Cedar paper and stuff

October 13th, 2008, by Francesca

My baking internship fell through. Bummer.

I went in this morning for my orientation only to find out that they couldn't have me as an intern after all. It's all to do with me not being enrolled in school anymore and not being covered by the school's insurance. For all effects and purposes, the externship (as the school calls it) is like a class but at a different location and the school covers students if any accident should happen. The bakery I have been talking to can't afford the liability of an intern who is not really an intern. I asked if there is any possibility of a part-time position with no pay, just to learn, but it's not looking good. I'll have to come up with another plan. It's just that for the past ten days I thought that this was a done deal so I've been rather bummed today.

On the way home I stopped at Whole Foods for groceries and I guess I was feeling a bit down and in need of something special so I noticed something that had probably been there all the time and never caught my eye before: cedar sheets.

I bought a package of four 6x9 inches sheets of cedar paper, actually wood sheets and tonight put together an improvised dish that ended up being quite good. I used the cedar paper to wrap two fillets of Pacific Orange Snapper garnished with a fine Julienne of scallions and zucchini and seasoned with some finely grated fresh ginger and lemon and orange zest, a touch of salt and pepper… tied the wraps with twine and baked at 400ºF for… hmm… 7-8 minutes I think. I sauteed more of the scallion and zucchini julienne to add as garnish and threw in some slow roasted tomatoes for good measure. Not that the roasted tomatoes really went well with that dish, but that's what I had handy so shoot me. Bread, white wine, and it all turned out well.

Oh, and to finish it all off, a shot glass of nocino, just because. Which reminds me… I am almost out of nocino. Anybody in Italy wants to send me a good bottle? Pleaaase?

Okay, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself; losing the internship is not a big deal. It just happened on a day when I had an hour and a half of sleep and I don't do well with sleep deprivation.

On the other hand, I had a wonderful Saturday with two friends visiting and spending the day with me, eating, drinking, knitting, chatting, and being designated laps for Kelvin, who likes nothing better than lap variety. And I made a mighty good focaccia, if I may say so myself. Of course all the credit goes to Peter Reinhart's recipe; a LOT of work, but oh so tasty.

No pics of dinner or Saturday's lunch either. It's either cooking or taking pictures. It's especially hard to take pictures while cooking something new and when I have no expectations of how it'll turn out. Well, that's it for now. You all have a good week.

Sharing the loave

September 25th, 2008, by Francesca

The sharing was unintentional, but that's what happens chez tantarobina when you leave food unattended for just a few minutes.


…until proven guilty

Pipie is an equal opportunity sampler: Italian, Swedish, Armenian, American, you name it, he'll try it.

And like it.

And come back to the scene of the crime for more.

You should have seen him during the subsequent sugar crash.

What grows in my garden

July 27th, 2008, by Francesca

red wine and strawberry sorbet

Ben's second batch of red wine & strawberry sorbet is even better than the first one. He upped the wine, reduced the sugar, and voilà: the perfect color, texture and flavor.

red wine and strawberry sorbet

In case you wonder, since I haven't been posting as often as last term, I have gazillions of photos and stuff, but no time to blog.
So sad…

Excusez-moi… où est le croissant plus proche?

July 18th, 2008, by Francesca

Today I baked my first croissants and proudly brought them home in my new caddy, acquired for the occasion. Forget that they are not perfect – far from it – but they are my first croissants. It's like the first kiss; you can only have that once. So, regardless of the actual results, they are special.

All my boys were duly impressed, and two of them (Ben and Kelvin) expressed their admiration in gentlemanly fashion.

Pipie… well, he just can't contain himself when it comes to food.

Feigning disinterest

We all knew that wouldn't last long

Considering his options

Sniffing the goods

Getting too close before being told off… for all of three seconds.

But Pipie's got the fastest tongue west of the Mississippi. Can you see the pink blur between his face and the croissant?


June 5th, 2008, by Ben

Ben, here. Despite rumors to the contrary, Francesca has not been starving me nor threatening me with knives. Shame on you for thinking that. It’s simply been the case that I have either been programming or eating, with little time in between to post about these exquisite dishes she brings home.

I recently read in the New York Times that 27% of the food in America gets thrown out. And America is far from the worst offender. [If the topic interests you, more good reading at Wasted Food.] So, I decided to make it a higher priority not to throw out any food that makes it to us. This means deciding what to eat based on shelf life, not just my mood. It means trusting my senses about whether food has gone bad, and not blindly obeying excessively cautious "please don’t sue us" expiration dates and "danger zone" times-and-temperatures that Francesca must adhere to as a chef. And since we have a stream of food coming home now, I am the leftover king, and nothing exceeds my grasp.

Actually, more like Gray Beard, The Leftover Pirate™. The Governess Francesca stocks her refrigerator fortress high with delectable treasures, which she hopes to some day partake of when her duties permit. But when she returns from her voyages abroad, once again she finds her treasure trove plundered and empty. Aboard my frigate, I savor my spoils: “Avast, me hearty. I be of two minds twither a bottle o’ rum goes with chicken roulade. Mayhap we uncork a nice Beaujolais from ye cellar below decks? Arrr.” I imagine a wooden leg, and a hook-hand with a nice, flip-out cork screw attachment, for the fully equipped and high-tech food pirate.

I have fond memories of the occasional pot roast while growing up. Both of my parents worked non-standard hours, so slow-cooked items were great. Pot roasts were rare (meat loafs unfortunately less so), but always a good idea because one could be left to cook while you were away at work and it turns into leftovers so well: thinly sliced it could become sandwiches, cubed it could be added to bean-based soups, when coupled with a sauce from its juices it will reheat well without drying out, and it's so tender that it's one of the rare beef dishes that can even be eaten cold.

Francesca made a single-portion Italian pot roast [No Italians were harmed in the making of this roast. -Ed.], which upended some of these preconceptions. First off, I understand that they don’t have 8 hours to let it slow cook, which may be the primary reason to keep the dish small. Still, a pot roast usually is large, with half of it serving 6 people, and needs to be carved or sliced to serve it. Carving a roast is an art unto itself, one which generations of heads-of-the-table would pass on, parent to child, like grandma’s good silverware or the ability to wiggle your ears. Single serving? What were they thinking?

But these chefs seem to know a thing or two about food, and all the differences from what I expected now seem driven by the need to take advantage of what I (at first) thought was a shortcoming. A single serving has more surface area; so rub spices on all sides. A single serving won’t render much fat; add a complexity by using pancetta fat. A single serving won't cook long; make the flavors dense by reducing a sauce on the stove before it goes in the oven. Given their tendency to have the proto-chefs cut and chop everything they need, I even suspect that the dried herbs and spices were used not for their expediency but for some sinister and scrumptious purpose of which I am not privy.

Genius. Delicious. The sauce had tang without the dish being about the sauce. The meat was tender and moist, despite being reheated. The oregano and herbs were obviously present, but didn’t turn this dish into yet another “inspired by real Italian cooking” American concoction. My only complaint: it was a single serving.

What’s a poor leftover pirate to do when he can't go back for seconds? “Jolly Roger,” my wooden leg! Hrmph.

Intro To Eating

May 20th, 2008, by Ben

Ben and Kelvin, eager 4 teh foodz Hi, I'm Ben. The hairy one without the shirt on is Kelvin. We’re here for the food.

For the past few weeks, Francesca has been super busy and often too busy to post. I’ve been feeling bad for you kind, supportive, virtual folks out there on teh interwebs because she’d always come home with great stories to tell, fewer pictures than she'd like, and several Tupperware containers of wonderful, scrumptious, adventuresome French or Franco-Italiano or Franco-American-o stuff that she would let me devour while she pulled her hair out about her homework. It typically proceeds like this (note: French names are approximate. -Ed.):


Two sleeping cats sense the proximity of food, and wake up. In sweeps a disheveled Francesca, proto-chef extraordinaire, dropping her bags and throwing her skull cap aside.

Omigosh. Class was brutal. My knife cuts are slow. My potage parmenty hey was broon wah and my jooble becks formently was a little on the poor neh side. I only ate a banana and a classmate almost decapitated me today.
serves self some soupUh huh. Looks yummy.
It’s vichyssoise. I totally messed it up.
Vicious wha? Mm. I like it.
There’s not enough salt and I didn’t have time to pass it all through the food mill right because someone borrowed mine and didn't wash it and I don’t have the parsley and it’s been in the temperature danger zone for at least three hours so maybe you shouldn’t eat it and it probably settled and...pulls hair...all we have for dinner is three first courses and...
dejectedly at soupOh. So... is it ok if I like it?

At this point Francesca withdraws a knife bigger than her arm. Ben’s eyes grow to the size of the plates in front of him. He tentatively slurps some soup, then suddenly Francesca whisks away, muttering something about new homework she needs to do.

Ben watches her go, then finishes off her soup, and starts eating cold pasta out of another dish, thoroughly enjoying it.

Fade out.

Now, that might have been dramatized for effect, but I thought it was important to illustrate exactly why Francesca has lost 5lbs while attending cooking school, and I have gained those very same 5lbs. Also, it is worth pointing out that I am very far from minding. I think the act of saying all this stuff is important to help remember — reinforce the stuff done well, and remember how to avoid the mistakes. So I encourage it, and it’s more interesting than your average “How was your day, honey?” conversation.

So, why did I hijack her blog today? Easy. Everything that gets cooked also gets eaten at some point, so when things are really crazy for Francesca I thought I could keep you all appraised on what’s going on by posting about all the great stuff she’s bringing home. The photos won’t be top-notch like hers, and the food may be a day old, but if you’re game, I’m game.

Oh, and I’m also the one responsible for the technical side of this blog. So, if things are glitchy, you can’t comment or whatnot, that’s all my fault. Feel free to throw tomatoes my way. Ripe tomatoes. Maybe a little salt, some balsamic vin... mmmm.

Lunch time!