Making Caramels

We have been on a food roll. Haven’t we all? I put the weekly cooking curriculum activity with our friend’s daughter in her hands. For 11 years old she is quite astute in the kitchen so I asked her what she wanted to make. The answer was caramels.

I have never made caramels before. I have caramelized things but never made the candy from scratch. It is not that difficult and a fun Science project. As always a few lessons learned mostly on the consistency of the caramel.

Key is having a candy thermometer. Without it you are toast.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or more to make them softer)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8×8-inch baking dish (or similar size)
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • 4-quart saucepan
  • Instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wax Paper for wrapping but we used Parchment

Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper so that excess paper hangs over the edges. Coat the parchment and the sides of the baking dish with cooking spray. You can use bigger if you don’t have that size.

Put the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan and heat over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat, but keep the pan close by.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in the larger 4-quart saucepan (must use a big saucepan because when you add in the cream mixture it grows). Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and it forms a thick, grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.

Cook the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. It can go up to 325 but we took it off at 250 and it was the call.

Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. While whisking gently, slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added. Here is where there is an opportunity to think about change. More cream makes a softer caramel. Next go around I would do 1 1/2 cups cream.

Heat the caramel back up to 250 by returning the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from the heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.

Stir in the vanilla. Now pour into the pan. Tap the pan to get rid of the bubbles. It should set for about two hours. We put it in the fridge to move forward and the caramel was set in 10 minutes.

Cut into bit sized pieces and wrap in parchment paper. Great gift or put in the candy bowl. Watch out for your teeth when chewing. 🙂

Life Goes On

In the past few weeks, two people we know have gotten married.

One of the couples booked their wedding, booked it again when COVID hit and then realized that they would have to rebook it again but weren’t sure when. So instead of waiting for another date (which could be another year) they put together a last minute wedding with friends and family who were in the vicinity, in a backyard, and it looked fantastic. Life needed to go on.

Another friend’s son had a wedding planned that had to be cancelled but they wanted to still get married on that date so they had a small backyard wedding too. Friends and family who weren’t there were able to Zoom into the vows for 15 minutes which was a nice value add. Will they ever have that big wedding that was planned? Questionable because life goes on.

Will we return to those big parties? The wedding industry generates over $60 billion a year. The florists, the spaces, the photographers, the outfits, the hairstylists, the makeup artists, and more. Will that change too?  

Everyone’s priorities change when a catastrophic event happens. Will, any of them choose to have the wedding of their dreams in a year or find themselves content and in many ways happier than having the big event? The cost is huge and unclear what large events will look like on the other side.

Life moves on. It isn’t so much that life has changed but the question is will we return to the life we had in the past? I kinda doubt it.

Reality Check

So you graduate from college with debt. Keep in mind the loan is from the US Government. 

You move to a big city and take a job in the restaurant world to support your life while you write. 

Your parents breathe a sigh of relief because they can now afford to retire and be ok. 

You are figuring it out, paying the rent, and living life.  You are about to be 30. Then COVID hits.  The restaurant industry slams down and you are out of a job. 

Your job was important to many.  You were part of a community, you waited on people, you made people happy.   Now you are depending on who?  The government pays you enough for a few weeks because they don’t want to believe the pandemic is a massive economic event where we need to think long term. 

Eventually, your funds dry up.  The restaurant industry has no jobs. Companies aren’t hiring. 

You live in a major urban city and are from a rural area.  You don’t want to go home and be a burden on your parents nor do you want to do that because mentally that would be very difficult for a multitude of reasons.  Your landlord tosses you out because you can’t make the rent.   You can’t afford to feed yourself.  You are essentially homeless couch surfing your friend’s homes.  Eventually, you start to become a burden. God forbid you get sick.

So what does the Government propose?  Slashing the support. We should be taking care of our people.  We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This is the road our Government has gone down. Slowly slashing support in healthcare and education.

It’s disturbing and upsetting. What happens when hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in this position?

We are 5 months into a god damn pandemic and there is zero light at the end of the tunnel. Not even a dim one. It is times like this that we need leadership from the Federal Government. We are getting none.

Questions and Answers

Speaking with students is probably my favorite thing to do. I was asked by a professor at the University of Georgia who teaches a course on early-stage funding if I would be willing to record a video for the class answering some questions.

We (my amazing team of two) did it this week. They came out great so I thought I’d share

Gallery Hopping

I went on a journey to see the galleries on the east end of Long Island with Em’s friend who I have known since she was 6. She works in the art world, at Pace Gallery. I so love the kids my kids grew up with who they are still super tight with. NYC downtown kids who are unique, savvy, sophisticated, and fearless with an entrepreneurial edge. Masks on the face and off we went.

We started in Sag Harbor. There are a variety of stores there. I really like the antique and gallery spots. Our first stop was at Le Lampade. Mostly mid-century finds but good pillows too.

Next stop was Borghi who has installed a group show of Black artists. I keep thinking about the work of Chakaia Booker who has made some epic installations over the years for museums.

Here is the gallery.

We wandered into Black Swan Antiques who has a mixture of many things. You can definitely find some gems in there. I happened to love this piece. Her side kick is a guy leaning over with a camera that shoots every time you pass.

Then we drove to Wainscott to Alone Gallery. This is by appointment only. You get on their wifi, which they send you, enabling you to open the front door and take in the show by yourself. A variety of more mature artists but the highlight was Tomas Sanchez, a Cuban artist. The gallerist hangs out in a chair to get feedback and chat before leaving the property. Conceptually a good idea.

Next stop East Hampton where some of the big galleries have taken space such as Pace and Sothebys. Wise move. People are buying and selling. Lots of works are on the market from collectors looking to shake things up.

Sotheby’s is carrying work from either the back storage or from private collectors looking to sell from jewelry to paintings. If you are looking for a Hockney?

Eric Firestone, who has become a fixture in East Hampton, has begun to take on more work from artist archives. I really loved this piece from Charles DuBlack.

My favorite gallery in East Hampton is Halsey McKay. He has a great eye for emerging artists. Hilary Pecis is one to speak of where her work has just become almost impossible to get.

Like most galleries he also has a group show up.

Our next move was Montauk to South Etna Gallery. The strong move is to stop in Ralphs Famous Italian Ices and Ice Cream before hitting up the show. The art continues to change as people buy pieces. My favorite piece is by Andrew Lamar Hopkins who is from New Orleans. His work is paintings deconstructing 19th century Creole life.

All and all quite a great day. I needed it. Ending to our day was the ceramic bong in the bathroom at South Etna.

Spicy Sweet Pork Noodles

Cooking up something every night has become the norm. I love the taste of summer but on occasion I just have to shake it up with something that we could eat any time of the year. I look forward to making this recipe in the winter months too.

  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 3″ piece of ginger peeled and chopped into matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 sprigs of basil – and extra for the end
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lb. dried spaghetti noodles

In a large non-stick wok – my new favorite pot – put in the pork. Let it just sit there for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat to brown. Then stat to break it up. Add the ginger and sugar, continue mixing and breaking. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Stir until the paste starts to get really dark brown. Add the chili paste, soy, vinegar and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Let this hang out for about 30 minutes uncovered.

Once the noodles are done, add them to the sauce pan using tongs to mix everything up. Chop some basil and put it over the top. Serve.

In addition I made a salad with a Thai dressing. Mix everything together below and toss over greens.

  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • chopped Thai Basil, mint, cilantro (or whatever you want)


Moms Create Change

If you talk to women in Israel or Egypt when they talk about the Israeli Egyptian peace treaty that was signed in 1979 they will tell you it was the Moms who pushed for change. This war was killing their children. Enough was enough.

Moms in Argentina, South Africa and other areas around the world saw too many of their children get harmed or die and made their presence known. At one point they had enough and rallied their community of Mom’s.

What is happening in Portland is frightening and devastating but those Mom’s are inspiring. Quite frankly I can not believe that this is happening in the United States. But the Moms are taking action. Seeing camouflaged federal agents snap up their kids from the streets has pushed many over the top. People being hurt without cause, being stripped of their rights in non-violent protests shouldn’t happen.

America is at a crossroads. The Moms are seeing an America that they are not ok with and they are out there in protest. As more Moms come out and protest in all of our cities, perhaps the politicians who have chosen to ignore what is happening on our streets will begin to realize that it is time to ignore the party line and say enough is enough. My biggest fear is t his won’t end well.

Deconstructed Paella

I love paella but I wanted a shortcut. I came up with this and we could be having more deconstructed Paellas in the future.

I made Persian rice that my friend Chef Jeff made and told me how to do it. I used short-grain rice and a lobster/fish broth for the liquid. I got it at my local fishmonger. I also took a little bit of saffron and let it sit in hot water while I made the rice. After the rice was done, I poured the saffron in and let it sit a bit more although I could have added it in with the broth to cook. Then I took a non-stick 8″ saute pan (must be non-stick, trust me on this) and pushed the rice in the hot pan and let it sit there on a medium to high heat for about ten minutes. You can make more rice and use a bigger pan too. After about ten minutes the rice gets crispy on the bottom. Take a large place, put it over the pan, (use hot mitts) and flip it over. It is a beautiful rice pie.

What do you want in your Paella? I wanted to use chorizo, shrimp, mussels, and fava beans. Fava beans are a pain in the ass to make but well worth the effort. Made those first. Then I pan-fried chorizo (all in the same non-stick wok) until the meat was browned. Then I put the chorizo in a strainer over a bowl to get rid of all the fat.

I took the shrimp and tossed smoky pimento paprika, olive oil, chili pepper flakes, and kosher salt and pan-fried the shrimp. Set it aside when done. In the same wok, I tossed in some white wine and thyme and then the mussels. Put a glass top over the wok and when they begin to open, you are done.

Toss the chorizo, the fava beans, and the shrimp together in a bowl. Pour this over the top of the rice and then spoon the mussels on top. Serve.


Building on the Arts History

As a country, we very much live in the future and don’t think much about our past. In Europe, it is all about the past. The US is at this moment where there is going to be so much change in the years to come and I hope we use the good parts of our past to become new in our future.

I grew up loving classical music. I played piano for years and guitar too. Even taught guitar lessons. I have been to countless music performances including countless theater events. NYC has endless opportunities to see something every single night. It is a gift and one of the many things that make the city magical.

The empty theaters are heartbreaking. We were talking with someone about Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts the other evening. It is truly a center for the performing arts. There are multiple theaters that support performances for dance, opera, film, and theater. Each vertical has a board around it. It is not surprising that the symphony or ballet is having a more difficult time raising capital and has been having one for years keeping the programs alive.

I have never been one for musicals but I remember seeing Hamilton at the Public. It was a game changing experience because Manuel had written a musical in rap. Genius.

Alex Poots, the artistic director and chief executive of the Shed, has built an insanely successful career in bringing the art of the past such as opera and symphonies and marrying them with new artists that push boundaries bringing new engagement with the past such as Hamilton.

The next generation of audiences needs new engagement because we should all be connected in some way to the arts. The Shed has an Open Call that puts out a commission for early-career artists from all artistic practices. They received nearly 1,600 proposals and will bring selected artists’ projects to life over the next two years.

I love this. Just like everything around us is going to change, the arts are changing too. Lincoln Center might want to take a look at what is happening at the Shed. During COVID-19, while we are all locked down thinking about what life will look like when all doors are open, that in order to make sure all arts survive, we need more Open Calls!

As always, the Private Sector saves the day

photo from the New York TImes

Leadership would be nice. Remember the days when the Government was respected? We would all feel thankful, even if we didn’t agree, that the President would guide us. Wait, I think that was before I was born.

Last week the largest retailers finally realized that when we open our doors to the public, we better not be the one that has a COVID-19 breakout or we are fucked. Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy, Apple, Trader Joe’s, and others told the public, wear a mask or you can’t enter our stores. Once again, the private sector is saving the day.

It isn’t just retail but in medicine too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we trusted our Government to make the right decisions about funding the right medical companies instead of shooting in the wind? 50% of people in our country are afraid to take a vaccine (when one comes) because they fear that Trump is benefitting somehow and pushing shit thru. But I didn’t really trust the Government anyway.

We all need leadership, a guiding principle, and to feel good about our country. Vietnam was the beginnings of a Government that began to lie to the public and now look where we are.

How do we begin to believe in Government again? The private sector will always save the day but it would really be an added bonus if the Government did everything they could to support the private sector and that means the entire private sector.