Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Science of Pie

Perhaps this is telling of how much of a foodie nerd I am, but I consider chefs and bakers of amazing foods to be celebrities. I once saw Spike from Top Chef at an Urban Outfitters in Austin and while I was giggling like a school girl, I was too afraid to go say anything to him. Then when I found myself in the same sandwich shop as Iron Chef Jose Garces while in Chicago for a wedding, Justin had to force me to go ask him for a photo. I'm not too comfortable approaching celebrities, as I generally feel they just want their privacy. My bestie will be quick to point out to you that I once (and only once) had a celebrity freak out when I spotted Elijah Wood in Austin during SXSW and started yelling his name until he came over to take a picture with me. Hey, I was really into Lord of the Rings.

But since then I have maintained my composure when in the presence of people that I consider to be famous. Which is good because I was in the presence of two such women recently when I attended Science and Food presents The Science of Pie lecture with Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar and Chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, Milo & Olive and Sweet Rose Creamery.

Before the lecture, attendees had the chance to judge apple pies baked by the students in the Science and Food course at UCLA. First of all, why the HECK didn't my school have something like this? These lucky kids get guest lecturers like Chef Michael Voltaggio! While I wept about never having the chance to take such a rad class, the students explained that their assignment was to experiment with the elements of apple pie to accomplish the best possible tasting version. Students experimented with substituting the traditional fat used in pie crust (butter) for bacon grease or avocado oil. One group got all molecular gastronomy and formed pure apple juice into spheres dusted with pie crust crumbs, so that when you put it all together in your mouth the taste was identical to apple pie. My favorite pie used peanut butter as a fat and hit it out of the park in Flavor Town. 

After the judging, Chefs Tosi and Nathan shared their approaches to baking during the lecture. It was interesting to hear how different their styles and ideals for producing the best baked goods are. Even with almost opposite approaches, they both put out stellar products in my opinion. Tosi's thinking is that everyone already has their own favorite version of the classics like chocolate chip cookies and apple pie, so she doesn't want to compete. Her recipes push confections to the limit to give people something they've never experienced before, as exampled by her compost cookies (which they were handing out for free) that include everything from cereal to pretzels to coffee grounds. Chef Nathan takes a much simpler approach. Her opinion is that the reason the classics have been around for so long is because that's what people want, and it's what they crave again and again. She bakes traditionally and with very few ingredients.

I liked that they both emphasized the importance of salt in sweet items. So many cakes and cookies out there are just sugar bombs. You really need that healthy pinch of salt to enhance the other flavors in the item. I also loved when Chef Tosi said to "question everything". Even though my personal cooking style is much more on the simple side, like Nathan's, Tosi called us to question why we use certain ingredients in dishes and implement certain techniques. Is there another way it can be done better? Never stop asking yourself "why"?

Although not overly scientific, I really enjoyed the lecture and the opportunity to relish in a crowd of people as nerdy about food as I am. Even infamous Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold was there. If the title of this post deceived you into thinking there would be a pie recipe included, I apologize. I'm more of galette girl myself.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thoughts on Juicing

About a month before I got married my cousin Morgan was telling me about a wager between her and her mom to see who could lose the most weight by my wedding day. She said her healthy secret weapon was juicing and it intrigued me enough to add a juicer to my wedding registry. I chose the Breville Compact Juice Extractor because I didn't want a bulky machine taking up too much space in my kitchen and it got great reviews for the price.

The juicer arrived in the middle of wedding madness and went unused until New Years Eve. When I finally pulled it out and gave it a whirl, I was pleasantly surprised by the juicy results. Beyond the potential weight-loss benefits of replacing meals with fresh juice and the incredible health benefits of adding fruits and veggies to your diet, this stuff just tastes great! I have accomplished my 30 Before 30 goal #10 to use my new juicer and have had a lot of fun experimenting with combinations since then.

My first juice was a concoction of kale, carrots, apples and beet. I purchased the organic fruit from the farmers market, so everything was in season and local. Juicing organic produce isn't the cheapest option, as you'll go through quite a bit, but if you're going to put raw fruit and vegetables in your body, you want them to be clean and organically grown.

The items went in the juicer one by one, instantly demolished to nothing but pulp and liquid. The end result was a rainbow colored brew that looked and smelled questionable. I gave it a stir, strained the froth and poured a big glass for myself and one for Justin. After a quick "cheers" and shrug of the shoulders, it went down the hatch. was good! Our first juice tasted like health in a glass, but not in the "I'm eating grass" sort of way. Both Justin and I agreed that the juice tasted much better than it looked, and when you know that everything you put in your glass is fresh and healthy, you feel a lot better about drinking the liquid murk.

Below is a list of some staple juice ingredients that have become my go-tos.

red chard

Have you ever heard the expression, "Eat the rainbow?" The concept is basically that foods that are naturally vibrant and brightly colored are good for you. One of my favorite things about juicing is the crazy kaleidoscope of colors that it creates.

Even kids could get onboard drinking something so colorful and sweet, which makes juicing a great way to sneak fruits and veggies into your child's diet. 

If you're curious about juicing and its health benefits, I highly recommend watching the documentary "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead." Already juicing? Please feel free to share your favorite juice recipes here. I'm excited to continue the exploration and see what else I can get Justin to drink.