EyeSwoon

EyeSwoon has opened doors I didn’t even know existed but ones that were without doubt locked. Creating this platform where the food community, both bloggers and chefs, can gather was the key to my yellow brick road. I arrive each time into a different kitchen, meet another profoundly-talented chef, and learn a ridiculous amount about food and technique. To me, these experiences are more than a belly well-fed–they’re a life well-lived. I would never in a zillion years have imagined stepping into the kitchen with renowned chef Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in Manhattan. I would have never have had the privilege had it not been for EyeSwoon, and yet there we were last week in the West Village, making friends and creating a meal together.

As we cooked, we slowly got to chatting, warming up to one another as I asked questions and observed this masterful chef in her element. Anita is certainly passionate about her craft, but I was also amazed at how attuned she was to allowing us to capture the process. She slowed down in order to allow Sarah, our photographer, to compose a shot, even asking if Sarah and I wanted her to redo something. Seeing how Anita’s acute awareness extended all the way from her cooking to the purpose of our visit to the grace and precision with which she plated our trout, it was obvious to me what an artist she is.

Anita was open and descriptive as she created a trout with smoked roe and sweet corn, explaining the process of how to smoke the roe as we went. We got to chatting about social media, (she does not engage), and the importance of escaping the city to find some solitude. Anita shared that she loves to fish at her home on the North Fork of Long Island and how it is there that she workshops some of the dishes at Annisa. I asked questions, like does she always blanch her basil, and Anita was kind and willing to answer my every whim. It was a fun day — her tiny kitchen produced BIG seasonal flavor and I walked away that much a greater cook for observing Anita in action. When I asked Anita why she became a chef she answered, “I love to eat and I love working with my hands,” and when I asked her to describe how cooking makes her feel she responded, “Focused, passionate and content.” It is that simple, isn’t it?

Anita Lo

  • Q&A

    • Tell us about the dish we created together.

      It’s a simple preparation of grilled trout with its smoked roe, avocado, basil and sweet corn.

      What initially inspired you to become a chef?

      I love to eat and I love to work with my hands. I was studying French Lit in Paris and fell in love with the cuisine.

      What was the impetus behind creating Annisa? Has the restaurant changed over time?

      I realized that the only way to get full creative freedom was to open my own place. We have evolved, but really we’re the same restaurant with the same layout and concept that we started with.  

      How would you describe the food at Annisa—what is the core value represented?

      The food is upscale, adventurous, contemporary American. Not sure what the core value is, but first and foremost it has to be delicious. It is seasonal and diverse with high-quality ingredients.

      You’ve done a lot of globetrotting. Before you opened Annisa, you traveled through Europe and Southeast Asia. How has travel influenced your cuisine?

      I draw a lot from my travels. I like to experience new cultures and ingredients and get excited when I can show my guests what I’ve learned.

      What are your favorite cities for food?

      New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, New Orleans…

      What do you like to do when you’re not working? I know you mentioned fishing and being at your home on the North Fork.

      Travel, of course.  And fish—I’m on the south side of Long island.

      Do you approach cooking at home differently from at work? Have any dishes you often create at home?

      At home my food is a lot simpler. That being said, yes—I’ve reworked some dishes I’ve made out on Long Island for the restaurant.

      In three words, describe how cooking makes you feel.

      Focused, passionate and content.  

      Five ingredients you couldn’t live without?

      I can’t live with just five ingredients!

      A snack from your childhood or college days you’re mildly embarrassed you still love?

      Kraft macaroni and cheese deluxe. #fakecheese.

      Last life-changing, swoon-worthy food experience? (At a restaurant, someone’s kitchen, etc.)

      The caviar course at Aquavit by Emma Bengtsson. GORGEOUS on the palate.

      Proudest moment of your food career?

      When after nine months of closure due to the fire, all but one staff member came back. And cooking at the White House!

      What’s on the horizon for you? Can you tell us about your second cookbook?

      Not sure what’s next, but I just handed in my second cookbook, SoLo, Sophisticated, Easy Recipes For a Party of One. Knopf is the publisher and it should be out next year.

Grilled Filet of Trout with Sweet Corn, Avocado and its Smoked Roe

Anita Lo and Mary Attea, Annisa

  • Ingredients

      • 2 x 5.5 ounce fillet trout, skin on
      • salt and pepper
      • 2 ears corn, blanched on the cob, then kernels removed
      • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
      • 2 tablespoons finishing extra virgin olive oil
      • 3 large leaves opal basil, chiffonade
      • 2 teaspoons chopped chives
      • 3 ounces trout roe
      • 1/2 cup soaked hardwood chips
      • micro opal basil
      • 1 ripe Haas avocado
      • 2 tablespoons blanched and shocked and squeezed dry basil leaves
      • water to thin
      • lemon juice to taste
      • salt and pepper
      • 1 ripe Haas avocado, macedoine
      • 1 heaping tablespoon red onion, large brunoise
      • lemon juice to taste
      • salt and pepper

       

  • The Prep

      1. Smoke the roe: place on a small tray in a thin layer, then place on a large bed of salted ice. Follow the directions on your smoker to cold smoke the roe for 20 to 25 minutes, then chill.
      2. Make the avocado sauce: place the peeled avocado and the basil in a blender with a little water, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, adding a little water to make a thick sauce, then season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place in a squeeze bottle.
      3. Make the avocado salad: cut the avocado into small dice and add a heaping tablespoon of even smaller diced red onion. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
      4. Coat the trout filets with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill, skin side down, until crisp, turning once 45 degrees to create a cross-hatching pattern. Remove just before the trout is cooked through. You shouldn’t have to turn it over—the residual heat will finish the cooking.
      5. Mix the corn salad: place the cooked kernels in a bowl and mix with the basil, chives, lemon, finishing olive oil, salt and pepper.  
      6. To serve, make a half ring of the corn salad on one side of the plate.  Dot with the roe, and then with the avocado sauce. Garnish with a few small opal basil leaves. Make a bed of the avocado salad on the other side of the plate and top with the grilled trout, spritzed with a little lemon juice.

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