A Visit to the Gwynnie Bee Hive

May 5, 2016

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by Rachel Nash Perlow

Gwynnie Bee is a subscription clothing rental business for plus size women. I decided to give it a try last year. Since having bariatric surgery, I had lost a lot of weight but wasn’t yet finished reducing. Who wants to buy clothes retail that you know you won’t fit in a month or two down the road? I had a great time trying clothes in successively smaller sizes, and my friends noticed I rarely wore the same thing twice!

Unfortunately, I had been having a customer service issue for the past couple of months. You see, there were sizes missing from many of the recent style releases, and that was the size range I seemed to be in. Many brands used to be offered in sizes 10, 12, 14, 16, 10W, 12W, 14W, 16W, and up to size 32 or 5X. But now they seemed to be skipping the four sizes between 12 and 14W. Believe me, there’s a large difference between size 12 and size 14W.

 

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A low-carb cauliflower kugel that doesn’t suck

April 18, 2016

kugel-cauliflower

Cauliflower / Mushroom / Leek Kugel

I don’t always food blog these days. But when I do, I mean it.

This is my second Passover season post-bariatric surgery. Since I started this process I’ve lost about 140lbs.

The surgery has helped immensely, but I credit a lot of this to sticking to a diet that is rich in protein and vegetables and low in sugar and carbohydrates.

Passover is a holiday that is incredibly difficult for bariatric patients. Most traditional Ashkenaze Jewish holiday foods are extremely carb-rich, and Passover is no exception, with matzoh incorporated into just about everything.

Matzo ball soup, matzo rolls, matzo stuffing, and of course, the kugels.

I do plan to attend the family seders this year, but I won’t be able to partake in most of it.

I’ll be able to eat brisket if it is there, but since surgery I now have an aversion to chicken (which happens in some people) as I can’t stand the taste/texture of it anymore and it makes me ill. And I’ve never liked gefilte fish or chopped liver.

Potato Kugel and Matzo Ball Soup is off the menu. As is basically anything that is mostly carb-based.

I will be there, primarily, to be with family. And to watch everyone eat stuff that I can’t.

Welcome to bariatric hell. Does Quest make a matzo ball soup flavor of their protein bars?

My favorite dish, next to matzo ball soup itself is potato kugels made with matzo. It’s like carbs on top of carbs. If you want a crazy-good version, check out the one in this legacy post with other great Passover recipes. It’s awesome. I can’t eat it. Enjoy.

Recently Rachel and I have been experimenting with cauliflower in various dishes as an ersatz carbohydrate. It’s great when shredded/grated and used as a fried rice, or a paella. It also is wonderful mashed with cream and butter (did I mention I no longer care about fat content?).

No, cauliflower does not taste like potatoes. But it does taste good when seasoned and cooked properly. And it soaks up gravy like nobody’s business. Which is very important.

Here is a delicious kugel you can make that is much lower in carbs than a traditional potato kugel, as is made mostly with cauliflower, mushrooms, leeks and eggs.

There is a small amount of matzo meal in it as binder, but in those quantities it’s not worth worrying about if that’s what you’re going to reach for instead of the potatoes and a few slabs of the bread of affliction.

Oh did I mention it kind of tastes like grandma’s matzo ball soup?

Happy Passover.

Cauliflower, Leek and Mushroom Kugel

    • 1 large head of cauliflower
    • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
    • 1 medium onion diced
    • 1 large leek cleaned and sliced 
    • 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
    • 1.5 tsp salt
    • .5 tsp pepper
    • 2 tbsp finely chopped dill (divided)
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (divided)
    • .5 cup coarsely ground almonds
    • 1/4 cup of matzo meal
    • 4 eggs, beaten 

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Shred cauliflower, cook in microwave in your largest glass bowl (so you can mix all ingredients in it later) until tender but not too soft (approx 10 mins stirring occasionally).

    Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet, cook onions 5 mins or they begin to brown, then add leeks and salt, sauteed another 5 mins, then add mushrooms and cook another 5 mins. Remove from heat. Add ground  pepper, half the parsley and half the dill. Mix with cooked cauliflower and allow everything to cool.

    In a small bowl, combine reserved dill, parsley and ground almonds with 2 tbsp olive oil, set aside.

    Grease casserole dish liberally with olive oil.

    Mix eggs and matzo meal with cooled off vegetables, spoon into casserole and smooth the top. Spread the herb and nut mixture over the top.

    Bake in oven for 40-50 mins until puffed and lightly browned.

    Serves 8-12 people or 24 bariatric patients


    Where did Jason go? Bonus: A healthy Caribbean recipe!

    January 17, 2016

    So, where do we start.

      I had let Off the Broiler go into indefinite hiatus about two years ago when I moved from New Jersey to South Florida. I discovered that along with my full time job and my writing for the technology industry, I didn’t really have the time for food blogging anymore.

    To a large extent I now consider food blogging a pastime for the younger generation. I decided that I was not going to re-establish myself as a foodie blogger down here in South Florida because there were already a good number of people doing it, who know the area far better than I do, and who have far more connections in the food and restaurant industry down here than I could ever hope to amass.

    I spent 20 years doing that in the NY/NJ area and I just didn’t have it in me to do it all over again. Food blogger relevancy is overrated and it reaps few rewards for what amounts to a lot of work.

    In 2014 my co-founder at The eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, Steven A. Shaw, died suddenly at the age of 45. It was a horrible, tragic thing, and made me consider very seriously the issue of my own mortality.

    At about the time Steven died I was facing the real possibility that I too would probably die within the next five years, due to my own unique health complications.

    I was morbidly obese (390 lbs or so), I had Type-II diabetes, I had hypertension, high cholesterol and obstructive sleep apnea. I was taking a fist full of medications every day to try to keep things under control.

    Bottom line, I was a mess.

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    A Jewish Puerto Rican Thanksgiving

    November 23, 2015

    Want to make the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey? That’s bursting with flavor and juicy as all get out? Follow our instructions below.

    Thanksgiving 2008 by you.

    This is by far the most colorful Thanksgiving plate I’ve ever seen.

    So after visiting Guavate, Rachel and I knew that we had to try making Pavochon ourselves, the real Puerto Rican way. This year, it happened that Thanksgiving was only going to be 4 of us — Rachel’s parents and the two of us, so we were assigned to doing the cooking. So if we were in charge, why not mix it up and do it Puerto Rican style?

    Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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    Passover Recipes from the OTB Archives

    April 11, 2014

    It’s that time of year again, folks. Here are some of the most frequently requested Passover recipes from our archives.

    Passover Rolls

    Ultimate Potato Kugel

    Veggie Kugel

    Matzo Brei

    Matzah Pizza of Affliction by you.

    Pizza of Affliction

    eggcream6

    New York Egg Creams


    Remembering Steven Shaw

    April 10, 2014

    I’m usually someone that’s good for pulling words out of my head on hard and complex subjects.

    Not today.

    I’m struggling to deal with the loss of someone who I spent five years of my life with creating and building what I consider to be one of my proudest achievements.

    And it is especially hard because the two of us are the same age, and who had so much in common, even despite our differences.

    I’ve told the eGullet story before, from my perspective, at the five year anniversary mark. But I never thought I would have to talk about it again in the context of a eulogy for a friend.

    It was such a long time ago — fourteen years — that I have trouble remembering how exactly I discovered him. We were both users of Jim Leff’s Chowhound food discussion site, which by today’s technological standards and even at the time was a dinosaur.

    I was intrigued by Steven’s writing on his original Fat-Guy.com, which many consider to be one of the first foodblogs. But really, it wasn’t a blog, it was just a collection of stuff, like most personal web sites were at the time.

    It was just raw. But I was intrigued with what he was doing. I was a foodie, but also a technologist, who was delving into things like Linux and Open Source, which could enable a whole lot of things that you could not do before with information presented online.

    Dynamic content, social networking, all the things you can think of that exist today did not exist at the time, back in 1999 or 2000. There was no Facebook, no Twitter.

    Google itself was only 2 years old. Just pause and think about that for a minute.

    I could see that Steven’s writing had huge potential and there was just starting to become available, somewhat experimentally, software that could present information in a free-flowing interactive way that was searchable and had all the things you assume just exist on a content site today.

    The two of us decided to see what could be done with his web site, if we could accomplish those things we take for granted today. We found some weird piece of software from Norway, we tried that out for a while. Then we looked at some other things that seemed like it would work, and settled on that.

    And then it dawned on us that maybe if we found some other good food writers that were subject matter experts in specific areas — such as regional restaurants, wine and cooking — and combine it with this software, we would have something different than what was out there.

    So we scrapped Fat-Guy.com and came up with eGullet. I dragged one of my spare servers to a small ISP in New Jersey and stuffed a bunch of half-baked free software on it.

    We soft-launched it in late August of 2001 and prayed the thing wouldn’t blow up on us.

    We thought it was just going to be a dozen or so local food nuts having geeky conversations for a year until we got some momentum.

    We were wrong.

    Both of us were complete unknowns in the food world. Steven decided to dump a really lucrative six figure job as a litigator at Cravath, Swain and Moore to become a food writer.

    I thought he was completely nuts. I never had the courage to leave computer consulting and writing for the computer industry to take a swipe at professional food writing, because I knew how lousy it paid compared to what I was doing, even if you were lucky to get the gigs at the established and more prestigious magazines and newspapers.

    I always considered food writing and food blogging an expensive hobby, never my profession. Steven took a leap of faith and a risk I would never even consider taking for myself. He was unbelievably courageous, crazy, or both.

    I don’t know if Rachel would be as supportive if I had the balls to take a leap of faith on something like that. His wife, Ellen, is not only a sweet, generous and beautiful person, but she also must be unbelievably patient.

    We came to a gentlemen’s agreement that Steven would provide the culinary and food writing expertise and I would be the technologist-cum-foodie enthusiast.

    We didn’t know if the site would ever make money, but dammit, we would try. I also agreed to pay the bills because Steven had the most at risk and I was the only one with stable employment.

    After September 11 came around, just a few weeks after we launched, traffic on the site simply exploded. We became sort of a group therapy session for New York foodies and food industry people caught up in the aftermath of that horrible thing.

    I don’t remember exactly how big we were after the first year but it wasn’t uncommon to have several hundred people logged on simultaneously with at least a hundred discussion threads being updated every day. For the time, that was enormous.

    Steven’s job was to give the site prestige and legitimacy — which he certainly did, especially after he won his James Beard award. Mine was to keep the lights on, which was no small task considering that the tech back then was no where near as mature as we have now.

    We were both young and inexperienced at this whole online community thing (who was “experienced” then, really?) and as the site grew, we were simply just dealing with issues that arose as we went along.

    The two of us, offline, I think had a great relationship. We respected each other’s capabilities, we loved dining out with each other and our spouses, we talked about so many things.

    We said things to each other that we probably wouldn’t share with anybody else, including our wives. Our worries, our hopes, our dreams.

    The first five years were great. But as Steven’s fame grew in the food community, it became harder for me to accept my role, as critical as it was, to simply be the site’s tech guy.

    I felt my voice was equally important. I was an experienced writer in my own right, even though all of my “legitimate” recognition was (and quite frankly, still is) in the computer industry.

    And while Steven was by far a more prolific poster, I contributed a great deal of valuable food content to eGullet as well.

    We were both two Jewish kids from New York with huge egos and personalities to go with them. And I felt my creativity and input as well as my exposure was being stifled.

    But we couldn’t have two Alpha Foodies on eGullet. And as the organization of the site became more complex, as we got more and more volunteer staff, I lost more and more control.

    And being the control freak that I was (and still am) that was a very difficult thing for me to come to terms with.

    So the two of us came to loggerheads. Frequently.

    In hindsight I realize these disagreements were stupid and I wish I was mature enough to handle them at the time. But I was not.

    There were also financial issues to deal with. Around the summer of 2005 I decided I didn’t want to pay the bills anymore, and the volume of traffic we were getting, in the millions of page impressions a year would easily be supported by advertising dollars.

    But that would only cover the hosting costs for the site. We both came to the unfortunate conclusion that there was no way we could ever compensate the volunteers for all the time they were putting in, not unless the site was bought out for a huge sum of money.

    Although we tried to generate venture capitalist interest, there were no buyers for content sites like eGullet in those days because the value of that content and the eyeballs viewing it were not well understood.

    We were before our time. July of 2004 is when Facebook was founded, just in case you are keeping track of timelines.

    Steven needed to make a living. The future of the site needed to be ensured. Steven needed a salary and health insurance or we would have to close up shop and he would have to go back to lawyering again.

    So we did the only logical thing that made sense at the time, which was to turn eGullet into a not-for-profit, where Steven would become Executive Director and we’d have a board, with a mission statement and all those things.

    To me at the time, this felt a bit like giving up. I had lost a lot of influence in the future of something I was instrumental in creating.

    We terminated our relationship not long after the 501(c)3 status was formalized. In April of 2006 I started OffTheBroiler.com, and continued my career in the computer industry as both a technologist and a writer.

    In retrospect, and now in dealing with Steven’s passing, I now understand how critical not-for-profit status was for eGullet’s survival.

    eGullet survives now because Steven had the vision to turn it into the Society for Culinary Arts and Letters. It survived when he himself left and eventually embarked on a third career at Quirky.

    It almost certainly will survive after his passing and hopefully, after the current generation of hard-working volunteers over there has ceded to another generation of aspiring writers and food bloggers.

    I hope it exists forever.

    By becoming a not-for-profit it was able to achieve a number of things that we just plain couldn’t do while it was another one of my hobby businesses.

    Still, it was not an amicable parting, and there was bad blood all over. For me to deny that would be untruthful.

    But none of that is important anymore, and I’ve been “over” it for a very long time. I enjoyed my time as an independent food blogger, and I probably should have started earlier.

    Despite what many people wish to believe, we did, years later, patch things up. For a short time, I even had him writing for ZDNet, before he went on to become Community Director at Quirky, where his leadership impacted so many there.

    I watched Steven’s star rise from afar. He’s respected by so many people in the food industry and has touched the lives of so many people in ways I never could have.

    I envy him, and his many accomplishments. His influence on the food writing and food blogging world casts a long shadow. One which will not be forgotten.

    I wanted so badly for us to share another meal together. For him and Ellen and PJ to visit our new home in Florida. For us to debate pizza and bagels and barbecue joints again. To talk about where to find decent Soup Dumplings.

    I’m going to miss you, my friend.


    Broward Dining: Bluefin Parkland

    October 19, 2013

    Bluefin Sushi & Thai Grill
    6694 Parkside Drive, Parkland, FL 33067
    (954) 755-0120

    Web Site: http://www.bluefinparkland.com

    Note: Bluefin Parkland is now running an extremely aggressive “crowdsourced” gift card deal that frankly is one of the best fine dining bargains in the greater Broward and Palm Beach County area right now. For $100, you get a gift card worth $180. For $500, you get $1000, which you can split up into multiple gift cards if you like. If you’re a sushi fanatic like I am, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of this. The cards are good for up to one year at the Parkland location.

    One of the first priorities for us after moving to South Florida was finding our “local” sushi place. Sushi is one of our favorite cuisines, and when you live in a warm climate it also is one of the most refreshing after a long and hot day.

    But high-quality, authentic Japanese-style sushi can be extremely difficult to find in South Florida. Heck, it was difficult enough to find in suburban New Jersey where we used to live, and it’s still something of a challenge in New York City unless you go to the most expensive and well-known places.

    We are lucky enough to live less than 10 minutes away from one of the best sushi restaurants in Broward County, if not all of South Florida, the Parkland location of Bluefin Sushi.

    Chef Yozo Natsui, Proprietor of Bluefin Parkland.

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