Write//Cook is taking a DETOUR…

I’ll make this short and sweet.

 

You guys have been an awesome bunch; following this blog and interacting with me; I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch o’ bloggers! But things need to change, and I need to regroup and focus. Therefore, Write//Cook is shutting down. However, you can still keep up with my work by following me over at these two locales:

 

WordPress: NomadInTheMiddle.wordpress.com

Instagram: instagram.com/jake4289

 

Thanks for the support, and bon appetit!

Writing A Book!

(cue internal “so THAT’S why he hasn’t posted anything lately!)

 

It’s true! Thanks to a new-found appreciation for crowdfunding platforms, I’ve decided to take my book project off the back burner (bad pun) and make it a reality. The project outline and cover art for my upcoming book “Misfits With Knives: Tales From a Culinary School” have been submitted to Publishizer (my crowd-publishing partner) and are pending approval! So stay tuned; more to come…13323763_10209172448533434_339672998726454307_o

Today’s Recipe: Moroccan-Style Tagine

Its wintertime here in the Midwest; snow and cold temperatures bring with it a desire to eat something warm and hearty. So, for your next meal, why not bypass the chili and head over to Africa for your meal inspiration?

Tagine is a Moroccan dish that is named after the earthenware pot it is served in. Flavors abound in the dish thanks to the many spices that inhabit the recipe; cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin among them. While some may add meat to the dish, I like to keep it vegetarian by adding potatoes for extra starch and (occasionally) serving it on a bed of rice or couscous.

 

Moroccan-Style Tagine

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 small Red potatoes, large dice
3 small carrots, chopped into 3/4″ chunks
1 Red Onion, large chunks
1 Red Pepper, deseeded, large chunks
1 Fennel Bulb, cut into medium/large slices
1 tsp Coriander seed, crushed
1 1/2 tsp Fennel seed
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 small Zucchini, cut into half moons
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
15 oz can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
28 oz can diced Tomatoes
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
zest and juice from 1 Orange
(optional) 3/4 cup Red Wine
4 cloves Garlic, minced

 

Process:

  1. Prepare your vegetables: cut the potatoes, carrots, red onion, and red pepper into large chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl. Slice the zucchini in half length-wise, then slice into half-moons and add to the bowl. Trim the fennel down to the bulb and slice the bulb into medium/large pieces and add to the bowl. Save some of the fennel fronds for a garnish.
  2. Drizzle olive oil onto the vegetables and season with the red pepper flakes, cumin, and fennel seeds. If purchased whole, cover the coriander seeds with a paper towel and crush with a large metal spoon. Add to the bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the vegetables until well coated.
  3. Spread the vegetables evenly on a pan and place into a 415F degree oven on the middle rack. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables have a slight char.
  4. Meanwhile, in a saucepot, drizzle 2 tsps olive oil and cook the garlic until fragrant, but not fully cooked.
  5. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cinnamon, orange zest and juice, and (optional) red wine to the pot and cook until a boil, then reduce to a simmer to begin the reduction process.
  6. When the roasted vegetables are ready, add them to the saucepot and continue cooking 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent settling and burning on the bottom.
  7. When the tagine is ready, serve alone or on a bed of couscous or rice with fennel fronds for garnish.

Enjoy!

IMG_0861

 

Yum

The Violent Gentleman

One look was all it took to tell:

This guy really needed his Jameson. As he took down his shot in one fluid motion and I took a cold pull on my beer in that Green Bay bar, my thoughts travelled back to the time we first met, where an unlikely friendship had begun.

Ted looks like a stereotyped badass. He’s on the big side, has a fair amount of tattoos, wears shirts showing off his favorite metal bands, and has a vocabulary (and a high propensity to use it) that would be the envy of any sailor. By all accounts, that description should fit any number of cultural stereotypes; from ex-con cook to child-scaring biker gang member. But Ted is neither of these. He is highly intelligent, well read (he consumes books like we consume fast food burgers), very creative, and always focused on working hard and bringing his best to any workplace.

How does one find this enigma? I found it by going to school with him.

He was in an upper class, and there was a special event. It was one of the first times I had the opportunity to work in the kitchen during an event, and I was nervous. Very nervous. I had just finished the task I was handed, and couldn’t find my instructor. So, I did what any first-term intimidated student would do: I faked it. (I did a lot of that; maybe the theme for another blog post?) Seeing another student place empty silver trays by the dessert cooler and walk away, I proceeded to line the trays up and clean them; paying no attention to the fact that they were already spotless. So much for blending in. Just then, one of the chef-instructors came over and saw me; “Oh good! Ted’ll have some help plating the desserts and cannoli!”. Curses! Caught. “You stay right there and grab some gloves behind you; I’ll bring Ted right over.” Oh well, I thought; plating can’t be too tough.

And then this big man came over, cussing up a storm about something that has now gotten lost in the ethos of time. “Damn! These f***in’ desserts? I spent all f***ing day trying to stay away from these things, and now I have to PLATE THEM??!!?!!?? You here to plate this s**t too?”

And so, I met Ted. 

We proceeded to plate the desserts, he lining them up on the pan and me taking empties away and cleaning up the platters before going out; all while trying not to antagonize this (obviously) very angry man. And then, the conversation started. He began by asking me about my kitchen experience: I told him that I had no kitchen experience and was a j-school dropout. He began telling me about his life cooking in kitchens, and some of the “experiences” he had working in the food industry. Some were slightly frightening to a kitchen newbie like me, and the others were downright hilarious. Ted showed a knack for being detail-oriented (a blessing in a kitchen) and task-driven (also a blessing). No matter what went down in those kitchens, Ted made sure that the food always got to the guest. The trays went out, and our task was done. I found a guy who was a wealth of experience and know-how who wasn’t afraid to tell you when your sauce tasted like s**t, and was also not afraid to tell you that he wanted to steal your recipe because it was so good.

During this time, I also found out that Ted was a voracious reader. From reading New York Times bestsellers to devouring Anthony Bourdain’s latest, Ted made me ashamed for my lack of reading during culinary school (note to Ted: I’m doing better now). 

We do not look like we should be friends: our backgrounds and paths in life are different. We do not look like we would be working or talking too much outside of our school experience together. However, we not only stay in touch regularly, we have also worked under the same roof for over a year; bouncing back and forth between two major league sports stadiums. After working a long game, we often take the time to stop at a bar nearby and catch up on work and life.
Which is where we came in. A very talented and hard working man is sitting across from me, throwing down a shot and swearing about things that could have been better. A perfectionist if there ever was one.
Can I buy you another shot?