisee, leaves pulled apart and cleaned (about 4 big handfuls)
Half of red bell pepper, cut into small dice
1 blood orange, peeled and cut into sections
Lemon Dressing (1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste)
note: You could also add some sliced red onion and radish if you like more flavor. I would have if I had it on hand.

  1. Place the frisee and bell pepper in a bowl, pour some dressing (about half) over the leaves and toss to coat.
  2. Arrange the frisee and bell pepper evenly on four plates, top with the blood orange sections.
  3. Meanwhile cut open the avocados, remove the pit. Cut each half into slices and remove from with a spoon. Layer each half on on salad.
  4. Sprinkle each salad with a bit more dressing if needed and some salt and pepper.
    Ready to serve.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Really Big Little Buddy Biscuit Company News!

After a 15 month search, Little Buddy Biscuit Company has finally signed a lease for a commercial space that was formerly Regina Bakery on 635 5th Avenue at 18th Street in Brooklyn. We will be opening a retail bakery in a few months (stay tuned for more details on the opening date). We will continue to make our popular cookies, brownies and cupcakes and will also bake muffins, scones, various coffee and layer cakes and other desserts. In addition we will offer coffee and tea drinks, other beverages and premium ice cream. We will post our menu on the Little Buddy Biscuit Company website before the grand opening.

I have so many people to thank for helping us get to this point and hopefully will be able to do so in the coming months. I would like to give a few shout outs in this blog.
First and foremost of course is my wife Jill who has done so much to help me get through the ups and downs of finding a space. Despite having her own stressful career and being the excellent mother of our son, she somehow found time to do a myriad of important things to help the expansion of our business.

Ulas Neftci from the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College helped me throughout the process of setting up a budget, marketing ideas, advice regarding looking for a commercial space and more. Anyone looking to start a small business should take advantage of the expert help available at Baruch.

Murat Uyaroglu and Ori Zigindere owners of
Prospect Perk on Sterling and Flatbush in Brooklyn and wholesale customers of LBBC have been really supportive and full of good advice. Hearing their words of encouragement on my twice weekly deliveries to their establishment kept me going.

I also appreciate the advice that Emily Isaacs of Trois Pommes gave me in regards to setting up my bakery. When I first approached Emily she didn't know me and yet was free with advice, which not everyone in business would be so generous with.

And final shout outs to my web designer and all around adviser Tony Limuaco and to my social networking consultant Eleanor Traubman and finally to Rocco Rella for his contracting expertise. As I continue to prepare for the opening of the store you will hear more details about the process and the people that help me. Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's Your Favorite Memory of Food From Childhood?

I recently had a revelation about my business, after nearly 4 years that was a bit surprising to me. All along I had been thinking that as a chef my identity is completely my own. Some of what I cooked had roots in the foods I ate as a child, but mostly I thought it was my own interest in food as a grown up that was steering the ship. Growing up my mother made lots of good homemade food everyday for 9 people, including desserts. That is quite impressive no matter how you slice it. Just the same the availability of so many more ingredients today from different parts of the world, including more variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, opens up more culinary possibilities and choices.

When I first started my business I chose recipes for bakes goods that I knew would be great, that would fill a need in the neighborhood and that I would be able to consistently produce. My early selections were a combination of traditional cookies using the best recipe I could find, such as chocolate chunk cookies and oatmeal cookies but also some of my own ideas about ingredients made their way into the selections. The past year and half or so I have been testing recipes for products that I will sell when I open my bakery. Some of what I chose were items that I thought a good bakery in this part of Brooklyn should have and I was also trying to come up with things that would set me apart a bit from my competition.

I was thinking about some of the baked goods that I had been trying out and it occurred to me that some of them were typical of what my mother and her sisters would serve at their weekly coffee klatch. What is a coffee klatch you might ask? Why it's a casual social gathering for coffee and conversation. I haven’t thought about the whole concept of a coffee klatch in a long time but it gave me a good feeling that I was in some small way carrying on a tradition that I enjoyed as a child. I wonder if anyone today would grasp the concept of getting together every week with your siblings, but growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s it worked for my family.

Every week, usually on Thursday’s, my mother and her two sisters (and sometimes their brother’s wife) and their children would get together in the afternoon. Since they lived less than a mile apart in the same town (or the one next to) Rockville Centre their whole lives it was fairly easy to do. My siblings and cousins and I would play outside games if it was nice, like kickball, tag or monkey in the middle, or board games if it was raining. We would occasionally put on shows if the mood hit us right. I remember doing impressions of LBJ, Nixon, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, white fang from The Soupy Sales Show (I did a mean Soupy Shuffle) and the old man played by Artie Johnson, from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. Sometimes I would play Last Train to Clarksville by the Monkees on the guitar. I’m sure the shows were pretty lame, but our mom’s clapped as though we were the Marx Brothers.

Of course coffee (iced tea or lemonade for the kids) and dessert was always served and was the highlight of the day as far as I was concerned. I know my mother almost always made the dessert when it was her turn but I guess sometimes she went to Front Street the local bakery when she did not have time to bake. At least 45 years later Front Street still does a booming business across the street from the LIRR station in RVC.

I remember having cookies, brownies, kruellers (donut), coffee cakes, crumb buns, rum cake, sometime pies or layer cakes, all of it good and tasty in my book. My mother recently lost her last remaining sibling, Anna Federico who passed away last year. Although the “coffee klatch” had lost steam when Mom’s sister Josephine passed away years ago and the kids had all grown up, Mom and Anna got together at least once a week to go to a movie or lunch together until Anna's health declined. She passed away last year.

I can only hope that what I bake might play even a small part in building traditions and memories that my customers might have with their families.

Note: I want to thank my mother for letting me use the photo you see above. She is on the standing on the right, to the left of her is Josephine and Anna, her parents Elvira and Robert seated with her brother Robert.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grilled Ginger-Spiced Seitan with Red Peppers, Scallions, Pea Shoots and Sesame Seeds Stuffed in Lettuce Leaves

I got this idea from a Chinese pork dish I saw in a culinary magazine and used the recipe for a Vegetarian Picnic class I taught at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health. Seitan is a good source of protein especially for vegetarians who are trying to have something that has chew to it. It is made by making a simple dough and extracting the protein from it by running the dough under water. The protein strands that are left are formed into a ball then simmered in a flavored broth.

The seitan works really well on the grill but if you are cooking indoors and have no stove top or electric grill pan you can broil the seitan. I am not a huge sprouts person but I do love pea shoots. They are also delicous gently sauteed either with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic or you could use fresh ginger and sesame oil. Using the lettuce leaves as the wrap makes it a light entree. You could substitute a tortilla, naan or wrap for more heft.

Grilled Ginger-Spiced Seitan with Red Peppers, Scallions, Pea Shoots and Sesame Seeds Stuffed in Lettuce Leaves

Makes 6 Stuffed Lettuce Rolls

1 pound Seitan, large chunks
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ cup tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon thai toasted chili paste
1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
8 scallions, washed and trimmed
6 large, crisp romaine lettuce leaves, washed
½ ounce (approximately) pea shoots, cut into thirds
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
hot sauce, optional

1. Place seitan in a medium bowl. In a small bowl blend the ginger, tamari, rice wine vinegar, oils and chili paste. Pour marinade over the seitan, stir and set aside.
2. Meanwhile light grill to medium heat. Grill the peppers and scallions until cooked well and nicely charred. Let cool, chop the scallions, and cut peppers into strips and set aside.
3. Meanwhile remove seitan from marinade and place on the grill. Strain and reserve the marinade. Turn seitan every once in a while until all sides are crisp and have nice char marks. When seitan is just about cooked, baste the seitan with the reserved marinade. Take seitan off the grill, allow the seitan to cool a bit, slice and set aside.
4. Take the lettuce leaves, place some pea shoots on each, divide the seitan and place on each leaf, top with bell peppers and scallions. Garnish with sesame seeds and a few drops of hot sauce if using. Roll up and enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

9 Tips for Starting Your Food Business, from A Non-Billionaire

Gordon Ramsey I’m not, but I have managed to run my own business for almost 4 years without incurring debt and I have managed to even make a bit of money in the process. In a few years, after my baking empire is secure, my suggestions might command a bit of notice. So listen up!

1. Start with a business plan. I am in the process of preparing a formal plan which would have been helpful to have done from the beginning. The fact that I kind of started the business by accident it was an afterthought. I have spent many a day wishing that I did. You can get free help from The Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College and the New York City Business Solutions in each borough. I have used both developing a budget, marketing ideas, business resources, planning and legal advice.
2. Know your market and your product.
3. Know your costs including ingredients and labor.
4. Start small and expand in increments that you can handle with comfort and confidence.
5. Buy or steal some luck and karma.
6. Make sure you really like doing what you are setting out to do, even the mundane tasks, and be prepared to have to do many things that don’t include making your product.
7. Build a good solid network of people you can go to for advice and support. Friends, family, neighbors, other owners of small businesses.
8. Don’t listen to everything that the people in your support network tell you.
9. Learn how to sleep good at night, eat your fruit and vegetables and take your vitamins.
10. Be an heir to a small fortune (I know I said 9 but being an heir would have been very helpful) or find revenue streams that will sustain you.