Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

eG Foodblog: Abra - I take food personally!


Recommended Posts

Ok, so right off the bat I have a confession to make. Today is my birthday. How cool is that? First-ever blog and 54th birthday, all in one. Trouble is, I'm so slammed today and tomorrow that I don't even have time to celebrate - that'll come later in the week. But I did do a little something special for myself that I wouldn't do on just any morning - picked my breakfast fresh from the back yard.

i11095.jpg

I got 43 lbs of blueberries from my two bushes this summer. These are the last of them.

i11096.jpg

Around here blackberries are considered a noxious and invasive weed, but I can't help myself - I love them.

i11097.jpg

These little strawberries were never bigger than a thumbnail, but now we're down to the last few brave survivors of our recent heat wave. Still yummy, though.

i11099.jpg

Inspired by Dejah's Red River Cereal photo, I'm having Wheatena with my berries. I put peanut butter and brown sugar into the Wheatena (more about that later), and then right after I took this photo, I dumped the berries into the porridge. I'll spare you the image of the combined breakfast - it looks much prettier in its separate state. Oh, there's also coffee in this breakfast, although I'm normally a tea person in the morning. I was up until the wee hours getting semi-ready for my day, so coffee seems called for. This is a double Americano my husband made for me on his La Marzocco.

So, besides being the Birthday Girl, I'm a personal chef. You'll get a little taste of that today and tomorrow, as I cook for a regular client, and for a party for a new client. And then for the rest of the week I'll finally get to catch up with some food projects, recipe-testing, and just plain eating that I've been wanting to do for weeks now.

By the way, I'm a Weight Watcher too. Each meal I'll have something to say about it in WW terms, but I'll keep it at the end of each post, so you don't have to think about WW points unless you want to. So why the peanut butter? I like to get some fat and protein into my whole grains, whenever possible. A tablespoon of peanut butter stirred into a serving of Wheatena, a spoon of brown sugar, whisk it all together for a creamy and delicious 5 points. Add berries, and it's one of the best uses of 6 points that I can think of.

I'll be back this afternoon with pictures from today's cooking. Here's the menu, just as a preview:

Curried Chicken Salad

Acqua Pazza, served with Pasta with Zucchini, Anchovies and Mint

Chicken Braised with White Poppy Seeds, Black Cardamom, and Coconut Milk, served with Saffron-Cardamom Rice

Ribeye Steaks with a Port-Rosemary Reduction Sauce, served with Glazed Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar and Butter

Persian Meatballs with Spinach, served with Israeli Couscous with Dates and Almonds.

Yum - as you might guess, my lunch will be tasting these creations. See you all later - I'm off into the world for my first day as a 54 year old person!

Link to post
Share on other sites

1st:

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you....

Happy Birthday, Dear Abra.

Happy Birthday to you! :biggrin::biggrin:

2nd:

Looks like I made the perfect choice. Very much looking forward to your blog. I'll take notes for my next dinner party! :wub:

I LOVE blackberries, but they are not native to Manitoba. The best ones I have ever tasted were in a friend's backyard in Victoria, on Vancouver Island. They were the elongated ones and grew on a trellis.

Edited by Dejah (log)

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Birthday Abra!!

The food you're cooking sounds great. Any chance you'll share some recipes?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Birthday from me too!

Looking forward to the week and I'll appreciate your WW insights. I'm a newbie to their online program. Six weeks in and finding I have a lot of learning to do.

Those blackberries remind me of my camp counselor days in college. There was a secret bramble down one of the little used paths that we would raid in August. YUM.

Did ya open those presents yet? Get anything good? :biggrin:

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Birthday!

And so far I love the berries and am impressed by the menu. How many clients do you work for? How much food do you prepare for each at a time (how many meals)? Do you just prep dinners, or do you manage other meals as well?

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Birthday, Abra. We share a birthday, and I'm looking forward to you sharing your week with us.

Your berries look delicious! :wub:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

Link to post
Share on other sites

First things first - Happy Birthday Jake! Thanks for sharing my birthday. It's so great to see all the WW folks here too. I'm really looking forward to this week.

Now, to business. My client for the day was a single woman. I cook for her every two weeks, making her dinners for 10 nights, most of which goes straight into the freezer. When I met this woman, about a year ago, her freezer was full of Lean Cuisine, and her fridge full of mostly empty pizza boxes. Now she gets food like this week's menu, which she often takes to work for lunch. We're on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, by the way, so commuting is a big part of some peoples' lives and getting food when you get home late to a smallish island isn't all that easy, hence the state of her eating before I started cooking for her.

So my schedule was like this: Hit the grocery store at 9:30. Arrive at her house, unpack the groceries, and unload my equipment by 10:30. Start cooking up a storm, pausing to take some photos (good thing for my clients I'm a better cook than photographer!). By 2:30 the food was all done, packaged, and in the fridge or freezer, by 3:00 the kitchen was cleaned up, the dishwasher running, and I was out the door. Not a bad day's work! Here's what she got:

i11129.jpg

The food arrayed before I started cooking

i11124.jpg

Persian Meatballs with Spinach, and Israeli Couscous with Dates and Almonds

i11125.jpg

Ribeye Steak with Port-Rosemary Reduction Sauce, and Glazed Carrots with Balsamic Vinegar and Butter

i11126.jpg

Halibut Acqua Pazza, and Orechiette with Zucchini, Anchovies, and Mint

i11127.jpg

Curried Chicken Salad

i11128.jpg

Chicken Braised with White Poppy Seeds, Black Cardamom, and Coconut Milk, with Saffron-Cardamom Rice

I know the presentation isn't wonderful. I do try my best, but there's only so much one can do with Gladware and freezer-ready servings. My clients are in it for the taste, thanks goodness, not the beauty of the food.

Tonight I have a Planning Commission meeting (in my alter-ego as a Responsible Citizen I'm a member of the Commission), so it'll be a quick meal at our favorite local Thai place. Normally I do cook for my husband and me even after a full day of cooking, but there's just no time tonight. That's in no small part because I'm cooking for a luncheon party for 18 women tomorrow, at a new client's house. I think she's going to be very picky, but I'm hoping she won't mind if I take photos. However, I have to get prepared for tomorrow, and get to the meeting on time, so home cooking is the thing that has to go. Unless, of course, a Dejah-clone appears to work a little magic in my kitchen!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderful photos! What a nice melange of meals. I am sooo hungry now. :laugh:

As for taking photos tomorrow, just tell the new client you use the photos to help provide consistency in your work for all your clients, or something like that. If you make it sound official enough, she'll buy it. :cool:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, here was a delicious and quick (since I didn't have to cook it) Thai meal: pad kee mow for me, spring rolls and salad for my husband, and then, because I let it slip that it was my birthday, complimentary fresh coconut ice cream with fried bananas, and a tin of totally addictive tamarind-chili candy to take home. So let's not talk about today's points, ok?

i11140.jpg

i11141.jpg

So now to do the final recipe and menu printing for tomorrow. A ladies' luncheon, where the hostess is in her 80s, and the guests are all "young women" in their 50s. The hostess chose curried shrimp and rice salad, fruit salad with poppy seed dressing, golden raisin and rosemary muffins, and raspberry fudge bars.

Tomorrow night is opening night of a community theater production I'm in, so I fear that it will be another day of haphazard eating for me. I'm aiming for a nice main dish salad, though. I need greenery - and sleep!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Today started off with a typically unglamorous breakfast: Morningstar Farms Breakfast Patties on whole wheat toast and a yogurt. Earl Greyer tea too - I love all that bergamot.

i11153.jpg

Then I headed out to the store at about 7:15, shopped, and arrived at the client's house at 8:30. Oh no! I left my clean laundry, including my aprons, at home. Believe me when I tell you, I cooked very neatly and carefully all morning! It's always a hazard of personal cheffing, forgetting stuff. I try to be really compulsive with my lists, and it doesn't happen often, but there have been some doozies. My favorites were the time I showed up to make a risotto, minus the arborio, and another time when I was supposed to make stuffed cabbage - with, you guessed it, all the other ingredients, but no cabbage.

So here's what I made today for the ladies luncheon:

i11154.jpg

Fruit Salad with Lime, Honey, and Anise Hyssop

i11155.jpg

Golden Raisin and Rosemary Mini-Muffins

i11156.jpg

Curried Shrimp and Rice Salad

i11157.jpg

Raspberry Fudge Bars

By the time I got home at 2:00 I was too starved to make a lunch worth photographing. It was just a turkey sandwich and some plums. So far, it's looking like I need a personal chef myself!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oooo, those raspberry fudge bars look really good.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow Abra, it's so wonderful you're doing a blog - one from our own neck o' the woods. And Happy Belated Birthday! It's so exciting to read a blog of someone I know in person.

All your food looks wonderful, including the tupperware-ized. You do such variety. Oh and those brownies....what a photo.

As another Washingtonian, I definitely do not consider the blackberry a noxious weed. I think we're lucky to have berries in such profusion. The other day I went to my local video store in West Seattle and picked myself a container of them, enough to make a fresh cobbler just from the vines in the alleyway. Last night I was mountain biking by Sea Tac Airport and the air was redolent with the smell of ripe blackberries. Yes, they attack me every chance they get, but then I take revenge and eat them! I'll be going back to pick - the season is going by very quickly.

Do you manage to do all the work yourself? or do you need/use helpers?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Abra,

What a wonderful blog!

Tell us a bit more about your personal chef position. How do you find your clients (or they find you)? Do you have set menu for them to select from? Your presentation is lovely: do provide the platters or do you use your clients (I'm assuming you "scope it out" ahead of time..). How long have you been doing it? How did you get into it? And, do you enjoy it?

Also, do you sleep? Seems like with the wonderful dishes, incredible lists, community service and other activities you have a very full life.

Looking forward to the future installments...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure, I'd be happy to demo. Let's see, I need to do some work with my vinegar mother, which threatens to take over the house, so I'll have my husband document the process, and we can talk about how quickly you all can get out to Seattle to grab a piece of my mother and start down the vinegar road. I'm having dinner guests on Monday, too, and I'm sure to try some new recipes for them, so that'd make a good demo. I started making some raspberry and blueberry liqueurs last month that also need attention. It's my first time making them, so I'll show what I'm doing, and maybe some of you will be able to jump in and save me from disaster.

Since I'm not a trained chef, I'm blissfully free of inhibitions. In the food world, that means that I almost always make new recipes whenever I have people over, and at least half of the time I'm making new recipes for clients too. I did preview the muffins and raspberry bars before I made them today, because I sensed that the client would be very exacting, being a lady in her 80s with ideas about how things should be done. But the shrimp salad was new, and turned out to be quite nice.

Now, for you chocolate fanatics, you can find the recipe on Epicurious, under Fudgy Chocolate Raspberry Bars. I'd insert a link, but I don't know how, short of just pasting in the URL.

Berries are one of my favorite things about the summers here. The other day I walked with my dog and grazed on blackberries most of the way, stopping to get a few amazing plums and a shirt-tail full of crisp, sweet apples from abandoned trees. I feel like a bear, in summer, grazing my way around the island.

All of the work I've shown so far I do by myself. I do use a helper sometimes, especially if the client wants any level of service. I have no FOH experience, and no instinct for serving, and I have a great helper who does. She's done a ton of work for a local caterer, and is a garnishing whiz. She's taught me so much, so that I'm no longert actively ashamed of how my food looks, but her garnishing blows mine into the dust.

Here's a little blurb on anise hyssop that I grabbed from the web: "Native to North America, Anise Hyssop is a perennial herb that is known for its anise scented foliage. It has violet colored flowers that bloom in July. It is a good bee and honey plant, and is used in seasonings and making teas...(Agastache anethiodorum) - member of the mint family, the leaves have a rich aniseed flavour, delicious in salads. Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees love Hyssop, and the edible leaves can be used for teas, salads and to flavor drinks. "

I like to eat the leaves, and the flowers are pretty sprinkled onto food.

I don't want to drone on and on - I think blogs are the most fun when they're really intereactive. So please, ask questions, give feedback, and let me know what you'd like to see more (or less!) of.

Since Batuta asked, let me start by saying that I have a (probably too ) detailed and lengthy bio on my website. Just go to www.rollingbaygourmet.com, and click on Meet the Chef. That's the general story. The thumbnail answer is that mainly my clients find me, because a) I'm a marketing wuss, and b) I have a husband who doesn't complain that I'm not working full time. But as I mentioned last night, tonight's the opening of a show I'm in, and I have to still make a decent dinner of some sort, put on makeup (something I only do for stage stuff and so am woefully inept at) and try not to succumb to stage fright. Geez, maybe I'd do better at makeup if I just thought of it as garnishing! Tomorrow I'll have more time to get really honest about the personal chef business, for those that are thinking of going into it, and for the merely curious.

Edited by Abra (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

So, to fortify myself before opening night, even if we did have to eat before 5:00 in order for me to make it, we had a salad with roasted potatoes and a little ribeye, which is unfortunately overdone since I left it in the pan while I tried to put on makeup.

i11160.jpg

And then...truth in blogging. When I got home, having survived the opening night crazies, I had, oh, this is so hard to admit, peanut butter on rye bread with a glass of red wine. I'm sure I'll be banished from Blogland, or even from eG, for such an apalling combo, but you know what? It suited me just fine.

As for WW points, I've been way over yesterday and today, and also not keeping track. Not setting a good example at all, am I? When life gets crazy, like it has been the past few days, instead of sleep I tend toward weird food. Lots of weird food. But don't knock peanut butter on rye until you try it - it has that certain je ne sais quoi, but I don't know what it is.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Similar Content

    • By Drew777
      I'm a Brit. I'm also a closet Frenchman.  To cap it all, I'm happily retired in Bangkok, the city of a street food culture that's second to none. The Thais are healthy and slim. I'm just this side of alive and far from slim. Lockdown has me fantasizing about my days working in London, Paris and New York, an existence, if one could call it that, revolving around gastronomy of one kind or another. They paid me, not so very much as it happens, to do what I enjoy doing most in life. We all get to do it, but I was one of a fortunate few who made it his metier. Well all that's in the past now, but I still dream of my time in Paris when lunch was a tad short of 2-hours, little-known local bistros remained affordable until the day they were discovered by La Bible (Michelin Guide) and the students were revolting - this was the summer of '68, for heaven's sake. Someone should open bistro here in Bangkok with a table d'hote of Soupe a l'Oignon gratinee, Blanquette de Veau, a stinky Epoisses and Tarte Tatin to finsih with creme fraiche. Ah, it's back to lockdown and pad Thai. 
    • By KennethT
      I was thinking of doing a food blog of my recent trip through parts of New Zealand's south island.  Most of the food we had was nothing spectacular, but the experiences and various scenery we had over the trip were amazing.  Is there any interest in this?
    • By Melania
      It's one o'clock on a warm summer's day in Florence, I'm on my way to get ingredients for lunch. The sun is high in the sky, the cobblestones are warm under my feet and the aroma of something delicious is in the air. My mind starts to drift to the onions, celery and tomatoes I need for my pasta sauce, oh and don't forget something sweet for dessert...this truly is la dolce vita.
       
      My thoughts are soon interrupted by an unwelcome "chiuso" sign on the door of my new favorite deli. The blinds are closed and the friendly owners are nowhere in sight. The reality of having my favorite pasta dish for lunch was slipping further and further away.
       
       
      What a nightmare! How can this be?
        A local passing by must have noticed my frustration.   "Signorina, è riposo. Tutto è chiuso!"
        Of course! How could I forget about the sacred Italian siesta?
        A siesta or riposo, as most Italians call it, is a time of rest. This time is usually around midday, or the hottest part of the day (very inconvenient if you're craving a bowl of pasta.) No one can really say where the tradition of the siesta originates, but many say it's all about food (no surprises there really).
        For many Italian families the main meal of the day is lunch. This heavy meal in the middle of the day is attributed to the standard Mediterranean diet: A minuscule breakfast of a coffee and pastry , a heavy lunch and an evening meal around 10 o'clock. The logic is that after such a heavy meal one would surely be drowsy and need to rest, no one can work efficiently on a full stomach!
        Post offices, car rentals, supermarkets and even coffee shops (in some smaller towns police stations too) all close their doors for a riposo. Everything comes to a standstill as every Italian goes home to kick of their shoes, enjoy a homemade lunch with family and bask in the Italian sunshine for three to four hours. This is serious business. One would not dare work for 8 hours straight. After their riposo most businesses open again around 4 o'clock and stay open till 7pm. Its the perfect balance between work and play and does wonders for your digestive system!
        "Grazie!" I thanked her for the reminder. The midday sun started to become unbearable. The streets had cleared with only a few tourists braving the midday heat still around. I thought about the strawberries I bought from the market earlier that week. Strawberries for lunch on my shaded balcony and maybe a nap afterwards sounded like my perfect riposo. The pasta will have to wait till 4.
               
           
    • By KennethT
      OK.... here we go again!!!  While this post is a bit premature (we don't take off until around 1:30AM tonight), I am extremely excited so I figured I'd just set up the topic now.  As in previous foodblogs, I may post a bit from time to time while we're there, depending on how good my internet connection is, and how much free time I have... but the bulk of posting will really get started around July 9th - the day after we get home (hopefully without too much jetlag!!!)
    • By KennethT
      Happy New Year!  I'm sitting at the gate waiting for my flight from Saigon to NYC connecting through Taipei so I figured this would be a good opportunity to get started... But this is just the intro- the rest will gave to wait until I land about 22 hours from now, sleep for about 12 hours, then get my photos in order! We had a great week enjoying beautiful weather, taking in the frenetic yet relaxed street life and eating some amazing local food...
      Our flight here was on EVA Airline and was very pleasant and uneventful. Our flight from Nyc to Taipei left around 12:20 AM on the 24th. I love those night flights since it makes it very easy to get a decent amount of sleep, even in coach. EVAs food is quite good eith both Chinese and western choices for dinner and breakfast, and they came through several times with snacks such as a fried chicken sandwich with some kind of mustard. I think I had 4 of them!
      Once I get home, I'll continue posting with pics from our feast in the Taipei airport.... Spoiler: those who have read my Singapore foodblog from July may see a slight trend...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...