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The End

I could not go out on chicken cooked with chocolate. It has been weeks since my last post, an utterly failed attempt at “chocolate rabbit”, and I have faded out of this blog thing. It was a blast while it lasted and great way to document my kitchen successes and failures over the past year and a half but now I just do not have the time. With culinary school and work, even though I spend most of my day cooking I feel like I hardly really cook anymore outside of making food for my friends in return for a couch to sleep for the night and rare night I make dinner for the fam. So I am hanging up my keyboard, for now, and retiring No More Caf Food. To wrap it all up though here is a collection of my favorite and strangest meals and posts (in chronological order):

Fish Friday!

Gelatinous Goodness

Last Fish Friday of Lent

Sun and Snacks

Dogfish with Dogfish

Menudo

Quail Man

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia

Chicken Into the Unknown

Black Bear Meat (Grrrr!)

Live Eel

Seafood Feast

Pork Roast with Balsamic Mashed Potatoes 

Clams with Guanciale and Lemon Verbena 

Rabbit Dumpling Sans Wrapper

Mind Blowing Skate

Putting a Face to Food

Whole Shrimp Again

Apartment Marinated Sardines

Getting Nosey

Taking Advantage of My California Trip

Sardines and Raisins. Who woulda thought?

Good bye! See you at my next project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Space and sunlight have always been scarce for me. I had a plant on every square inch of usable space in my apartment but with little to no sunlight I was forced to bring in an old fish tank light and use stacks of books to hold it up. This started the rogue garden, in one sense. I planted as many seeds as I could, assuming most would not come up in my pots made of used yogurt containers and tupperware. Then if nothing sprouted I would reuse dirt. Then what I hadn’t recently planted would sprout or I would save a seed from a vegetable or fruit, forget to properly label it, and plant it, the resulting plant unknown.

Once home I used dirt from my compost pile to supply my garden and pots. Most of the plants already growing on my apartment desk failing to survive the trip I was forced to replant seeds. In my compost pile I already found potatoes and tomato plant sprouting, which I replanted, no idea what plant lied beneath or was going to fruit.

I then spread this compost, full of ungerminated seeds from produce long tossed, into my garden and into my pots. Left and right mystery plants began to sprout up. Then lack of keeping track of what was planted where, I had five types of tomatoes and two types of eggplant seeds and quickly lost track, plant began to pop up and for know I have no idea what they will produce.

Here are the big mysteries:

Possibly a cucuzza long. Planted two that had sprouted in that general vicinity in the garden and they died but there were at least two other seeds in the pot I replanted them from, so it could be them.

Tomatoes. Nearly every tomato in my garden right now, with the exception of a handful just sprouting out of pots, I have no idea what they are or where they came from. I had an entire pot shoot up with dozens of plants and I don’t remember planting them. So we will see what comes of them.

Eggplant or Tomatillo? Having never planted either, so I have no idea what the plants look like, I accidentally planted both in the same pots and mixed up dirt from multiple pots. So far am about 85% sure one is definitely a tomatillo. After that its a crap shoot.

Pepper, be it hot or sweet. This plant is the sole survivor of my trip home from my apartment. I know it is a pepper, that is about it. Came from a grocery store seed I had saved, but I don’t remember from what.

What I do know. I do know that I have soybeans, punterelle, arugula which I am letting go to seed right now, sorrel, basil, and fennel.

On the bottom right is another rogue tomato plant I just noticed.

I also have planted red new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, purple potatoes, borettana onions, and mini-watermelons that have yet to sprout yet, and a lot of wild mint and raspberries in my yard.

Potato flower.

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Every fresh water angler has caught them. Most likely more of them than any other fish. Whether you call them sunnys or bluegills they have robbed more bait than the Hamburgeler. But I recently found out these little spiny pests taste pretty good. So screw trying to go for the big guys when these guys are more fun to catch anyway.

So I headed off to the Mianus this morning, early, to head out to the spot far up stream where I had caught many sunnys in the past. On the first cast they were hitting the bait. But my hook was a bit to large so it took a few more tries before I hooked one. For a little fish a fun fight. Way more exciting than the small walleye I was also catching.

After snagging three okay sized ones, the little fish would be a bitch to clean I knew, I decided to head back but before I did I would try another spot up river a little to try and catch something larger. After a few casts and no hits I saw something jump from the water. A few casts over its way still yielded nothing. So I had my last worm on the hook and decided to give it one more cast before heading home and what do you know, a hit, and something big. It was a trout! Most had been fished out of the river by now but this one was far enough up no one had fished it yet. After a short fight I got him within feet of the bank, but had no where to put him. I was standing at the bottom of a steep drop off and was barely keeping my own balance. But he made the decision for me and a foot from the shore jumped hook. A beautiful rainbow trout lost back to the river.

Once home after spending what seemed like forever scaling, cleaning, and filleting the small fish I cooked them in butter and olive oil and also wilted some lambsquarters then put it all on whole wheat bread with mayo for a sandwich. The fish were really good, a clean tasting white fish, and the lambsquarter added just enough flavor to not overpower the fish. Didn’t take a picture because it didn’t look like much, just a flat sandwich.

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Really falling in love with foraging. So far don’t know a whole hell of a lot of stuff that I can eat in the woods but am always reading of new stuff to eat. Recently I got Stalking the Wild Asparagus, which is the classic foraging guide. Not as helpful as I thought it would be though. No pictures, just sketches, which makes matching a plant to the drawing a bit sketchy.

So I have only eaten things I was 100% sure were the right thing to eat. Recently it was sassafras. I had heard the word before but was not totally sure it was an actual plant. It was up there with alfalfa. No idea what that looks like, tastes like, or what it is used for, all I know is that he was my favorite Little Rascal growing up. But it turns out sassafras is really easy to identify, and everywhere.

A few minutes into my hike in my favorite park, the Mianus River Park which I no longer get lost in since I downloaded a map of it onto my phone, I noticed a sassafras sapling. Did a quick check in Stalking the Wild Asparagus to make sure I was about to eat the right thing, wiped off the leaf, and stuck it in my mouth. It had a sweet lemony flavor with a slight root beer taste. The leaves are the only part of the plant you can eat, the rest being wood basically, but the rest you can use to make drinks.

So I grabbed a few more plants to bring home, making sure to get as much of the root as possible. This is because sassafras root is the main ingredient in root beer, my least favorite soda after Dr. Pepper. Though I don’t like root beer the flavor has potential and drinking the fake stuff all my life I wanted a taste of the real deal.

I read that the leaves were used in gumbo so figured I would try and cook with them and see what happened. I make a chicken and rice dish and put them in it. The dish was not thought out very much and any flavor the sassafras added was completely covered up by the sausage I put in.

Later in the night though I tried my hand at sassafras tea chopping up the stems and roots and boiling them in water. The water turned a very slight brown color but it had not steeped long enough. It had almost no flavor at all. But the little flavor that was there had a slight hint of root beer with lemon.

The next step now is to make actual root beer with the stuff. Just gotta go into the woods and get a lot of sassafras root.

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I was first introduced to ‘nduja through Kimberly Belle’s blog. Then I finally got my first taste when I bought two from Boccalone one a San Francisco trip over new years and absolutely loved the stuff. I finally found it on Arthur Avenue at Calabria Pork Store in the Bronx the other day. It had most likely eluded me for so long because they had spelled it phonetically, that spelling nothing like the real one. But I got tired of just spreading it on bread.

I figured since it was spreadable, Boccalone’s much finer than the one from Calabria Pork Store, it would fall apart and add its slightly spicy sausage flavor into a dish. In a braise it is wonderful. Even throw some into a tomato sauce. Imparts great flavor.

Tonight since mom was going out I was put on dinner duty. Digging through a fridge in need of stocking all I could find for dinner was chicken breasts, parsley, and onions, hardly a flavorful meal. But then I spotted then ‘nduja, this would turn it around. Seared the breasts in olive oil and butter with the onion, parsley, and garlic, then added some water and ‘nduja and let it simmer. It was quite the hit and mom on her way out kept grabbing bits off the table. A boring meal saved by ‘nduja!

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Summer Plans

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post. I have been caught up in wrapping up college and haven’t had time to really try anything new or exciting in the kitchen. But my future is riddle with new and exciting culinary adventures.

First off, I would like to announce to the world that I will be starting culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City on August 1st. Absolutely ecstatic about it. So pumped to learn everything I have wanted for years, spend my time studying something I am actually interested in, and to meet more people like myself. As well as taking culinary courses I will be studying culinary management to fine tune my restaurant business plan and learn as much about the business as I can to be successful in it. It’ll be eight hours of classes five days a week, as well as a commute from Stamford, but it’ll be worth it. Plus I’ll be in Manhattan and after class will finally have the chance to do a lot of the New York stuff I have wanted to do but been too lazy to leave the Bronx for.

For the first two months of the summer though I will be returning to the greasy hot life of the Country Club of Darien snack bar. Hopefully I can find another job as well to fill in my time off. Plus I severely need as much money as possible.

Recently I started to plant my own backyard garden in Stamford. Hopefully I get something out of it. My backyard gets poor sunlight but I am hoping it gets enough to get some produce to grow. Things I have planted and plan to plant in it include five varieties of tomatoes, Kermit and Red Ruffled eggplant, purple tomatillos,  potatoes, cucuzza long squash, miniature watermelons, a mystery pepper plant, arugula, sorrel, lavender, fennel, sage, thyme, basil, onions, carrots, broccoli, puntarelle, and romanesco. So its a pretty ambitious project. But if I cannot get stuff to grow here I always have a friend who has a great garden that I could plant in next season.

Speaking of gardens and gardening I met to chef of Farmer Table in New Canaan and look forward to extending our relationship and getting into his garden and kitchen. He grows the majority of the food for the restaurant and his brother has a farm which supplies the meat. A true farm to able operation.

I also have taken control of one of the refrigerators in my garage for mainly open purpose; charcuterie. I want to make sausage and attempt to cure as many things as I can.

Once I get back home it is a return to beer making with my dad as well. Our first batch turned out surprisingly well despite the disregard for sanitation at many points in the process and a lot of miscommunication and arguing between the two of us. A few more batches for practice then lets see what weird beers I can come up with. I already got some ideas. Eggplant IPA anyone?

Finally I am excited to get back into a big kitchen, with a big (also multiple) fridge, a garden, a compost pile, have the ability to easily recycle, be able to bike around, and have access to to plethora of produce available during the summer months. I will put this time spent at home and culinary school to good use.

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1. Favorite Ingredient to Cook With- Onions (all varieties).

2. Favorite Food Smell- Tomato Plants.

3. First Thing I Remember Making for Myself- Minute Steak with homemade BBQ sauce.

4. Ingredient I Cannot Stand- Sweet Pickles.

5. Allergies- None so far (knock on wood).

6. Worst Cooking Injury- Nothing beyond bad burns.

7. Last Thing I Ate- Homemade orange cranberry biscotti

8. Last Thing I Cooked- Red Snapper, risotto, and string beans.

9. Death Row Meal- Fugu liver. The last thing you could ever physically eat.

10. Favorite Restaurant- Barcelona in Stamford.

11. If I Could Eat Dinner With Anyone Living- Jose Andres.

12. Anyone Dead- Teddy Roosevelt.

13. Favorite Meal- A big bowl of mom’s homemade sauce with grandma’s homemade noddles.

14. Favorite Thing to Cook- Something new.

15. If I Could Drink With Anyone Living- Anthony Bourdain.

16. Anyone Dead- Ernest Hemingway.

17. Favorite Meat- Lamb.

18. Favorite Seafood- Oysters.

19. Favorite Fruit- Raspberries.

20. Favorite True Vegetable- Kale.

21. Favorite “Vegetable”- Tomatoes.

22. Favorite Herb- Cilantro.

23. Favorite Green- Endive.

24. Favorite Mushroom- Shiitake.

25. Favorite Root Vegetable- Radishes.

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