APPCA members never fail to amaze me. It’s so exciting to read both our website forums and our Facebook business and group pages to learn about how creatively you’re running your businesses and marketing them. So, I when I saw that Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas recently had a radio interview experience I wanted to learn more–and figured you would, too. Not only did Anne come through with her story about the interview, she has included a wealth of great tips on preparing for it and–even more important–serving it up as a way to promote her business. You’ll want to take notes!

Recently I was contacted by a company called All Business Media FM, which is a subsidiary of I Heart Radio. At first I was skeptical, since I receive so many “spam” calls on a daily basis. My philosophy is “if they don’t leave a message, it’s not important.

But I did receive a voice mail from this company and it sounded fairly legitimate so I returned their call. When I spoke to the lady I queried her with my usual questions to verify their intent/legitimacy. How did you find me? Why did you select me/my business? And most importantly, “How much is this going to cost me?” She was a “fast-talking New Yorker” (apologies to all of you in the NYC area!) but as I listened, she was able to answer my questions. She said that she had visited my website (and cited some sample menu items I have listed) and had seen the reviews on my business on Google and Facebook, so I felt comfortable that she had at least done some research on me and wasn’t just a “scam artist.” She was very honest about the fact that there would be a follow-up call and that it would probably involve a marketing pitch, although there was no obligation after the interview.

The company specializes in small businesses and since I am not only an entrepreneur but a female in what is still (unfortunately) a fairly male-dominated profession of being a chef, this was an “enhancement” for them contacting me and wanting to do an interview. Once I said “yes” she put me through to their scheduling department and we verified all of my information and e-mail address. We scheduled a date and they sent four questions to me via e-mail that I answered and returned to them prior to the show. She had given me information about the fact that it would be an eight-minute interview, who my host would be on that day, and how to retrieve the interview afterwards from their website so I could post it on social media.

I created an “event” on my business Facebook page so everyone could see when the interview would be and posted the information on my personal Facebook page as well, since I knew some of my friends would listen in. In addition, I took the time to listen to a few of their other live interviews to get a feel for what would be the experience. I happened to listen to a woman who is a massage therapist and focused on Reiki as well, which was interesting to me, so I ended up listening to the whole eight minutes.

To prepare for my interview I reviewed the answers to the questions they had sent me and highlighted some important points. I knew it would go quickly and having been in Toastmasters at one time, I also knew the importance of no slang, no “uhs, ers, and ums,” as well as not starting sentences with “OK” and “So.”

They called me at the set time and the host chatted briefly with me about some simple instructions. I was nervous but truly most of the information is in my head since I’m always ready with the “elevator speech” and how to condense what I do in a few short paragraphs. Although I repeated myself a few times, overall it went well and they were very complimentary (which I’m sure they tell everyone!) A week later I was able to retrieve the interview and posted it everywhere on social media, as well as sent the link via e-mail to clients, friends, and family. (You can listen to it here.)

My joke with everyone was “Well, I got through my radio interview and at least I didn’t use the “F” word – except for “Food!” It’s just one more thing to be able to add to my repertoire of marketing tools. The power of social media is amazing and the more you can post in various places, the more your traffic will increase. I have had my website for some time, but constantly review and try to change something on it at least once a month (new menu items, videos, this radio interview link, etc.) I have also created accounts everywhere in the name of my business, “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” This includes Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, and as “Anne Blankenship” on LinkedIn. I review my traffic every week on all of these entities and have seen it increase dramatically in the past two years, thanks to consistent postings.

I thought no one really listened to the radio much anymore, but Caron Golden pointed out that podcasts are a huge thing now (something I had totally forgotten) so doing this radio interview and promoting it through social media is a terrific way to keep “oiling that marketing machine.”

What kind of marketing are you doing to promote your business? Do you have a gap you need help with?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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We all know the frustration of preparing a dish and making various components for it, only to have leftovers. We all hate waste, but what do you do with that extra squidge of tomato sauce or pie filling? Well, APPCA member Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York City has a lot of thoughts about this–and some marvelous tips. Here he is with them: 

Recently my baking sous-chef, aka my wife, and I made a delicious and easy Meyer Lemon Tart—from this recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/lazy-marys-lemon-tart and had extra filling after topping off  our tart shell. I wasn’t about to toss it so I grabbed a handful of Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Wafer cookies and crumbled them into the bottom of a ramekin. I should have added melted butter to them but time was of the essence. We baked the ramekin along with the tart, then cooled the tart and the ramekin in the fridge overnight. When I took the ramekin out for lunch dessert I realized that during the baking process the cookie crumbs in the ramekin rose to the top and the filling baked underneath the crumbs! It was Awesome!!! I couldn’t stop eating it!

This successful spur-of-the-moment rescue of otherwise wasted ingredients got me to thinking about other ways I work with “overruns.”  BTW the term overruns is a throwback to my life in the garment industry!

Cooking for two can be challenging when you try cutting recipes from 4 to 6 servings, so very often you are left with extra ingredients that you had to purchase due to packaging sizes. The best examples are canned beans, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.

Of course it’s often easier to make the dish to the full amount of servings and then store it for another meal.  After all as a personal chef, that is what I do for my clients.  But sometimes I want to try new recipes and increase the variety of what we consume in a given week. Hence, leftover ingredients…

Some examples of how I use up the bits and pieces:

  • Generally, it’s easy to use up lots of the bits and pieces in soups and stews and stir-fries.
  • A 1/2 a can of beans that have been rinsed and drained are often used the next night, added to a simple tossed salad or dropped into a quick soup using up other leftover raw and/or cooked vegetables. Also I frequently will add them another vegetable such as sautéed green beans or blanched broccoli.  Chickpeas are great in ratatouille.
  • Extra canned tomato products work great in soups and stews, even when not called for in the recipe.  It’s also good to use them as a base for a quick pan sauce.
  • One of the most obvious uses I learned as a child from my mother is the extra egg batter from making French toast: scramble it and add to the serving platter.

  • It’s always easier to imagine using up extra herbs by making pesto and freezing or even simply chopping and mixing with small amount of olive oil and freezing in ice cube trays to be added to soups, stews and sauces. Or mince garlic and stir the herbs and garlic with some sea salt. Spread on a tray and let dry for a few days to create a rub. (Bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!)
  • Half a bag of spinach or other greens can be chopped and stirred into rice pilaf, quinoa, or couscous as well as soups or stews. Once I was out of parsley that I wanted to add to some simple boiled new potatoes. I found the extra spinach in the fridge and tossed it into the pan of drained potatoes with butter and garlic for a colorful side dish.
  • When dealing with extra parts of fresh vegetables I often create a mélange of roasted vegetables and serve them over pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous or my wife will put them chilled over cottage cheese for her workday lunches.
  • A great way to finish off pieces of cheese along with other ends of the jar ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, etc. is to make pizza.  The combos are boundless.
  • We have always used up extra pie/tart fillings by baking them separately in ramekins with and without crusts.  Good for a quick individual dessert for lunch or afternoon tea. Do you have extra pie dough? Reshape the dough into a disc and freeze or roll it out and make tartlets in muffin tins or get out cookie cutters and make cookies sprinkled with sugar or sprinkles.

  • Buttermilk is always a challenge, as I have never been a fan of drinking a glass of it!  I push myself to use it up in salad dressings, sub for milk in baking muffins, quick breads or even bread machine recipes.
  • Have leftover cooked grains? Sure you could just reheat them but for more imaginative repurposing Google things like “Leftover Risotto.” You’ll get anything from Classic Arancini to Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms, or dig around in your own fridge and produce Risotto Fritters stuffed with mushrooms and cheese!

Of course, there are plenty of well-known uses for bits and pieces like Parmesan rinds in your slow simmering tomato sauce and leftover wine (an anomaly in my house) for pan sauces. It just takes a little creative thinking but it’s easy to find places to tuck the odds and ends into other dishes, sometimes adding some extra nutrition and flavor profiles along the way.

Let’s bring in more ideas! What are some of your favorite ways to repurpose “overruns?”

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Want Sustainable Meat? Try Rabbit

Filed under: Special Ingredients , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , May 7, 2018

Rabbit is one of those meats that has yet to find a place on a mainstream U.S. menu. While it’s more commonly found in European countries, like France and Spain, just try to find it in a supermarket in the States.

And yet, farm-raised rabbit is a lovely, mild meat and lends itself well to a variety of dishes—if you know how to treat it. Because it’s so lean, it needs moist heat. And, because it’s so lean, it’s very healthy. Some call it the true white meat.

Rabbits are commonly braised or stewed—because of their leanness. If you have a whole rabbit, you can stuff the cavity with spices, truss it, sear it in fat, and cook it in a roasting pan or tagine surrounded by mire poix, stock, and potatoes. Not unlike cooking a whole chicken.

You can also break down the body. Trim the hind legs like chicken quarters by following the line and breaking at the joint. Cut the rest—a rather bony rib cage and a saddle attached to the spine—by cutting away the rib cage to use for stock and then cutting the saddle in half along the spine. Braise the pieces stovetop with olives and pine nuts or in the oven with stock, red or white wine, beer/ale, or cider, accompanied by root vegetables, earthy mushrooms, sliced apples, citrus, or herbs. Or, as a winter dish, cook it in a crust of Dijon mustard and horseradish.

If you do buy a whole rabbit, be sure to keep the liver and whatever fat you get. You can stuff the fat back into the whole rabbit when you braise it. And the liver? It’s sublime sautéed in bacon fat and sliced. You can also add it to flavor gravy or make paté.

Because rabbit is so lean, you have to be careful about not overcooking it. Be sure to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You want the temperature to reach no more than 145 to 150 degrees, then remove it from the heat and let it rest. The meat will continue to cook as it cools, and you should get a resting temperature of 160 to 165 degrees.

While braising is a virtually foolproof way to prepare and serve rabbit, don’t limit yourself to that; rabbit’s very versatile. How about making rabbit street tacos? This is a dish I learned from San Diego chef Karrie Hills. You can grill meaty legs outdoors or sear them on the stove and then finish them in the oven, flavoring them with the smoke from a cedar plank.

Once the rabbit legs are cooked, slice the meat from the bones and build your tacos with sliced avocado, cheese (Hills uses feta, but you can use whatever appeals to you), and pico de gallo. You’ll turn a conventional SoCal dish into something deliciously memorable and unique.

Rabbit Street Tacos

From Karrie Hills
Yield: 10 tacos

Ingredients
2, 8-ounce rabbit legs
1 tablespoon powdered galangal
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 orange, quartered
½ yellow onion, peeled and sliced
5 to 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
5 dried red chiles
3 sprigs fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter

Cedar plank
10 small corn tortillas

For Pico de Gallo
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice from 2 limes
Pinch of salt

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise—enough for each taco
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the galangal, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to make a rub. Pat dry the rabbit legs and apply the rub. Let set from 15 minutes to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in a frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat until the fat is close to smoking. Reduce to medium heat and add the rabbit legs. Brown three to four minutes on each side and, using tongs, pick up the legs and brown the edges.

In a baking dish, create a bed of the quartered orange, onion, garlic cloves, red chiles, and oregano sprigs. Top with the rabbit legs. Top with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 to 150 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest. The internal temperature should rise to 160 to 165 degrees.

While the rabbit is cooking, making the pico de gallo by combining all the ingredients.

Heat the cedar plank on the stovetop (you’ll need a gas stove to do this). Once it starts to smoke, place the rabbit on the plank and cover with foil to smoke while heating the tortillas. Melt more bacon fat or a neutral oil in a pan and sauté the tortillas.

Remove the rabbit from the cedar plank and pull the meat off the bones. Slice the meat (keep the bones to use for stock).

Make the taco by adding rabbit meat to the tortilla. Add a slice of avocado. Spoon on the pico de gallo, and top with crumbled feta. Garnish with cilantro.

Have you cooked with rabbit? What are your favorite dishes?

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Pan de sal. Who can resist these sweet, pillow-soft buns? They were my first introduction to Filipino food back in 1988 when I found them at a bakery in a little mall in the San Diego community of Mira Mesa. It took me too many years to seek out more. It wasn’t until about 2010 that I started thinking about this lovely cuisine, which somehow still eludes the mainstream. And that’s so odd, given the popularity of fusion and global cuisine. After all, Filipino food is nothing if not a clear global melting pot, embracing Southeast Asia, Latin, Chinese, American (we’re to thank for their love of canned foods), and native traditions. With a tropical climate, multiple languages, diverse geographical zones—including 7,000 islands—and more than 120 ethnic groups, the Philippines is bursting with a multitude of delicious food traditions.

Where Candy, Dennis, and I live in San Diego is one of the largest expat Filipino communities in the U.S. So, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy traditional Filipino food–and to shop for it. And now we’re seeing a new generation of Filipino-American chefs draw from their traditions to lend the ingredients and flavors to new dishes.

One of them is my friend Anthony Sinsay, who is currently the chef at a downtown restaurant called JSix (if you live in San Diego or come for a visit, I encourage you to go). I went to his kitchen one day to learn how to make a dish of his called Mussels Adobo. Now, as chefs you’ll probably appreciate one of his most important cooking techniques: conversing with his food. He says that this conversation helps you learn where your food is in the cooking process.

He had sautéed a sliced jalapeño, garlic, and onion–one of the best fragrances ever, of course. Then he added the ebony Prince Edward Island mussels to the pan. He stopped explaining what he was doing to me to listen.

“You’ll hear the mussels purge their water,” he said. “Then you know you need to add a little liquid to keep them moist.”

The dish, which would be divine for a dinner party for clients, is inspired by Sinsay’s mom. “She grew up in the southern part of the Luzon Island in the Philippines. She made this dish with chicken that would simmer in the adobo sauce. I like making it with mussels, but I had to add sugar to the adobo sauce recipe to compensate for the shortened cooking time. When you cook vinegar a long time it becomes sweet. This dish with mussels cooks so quickly I needed to add a sweetener.”

Sinsay’s Mussels Adobo is based on a traditional adobo sauce–soy sauce, vinegar, and water. Sinsay quickly whips up the sauce and sets it aside while he first sautés the vegetables, then adds the mussels. He mixes in the adobo sauce and covers the pan, cooking the mussels until they open. Then, in what takes the dish to a seductive level, Sinsay adds coconut cream and butter. That’s it. Oh, except for one more critical addition: grilled pan de sal, the addictive sweet white Filipino yeast bread. Just brush slices with olive oil and toast on a grill until crispy–then try not dunking them in the luscious mussels sauce. I dare you!

 

Mussels Adobo
From Anthony Sinsay
Serves 4

Adobe is the national dish of the Philippines and varies from region to region. This version is closest to the adobo I grew up with made by my mother from southern Luzon. The sauce is an acidic broth comprised of white distilled vinegar, soy sauce, and water. Cooked with onion, garlic, and jalapeño balancing sweet, umami, spicy, and salty. It’s finished with coconut cream and butter to enrich the flavor and texture. The Pan de Sal is a Filipino yeast-risen dough with a slight sweet flavor, contrary to what the name suggests. Garnish the mussels with chive spears and crispy garlic chips (slice the garlic thin, blanch, then fry).

Ingredients
3 ounces adobo sauce (see below for recipe)
1/2 ounce of olive and canola oil blend
1 jalapeño, sliced in rings (include seeds if you want more heat)
1 1/2 ounces yellow onion, sliced in rings
1 whole peeled garlic clove, minced
9 1/2 ounces mussels, cleaned
1 1/2 ounces coconut milk
1/2 ounces butter
.1 ounce fresh chives, sliced into 2-inch pieces
1 loaf pan de sal, sliced
Olive oil

For adobo sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup water

Directions
1. Make adobo sauce: Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly until all sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
2.  Sauté the jalapeño, onion, and garlic clove in oil. Brush pan de sal slices with olive oil and grill.
3. Add the mussels and stir together.
4. Add the adobo sauce, stir together, and cover, cooking until the mussels open.
5. Remove lid and remove mussels from the heat. Stir in coconut cream and butter. Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary to balance the flavor.
6. Garnish with chives and garlic chips (optional). Serve with grilled pan de sal.

Have you ever tried or cooked Filipino food? What dishes are your or your clients’ favorites?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Eggplant Onion Gratin

Filed under: Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , April 23, 2018

I’m guessing that many of you have clients who adore eggplant. They love the creamy texture you get when it’s cooked that can go anywhere from baba ganoush to eggplant parmesan to eggplant souffle. I’m no different. I love eggplant in its many incarnations and across world cuisines.

So a few springs ago I decided to turn it into a gratin. This is kind of a risky dish because eggplants are so mild in flavor that they can simply be overpowered by the other ingredients you pair with them. At first I thought I’d slice the eggplant very thin and stack the layers, alternating with cheese. But ultimately I decided to cube it and toss together the ingredients. Oregano is a great flavor partner with eggplant and I grow it in my garden, so that was a part of this experiment. So were onions. And garlic. And panko combined with my favorite Trader Joe’s grated parmesan romano combo. And goat cheese. Together they created the necessary creaminess plus a little tartness without being too overwhelming. Instead of using butter, I turned to a really nice extra virgin olive oil.

I poured the mixture into an 8 1/2-inch oval au gratin dish. At just under 2 1/2 cup volume, I figured I’d get about three servings. For clients you’ll want to double my recipe.

The dish is a little time consuming to make but not too labor intensive. I figured the eggplant should be pre-cooked to make sure it had a soft and lush texture by the end. The onions and garlic need to be sauteed to create sweetness. After that you just combine everything and put it in the oven until it’s bubbly and brown.

The result was just what I’d imagined–creamy and crunchy, with a bright flavor from the punch of oregano, sweetness from the onion and garlic, tartness from the goat cheese. That distinctive mild eggplantiness came through. I enjoyed the dish with a piece of roasted chicken. And I had leftovers–which were easy to reheat. In fact, you can make this dish for a client dinner party ahead of time and simply reheat it before serving.

Eggplant Onion Gratin
Serves 2 to 3 depending on your generosity

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups eggplant, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese

For topping:
Goat cheese
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup panko crumbs
Drizzle of olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until soft and just becoming brown.

While the eggplant is baking, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil (about a tablespoon or more). Don’t brown them. You just want them soft. Add the oregano and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and mix with the onions in a bowl. Add milk and cheeses. Mix well.

Coat the inside of a gratin dish with olive oil. Add the eggplant mixture. Dot with goat cheese. Combine the 1/8 cup parmesan cheese with the panko and evenly spread over the eggplant and goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 25 minutes until brown and bubbly.

What are your favorite ways to prepare eggplant? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share here?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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As a personal chef your goal is to make your clients happy with food that not only tastes good but perhaps also addresses health issues they face.

But what do you do when their health issues conflict with yours? What if, like APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle, you have celiac disease and yet still make baked goods and dishes you can’t taste?

This is neither a small issue or a rare one. Think of all the people in your life with gluten allergies, seafood allergies, and other random food allergies. Just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean they’re immune to them.

Chef Dakota Weiss of Sweetfin, an L.A.-based chain of fast casual poke shops, told Forbes back in 2016 that she can’t even touch fish without reacting. She explained that her throat will close up, her tongue gets itchy, and it gets difficult to speak. So, how does she do her job? When scaling fish she dons two sets of gloves and wraps a bandanna around her face so that a scale doesn’t fly into her eye. It’s not always successful and failure results in her eye swelling shut.

Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag discovered she has an intense allergy to hazelnuts. She told Cooking Light that she worked with her allergist to create a plan and gather the right tools. “On the set of Chopped, I’m a regular. They know about my allergy. Hazelnuts are never on set when I’m there. They’re not usually on set at all. Any guest judge appearances I make, I let them know before I come in that I’m allergic to hazelnuts. That’s my first step. Second step is to always have an EpiPen.”

APPCA member Christine Robinson has issues with green peppers and gluten. “I can take digestive enzymes for small amounts of wheat and we use an Italian non-GMO flour that does not cause me to react…we tell clients ahead of time that we use every color of pepper except for green bell, as I can’t taste it…in nearly 20 years no one has minded…”

Similarly APPCA member Shelby Wassel addresses her watermelon allergy by leaving it out of dishes. “It’s not a big deal, but I never offer watermelon, feta and mint salad to my clients as I’m allergic to watermelon! No one has ever missed it.”

If food allergies dog you, your first responsibility is to your health and well being. Here are four tips for staying safe while still making delicious meals for your clients:

  1. “Just do the best you can, protect yourself first and if you can get someone to help that you trust then have them help you out,” Zirkle advised. That could mean hiring an additional person with you to handle the ingredients you’re allergic to–not just for prepping, cooking, and packaging, but also shopping for the ingredients so you don’t have to handle them at all, tasting the dish, and even cleaning up.
  2. Carry Benadryl and at least one EpiPen on you at all times. Double up on gloves and wear a mask if you absolutely have to work with an ingredient you’re allergic to.
  3. Be honest with your clients. Let them know that you have specific allergies and can’t prepare dishes with those ingredients in them at all or unless someone else you bring in handles them. Ask that anything you’re allergic to that they may have in their kitchen either be removed or stored away and well labeled so you can avoid it.
  4. Depending on the level of your reaction following exposure, don’t even offer it. It’s not worth the potential medical emergency that could land you in the hospital or worse.

And, if food allergies are an issue for you, let that be an opening into turning your compassion for potential clients who may also have food restrictions into new business opportunities. It may lead to your developing a new set of recipes that compensate for the ingredients you can’t work with, a new culinary specialty, and even new segment of clients who will appreciate how your limitations mirror theirs.

Do you have a food allergy you’re dealing with when cooking for clients? How have you addressed it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , April 9, 2018

We’re in that weird in-between seasonal period when we expect the weather to warm but then it doesn’t. Or, it can go the other way and there’s a brief strange heat wave. Are we ready for refreshing salads or could we use something warm and comforting.

Well, here’s a recipe that can go either way: Moroccan Spiced Lentils.

Meet my friend, chef Flor Franco introduced it to me at a potluck gathering of friends several years ago. My mom was with me for that lunch and raved about it so much that Flor later went over to my mom’s house to prepare it. An amalgam of lentils and split peas, it’s infused with fragrant cumin, coriander, turmeric, Spanish paprika, and cayenne. Add roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onions; fresh minced parsley and cilantro; and a splash of olive oil and that’s about it.

The result is a richly flavored but very healthy dish that can be eaten as soup on a chilly day or spread over a steaming mound of rice, depending on how thick or loose you want it. Just add or take out water. The day Flor came over, she prepared the soup version, and it was accompanied a platter of chicken, rice, salad, and fresh fruit for lunch.

Flor also gave us some handy kitchen tips. Roast garlic and cut-up onions, then package them and keep in the fridge for about a week to use whenever you might need them in a recipe. And, for this recipe, combine the spices in larger quantities in advance and keep in an airtight container.

Cooking the lentils took less than an hour. If you’re dealing with a cold “soup” day, heat up naan and take off the chill. If the day is warm, pull out some cold roasted chicken, add a salad and rice, then spoon a thicker version over the rice. Or chill it for a dip or rich spread. Yes, this is a hugely versatile dish year round.

Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup
Yield: about 5 servings

15 cups of water
2 cups lentils
2 cups yellow split peas
2 cups green split peas
5 tomatoes (plum tomatoes are good for this)
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Moroccan spice mix 
2 tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
3 dried Chinese chiles

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro

Preheat the broiler.

Add the lentils and split peas to a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 35 minutes until soft.

Broil the tomatoes, onions, and garlic until they start to brown and soften. Remove from the oven and peel the skin from the tomatoes.

When the legumes are ready you can remove some of the liquid if you want this mixture to be very thick (so you can mound the dish on a bed of rice or use as a spread) or add more water if you want it more like soup. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the salt, pepper, parsley, and cilantro. Cook for another 10 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and sprinkle with the parsley and cilantro.

Do you have a versatile year-round dish that you can adapt to the seasons? We’d love to learn about it!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Are you someone who enjoys canning? Well even if you think you have all the resources you need in the form of cookbooks here comes Sarah Marshall’s new book Preservation Pantry: Modern Canning From Root to Top & Stem to Core (Regan Arts/$24.95). It’s the subtitle that says it all. Marshall, creator of Marshall’s Haute Sauce in Oregon, doesn’t only offer unique recipes for preserving harvests, she includes–even stresses–the parts of fruits and vegetables we usually toss. It’s the quintessential no-waste preserving book.

Preservation Pantry is organized to help preserving novices get their bearings. Like any good preserving book, it lays out the tools and equipment and steps to successful canning and preserving, and offers a thorough lesson in the step that most frightens the novice: water baths. What I love about this section are the illustrations that show everything from can jar sizes, chopping, what “headspace” looks like, and how to remove air pockets.

Then come the recipes: first fruit, then vegetables, a to z. Within each section is a preserving recipe, a second recipe for the fruit or vegetable, then a recipe for the “discards” followed by a recipe for using the discards preserves. So, for apples Marshall starts with Ginger Liqueur Spiked Apples, made with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and ginger liqueur. You’ll remove the peel and core–and save them. The Ginger Liqueur Spiked Apples, she writes, can be used to make her Drunk Apple Crumble recipe a few pages away. The following recipe is for Matcha Tea Applesauce that you can enjoy as part of a breakfast bowl. Again, hang on to the peel and core. Next is her boozy caramel sauce, made from those saved peels and cores, along with whisky, cinnamon, sugar, salted butter, and whipping cream. All this leads to–ta da!–her Drunken Apple Crumble, which contains both the Ginger Liqueur Spiked Apples and the Whiskey Apple-Core Caramel. Brilliant!


And so it goes with cherries (save the pits for making bitters), lemons (save the peel for a spice rub), beets (the leaves will make dolmas while the stems will pickle cauliflower), onions (Onion Peel Powder), and turmeric (Turmeric Skin Golden Cashew Milk). And, of course, there’s more.

Finally, Marshall is an enthusiastic canning clubber, so she has a section at the book’s conclusion all about how to start your own canning club and set up and work a trading table. You’ll also find a section for stocking your pantry, with vendor contact information.

The recipes in the book are quite unusual so they’re bound to be launching points for any enthusiastic canner considering how to use their own local, seasonal bounty.

Do you enjoy canning for clients? What are your favorite fruits or vegetables to preserve?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Passover is coming up at the end of this week. With Passover it’s all about the Seder, right? Complete with a plate of matzoh, a Seder plate holding traditional symbolic foods, and a Haggadah at every plate to read the account of the Jews’ experience in Egypt and their liberation from the bonds of slavery.

Well, yes, Passover is focused on the Seder. But what happens after that when there’s an entire week in which observant Jews are expected to refrain from eating leavened breads along with a variety of grains? Fortunately, Passover coincides with the beginning of spring and with spring comes spring produce—asparagus, strawberries, artichokes, fava beans, and the like. So, why not create a Passover brunch for Jewish clients that celebrates a new season?

Growing up, my parents would treat us kids—and themselves, of course—to matzoh brei, or fried matzoh. My orientation is toward the savory so I have always loved the plump, crispy pieces of matzoh that emerge from the pan sprinkled with salt. To be honest, it doesn’t look like much and there’s just no dressing it up, but trust me, it’s delicious. And this is what I’ve long liked to serve for my Passover brunches with cold poached asparagus and horseradish sauce. And lots and lots of brilliant red juicy strawberries.

Now I’ve seen a lot of versions of matzoh brei that tend to be more of a matzoh omelet than what I make. Not my thing. Fortunately, it’s simply a matter of changing the ratio of eggs to matzoh. I like the matzoh pieces simply coated with egg so the ratio I use is one egg to two pieces of matzoh. All you do is break up the matzoh into bite-sized pieces, put them in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let the matzoh pieces soak in the water for a few minutes to soften and before they get too soggy, drain the water. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the matzoh, then gently stir the mixture together so each piece of matzo is coated with egg. Heat a large skillet (cast iron skillets are great for this), add vegetable oil to about ¼ of an inch and when a little piece of the mixture sizzles when it’s added to the oil, pour the rest of the mixture in. Stir and break up the pieces as they cook. The matzoh brei is ready when the individual pieces of matzoh puff up and are golden and crispy.

Then comes some decision making. Do you serve the matzoh brei with sugar and/or applesauce or salt and pepper and/or sour cream? It’s the classic Jewish conundrum (think potato pancakes at Chanukah). Resolve it according to taste or be a mensch and put it all out for your guests.

Here’s a different option for the menu: Sweet Matzo Fritters.

These fritters, created by Chef Jeff Rossman of San Diego restaurant Terra, were a fun surprise. I hadn’t used matzoh like this before. Let it soak and soak and the matzoh collapses into a dough-like substance. The recipe calls for raisins but I didn’t have a bag of raisins. I did have a Trader Joe’s medley of raisins, dried cranberries, and blueberries, and they worked just as well. Once I made them and had made up some whipped cream for strawberries, I tried them together and oh my…

Sweet Matzo Fritters
Jeff Rossman, Terra

Yield: 30 fritters, depending on the size you make them

4 ½ standard sized matzot, plain, whole wheat, or gluten free
3 large eggs separated
¾ cup finely chopped almonds or your favorite nut
1 cup raisins or currants
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons matzo cake meal
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Vegetable oil for frying

Topping:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix sugar and cinnamon together for topping.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, break up the matzot into small pieces and cover with water. Let them soak until soft, about 15 minutes. Use your hands to squeeze the matzot dry of all excess water. Press the matzot with your fingers or with a fork and completely crush them. With a fork, mix in the egg yolks, almonds, raisins, oil, cinnamon, lemon juice, zest and cake meal.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating the whites until they form stiff white peaks. Fold the whites in the matzo mixture.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat enough frying oil so it comes up about ¼ to ½ inch up the sides. Drop generous spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. Fry the fritters until they are lightly browned on all sides, turning them once. Drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Now, I know I’ve neglected Easter, but this week I plan to focus on lots of Easter recipes on our Facebook page, so go to the page, “like” it, and you’ll get a full stream of dishes to inspire you.

What kinds of dishes do your clients ask you to prepare for Passover?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches — and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic many years ago. Yes, it’s garlic. No, it’s not a unique variety. And, no, it’s not rotten. It’s the same head you’ve been cooking with for years only it’s been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it’s softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex. Some restaurant chefs have figured out how to make it on their own and there are directions on various sites for making it but it’s readily available online at Black Garlic North America, Mondo Food, Amazon, at specialty spice shops, and some Whole Foods stores. And there are plenty of sites with recipes for using black garlic that you can do an easy search for. Basically, though, use it as you would use roasted garlic, understanding that the flavor will be different.

One dish I’ve made with black garlic is pesto. The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.


Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it’s still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but with warmer weather on the way, it’s perfect for drizzling over tomatoes and roasted vegetables like fennel. It’s also perfect on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic is also a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken. Here’s what I’ve done successfully: make black garlic butter. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It’s easy to do. Use a mini food processor and puree two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger chopped into a few pieces. Just for myself, with a whole chicken leg I spread half under the skin, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.

 

 

With the rest of the compound butter, I sautéed lovely miniature (not “baby”) carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

What unique ingredient is now your “secret ingredient” and how do you use it?

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