Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who is Chef Vinny? Chef Vinny would be me a.k.a Vince Steinman. I was given the moniker Chef Vinny by one of my senior editors at Men's Health magazine. Under my alias, I wrote two popular food columns first for Mans Life and then
I've always enjoyed cooking and experimented in the kitchen since I was 10 years old. It wasn't until after years as a graphic designer I decided I wanted a career change and packed my bags for culinary school. After receiving my associate's degree in culinary arts I worked in several restaurant and resort kitchens.

During my tenure behind the stove I developed my passion for writing. I was able, with a little luck and tenacity, to snag some prime food writing assignments for some local and national print magazines.

What is The XY Style? The XY Style is an outlet for my creativity. After returning to the kitchen I neglected my creative side. In short, I got lazy. Too tired, too busy, too much Facebook; any excuse not to keep writing. This blog (I hope) will be the like the gym for my mind. A place where I can workout those flabby and a little atrophied creative muscles.

What should you get from reading my blog? There are literally thousands of blogs on the internet, some more entertaining and informative than mine, however, if you do read my blog, I hope what you glean from it is just a guy finding his way through life with a little bit of style and panache. Let me be clear here, I'm not trying to be the male version of Martha or the Barefoot Contessa, I think Ina Garten does entertaining far better than me.

The heart of my blog will deal with my love of baking. I love to bake-everything from cookies to cakes and everything in between. I'm not a fancy baker. You won't see buttercream rosettes on my cakes or a Serpentine design on my pie crusts. The food and recipes, for the most part, will be simple to prepare and most of all, taste good. I'd take a great tasting cupcake that didn't look perfect than a perfect looking cupcake that tasted just okay.

Now for something completely different.  I may veer completely away from the kitchen.  I don't always want to talk about food. My writing isn't always perfect and there will be moments I will blog by sheer stream of consciousness. I may talk about the movie I saw last night, how the food sucked at the new French bistro down the street, the book I'm reading or how I really need to fix the leaking faucet in my bath tub. If I'm being very moody, I may pepper my sentences with a few choice words of profanity. You have been warned. 
Other things to be mindful of when reading my blog: .I'm a chocoholic; don't be surprised if you see a lot of chocolate on my blog. With that being said, I also make mistakes. I'm a good cook and an even better baker, but heck, even the most experienced chef has a setback now and then. I'll show you mine. We learn by our mistakes, right?  With this blog, you're going to get all of me. The good, the bad and the ugly. Enjoy.

Chocolate Biscotti

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup dark chocolate baking chunks or chips

  1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter in an electric mixer until fluffy; add the sugar and mix at high speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl if needed, then beat in the eggs. Lower the mixer speed to stir in the flour mixture and mix until just combined; stir in the chocolate chunks.
  4. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half on a lightly floured counter into a log about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Arrange the logs on the baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake 30 - 40 minutes, until the logs are firm to the touch. Cool on a rack 10 minutes.
  6. With a large, sharp knife, slice each log into ¾-inch wide slices on a slight diagonal and put them cut side down on the baking sheet.
  7. Lower oven to 325 degrees. Bake 5 minutes, then gently turn the biscotti unto the other cut side and bake for another 5 minutes.
  8. The biscotti are great plain or dip them into some chopped, melted chocolate if you like.

Based on a recipe from Gourmet magazine and originally posted on Family Style Food

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Fall Baking Favorite: Chocolate Pecan Tart

Fall is here. The days have grown shorter, the leaves on the trees have turned from bright green shades to a withered brown (that's as much Fall color you're going to get in California) and I now have to don a hoodie to head to my morning workout at the gym. Although I hate the shorter days, I must admit, Fall is one of my favorite seasons. One of the biggest reasons is that it allows me return to making the comfort food I had abandoned at the start of the new year in favor of  lighter fare. I love cooking comfort foods such as hearty stews and soups, slowly braised meats and best of all deeply satisfying desserts. Nothing says Fall more than a good homemade pie or dessert. In the next few installments I'll be sharing some of my favorites. So let's get that pastry dough rolling!

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 large egg yolks

1 cup (8 ounces) light corn syrup
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (coarsely chopped)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecan pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast the nuts for 10 minutes or until you smell a faint nutty aroma. Give the nuts a stir or two during toasting. Remove from the oven and allow the pecan pieces to cool. When the nuts have cooled completely, coarsely chop them; set aside.

For crust:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk yolks in small bowl to blend; add to flour mixture. Stir until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; press over bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. With a fork, poke holes all over dough and put the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove tart pan from freezer and line tart shell with  parchment paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked dried beans or rice. Bake crust until set, about 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment and cool while preparing filling. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F

For filling:

Blend corn syrup, sugar, and butter in medium bowl. Whisk in eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir in chopped chocolate and pecans. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake tart until filling is set and golden brown on top, about 40 minutes. Place tart on rack. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil; let stand at room temperature.)


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bewitched, Bothered and Brownied.

I can't get to sleep. Against my better judgement, I just had to go and watch the premiere of Fox's American Horror Story "Coven" tonight and well, it scared the bee jeebus outta me. Now I can't sleep. Instead of counting sheep or drifting off to la-la land by listening to narrated news stories on Unamo,  I decide to get up and head to the kitchen. I'll just "busy" myself back to sleep; besides Jessica Lange and her bewitching brood won't dare try attack me in a kitchen full of knives. I plunge in by tackling the crusted on goo off a baking sheet (I think it was from last month's peach cobbler), then wiping down the counters and stove top and reorganizing my all my kitchen gadgets. 
Two hours and  two stacks of dirty dishes later, I still wasn't sleepy--hungry--but not sleepy. I pull out the recipe box and begin leafing through the half dozen spot-stained, dog-eared index cards, ragged clippings of recipes cut from Family Circle and the Wednesday Food sections, as well as the faded, wrinkled notes of my great-grandmother's handwritten recipes. 
The late hour prevents me from doing a long lengthy recipe, so I go with a simple family favorite: brownies. Brownies are easy to make. You don't need any fancy equipment--a whisk and a bowl will do the job.The best part of brownies, unlike most baked items, is you don't need to wait for them to cool completely to enjoy the pay off. 
After polishing off two brownies and a glass of milk I think I'm ready for bed. In my opinion, chocolate is the best remedy for insomnia or nightmares about witches. 

Fudge Brownies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee, cooled
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 12-ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Grease and flour a 8x8-inch baking dish.
Combine the sugar, espresso, and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir inthe chopped chocolate chips and the vanilla extract until the chocolate has melted. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl, and beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated, then fold in the remaining bag of chocolate chips along with the walnuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges have started to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares to serve.

Whisking the melted chocolate and butter over a double boiler.

Adding the sugar and blend until smooth.
After the eggs have been added,  fold the flour mixture and blend well.
Ready for the oven.
Do I need to wait until they cool?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Soda & Swine: Now that's a Spicy Meatball.

Soda & Swine Meatball Co.
2943 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA. 92116
(619) 269-7632 (SODA)
Hours: 11:30am-1:30am (Daily)
Price Range: $ Menu Items under $10.
Dress: Casual
Accepts cash and major credit cards

Running errands can build one's appetite, my stomach was making more sound than an afternoon matinee of "Bringin Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" so when it read 1:00pm on the old iPhone, it was time for some sustenance. Choosing where to eat, is no easy task; I can be very indecisive. Chinese? Nah. Mexican? Maybe. Pizza? Perhaps What do you want? It drives my friends crazy. In my defense, they do it too. With the pangs of hunger steadily growing,  my friend Frank said to pick something. ANYTHING. Just pick something. Swiping the restaurant finder app on my iPhone, I came across Soda & Swine. I had been told they had good food, at least, by friends who had been there. Off to University Heights for a meatball lunch.
Soda & Swine's menu is small and easy to navigate, once the guy behind the counter told us how the ordering process works.

Step 1: Choose Your Meatball. The most important step (after all, isn't this why you're here in the first place?). You have your choice of The Swine (Smoked Pork with Chipotle and Pepper jack cheese), The Hog (Chorizo with Chipotle and Mozzarella cheese) The Bovine (Beef with Marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese), The Hen (Chicken with Mushroom Cream and Provolone cheese) and for the vegetarian, there's The Grain (Quinoa with Pesto Sauce and Feta cheese).
I choose The Bovine, while Frank decided to try The Swine and The Hen. Needless to say, he has a bigger appetite.

Step 2: Select Your Style.  Here is where you decide how you want to dress those meatballs. You can have them made into a Slider, nestled into a Submarine, A La Carte or served a top of spaghetti. We both chose A La Carte for different reasons: I'm  doing low-carb and Frank, because he wanted to see just how good the meatballs were without the addition of bread or pasta, You also have the option of building your own meatball. Not in the mood for meatballs? Try the Soda & Swine Burger or the Daily Burger.
Once the important steps are completed, one can choose from Soda & Swine's 25 sides to accompany the meal; everything from Hand Cut, Twice Cooked Fries to Crispy Polenta in Burrata Arrabbiata Sauce. After about 15 minutes, our lunch arrived,  piping hot, in miniature cast iron skillets.

My beef meatballs seasoned with oregano and basil and ladled with marinara and draped in melted mozzarella was delicious, The apple salad with the delicate greens, Manchego cheese, celery and toasted hazelnuts was a refreshing contrast. The Swine came paired with the Crispy Polenta while the Hen came paired with the Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon. I was able to sample a few bites of each and I gotta say they were equally satisfying. Soda & Swine also offers 22  kinds of bottled soda to choose from as well as a good selection of beer and wine. Try'll like it.

Beef Meatballs with Marinara and Mozzarella Cheese and the Apple Salad.

Smoked Pork with Chipotle and Pepper Jack Cheese (right);Crispy Polenta. (left)
Chicken meatballs in Mushroom Cream and Provolone Cheese (right), Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon (left)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Peanut Butter and Chocolate: A Marriage made in Cookie Heaven.

Remember the old Reese's Peanut Butter cups television ad where the guy eating a chocolate bar bumps into the guy eating out of a jar of peanut butter and the chocolate bar ends up in the peanut butter? Watching the ad I always wondered who the hell walks around eating out of an open jar of peanut butter? Seriously, that's just gross. But I digress. The whole point of this and I imagine the whole point of the Reese's ad was that chocolate and peanut butter are an absolutely A-W-E-S-O-M-E COMBI (wait for it) N-A-T-I-O-N! Oh dear god, I think I've been watching too many episodes of "How I Met Your Mother".

Anyway, I was perusing the Food and Drink boards over on Pintrerst when I came across these tasty looking peanut butter chocolate chip blondies from Susannah's Kitchen. 

If you don't know what Pintrest is, (where have you been this last year, living under a rock? ) may I suggest you check it out. It's like a big online scrapbook of stuff. Here's the link to the recipe: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies. I was going to type the recipe out for you here, but I just finished doing a two hour workout at the gym and I have absolutely no energy or motivation left to type out ingredient amounts.Check out the recipe, try it and tell me how you like it.

Here are a few notes I took while making these bar cookies. 1. Don't overbake them. These cookies are best when a little underdone, the creaminess of the peanut butter really shines. If you overbake these blondies they'll be very dry and will crumble quicker than a zombie's face on "The Walking Dead". 2. I used crunchy peanut butter, but if you like smooth--go for it--to each his own. 3. I bumped up the chocolate. I added a 1/2 cup of chopped bittersweet chocolate as well as a 1/2 cup of salted peanuts to the batter. Why did I do this? H-E-L-L-O! Chocoholic here! I added the peanuts for extra texture. Fold these two ingredients in at the end of mixing. 4. Speaking of mixing, do not overmix the cookie batter. Blondies are just brownies without the addition of melted chocolate. When you add the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture, you want to fold it in gently, just until the ingredients are combined and moistened.  Overmixing any cookie batter makes for a tough cookie. You can be a tough cookie, just don't serve one to Aunt Edna during afternoon tea-it won't be pretty.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Feeling BLUE

Fall has officially arrived and gone are Summer's warm days and balmy nights. Time to trade the board shorts and flip flops in for cardigans and corduroys. No more fun in the sun for you mister, don the flannel and get ready to hunker down for the long Winter.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons and one of the best ways I've found to hold on to some of that Summer Luvin' is by freezing or canning its seasonal fruits. Freezing and canning allows you to enjoy those peaches, plums and berries long after they've become an out-of-season memory. Who doesn't enjoy a fresh berry tart during the bitter cold of January? 

When it comes to berries, blueberries are one of my favorites. At their peak (from July through September), I'll buy several cartons and squirrel away as many of the little buggers as possible. Folded into muffins and pancakes or front and center in cobblers and pies, you'll find me throwing them in everything from my morning oatmeal to my post-workout smoothie.  

FYI, here are a few factoids for you berry lovers: blueberries are only second to strawberries in popularity and blueberries are considered by many nutritionists as a "superfood" because they contain anti-oxidants which help with memory and cognitive function. "Where did I put my keys again?"

Blueberry Crumb Bars

makes 30 to 40 2 x 2-inch bars

for the crust:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of one lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten

for the filling:
3 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar (use less or more depending upon the sweetness of the berries)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup blueberry preserves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with buttered parchment, leaving an 1-inch overhang on each side (this will make for easy removal of the bars once they are baked).

Prepare the crust and crumb topping: In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the sugar, lemon zest, all-purpose flour, baking powder and kosher salt until just blended. Add the cubes of cold butter followed by the beaten egg yolk and pulse the mixture until large crumbs appear or when the mixture can come together with your fingertips.

Divide the crumb mixture, reserving half for the top layer. Press one half of the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the parchment lined baking pan. Place the pan in the freezer until ready to use. Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl toss the whole blueberries along with the sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch; set aside. Remove the pan from the freezer and spread the blueberry preserves evenly over the crumb crust. 

Next, spread the blueberry mixture over the preserves, followed by the reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle an even layer of the reserved crumb mixture over the blueberry layer. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, rotate the pan  (front to back) for even baking. Continue baking until the top crumb layer is golden brown and the blueberry mixture is slightly bubbling. 

Remove the pan from the oven. Allow the bars to cool for 15 minutes or until firm enough to remove from pan. Remove the sheet of bars from the pan by grasping the overhang of parchment paper. Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely. Finish the bars by sifting confectioner's sugar over the top of the bars. Cut into squares.