(These are recaps of our “Hidden Apron at Home” Instagram Live sessions filmed under quarantine and held on my @errant_diner account. I focus on the fundamentals of cooking as I, a non-chef, understand them. They are based on my experiences learning how to cook and deal with systems and ways of thinking vs. just recipes. This eighth and final session features my favorite people and their favorite recipes. The annoying nature of IG Live means there was no recording saved this week.)
I’ve passed 100 days of quarantining, leaving the house only for the occasional takeout order or grocery run and my pots and pans have been taking daily trips between the sink and stove. But New York City has entered Phase 3 of its reopening and with that, I assume many of you – especially those who live in areas who are handling this virus way better than the US is – are now venturing out of your homes looking to finally enjoy something other than your umpteenth pack of pasta. With that said, I’m finally wrapping up this Hidden Apron at Home Series. It’s been a fun side project of a side project of a side project and I hope that everyone who’s stuck around watching me attempt to cook while drinking and rambling picked up something useful for their own kitchens.
I’ve learned a bit about video editing, the travails of attempting to go live on Instagram, and the frustrations of working with long-format video files. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do more videos with more guests and recipes but for now, I’m taking a bit of a break to see what’s left of this city. To help me close out our last episode, I’ve invited two of my favorite people to go through some of their favorites: Lindsey Fletcher and her refreshing G&T and Chef Josh Reisner who shares a basic ramen recipe. I also share my take on the Israeli drink Gazoz and my go-to dessert, Panna Cotta.
– 2 oz. Gin
– Fresh peach, sliced
– 2-3 leaves of Sage
– Tonic (preferably Fever Tree)
Muddle some fresh peaches and sage at the bottom of a glass. Pour gin, then add ice. Top with tonic water. Using fresh ingredients is key to making this a refreshing G&T. Lindsey, whose presence has made my meals and drinks infinitely richer, used super ripe, local Texan peaches and sage growing in the backyard.
This classic Israeli drink used to be made with a simple homemade mixture of soda water and fruit syrup. Over the years the syrups have gotten cloying and the drink declined in popularity against bigger soda brands. I tasted a revived version of this at Café Levinsky 41 in Tel Aviv whose proprietor Benny Briga uses a variety of house-made syrups, homegrown herbs and spices, and countless other ingredients fermenting and curing in large jars behind his counter. The result is far from artificial and since no two orders are quite the same, you’re hit with a different aroma and flavor each time. Mine, first made in honor of Juneteenth, uses the following:
– 2 oz. Gin (Japanese Ki No Bi Gin)
– 1 oz. Ginger Syrup (Ginger pieces steeped in 1:1 hot water + sugar)
– Frozen Kumquats and Blackberries
– Hibiscus Tea (aka Jamaica or Karkadeh)
– Soda Water
The fruits are first muddled with the syrup after which gin and tea are added to fill about half the glass. Add ice and stir before topping with soda water and garnishing with herbs. The variations here are endless and the template works just as well by replacing the Ginger Syrup with a Hibiscus one to really accentuate the flower and using other frozen fruits like Peaches and Apricots.
Chef Josh Reisner, my favorite collaborator for cooking schemes, started his formal forays into food with ramen. His ramens skew complex and inventive and I’m always amazed at how he’s able to pack so many layers of flavors into a single bowl. Even his chicken ramen which I asked be simple enough to fit into 20 minutes is no mindless act to laugh at. Here is the specific combination he used that may take some practicing and further research to perfect:
This is my one of my favorite desserts to both order and make for its simultaneous simplicity and luxury. At its base, this Italian dessert is simply a mixture of cooked cream, sugar, gelatin, and whatever flavorings you’d like to use, vanilla being the most common. I won’t even pretend to tell you I have developed a winning Panna Cotta recipe because in fact, I still reference this one from the Seattle Times which was published back in 2012. It was one of the first pieces I enjoyed for being so exacting in its approach to testing the perfect ratios for Panna Cotta and explaining what each variation ingredients does to the final result. Deliciously geeky. In case that link gets taken down, here are the ingredients:
– 2.5 c. heavy cream
– 1.5 c. whole milk
– 5 tbsps. sugar
– 1 tbsp. gelatin softened in 2 tbsp. water
– 1 section vanilla bean, split and scraped
The cream and milk are heated with the sugar and vanilla just before boiling to which the gelatin is then added. Whisk the mixture over an ice bath to rapidly cool it, ensuring that it isn’t gritty when you rub some between your fingers. Then pop it into the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours to set and that’s it!
Feel free to experiment with other flavorings instead of vanilla such using Earl Grey tea or other spices but personally, I prefer keeping the Panna Cotta itself incredibly simple and instead changing up the topping which is usually some kind of berry cooked in alcohol and a bit of sugar. And while most recipes have you setting this in an oiled ramekin and releasing the Panna Cotta out once it’s set, I actually like just having it set in one of those small half-pint takeout containers and eating it straight in there. Less things to clean and very easy to transport to friends waiting to be impressed.