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Olive You From My Head Tomatoes!

Well,  here we are - last email before December - 4 more left for the year.  Can you believe that??  November has come and gone. To finish off Gratitude Month, I can't think of anything better to talk about than relish.  No, Not that kind silly, Thanksgiving was last week!  I'm talking about the other kind of relish.  The feel good kind.  The kind that doesn't come from food.  The kind I get from YOU!

Let me explain... Remember last week where my great good buddy, Big Will, wrote that little piece about the intimacy of food?  If not, click here to go back and read it.  Those aren't just words.  That was a well articulated piece of magic that couldn't better describe what food is, or should be, or used to be - to me, anyway. 

Anyone that knows me (and I said it last week) knows that I am also a restaurant Ex-Pat.. a Defector!!  And I've never been happier.  I'm happier now than I was when I got into this industry.  Something I never thought I'd say... but It's true.  And you know why?  It's because I love what I do again.  I'm back to what allured to this fate of a cruel mistress in the beginning.  My first love... making people happy with food!  I don't know what all you awesome & amazing people did to me, but you restored a large part of my life that I thought I'd never get back. 

(This is one of those times where I have to back up to go forward)

I'm sure that most of you have heard this a thousand times, but way way back, when I was just starting out as a young cook in the industry, my passion and drive were insatiable!  I went to work early.. I stayed late.. I worked holidays, came in during bad weather, worked with cuts, burns, blisters, shoes that weren't waterproof, without days off... didn't matter - Nothing could keep me away because I WANTED TO BE THERE!  And then, you work your butt off for a long time, and you work up the chain, and you work really hard some more, and then you keep pushing yourself beyond what you even thought your limits were capable of... and now.. and now you're a Sous Chef.  Haha, fooled you, you thought I was going to say Head Chef.. nope, not yet.  The sun comes up and the sun goes down... wash, rinse, repeat.  More years go by and you're finally off on your own.  Now you have your own kitchen.  Time to sit back, relax, and let all that hard work pay off.  PFFT!!! NOT!  It just gets harder, and more of it.  It never stops, tickets never stop printing. At least.. AT LEAST one of your staff, either calls in sick (last minute of course), or no call no shows.  And that's on a good day.  A good day to be off, you thought.. until your phone rings and it's one of your line cooks or the restaurant manager in a panic because the proverbial shit is hitting the fan and you're not there to play crowd control.  I know what you're thinking - he's over there exaggerating... he's pulling my lariat.  This is just some smoke and mirrors.. there's no way this could be true - or maybe if it is, maybe it happened once or twice.. Well, let me tell you that this is an every week, quite truthfully, near daily occurrence.  And it wears on you.  It slowly breaks you down. Little by little, Chinese Water Torture style until one day you get so frustrated that you say "To hell with this".  Does anyone remember that one scene from Top Gun where Goose is worried that Maverick's hi-jinks are going to get him kicked out of flight school so he quickly contemplates calling that Trucking Company as a back up plan - what was it, Truck Masters I think?  Yeah, something like that.  I've given my knives away twice.  All of them.  "I'm 300% done with cooking FOREVER! I'm never doing it again!"

Good knives are expensive to replace - I know this well. 

Anyway, Big Will and I's stories are congruent.  And we're not the only ones.  The restaurant industry is a hard industry folks.  I wish all of my fellow comrades who are still in the game the best, but as for me, I need more.  Seeing the look on people's faces through the little tiny peephole on the kitchen door when the server brought out their plate just wasn't cutting it for me anymore. There wasn't any interaction.  I felt like a lonely hamster on a wheel - day in and day out - Just doing the motions and spinning, spinning, spinning.  Until one day, my life changed.  I met Cortney.  The love of my life! My everything!  I knew immediately there was something special there - and gosh was there, I just didn't know it yet.  Oh, and I put my notice in at work a few short weeks later.  I was FREE!  But now what?  Big Will went back to college to pursue his PhD - what in the world was I going to do?  The answer wasn't immediately obvious.  All I knew at that point was I was in Love!... (and job-less)  The good news is that during all of this (and how I met Cortney) is through teaching a few cooking classes - I didn't know that I was going to fall in head over heels with two things!  Teaching cooking classes instantly starting renewing that which had been slowly chiseled away.  I was right back in front of people.  Interacting!  I started building relationships with people - something I hadn't done for years.  My outlook on life was positive again.  Could it be possible?  Could this work?  How?

As it turns out, it was and is possible, and now I know the "how & why".  It's our customers!  YOU!  I would not be where I am today without YOU!  All OF YOU!  YOU have made this small dream a reality and I can't thank you enough.  The aggregate of all of you have made me ME again!  And it is because of every single one of you that I am on my way back to being the person I once was and wanted to be 20 years ago, and there are no words.   I am back to the kid that you can't keep from work - no matter how hard you try, how hard it snows, locusts, etc.  Food is my life, I'm lost without it, and I want to share every piece of it.  I have accomplished nothing if I cannot share what I have learned with people.  

The three recipes I am sharing this week are the three that people keep coming back and saying how much they loved them.  These recipes are simple, but they are Fan Favorites.  Keep being amazing everyone! Always keep in this in mind -

Business relationships are formed on golf courses... Love is formed around food.

Learn More

Smoked Tomato Sauce

• 2 T. olive oil

• 1 onion, julienne

• 5 cloves garlic, smashed

• 2 T. tomato paste

• ½ C. sherry

• 8 smoked roma tomatoes

• Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on the stove. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, and cook until it starts to caramelize. About 3 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and reduce until the alcohol evaporates. Add the smoked tomatoes and season with salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Puree the mixture into a smooth sauce.

Tomato, Hibiscus, & Red Miso Preserves

• 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half, and crushed slightly

• 2/3 c. sugar

• ½ tsp. salt

• 4 dried hibiscus flowers

• ½ orange, zested

• 2 T. rice vinegar

• 2 T. red miso

Combine the tomatoes, sugar and salt in a large pan and let sit for 5-7 minutes. Then add the vinegar and turn heat to medium and let the tomato mix come to a rolling simmer – then add the dried hibiscus flowers. Let continue to reduce until thick. Reduce heat to very low then add the orange zest and miso and let simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat and let cool. Check seasoning.

Castelvetrano Olives in Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

• 1 T. shallot, chopped + 2 T. shallot sliced and reserved

• 1 tsp Dijon

• 1 tsp honey

• 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

• ¼ c orange juice

• 2 T. oil

• Pinch of salt and pepper

• 1 c. castelvaltrano olives, pitted, drained, rinsed and patted dry

In a blender, combine the 1 T. chopped shallot, Dijon, honey, white balsamic vinegar and orange juice. Puree until smooth. When smooth slowly add the oil to make an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the olives and add the sliced shallots and mix well to combine. Let sit for an hour.  This is a snack to have during cocktails.