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Most Memorable Food Moment

 

 

WHC Faculty Tell Us About Their Most Memorable Food Moment

As you can imagine, working at a Culinary and Hospitality College has many perks. From the smell of buttery croissants that weaves it’s way up to my office (the Pastry Shop is right below) to the daily changing lunch menu where I can taste expertly crafted dishes from around the world in just one meal. I’ve had my share of mind-blowing food moments without ever leaving the walls of Walnut Hill College and Bistro Perrier.

Besides the sweet and savory treats that we have access to throughout the year, luckily, many of our faculty and staff have also had the pleasure of taking part in our gastronomic travels! From France to the Bahamas, to Disney World, to England and beyond, as lovers of food and hospitality, we’re always searching for the most memorable food moment.

So, we present to you the most memorable food moments as told by our Chefs, Faculty, and Staff…

Chef Chris Ferretti

When I was a culinary student, we sponsored a dinner to honor Alain Ducasse.  During a break in the courses, the dean of my school, Alain Sahallic, came and told me that I had to meet someone in the dining room.   I thought he meant my parents, who were invited.   I was escorted to the table where my parents were dining.  They were also dining with Alain Ducasse, who pulled out a copy of his book “Flavors of France,”  which he had autographed and handed to me.  My parents had purchased the book which was hard to get in New York at the time, and asked Chef Ducasse to sign it for me. Chef Ducasse asked Dean Sahallic to bring from the kitchen so he to hand me the book personally.  

Chef Todd Braley

One time, while I was working at The Ritz-Carlton there was a meeting of Democratic Senators. The whole hotel was swarming with security and Capital Police, a version of the secret service. I was gathering my normal mise en place, passing armed personnel going in and out of the walk-in in the banquet kitchens. When I came upstairs to the restaurant and walked to my station, I saw Ted Kennedy sitting at the bar by himself having a scotch. The restaurant wasn’t even open. I continued with my prep, direct sight of him at that point was obscured by a structural column. An aide came to retrieve him and as he passed me, I was peeling shrimp.  He stopped and asked “are those gulf shrimp?” to which I replied, “yes Senator, they are from the Gulf of Cape Cod”. Knowing, of course, that his family had a deep connection with the area. He laughed and pointing to me said, “this man’s a politician, where are you from son?”

I told him about my parents retiring to the Cape and said it was such an honor to meet him. The whole time….I never stopped peeling the shrimp! THAT is what this business and organizations like The Ritz-Carton teach us. It doesn’t matter if it’s my mom or the Dali Lama – you treat people with grace and hospitality and you do your ‘grudge’ work efficiently regardless of the circumstances so that you can provide a memorable hospitality experience for the guest.

Chef Jackie Lovecchico

A small Korean BBQ joint in San Francisco with great friends.

Chef Gerald Goard

My most memorable food experience was at Chez Panisse, Alice Water’s restaurant in Berkeley, California. From start to finish the food and service were absolutely excellent.

Chef Greg Slonaker

Dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s in London several years ago on the Tour of England with Walnut Hill College bachelor students.

Chef Jose Adorno

Kneading dough with my Father at 3 years old.

Chef Eric Paraskevas

My family had the chance to visit the picturesque Azores Islands in Portugal. We spent two glorious weeks in Portugal with about 5 days on the Azores Islands. On our last day, we splurged and had a guide take us around. We drove up into the mountains high enough to be kissed by clouds. The guide then took us to an area called Furnas, which is home to a lot of geothermal activity, full of iron-rich water, geysers, and most importantly for our purposes, giant puddles of boiling water that constantly bubble and create clouds of steam in the air above. Once there he showed us the hot springs where the locals actually cooked Portugal’s famous dish Cozido, in the ground. How insanely cool that was! We learned that everyone in the village of Furnas, from the restaurateurs to the home cooks, was allocated a space to dig a hole and bury their pot. The village had turned this spot into a bit of a tourist attraction, there were even vendors selling fresh corn on the cob cooked moments before in the hot springs, allowing one to get a hot delicious bite while looking into the awesome raw power of the a volcano created hot spring. Biting into succulent juicy fresh corn on the cob, having the kernels explode with their soft buttery flavor hiding an intense sweetness. What an experience! After seeing this we learned that our tour guide had arranged for us to eat in his family’s restaurant and sample the famous “Cozido.” We all gathered in the small restaurant in the center of the Furnas village and they brought out the pot to allow us to see how it cooks, how it is layered inside the pots. There were sausages, pork ribs, chicken, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. This experience is forever ingrained in me because of the hospitality and warmth everyone showed us, they treated us as if we were long lost family members that they had been searching for.

Chef Christina Pirello

My first pizza in Naples, Italy.

Chef Kate Honeyman

One of my most memorable meals was on a trip to France with the school. We were pulling up to the town of Auxerre, which is perched on a hill and across a river. The picturesque nature of the town was an ideal backdrop for one of my most favorite meals. As we walked with the students to the neighborhood shops and chocolatiers, we knew that lunch was nearing and that it would be worth the wait. I had heard many tales of the wonderful “Quiche Lady” is Auxerre. I believe it was called “Le Petite Monde d’Edith” meaning “The Little World of Edith.” A wonderfully charming small restaurant that was run by a husband and wife team. The atmosphere was chic and comfortable and just what I had envisioned. We were served with smiles, enjoyed the most delightful meal that was simple and simply perfect! I have had many meals that may have been seen as higher quality, but with such great company, even the simple becomes extraordinary.   

Chef Marie Stecher

Back when I was a student at The Restaurant School and during my trip to France, I had the most memorable food experience. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was the last night of our trip. The restaurant served wine from a Chablis winery that we visited that week and cheese from the cheese farm we visited that day. I remember the dessert, a Chocolate pate with a coffee Anglaise that was so rich, so simple, but yet so delicious.  Everyone at the table wanted to lick their dessert plates (it was that good)!

Chef John Gallagher

My mother used to make the most fantastic Sauerbraten. She would marinate/ pickle it for two days and then slow roast it for hours. She would make the most fantastic potato balls and a gravy that would bring tears to your eyes – she used to say that the more wine she drank, the better the gravy was. And she was right! She is 80 years old now and doesn’t get to cook anymore, but for me, it still remains as the most memorable food experience.

Chef Derek Andress

Too many to choose just one, but one that is certainly on my Top 5 list is dinner at Jean-George.  It was 2003, and my wife Joy and I went to NYC for a weekend of dining.  We ate dinner at Jean- George, it was amazing of course, but when it came time to order dessert we had to order several things just to see and try.  The one that stood out was a passion fruit pavlova.  It was simple – with baked meringue points that were in the shape of a sunflower with passion fruit curd in the middle and fresh passion fruit on top to complete the sunflower image. The delicate sour flavor and lightly velvety curd was amazing combined with the crispy sweet meringue was perfect.  Not overly complicated just simple, clean, fresh, and light.

Dr. Joshua Seery

This is easy…while in Orlando with the Student Leaders for the NCSL conference, President Liberatoscioli also found himself in Orlando visiting family and had invited me to attend dinner with him at the world-renowned Victoria & Albert’s. I had heard so much about it from Dean Morrow and many management students who had attended, and had never thought I would have the opportunity to dine there! The experience was over the top between the multiple course meal, the plate presentations, the attention to detail of the waiter (s), trying caviar for the first time, and of course the stories from our very own President L. along with learning so much about so many things…this was my most memorable meal.

Professor Akita Brooks

Watching my mother make macaroni and cheese for Christmas.  It’s the best!  Cheesy, gooey, and buttery…no crunchiness!

Mr. Philippe Mcartney

Happy Rooster on Samson Street a long while ago. At that time, “Doc” Ulitsky, owned the restaurant and ran it as sort of a “Men’s’ club”. He had strict etiquette rules. At the bar, I ordered a small (one ounce) jar of Beluga caviar. It was placed on a bowl of crushed ice. The serving utensil was a mother-of-pearl spoon. The caviar was served with toast points, grated hard-boiled eggs, capers, and chives. The caviar was accompanied by a small glass of chilled Russian Vodka. I don’t want to date myself but I do remember that the cost was $30 (not including the vodka).  Try to get Beluga caviar, these days, at this price, incredible! It was a perfect afternoon. 

Dr. David Morrow

I have been blessed to travel with our graduating Bachelor Degree students for many years as we explore the hospitality offerings of the United Kingdom. One year I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in London between groups of students. I invited my son, Alex, to join me for a couple nights. 

As a part of our STC to England, students visit the famed Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, a 3 Michelin Star restaurant. I have become close with many of the team members at Ramsay’s and wanted my son to experience this style of dining, so I made a reservation and we embarked on the experience of the Menu Prestige. 

We were greeted by many staff members as we sat and enjoyed a glass of champagne. As the meal began, Jean-Claude Breton, the Maitre D’ of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s since its inception, visited our table and, as is customary, engaged in friendly banter while explaining the meal and asking about dietary restrictions and adjustments we might want to make to the meal. 

He directed his comment to my son, Alex, 17 at the time. ‘Alec,’ his thick French accent caused the eloquent change in pronunciation of his name…’Alec, will you be having the meal as prepared by the chef or can we make some changes for you.’ I interjected quickly to suggest that he may want something other than the Foie Gras but was promptly interrupted by my son as he said to Monsieur Breton, ‘I trust the Chef.’

In more ways than one, this was my finest moment in a dining room. When it came to food, my work was done as a father as I have taught my son that if you trust the chef, he or she will make anything taste great! 

Mr. Jon Sauerwald

Laurel on Passyunk Ave–the Chef’s Table in the back courtyard is on of the best-kept secrets in the city.

President Danny Liberatosciloli

About 15 years ago I was traveling in France with our students. The tour was being co-hosted by one of our chefs, Claude Pottier. Chef Pottier was born, raised, and began his successful career in France. As we were making plans for a special lunch while in Paris Chef Pottier had a suggestion; have lunch at his mother’s home in Paris. Of course I said YES! I bought Madame Pottier some flowers and wine. She was a charming and gracious lady “of a certain age” as the French say (AKA a senior citizen – I would guess she was in her late 80s). 

She invited me to sit in her living room. She offered me an aperitif and some canapés. I could hear her working hard in her kitchen. I offered to help but she politely declined. I felt so relaxed.

It was time for lunch – “a la table”. I took a seat and marveled at the platters of charcuterie. There were at least five different pates and terrines. The garnishes included cornichons, pickled onions and whole grain mustard. It turns out that Madame Pottier’s family owns a charcuterie and supplied these specialties.

I ate with abandon. Then, I am surprised by a “fish course”. A warmed mousse of scallops with lobster meat. It was like velvet. 

But there is more. Without a doubt the most perfect roast chicken I have ever had. It was presented whole, on a carving board. Crisp skin that crackled as Chef Pottier carved it. The au jus gravy was expert. 

To make this chicken even more incredible she served us a bowl of just-cooked fresh spinach. And then I was taken by complete joy: a bowl filled with chestnuts that were steamed and then warmed, redolent of French butter. The bowl was probably at least two pounds of perfectly peeled chestnuts. I kept apologizing as the ate the chestnuts without stopping.

We then leaned back, satiated by this incredible course. And then – cheese. No surprise we are in France. The cheese was served exactly as it was meant to be; at room temperature with crisp baguettes. The wine continued to flow. I looked up and realized that Madame Pottier was truly keeping up with us. Even though she was a tiny, demure lady she ate and drank wine with the same relentless spirit as we did.

Dessert brought a lovely warm apple tart with a crisp buttery crust and glazed apple slices. Afterward the most fragrant coffee served with cookies and chocolates.

This was, without t a doubt, one of the most memorable experiences.

Mr. Dennis Liberati

Making a giant cake for my dad’s 90th Birthday party. For over 30 years, my dad would talk about his favorite “Coconut Cake,” which he could not get anywhere to his liking. So for his 90th birthday, I made an 18-inch-wide – 9-inch-high coconut cake that he really loved and enjoyed. While my background was in cooking not baking, I was super proud. And my dad – who was very hard to please- was pleased. 

Mrs. Peggy Liberatoscioli

Steak Diane and Cherries Jubilee in Florida.

Mr. Ed Pilch

Gnocchi with meat sauce at Tre Famiglia Restaurant in Haddonfield, NJ.  Just like Grammie used to make!

Ms. Bethany Amilkavich

A few years ago, my friend and I celebrated our birthdays together at Di Brunos’ After Hour at their Italian Market shop.  It was an amazing experience to have the store ourselves with all our friends.  Their staff members who prepared a wonderful array of plates for us, and then allowed us to sample anything we wanted in the store were gracious, easygoing, and fun.  It was unconventional, as far as “meals” go, but it is definitely one that  I won’t ever forget

Ms. Valery Snisarenko

Last year, I checked off a box on my bucket list and finally made it to Vietnam. The street-food scene is a bit intimidating at first, but after a few suggestions, we got the hang of where to find the hidden gems. A local guide helped us wander the back alleyways where tourists are rarely seen, and boy was that a treat! My favorite was a dish called the Bo La Lot (thịt  nướng lá lốt), which is beef wrapped in wild betel leaf. The smell of the betel leaf was unique and something I’ve never tried before and the combination was truly memorable. The best part of Vietnamese street food is that each vendor specializes in just one dish, a dish that they have perfected over many years and take a lot of pride in serving. I still remember the smells of hot broth in the mornings, fish sauce in the afternoons, and the sizzle of perfectly charred pork in the evenings. I would go back in a heartbeat. 

Mrs. Meghan Bloome

Dinner at Vetri Cucina a few years ago when we had an onion crepe with perfectly caramelized onions inside a crispy-on-the-outside crepe, served with a creamy sauce.

Mrs. Roseanne Carmolingo

The most memorable meal was many many years ago at the Princess Hotel in Acapulco. The restaurant was Chula Vista and we ate Al Fresco. Delicious food and amazing atmosphere. 

Mrs. Azure Elentrio

My most memorable food moment would be as a child I remember my Grandmother making a cake for Easter that looked like a lamb. I just thought she was the coolest Grandma at that moment. For some reason, that moment still stands out 

*******

There you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed hearing from our chefs, faculty, and staff about their favorite food moments. Have a favorite memory to share with us? We’d love to hear from you! Just email us and let us know – you may be featured in an upcoming newsletter, blog post, or social media post.


Tips From A Food Stylist

Philly-based writer, food stylist, and current WHC student answers your pressing questions about food photography.

Taking photos of your food seems easy enough, right? You point your fancy phone and snap away, sometimes, you even use fancy filters. But, do your photos look like the ones shown above? My guess is that you’ve used every filter available, but still can’t get that perfect photo. We’re here to help!

I’ve teamed up with Lisa Hecht, a Philly-based writer, food stylist, and current Walnut Hill College Culinary student, to answer some basic questions regarding the fundamentals of composition, lighting, prop selection, and what you can do to get your photos to look like they came from the pages of Bon Appétit magazine.

( All photo credit to Lisa Hecht who we featured in last week’s Feel-Good Friday Newsletter)

What are the best props to use for food styling? Give us your TOP 5:

Props are an essential part of food styling, they need to elevate and complement the food you are shooting. The props that I use for photoshoots aren’t necessarily things that I use in my kitchen every day.

To start you need a background to shoot on. Most of us might take photographs on our kitchen counters or at the table we are eating at, but space and lighting can be a big issue in this scenario. Ideally, you want a surface that can be moved around like a cutting board or a piece of marble.

At Replica Surfaces, they sell boards that mimic surfaces like wood, tile, and stone that can be used as backdrops. Until you are ready to make this investment, I would just look for things you have around the house. Currently, these are my favorite props to use for food styling.

My TOP 5 Food Styling Props:

  1. An old wooden crate that I found at a flea market
  2. Walnut cutting board
  3. Dish towels – different colors, patterns, and textures
  4. Vintage flatware, including my set of wood and brass cutlery
  5. Small plates and bowls with simple designs and shapes

Why are “composition” and “framing” so important?

How to compose a great photograph is extremely important because it tells the viewer what to focus on in the image. Keep in mind that your subject does not always have to been in the center of your frame. You might spend a lot of time styling your shoot, but you still need to consider what angle you want to shoot from. Some things to consider when composing a photograph are how the viewers eyes are going to move around the image.

To start you want to have a contrast between the subject and the background. Also think about pattern, symmetry, and repetition. Consider how diagonal or directional lines can lead you into the picture and how framing devices such as trays or plates can help outline your subject. Most importantly, spend time looking at other people’s photographs and try to mimic what they do. Pinterest is a great source for professional food photography. 

What’s the best lighting to use for that perfect photo?

Without a doubt, natural light is the best light for food photography. I try to do most of my shoots by the window in my living room where I have a nice stream of natural light coming through. When I shoot in places like my kitchen or dining room, the overhead lights often create a glare or strong reflections on the food and props which I don’t like. 

Filters – Yes or No?

If shooting with your phone, then absolutely yes! You should always edit the photos you take. This might mean using the contrast and brightness tools on your phone or using one of the built-in filters. Consider if you want the image to look warm or cool. Do you want the color in the image to be highly saturated or naturalistic? Find the aesthetic that works for you. 

Does the equipment matter?

Yes, it does. Ideally, if you plan to go into this profession, you will be shooting with a DSLR camera with a 50 mm lens and probably have a macro lens for close-up shots. If you are shooting with your smartphone, then the quality of your phone still matters. I’m currently shooting with an Apple iPhone 6 Plus but when I see images being shot with an iPhone 11, I can see the difference in quality right away. 

Best Apps for photo editing?

Most professional photographers I know use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos. 

Is all food photogenic or are there some foods to avoid?

Not all food is photogenic but there are always ways that you can make it look better. Think about if you had to photograph a bowl of oatmeal. It is mushy, has little contrast, and looks bland. However, if you topped it with fresh berries, chopped nuts, maple syrup, and sprinkled cinnamon on top, then that boring bowl of oatmeal just became a lot more appetizing. Adding garnishes is a way to add color and texture to what could possibly be an unappealing dish. 

Should I have a separate account for my food photography?

If you plan to use your Instagram account as a portfolio for your food photography, then having a separate account will depend on what kind of photos you normally like to post. I currently use my personal account to post all my food photos. This means that if I apply for a food styling job, I feel comfortable sharing my handle with a future employer. However, if my page focused more on images of my personal life and family, then I would absolutely have a separate account. 

So, there you have it folks – real advice from a real-world food stylist. Do yourselves a favor and check out Lisa’s Instagram account where she shares some truly inspiring food photography.


Fungi are My Favorite: Spaghetti al Funghi Recipe

Hey, everyone! This week, I wanted to share something that I like to make at home on a fairly regular basis and a recipe to use it in. Mushrooms are one of my all-time favorite foods, and I think that they make a great substitute for meat. They’re packed full of protein, fiber, and an immune-boosting antioxidant called selenium. I love the flavor that each different type of mushroom has, and they’re all different! Some of my favorites include shimeji, morel, maitake, oyster, and enoki. When caramelized, they have an incredibly nutty and rich flavor that adds depth to any dish. They’re pretty much one of the best foods ever, spoken by a completely unbiased individual… ????

I think that mushrooms are also beautiful to look at, and for this reason and a few others, I like them to be recognizable in a dish. I rarely cut mushrooms unless they are of the larger variety and cannot be torn. I always tear the mushrooms previously mentioned, and I always save the ends for stock and soup! Because mushrooms are so incredibly versatile, I really like to keep some already cooked off in my fridge for salads, pasta, or whatever we’ve got a hankering for. One of my favorite preparations for these fungi is to caramelize them in brown butter. They turn out to be incredible little flavor bombs that you can add to any dish. You could absolutely substitute out butter for a preferred cooking fat to get the same lovely color. This is as simple as cutting a few knobs of butter onto a sheet pan, browning the butter in the oven, and mixing your cut mushrooms with some salt for seasoning into the brown butter. Once they’re all coated, roast them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re well fragrant and golden brown.

One recipe that I’ve developed to use these in is my take on spaghetti ai funghi. Mushrooms that have been browned lend themselves nicely to a cream sauce or something that will push the rich flavor forward. The recipe is very simple, but in the video I have included, I used a red wine jus I made from chicken stock (not necessary, but it’s what I had). Using regular chicken stock works perfectly well for this recipe and is usually what I do. It is also perfectly fine in this recipe to brown the mushrooms in a pan first and then build your sauce from there.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ lb. enoki mushrooms
  • ¼ lb. shimeji mushrooms
  • ¼ lb. oyster mushrooms
  • 8 oz. dry spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Parsley (I toasted mine for a little texture)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 egg yolk

Procedure:

  • Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
  • Prepare your mushrooms by tearing them apart.
  • Brown the butter in a sauté pan and add the mushrooms.
  • Once the mushrooms are tender and caramelized, deglaze with chicken stock.
  • Reduce the chicken stock down until it becomes syrupy and add the heavy cream.
  • Reduce the heavy cream until it just starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Cook your spaghetti to al dente and add to the cream sauce with a splash of pasta water.
  • Separate one egg, store the whites, and keep the yolk out.
  • Once the pasta is coated with sauce, season to taste with salt, cracked black pepper, and parsley.
  • Finish the dish while still hot by stirring in an egg yolk. (The residual heat cooks the yolk without turning it solid.)

When I first started making this recipe, I was in love. It’s a fairly simple dish to make and it tastes so luxurious. You really don’t need a lot of it to fill you up, and it has an outstanding roasted mushroom flavor. I like to go heavy on the cracked black pepper because it adds a nice spice to the very rich dish. I hope that this has inspired you to cook with mushrooms more and maybe even try them as a substitute in your favorite meat dish. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at just how flavorful they are! Thank you for reading and happy cooking!


Game Day BBQ Chicken Dip

Hey, everyone! This week’s blog post is the first collaboration post we’ve done on here! A fellow student leader, Meghan Young, wrote a piece that I think totally captures the idea of what this blog is all about. What better way to kick off a collaboration than with a gameday post? It’s always fun having people over to watch sports, whether it’s football, basketball, soccer, you name it! Once you’ve gotten everyone together, the question of what to eat and drink always arises. Planning can really elevate the gameday experience, and in this post, we’re going to share some recipes that are perfect for groups of people!

One recipe that I’ll often make at home is chicken dip. It is so incredibly easy to put together and is usually a hit once it’s done. Buffalo chicken dip is a classic, but I like to put my own twist on chicken dip. I recently discovered a barbeque sauce that goes beautifully with chicken and thought, why not make dip with this? Thus, my barbeque chicken dip was born. Something fun about this recipe is that you can really substitute in any favorite sauce for barbeque and it will work just as well. I find that sweeter sauce doesn’t work as well for this dip based solely on the fact that I don’t like my savory foods to be too sweet. There really aren’t a ton of ingredients in this dip, which makes it very user friendly.

Barbeque Chicken Dip Ready for Game Day Action!

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups barbeque sauce
  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup spring onion

Procedure:

  • Shred rotisserie chicken with hands or forks.
  • Warm barbeque sauce in a pan, and add softened cream cheese and sour cream.
  • Mix in chicken and three fourths of the shredded cheese and spring onions.
  • Once combined, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Spoon into a 10-inch skillet, and top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake in a low oven until heated through and bubbling.
  • *OPTIONAL* Broil on high until cheese gets bubbly and brown on top.
  • Garnish with remaining spring onions, and serve with chips.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do! Whenever it’s movie night or I know people will be coming over, I throw this together and it’s always a hit. Remember that you can really make any kind of chicken dip, and you should definitely experiment with flavors! Thank you for reading!


Pita Bread Persistence

Hey, everyone! This week, I wanted to share something that I have been making quite a lot of recently. Ever since I was younger, I have absolutely loved pita bread. Whether it’s stuffed full of falafel or dipped in hummus, I can’t get enough. Ever since I stumbled upon a great recipe developed by Paul Hollywood, I’ve been making it all the time! I make quite a lot of hummus at home, and it’s fantastic to have a scratch-made lunch of pita, hummus, and salad. I think that working with this recipe has taught me a lot about proving dough and the process of making flatbread. I also learned a lot from a friend of mine here at school, who is incredible at making Mediterranean food. I’m still trying to perfect my pita, but I’ve had a ton of fun with the process of making it and learning how to get the perfect pocket.

I have tried a few different ways of making pita bread, but I have definitely found that the oven works best. When first making pitas in class, I tried making them on the back of a very hot cast iron pan. I would flip them halfway through, and the results were pretty decent. However, the pitas were never evenly colored, even though they had nice pockets. After doing some research, I found that my only other option really was an oven. A deck oven would definitely be the best choice for this, but sadly, I don’t have one of those at home. To simulate this, however, I cranked my oven up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and preheated my baking trays to somewhat mimic the effect of heat from the top and bottom evenly. As this is essentially the same as heat cleaning your oven, please make sure that your oven is already clean if you’re going to try this. Greasy ovens at a high heat billow smoke and smell horrible. This proved to work very well but needs constant monitoring, seeing as though the pitas bake very quickly. That being said, I still achieved some good pockets and nice color!

This was another one of those projects that felt good to work on and get better at. I tried making a preferment for my dough to get some extra flavor out of it, and I really liked the way it turned out. I find that homemade food tastes better and is much more rewarding if you have the time and patience. I always have fun making recipes like this, because it becomes part of a hearty meal later on. For the sake of people who would like to try making this pita recipe, I have included it here. I hope this has inspired some of you to go out there and bake! I’ve definitely caught the bug and am looking forward to more fun bakes. Thank you for reading!


The Path to Paneer Perfection

Hey, everyone! This week, I was wondering what to do for a blog post, and a classmate of mine actually asked if I would make them some paneer. Paneer is a fresh cheese that comes from the Indian subcontinent. This quick and easy cheese has a number of uses and is delicious in many applications. This seemed like a good food to showcase, especially because I am a sucker for cheese! I went to a local market and picked out a gallon of whole milk for a two-pound yield of cheese. One of my all-time favorite dishes to eat that showcases paneer is Saag Paneer. A rich gravy of spinach and aromatics make up the sauce, and paneer soaks it right up, making for an irresistible combination. I really enjoy Indian cuisine, and over the years I’ve actually found that I like the vegetarian dishes better. In my opinion, paneer makes a fantastic substitute for meat and is easier on the stomach as well.

In my Canning, Jarring, and Preserving class here at WHC, I learned a great recipe for paneer that is very easy to execute. With only two ingredients, it is a procedural recipe that is very user-friendly. If you don’t quite get the separation of curds and whey the first time you add the lemon juice, you can always add more until you get the desired curds. Some important things to note are that when making any type of cheese, it is a good general rule to have cheese cloth or butter muslin on hand. A large sieve proves to be very helpful, as well as a half-sheet pan with a rack if you don’t have a proper cheese press. Something heavy such as a gallon of milk or heavy pans are good for pressing in a pinch. The following is the recipe I use from the class that I took. I think that it’s a good ratio and yield for milk to cheese. I really enjoyed making this recipe, and I hope that anyone reading does, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Procedure:

  • Bring milk to a gentle, rolling boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and stir in lemon juice.
  • Cook for 15 seconds, then remove from heat.
  • Stir gently to see separation (large curds), then leave for 10 minutes.
  • Ladle curds into strainer lined with cheese cloth.
  • Rinse curds gently with warm water to remove lemon juice.
  • Tie off cheese cloth, and hang for 1-2 hours to drain.
  • Place cloth-bound cheese on a sheet pan with a rack, and apply 5 lbs. of pressure for 1 hour. (A cheese press can be used as well.)
  • Remove cheese from cloth, and store for up to 2 weeks.

The beauty of a recipe like this is that you can easily change the batch size. The above recipe yields two pounds of paneer. Simply cut the recipe in half for a one-pound yield. Once you get the hang of making this, explore the many recipes that give paneer the showcase that it deserves. As previously mentioned, Saag Paneer is my favorite panir recipe, but there are most likely hundreds of recipes and variations to explore. Try substituting this in place of meat in a curry recipe. I’m sure the possibilities are endless, and I always have fun learning new ways to spice up ingredients that I love. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and that you now have a platform to follow your path to paneer perfection. Thanks for reading!