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Sunday
Feb012015

Elana's Food Journal - Braided (and Painted) Bread

I've been putting off posting this, waiting until it was perfect. Perfect for whom? Me? You? I've posted about imperfect food before, but this is something different. This is ME waiting for me to be ready to show you my work. I'm waiting for it to be good enough. For the timer to *DING* and say, "Ah-HA! Perfect soufflé."

Sigh. I hate it when I do this.

The whole dang POINT of this food journal is sharing and spontaneity. It's about process...knowing that my work — whatever you want to call this odd blended smoothie of art and food — is always progressing and moving toward something. Without the process of showing what I'm working on, testing the "recipes" if you will, it's pretty pointless.

With this piece, recipe, whatever, I was waiting to do MORE with it. More sketches, more painting, more more more more more.

Stop. 

You know how pasta tastes really awesome with just olive oil and parmesan cheese? Simple is better.

I was going to wait until I had worked out the whole layout, recipe and all. But this is about playing with my food. And doing all that would be WORK. And I have a job (or three). So I'm putting it up here in its current state: unfinished.

Well, sort of. It's finished for now. Tomorrow I might decide to change it, rebake it, throw it out the window (watch out, pigeons on my AC unit!), but today it's finished.

If you would really, really like to make this multi-colored bread, you can figure it out from what I've posted in these images, and this recipe. And if you can't figure it out, you can post in the comments, and I'll try and help you out. K? 

And here is a fancy flip-through version:

 

 

 

Friday
Jan162015

Elana's Food Journal - Transition Time

Transitions. These are the little places in between where life really happens. For example...what you do while waiting for a pot of water to boil; those quick moments of hurried conversation when you meet a friend on the street; brushing your teeth; walking to the coffee shop...the moments that set up the next event.

My transition Thursday (which happened to be yesterday from where I am writing this post) happened at a Baked Cafe on Church Street in TriBeCa. I had just come from a yoga class and needed a place to take a conference call, so I ducked into Baked and bought a juice. I had ten minutes before my call and immediately I wished I had brought my food (drawing) journal. But I sat at the bar table and drew on the notebook that I had, a lined composition variety.

It's often in these in-between moments that I recharge. These transitions really matter. They're not about filling time. They're an action area in which you prepare yourself for the next stage in life and take the steps necessary to set that up. How you use this time is hugely important.

This, of course, reminds of triathlon, which has two transition times — one after the swim that sets up the bike, and one after the bike to set up the run.

This year I've made a conscious decision to dial down the triathlon training and racing. But I've learned so much from it, that I feel like the analogy is relevant, at least in my life. When I was training, I never practiced transitions. I thought this was throw-away time and not significant enough to waste my energy on when I needed to run, bike and swim swim swim!!

But now, I find myself in a very transitional place (in life) and I realize that there is no throw away time, and these transitions are exactly where I should be putting my energy. If only, in life, like in triathlon, we had actual designated areas and moments to step into "transition" and have that be ok, part of the game. But in life, we just have to do it while we go about the rest of the race, seamlessly trying to integrate it into our daily routine, rush to work, push to the next adventure.

So I'm trying to enjoy my transition time. As in triathlon racing, I often find this time frustrating. I've just done something HUGE - I swam a mile! - and now I have to rip off this stupid wetsuit that feels like it's painted on, fumble with my helmet, and somehow get my feet in my bike shoes? Can't it all just HAPPEN for me? Where are my minions? Oh yeah....I don't have any. I would rush. Drop things. Once I think I lost 30 seconds (lots of time in tri speak) trying to buckle my helmet because my fingers weren't cooperating.

And this is how it is in life, too. You just did something big! Did you get a promotion? Perhaps a divorce? Or perhaps you've realized that your life calling is to drive a mobile pizza kitchen cross country teaching people about healthy, seasonal pizza cookery, throwing art and storytelling in there? 

Whoa. We just went over the edge a bit. Sorry. More on that later. 

But whatever it is. It's different than what came before. And then time you spend in between the two matters, so make it count. How have I been spending my transition time? Journaling. My "food journal" is a way for me to combine my love of art, cooking and writing. And it helps me see my thoughts, too.

Lately, I've felt like it's really going somewhere, creatively speaking. Where it's going, I do not know. But I've made a commitment to take the process slowly (or try to) and not get too caught up in the end game. It's about where I am at this moment (in my apartment at 6am); what I'm eating or drinking right now (really dark coffee with some coconut oil in it); what's happening around me (the radiator is hissing); and even how I'm translating that visually.

And slow can be ok. Even in racing. In my last race, when I fell spectacularly off my bike, I didn't know if I was going to run and finish the race. When I got to transition, I did everything so much more slowly. I put each shoe on one at a time, thoughtfully. I took a long drink of water and a deep breath. And then walked out of transition. When I got my times at the end of the race, I realized my transition wasn't any slower than they had been when I was steam-rolling through. 

So there.

Breathe.

Monday
Jan122015

Elana's Food Journal - The First Flip Through

So what is this food journal anyway? I addressed this briefly last time, I'll reiterate now: it's a grand experiment. For me, that I'm inflicting on you. But I feel like I'm onto something here. It's the beginning...of what, I'm not sure. I've been writing, drawing and photographing what I eat. Not to count calories but to keep track of something else - memories. Events, thoughts, dreams, smells, and yes, even recipes, that surround my daily encounters with food.

So I compiled the most recent pages (as I haven't been good about posting them one at a time) into a flip book, so you can see the progress, read my thoughts (literally) and experience the last few weeks through my eyes (and stomach).

Here are a few snippets, followed by a link to the full book.

I've been messing around a lot with bread. Over Christmas I made my own spelt flour bread and then made a brief, ridiculous movie about it. Here's the film:

I've been busting out the Instax camera with some regularity as well. The above photos were taken at a Taralucci & Vino on the Upper West Side with my friend Steve. We were trying to get a hold of the light. Quite literally. Steve was trying to get a hold of a cinnamon bun.

There's also been more pizza. So much pizza, I'm almost embarrassed to say. Wait. Scratch that. I'm PROUD to say there has been SO MUCH DANG PIZZA that it would horrify you. The above is one I created for a New Year's Eve Party.

And then there are the thoughts. Thoughts brough on by spending too much time in the kayak (my tiny apartment), reading too many articles about finding your "calling" in life, and easy access to Sharpie markers.

And then there are actual recipes. If you can follow this one, I'll make you more pesto.

This one I can't give you the recipe. I promised not to. And I keep my promises.

If you'd like to see the full, scroll down. I'd like for this to go somewhere... Where I don't know. But I'd like to add in more thoughts, actual recipes, and etc. I'm even starting to take this agenda out on my clients. I created a food journal for Colavita which I'll also post. 

Now how many girls let you ready their diary??


Tuesday
Dec232014

Elana's Food Journal - Leftover Pizza

Above pizza is from Emily's Pizza in Brooklyn.

Welcome to the first edition of ELANA'S FOOD JOURNAL (did you hear that echo?)!

This is very exciting folks. I'm starting a new series that I hope to keep up, New Year's Resolution-style. No! I actually intend to do it.

This is the place where food and art really collide in a slice (no pun intended even though there is pizza pictured above) of my life, through food. 

This journal really exists. It's mine. I record what I eat. But not in the usual way. It's not a laundry list, calorie counting smorgasbord of random things I have eaten throughout the day.

It's just a piece of my day, made memorable (or not) by what I ate. Maybe it was leftover pizza for breakfast, as shown above. Maybe it's going to be coffee and kale chips (bad combo, people...just sayin'). The doodles and art are also real. Done by me, as I see fit to work them around the food.

This journal will reflect:

My mood

My appetite

My relative energy for drawing/creativity.

Sometimes there will be recipes. Sometimes not. Sometimes I might not even say anything (wooohoooo - vacation for you!

You may ask, "What is the dang point, Elana?"

Well, I'll tell you. The point is that I'm constantly trying to think about how to be DIFFERENT with my food art and food stories. This project is an attempt at that. To really THINK about what it means to tell a story with food, using a literal analogy.

And if any of this seems ridiculous, first know that:

1. It is. Hooray!

2. I've had an amazing sinus infection for the past 4 days, so a lot of things seem like a good idea right now.

Finally, I'm posting these on my own little website that is currently under construction, but if you'd like to check that out, click here.

Monday
Dec152014

Eat Like a Iaciofano - Christmas Cookies!

Season's Greetings, readers!

How's everyone's holiday shopping coming along? That good, yes? Excellent.

I've managed to make more cookies than purchases this year, and that's been a conscious effort. I've been finding it fascinating to focus on my family's eating habits, especially as they revolve around holiday traditions.

You know when you have a group of caged animals at the zoo? Like lions? And then a zoo keeper throws in some raw meat and CHAOS ensues? Welcome to Christmas cookie time at Iaciofano HQ.

Russian Tea CakesI talked about some of these habits before. It does seem that for a family of four, the Iaciofanos make and consume an inordinate amount of cookie. So much so, at least on the consumption side, that Marmo has taken to hiding them. I detailed some of her favorite places here, and indeed, when I returned home this weekend for baking, she whispered in my ear, "There are biscotti in the laundry room."

Close up pizzelle actionI don't think she is fooling anyone anymore, because as baking commenced on Sunday, one or other male Iaciofano crossed the path from TV room to laundry room, emerging cookie-laden (cue Marmo, exasperated, shouting: STOP EATING THOSE!!!).

This post, recipes and corresponding flip through book (link below) stem from both my amusement at these family habits and my own cookie-making frenzy.

This weekend, Marmo and I made three types of cookie: The Russian Tea Cakes (probably my all-time favorite), Pizzelle, and some iced-gingerbread cookies. 

The iced-gingerbreads were not initally on the menu. They're not a traditional "Iach" cookie. But I had a plan.

Usually, when I have a plan the Iaciofano parentals brace themselves against said oncoming idea as one might tape down the house windows in preparation for a hurricane. It's not encouraging behavior. However, I must press on and will not be dissuaded by exasperated looks, sighs of defeat, moans of exhaustion or other nonsense.

My plan this year was to ice the gingerbread cookies to look like...wait for it....mini margherita pizzas!!

Yes? YES! 

I had first played with icing Christmas cookies here, and had much fun with it. But this time, I had an icing agenda: to make the sugary medium look like tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. 

To prep, I ordered a few things from Amazon (since I signed up for Prime, I can't stop ordering things from Amazon. I think I need a support group). I had this decorating kit, this icing mix (oh yes, I was cheating), and this pack of food coloring shipped to Iaciofano HQ.

For the recipe, I used this gingerbread cookie recipe that I had made previously, here. It's super-fantastically easy and tasty.

The cookies came out even better than I thought they would. They really looked liked pizzas! In cookie form!

I even made a pizza oven out of gingerbread.So thrilled was I, that I began excitedly snapping photos of said cookies and then everything else, including what Marmo was making for dinner: her special Lasagna Bolognese (recipe at end of post).

Marmo prepping the pan.My favorite shot of the day - steam from freshly boiled pasta.Filling in the layersReady for the oven!I have to say, her lasagna is really a masterpiece. It sports a beef-based Bolognese sauce complemented by a smooth Bechemel that is both velvety and decadent. She translates the recipe from the Harry's Bar cookbook. We added a salad, some California Merlot, tree decorating and more cookies as sides.

Some of my take-aways from the day were:

1. The light in the dining room is Northern light and much better for food photography. I've been taking photos in the kitchen like a fool (Western light) for too long.

2. Toby's new jingle-collar is really dashing.

3. John prefers to play the "foreman" instead of actually decorating the tree. This apparently involves very half-assed art direction as to which ornament should go where. And wine drinking. It involves that too.

3. I do not know the difference between the Shuttlecraft and the Enterprise (we own both as Christmas ornament representations, and I can't tell the difference much to The Box's horror and dismay).

4. Our TV has only one channel: The Golf Channel.

Here any and all Iaciofano Family Christmas Cookie Recipes for your enjoyment (and one lasagna recipe)

Pizzelle

Russian Tea Cakes

Iced Lemon Knot Cookies

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Gingerbread Cookies

Lasagne Bolognese

Ingredients:

1 box of no-boil lasagna

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you like)

For the Bolognese Sauce
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small onion or large shallot
2 T butter and Olive oil each
¾ lb of ground beef
¾ lb ground veal
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Tbsp of flour 
½ cup of white wine
4 cups of chicken broth
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp thyme 
salt and pepper to taste


For the Bechemel Sauce:

1/4 cup of butter (1 stick)
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of flour
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Process
For the Bolognese Sauce:
Process the carrot, celery and onion in a food processor until fine.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the processed vegetables in the skillet until soft—about 10 minutes.
Then, add the ground beef and veal and cook thoroughly.
Next, add the tomato paste and flour to the skillet and stir until well combined.
Now add the white wine, and simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.
Add the chicken stock and all the herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste!
For the Bechemel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture starts to turn a golden color.
Add the milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste!
Assembly:

Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and add in the lasagne noodles. Boil for about 3-4 minutes. You don't want to cook them, you just want to get them started. Even though we indicated no-boil pasta, boiling them for a short amount of time prevents a dry lasagna. You don't have to pre-boil, but if you don't, add a bit more sauce to the dish for extra moisture.

Grease a 9x13" oven-proof dish with butter. Add a row of the lasagna noodles.  Layer Bolognese sauce on top of the noodles, then dollop a little Bechemel on top of that. Continue layering until all the noodles have been used.

The top layer should be a Bolognese layer with Bechemel around the edges (as seen in the above photo). Dust the top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F degrees.