Opus M.B.A

18527267_625593649807_4939594507671330445_oAfter 2 roller coaster years, I now have an M.B.A. from the NYU Stern School of Business. It feels a bit like a 180, since I assumed a flute performance degree would be my first and final tryst with higher education. Sitting here today, however, the transition from music to marketing feels perfectly organic. My two alma-maters, NEC and NYU, have given me more opportunities than I can count: and they complemented one another in surprising ways. The “return on investment” (we M.B.A’s can’t get enough of this phrase) from NYU includes a better understanding of strategic planning, five trips around the globe, ample space to exercise leadership skills, and a wealth of talented and generous friends. What comes next will be a combination of the exciting and the unknown, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Not surprisingly, this 2-year degree pushed me to neglect this blog  – so now that I have some room to breathe, I am finally back to sharing some of my favorite recipes and music. And to show my renewed commitment, I’ll be sharing four delicious features:

Apple-Raspberry Crisp with Pecan Crunch Topping
Coleslaw with Gorgonzola
Smoky Oven-Roasted Spareribs
Sour Cream Cornbread

Cornbread_1Let’s start with the cornbread: any Southern chef will insist that cast iron and cornbread and inseparable concepts…except when you don’t have one, in which case glass pans are an OK substitute. It worked for us, and was still enjoyed by all our guests (most of whom were Southern). The original recipe calls for a spice that is impossible to find in your local Kroger or Safeway, known as Aleppo. And while nutmeg is a suggested replacement, we just went ahead without – and served the bread warm with lots of butter. Click HERE for the recipe of this baked golden delight.
Cole Slaw_1This coleslaw was awesome; like “we ate this for days after” kind of awesome. The original recipe called for Blue cheese, but we bought a tub of Gorgonzola that was on sale. (Thank you grocery gods for introducing us to this better option). We made the coleslaw the day prior, and it’s fairly simple to throw together. Feel free to adjust the dressing to your taste. Click HERE to see the recipe of this easy-to-make side.
SpicesAnd now, les ribs. The spice rub is a medley of things that all look great on paper: paprika, different peppers, cumin, salt, and…mace. (It claims that nutmeg can replace this, but we were super curious to discover what mace would taste like). The recipe makes about 2 cups worth, which is plenty for this recipe and then some. The taste is oddly similar to Old Bay Seasoning: so if you’re not a fan, I’d recommend sticking with good ol’ fashioned BBQ sauce. Fun fact about Old Bay: it is nearly 80 years old, and is believed to have been a clever way crab restauranteurs would push patrons to purchase more beverages (due to its extra “salty” factor).
Ribs_2The ribs themselves were roasted in an oven, for 6 wonderful hours at the lowest possible heat. While cooking these on a grill is an option, the oven provides a lower maintenance one that still yields fantastic results. We coated the three racks with the rub, wrapped them tightly in aluminum foil, and then didn’t open the oven door once during the 6-hour haul. The result was fall-off-the-bone ribs with a smoky aroma. How tender, you ask? My stepdad carved these with a butter knife. Click HERE to see the recipe for these irresistible ribs. 
BerryAnd finally, the dessert: a simple crumble that had all of the things we love about summer: fruit, butter and ice cream. The recipe is simple, and can be assembled the night before – we plopped the crumble into the oven before the guests arrived, and warmed it back up for ~15 minutes at the end of dinner for serving. You can use any combination of fruits in this crumble, just know that some may take a bit longer to cook than others (great example: rhubarb). Click HERE to see the recipe for this colorful treat.
Berry_1It has been so long since I have paired a piece of classical music with a meal, that I had to invest considerable energy into this final section. So much so that I started drafting this blog over 1 month ago. And then the piece that came to mind was so simple and perfect: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor. It is arguably one of the world’s most famous symphonies, and thus feels like the perfect inflection from my musical roots to a marketing future.

Beethoven began working on the 5th symphony at the age of 33. It would take him 4 years to finish, in the midst of what many consider Beethoven-Mähler_1804_hiresto be the most fruitful period of his career. However, Beethoven was also battling the deterioration of his hearing faculties – a development for which he proclaimed “[I must] seize Fate by the throat; it shall not bend or crush me completely.” One of the main characters of this symphony is Fate herself, persistently “knocking” at the door with the ever-recognizable motif (“Da-da-da-dom”), as the symphony opens in an ominous C-minor. Yet Fate is held at bay, with the symphony closing in a triumphant C-Major. This structure, of man versus fate, lent itself to many a narrative, bringing the work and Beethoven to great celebrity over the years. As an example: the piece was used to dramatic effect at the end of World War II to symbolize victory for the allies. And Disney further commemorated the work in the feature film Fantasia 2000.

This is perhaps a bit of a cheesy pairing, but the symphony’s resonance beyond classical circles suggests it is an apt one as I start this new chapter in business. The following performance is with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, led by Leonard Bernstein. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Old Bay Seasoning.” Wikipedia.
“Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67”. NPR.

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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

“Unsophisticated” Perfection

To answer the question you are all thinking, YES – these are as dangerous/delicious/diet-killing as they appear. Their inspiration was born out of frugality – it goes without saying that hosting parties can be a pricey investment, much more so when (like me) your idea of hosting involves the “wining and dining” appeal. While I crave the day that I can wow a crowd with canapes of steak tartar and grilled ahi tuna, I have to be realistic. The key to a great party is providing a memorable experience that doesn’t break the bank – a successful host is remembered for his/her creativity, and I feel that I happened upon a moment of creative genius with these Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog Bites.
At the store, I was looking for fairly priced meat when I saw the price markdowns on Hebrew National’s “Family Packs”. I could hardly imagine using hot dogs in an “hors’doevure” setting, and kept walking down the aisle…but I kept thinking of creative ways I could use them, and the final clincher was bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon?.
Funny thing is that this recipe led to the discovery of my oven’s broiler…leave it to me to take three YEARS to realize that the broiler is underneath the main oven space. I wanted to do something as a sauce, and decided to give barbecue a try – herein lies the genius of this recipe. Everyone at the party raved over these, which just goes to show that it doesn’t take a fancy hors’doevure to please a crowd – click HERE to see the recipe for these irresistible bites!
These appetizers were phenomenal, and yet ridiculously easy – my concerns with serving these “unsophisticated” snacks were put to rest by my friends’ endless praises. There are times that simplicity can truly be beautiful. Take Erik Satie: a composer whose music, while ostensibly simple, led to a whole new era of composition, with composers such as Debussy and Poulenc among his greatest enthusiasts. Critics labeled his style as “unsophisticated” and “amateur,” yet its expressive insight was far more thought-provoking than that of his contemporaries. I chose his Gymnopédies for this pairing – though they may sound rudimentary, their harmonic and melodic framework was seen as an “eccentric” departure from the classical model. Dissonant chords set the underlying tone while the themes float carelessly above, imbuing the work with a melancholic ambiance. These pieces are the perfect pairing for a recipe that is so simple yet beautifully delicious – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Erik Satie,” Music Files

Rhapsody in Ribs

Barbecue and Fourth of July are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of culinary traditions – it’s hard to picture  one without the other. This was my fourth year celebrating Independence Day in Boston, and this city just comes to life. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is one of THE largest celebrations in the United States, and is a tradition viewed by Americans across the nation. While the live show is truly spectacular (and one every Bostonian should experience at least once), the 500,000+ spectators makes it somewhat of a stressful endeavor…so after having trekked out to the Charles for the past 3 years, my friends and I vied for an at-home Barbecue Cookout and viewing of the Boston Pops show.
Ribs – they are an iconic Fourth of July tradition, and resonate with appetites across the nation. For this dish, I chose baby back ribs. A cut from the top of a hog, they are (unfortunately) much tougher than the more tender pork loin. Because of this, grilling baby back ribs can quickly go from perfect to beyond repair. The trick is to start the cooking process before the ribs hit the grill – the low and slow roast method. What’s even better about this method is that the meat doesn’t need more than 10 to 15 minutes on the grill (as opposed to hours), leaving you more time to relax with your guests.
A great rib needs a great sauce, and this was a great sauce – I like to think that whenever bourbon and brown sugar are combined, a rainbow appears; that is how perfect they are together. It is sweet with a hint of spice (earthy or floral, depending on your bourbon). Making it the day ahead will a) save you time and b) make the sauce 10x better…so basically it’s a win-win situation 😉 Whether grilling for a few or a crowd, these Bourbon and Brown Sugar Ribs are sure to please (thanks Teej for the above photo!) Click HERE to get the recipe for this barbecue classic.
In addition to the ribs, I made some Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers that were to die for! Tender, packed with flavor, and SO simple to make, they were an ultimate hit. The marinade is what gives these skewers their unique edge, with ingredients including sake, sesame oil, and even puréed pears! The original recipe called for chicken breasts, but the cheaper, more tender thighs were my pick; a solid choice when hosting for a crowd. Trust me, you HAVE to try these – they are absolutely magnificent. Click HERE to see the recipe for these uh-mazing skewers!
As a nod to the Boston Pops Fireworks show, I made my vegan entree a New England classic – Vegetarian Maple Baked Beans (only without bacon, of course). The combination of soaking the beans and cooking in a slow cooker spans over several hours, but most of this has no need for supervision (in other words, you can leave for work and have a meal ready to go by the time you get home!) These beans are (as the title suggests) inherently sweet, and made the perfect side dish vegetarian dish to complement the spread – click HERE to view this recipe!
The traditions of Independence Day bring to life a narrative of victory and celebration that has a universally contagious spirit. With this in mind, I wanted to showcase an American composer whose music can enrapture any audience (using pizzazz that is all-too-familiar of any Fourth of July celebration). That led me to George Gershwin and one of his most iconic works: Rhapsody in Blue. Composed in 1924, it has easily become one of the most popular American compositions. The amalgamation of jazz and classical is a beautiful display of our nation’s diversity and vivacity, which Gershwin shared as his inspiration:

No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness…

What’s even more wonderful about this story is that he was on a train to BOSTON when he came up with the idea for this piece – how perfect is that?? The piece is concerto-esque as it features solo piano, originally written for jazz band and later scored for full orchestra. The piece opens with a “famous opening clarinet glissando…that has become as familiar as the start of Beethoven’s Fifth” (according to one columnist with the American Heritage). The full gamut of Gershwin’s style is shown, from graceful melodies of to large-scale harmonies. Such can be said of the gamut of my own culinary talents for this barbecue 😉 I’ve included a recording with another iconic American composer conducting and soloing on piano: Leonard Bernstein – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmUHI2yTtVY

Sources Cited:
“Rhapsody in Blue” Wikipedia.com

Well Worth the Wait

There is a truly beautiful (almost unexplainable) synergy between warm weather and barbecue. As we pack away the last of our wool sweaters, it’s time to unearth all the summertime classics. I personally feel a nostalgic tug when reminiscing on summer cookouts, where everyone had to balance styrofoam plates overflowing with corn on the cob, barbecued chicken and vegetables. I made this particular dish quite some time ago, though better late than never to feature this delicious Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Sweet-and-Smokey Barbecue Sauce.
The genius of this recipe lies in its simplicity. Granted, the sauce has its own tricks, though the pork’s flavor defies logic. The secret is root beer. You probably don’t believe me, and I don’t blame you – I had my own reservations, yet the result was a beautifully tender pork infused with a touch of sweetness from the root beer. I personally splurged on Stewart’s (a personal favorite) for this recipe.
The original recipe only calls for pork, root beer and barbecue sauce, but I threw in a few extra ingredients for the added depth. After nearly 9 hours of cooking, the pork all but melted, it was that tender! It definitely takes a while, but it is definitely worth the wait! You can use any barbecue sauce, though the included recipe is a guaranteed winner – click HERE to make this amazing barbecue pulled pork! I served these with potato rolls and Classic Buttermilk Coleslaw, which most of my friends chose to pile on top of their pork sandwiches – you can find the recipe for this crunchy slaw HERE.
The patience required to make this mouthwatering meal inspired my musical pairing – Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. Composed towards the end of 1806, the concerto has become a truly iconic work in the violin repertoire. Patience is the name of the game for this concerto. The first movement opens with an orchestral introduction that carries on for nearly 100 bars before the violin entrance – you nearly forget you’re listening to a concerto! The soloist finally emerges, spinning a series of ornamental motifs before settling into the main theme. The second movement captures the listener’s attention through its lyrical essence, suspending time into a realm free of worry or violence. As though waking from a dream, the transition into the Rondo goes without pause. This final movement rewards said patience with its merriment, weaving lively themes within a rich orchestral context. The recording below is with none other than the ingenious Jascha Heifetz and the Boston Symphony – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBv077dSO5A

Sources Cited:
“Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra,” The Kennedy Center
“BEETHOVEN: Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 61,” San Francisco Symphony

A Heroic Feat

When I first received my October issue of Bon Appétit, I stared at the cover photo for a solid 5 minutes – somehow, I needed to make this dish. Fast forward 3 week: I’m visiting with my parents and that same issue sits on their coffee table, further enticing my culinary drive. I walked into the kitchen and was nearly floored when I saw that they had almost every ingredient needed for this dish on hand! While it was by no means a walk in the park, this Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples was a huge hit!
This was the first time I tackled a whole pork loin, much more stuffing one! Butterflying the pork is arguably the most challenging step in this recipe – the magazine likens the process to unrolling a carpet, which actually helped me visualize what to do pretty well. After butterflying the pork, you then get to go to town with a meat mallet to get the pork to an even thickness – for those of you harboring frustration and/or anxiety, here’s a step for you!
I took some poetic license on the filling. I knew I wanted to used dried mushrooms, but the store only had dried portobello mushrooms (instead of porcini). We also had SO many fresh apples at the house that I nixed the dried apple request and went for fresh Fuji apples. While I love kale and the earthy quality it brings, we had beautiful fresh spinach – yet another easy substitute for what I had on hand. I did include the brandy, at least 😉 Regardless of time or effort, the result is absolutely fabulous: juicy pork with a sweet & savory stuffing, all “gift-wrapped” in crispy prosciutto. Hungry yet? I served this dish with a simple salad and mashed sweet potatoes – click HERE to see how to make this elegant dish!
I originally had no idea how I would be able to pull off such an elaborate recipe – such a “courageous” risk drew my pairing to (the somewhat obvious) tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), by Richard Strauss. Typical of a tone poem, the movements are played without pause (much like this recipe made me nervous to take one). It is considered to be one of Strauss’s finest works in utilizing the full potential of the modern orchestra, giving “flavor and depth” to every moment and part. Additionally, much the way that I am giving myself a “pat on the back” for accomplishing this meal, it is rumored that Strauss may have been referring to himself as the “hero” portrayed in the work (if only somewhat). The recording below is with Seji Ozawa conducting – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHoRPnrG-44

Sources Cited:
“Ein Heldenleben, Op.40,” The Kennedy Center