Monday, February 23, 2015

Movies in a plate: "Ghostbusters"

As a child, one of my favorite movies was Ghostbusters. It was trippy, funny and it had ghosts, so needless to say I watched it many times. I've also been compared to "Slimer", who in the movie spends his entire time eating and finishing leftovers from strangers' plates. What can I say? I hate to waste!

I was very excited when they announced the production of "Ghostbusters 3" that we had been wanting for so many years. I celebrated the way I usually celebrate good news and enjoyed a nice meal with a lot of beer.

This is made out of rice, carrots and Ground mushrooms. Once I was done taking my picture I added the rest of the ground mushrooms and some homemade vinaigrette and finished the plate in a record time, staying true to my old nickname "Slimer".

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The day of the coconut

I recently did this "Movie in a plate" version of "Jaws", one of my favorite movies of all time. The shark definitely looks less scary when it's made out of Veggies. It reminded me of my first shark dive and I will always refer to that day as "The day of the coconut".

There’s nothing like crossing something off your bucket list, and the second you become a diver the bucket list seems to get significantly bigger. When we first arrived at our resort in Roatan, we immediately saw an opportunity to take care of a few items on the list including our fist shark dive. For some reason, being in the middle of twenty hungry but hopefully not angry sharks is a diver’s dream come true…Go figure

The dive was offered once a week and we had to wait a few days before being able to brag about it to the rest of the world but we were preparing mentally for the big day…mainly by getting drunk with the resort’s infamous cocktails while trying to convince other divers to sign up for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, thus lowering the odds that a shark would pick us to become their morning snacks. Not getting enough people to sign up for the trip to happen was also not an option, we were on a mission.

Days passed by, we encountered turtles, moray eels, an octopus, a few barracudas and we visited one of their wrecks “The Odyssey”. It was already a successful trip but all we could think and talk about was our upcoming Shark dive.

The day had come, and the sun rising in the distance indicated that it was time to get out of bed and face the beasts. Before becoming a diver, I don’t think I would ever see the sun rise during a vacation…now that I’m a diver, I seldom see the sunset anymore because I’m already in bed recovering for the next day…or I’m inside a bar, celebrating another day of diving.

We grabbed our gear and started walking to the restaurant to get our breakfast and some energy in the form of coffee before going down to the bottom of the ocean. However, we planned on not eating too much because we weren’t sure if sharks would be attracted to vomit or not.

As we were admiring the beauty surrounding us on the path, and getting excited about gaining a new diver badge by the end of the day, we suddenly froze when a coconut fell out of the sky and landed right in front of us, avoiding our skulls by just a few inches.

We had all heard before that we are most likely to die from a falling coconut than from a shark bite but I also have seen every “Final Destination” movies and I learned from these documentaries that if you cheat death it might come back to get you. So we looked at each other before resuming our walk. Was this an omen? Are we not supposed to get on that boat today? I mean some of us will look at it with a “Glass Hal Full” philosophy and say that it’s our lucky day because we didn’t die from that coconut….but others who see the glass “Half empty and filled with toxic poison” will say that it’s probably a sign that a hammock might be a safer activity for the day. But that dive was only offered once during our stay…and the deposit was non-refundable and those were two very good reasons to keep walking to the boat and face our fears in the eye (actually don’t look at a shark in the eye). After a light meal and a few cups of coffee, we said a prayer to Poseidon, grabbed our gear and jumped on the boat with a phony confidence that would get most actors an award at the oscars…or the Razzies awards…either way, we tried to look like nothing could scare us…not even a stupid coconut! The briefing was short: The divemaster was gonna go down with a closed bucket of chum, the sharks would smell that and dance around us for a while until the divemaster opened the bucket, the sharks would then eat and swim away in a matter of seconds and the last part would involve the curious divers swimming close to the bottom to try and find shark teeths. However, it seemed like the divemaster should have probably used reverse psychology instead of treating us like grown-ups. Everything he told us not to do during the dive….we ended up doing. “Please don’t touch the shark” sounded a lot like “Please do touch the shark” especially with the idling engine covering most of his lecture. The boat was full and we were proud to observe that a few of the fearless divers who had joined the adventure were some of our recruits. High-Fives all around! One of the divers cut his hand while assembling his BCD and a little bit of blood started dripping. But we were assured that sharks are not attracted to human blood: they only like fish blood…. Even though it sounded reasonable, I whispered to my buddy that we were going to stay as far away from that wounded diver as possible during the dive.

The first half of the ride was nice but we had been warned that getting to the dive spot required a long journey involving going to the other side of the island where the swell picked up and the boat started shaking like a mechanical bull at a hipster bar. After a few minutes of breathing in the engine’s fumes and being thrown from one side of the boat to the other, I started getting sick…..very sick. The eggs and the curd cheese were slowly making their way up, but my brain was telling my face to keep acting cool because there was no way I was going to miss that dive. After about twenty minutes of bouncing back and forth on the deck, we finally stopped at our dive spot. As an instructor, I should have known better: we always tell our students to never push themselves if they don’t feel good because there will always be another occasion to dive but they will never get a second life…. But I’m also a proponent of the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy and I jumped in the water first to try to feel a little better before having to descend down to 80ft where the Shark dance was about to take place. But what I hadn’t realized is that once I was in the water, there was no time to “chill” and feel better. The captain told me to make my way to the bow using the current line and there was no time to negotiate. I started pulling on the line and I was fighting a strong current. By the time I got to the safety stop buoy I was already out of breath but there was no turning back: I was there to see some sharks!

When I looked back and noticed the herd of divers behind me pulling on the same current line, I realized I only had one option: to keep going. So I started making my way down the descent line, pulling on it with one hand and holding on to my camera rig with the other hand. It was such a physical descent and I was so focused on making it to the bottom that I hadn’t even noticed that my buddy was having problem with her regulator and had switched to her octopus. I was being a really bad buddy. Once I got to the bottom I kneeled down on the sand and I tried to catch my breath, but it never happened. I was sucking on my air like the day I did my very first dive and I was not happy about it. The divemaster showed up with his orange bucket and set it a few yards away from us and dozens of sharks appeared out of nowhere. My strobes started firing away and even though a few of the sharks were so curious that they came a little too close for comfort it was one of the most enjoyable show I had ever seen. We swam around a bit and got enough souvenir shots to fill an entire memory card. The minute the divemaster opened the bucket to feed them they all devoured what was inside of it in a matter of seconds and disappeared. There were no sharks left. So it was finally time to try and recover a few teeth that may have fallen at the bottom during the feeding to turn into a cool pendant when we got back home. I swam for about thirty seconds until I realized I was dangerously low on air and no shark teeth was worth my life…so I signaled my buddy that it was time to bail and I started ascending a little faster than I was supposed to. My buddy followed me and by the time we were starting our safety stop I was completely out of air so I signaled her that I was going to grab her back-up regulator but after a few seconds of communicating with each other using made-up signals, I realized something else was wrong: she was already using her back-up because her main second stage wasn’t working.

So….we started buddy breathing during what seemed like the longest three minutes of my life. When our computers gave us the signal to go back to the surface, I was really happy to see the boat again and even happier to say that I survived my first shark dive. We went back to the resort with a lot of joy in our eyes and the memory of an intense but beautiful dive that will rarely be equaled.That afternoon, I ended up slipping on a rock and a sea snail lodged itself all the way into my foot. It was extremely painful and getting it out turned the hotel bathroom into a scene from “Saw” where my girlfriend had to pry it out even though its suction cup was attached to the flesh inside my foot. That day, we promised ourselves that the next time a coconut falls in front of us in the morning, the best plan of action is to either go back to bed or lay down on a hammock for the rest of the day.

Mini Soy Chorizo Crustless Quiches

Being a stoner on the go, I always try to find ways to make my life easier without sacrificing eating healthy homemade vegetarian meals.

I recently stopped at a Target store with my mother who bought me a new pan. She was feeling guilty for burning the one I previously had after forgetting it on the hot stove one evening while she was enjoying some relaxing time in the jaccuzzi.

Target is full of fun kitchen gadgets, and just like a kid in a candy store, I started whining and I asked my mother for everything in the store. "I want this! I want it, I gotta have it,  get it for me"

I left with a new pan....and a few cliff bars which are often used as my breakfast on my way to work. But I had my eyes on a muffin tray and it would take me a few days to work up the courage to go back to the store to buy it for myself. It's not easy being a man with a muffin tray at the cash register.

When I came back home I immediately put it to use and started working on my first batch of mini crustless quiches. I do enjoy a good muffin once in a while but I was looking to use it to make all kinds of savory snacks that I could then freeze and reheat later whenever I would get hungry. Since the tray has 12 compartments, it allows me to get a few meals out of one batch, hence minimizing the amount of effort required for each meal. But cooking so much for one person can also be dangerous if you end up eating all twelve quiches on your own...I know

Recipe for 12 quiches

- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream
- 100g soy chorizo
- Basil
- salt and pepper
- Thin Zucchini slices
- 1/2 cup of Grated cheese of your choice (I used swiss and Comté cheese)

Mix the eggs, the cream, the flour, the chorizo, the basil, 1/4 cup of cheese and the salt and pepper together. Pour the mix in the muffin tray about 1/8 inch from the top and add a slice of zucchini on top of the mix. The slice should be thin enough to stay on top of the batter and not sink. Then add the remaining cheese on top the zucchinis.

Place the tray in the oven at 375 degrees for 35 mn or until the top is becoming brown. I also tried it with a handful of ground mushrooms and loved it. It's an easy and festives recipe.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Movies in a plate: The March Of The Penguins

I recently channeled Steve Carell from "Dinner for Schmucks" and started working on a series of pictures depicting famous movie posters in vegetarian dishes: a true food nerd experiment.

My first food poster was done right after my trip to Japan where I had an incredible culinary experience. When I returned home I headed straight to the local Japanese supermarket and bought some of my favorite vegetarian ingredients like daikon, seaweed, pickled cucumber and sticky rice.

It was enough to work on my project and eat a decent meal.

I was inspired by the contrast of the black seaweed and the white rice and "The march of the penguins in a plate" wad created. And it didn't taste that bad even though that was a lot of daikon for one small plate (the clouds were made out of daikon). It wad hard to destroy it and eat it, but it was a better alternative than just letting it rot away.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Vegetti Spiral Slicer: My New Favorite Kitchen Toy

I have recently gone from being omnivorous to being pescatarian, but I have been eating vegetarian for the most part. Now it wasn't an easy transition: I was a meat lover for years and I would try anything on my travels and ate things that most people would never touch (eg: 7-Eleven hot dogs). But I decided to make the jump for a few personal reasons and I have been happy with this decision. I essentially only eat fish when I get a craving after a big workout or a long hike, but I keep it to a minimum. Who can forget Finding Nemo's most famous quote: "Fish are friends, not food". I had to change my way of thinking along the way and find new staple food to keep in my kitchen, while still making my cooking fun and delicious.

Going cold turkey was the only way to make this happen, but of course it meant that my first month of meatless dishes looked like....well... it looked like something was missing. As they often say on the show The Taste: "Where's the protein?" I still love to host diner parties and cook for my friends, and even though I will never try to impose my personal beliefs on others, I enjoy the challenge of treating them to a meatless but tasty dinner that hopefully will inspire them to cook more vegetarian dishes in the future. My quest for the perfect Vegetarian party dish had started. 

There have been some hits and there have been a lot of misses, but practice makes perfect and I persevered. Along the way I peeled, I boiled, I steamed and I puréed and green veggies don't scare me anymore: I have come to love every produce in the grocery store (except celery, now that's just nasty). I've also always wanted to keep having fun in the process, whether I'm having fun cooking or plating for a nice picture. And after too many visits to Bed Bath and Beyond, I finally gave in and bought myself a Vegetti Spiral Slicer.

Whether you're looking to cut back on the controversial gluten, or you simply want to find a fun way to eat vegetables for you and your family, the Vegetti will become one of your favorite kitchen utensil.

I have used it repeatedly with Squash and I have yet to experience with more veggies, but here are two of my recent dishes.

The picture on the left is a baked portabello mushroom with grilled cheese on a bed of yellow squash Vegetti with a homemade tomato sauce. The picture on the right is Squash Vegetti in a bowl of Gazpacho.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thanksgiving Shrimp Sliders

In my quest to win the thanksgiving cooking contest at work this year, I tried out a new recipe with some of our favorite ingredients from this sweet Holiday. I made a few shrimp sliders topped with homemade potato chips and yam chips and served with a cranberry and cilantro sauce. 

I made the shrimp patties by putting chopped shrimps and onions, cilantro, parmesan, flour and a small tomato in the food processor and turned the mix into a shrimp paste. I fried the patties until they were golden brown on both sides. I then deep fried the slices of yam and potatoes which gave a nice crunch on the first bite. I put a nice amount of my mix of cranberry sauce, mayonnaise and cilantro and served them with toasted sweet rolls.

They were absolutely delicious and I can't wait to share them with guests at Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Gourmet Stoner Tips: Going to the restaurant

There are two kinds of stoners: Those who get the munchies right after smoking and those who lie and say they don't get the munchies (I believe that should be categorized as an eating disorder). Whether we enjoyed a toke on the top of a mountain after finishing a strenuous hike, in the comfort of our home or at a coffee shop in Amsterdam we all face a situation that leads to hours of discussion and complex tasks if not handled properly: What are we going to eat?

While cooking or buying a good healthy meal at supermarket is always an option, let's face it....Munchies doesn't really rhyme with Tofu and beets but it does rhyme with cookies and goodies....and those goodies are even better if you don't have to move a finger or wash a single dish after it's all said and we usually opt for the other option: Going to a restaurant.

Now going to a restaurant with other people can be a daunting task in the first place, but if one of the members in the group happens to be stoned, it becomes a whole new experience. However, it does have potential to go well if the stoner has been trained properly.

There are a few rules that everyone should observe when going to a restaurant but these following rules are especially important for potheads who forget everything their mama taught them when they walk into food heaven.

1: Pick a location before you go
This might seem like an obvious one but how many times have you just gotten into your car driving to a neighborhood saying: We'll park the car and walk around and see what looks good. Here's what's going to happen: by the time you park your car everyone will already be everything will look good and nobody is going to want to walk around looking at other people eating. Pick a restaurant and go there (DO NOT stop a gas station or at a liquor store on the way there...there will be too many tempting munchies options that will kill your appetite)
Budget Tip: DO NOT pick a restaurant where you can't afford the most expensive item on the menu because chances are: that's what you're going to order when you're stoned.

2: Know what you're going to order before you get there:
There will be waiters going across the room with desserts in their hands, sizzling dishes, and cold pints of beer and you will be surrounded with delicious dishes on other customers' tables so it will become harder to make a decision once you get there.We all have smart phones and most restaurants have their menu online, and there is no excuse for spending ten minutes deciding what you're going to eat when everyone else is about to collapse because they're so hungry. While some stoners might think it's funny that you keep repeating "Everything looks sooooooo Goooooood!" every five seconds while reading the menu, others might want to grab their fork and stick it in your eye. Also: DO AVOID restaurants with pictures of their dishes...It is a stoner's worst ennemy and you will never get out of that restaurant the same person you were before you went in.

3: DO wash you hands before you eat
You grabbed a few nugs and shared drug paraphernalia with a bunch of other stoners, maybe touched a few door handles along the way, then you sat down at a table and touched a menu, and you're likely to order a burger that you're going to grab with your two hands and if the sauce is good you're going to lick every single one of your fingers in the process. So go wash your hands or you'll be wondering if you're sick because of the smelly fish or because of your smelly fingers.

4: DO NOT Stare:
There will also be a lot of other distractions in the restaurant like Televisions, hot waitresses, and amusing signs...DO NOT stare! Once you start staring you will get lost in whatever you're staring at and the group will take advantage of that by stealing fries from your plate and you will look like the creep in the restaurant.

5: DO NOT go to a "All-You-Can-Eat" Restaurant
While this may sounds like a smart plan at the time when you decide to go after you tenth bong hit, you might either regret it the morning after.....or you will regret it that same day. Either way, nothing comes out of a group of stoners going to a restaurant where the customer is allowed to eat a much as their stomach can take. Smoking somehow makes the brain think that our stomach is bigger than it actually is and when we come down form our high, we realize that it wasn't actually a black hole where food was disappearing from the surface of the earth.

6: DO Order water with your meal
Yeah, I knwo you "need" your beer and the cold pop makes your brain "tingle" but your cottonmouth is telling you one thing: You need to give it some good ol' water. Your body will thank you.,,,especially after you eat at that all-you-can-eat sushis restaurant in the middle of the desert.

7: DO NOT laugh obnoxiously
I do realize it's easier said than done and if somebody says something funny we would probably all laugh. But if the cooks in the kitchen can hear you laughing then maybe it's a little too loud. Think of your obnoxious stoner laugh as a fart: We know you can't help it but just go outside for a second if you're laughing so hard that tears are coming out of your dry eyes.

8: DO Order dessert when the Waitress asks
Let's face it, someone in the group will have a sweet tooth, and even if you don't want to indulge too much, you know you're going to grab one of those spoons when it's time for everyone to share that one slice of goodness....or you will regret not trying it. The waitress will be happy too because her tip just got bigger and everyone will come out of this experience a happy camper.

9: DO take your leftovers in a take away box
It might feel like this was the biggest meal you've ever had and there's no way you're ever going to eat anything again for at least twelve hours, but believe me: when you come back home to enjoy your digestive joint, you will be grateful for that food an hour later when all you have to do is throw it in the microwave to re-heat it. DO NOT stare at the food while you're microwaving it, the waves might damage your brain.

10: DO Leave a nice tip...if one of the members in your group didn't follow one of these rules
Whether you realize it or not, chances are that one person in your group was that annoying stoner that didn't follow these rules....and even if everybody acted in a civilized manner, you probably scared off other customers who may have enjoyed a cup of coffee or another be nice to the person who just made your life so much easier and fed you a delicious meal.