A Flavorful Metamorphosis

CookbooksEvery now and then I get the question “who is your favorite chef?” As of today, I would have to say one of my favorites is Yotam Ottolenghi. His insatiable curiosity for reinventing the traditional brings new vibrancy to seemingly banal ingredients. So while the internet has attenuated the need for physical cookbooks, three of the handful I own physical copies for are his. His recipes are also elaborate, and thus relegated to “special occasion” projects. The result is almost always the same: colorful, packed with flavor and a truly unique experience. The two recipes in this post – Pistachio and Pine Nut-Crusted Sea Bass with Wild Arugula and Parsley Vichyssoise and Caramelized Fennel Bulbs With Goat Cheese – are from the cookbooks Nopi and Plenty, respectively.

FennelGoatCheeseSome fun fennel facts (say that 5 times fast): fennel is a part of the carrot family, can grow up to 8-feet tall (2.5-meters) and has the same flavor compound as licorice – though the two are unrelated. This affinity means it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but this recipe may sway even the staunchest of naysayers. I’d been eager to try another dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and came across this one. The goat cheese, caramelization and fresh dill bring a wholly new character to the vegetable; and make for a delectable side to any meal. Click HERE to see the recipe for this flavorful dish. 

Vichyssoise1The origins of vichyssoise are unknown, though the French claim seems to have more weight than the American one (albeit perpetuated by another culinary icon of mine, Julia Child). Regardless, the recipe is a summer icon: as it’s traditionally served cold. This particular vichyssoise was a nice upgrade – where traditional vichyssoise is a creamy ivory that is served cold, this was a vibrant emerald and served warm. The medley of greens also lent a nutritional punch to the dish. The trick to getting this recipe right is to buy really fresh greens, and to cook them just long enough so they retain their color.

NutCrust1The nut crust is the “crown jewel” of the dish – and fairly easy to make. You can use almost any medley of nuts, but the pine nut / pistachio combination is quite delicious. What’s even better is you can make the nut crust the day before (in fact, you can prepare this whole recipe in advance, with the exception of the fish). The original recipe calls for halibut, but our local market had a good sale for Chilean sea bass. In case neither is available, any flaky white fish will do the trick. You can bake or broil the fish, whichever works best based on your oven. Click HERE to see the recipe for this beautiful main course.

Fish1As I mentioned at the start of this post, Ottolenghi is a chef who brings new life to traditional foods. So for the musical pairing, I wanted to find a composer who followed a similar style. In the art world, one movement that captures this is Neoclassicism: effectively a wave of works that drew inspiration from the arts of classical antiquity. In classical music, there are a slew of composers who fall within this category. One of my favorites is Paul Hindemith. Born at the turn of the 20th century, Hindemith viewed his writing as “utility music” (or Gebrauchsmusik). This style was considered to be a reaction against the complexity and difficulty of 19th- to 20th-century music, and Hindemith took pride in composing works for the “everyday” amateur. Perhaps his most famous composition is Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, which premiered in 1944. Seven years prior, Hindemith and his wife had fled Berlin with the rise of the Third Reich, first taking refuge in Switzerland and then moving to the United States. It was here that he was approached by the choreographer Leonid Massine. Massine wanted to collaborate with Hindemith on a ballet that leveraged themes by Weber. The partnership ultimately fell through, but the music endured and was premiered on its own as Metamorphosis. The below recording (Movt I – Allegro) features the New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert. Enjoy!

To hear the whole piece, here are the links for Movements II, III and IV respectively.

Sources Cited:

 

Advertisements

When Art Meets Science

SalmonVide_1

It’s February!! Which means the “I don’t feel like cooking” attitudes following a miserable commute of bitter wind and slushy sidewalks are here for 6 more weeks (thanks for that, Punxsutawney Phil!) So I’ve turned to a cooking method that – albeit fancy – is quite fun: sous vide. I’ve prepared salmon a number of ways: baked, grilled, slow-cooked, raw for sushi – but cooking it inside of a Ziploc bag was a new one for me. As strange as it sounds, trust me when I say this was one of the most delicious salmon dishes I’ve ever had. Packed with flavor and extremely tender, this Salmon Sous Side has become a quick favorite in my weekly repertoire.

SalmonVideSous vide is French for “under vacuum” – and it’s a technique where art meets science. In a nutshell, sous vide involves cooking foods in a water bath, ranging from 120°-160°F, where the food is sealed inside of a vacuum pack…or Ziploc bag for “sous vide sur un budget” (how I roll). The process was developed separately by a gourmet chef, Georges Pralus, and a scientist, Bruno Goussault. Each claims to be the original “architect” behind the method: although they ultimately worked together to popularize and ensure safety standards for the technique. Fun fact! The term “cryovacking” is also used to describe sous vide – which I personally think is super cool / fun to say five times fast.

Joule1    Joule2
The sous vide equipment I own is called Joule: you can control the timing and the temperature all from your PHONE. Just download the app, select a recipe, grab the ingredients and hit “go”. I plan on using this thing a lot, and imagine my next venture will be steak (stay tuned!) In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the process as a whole: it’s fun, yields an extremely tender meal that can be seasoned and seared to your heart’s delight, and is absolutely worth it if you are looking for a method to spice up your daily routine. Click HERE to see the recipe for this delicious dish. 

SalmonVide_2One of the first things that came to mind when considering a musical pairing for this dish was the “golden ratio”: 1.618. The concept is embraced across multiple genres, and is believed to be the calculation that captures the aesthetically beautiful. The graphic on 270px-Golden_ratio_line.svg.pngthe left best illustrates how this ratio works. Both the Parthenon in Greece and Leonardo da Vinci’s De divina proportione (“On the Divine Proportion”) are living examples of the proportion. In classical music, the composer Béla Bartók had an appreciation for such proportionality: so much so that he aspired to recreate it in his own compositions.

A great example is Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. In its entirety, (movements I through IV) the work is roughly 30 minutes in length. While the second and fourth movements are fast-paced and lively, it is the first and third movements that embrace the golden ratio. The first movement centralizes on the note “A”, where the strings build from a muted introduction into a climactic center, and slowly diminish back into a hushed, arpeggiated texture. This climax occurs at measure 55, out of the 89-measure movement, effectively making it the “golden mean” of the movement. (89 ÷ 55 = 1.618). The third movement opens with a xylophone solo built on a Fibonacci sequence: 1:1:2:3:5:8:5:3:2:1:1 – a sequence that is intimately connected to the golden ratio. The piece is both haunting and lively, which makes for a great listen. The following recording is with the London Symphony Orchestra and Georg Solti – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Hesser, Amanda. “Under Pressure,” New York Times
“Golden ratio”, Wikipedia
Frey, Angelica. “Five Classical Pieces with the Golden Ratio”, CMUSE

Rise and Shine, Part VI

AvocadoAvocado – the unofficial mascot of millennial culture. It’s a pretty awesome food, with a versatility that makes it the kind of friend you always want to have around. From pasta sauces to creamy desserts to savory appetizers, this fruit has it all. So when thinking of how to feature avocado, I turned to my all-time favorite meal: breakfast. This is part six of my mini series “Rise and Shine”. So far the series has featured my adventures with brunch, and I thought it high time I chronicled the dishes that I enjoy every morning before work: Rich Fruit Smoothie and (the Instagram-famous) Avocado Toast.

AvoToastLet’s start with the toast – this is a dish that has taken the internet by storm. It’s simple, delicious and never gets old. As a spread, it’s also a healthy substitute where butter or jam are the traditional go-to’s. What’s perhaps more interesting is the many ways people interpret the increasing popularity of the dish: from it’s alleged necessity as an everyday staple in the “bourgeoisie’s diet” to being a symptom of our continued “fetishization of food.” I’m a millennial, so I’m not helping to disperse any of these myths…but it’s a great and filling breakfast. I for one think making it at home is a fantastic option, versus paying $30 at a Brooklyn brunch enclave for a few slices. Click HERE to see the recipe for this internet celebrity. 

Shake_3Smoothies are a great way to start the day – you can pack in a ton of nutrients, and mix it up based on what’s in season (or on sale). When I reflect on the ingredients that are must-have’s, I’d say they are a banana, some yogurt, nuts, and of course avocado. The yogurt and nuts are the protein: which make this a really filling meal, and give you the energy to kick off your day. I always use bananas since they are delicious, but the avocado is what gives the smoothie a thick and creamy consistency. You can even add a little honey, but I find the fruits to add enough sweetness.

There is a bit of an art to packing a blender – the trick is to go from the softest ingredients to the toughest. As the above photo shows, I placed the avocado and the bananas at the bottom of the jar, followed by the kiwis, berries, almonds, and finally the ice; pouring in the milk at the very end. Organizing the jar this way facilitates the blending process, and creates a super smooth and creamy result. That being said, if you have one of those crazy-cool blenders that can crush concrete…then feel free to just dump everything in. If the mixture is too thick, just add a splash of milk and pulse until combined. I make these almost every morning, and can guarantee it becomes second nature. Click HERE to see the recipe for this healthy morning treat. 

Shake_4The promise of these dishes is enough to inspire even the sleepiest to rouse on a weekday. So in considering a piece that worked well with these dishes, I came across Gustav Mahler’s “Frühlingsmorgen” (Spring Morning) from his collection of Lieder und Gesänge. Mahler was known to devote his mornings to composing: pouring himself into his scores and harmonic textures, then indulging himself in the afternoon with mountainous vistas and lakeside excursions. This makes the “Frühlingsmorgen” all the more apt – both of the dishes in this blog post are colorful, flavor-forward and bright: reminiscent of spring, if you will. This particular song falls within Volume 1 of the collection: written between 1880 and 1881. The song is labeled “Gemächlich, leicht bewegt”, which roughly translates to “with leisurely movement”. The following video features the German lyric baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the musical icon Leonard Bernstein on piano (though there are plenty of fantastic recordings with sopranos on YouTube as well). Enjoy!!

Sources Cited:
Oyler, L. “My Fruitful Search for the Origins of Avocado Toast,” Broadly. Sep 13. 2016.
Goldfield, H. “The Trend is Toast,” The New Yorker. May 2, 2014.
“Lieder und Gesänge (Mahler)”, Wikipedia.com

Celebrating a Milestone (in D Major)

Thai Pork_1After a crazy 11 months of nonstop action and studying, my first year as an MBA student is officially done! It was an extraordinary year, and I’ve learned a great deal about both business and myself. I’ll be starting my internship at Colgate-Palmolive very soon, but in the meantime thought I could catch up on blogging about my culinary adventures in my little corner of Brooklyn. Tom and I have been cooking a great deal, but between term papers and B-school life I was hard pressed to find the energy for taking photos. We decided celebrate the end of finals by cooking Pork Tenderloin with Thai Spices and Peanut Sauce.
Thai Pork_3Thanks to some Thai classics such as lemongrass, ginger and lime, the chicken could have stood on its own. The marinade is essentially a puree of aromatics that then translates to a beautiful coating in the final product. The original recipe calls for skewers (to make an actual “satay”) but I just thinly sliced the pork and arranged them on a baking tray – for ease of a quick weeknight meal. I imagine chicken could be an apt substitute, but I highly recommend the tenderloin.
Thai Pork_9Add in the rich peanut sauce and cucumber relish, and you’ve got yourself an incredible meal. The peanut sauce was perhaps my favorite. The coconut milk and sesame pair beautifully with the chicken, and the texture can be adjusted to taste (smooth like butter, or a rougher blend for added crunch). The salsa, while simple, was a phenomenal addition. I cut back the sugar in both the peanut sauce and the salsa, but you are welcome to add more (or less!) to taste. I made the sauce the night before, which definitely enhanced the flavors, and the cucumber salsa while the pork was cooking. Overall, this was a fantastic meal and one that we’ll be making again. Click HERE for this fantastic recipe!
Thai Pork_7In considering a pairing for this piece, I wanted something that recognized the richness of this dish while also celebrating my first year as an MBA student. This led me to arguably one of my favorite symphonies, Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in D. Written in 1902, this work is a tour de force, with Sibelius himself claiming it to be “a confession of the soul.” The symphony has personal resonance for me, as it was one of the last symphonies I performed before the start of my undergraduate degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston. And (as you will see) it leaves quite the impression – the finale particularly. Sibelius’s own words frame the symphony’s inspiration:

“Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.”

As was standard for works of the time, the symphony consists of 4 movements. However, its architecture was audacious – defying the norms of the “sonata-like” form that so many composers had followed before. That being said, the turn of the century was ushering in a new era of symphonies, with composers such as Mahler and Wagner having disrupted the scene decades prior. Yet what made this symphony unique was its ability to capture the hearts of audiences from the outset. The pastoral opening flows through a series of personalities, taking the listener on an impassioned journey of climactic highs and dulcet lows. In a word, this piece is eternal – having stood the test of time. The following video features Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, performing the symphony in its entirety – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Symphony No. 2 (Sibelius).” Wikipedia.com
Sibelius Quote: Jean Sibelius, quoted by Jalmari Finne to Anna Sarlin, 28th June 1905. Goodreads.com

Easy Food for a Freezing Day

Falafel1 (1)New Yorkers are having an insanely cold weekend…which is a great excuse to stay inside, wear thick socks, and have Netflix/Hulu to keep you company. But this forced captivity means limited access to food – and considering I would feel like a terrible human in ordering Seamless (thus forcing a poor delivery guy to brave the cold himself) I had to get creative. I somehow convinced my carnivorous boyfriend Tom to go vegetarian for a day (cold weather does funny things to people) and pantry staples came to our rescue for this Easy Baked Falafel with Tahini Dressing recipe!
Falafel4There are a ton of falafel recipes floating around on the internet (shameless plug for a recipe on this blog: Sweet Potato Falafel) each with it’s own “secret ingredient” that makes it THE falafel for your recipe repertoire. Given our complete lack of desire to venture outdoors, our falafel was flavored with the classics: lemon, garlic, parsley and tahini (not pictured). We use a LOT of lemon for this, which you are welcome to scale up or down depending on your relationship with citrus.
Falafel8What’s great about this recipe is that it comes together fairly quickly. The “batter” rests in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, making it easier to roll the falafel balls…but you can skip this step if you have a cookie scooper or like the idea of “rustic” falafel. And if you’re really hungry and can’t bear the thought of going another second without food, the batter is basically hummus! No matter how you enjoy it, it’s a great quick meal – click HERE to see the recipe for this vegetarian fix! 
Falafel9 (3)In considering a musical pairing for this recipe, I looked for a piece that could complement both the simplicity of the recipe and its wintry context. My choice of Faure’s Pavane was almost immediate – you can say I’m biased (it features the flute quite prominently), but it’s a classic. The melody is both pure and haunting: painting a scene like the chilled, solitary streets of New York. And yet beauty lies within this solitude, as it is not a fearful scene but a rather peaceful one. The title of the work pays homage to the 16th-century European dance of the same name, which is both slow and processional in character. Ultimately, the piece evokes in its listener a desire to calm and be calmed – something every New Yorker can truly appreciate.  The following video is an excerpt of the full piece, which I chose because A) it’s the Berlin Philharmonic and B) the flute solo is played by my idol, Emmanuel Pahud 🙂 Enjoy!!

Sources Cited:
“Pavane,” Wikipedia.com

Rise and Shine: Part V

Quinoa_Pancakes2My blogging enterprise has been woefully absent…so let me try to explain: I moved to Manhattan in July to start a master’s program in business at NYU. It has been an amazing (albeit intense) journey, and the pace has redefined what I once considered “productive”. In the thick of this academic hurricane, I had to hit the pause button on a few beloved distractions…and my blog was an unfortunate casualty. This isn’t to suggest that I’ve tossed my favorite pastime of cooking altogether – trust me, I would be rendered insane if the refuge of a great homemade meal were taken away from me. After seeing countless ads on the MTA for culinary resolutions and eating more indulgent food than I care to admit, I felt the New Year was the perfect time to revive Classical Kitchen. Though this blog will always call Boston home, I plan to take advantage of every opportunity this city has to offer…with the understanding that tiny apartments sabotage most lighting opportunities for photography. So I’ll stop rambling; instead, let’s get cooking and talk about these Quinoa Pancakes with Honey and Strawberries.
Quinoa1My boyfriend Tom and I happened upon this recipe in early 2015 – we had a lot of leftover quinoa (I thought the measured amount would make half of what it did…long story) and wanted a unique recipe that called for pre-cooked quinoa. Quinoa is pretty great, in my book. Here’s a fun fact – thanks to the explosion of ancient grains and gluten free options, The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organizatiom (FAO) claimed that 2013 was the “International Year of the Quinoa.” The grain has been a staple of the Andean diet since as early 1200 AD. It is both an adaptable and durable grain, making it an ideal mainstay for centuries. As far as production goes, Peru is the world’s largest producer, reporting a harvest of over 250 billion pounds in 2014.
Berries_HoneyToppings are what make pancakes one of America’s favorite breakfast foods. Tom and I like honey, since it’s useful in much of what we eat and drink. I bought a local honey for this (the pretty jar was the hook) and fresh strawberries. While these were our toppings, you can try out a variety of things – blueberries and yogurt, pecans and agave, bananas and nutella, or even a savory spin with avocados and sour cream. The pancakes themselves have no sugar, making them the perfect palate for any creative garnish.
Quinoa_Pancakes1These pancakes are, admittedly, very different from the buttermilk variety at your local diner. Not only are they full of protein and fiber, but the texture and size share a closer affinity with patties than with their namesake. The trick to getting these pancakes “perfect” is to ensure that the mixture has enough moisture to bind everything together, while also keeping the cakes small enough (while cooking) so they maintain their shape. The recipe will explain this more thoroughly, but be prepared to have one or two crumble mid-flip (but trust me, they will still be tasty!) Click HERE to see the recipe for this unique spin on a breakfast icon.  
Quinoa_Pancakes3While considering a musical pairing for this recipe, I knew an homage to New York was in order – which led me to one of my favorite American composers, Charles Ives, and his orchestral work Central Park in the Dark. Written in 1906, this turn-of-the-century piece beautifully illustrates a rare perspective of New York: a walk through Central Park at night. Ives himself wrote about the piece:

“This piece purports to be a picture-in-sounds of the sounds of nature and of happenings that men would hear some thirty or so years ago (before the combustion engine and radio monopolized the earth and air), when sitting on a bench in Central Park on a hot summer night.”

The strings represent the night, their ethereal darkness constant and gliding amidst the walk of our protagonist. The clarinet ushers in a scene of evening revelry, followed by the winds, brass and eventually full orchestra, as our protagonist passes a late-night casino. The moment is a passing one, as the omnipresent darkness returns and our protagonist tugs his cloak tighter about his shoulders as he continues home. Despite this work being written over a century ago, one can easily imagine its setting in present day: with similar vignettes of quiet and chaos enveloping our daily walks within this massive, beautiful city. I’ve learned a lot since moving to New York, but perhaps the most pressing lesson has been that this city is not lush with work insanity or impersonality – it is a living, breathing thing filled with opportunity and amazing people who want to make a difference. I’m beyond excited to now be a part of that story. Check out Ives’ work in the video below:

Sources Cited:
“Quinoa.” The World’s Healthiest Foods
“Quinoa.” Wikipedia.com
“Central Park in the Dark.” Wikipedia.com

A Flavorful Journey

Turkey Chili 2I’ve been loving this unseasonably warm weather, but the temperatures are finally starting to dip…meaning thick snow boots, over-active radiators, and slushy snow puddles are just around the corner for those of us in the North. It also means that my slow cooker, having gathered dust all summer, is finally being put to use for making a variety of soups and stews! I quite like winter, mostly because I am given the opportunity to create inventive meals that are both hearty and filling. In an effort to give the colder season its due, Tom and I made an amazing Chipotle Pumpkin and Turkey Chili.
Turkey Chili 3Spice and heat is what makes a great chili – you can use any number of ingredients, so long as the flavorful depth and fiery kick are the defining characteristics. In our case, Tom whipped up a “chili paste” using onions, chilies in adobo, and garlic. The result was a thick base from which we built our chili. Ground turkey, black beans, kidney beans, tomato paste and diced tomatoes were the standards. The secret ingredient was puréed pumpkin, which was more of a “let’s see what happens” add-in. The pumpkin ended up being a game-changer, tying together the chili’s various flavors and overall texture.
Turkey Chili 1We let the chili cook for a total of 5 hours in a slow cooker, and only had to add a few splashes of stock throughout the process. The consistency was thick, which can be credited to the pumpkin and chili paste, and the level of spice was absolutely perfect. We topped each of our bowls with chopped avocado and a dollop of Greek yogurt. You can sub out any number of ingredients (beef for the turkey, or puréed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin), so feel free to experiment! It is honestly the best (healthy) chili I’ve ever had – click HERE to see the recipe for this cold-weather staple.
Turkey Chili 4Chili is one of those dishes that is redolent of the warmth and comfort to which we are drawn on a cold night. It’s the “goal”, the end of the journey as you tug your gloves and hat tight against the wintery winds. This recipe can certainly be likened to such a journey, and yet the objective is far from being your “standard fare”. I was thus inspired to choose a unique and ambitious work for my musical pairing, and came across Barber’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 22. Though quite challenging for the soloist, the piece is remarkably evocative and has become an admired standard of cello repertoire. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein says of the piece”

“[Barber] really stretches the technical limits of the cello, which is a great challenge for the performer, but it’s only to serve the most musical ends. It’s a really fantastic piece…not a dull moment.”

The concerto seamlessly combines elements of the Romantic era with those of the 20th century, and its overall narrative paints a colorful journey: from a militant introduction (the “Allegro moderato”) into an impassioned “Andante sostenuto”, closing with a frantic yet ultimately triumphant “Molto allegro e appassionato.” The piece was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for cellist Raya Garbousova. The below recording features Garbousova and the Music Aeterna Orchestra, conducted by Frederic Waldman. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Schiavo, Paul. “Program Notes – SAMUEL BARBER, Cello Concerto, Op. 22”. Seattle Symphony, 2007.

Rise and Shine: Part IV

Banana Pancakes 1I’ve always been a morning person, which explains my love affair with breakfast. The alarm clock is my “hallelujah” chorus as I dash into the kitchen and welcome the day with a bowl of delicious food. I love breakfast so much that I would eat it for every meal. It is (as they say) they “most important meal” since it fuels your entire day. Tom and I have started a mini tradition of cooking unique breakfasts for one another, featured as the “Rise and Shine” series on this blog. A few weeks ago, we were huddled in his apartment during a rainstorm and I had a serious craving for pancakes…and not just any pancakes: banana pancakes. So we braved the crappy weather, grabbed ingredients from a local market, and went to work on these Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes with Honey.
Banana PancakesPancakes are so beloved and simple that their equivalent can be found in practically any culture: injera in Ethiopia, blintzes in Russia, bánh xèo in Vietnam, crêpes in France…at its simplest, a pancake is a flat, round cake cooked on a griddle or frying pan. It is typically made from a starch-based batter that is either leavened or unleavened. Pancakes as we know them are typically leavened (using baking soda and/or powder), but most cultures prefer unleavened. In an effort to make our pancakes “healthy”, we used whole wheat flour and all-organic ingredients.
honeyThese pancakes have a perfect balance of sweetness and texture. They’re moist and fluffy, thanks to the addition of puréed bananas, but not as dense as banana bread. The only other sweetening agent is one tablespoon of honey. I love honey, and will often use it in lieu of maple syrup by drizzling it over pancakes or French toast. These banana pancakes were a hit, and both Tom and I had to go for seconds. They will definitely become a go-to treat for rainy days. Click HERE to add this dish to your morning routine!
Banana Pancakes 2Pancakes are a playful dish, and can brighten practically any day (especially the rainy ones). This inspired my musical pairing of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4. An impromptu is defined as something that is “done without being planned, organized, or rehearsed.” This piece isn’t necessarily spontaneous, but the playful energy and sudden shifts are perhaps more in line with the “unplanned” feeling. It’s overall merriment is very much akin to a childish energy, which can certainly be compared to an impromptu (and pancakes!). The piece opens with a series of cascading progressions, followed by gentle and grounded chords – the juxtaposition of playful with calm sets the opening tone of joyfulness. The middle section suddenly descends into a place of deep brooding and apprehension, as the music unfolds in a minor setting. Both the melody and harmony are immersed into a restless dialogue of self doubt – the pall is suddenly lifted as the opening material resumes and brightens the mood. The pieces end as it began, with a joyful air and light heart. The below recording is with pianist Krystian Zimerman – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Pancake,” Wikipedia.com
“Impromptus (Schubert),” Wikipedia.com

A Simple Beauty

Mediterranean Salmon 4“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” What I love most about this quote (Einstein) is it encourages the belief that beauty can be born from simplicity. We often pressure ourselves to go to extremes to write the perfect narrative, create a superb presentation, or cook an amazing meal. If there is one thing that life has taught me, it’s the joy you get from achieving something wonderful without stress or hardship. Cooking is the perfect example – we often forget that food is food, and mother nature knows what she’s doing when it comes to flavoring natural ingredients. So you can imagine how I excited I was to share this Mediterranean Baked Salmon: it is the definition of simple, but is far from being “simple” in taste.
Mediterranean Salmon 1This is one of my favorite methods for preparing fish – the culinary term is en papillote, but it’s basically a foil or parchment “pocket” into which you can pack any number of vegetables or aromatics. It’s a popular method for cooking fish since the pocket locks in moisture along with all of those great flavors. As a result, the process is more akin to steaming than baking. I wanted a dish with Mediterranean flair, and so I included kalamata olives, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and lemon with the salmon.
Mediterranean Salmon 2The result was a to-die-for combination of flavors, and yet it came together in less than 30 minutes! Right towards the end, I opened the foil packet to allow some of the liquids to cook down. This also gave the toppings a crisper finish, while still maintaining the beautiful texture of the overall dish. You can cook individual packets for each guest, but we ended up cooking the entire portion of salmon in a single pan. It was fantastic, and is the perfect recipe for a weekday meal or fancier occasion – click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 2As a side dish, I roasted some sweet potatoes with thyme and garlic, and then tossed them with quinoa, arugula and blue cheese. Tom has called me out on this…I think I might have a minor addiction to sweet potatoes. He’ll ask me about a vegetable or carb, and I always say sweet potatoes. I know they don’t qualify as a vegetable…but why not?? They are orange and versatile and highly addictive and OH MY GOD you see what I mean?? Anyways, this was a quick side that could easily make for an amazing lunch or vegetarian main. I will be making it again, mostly for the sweet potatoes. Click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 1Beauty is by and large defined by its evocative and provocative outcomes – whether it be a person, an item, a piece of music…we see beauty as something that has the ability to move us. Sometimes, it is the simple things that are truly beautiful, where the weight of added embellishment would seem folly. In music, a great example of a simple masterpiece is Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante dèfunte (“Pavane for a dead princess”). Written in 1899, the solo piano work is based on the pavane: a slow traditional dance that was popular during the European Renaissance. Though the title alludes to such, the work is not an homage to any one person or “princess”, but rather “an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court” (Ravel’s own description). Its beauty lies in the juxtaposition of pure innocence and emotional depth. It is quite unlike the Ravel many of us know and love, as confirmed by concert critic Samuel Langford

“The piece is hardly representative of the composer, with whom elusive harmonies woven in rapid figuration are the usual medium of expression. In the Pavane we get normal, almost archaic harmonies, subdued expression, and a somewhat remote beauty of melody.”

Of course, this piece has since become ridiculously famous and overplayed. I scoured YouTube for a recording of solo piano (you can only imagine how many interpretations there are…) I finally found the below video, with Laura Mikkola. Her interpretation is one of patience, giving full attention to the delicate melody and unique coloration of each harmony.

In 1910, Ravel published an orchestrated edition of the piece – the opening melody is played by solo horn, which I believe is one of the most beautiful artistic choices in a piano-to-orchestra transcription. The piece’s gentle charm is by no means overwhelmed in the reproduction – rather, its subtle harmonies are given a richer and more vibrant coloring.

Sources Cited:
“Pavane pour une infante défunte,” Wikipedia.com