The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm Officially a Chef

I'm officially a chef. That is what it says in print in the flier for the 10th annual Baltimore Book Festival. It said Chef Dara Bunjon, who knew! I've organized numerous cooking classes, attended La Varenne classes at the Greenbrier and took a 4 day course at the CIA in Hyde Park but have I truly earned that title.

I have never worked behind the line in a restaurant kitchen though years and years ago I was a short order cook at my parents patent drug and luncheonette and did the same at Read's Pharmacy while in high school to earn money for my drivers education class.

I was hired by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson to do the cooking segment from their cookbook "One Bite at a Time". A book fashioned for cancer patients that is pumped up on flavor - as Rebecca calls it "The Yum Factor". I presented a ginger carrot soup with a cashew cream topping. All went well, Mat was thrilled - the audience had questions and I knew the answers. Even an 11 year old wanted to have her picture taken with me.

There were moments of humor when two volunteers who came on stage to taste the soup were named Skip and Lou. I quipped "Skip to my Lou".

I told my story about salt being a conundrum or contradiction it sweetens, it draws moisture, removes bitter, makes water boil hotter, it adds moisture when brining - it is the only spice that has a place on our tongues - i.e. salt, sweet, sour, bitter.

Yesterday I worked for two authors doing the food prep for their demo's on the Ultimate Frozen Dessert Cookbook and the Peanut Butter Cookbook by Mark Scarborough and Michael Weinstein. I made lemon gelato for tastings and the fellows did two savory dishes from the peanut butter cookbook. Their next book is the Ultimate Cookbook. I asked, "is that a compendium of all your Ultimate themed books?" Mark replied, "no, it is all new recipes - 2,000 exactly" and rolled his eyes. I will need to start pumping iron just so I can lift the book.

Oooh, oooh-before I forget I was awarded a plate thanking for me for participating in the 10th annual Baltimore Book Festival. I was excited, thinking they spelled my name correctly in the paper....uh oh, the plate said Dana Bunjon.

Well that is it, no Five Dollar Sunday today. I'm too tired to cook, its a 25th anniversary of when hubby and I met so no sweating over the hot stove. Stay tuned in............... Chef Dara

Monday, September 19, 2005

Barter for Food

With starting a new business I was looking to see where I could save the outflow of cash and struck a deal with Cathy Rubin who does my electrolysis. She was planning a gathering for her husbands 50th birthday party so this seemed to work. My cooking services for her electrolysis.

First I was going to make a couple of dishes for a large party then her husband didn't want a big deal then 5 days before they decided to have some close friends over. Cathy and I talked a bit about the food. Her guests like to do a long cocktail hour so we figured on hors d'ouevres.

Lemongrass Chicken on Skewer
Spicy Shrimp - New Orleans Style (with bread for dipping)
Tomato & Olive Bruschetta
Crab Imperial Spread

We planned for a Caesar Salad, Asian Brined Turkey Breast, Poach Salmon with Dill Cucumber Sauce and Italian Brisket of Beef. Her friend was bringing a cheesecake though we did decide to do a Grand Marnier Chocolate Ganache dipping sauce for pineapple and strawberries.

With shopping, planning, prep, heating, serving and clean up it was about 17 hours of my time.

The Lemongrass chicken turned out awesome. I combined a couple recipes I saw, nuked the chicken for about 1 1/2 minutes and then on the stove top grill to caramelize the sugar that was in the marinade. I get the minced lemongrass at Lotte which made this easier to prepare.

Cathy's son is a finicky eater, has allergies, plus wants the food to be organic. Interestingly enough, he likes beef. He really enjoyed the brisket as well as his friend (they put a serious hurting on it) so the balance went in the fridge for her husband. He asked if I could teach his mother how to make the brisket.

I left the party before dessert went out. Other than a couple bruschetta all the hors d'ouevres and spreads went. I saw a guest dipping the chicken in the sauce from the shrimp. So the arrangement was a success all-the-way-around.

So as it stands now I have more services coming from Cathy, the Lemongrass Chicken is on my do again list and I'm eating regular.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Conquering Crab Cakes

Conquering Crab Cakes

I don't know how many times I have tried to make crab cakes and they have fallen apart in the pan. I have tried numerous recipes. Just last week one called for 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise and melted butter for one pound of crabmeat. I refrigerated the mixture for an hour to help set up to no avail, they crumbled in the pan.

So tonight I used one tablespoon of mayonnaise, one egg, teaspoon of Dijon mustard, teaspoon of old bay, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, splash of Worcestershire sauce and chopped red pepper. After forming the crab cakes I rolled them in additional breadcrumbs and put them in the fridge for an hour. At last a crab cake that didn't fall apart when sauteed. Success!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

All You Can Eat Shrimp

Yesterday I journeyed to Baltimore's Harborplace to watch "Old Bay" seasoning 4th annual peel and eat shrimp contest. Rather than incur the rising cost of gas and parking in downtown Baltimore I took the subway - something I haven't done in about 4 years. That is another story.

So tented under the noon day's sun were 8 contestants from all over the country, 7 men and 1 woman looking to gorge themselves on shrimp in the hopes of winning $10,000.00. Each contestant was given a bowl of shell on shrimp and as the bell sounded we got to witness the dexterity of how fast a shrimp can be peeled and consumed. Let me state these were not small shrimp they were 21-25 count per pound if they were identical to the samples giving out to the audience.

As they counted down the last seconds 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, contestants stuffed whatever they could in their mouths. Cheeks were ballooned like Louis Armstrong's cheeks when he plays his horn. Organizers vocalized that the contestants should take their time to chew the last of the shrimp before swallowing. One contestant in obvious distress from all the food laid down on the platform in what seemed an effort to equalize the shrimp throughout his body.

The contest organizers called for a woman, man and child to participate in a one minute contest and the young man one a prize package of branded items. By this time they had finished the tally and the winning total was 89 shrimp consumed in the 10 minute contest. (equal to about 4 pounds of shrimp).

There was some controversy prior to the national contest from the "competitive eaters association" when a professional competitive eater called foul.

So before I packed up my Old Bay samples and went into the pavilion to cool down for a bit I enjoyed some steamed shrimp. Of course the little cup with 2 shrimp each wasn't enough so I went back for more. I stopped feeling guilty when I saw one woman with a plastic Old Bay cup the size of a Big Gulp brimming with shrimp.

There is a lot of back story to Old Bay Seasoning and how it came about. One interesting story is that many years ago the Arcadians in their travels before arriving in New Orleans spent time on the Eastern Shore and possibly could have started the seasonings for crabs. It is also said that it was a general store owner at the docks who would take the last of each spice bins and mix it with the other leftovers and sold it off to the crabbers. There is probably truth in both.

If you haven't used Old Bay seasoning you should, it isn't just for shrimp and crabs...try it in a Frogmore Stew, corn on the cob or potato salad.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Should Be Working

I should be working, working on my public relations, marketing, media service company but I'm intrigued with blogging and I'm typing my first post or in food venacular, putting my fingers in the frosting.

A couple months ago I started the Dining Dish E-Newsletter and have found the information piling up that I want to write about so I thought blogging is the next best way to make the 'foodie' news more timely and available to my subscribers.

My goal is posting anything from local Baltimore & Washington DC food news to new cookbooks hitting the shelves. As I learn the capabilities of blogging the site will be expanded.

Grab a seat as a "child of the 60's" navigates the world of blogging.

May I direct you to two stories in the August 31,2005 Washington Post one from self exiled restaurateur David Hagedorn called On Cheapskates and Scams (POINT) and Phyllis Richman's Ex Critic: Hey! 'Rude' Diners are your Meal Ticket (COUNTER POINT). The conflict is a restaurateur who is burned out by all the shenanigans of the public who tend to abuse restaurants to the former food critic of the Washington Post taking the consumers view. Some where in the middle is the truth. I've waited a table or two in my day and more so, as an avid consumer of many restaurants from the 'quick bite' sandwich shop to the most formal restaurants in the country I see both sides.

You need to sign in at the Washington Post site but its worth the read and would love to hear your comments.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin