I have biscuits on my mind. My friend Matt Gordon just closed his two restaurants in San Diego. Among the many pleasures of dining there my guess is that for most of Matt’s devotees, it will be his biscuits that are missed the most. I say that because at the closing meal last week, which was packed, almost everyone seemed to have ordered the biscuits.

Now you may think you’ve got the best biscuit recipe ever. Maybe it came to you from your grandma or your mom or great auntie. I’m sure it’s divine but why wouldn’t you want another one that is so good that people were standing at the bar several people deep drinking cocktails and scarfing down biscuits. Yeah, they’re that good–and your clients deserve the best.

So, what do you know about biscuits? We may think of biscuits as an almost scone-like pastry, but in fact the word  biscuit covers a range of flour-based edibles. According to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, they are generally small in size, thin, and have a crisp texture. But that mostly refers to the British context, where biscuit can equal cookie or cracker. It didn’t account for North America’s meaning that is more like a scone. The actual name biscuit is derived from the Latin panis biscoctus, meaning “bread twice cooked.” Think hard, crumbly rusks or biscotti. The idea was to create a long-lasting product.

Today, you’ll find all sorts of baked goods under the biscuit umbrella, from snickerdoodles and sable cookies to British digestives and Garibaldis to Spanish tostadas. Our North American biscuits remain most closely related to soft, quickly baked, leavened British scones. Yet we use the biscuit name.

Matt alternately uses cream and buttermilk as the liquid. You can interchange them, but if you play to make the dough in advance, you should use cream. Matt says he found that the buttermilk version of the dough will turn a bit gray. It won’t affect the taste, but it’s not very attractive.

Now if you’re actually a biscuit-making novice, no worries. Biscuit recipes are very forgiving so long as you get the basics right. One of the first rules you must follow is to keep the butter cold and work the dough as little as possible to keep the butter from melting.

Cut the butter into small pieces to make sure it’s evenly dispersed and, as the mixture comes together, can form small, pea-sized pieces. And don’t use a food processor for this. Either mix it by hand or use a stand mixer on the lowest speed.

Another tip is to slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients mixture. Start with the smaller amount. If you’re using a stand mixer, it’s okay to stop while you still have some dry ingredients at the bottom of the mixing bowl. You’ll keep from over mixing and can better judge how much more liquid to add by finishing by hand.

You should still have pieces of butter visible in the dough, like you do when making pie. That’s what creates the layers. But, unlike pie dough, biscuit dough doesn’t need to rest. Just keep it cold and roll it out. You can use a rolling pin, but Matt pats it down and shapes it by hand with his fingertips. And, because restaurants are all about preventing waste, he cuts his biscuits into squares. Another tip he has is to brush the formed dough with an egg wash before separating the biscuits.

Say, you’re catering a party and want to get some of your dishes prepped in advance. Like Matt’s now former  staff you can prep all the dry ingredients except the herbs for a batch and bag it, keeping the mix chilled until you’re ready to bake. Then add the herbs and liquid to mix, shape, and bake. You can also make a batch of biscuits ahead of serving them and then reheat them.

Cheese and Chive Biscuits
From Matt Gordon
Yield: About 15 biscuits

1 ½ cups pastry flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 1/2  sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups loosely packed white cheddar, grated
¾ cup loosely packed fontina cheese, grated
1/8 cup minced chives
1 ¼  to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Egg white from 1 egg (optional)

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter, chives, and cheeses, and mix with a pastry knife or the paddle attachment of a mixer on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate the butter. There should still be small pea-size chunks of butter; this will make the biscuit flaky.  At this point you can store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two if necessary.

Slowly add the buttermilk, starting with 1 ¼ cups and fold together for about 10 seconds. Move the ingredients around by hand and pour the remaining ½ cup of buttermilk into the bottom of the bowl to make sure the moisture gets there. Mix again for just a few seconds. Add slightly more buttermilk if the dough hasn’t pulled together. Do not over mix dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times only.  Handle the dough as sparingly as possible to keep the butter from melting. Using your fingertips, flatten dough out to about ¾ -inch thick and brush the top with egg whites (optional). Cut in desired shape.  Brush the top with egg whites (optional).

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. (If you have a convection oven bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.)  You can crack a biscuit open to make sure it is cooked inside. If it is not, lower heat to 250 and check again in a couple of minutes. You can bake these ahead of when you plan to serve them and reheat before serving.

Orange Honey Butter

½ pound unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon grated orange zest
½ tablespoon honey
¼ tablespoon kosher salt
¼ tablespoon garlic, chopped

Whip butter in mixer for 10 minutes until light and airy. Add remaining ingredients and whip for another 3 minutes.  Use immediately.  Store in refrigerator but let it warm up slightly before using.

Do you ever make biscuits for clients? What do you serve with them?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Celebrating Norooz

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 11, 2019

This year Norooz, the Persian New Year, begins on March 21. Celebrating Norooz, which means “new day,” is a very old celebration that has nothing to do with religion. It marks the transition from winter to spring and is filled with feasting.

In fact, the holiday, celebrating the vernal equinox, has been a part of the culture of the people of Iran and Mesopotamia since antiquity and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian, the religion of ancient Persia before Islam. Weeks before, people will put seeds of grass or lentils or wheat or mung beans in water in a decorative pot so that they will sprout by the first day of Norooz—bringing to life the concept of growth and the arrival of spring. Then the house gets a thorough spring cleaning.

Norooz is celebrated for 12 days, but my friend Mahin Mofazeli, who owns a Persian restaurant in San Diego called Soltan Banoo, explained that on the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated. In Iran, she said, the tradition was to leave the city and go for a picnic to “get rid of the thirteenth.” They’d bring the sabzeh that had grown tall in the pot and tie knots in the young growth, then make wishes on the knots. Then they’d leave them behind, throwing them in the river, before returning to the city because after that, having the sabzeh would be bad luck.

So, what foods are made for the new years?

The first thing to know about Persian food is that everything starts with basmati rice. Know how to make this well and you have the foundation for numerous dishes. The rice requires rinsing a couple of times to remove the starch and then soaking to reduce cooking time. When you’re ready to cook it, you’ll drain the water and transfer the rice to a large pot of boiling water containing a little olive oil where it will cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Perhaps the most traditional Norooz dish is Sabzi Polo, or Rice with Fresh Herbs. The herbs usually include cilantro and parsley, but could also include dill weed and fenugreek. At the bottom of the pot is really the best part—the tahdig, a crunchy layer formed by rice or bread or sliced potatoes, or even tortillas. Mofazeli prefers potatoes. She slices russets with the skin on and makes a single layer on the bottom of the pot, which already has a little olive oil and saffron water (she always has a mixture of that in her kitchen), then starts layering with rice, then herbs, then more rice, then more herbs until she’s used all the ingredients. She’ll add a little saffron water, then put it on the stovetop over fairly high heat to cook uncovered for about five minutes. Then she puts on the lid, lowers the heat, and lets it cook for about 30 minutes. The dish is traditionally served with Mahi, or fish, since it represents abundance. In Persia, it’s white fish from the Caspian Sea.

For a true feast,Sabzi Polo can be accompanied by dolmehs, or stuffed grape leaves; kookoo sabzi, an herbaceous omelet-like dish; Baghali Ghatogh, lima beans with egg and dill; and pastries like honey-soaked baklavah.

Norooz Pirooz! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!

Sabzi Polo (Rice with Fresh Herbs)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
1 large russet potato, sliced
3 cups cooked basmati rice, prepared using the four steps
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 whole cloves garlic or green garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, ½ cup water and 1 tablespoon saffron water. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a large non-stick pot. Place a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Cover potatoes with a layer of rice. Combine the herbs and then add a layer of the herbs and the crushed and whole garlic over the rice. Repeat the layering of the rice and herbs, adding a sprinkling of cinnamon between the layers.
  3. Pour a mixture of 4 tablespoons oil and 1 cup of water over the top of the rice and add the remaining saffron water.
  4. Place pot on medium high heat for five minutes, uncovered. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon out the rice onto a platter. Garnish with the potato tahdig and serve with fish.

Do you celebrate Norooz? Have you ever made any Persian dishes?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been air fryer curious for awhile. What’s prevented me from buying one when I scoped them out at Target awhile back was their sheer size. They’re huge and can take up a lot of counter real estate.

But I came across this article in The Kitchn and both it revived my desire and helped me focus on some options. Now there was no way I was going to spend $350 on one so I’d have to go for second best for about $100. This was the NuWave Brio 6-Quart Healthy Digital Air Fryer.

I always go big since even though I live alone, I want to have the flexibility to cook for a crowd. But my fears panned out. I couldn’t put it on my counter. It had to go on my glass-top stove. And I didn’t like it at all. It was hard for me to figure out how to use it, took way too long for the food–sweet potato fries (of course) and a chicken thigh–to cook separately. But I’d have put in more time to figure it out had my entire house not reeked of burning plastic.

I returned it.

But I couldn’t let go and a month or so later I went back to The Kitchn article and thought I’d scale down and give this much smaller Dash air fryer a try. Dash has the fryers in multiple cool coolers with a small compact footprint, and both manual and digital displays.

Here’s mine (and no, I don’t get any payment from either Dash or Amazon):

I used it for the first time on, what else, the shishito peppers. Normally, I would toss them in a little oil and let them blister in a hot cast iron skillet. It’s not a big undertaking, unless the temperature is soaring in the summer. But cooking them up in the air fryer–essentially using convection heat–was even better because I didn’t have to hover over the skillet and deal with peppers so twisted they wouldn’t stay where you turned them.

With the air fryer all I had to do was toss them in a little vegetable oil and place them in a single layer in the crisper  basket, which rests in the crisper drawer. The downside? Because it’s a small unit I had to do two batches, but it wasn’t a big deal since the cooking time is a mere five minutes. This particular air fryer is very intuitive so you press the power button and it immediately shows the temperature, which I turned up from its default 360° to 390° with the + button.

Then you press the timer/temperature button, which displays the default time of 10 minutes and move it to 5 minutes using the – button. Press the start arrow button and it takes care of the rest. In fact, the temperature and timer alternate on the display so you know exactly what is going on as it counts down. And once it hits the one-minute mark, it counts down in seconds.

Midway, pull out the basket and shake, then put it back into the machine. When the timer beeper goes off, check and make sure your shishitos are sufficiently blistered. If so, pull out the basket and use tongs to pull out the shishitos (excess oil may have collected in the bottom of the crisper drawer below the basket so you don’t want to risk burning yourself by flipping it over).

Now how do you season your shishitos? If you’re like most people you salt the shishitos, then squeeze lemon juice over them. And that’s perfectly wonderful. I’m fond of ponzu sauce on them as well. But with this batch I sprinkled coarse sea salt and shichimi togarashi, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning mix.

It has a bite, thanks to chili pepper and szechuan pepper. But it also contains black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, and dried basil. So it offers plenty of zesty flavor, too, and pairs beautifully with the blistered shishitos.

Now do I think you’ll use an air fryer for clients? I don’t know. But if you can think of it as a mobile convection oven you might think of some uses for it when cooking for clients who only have a conventional oven. I’ve made chicken thighs with this little one and they cook up nicely and faster than if I put them in the oven. You can create “fried” foods for clients who can’t have all that oil. In other words, it’s another tool to add to your cooking arsenal. And, hey, it’s something to have at home to get a meal for yourself made with less hassle.

Have you tried using an air fryer yet? What do you think?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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In San Diego we have it easy, weather wise. But these last few weeks have been chilly and wet. Temps down into the 30s in the morning and lots and lots of rain. Personally, I’m loving it. I get to wear heavy wool sweaters and indulge in stews and soups that usually are just to heavy for balmy weather.

But as we wind up February it’s all starting to get old and, like you no doubt, I’m looking forward to spring. In that spirit I offer a spring dish you may not have heard of: Carciofi alla Giudia: Roman Jewish-Style Baby Artichokes.

If you weren’t aware of this, there’s a whole category of food related to Italian Jews. According to the book, Tasting Rome, the Jewish community there evolved from a 16th-century migration from Spain—and much later, in the 1970s from Libya. Forced to live in a walled ghetto for centuries, Roman Jews created their own cuisine from limited resources, authors Katie Parla and Kristina Gill say. It’s called the “cucina ebraica romanesca”—or Roman Jewish cuisine. When Libyan Jews fled North Africa from antisemitic violence and landed in Rome in the late ‘60s, they brought their cuisine, “La Cucina Tripolina.”

One of the most famous dishes that come out of the original cucina ebraica romanesca is deep-fried artichokes, or Carciofi alla Guidia. I actually came to this dish about five years ago in San Diego at a restaurant that has since closed. This dish was the best thing on their menu, and I was lucky that the owner invited me to the restaurant to teach me how to make it.

While restaurants can order prepared artichokes from Italy, the best way to make it, of course, is with fresh artichokes when they’re in season. Look for young, medium-sized artichokes that haven’t developed enough to have a fuzzy choke. Strip the dark, tough outer leaves until you hit the soft, lighter green leaves. Keep the stem intact. As you prep the artichokes add the finished ones to a large bowl of cold water with lemon juice to keep them from discoloring. Then you’ll simmer them in a mixture of olive oil, water, and garlic until they’re tender. At that point, you can strain them for the dish and save the liquid for sauteing later.

Then you have two options. Either saute the artichokes first, then run the pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp. Or put them in a 500-degree convection oven for a few minutes, then pull out the pan and settle it on the stove top to crisp. It works fine either way. When the artichokes are done, remove them from the pan, add some chopped parsley and basil to the pan with slices of garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add them and some uncooked parsley and basil to garnish. That’s it.

Carciofi alla Giudia
10 servings based on 3 artichokes per serving

To prepare artichokes:
30 baby artichokes, intact
Bowl of water and juice of one lemon
Half gallon olive oil (extra virgin oil isn’t necessary)
10 ounces water (optional so you don’t have to use so much oil)
12 cloves garlic

To prepare each serving:
3 prepped artichokes
1 clove garlic, sliced
garlic-infused olive oil from the prep above
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Strip off tough artichoke leaves until you reach the tender, light green leaves. Place cleaned artichokes in lemon water.

2. Bring olive oil, water, and garlic cloves to a boil. Add the artichokes and simmer until tender.

3. Remove artichokes strain, and keep the liquid.

4. Pre-heat the oven to broil. Heat an oven-ready skillet and add olive oil mix to the pan with sliced garlic and salt and pepper. Spread the leaves of each of three artichokes to look like a blooming flower and place on the pan. Saute for a few minutes, then put the skillet under the broiler for four to five minutes to crisp.

5. Remove skillet from the oven and remove the artichokes to a plate. Add a small handful of herbs and briefly saute with the garlic. Then add to the artichokes on the plate. Garnish with more herbs and serve.

What are you most looking forward to cooking this spring? What are your clients telling you they’re craving?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Dining with Oscar

Filed under: Food Entertainment , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 18, 2019

Are you or your clients movie fans? If so, I’m sure you know that this year’s Academy Awards will be held on February 24, just one week away!

What has this got to do with food? Well, like everything! I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite movies are all about the food.

In celebration of Oscar, I thought I’d list some of the movies I’ve enjoyed that celebrate food. Some are obvious, some you might have seen years ago but may have forgotten, and some may be new to you. And, help me jog my memory with those I may have left out!

  • Julie and Julia: 2009, directed by Nora Ephron (Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci) Based on Julie Powell’s blog/book of the same name and Child’s book, My Life in France, written with nephew Alex Prud ‘homme. Most of my friends agree we’d have rather spent the two hours, or more, just with Julia/Meryl, but still a delicious movie.
  • It’s Complicated: 2009, directed by Nancy Meyers (Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin). Forget the ridiculous plot. I want Meryl’s house and garden and I want to make croissants with her.
  • Big Night: 1996, directed by Campbell Scott (Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub and cast of thousands) Remember the big dish, Timpano? A feast!
  • Eat Drink Man Woman (Taiwan): 1994, directed by Ang Lee – remade into Tortilla Soup in 2001 with Hector Elizondo about Mexican-American family. The former is one of my very favorite movies. I love the scenes in which the father prepares multiple complex Chinese dishes for his daughters. Woks sizzle, cleavers fly, crustaceans and chickens give it up for the sake of a sumptuous family meal. The remake is fine, a close parallel with the Taiwanese family film, but there’s just something so much more poignant about the original.
  • Babette’s Feast: 1987, based on novel by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) set in 19th-century Denmark. The setting is grim and as restrained as you can get, setting us up for the stunning opulence of the dishes Babette prepares with her winnings.
  • Mostly Martha: 2002 (German) – remade in 2007 into No Reservations with Catherine Zeta- Jones and Aaron Eckhart. I think Mostly Martha is the better film, showing us a woman chef who must take in her niece following her sister’s death and learn how make a family, not just food.
  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: 1971, based on Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum) Charlie breaks my heart. Grandpa Joe is my hero. And Willie Wonka? Gene Wilder’s Wonka is marvelously nuts. But what I want is a dip in the chocolate river and plenty of Everlasting Gobstoppers. It’s the world’s greatest candy factory! I like this version more than Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp.
  • Like Water for Chocolate: 1993, based on Laura Esquivel’s novel. You can’t not want to learn to cook after seeing how these women transform the people around them with the food they prepare and the spirituality that infuses it.
  • Soul Food: 1997, directed by George Tillman, Jr. (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Irma P. Hall, Nia Long, Brandon Hammond). One of the great family movies and, oh, the Sunday night dinners. But the family begins to disintegrate with Big Mama’s illness. Can a great meal bring them back together?
  • Last Holiday: 2006, directed by Wayne Wang (Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu, Timothy Hutton) Yes, it’s a silly silly movie, but I love Queen Latifah and her character’s passion for food. And Gerard Depardieu is the quintessential French movie chef.
  • Sideways: 2004, directed by Alexander Payne (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen) Oh, the angst. Oh, the Pinot Noir!
  • What’s Cooking: 2000 (Mercedes Ruehl) Taking place in LA’s Fairfax district, four families of different ethnic groups celebrate Thanksgiving in between dealing with family conflicts.
  • Ratatouille: 2007, directed by Brad Bird (Pixar) – Parisian Remy the rat wants to be a chef. That rodent can cook!
  • Chocolat: 2000, French, directed by Lasse Halstrom (Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin). France. Chocolate. Johnny Depp. Mmmm.
  • Christmas in Connecticut: 1945 (Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sidney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, SZ  “Cuddles” Sakall) This movie actually made me hungry for kidneys. But America’s top food writer Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) can’t cook! No, she can’t cook.
  • Waitress: 2007, directed by Adrienne Shelley (Kerri Russell) Sweet, heartbreaking on so many levels. All about the pies!
  • Dinner Rush: 2001, directed by Bob Giraldi (Danny Aiello, Polly Draper) Food and the mafia. It’s New York’s Little Italy so why not?
  • Woman on Top: 2000 (Penelope Cruz) Motion-sick Chef Penelope starts out in Brazil then goes to San Francisco and ends up a TV celebrity chef. Uh huh. But it’s a fun romp.

What are your favorite food films? Are you catering an Oscars party this year?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 11, 2019

We talk a lot about the importance of family recipes–both yours and your clients’. Sometimes it’s the process of making the recipe that brings home a rush of memories, like making holiday cookies or even a complete holiday meal. Sometimes it’s the aroma of a family dish that wafts through the house like a hug from your grandma. Of course, often, it’s simply the eating of it that takes you back to your childhood.

Like many of you I come from a long line of cooks and grew up with two grandmothers in close proximity. One was a great cook whose family owned a major Jewish catering hall in Brooklyn. My mom’s mother–my Nana–came from much humbler circumstances and was a phenom both in cooking and baking. And I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen and got her to write me a little cookbook filled with her recipes.

This time of year I crave this sweet and sour cabbage soup that she used to make. It’s thick with cabbage and tomatoes, rich from beef short ribs, and has that terrific tang of acid from lemon juice. I’ve always adored this and, fortunately, got the recipe from her when I was in college. I don’t know if the soup was something her mother made and if it goes back to her early childhood in Ukraine. She never talked about that part of her past. All I know is that this recipe, along with many others, went from her to my mom or directly to me in that cookbook.

My mom, who inherited and then bested her mother’s skills, changed up the recipe to reflect a healthier approach. Back when she was still cooking, instead of browning the cabbage in butter, then adding the beef and cooking up the soup all at once to create a soup with chunks of beef flanken, she had the butcher trim all the fat off and cooked the beef separately, then shredded it, adding the cooked beef to the rest of the ingredients to simmer into soup. And, she didn’t brown the cabbage.


Mom also added carrots, potatoes, and onions. As she says, it’s one of those recipes that you can change without doing any harm.

I love these additions. She made the soup a few years ago when my brother was visiting from North Carolina. We came into the house and found this pot burbling on the stove. The scent was home.

I’m taking the middle ground. I’m all for getting rid of the unhealthy fat from the beef, but I think sauteing the cabbage, onion, and carrots–in olive oil–adds more flavor. Like Mom, I then add the rest of the ingredients. Nana? She didn’t add the salt, sugar, and lemon juice until the soup had cooked for a couple of hours. We’ve tried it both ways and don’t think it makes a difference. So, for convenience, we toss it in all together at once and let it cook.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
Serves 8

2 pounds short ribs, trimmed of fat, with bones
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1 large green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 large cans crushed or diced tomatoes (juice included)
2 red potatoes, diced
1 or 2 carrots, grated
Salt to taste
Juice of two lemons
4 to 5 cups water
Brown or white sugar to taste (Nana’s directions start with 1/4 cup)

In a large pot, add meat and cover with water. Add a little salt to season the meat. Bring to the boil and skim. Reduce the temperature and simmer for a couple of hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the pot and let cool. When you can handle it, shred the meat and discard the bones.

Wash the pot, heat the oil, and add the cabbage, onions, and carrots. Saute until browned. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for two hours or until the cabbage is transparent and soft. Taste to adjust the lemon juice for sweet and sour balance.

My mom also likes to top it off with a bit of fresh dill and a little (non-fat) sour cream. I also like a crusty sourdough bread for sopping up the liquid.

What is a family recipe that when you make it, gives you joy? What is a favorite family recipe of a client? 

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Colleagues, Not Just Competitors

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 4, 2019

Our friend and colleague Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas sent this guest post. As a freelance writer who relies on referrals for much of my business I could easily relate her conviction that the very people who I could consider “competitors” are also the best people to recommend me for a gig that may not be right for them or that they’re too busy to take on–and that I could reciprocate in this as well. It’s also just good karma and makes life richer. Take a read and think about your relationships with personal chefs in your locale. If you don’t already know one another perhaps it’s worth reaching out and befriending and assisting one another. 

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford.

When I started my personal chef business 12 years ago, I was so excited to discover that I could potentially do what I loved and be able to make a living. After undergoing the initial training through APPCA, I was fired up about putting into action all the terrific marketing ideas that had been learned during their seminar.  However, my phone didn’t ring off the wall as I had hoped.  This was probably due to the fact that I couldn’t quite let go of the steady paycheck, so was unable to devote all my time and attention to growing a new business.

Reality hit when I lost my paralegal job and was at a crossroads in my career.  I knew if I didn’t give it my all to pursue personal chef business, I would never do it.  I had to focus and concentrate all my attention and waking hours to culinary school and finding clients.  Now was the time to dip into that savings account.

Not ever known for being a “shrinking violet” I contacted two APPCA members in the Dallas area and we met and got to know each other.  I think this was the beginning of my trying to network with other personal chefs in the area and possibly get or give referrals of clients.  One became a good friend, with whom I have worked over the years.  If you are just starting your personal chef business, add to your marketing list of things to do a reminder to start contacting AND stay in touch with other personal chefs in your area.

Clients started slowly trickling in and I found that small dinner parties and catering jobs were more plentiful, so I took what I could get, still working for some of the large catering companies to make ends meet.  At one point I was attending culinary school, cleaning houses, doing odd catering jobs, and working for my fellow APPCA member on occasion while hoping for those clients to start calling.

Looking back at 2018, I know that I have finally achieved what I set out to do – my phone is ringing, I have a full roster of clients, and am actually having to turn business away.  Again, never one to be shy I started contacting fellow personal chefs in the area to see if they could take on any new clients.  In the e-mail exchanges to them I made the point that we are not just competitors for clients, but we are colleagues as well in the same profession.  Lately there seems to be plenty of business to go around, so my thought was “why not join forces and work together instead of constantly competing against each other??”  A novel concept to some, but when you can refer a potential client to a fellow personal chef whom you trust, that client will remember you and be grateful that you have helped them.

Recently I received an inquiry from a lady in North Carolina who wanted to hire a personal chef in Dallas to handle a dinner for her elderly parents.  I was unable to do so but referred her to a good friend of mine with whom I attended culinary school.  I knew his personality would be perfect for what she wanted.  What she wrote back to me after she hired him, is exactly why I am happy to make referrals to those I know:

“Hi Anne,

You really put the personal, into “personal chef.” 

Thank you for being so gracious and so helpful. Yes, we are working with Chef Thomas, and we think he’s a great fit for our parents’ needs.  What a nice and, obviously, talented person he is.

 It was great to have a referral as we were just wingin’ it, being from out of town.  You gave us peace of mind and we’ll always remember that. 

 Merry Christmas.  Best wishes with the holiday parties!

It is good business to know your competitors and what they have to offer so you can ensure you are at the “top of your game” with your own business. I feel strongly about not looking at the personal chefs in your area as just competitors, but as colleagues. When I finally got to meet with the personal chef in Dallas last month with whom I had corresponded, we both agreed that it made sense to be able to refer business to each other if we were overloaded and to keep each other in mind for parties and events if we were unable to do them.  We made “short work” of discussing our backgrounds, our businesses and how we could help each other.  It was an excellent meeting and since we run into each other while shopping many times, we can now say hello and briefly trade stories on our respective businesses and “the good, the bad & the ugly” about our clients.  Being on friendly terms with your colleagues who are also competitors just makes good business sense.

Do you know the personal chefs in your area? How have you helped one another?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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With this chill in the air it feels like bean time. While Alubia Blancas are my favorite, I recently tried Moro beans, which are a project of Rancho Gordo with XOXOC. Moros are black beans indigenous to Mexico and grown by small farmers.

Uncooked, the beans are like little gems. You would hardly be surprised to see them along a sea shore like little pebbles you’d want to collect. They appear to be a cross between pintos and black beans and when cooked, release a delicious broth. The website notes that they should be cooked as simply as possible, which is fine. I, of course, played around with them a bit and came up with a very basic first batch, which was delicious, then turned them from there into an even more flavorful, nutritious soup. It was perfect for San Diego’s recent chilly, rainy weather, but more to the point, these dishes would be perfect for clients–and easy to change up, depending on their dietary preferences and what’s in season in your region.

First things first–actually cooking the beans. You can do this in all sorts of ways: in your basic pot on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker. You can soak them. Or not. You can add all sorts of flavorings to the cooking water. Or not. It all depends on what you want the results to be and how you want to use them.

Here’s what I did: First, I picked the beans over to remove any non-bean debris (little stones can inadvertently get into batches of packaged beans so always do this). Then I rinsed them and soaked them in a bowl of water covering them by about two inches. I did this in the morning and let them soak for about six hours. I kept the soaking liquid because that’s where the flavor and some of the nutrition of the beans can leach out.

For the flavorings I diced and gently sautéed a couple of slices of bacon, not to crisp them but to render the fat (you can skip this for a low-fat or vegetarian dish), and then added diced onions and smashed garlic cloves. Once they turned opaque I added a couple of bay leaves along with the beans and soaking water. I brought the bean mixture to a boil, then lowered the heat after 10 minutes and partially covered the post with its lid (oooh, new brilliant red Staub 4-quart Dutch oven!). I simmered the beans for a little over two hours until they were al dente, adding more boiling water (to maintain the temperature in the pot) as needed. Then I added salt and enjoyed them as a side dish.

After a couple of days I revisited my leftover beans and decided they’d make a nice soup. I’m growing lacinato kale in my garden–a wonderful variety that I think is much more tender than standard kale). I lopped off half a dozen leaves, clipped a couple of Serrano chilies from their plant, and opened a bag of shiitake mushrooms, pulling out half a dozen or so to hydrate for several hours until nice and chewy.

As you’d expect, I kept the mushroom’s soaking liquid and sliced the mushrooms. I roughly chopped the kale, and minced the chilies, along with a few cloves of garlic. The garlic started the sauté process. Then I added the chilies, then the mushrooms. The trick to getting the most beautiful and flavorful mushrooms is to place them in a single layer in your pan and just let them brown. Then flip and repeat. At that point I added the kale and sautéed them briefly–just until they began to wilt.

At this point I was ready to put the soup together. The beans went into my go-to little white Le Creuset pot with the remaining bean liquid and the sautéed vegetables. Then I added the mushroom liquid, stirred it all together, and brought it to the boil. Now it was ready to simmer gentle for about an hour. During that hour, when it started to look a little less soupy, I added a little more water to get it to the consistency I wanted. If you don’t want it to be soup, let the liquid cook down. After an hour I salted it and dug in. I ate about half and when I had the leftovers the next day, it was even better.

Moro Beans with Lacinato Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup Moro beans
Water
2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
Sea salt to taste

6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
Water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red Serrano chilies, minced
6 large leaves lacinato kale, chopped
Sea salt to taste

Directions
Pick through beans and remove any debris. Rinse well, then place in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for several hours.

Sauté the bacon just enough to render the fat, then add the onions and garlic. The goal is for them to soften and become opaque, not brown.

Add bay leaves, the beans and the soaking water. Add more water if necessary so that it is about two inches higher than the beans. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to as low a simmer as possible and partially cover the pot to allow for evaporation. Cook until the beans are al dente. If necessary add more boiling water (to keep the temperature up). Remove and discard the bay leaves.

At this point they are ready to enjoy. However, you can add additional ingredients to create more flavor and even turn the mixture into a hearty soup.

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of water until they are soft. Remove the mushrooms and set aside the liquid. Slice the mushrooms.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add minced garlic. Sauté until fragrant then add the chilies and sauté another minute. Add the sliced mushrooms, spread them into a single layer and let them slightly brown. Turn them and repeat. Add the kale and sauté until slightly wilted.

Place the prepared beans and any bean liquid in a pot with the sautéed vegetables. Add the mushroom liquid. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Simmer for an hour, adding a little water if necessary. Add sea salt to taste and serve. It’s even better the next day.

Do you prepare beans from scratch? What are your favorites or those of your clients?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Shirataki Noodles

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 21, 2019

Chefs, if you have clients who have issues with carbs–perhaps they have diabetes or weight issues—or they have wheat allergies, there’s another option for pasta that you may not be aware of and that can complement vegetable noodles: shirataki noodles.

Shirataki noodles originate in Japan. Slick and slippery, packaged in bulging plastic bags of water, they’re not what you expect in pasta. According to Serious Eats, they are made with glucomannan starch extracted from devil’s tongue yams. Essentially, it’s an indigestible dietary fiber so it goes in and out barely leaving a trace, so you end up with no net calories or carbs. For those who are gluten free, they’re perfect for those clients, too. They’re also keto friendly.


The best place to find shirataki noodles is at your local Japanese market, although some American markets carry them (look near where the tofu is stocked). Not only are there several brands with several choices of shirataki noodles, but there’s a whole other choice you can make–tofu shirataki, made with tofu and water with a little yam flour. And these, made by a company called House Foods, are going the extra distance with varieties in shapes like spaghetti, angel hair, macaroni, and fettuccine. Crazy! They also have no cholesterol, 0.5 grams of fat per serving, are extremely low in sodium, and are all of 20 calories per serving. And additional good news–if you don’t have a Japanese market in your community they’re available on Amazon.com.

Now are either version truly like wheat noodles in terms of flavor and texture? No. Let’s not make them into something they’re not. But if your clients have been craving traditional pasta and simply can’t have it this is not a bad substitute. In fact, your clients can enjoy them on their own terms. Because they have no flavor they are the perfect delivery system for any sauce you create. And their slick, jelly-like texture is kind of fun to chew. You can add them to soup (don’t cook them in the soup); mix them up with vegetables, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese; make mac and cheese; or, as I have with a package of “macaroni,” add them to turkey chile. Or create a chilled salad.

The noodles do have a distinct odor to them, acknowledged in the package’s preparation directions. But all you need to do is rinse them under water, put them in a bowl, and heat them in the microwave for–get this–a minute. The smell goes away and you have warm noodles with a bit of chew to them and a neutral flavor. Ready for pretty much anything for which you’d use regular pasta.

What options do you create for a “pasta” treat for clients? 

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Salmon. It can make you crazy. Are we only supposed to eat wild Alaskan salmon? What about farmed? What’s in the chemicals added to make it, well, salmon colored? How about Scottish salmon? It’s so delicious but it has to be shipped here and how is that good for the environment? Forget salmon. What about swordfish. Is it okay to eat it? And, no bluefin tuna? Seriously?

Talk about sustainable seafood is all the rage. With two-thirds of the world’s fisheries reaching depletion and overfishing putting some species, including some in California, close to extinction, we have serious issues to consider as consumers. We aren’t supposed to eat endangered species or seafood caught by large trawlers with turtle by-catch. Or eat some farmed fish. We’re encouraged to eat local, but what’s local (especially for those not on a coast)? Is it from oceans surrounding our country or more specific?

We’re encouraged to eat species like swordfish that are caught by harpoon or hook and line, not net. But how do we know how it’s caught?

Good luck, chefs, keeping all the do’s and don’ts straight.

And, yet it’s important to make the effort. According to the annual Fisheries of the United States reported released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, fish and seafood consumption in the U.S. increased in 2017 to 16 pounds from 14.9 pounds in 2016. And we’re eating more of a variety of seafood. While shrimp, salmon and tuna continue to be America’s favorite fish and shellfish, the Top Ten Species List by National Fisheries Institute makes up only 84 percent of the 16 pounds consumed. In 2016, this list accounted for 90 percent of the 14.9 pounds consumed. That means we can influence what shows up in restaurants and stores. But we have to be smart about it.

So, what is sustainable seafood? Addressing how to be a good consumer is complex, not the least because depending on who you talk to you get a different definition of sustainability. NOAA holds that seafood is sustainable when, “the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations.” But others–from Seafood Watch to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to chefs engaged in seafood sustainability all have different definitions. And different issues that concern them, such as carbon footprint and community economics.

So, it’s complicated. And, some of the decision making consumers have to do centers around how much research they’re willing to put in on an ever-changing industry that is often accused of fudging its practices.

It also has to do with personal values and economics and even a willingness to try new things. Perhaps grilled sardines instead of tuna sashimi. Farmed fish instead of wild. And consuming less of it all, just as with beef, pork, and chicken.

So here are some things you can do for yourself and your clients, assuming this is a concern of theirs. First some guides to sustainable fisheries:

Consumers can find guides on websites including

Now, are these guides the easy fix for consumers? No, a pocket guide is one tool among many, including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labels at major retailers like Whole Foods.

Smart consumers should also recognize that they need to ask their vendors questions about where seafood comes from, how it was caught, if it’s sustainable. The bottom line? Buy from businesses you trust.

All this can make a difference. When there’s a shift in customer demand and interest, it can impact businesses that sell fish. Back in 2012, Trader Joe’s announced a goal of shifting all seafood purchases to sustainable sources by the end of the year. And they can use their purchasing power to leverage change among seafood suppliers.

And here’s one other issue to consider. How do you use your seafood? Are you buying strictly filets or trying other parts of the fish, like cheeks, collars, and bellies? How about preparing the whole fish?

Is seafood sustainability an issue you’re interested in? If so, how do you go about selecting your seafood?

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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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