Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back to the blog.

So many things happen every day and my attention span is too short; I have to remind myself to check in with the world every so often or it slips out of focus and I  have to scramble to keep up. It seems like Halloween was the last time I really looked up and knew what day it was, and now it's nearly halfway through November. My wife and I dressed up as Lana Kane and Sterling Archer, from the FX series. Our costumes were pretty convincing if I do say so... right down to Archer's rampant alcoholism.

Personal note: Try not to get blackout drunk the night before you're expected to cater a huge charity event; especially not if your job for the day involves managing a squad of chipper, well rested, parent volunteers. Although honesty is undoubtedly the best policy, very few parents are impressed by the integrity you demonstrate by showing up to their child's fundraiser unsubtly hungover. In that case, discretion is most definitely the better part of valor.

I'm still getting used to calling Jeni my wife in casual conversation. It doesn't feel any different to be married; we just are. We weren't before, but now we are. I've gotten more used to wearing my wedding ring, although I still take it off at times when I'm in the kitchen. I need to find a secure place to keep it while I'm rolling dough, or butchering meat... maybe a chain around my neck (one more thing for me to lose). It's partly that I don't want it to get scratched up and smeared with whatever I might end up having to put my hands in over the course of the day, but I also don't want it to interfere with my dexterity. Sometimes it still just doesn't feel right; it catches on things. I've never been able to continuously wear jewelry or watches on my hands and wrists. At the same time, I've gotten to the point, now, where I'm slightly uncomfortable if I'm not wearing it. Just one of those things, I suppose.

My birthday is coming around again; this one will be number 28. It seems like that number should be higher. I think I've been reading too many Dune books lately; I can't help envisioning time and the cosmos stretching out in every direction with no center and no boundary. Thoughts like that can make you feel tiny, like a sub-atomic particle and as infinitely huge as a universe all at once... that strange sort of inside out feeling of ubiquity that you get when you read Frank Herbert and then stare at a computer screen for too long.

It's ridiculous how many things happen in a day, a week. It's nice to sit down and ruminate on it all for a while, when it's 'done' and all you have left is to wait for the next lifetime of a day to begin. My wife and I always make time to talk about the day when we meet up at home after work. I try to avoid lazy responses such as, "it was fine," when I know that I'm with someone who is genuinely interested in how my day played out. That's the amazing thing about Jeni, I honestly enjoy recounting to her all of the mundane activities that made up my day and then hearing her do the same. To someone like me it's an odd sensation to have time condense and expand around you as  listen to minute long descriptions of events that happened hours ago and took hours to occur, or conversely an hour long discussion about something that hasn't happened yet, but will be over in minutes when it does.

Life goes on. Meh.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Post cruise blues

Wow. So, honeymoon cruise in Europe was amazing. 2 weeks of waking up to a new port of call every day, walking outside to breathtaking views from the top of a massive ship with hot coffee and breakfast waiting inside; not to mention disembarking for incredible shore excursions in fascinating places like Kusadasi, Turkey; Split, Croatia; the town of Ioa, on the Greek island, Santorini; and Kotor, Montenegro. There are so many different languages, local customs, souvenirs, and cuisines that I could have spent all 2 weeks in any one of the ports of call and been happily occupied just seeing and experiencing everything.

Alas, it's over now. No more obsequious waiters and shopkeepers confusing me for a movie star from America (because any good looking, well dressed person from America MUST be a movie star). No more towels carefully folded into whimsical animal shapes waiting in my state room for when I get back from a long day of touring the ruins. No more themed dance parties and game show activities with photographers and video cameras eager to capture the elegant young married couple on honeymoon from DC.

It's true not everyone knew our names, but there wasn't a person on that ship that hadn't gazed enviously at my wife and I as we got on stage and sang karaoke, or walked out to the center of the empty dance floor and waltzed, rumba'd, cha-cha'd, or fox trotted until they couldn't stand it anymore and joined us. We were celebrities and everyone knew us on site, pulling us to the side to say how they enjoyed the song we sang, or how well we danced together, or simply how stunning my wife's dress was.

Yes, it's all over. All that's left are pictures and memories.

Someday, we'll go back; maybe not to the Mediterranean (not anytime soon anyway), but we could take a Caribbean cruise. It wouldn't be quite the same, but then nothing ever will. It was our honeymoon; it was magical and now it's over, but we'll never forget it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Married, and back from Mediterranean honeymoon

I crave tzatziki and souvlaki. Grocery shopping was depressing today; Nobody at Giant wanted to haggle. I woke up at 6 am and no one had made coffee or folded my towels into whimsical animal shapes. I couldn't figure out which port we were in because the sun was coming in at the wrong angle. I wanna go back to Greece and make wine for a living. Boo.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Getting married tomorrow!!! Then, getting on a plane to Venice for a 2 week honeymoon cruise around the Mediterranean!!! Excitement!!!!!!!


Whole Wheat Bagels
    1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
    1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
    1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
    1 1/3 cups Warm Water
    1/4 cup Blended Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flours, yeast, oil and water in large bowl.
Mix with wooden spoon until combined.
Use 1/2 cup lump of dough for each bagel.
Roll your lump of dough into a small baguette shape with both hands and then moving one hand toward you and one hand away twist the baguette with a rolling motion. Finish the motion by joining the two ends in a snake eating it's own tail shape.
Place on a greased baking sheet.
Let dough rise for one hour.
In boiling water, boil bagels for 25 seconds, then remove with slotted spoon and place on greased baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Bagels may rest overnight in the refrigerator, on greased baking sheet; If allowing to rest overnight, skip the proofing step and place in preheated oven straight from the fridge.
Fruit or Nut Bagels: Add 1 cup Fruit (blueberries, chopped apples, raisins) to mixer. A few teaspoons of cinnamon may be added to boiling water.
Three Seed Bagels: add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds. Seeds may be sprinkled onto bagels after they come out of the boiling water as well.
Cheese Bagels: add 2 cups finely shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional add 1/4 cup chopped green onions or jalapeno peppers)
Herb Bagels: add 2 teaspoons Italian herbs and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Cinnamon Bagels: add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.


 3 whole chicken breasts
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
6 thin slices smoked  ham
1 cup All Purpose Flour flour mixed with seasoning for chicken

 1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Onion, minced
1 Cup Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Tbls Butter or Margerine
1 Tbls Flour (simply use the seasoned flour from the chicken)
*Pinch of Thyme
*Dash of Worcestershire sauce
*Dash of pepper

Remove skin and bone from chicken, then cut each breast in half.
Place 1 chicken piece between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to about 3mm thickness.
Repeat with remaining chicken.
Top each piece with a slice of cheese and a slice of ham.
Roll up and secure with a wooden pick.
Coat with seasoned flour. Cover.
Chill thoroughly 20 minutes.

Brown the outside of the chicken in a large skillet with a few tablespoons of oil.
Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until juices run clear.

Brown mushrooms in butter.
Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent.
Add flour. Stir and cook until flour is fully incorporated and  begins to take on golden color.
Add Chicken stock.
Cook and stir until mixture thickens.
The sauce may be thinned with a little water or dry white wine if necessary.


1 cup corn meal
1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teasoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 small can creamed corn
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
Stir in egg, yogurt, and creamed corn until thoroughly combined.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges come away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Roasted Chicken with Pecan Wild Rice and Apricots

6 pieces of chicken (legs, thighs, breasts)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon herbs de provence ('herbs de provence' is usually a mix of dried savory, marjoram, thyme, basil, fennel, and lavender)
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes.
1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups wild rice
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine chicken, herbs, garlic and olive oil in large bowl and toss to coat.
Lay out on ungreased baking sheet and bake 20-25 min or until juices run clear.

Cook rice according to package.
Fold in apricots and pecans.


Week four of classes - Monday's recipes

by Adam Rast on Monday, July 25, 2011 at 8:13pm

Monday classes are Pizza, International Cuisine, and Vegetarian cooking. Planned recipes were the following.

Pizza - Fresh handmade focaccia  pizza with garden tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh green and yellow peppers and mushrooms.
Pizza (or what was left of it)
Pizza ingredients.

International Cuisine/ Vegetarian Cooking - Japanese Temaki sushi with cucumber, avocado, and carrot with ponzu dipping sauce.

Sushi Ingredients:
Sushi Nori (flat, square sheets of toasted seaweed)
Short grain white rice
Avocado, sliced
Thinly julienned vegetables (carrot, cucumber, peppers, asparagus)
Ponzu or plain soy sauce for dipping

These dishes are pretty self explanatory; My recipe for sushi rice is pretty simple. My only advice for making Sticky rice for sushi is to buy short grain white rice and follow the cooking directions on the package. Sushi rice is NOT sticky because it is overcooked and mushy; The characteristic, sticky texture comes from both the release of starches in the rice itself and from the mixture of rice vinegar and sugar which is used to "dress" the rice once it is cooked. Sushi takes on many forms and there are endless ways that it can be prepared and presented. The particular variety that we tackled today is called temaki, or hand rolls." Sticky rice is spread diagonally across a square sheet of sushi nori which is held in the hand (make sure that your hand is dry so that the nori doesn't stick to your hand). Place your other ingredients in the center of the rice and starting at the bottom proceed to tightly roll the nori into a cone shape in your hand (should resemble a sushi ice cream cone). When the wrap is complete, dampen the corner that overlaps the cone so that the nori will stay in place when the sushi is presented on the plate. Dip in ponzu and enjoy!
Didn't get a shot of the guys making Temaki, but here are some shots of the hosomaki and uramaki I made for a demonstration.
Finished plate with garnish

Week 3 recipes

Well, I'm three weeks into my new kitchen and the recipes keep tumbling out of my brain. Here's what I've been up to:

 3 whole chicken breasts
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
6 thin slices cooked ham
1 Cup Flour mixed with seasoning for chicken

1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Onion, minced
1 Cup Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 Low Sodium Chicken bouillon cube
1 Tbls Butter or Margerine
1 Tbls Flour
1 Cup boiling water
 *Pinch of Thyme
*Dash of Worcestershire sauce
*Dash of pepper


Remove skin and bone from chicken, then cut each breast in half. Place 1 chicken piece between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to about 3mm thickness. Repeat with remaining chicken. Top each piece with a slice of cheese and a slice of ham. Roll up and secure with a wooden pick. Coat with seasoned flour. Cover. Chill thoroughly 20 minutes.

To bake place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F or (210 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.

To make sauce - brown mushrooms in butter and stir. Dissolve chicken bouillon in water then add, with remaining ingredients to onions. Cook and stir until mixture thickens. The sauce may be thinned with a little water or dry white wine if necessary.

Serves 6.

6 medium sized Tomatoes
5 oz shredded, part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Clove Garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400°F.
Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out insides of each tomato, roughly chop pulp. Combine pulp, mozzarella cheese, garlic, basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Place tomato shells cut side up on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray. Spoon tomato-pulp mix into shells.
Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve warm.

The first of hopefully many food shots from the CSS Test Kitchen! Garden fresh tomatoes stuffed with crimini mushrooms and mozzarella.

Life in General

I'd like to preface the following rant by saying that it is NOT directed at a single person. This is not a put down or a criticism. It is NOT an attempt to say that I know better than anyone else, or that other people aren't capable of making their own decisions and living their lives the way they desire.

Now that that is out of the way:

STOP WHINING. You are an adult, and it is time for you to deport yourself in a manner consistent with that truth. If you have a roof over your head, a job that pays you enough to keep that roof over your head, and a little cash left over to feed, clothe and occasionally treat yourself to an ice cream cone YOU ARE WAAAAAAAAY ahead of the curve right now. What's that? You were able to go to COLLEGE TOO!? And to top it all off you have friends that love you and want to STAND UP NEXT TO YOU IN THE GLORIOUS  STRUGGLE THAT IS LIFE?  That is AMAZINGLY fortunate.

Start appreciating what you have. Stop complaining about what you don't have. Reevaluate what you really need in order to be happy, and then get off your ass and start working toward getting it.

Please 'like' this note if you are a happy person who has had to struggle to make your life what it is and are satisfied with the result. I need to know that I'm not the only one.



Kitchen titles

People at work keep asking me about this, so I'm posting it in a note.

What do all the titles in the brigade system mean? Isn't a chef just a fancy word for a cook? How do you know who's actually in charge if you're all chefs? Well, there IS a difference between a chef and a cook. There is also a hierarchy among different types of chefs based on their special skill sets and what they are responsible for in the kitchen. The breakdown goes like this:

  • Executive chef -- in charge of designing the menu and creating recipes, oversees all kitchen operations
  • Sous chef -- (literally "under chef") the executive chef's right hand
  • Patissier -- or pastry chef, works with pastries and desserts only
  • Chef de partie -- or station chef; they're in charge of a particular part of the kitchen
  • Saucier -- prepares the sauces and saut├ęs
  • Poissonier -- works with seafood
  • Entremetier -- in charge of soups, vegetables, starches and egg dishes
  • Rotisseur -- cooks roasted, braised and broiled meats and gravies
  • Gard manger -- also known as pantry chef; prepares cold items
  • Cook -- works under the various station chefs
  • Tournant -- (literally "the touring one") also known as 'swing cook', 'relief cook' or 'floater'. Able to work any station in the event that someone is absent or on break. Usually a sous chef, or sous chef in training.
To become a  Certified Master Chef (CMC) in the US requires that you pass an exam administered by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Given over the course of 8 days, it is an extremely intensive and exhausting test of a chef's practical knowledge of culinary history, gastronomy, and technique in all areas of food preparation. The title is currently held by fewer than 100 individuals in the US.

First class

First Class: Preparing Healthy Foods

 -What is Healthy?
 -What is Unhealthy?

First Recipe: Vegetable stir-fry with sliced lean beef and scallions
 -Shopping list
  • 1/2lb lean top round beef
  • Lite sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2lb sugar snap peas
  • 1 ea green, yellow, red Bell peppers
  • 1 bunch Scallions (spring onions)
  • 1 bulb Garlic
  • Ground Star Anise
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground Cardamom
  • Ground Clove
  • 1 bunch Basil
Wish me luck!

Job Description

"Hey, you, teach these guys History!"
"Ok... what kind of History?"
"Well, you know... Historical events."
"Would you like me to start at the beginning of time and move on up to present day?"
"Gee, I hadn't thought of that, but yeah that sounds like a good idea. You've got three days to develop a lesson plan, 'cause we've already posted your class schedule and they're all full."

Replace 'History' with 'Cooking.' That's my new job.

Thoughts on life

17 years. There's nothing really wrong with me; I'm just a little bit different. A lot of people have had similar issues and have found their own ways of dealing with them, but I'm afraid that I'll always be this way... and that makes it even more frustrating. I'm not groping for sympathy or crying for help here, I just feel like some of my issues have been bottled up for awhile and I feel the need to be understood as a person.

I have trouble developing new routines. I'll practice something religiously for weeks or months and then miss one day and never do it again. I get panicky when I have to talk on the phone. I practice conversations endlessly in my head, petrified by the thought that I won't be able to understand what the other person is saying if I can't see their faces while they talk. I prefer to spend my time alone. I spend hours fixating on pointless problems. I taught myself to solve Rubik's cubes, but now that I can solve anything up to a 7x7x7 cube it doesn't seem to be as much of a challenge; It just takes longer and I don't have much free time to waste.  I procrastinate when I'm unsure of the outcome of my plans. I stay silent or simply nod and sigh in commiseration  when I don't completely understand a conversation because I'm afraid of making an inappropriate or blunt comment that would require explanation. I often read depth in facial expressions and body language that isn't there. Songs and catch phrases get stuck in my head for weeks at a time and the only way I can sleep is by drowning out the noise with audiobooks. Ender's Game used to be my favorite; I listened to it every night for about 5 years. Unfortunately it didn't hold my attention very well after I had memorized every chapter. There are always so many thoughts and ideas racing through my head that I have trouble speaking for more than a few seconds at a time. I read the same sentences over and over again before I can fully comprehend their meaning. I forget what day it is, or month. 17 years in therapy and the best I can do is "cope." But I do cope. I keep moving. Maybe I won't always be like this. Maybe someday I'll find my real self buried under all of these neuroses. All I can do is keep digging and hold onto the things that make me happy.

27th Birthday post

Well, I made it to 27. There are so many and so few things happening to me and around me all at the same time; Things change, things stay the same. It's been an interesting year. It started off with me going bankrupt and it will end with me engaged to a wonderful woman who has stayed beside me and supported me through some of the lowest points in my life. She has also been there for some of the happiest points ( in fact, since we met, she's been responsible for most of them.) Time continues to flow and although my situation is not perfectly stable, the people who care and will continue to show me love and support always seem to show up just when I need them most. To all of those people, and I truly hope that you know who you are, thank you for being a part of my life.


New beginnings

My life is changing. A new job might not seem like that big a deal to most people, but when you've spent the majority of your adult life doing manual labor the transition to a white collar position can seem like walking through some kind of magical dream. The realization that life does not have to equal seemingly bottomless pain and stress is a very powerful thing when that's all you know. I will always carry the memory of pain. Every trial engraved in deep, slashing italics covering my hands, arms and face; The physical reflection of so many infinitesimal and infinitely massive hurts that have gone ignored and untreated in the name of just getting through one more week... one more night... one more service... one last 40 plate push until I can rest, and regain enough strength to do it for another week... another night...

I'm afraid of the "normal life" that I'm supposed to start tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do when 'the boss' isn't yelling it in my ear. I've gotten used to gripping the handle of a hot saute pan with nothing but a towel and feeling my skin blister when the sweat has dampened it enough to conduct the raw heat. I'm afraid of losing the hard won callouses that hours and hours of knife work have constructed on my palms; I'm honestly more comfortable holding a knife than a pen. I take much more pride in the elegance of my knife strokes than in the legibility of my penmanship. I take pride in not only getting the job done faster than others, but with higher quality of technique and efficiency. I have a natural talent for getting things done, and I'm not entirely sure that it's something I can TEACH to others. I guess, as usual, all I can do is try...