Mochi is my new popcorn

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My new favorite snack. Mochi! Not the mochi covered ice cream that many of us know and love. It is purely slice and bake pounded sweet rice yumminess. I found it in the case next to the tofu at Whole Foods.  They come out of the oven puffed and crisped on the outside and chewy on the inside, and yes a little funny looking.

My mom is visiting, for a snack we popped some in the oven and afterward I poured a little melted butter on top and as always a little sea salt. I said “it tastes like bread, right?” she looked at me with a very serious face, then said “better”.

I am hooked and so happy. I held back and didn’t buy every flavor in the store. Oh my they have chocolate slice and bake mochi at Fairway Market! I decided I have to finish the cinnamon raisin first before I have the chocolate, so I must to get to work on eating some mochi!

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Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

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We have all had hot chocolate. When it starts to get cold outside it becomes a comforting treat, it may be someone’s morning coffee or evening dessert, regardless it signifies warmth and comfort.

When young, hot chocolate typically was the powdered stuff, growing up it becomes more sophisticated. I remember being in Spain ordering a chocolate ice cream, I apparently ordered wrong but my miscommunication turned into the the best mistake I ever made. Hot chocolate in Spain is very thick and rich, it is meant to eat with a churro, I ate mine with a little spoon and nearly fell off my soda fountain stool while drinking. Here is a  delicious hot chocolate, not too sweet and full of flavor. Something to sit on the couch with a blanket and sip.

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

One Serving

1 1/2 cup 2% milk
1 tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan heat milk, sugar, cinnamon and sea salt until it gently boils, take off the heat. Add chopped chocolate and let sit for one minute, then briskly whisk until combined. Serve immediately.

Magical Vanilla Salt

A few months ago I was shopping for a food photo shoot, we needed lots of different types of salt for a picture so I was on the hunt for variety. I walked to Forager’s Market, the lovely DUMBO store that always has just what I need and this time was no different. I found Maldon Salt, my favorite. It’s a British sea salt that is flakey, light and airy, I use it on everything. They also had smoked Maldon, I remembered when I first moved into the neighborhood walking into the store and there it was, such a treat, like someone saying “we will give you this great market and we will put smoked Maldon in it too!” They had many other salts which I had seen before and then I saw the vanilla salt. I realized that the smoked Maldon had just been upstaged. Fleur de Sel, vanilla and kaffir lime zest it was beautiful and it was coming with me.

Now I have heard of vanilla sugar, it is a common ingredient in Swedish cooking, but this was new.  It sat on our shelf for a few weeks, I would look at it when doing the dishes or filling up the water purifier wondering what I would do with it, and then finally one day I thought pork! Thick-cut bacon, two bone-in pork chops and sage cooked in a cast-iron pan….my boyfriend and I were eating looking at one another saying “who do we think we are eating something this good, let’s make it again tomorrow.” I must say bacon wrapped anything is worth the recipe alone but the vanilla salt adds a richness and an earthiness that sends the dish over the moon. Here I have the recipe for the bacon wrapped pork and I have included a homemade version of the vanilla salt I bought.

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Bacon Wrapped Pork Chop with Vanilla Salt
4 pork loin chops bone-in 1 inch thick
4 slices of bacon, preferably nitrate free
8 fresh sage leaves
1 ½ tsp. vanilla salt

Vanilla Salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¼ cup of fleur de sel
1 tsp. lime zest, chopped finely

Take out pork chops, rinse and pat dry, set aside. Make your vanilla salt by combining the vanilla bean seeds, fleur de sel and lime zest in a small bowl.

Sprinkle pork with a little more than an 1/8 tsp. of vanilla salt and black pepper to taste. Place a sage leaf on each side of pork and wrap with one slice of bacon.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot add two of the wrapped pork chops seam side down, cook 5 minutes on each side, when cooked take pork out of the pan and let rest 5 minutes. Cook remaining two chops.

-Molly Rundberg

Cooking on East 10th Street

Co-op Chef’s cooking class in an East 10th Street apartment September 2nd  was great fun. There were four moms all with kids  14-15 months. These moms originally met one another at the East Village YMCA and have been friends ever since. Throughout the night they spoke about the difficulty of getting dinner on the table as well as what their kids like to eat. One child ate everything except fresh fruit, one could handle a little spice, while others preferred things on the plain side. It seems to me (not a mom but someone who has the great pleasure to cook for kids all around the city and my sweet niece in California) that children’s taste buds are about as different as their personalities. Maybe kids are trying to tell us a little about themselves through what they eat. Adventurous, careful, timid, bold, thoughtful and discerning are all things kids could tell us about themselves when eating.

We made many child friendly items with quinoa and millet (both high protein whole grains) as well as easy vegetable ideas and baked chicken fingers. And what did the host mom’s little girl eat up while the ladies were cooking away in the kitchen? The apricot quinoa. Quite surprising maybe, but quinoa could be child friendly depending on how it is prepared.  I decided to make it for the little girl (again 14 months old) whose family I cook for in Southampton in the summer and she ate it up as well.

DSCN0642Quinoa with Apricots

1 cup quinoa
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. finely chopped ginger
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
2 tbs. cilantro, chopped
1 tbs. scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbs. finely chopped red onion (optional)

Dressing
1 tbs. lemon
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper

Thoroughly rinse quinoa, in fine mesh strainer, until water runs clear.
Heat a medium sized sauce pan with 1 tbs. of  olive oil over medium heat, add ginger and garlic, sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant, add apricots and sauté another minute. Add quinoa and the remaining tbs. of olive oil.  Toast quinoa until it starts to turn golden, about 3-4 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups of water, salt and pepper, bring to a boil then quickly down to a simmer, cover for 10-15 minutes or until grain is soft and translucent. It is important not to stir. If there is a little water left in pot and quinoa is tender uncover and turn heat up just a tiny bit, cook until the liquid evaporates about 2 more minutes.  Place quinoa in a bowl and toss with dressing and the herbs. Serve right away or serve cold and add chopped red onions.

-Molly Rundberg

Welcome to CO-OP CHEF

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As private chef and freelancer in New York City, I cook pretty much everyday either for a job or for my boyfriend, myself and friends. Sometimes my longest days at work roll into an evening of cooking something that has captured my attention all day.

This blog will be filled with those food day dreams, the things that I think about while I am cooking other things, those luscious ingredients that I get to play with at photo shoots or that I find while traveling. Really, my food inspirations come to life.

-Molly Rundberg

info@coopchef.com