Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking The News.


I've been away from the Gypsy Chef because I have been a bit busy.....

But I luckily woke up this morning feeling FINALLY rested! In a house that feels like a home (regardless of the lack of furniture.) Two nomads have picked a place the live. Can you believe it!? I can barely believe it myself. But it does feel good. We spent two days unpacking boxes of clothes, worldly trinkets, old photographs, cookbooks..... and more worldly trinkets. No furniture, but walls that we reconize as our sanctuary.

In late August after gathering the feelings of being grounded and having enough time to hoard and foster intimate secrets to ourselves, we decided it was time to break the news...

We sent this email and made a batch of strawberry barley scones.



Dearest family and friends,

Another chapter in life has transitioned as we returned to CA from 5 months away. The last 4 were spent with Chris (Swiss) and I wandering the streets, mountains and temples of SE Asia. We accepted this adventure into our lives to shed away past years of stressful work in boat life, and to discover what our future has in store. A chance to reconnect with our wandering spirits and each other, this time on firm soil. We spent countless moments at the mercy of timeless exploration, following our taste buds, and day dreaming about our future together in this beautiful world. The big question of where/what country to call home for a couple of nomads of the past 6 and 9 years is not an easy one to answer. A difficult transition to come to terms with while we continue to accept the pull of our wandering souls. 

Our last stop on our trip was the Island of the gods- Bali. A playground of tropical wonder, beautiful close friends, and an inviting lifestyle balanced between relaxation and invigorating freedom. We swam in the bliss of Bali for 5 weeks. 

Our answer to the question of rooting came in our last week on the island.



We had participated in a ceremony with two of our dearest friends. A Balinese ceremony in water. Fresh spring water bubbles up from the earth, surrounded by a temple. We came to bathe amongst the blessed waters.... along with hundreds of Balinese. Dressed in traditional Sarongs of indigo blue and deep purple. Cuing through the cold, clear water, bare feet upon smooth stones, while wafts of incense swirl in the air. Moving down the line from fountain to fountain our heads plunged under the crisp running water. Washing away the old and welcoming the new. Intentions, prayers and blessings are held at each fountain as our senses awakened with blasts of holy waters. 

It was a few days after the ceremony that Swiss and I discovered our answer. After comfortably washing away our old lives of youthful sojourning, and accepting the new chapters ahead of "US" as opposed to  "I". We realized that we had both set very similar intentions in the waters that day- acceptance without fear. That of our great love for one another, leaving old habits, and maintaining our constant curiosity in the world while living a rooted life.
Joy ran its way through our veins for this new adventure ahead of us when we discovered the most incredible of Bali souvenirs.... One that will need 6 more months to arrive. 

It was then that we really knew that we would be calling California our home while we unite our worlds and welcome our little wonder on March 13th. 

Once arriving in California a month ago, and telling our families the big news, Swiss and I assembled in front of the Santa Barbara courthouse with only my parents as witnesses and said our vows while exchanging Bali-made silver rings. 

We love that you will be a part of this incredible journey before us. 

With endless love and gratitude,

Chris, Ash (and....what is currently the size of a fig) Schütz





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cold Coffee Chronicles


I count the seconds of the pour, like I did back in the days of helping a bartender pour his cocktails. One...Two...Three....Four....Five...Six.....Seven. The thick and glossy cream streams slowly from the opening in the can, creating a dense layer at the bottom of my glass. A smaller glass is placed on the table with an aluminum filter, dripping slowly with a dark, rich liquid. A third glass is placed on the table, full to the brim with large ice cubes. Eventually all three glasses will be united and the day will finally begin.


Coffee in Vietnam is more than a ritual, it is a practice of patience and a balance of temperatures. Ordering a Caphe Sua Da and taking your seat on a low stool of a crowded Hanoi cafe can test all of your morning fragility between sleep and caffeine, but the outcome is worth the wait.
While suspended in this purgatory of slowly trickling coffee, melting ice cubes and the unhurried pour of sweet and condensed milk, I simply take in the surroundings of my premier task of the day. 
Many minutes later, the dripping has stopped and I wipe the sweat from my forehead in the humid cafe.  Letting the coffee cool for just another minute and then pouring the coffee over the milk and the ice over the coffee. Stirring quickly, and pulling up the thin spoon with layers of thick milk to blend with the strong coffee. The mixture thins out with the melting ice, and becomes the color of a cloudy caramel. Overwhelmingly sweet, thick, cold and caffeinated. Like rocket fuel, it throws the adrenals into overdrive. I don't recommend Vietnamese ice coffee for the healthiest of lifestyles, then again, you could say it gives you an inner "push" and therefore feel free to replace your daily fiber intake with one of these puppies.

Caphe Sua Da- Vietnamese iced coffee

The days in Hanoi were spent with cold coffee and hot sun. Gathering up the street food offerings while bouncing in and out of any and all air conditioned rooms and museums. I spent over 2 weeks in Hanoi four years ago, curiosity kept me weaving through the streets of the old quarter while quickly loosing track of time. This trip was not much different as Hanoi kept us searching for daily little pleasures. We spent 20 days at the same hotel, with just two short trips outside the city center. Finding a sense of home within the city walls. It is something the weary traveler starts to search for after years of wandering. A tiny slice of ritual in the form of cold coffee and locals whom call you by name. 

::Some food porn from Hanoi:: 


banh mi - baguette, pork belly, pate, cucumber, cilantro, hot sauce.
Fish market, Ha Long Bay
Bun Cha- grilled pork belly, cold rice noodles, sweet broth, loads of greens

Banh Xeo- crispy crepe with pork, shrimp, mushroom, bean sprouts, and greens


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Viet Nam










.....So that's what's happening right now.

Heat rises from the gravel while spice rises from the plate. Basing my quest for flavor in Hanoi. Will write more once I finish dinner.
x -A

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Comfort By Coconuts


I remember the land of smiles as this new piece of the world that I connected with for the first time when I was 24. Instantly stunned and aware from the moment I arrived. As if I had just woken up to something more intriguing then the dream I had just left. Enchanted by sweet and spice, a world of new before me.
I vividly recall witnessing fresh coconut milk being made in the market one day in Bangkok. My feet stopped moving suddenly as I caught this display of lustrous, creamy milk. It was as intoxicatingly alluring as that of beautifully drawn bathtub (you know, like that porcelain, claw foot tub with bubbles and rose petals.) In fact, I'm sure the ancient Kings and queens of Asia bathed in hand pressed coconut milk all the time. I would...

The young man, barely in his 30's, quickly passed the fresh coconut meat through the shredder, and then with soft moves, placed the coconut shreds into a large bowl. 2 more large bowls of equal size lay beside them. Fresh, cold water flowed from a pitcher onto the shreds. He massaged them quickly, and the water turned bright white. The same process was continued as the shreds were pulled out by handfuls and squeezed, ringing them out like old laundry, and placed in the next bowl, and then the next. The result was incredible, 3 variations of fresh coconut milk -the cream, the milk, and the water. The best you've ever tried, so rich and sweet.





I had forgotten all about that coconut milk that stopped me in my tracks that day. Like an old sunburn, it had faded away to nothing, not even the mark or tan was left behind that Thailand once made upon my flesh. Just the memory that I had been there before and that its land felt familiar. That was until I showed up again. Instantly, the thick scent in the air of dried fish, frying oil, rotting trash and human body odor, all came rushing in like a drug to my senses. Ah, Bangkok! Pathways on sidewalks too small to walk trough, and street food venders begging for your attention. A place where cold, sweet mango and warm, sticky rice find balance on your plate together, and where chiles, garlic and basil have never danced so harmoniously in your mouth. Thailand is the gateway into the intoxicating and stimulating palate of Southeast Asia.



New food and ingredient inspirations flood in with an urgency to be known….

-Soft-boiled eggs wrapped in a spicy fish paste, fried and served in with cold cucumbers and fried basil leaves.

-Thinly shaved banana blossoms, laced with peanut dressing and strips of ginger and basil.

-Fried rice balls smashed and mixed with baby lettuce, cilantro, ginger, thai chiles, lime juice and the liquid gold of fish sauce. Crispy, spicy and fresh!




In search for a new take on Thai food, and that moment which stands out like the "cream of the coconut" I head out of Bangkok. Escaping the crowds and avoiding the "gringo trail" as much as possible by heading north. Finding comfort in fried bananas and doughnuts with black sesame seeds as the bus rides grew longer and hotter. Hunkering down in Soppong, Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai. A new Thailand was budding up through the concrete cities I wandered through.


No matter how crowded and touristic Thailand continues to grow with it's western visitors, and no matter how many unfortunate times I was offered HEINZ chile sauce alongside my flavorless pad thai ::sigh:: It still remains a standing rule of traveling that once you scratch a little bit deeper beneath the surface, or at least drive your motorbike an hour outside the center…. you'll discover all that brings you here to begin with. The true cultural wonder and the intrigue of this exotic land of red earth and sweet bananas is still here. A place where they really do smile before you, they really do still create dishes with a fiery spice, and they really do make coconut milk by hand. 


Love from Asia,
-Ash









Wednesday, May 8, 2013

M & M




Mallorca & Morocco, March 2013


 Captivated by food, smells, colors, tradition, culture and it's people, Morocco has always allured me. I arrived 3 years ago for the first time. I have returned twice a year ever since. A new avenue, flavor, artisan and spice blend are introduced to me each time I revisit. Last time it was red tassels and Aragan-rose oil, this time it's saffron yellow shoes and handcrafted belt buckles from Essouirra. Enchanted by it's mystic and unknown I simply can't get enough of what lays beneath the surface of this country. 

While walking through the Medina, we were welcomed into a rug shop, and not for rugs, but for lunch. Seated upon thick layers of woven rugs, we were served warm kefta, and bread from a beautiful woman in red. Ripping off chunks of bread, we use it as a natural set of tongs to grad a steaming and perfectly seasoned kefta from the center of a blue platter. We listen to stories of the old medina as silver trays of cucumber and mint salad are passed around. A picnic within a rug shop. 
We sit back, sipping mint tea and dusting the breadcrumbs off our laps. Breathing in Morocco.


Ras al Hanout. Moroccan spice mixture







Cilantro and Mint


Orange blossoms sold of pages of pop magazines

Mallorca Spain.
Introduced purely by chance 6 years ago. I was set up to intern at a restaurant with an American-French chef and his Spanish wife. The internship was a disaster as the chef had slipped into a darkened existence as he watched his restaurant dream slip away. His only sense of entertainment was to torture his new intern and make it impossible for her to love this industry of food and the foreign home to her now. But he was too late, not only did I fall deeply for the magnificent island in the Balearic seas, but somehow it began to take care of me as well.

It seems like forever ago that I learned the ways of the Spanish and walked the streets of Mallorca as a newcomer. Friendships on the island have sustained years of barely frequenting the Spanish soil, but my mind and heart remained connected from afar. 

I am currently researching an opportunity to bring me back to the island yearly in the culinary world. My former "boss" from the failing French restaurant however, had to close his doors many years ago and move from the island.
While my lessons from Mallorca have been bitter and sweet, the karma has been even sweeter.


Sopresada- A spiced and cured Mallorcan delicacy 


Lechona




Friday, May 3, 2013

Little Ears

Orecchiette- which means "little ears"

The 28th year is said to be the Saturn Return. When that shift from your years of countless re-invention, exploration, transformation take a turn, and something brings you "home" again. Maybe home translates to the weary traveler as a place, or a feeling, maybe even a quality or trait that re-surfaces itself in your life. For me it literally brought me home. Eucalyptus in the air, in the land wild sage and avocados- Central California. 

So, once the siren of my 28th year sounded her song, I made it home in time for my birthday. Uniting first with my tribe of lady chefs and coming together to determine what new task on our ever growing list of creations to try.

"Ash, Orecchiette!!" 
Kim proclaimed with girl-like excitement. A creative task we had yet to embark on within our 9 years of cooking side by side. Convincing Peggy was easy, as she would be the one to give us the personal tales from watching the process on the streets of Puglia herself.

The day began with our fists united with in a vigorous kneading for 20 minutes on the white marble counter top. A strong task to ensure strong dough, our muscles feel it as our mound of raw orecchiette begins to smooth out and ready itself for rest.

The process is simple. Using a bench scrapper to slice off wedges of dough, then roll between your palms and the cutting board. The dough remains smooth and firm, in no way clinging to your fingertips when touched. An almost silky tactility that soothes the spirit as therapy through creation.


 Roll, slice into 1" squares and then quickly pull the dough across a wood cutting board with the back of a butter knife. The true Nonnas of Puglia would jump to their feet with disapproval if they witnessed our first attempts at Orecchiette- "NO! Non cosi!!!" they would proclaim. As dough was smashed, torn, or pulled too thick or too thin. But eventually we got our groove on, and little ears appeared one by one.




We set our pasta out in the garden, inside a clean beehive screen and covered with a linen sheet.
The destiny of our oriecchiette was to be happily united with kale, braised lamb with jus, and fresh chili breadcrumbs. 


Orecchiette drying in the March sun of CA


Table set, awaiting guests. 

Chèvre and beets unite!
A Birthday Menu

Cocktails- 28 Roses (gin, grapefruit & rose geranium) Thyme Sip (bourbon, meyer lemon, & thyme)

Hors d'ouvré - Fava bean and preserved lemon dip with crudite. Beet and chèvre spread with crostini and radish.

Pizzas- Radicchio, mozzarella and amaretti. Melted leeks, sausage and burrata.

Mains- Orecchiette with lamb jus, kale and chili breadcrumbs. Wood-fire oven broccolini. Salad of garlicky kale and roasted chickpeas.

Dessert- Choice of salted caramel or lemon curd ice cream. 
Coffee or verbena mint tea.

Bellies were full and sore from laughter. Our glasses remained filled with central California's best in red wine. Some still found space for another scoop to top off the evening, while a question was posed...

In this house and around this table for as long as I can remember, a question has been posed for all to answer. It's a beautiful tradition that brings everyones attention back to the center and gives each individual a chance to tell a story of personal importance. 
The question (posed by Howard, Kim's sweet husband)--

"What was a lesson or experience that you could not learn from anyone else, and only on your own?"

A wave of vulnerability and joyful emotion came over everyone as they told there stories of that lesson or experience that invited a shift and a transformation. We listened tenderly with open hearts as the smell of lamb from the wood fire oven continued to linger over the table. One of my favorite aging moments yet, the year of the saturn, and the night of rose geranium-scented cocktail surrounded by my favorite beings. A magical start to my 28th year.


28 Roses Cocktail on March 1st, 2013



:: 28 Roses Cocktail ::


5 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1 1/2 oz Gin (Preferably Plymouth)
1/2 oz Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
2 oz Rose Geranium Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake and serve in a tumbler.


Rose Geranium Simple Syrup:
1 c White Sugar
1 c Water
4 or 5 Rose Geranium Leaves

Heat the sugar and water together until the sugar is completely dissolved without boiling. Add the Rose Geranium once you've turned off the heat and steep the leaves for 10 minutes. Or less. It can get strong quickly, so check the progress and taste as you go along.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Of Eggs and Fate


It was April of 2011. A long awaited and slightly avoided Skype call with my father was in order.
I had just flown into Mallorca Spain after 4 months in India and Morocco.  It was time. Time to face the facts and accept the raw truth of my reality. One that only Jimbo (that's dad) can offer to me at a time like this...
"Sweety, you have $500 in your bank account...... What on earth are you doing in Europe right now!? You can't even afford a ticket home to California, honey!"

He was right. And right then, like a lightning bolt, 4 months of colors and bliss came rushing through my mind. I settled into my seat and swam in a smile and satisfaction for money well spent. But the truth is unavoidable, and quite noticeable as I claimed a friend's sofa as my home and consumed only Spanish mandarins and fried eggs for a week now.

"I know, dad." I said calmly. "And you are right...... but I can't come home now. I'm living in the open question (yes. That is something you just do after months of "finding yourself" in India.) I am not meant to be there, I can feel it."

I was hovering just above that red line of financial lows, but I hadn't hit it yet... so to say.
The truth is that I did feel it. Something was happening, a shift in my world, and I could feel it deep in my being. A chapter was closing and a new to open, but I needed to hold still to see it. I couldn't leave now.

::Fast forward 7 days::

A couple traveling over from Austria were set to spend a weekend in Mallorca on holiday. A friend threw my name on the plate as someone to stock the fridge and tidy up. "oh yeah, and she's a chef and yoga teacher too." my friend mentions. On Thursday I made diner. Friday they enjoyed an hour of yoga and Berber omelet for breakfast. Sunday I moved to Vienna.

Now don't assume that I was just moving to Vienna to make some quick cash from a couple strangers. In fact, I actually liked them. There was a straight line of honesty and happiness from the beginning, and I wanted to see how this would evolve. It was like facing the open decision to turn right or turn left on a Sunday cruise. Your gut physically speaks the truth before your logic even kicks in. No I did not get punched in the stomach by a wealthy Austrian, thrown on a plane and made a servant in the kitchen. Far from. I was asked a simple question:
"Are you available for the next few months and beyond?"
Um... well...Other than my current in depth research of the citrus and egg diet manual I'm writing....... yes, I'm free.

::Fast forward 2 years::

I write this now from window seat on the third floor of a traditional family home in Switzerland. It is April and snowing. My fingertips smell of mountain cheese and cured meats, and my belly bloats from excessive bread consumption. I am happy, and I am set in motion of reflection.

In the past two years, in accordance with this couple and their extensive group of family and friends I have experienced an extremely abundant chapter in my life. As a private chef in their homes and boat, I cooked in 10 new countries, challenged my senses with foreign ingredients, challenged my  patience with tight quarters and long hours, challenged my stomach with high waves, and challenged my heart with an adorable Swiss engineer. My blessing from the past 2 years are abundant, and I can't help but be filled with gratitude, even through the struggle. My cup runneth over.

And to think, it all just started with a poached egg in spiced tomato broth on a Friday morning...


Berber Omlette


1/2 red onion, grated on a cheese grater
8 roma tomatoes, grated on a cheese grater
1 T Ras al Hanout (or a mixture of paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger and pepper)
6 eggs
fresh cilantro, chopped
Olive oil
salt

In a 10" tagine or pan with lid, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add the onions, tomatoes, salt and Ras al Hanout spice mixture. Cook the mixture down to 3/4, stirring regularly, about 15 minutes. Add the eggs on at a time in a  circle and one in the middle. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and cover. Cook for 5-8 minutes on medium heat. Depending on your stovetop, it may take longer. Just check for doneness, just how you would when poaching an egg in water. Your looking for white whites, not clear. Present your omlette on the table, unavailing your masterpiece at the last minute. Sprinkle cilantro on the top just before enjoying. Sometimes and extra drizzle of olive oil doesn't hurt either. Serve with good bread. Enjoy!