Brand New Givers Video

We went into the BBS vaults to complete this amazing performance from Givers.  If you remember, drummer Kirby and I made masala waffles.  And if you like the sound of this song, you can download the full set here.

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My First Batch of Homemade Mozzarella

For my birthday, my girlfriend gave me two surprise classes at Brooklyn Kitchen, the latter of which we would attend together.  The first class was Knife Skills and I ended up buying a fancy knife as a birthday gift for myself.  The second was, as it turned out, mozzarella making class.  The class was being taught by one of the cheesemongers at Eataly, so I knew during her introduction that she would be legit and I’d learn a lot from her.

My mozzarella turned out tasty (as you will see below), but surprisingly didn’t yield as much as expected given that we used 1.5 gallons of milk.

To make the conversions easier from the 1.5G recipe I used, below is the recipe for 1G.


Phase one is making the curd.

  •  Lightly pour 1G milk (creamline, lightly pasteurized) across the sides of the stainless steal pot.
  • Gradually add citric acid solution (1 1/2 tsp. in 1/2 cup bottled water) while you stir gently.
  • Turn on low heat and bring mixture to approx 88-90 degrees F (10-12 minutes)
  • Once the temp is reached, turn off the heat and add the rennet solution (1/4 tsp rennet in 1/4 cup bottled water)


  • After 30 minutes, a jello custard-like texture should be achieved.  Cut the curd into 3/4-1 in squares.
  • Let the curd sit for 5 min after being cut.


  • Heat to 105 degrees F.  Slowly stur the curds while they are heating (approx 10-15 min).
  • Once temp is reached, remove from heat and continue to stir for 3-5 min.


  • Ladle the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth  and allow liquid whey to drain for approx 10-15 min.


  • To test, if it’s ready to stretch, lift up the cheesecloth and it should barely drip.


Phase two is Stretching

  • Remove the curd from the cheesecloth and cut into 1-2 in cubes (Note:  below pic is 1/4 of the cheese that was made in my batch as I was in a group of 4)


  • Cover the curds with hot water and let it sit for 3 min or until curbs are evenly warmed and malleable/stretchy.
  • Drain off water and pour more hot water over the curds bringing the internal temp in the curd to 135 degrees F.
  • Begin stretching the curd.  Vertically pull down lightly enough for gravity to do most of the work.  As cheese begins to cool down, dunk in the hot water until it once again hot enough for stretching.
  • Once the cheese is properly stretched, add 1/2 tbsp of salt and continue stretching until the salt is evenly distributed throughout.
  • To fashion a proper mozzarella ball, take vertical strand of stretched mozz, fold forward, fold backward, and then fold stacked portion into itself, tear, then repeat.  (note:  make sure cheese is still hot enough)


With this cheese I made homemade flatbread pizza…and I mean homemade.  The cheese.  the sauce.  The dough.  See below.

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I loved both classes at Bk Kitchen.  Learned a lot.  Got 10% off some awesome kitchen supplies.   Definitely recommend taking one if you can.

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Thanksgiving Beet Salad [RECIPE]

I made the entire Thanksgiving meal myself.  It’s not as bad as many moms and aunts say it is.  I enjoy cooking.  I enjoy seeing other people enjoy my food.  So Thanksgiving is probably the best holiday for me.  Plus my family handled all the cleanup, which is usually the worst part.

Thanksgiving Feast

To open up the meal, I completely winged a salad that ended up tasting delicious.

The night before, I roasted whole medium-sized beets for an hour on 500 degrees.  As soon as they came out of the oven, I peeled the outer layer.  Waiting until they’re cool will make them more difficult to peel, so bite a wooden spoon and get it done while it’s hot.  I then waited for the beets to cool down, cubed them, and put into Tupperware in the fridge.

Two hours before the meal, I made the dressing combining sliced strawberries with aged balsamic, olive oil, and Mike’s Hot Honey with salt and pepper to taste.  There should enough liquid to almost completely cover the strawberries in a bowl.  I let that sit until everyone was seated and ready to eat.

I added all the dry ingredients in a bowl together (beets, arugula, and toasted walnuts) then slowly tossed in the dressing.  I plated the salad with an additional drizzle of hot honey.

It was the perfect sweet, savory, and spicy start to the meal.

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Thieving Irons heated up the kitchen with Spicy Granola [RECIPE + PICS + AUDIO]

So as I mentioned earlier in the summer, I was thoroughly curious as to how Thieving Irons would present their complex rock creations in a semi-acoustic environment.  Well, lets just say that they both surprised and impressed me.

hanging out

A few weeks before the event, my girlfriend ripped an article from Time Out NY about urban honey in NYC.  Mike’s Hot Honey jumped out of the page and peaked my interest after my girlfriend recommended I make granola.  The concept of spicy granola is unheard of, odd, and had a realistic chance of tasting good.  Mike graciously offered up a few bottles for me to test out the recipe and after a few test runs, I was satisfied the balance of sweet, salty, and spicy.

granola and honey

Nate Martinez, the leader of Thieving Irons, met me at my friend Ari and his wife’s beautiful apartment in Prospect Heights on a rainy Sunday morning for yet another indoor backyard brunch. We had never met, but after we had some time to talk about music and food, we were warmed up and ready to cook.

spreading the granola

As with most of my dishes, a fair portion of it is improvised, so below is the closest thing you’ll get to a recipe.  Each batch makes enough to fill an average sized cookie sheet, which was used to bake it:

  • 3 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup crushed, raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (feel free to use less)
  • 1/3 cup Mike’s HOT Honey + more to drizzle on afterwards (it will lose spice in the oven)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

more honey!

The actual process for making it couldn’t be easier and once you actually you make it, you’ll honestly never want to pay $6 for a bag of granola again.

happy customers

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
  2. Mix everything in a bowl EXCEPT for the cranberries and coconut
  3. Add contents of the bowl to cookie sheet and spread evenly throughout
  4. Cook for 15 minutes then take out to shuffle everything around
  5. Add the coconut throughout the pan and throw back in the oven
  6. After an additional 15 minutes or until nicely brown, take out the pan
  7. Add cranberries and more hot honey to taste, and then toss in a bowl
  8. Let sit for 10-20 minutes until it’s cooled down a bit
  9. Serve with milk or yogurt or eat is plain!

dan and nate

Later in the morning, Dan, his trumpet player came in and he looked strikingly familiar.  Turns out he played flugelhorn with Kelli Scarr at a session two summers ago.  This time around, Dan brought a rare instrument called an EVI, which is an electronic trumpet of sorts that plays all sorts of trippy atmospheric sounds.  This added the perfect accompaniment to Nate’s soft voice and acoustic guitar (listen below).

focused audience

modern inventors

First to hit the stage was Philly’s Modern Inventors who brought their brand of poppy twangy rock.  I was so impressed with their catchy, upbeat set that we went to see them the following weekend in Philly.

chatting between sets

And then we got to relax and absorb the atmospheric folk of Thieving Irons.  A handful of attendees were either sleeping or put in a dazed trance for their 40 minute set.

nate solo

You can stream a song from each artist below.  If you like what you hear, you can download Thieving Iron’s full set here and Modern Inventors’ set here.

All in all, this yet again another successful summer of backyard brunches (even though only 1 of the 3 were in actually in a backyard).  Hard to believe my team and I have been doing this for three years.  Thanks once again to Eric, Dan, Jonas, Zach, Mark, and Dominick to another great summer!

Expect more videos soon.  Next up is the cooking video for Lucius.

Audio by Acidjack on behalf of NYCTaper.  Photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

Posted in Backyard Brunch Session, Brunch, Cheap Cooking, Events, Live Music, Organic Food, recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hurricane Cookies aka Oatmeal Coconut Cranberry [RECIPE]

Let me preface this by saying that I usually tend to eat fairly healthy, but during snow storms or hurricanes, I let loose because you must be comfortable and relaxed to forget your temporarily reclusive existence.

Below is the recipe I improvised for my Oatmeal Coconut Cranberry Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Add this dry mix to the butter/sugar deliciousness. Finally, stir in the oats, cranberries, and coconut. Make into cookie dough balls and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the cookies).

For this recipe, I made 12 deliciously huge cookies and baked them for 15 minutes, but you can make them smaller if you like.

Before I jetted off to Chelsea to my girlfriend’s for one of the last subway rides into Manhattan, I left two cookies for my roommates.  Due do the ridiculousness of some of our friends, we decided to exaggerate their irrational fear even further and make many ark jokes (which explains the note below the cookies).


Give this recipe a try.  It’s cheap to make and takes 30 minutes total to prep and cook + there’s a whole stick of butter in it.  It’s guaranteed to be tasty.

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Mama Sollee’s Biscuits and Gravy (pics + audio + video + recipe)

As I previously mentioned, I’m a huge fan of Ben Sollee. My girlfriend is a huge fan as well. In fact, anyone who has come with me to a show over the past three years that him and I have been friends has been beyond impressed. But luck hadn’t been in our favor until there was a last minute gig cancellation and he was in NYC for an extra day.

When we had a chance to hop on the phone a few days before the session, I asked him what he grew up eating for breakfast, to which he responded, “my mama’s biscuits and gravy.”

To throw a slight curve ball on her delicious recipe, I made three different kinds of biscuits: cheddar, coconut, and maple. As for the gravy, I offered up a vegetarian version as well as lamb bacon white gravy. Both were spectacular.

For a week I practiced making it. The gravy particularly was difficult. Like with risotto, you need to literally stand by the range with a spoon to stir patiently for an hour. While the roux begins to thicken into a deliciously milky gravy.

Mama Sollee’s Biscuit and Gravy Recipe

Preheat oven to 450

2 1/2 cups self rising flour (plus more for coating hands to roll the biscuits and the biscuits themselves)
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well. On floured waxpaper, dump the biscuit mixture onto the wax paper and dust with flour. When it is stiff enough to roll into a 2 inch thick roll, coat hands with flour, pinch off about a two inch long piece. With cupped hand make a ball. Place on baking sheet then flatten until about 1 inch thick. Repeat until there is no more mixture left. This only makes 9 or 10 biscuits. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the top of the biscuits are lightly brown.

Milk gravy
In a large heavy skillet add:
1/4 cup bacon, or sausage drippings. To make the plain gravy, I would use vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Cook over medium while stirring the flour and oil together until the flour browns beyond golden.
Gradually add 2 cups 2% milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the gravy is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

During the filming of the cooking, we were simultaneously trying to find a new location for the performance because it was raining with no end in sight. Luckily my longtime collaborator Eric had a friend who has “couch surfed around the city.” His friend put us in touch with this guy Joe who was completely open hosting. I sent out a last minute email to all our guests to let them know about the last minute change and from there things went completely, but… (there’s always a but)

…the AC was too loud, so we shut it off during the performance, which made everyone (particularly Ben and his drummer Jordon) very very very very very sweaty. However, it was completely worth it because Ben’s acoustic duo sounded amazing. Armed with an octave mandolin and a cello, Ben offered up two 4-song sets of original music. It felt intimate and special for everyone who was there. To quote one of the guests, “it was easily in my Top 5 experiences of the summer.”

You can download the full set on NYCTaper, but as a taste, below is a clip of DIY off of his new album Half-Made Man (do yourself a favor and buy it).

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Just Confirmed: Ben Sollee

A few days ago Lexington, Kentucky’s Ben Sollee gchats me saying, “We had some schedule changes… want to do a brunch?”

It was easily some of the best news I’ve heard in a while.

You have to understand that this has been in the making for three years.  Ben and I have tried and failed 4 times to make this happen.  However, every time he’s in town, I go and support him.  I usually drag a few friends with me that have little or no exposure to his music and they all leave the venue as fans.  He’s an exceptional self-managed musician who’s genuine and thankful for everything he’s achieved.

I describe Ben’s music as Appalachian Soul Folk.  Check out his NPR Tiny Desk Concert below to hear what that sounds like.

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