How are your pasta-making skills? Do you default to dry or refrigerated fresh found in the grocery store? Here’s a tip from Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW’s Good Food radio show and the woman behind the great Caffe Angeli on Melrose in LA (which I adored when I lived there). She wrote about why shoppers should not buy supermarket “fresh” pasta.

“If imported Italian dry pasta were choice A and fresh pasta were choice B and I could only choose one to eat for the rest of my life, there would be no contest. I’d choose A, dry pasta. Many home cooks, bamboozled by the glut of fresh pasta in restaurants, have come to believe that if it’s the chef’s choice, then it’s the better product. It is not.”

Now while she acknowledges her story is about her love of dry durum wheat pasta, she also readily acknowledges that fresh pasta made well and served with appropriate sauces is a great dining experience.

Making really good fresh pasta demands quality ingredients and skill–and it’s something that with practice home cooks can do for themselves. Back in the 80s, the idea was to make it, then hang it on “pasta racks” or broom sticks to dry and then cook later. Today, of course, we recognize that you can put a big pot of water on the stove to heat and make your pasta while the water is coming to the boil.

I’m lucky in that I get to spend a lot of time with chefs in their kitchens, learning their techniques, getting their recipes. And I’ve been hanging out with several recently who have taught me how to make pasta. Each has their own technique but I thought I’d share what a young man, Daniel Wolinsky, showed me. He’s the Chef de Cuisine at cucina SORELLA in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego. Wolinsky, who teaches pasta-making classes at the restaurant, made a simple Tagliarni with Hot Sausage and Clams. Like many of us who cook at home, he created a “what’s in the fridge” style dish. Initially he was thinking of a corn pesto, which intrigued me. But, there was no corn around that day. But clams and other seafood were. So we were going to go in a seafood and tomato pasta direction. Until he noticed his house-made sausage. Scratch the seafood. Instead it evolved into just clams with the sausage, along with garlic, and even green garlic (it was then spring), lemon juice, and white wine. Actually, there was fresh minced basil, too, which you can certainly add, although Wolinsky didn’t include it in the recipe below.

He started by making the pasta. He already had a batch of dough mixed that one of his line chefs had been turning into ravioli. This dough, rich in eggs, is a house specialty and Wolinsky felt it might be too difficult for those not all that experienced in making pasta to get right. Instead, our recipe below is a little more user friendly with fewer eggs (three whole eggs instead of nine yolks) and your success that much more guaranteed.

The noodles Wolinsky prefers for a seafood pasta like this are thin. He explained that they cook quickly in water and in the broth of the seafood component they better absorb the flavors.

When running the pasta through the machine, you’ll want to get it as thin as possible. When Wolinsky did his final roll, you could actually see the grain of the wood counter through the sheet.

The long flat pasta stretched about three feet along the counter so Wolinsky cut it into several pieces. Then sprinkled them lightly with flour so when he folded each up there’d be no sticking.

Then he sliced through the folded piece of pasta to create long, thin noodles of tagliarini.

With the pasta made we went into the kitchen to create the sauce. It was ridiculously quick. So first put a pot of water to the boil. Then grab a pan and add the sliced sausage. Sauté the coins until just golden brown on both side. If they don’t give off enough fat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, and then add the garlic. Just before the garlic starts to brown add the clams and quickly cook together before pouring the wine into the pan. Cover the the pan so the clams will steam open–it’ll take just a couple of minutes. Once the clams open, add the pasta to the boiling water and the green garlic to the pan. The pasta should be cooked in less than a minute. Pull it out of the water and drop into the pan and toss, adding the fresh lemon juice. Taste and add salt if necessary. If the dish is too dry for you, add a little of the pasta water to the pan.

At that point, it’ll be ready to plate. Pour the pasta mixture into a bowl and top with the bread crumbs. Because you can make the dough in advance, this is perfect for an impressive dinner party for clients.

Tagliarini with Hot Sausage and Clams
from Daniel Wolinsky of cucina SORELLA
Feeds about 4 people

Ingredients
1 pound fresh tagliarini (Any long noodle will work but he recommends fresh long noodles; recipe below.)
8 ounces or 2 spicy Italian sausage links pre-cooked and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped1 pound Little Neck clams (Manilla also work.)
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon green garlic (or minced garlic cloves)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh toasted bread crumbs

Directions
1. Put on a 8-quart pot of water to boil and season heavily with salt.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium/high heat sear the sausage till golden brown on both sides.
3. Add the garlic and right before it starts to color add the clams and toss together. Cook for 30 seconds.
4. Carefully pour the white wine into the pan and cover to steam the clams open, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. When the clams open drop the pasta to cook and add the green garlic to the pan.
6. Toss in the pasta and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Season the dish to taste with salt. If you like the dish more brothy, add a few tablespoons of pasta water.
7. Plate and top the pasta with a healthy portion of bread crumbs. Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta Recipe

Ingredients
3 whole eggs
300 grams 00 flour
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions
1. In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer add the flour and on a low speed with a dough hook slowly pour in the eggs and olive oil.
2. Mix for about 10 minutes (Note you may need to add a touch of water if it’s too dry.). After the dough has formed wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough using a pasta rolling machine to the desired thickness and shape. He recommends longer,  thinner noodles.

Do you make your own pasta for clients? What’s your specialty?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

As a gardener I’m a great grocery shopper. I come from a long line of excellent gardeners, yet whether it’s my lack of absolute dedication or the ever-compacting clay soil in my little pocket garden, I have yet to attain the success of my mother or her mother in growing a sustainable harvest even just for myself.

My Nana had a victory garden of at least an acre in East Los Angeles during the Depression and going into the privation of World War II. My mom recalls her using fish bones from the fish monger to fertilize the soil and growing every vegetable you can imagine, as well as berries and tons of flowers. My mom inherited this talent. All the years she had a garden she was like a plant whisperer. They responded to her with magnificent offerings–Meyer lemon trees weighted down with golden fruit, basil plants bursting with clean wide anise-scented leaves, zucchini and tomatoes enough to make Italians weep with delight.

Me? I compost and compost and the soil still seizes up. I get white fly on my Meyer lemon trees that never quite goes away. And some little varmints are stealing my ripe harvest.

And yet. There I am year after year tending to this lovely little space, and despite my shortcomings and that of the soil, I usually get a small if regular crop.

All this is to say if I can do it, so can you.

This isn’t a gardening blog, but many personal chefs and home cooks love to grow their own food. I’m no different. There’s such joy in picking a cucumber or pepper or handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that I grew from seed or seedling. It makes cooking and eating them that much more satisfying. My year-round edible garden includes Mexican tarragon, Greek oregano, English thyme, garlic chives, Italian parsley, Meyer lemons, limes, Thai chilis, sorrel, and a basil bush that produces year round. Then there are the seasonal plantings. In late spring, I planted three types of cherry tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, string beans, basil, more chiles, plus some strawberries. Some are in pots; some in the soil. All seem to be thriving so far.

So, given my tendency to growing failure, I thought I’d offer up some suggestions for what does work and, hopefully, give inspiration to the soil challenged.

Let’s start with my annual favorite: Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. I grow these in a large pot on the sun-drenched part of my patio. In the 16 years I’ve lived in my house I think I’ve only had one year of failure. This variety is easy to grow and you may find that the only reason you have nothing to bring into your kitchen is because you’ve munched on all the ripe ones while hand watering. They’re like eating candy. But if you do have enough ripe at one time to make a meal, halve them and serve with fresh ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil on toasted sourdough bread. Or toss with pasta and pesto. Or mix with watermelon chunks, feta, and basil leaves as a salad, drizzled with olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar.

Japanese eggplant: I’ve always grown this successfully in a pot but after working my garden soil decided to try planting it in the ground this summer. And, woo hoo, I’ve got gorgeous fruit coming in. I only have one plant so my harvest will be limited, but when the first little guy is ripe, it’ll probably be sliced lengthwise, pierced in a few places, then layered first with a thick coating of minced garlic and olive oil, followed by a layer of grated parmesan before heading under the broiler for a few minutes. Of course, you can also stir fry or grill these slender eggplants, or even pickle them.

String beans: This was an experiment last year and they did so well, I got another couple of plants this year and, as you can see, they’re popping out! These bush beans are pretty easy to manage and I love the sweet crunch they give when fully ready for picking. If I can keep from just snacking on them, I like to blanch them and include them in a summer salad with sliced radishes and cucumbers, tossed with a light vinaigrette.

Zucchini: This black zucchini variety–like almost any zucchini variety–has a mind of its own and its mind says “Be fruitful and multiply!” I can never decide whether to pick the gorgeous blossoms and stuff them or wait for the fruit. Currently I’m waiting for the first fruit to mature. Once I’ve had my fill, the blossoms will be snatched for stuffing with creamy cheeses before being dunked in a light beer batter and fried–or simply chopped and added to a quesadilla or omelet. I love having choices!

Peppers: No matter how bad things get in the garden, which includes stealing by varmints, peppers are my salvation. The local thieves don’t seem interested in them. I’ve had one Thai chili plant for years and it keeps popping out the hot stuff every summer. Last year I planted a Hungarian pepper plant that produced beautiful round fruit. I never pulled it and once again it’s heavy with green balls that will eventually turn a vibrant red. The same with my bell pepper plant in a big pot on the patio. It just keeps giving and giving so long as I water, feed, and weed it. I also have new serrano and jalapeño plants, both full of fruit, planted in the ground. It’s so cool to make a salsa and just go out the door with a little clipper to harvest what I need.

This morning I did one of my favorite garden chores–I fed the plants with fish emulsion, a byproduct of fish waste. This stinky source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is fabulous for photosynthesis, flowering, and fruit development. And, with its potent odor, it’s the rare plant food that makes you feel like something’s happening from the moment it hits the soil. When I feed them fish emulsion I feel like I’ve really done something wonderful for all my little garden babies.

You don’t need me to share the plentiful variety of gardening resources out there, whether online or at the bookstore (although I will give a shout out to my high school friend Nan Sterman, who has a terrific KPBS show called A Growing Passion). All I can emphasize is that you should buy organic seeds or seedlings from reputable resources, use lots of compost to both amend your soil and protect it from the heat, and water as needed. I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a pail in my shower to collect water since in California we’re still technically in a drought. That helps. So does composting. And to keep nasty bugs at bay, use natural pest control–whether it’s planting flowers that attract insects that will eat your critters or spraying with non-toxic, natural pesticides. Soon you’ll also start seeing bees and hummingbirds. That’s when you know you’ve created a magical little ecosystem.

What else? Oh, how about have fun!

Are you a gardener? What’s in your garden this summer?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Think about the last time you cooked fish for a client. Was it a salmon filet or steak? Perhaps a piece of swordfish or tuna? When you bought it was it already wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray accompanied by a sad little lemon slice?

If that’s the case, wow, are you and your clients are missing out because cooking a whole fish—or cooking a fish whole—can lead to richer flavors and, let’s face it, less waste.

Now no one’s expecting you to purchase a whole tuna or swordfish. In fact, when it comes to sustainability, buying the smaller fish species is actually a better idea since there are usually just more of them. We’re talking anything from sardines and sand dabs to trout and rockfish and snapper.

Cooking a whole fish can be as easy as stuffing it with aromatics, then encasing and baking it in salt. It makes for a fun meal for dinner parties, allowing clients to dig out the juicy pieces and enjoy parts of the fish that have great flavor, like the cheeks and collars.

It’s also less expensive per pound because you, not the store, are the labor. And, importantly, it’s a sustainable way to eat because you’re utilizing all of the fish.

It’s certainly how I grew up eating. One of my dad’s favorite meals to prepare was rainbow trout, which he would clean, dredge in flour, and then sauté until the skin was crispy and the flesh an opaque white. He taught my siblings and me how to filet the fish and remove the skeleton so we wouldn’t choke. His other favorite fish dish, still a treat, is preparing sand dabs, which are tiny delicate flatfish that he cleaned, then also pan fried. At those meals, eating was more than just cutting up food and popping bites in the mouth. It was an adventure and required both patience and some skill. It made the otherwise routine family dinner fun!

My friend and San Diego chef Andrew Spurgin takes cooking a whole fish up a few notches. His salt-encrusted fish is easy to make and creates a presentation worthy of a dinner party. Basically, you need a couple of boxes of kosher salt as well as egg whites, which are gently beaten and spread on the fish to allow the salt to adhere to it. Depending on the flavor profile you’re after, you need herbs, citrus, and spices for stuffing the cavity. And you’ll want to make a dipping sauce for the fish once it’s emerged from the salt. And that fish, released from its salt coffin, will be some of the moistest, most flavorful fish you’ve ever enjoyed.

That’s cooking a fish whole. But you can also cook a whole fish and break it down yourself, then cook up individual pieces. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, especially if your fishmonger does the cleaning for you. It’s also a hugely sustainable approach to utilizing seafood.

These are the four basic steps:

  1. Lift the pectoral fin (just below the head) and, using a flexible filet knife, cut across the shoulder. Turn the fish spine toward you and slice down the spine. Cut across the bottom of the fish, just above the tail. Then turn the fish belly toward you and slice from the shoulder cut down to the anal cavity. Then angle the knife parallel to the body and slice evenly down to the tail to create a filet. Flip the fish over and repeat. This is the main event—meat you can bake, grill, or fry. On some fish, like hiramasa, you’ll also have a section of ribs. Cut along the blood line, then remove and cut into rib sections. Gomes says they’re terrific dipped in a panko batter and deep fried.
  2. Cut the triangular section just under the head and below the fins. That’s the collar. The meat is full of fat and flavor. Save that to bake, grill, or fry. Gomes calls these “the chicken wings of the sea.”
  3. Cut off the rest of the head and split it to open flat. Get rid of the gills and then grill or bake the head to enjoy the sweet cheek meat.
  4. What’s left is the carcass. Don’t toss it. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and little lemon juice and put it on the grill or sauté it. Use a fork to scrape off the meat and enjoy.

Since we’re just easing our way into summer, grilling whole fish is a great weekend entertaining treat for client dinner parties. All you need is a flat grilling surface, like a plancha, and your favorite seasonings—or just salt, pepper, and lemon juice. The result will be sweet and beautifully moist meat guests will fight over.

Pacific Salt-Crusted Fish with Ginger Scallion Sauce

From Andrew Spurgin

Serves three to four

3-4 pound whole fish such as snapper, grouper or sea bass, scaled and cleaned, fins and gills removed by your fishmonger
1 fresh kaffir lime, sliced (replace with key lime if unavailable)
3 kumquats, sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves, slightly crushed before use
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced on bias
8 sprigs cilantro
2 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup wakame seaweed, crushed (eliminate if you want to)
4 egg whites
1 ½ 3-pound boxes Kosher salt
Water

For sauce:
½ cup scallions, whites and green, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh young ginger (different from typical ginger), very finely minced
½ teaspoon citrus flavored soy sauce (kinko ponzu shoyu)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon fish sauce
Sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºf.

Fill the belly and mouth cavity with the kaffir lime, kaffir lime leaves, kumquats, lemongrass, four sprigs of cilantro and the garlic

In a large bowl mix whip the egg whites until softly peaked, fold in the kosher salt and wakame seaweed. Add a little water to get to the consistency of a snowball. Too wet and salt will crack when baked.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

Lay down approximately ¾” layer of kosher salt, place the fish on top. Cover the entire fish with the salt mixture, approximately ¾” thick; basically you’re making a salt oven.

Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

To make the sauce, mix together the scallions, young ginger, yuzu-soy sauce, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, and fish sauce. Sprinkle with sea salt. Taste and adjust if needed. Set aside.

Remove fish from oven and, with a heavy kitchen knife, lightly tap around the bottom edge of the salt crust (near the sheet pan) until cracked all the way around. Carefully lift off the salt crust, it will pull away from the fish. Lightly brush off any remaining salt flakes from the fish with a pastry brush.

Slice down the dorsal side of fish and just behind the head, slice the filet just before the tail. Carefully slice the fish lengthwise to split the top filets in half. Gently lift out the two filets, check for pin bones, and place on a warmed serving platter.

Carefully pull out the backbone, from tail end. All, or most, of the other bones will come with it. Lift out the lower filets as you did with the upper ones

Top with Maldon sea salt, if needed. Serve the scallion ginger sauce on the side. Garnish with remaining cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Serving suggestion:

Serve with simple cucumber salad with Thai basil, mint, bean shoots and shredded cabbage. Toss in a vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, nước mắm, sugar and chilies. Flash fried wontons on the side.

Great with a dry Riesling wine or Champagne!

Alternative filling:

Parsley, thyme, basil, bay leaf, lemon and garlic. Serve with slowly roasted cherry tomatoes ON the vine. Roast tomatoes with sliced shallots, garlic, thyme sprig, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve warm on the side with torn fresh opal and green basil. Squeeze lemon on fish and drizzle with good olive oil

How do you prepare whole fish? We’d love to hear from you!

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Chefs, now that summer is here again and the temps inside and out make us dread turning on the stove, how about a break? Inside of turning up the heat, turn on the blender and make your clients (or yourself) some easy, refreshing chilled soups.

This is something I’ve been doing for years–and it’s been made so much easier with a powerful Vitamix. Some of my summer soups are savory, filled with veggies and garlic and herbs–to which chilled seafood, like shrimp or crab, can be added.

Others soups are more of a dessert treat. Melons and berries are terrific for them. Great a little good dark chocolate over the top or dunk a nice sandy shortbread into it and you’ll have a satisfying meal ender.

So, what have we got? The first is my most recent creation: Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup. I had a bit of a gardening episode and landed myself with a huge pile of green onions. So, soup! This recipe is easy and so satisfying on its own. The only thing I add is a hunk of sourdough baguette and homemade cultured butter.

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup
Serves 4

2 cups spinach, tightly packed
1 cup green onions, sliced (set aside a couple of tablespoons for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat or “light” sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces panko crumbs

1. Place all of the ingredients until the butter in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the panko crumbs. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until the crumbs become slightly brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
4. To serve, divide the soup between bowls. Garnish with the set aside slices of green onions and a sprinkling of the panko crumbs.

Another chilled savory soup I’ve loved for years is gazpacho. As many of my friends know, this chunky gazpacho is something my mom has made for years and I adopted as my own. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients and the more nutrients, the better the flavor. This soup is packed with it. It starts with the tomatoes, but adds cucumbers, corn, onions, garlic, bell peppers, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice–and I’m just getting started! Just be sure to chop each vegetable individually–unless you want a puree. Make your own tortillas to accompany this!

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 8 to 10

5 – 8 large tomatoes, quartered
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ English cucumber, roughly chopped
1 or 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 scallions, roughly chopped
6 – 8 radishes, roughly chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
½ bunch parsley with major stems removed and/or 1 bunch cilantro
2 tbls lime juice
2-6 tbls red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 regular-sized can beef broth
1 can low-salt V-8 juice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned – if fresh is unavailable, I like the frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s)
1 pound pre-cooked bay shrimp, lump crab or cooked chunks of chicken or pork
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Pull out the food processor and a very large bowl. Process each of the vegetables until the pieces are small — but before they’re pureed — and add to the bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the proteins and dairy, which I keep on the table separately for guests to add as they wish. Refrigerate until cold and then adjust seasonings to taste. Top when serving with sour cream or Mexican crema. Serve with fresh tortillas or even hearty sourdough bread.

To make the flowered corn tortillas, simply prepare the masa according to the directions on the package (water, masa, and salt). Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. On your tortilla press, lay an edible flower (we’ve used nasturtiums, pansies, society garlic, and the flowers of herbs that bolted) right side down. Then put the dough ball on top of the flower and press.

Place the uncooked tortilla flower side up on a hot skillet. When the edges curl, flip it over and cook just a minute or so more. That’s it.

Now for the sweet soups. Let’s start with this Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup. Chilled melons may be the most refreshing of summer eats. Combine the melon–and an über sweet honeydew at that–with fresh ginger, coconut milk, lime juice, and a smidge of kaffir lime powder and you have a dish that will serve as virtual armor against the dastardly rays of the summer sun.

Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup
Yield: 2 cups

1/2 honeydew melon (about 2 cups), seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
1 pinch kaffir lime leaf powder (available at spice shops)
Juice from one lime
Drizzle of honey

Combine all the ingredients. Puree in a blender until smooth. Chill for an hour before serving. Grate a little lime zest over the soup as garnish.

Finally, here’s my Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup. When the heat is on I love this combination of melon with blueberries and potent herbs like tarragon and basil. Thanks to the yogurt, it has a welcome creaminess and tang.

Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup
Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups melon
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain yogurt
Pinch kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

What’s your favorite go-to summer soup? Feel free to share the recipe!

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

We’ve written here before–many times, in fact–about the importance of marketing your business via social media. Clearly, more of you are doing this. So, how’s it going?

As social media platform user numbers grow, it admittedly can get harder to get eyes on your page. Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. As of March 2017, they had 1.28 billion active daily users on average. These numbers along make it feel like everyone’s playing in someone else’s sandbox. On top of that, it seems we’re always griping about how Facebook is constantly changing their news feed algorithms in ways that make our likes and views drop. Now we can add to that the scales weighing more toward advertising as opposed to organic views.

You couldn’t be faulted for wanting to throw up your hands and giving up. Don’t. Instead be smarter and be more strategic.

Here’s what you need to know to form that strategy. Let’s start with content, since the media you can include has expanded. According to Sprout Social, these are the options:

  • Status: The simplest form of communication can sometimes be the most powerful. With new features like larger text for shorter messages and the option to put your text on a colored background, you can get your essential message out in a more vibrant and eye-catching way.
  • Images: Posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement, so being visual helps. But don’t rely on images to do all the work–put effort into high-quality photos and awe your audience. If your product is considered “boring,” use beautiful images to highlight your brand’s creative side. Inspire users with virtual reality features or 360-degree content.
  • Videos: Video is in high demand and 43% of users would like to see even more from marketers. However, only 15% of Facebook videosare watched with sound. Video should be accessible, easy to digest and always have captions. Create videos that catch a user’s attention and provides something worthwhile.
  • Links: Links are perfect for sharing industry news and your own blog content. Find your most engaged content and continue to share it on Facebook. It’s not easy doing so organically, but it shouldn’t stop you from posting your best content.
  • Facebook Live: Live content drives three times more engagementon Facebook. With in-the-moment content growing in popularity, see how your brand can give sneak peeks into industry or office events, product launches and other behind the scenes content. Go Live, wow your audience and engage.
  • Facebook Stories: New to 2017, Facebook Stories are in-the-moment content clips. This was based off Instagram Stories, which ultimately were from Snapchat Stories–seeing a trend here? Brands have tested their efforts on Snapchat for a few years now. But with the newest release, you can attempt this style of content with one of your biggest networks.

You’re chefs, so the best way for you to share on Facebook is through visuals of your food. That means really good images. Dark, drab, out-of-focus photos are going to turn potential clients off. If they don’t look mouth watering, don’t post them. Period. So, get better at photography, even if it’s phone photography. And don’t be afraid to take short videos and post them. Or, post live video. You can do this. It’s fun!

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

  1. Put together a basic approach with goals and how to meet them. What are you trying to accomplish on Facebook? Getting more business? Raising your professional profile? Networking? Any and all are valid–just have those goals in mind as you post.
  2. Understand your demographics. Click on “Insights” on your Facebook business page and study the numbers. That includes page view, likes, reach, and post engagements. Click on People to learn about how the numbers break down. You’ll learn what’s popular and what’s been a dud, if you’re growing your audience, and where they come from.
  3. Bring in more views through tagging. Did you just put on a great catering event? Did you take fab photos of the food and the space? Post them and tag your client if he or she’s on Facebook. Their friends will likely get that post in their news feed. That may get you some extra attention–and possibly inquiries about your services.
  4. Post just enough–and at the right time. You don’t want to spam people with your self-promoting photos but you don’t want to be forgotten. Look at those Insights on your page to learn when your posts get the most attention and schedule posts for that time and day.
  5. Experiment with content and form. Instead of posting a bunch of photos together in a static collage, try using the slideshow tool. Those same photos have movement and attract more eyes.
  6. Consider ads if your goal is to drive business. Start small and see how it goes with results. But remember, ads only spread content–so you have to be sure you are creating great content.

Finally, as we always say, social media is not so much about promoting as it is about engagement. Share your friends’ and clients’ great news and achievements. Post comments. Invite comments. Ask questions. Join groups, including our own APPCA group for members, to network and increase your visibility. And, if you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, cross post. Instagram, for instance (owned by Facebook), has tools that facilitate posting simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s your Facebook experience going? Any tips or tricks you can share with your colleagues 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.

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

Be Sociable, Share!

I’m a huge sausage lover. I grew up on Hebrew National salami and grilled Dodger dogs in LA, continued with Sabrett and Nathan’s street hot dogs in New York, and eventually graduated to Italian soppressata, coppa, and other salumi.

But would I make them at home? Well, I’ve pretty much decided to forego making cured sausages, although there are many home cooks who do it successfully thanks to various classes and terrific instructional books like those by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Rytek Kutas, and Bruce Aidells.

But fresh sausage? Absolutely. Especially after a couple of sessions with San Diego chef Joe Magnanelli. Magnanelli is himself self-taught with cured sausages. He is thoroughly grounded in technique plus he’s got great equipment to help ensure that the curing process results in both delicious and safe salumi.

Knowing that I wanted to learn how to make a fresh sausage, Magnanelli, demonstrated how a home cook or personal chef could do it—and it’s pretty easy. You could buy equipment to help you case the sausage but you don’t have to. In fact, here we have recipes for sausage patties for a delightful eggy breakfast sandwich and for a pasta dish. And once you’ve mastered the basic sausage recipe, you can create all sorts of unique dishes for clients.

Let’s start with what you will need: a meat grinder. And if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can easily buy a grinder attachment. You also need access to a freezer—yeah, of course you have that. You’ll want to briefly freeze the pork (or turkey or chicken or fatty fish) after prepping it before running it through the grinder. The chill keeps the protein and fat from sticking to the grinder blades and smearing.

If you’re making a pork sausage, the best cut to use is pork shoulder, Magnanelli said. That’s because it already has a good amount of fat in it. For his saucisson sec, the recipe calls for 20 percent pork fat and 80 percent meat.

The first time I met with Magnanelli, he made his saucisson sec, a traditional French salami, flavored with roasted garlic, salt, finely ground black pepper, and white wine. The second time, it was with minced garlic, red chili flakes, dried Sicilian oregano, kosher salt, toasted crushed fennel seed (crushed in a mortar and pestle), and a splash of white wine. The fennel, he said, gives the sausage a distinctive Italian quality. Both approaches will yield a delicious sausage. In fact, the beauty of sausage making is that you can add whatever seasonings appeal to you.

So, here’s how the process works: Cut the pork shoulder into one-inch pieces or what will fit into your grinder. Be sure as you cut that you trim off and discard the sinew and silver skin. Then put the pieces on a try and into the freezer until they are firm. Then mix the pork meat with the seasonings quickly so the pork stays cold. Grind the meat and flavorings together. If you don’t have a plunger for the grinder, Magnanelli suggests using the bottom of a whisk handle to help push the meat through the grinder.

Once you have your ground mixture in a bowl, season with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, along with a touch of white wine. Mix it together by hand. That’s it!

If you are going to case the sausage, Magnanelli said hog casings (scrubbed, salted pig intestines) are the best. You can ask a butcher. If you are in the market for a stuffer, you can buy a five-pound sausage stuffer from a company called Northern Tool for about $100. There are lots of videos online that demonstrate sausage stuffing technique.

If you’re not going to case the sausage, you can use this ground mixture in many ways. You can make the best meatloaf or meatballs ever. You can make sausage patties. You can sauté the mixture, breaking it up into chunks, to serve with pasta. You can add it to a tomato sauce, soup, or stew. You can use it as a pizza topping or a calzone or sandwich filling. It’s that versatile. And what you don’t use right away you can freeze for later.

For Magnanelli’s Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, he buttered one side of two slices of New York rye bread and toasted them buttered side up until golden brown. Then, on the other side of the bread, he spread mayonnaise mixed with sriracha sauce. In a pan, he added a small amount of olive oil and then some of the sausage mixture. In a second pan, he added butter and olive oil, then an egg, which he fried. Just before the egg was ready, Magnanelli topped it with a slice of smoked cheddar cheese. He placed some cooked sausage on one slice of bread, then topped it with the egg and cheese and placed the second slice of bread over it to make the sandwich.

Magnanelli’s Spaghetti with Italian Sausage also included plump yellow chanterelle mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms you prefer), cipollini onions that he had already roasted, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and fresh minced basil. The process is simple. In a large pot you’ll cook your pasta in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet and add olive oil. Then add the sausage. Break it up but leave it a little chunky. Brown the sausage then add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes and basil. Add a splash of wine and stir. Then add a splash of the pasta water before adding the cooked, drained pasta. If you like, you can grate parmesan cheese over it and stir it together while it cooks for another 30 seconds to let the flavors come together.

Once you plate the dish you can drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it and sprinkle more minced basil and grated cheese.

Basic Sausage Recipe

Serves 6

5 pounds pork shoulder
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and dice pork shoulder to 1-inch pieces, or small enough to fit through a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Place pieces on a flat plate or tray and put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to make very cold, but not frozen.

Slightly grind up the fennel seed with the chili flake. You can do this in a mortar and pestle or use the back of a sauté pan.

When the pork is ready, mix with fennel seed, chili flake, and garlic. Slowly add the mixture into the top of the grinder and grind into the bowl of your mixer. Season with salt and pepper and red wine. You can mix the ingredients by hand or on the low speed of your mixer using the paddle attachment. To check for seasoning, take a small piece and flatten to a small disk. Heat a sauté pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook on both sides until cooked through, about 1 minute on each side. Taste and re-season the rest of the pork mixture if necessary.

At this point the sausage is ready to use in various recipes. It can also be frozen to use later.

Sausage and egg breakfast sandwich

For 1 sandwich

2 ounces raw sausage mixture (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices New York rye bread or other sliced bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha or other chili sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 farm egg
2 slices smoked cheddar cheese

Start by forming sausage into a disk like shape and keep refrigerated.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread on 1 side, then toast in a toaster oven butter-side up. While the bread is toasting, mix the mayonnaise and sriracha in a small bowl. When the bread is done toasting, spread the mayonnaise evenly on both slices.

Use the other tablespoon of butter and olive oil to fry the farm egg sunny side up. While the egg is cooking fry the sausage patty in another pan for about 1 minute on each side or until fully cooked in the middle. You want each side to brown slightly.

When the egg is ready, place the slices of cheese on top of the egg to melt.

To assemble, place the sausage patty on the bread, topped with the egg, and top with the other side of toast.

Spaghetti with Sausage, Cippolini, Chanterelle, and Cherry Tomato

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cippolini onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces sausage mixture (see recipe above)
½ pound chanterelle mushrooms (or any other mushroom), sliced in bite-sized pieces
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
5 leaves fresh basil
8 ounces fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat an oven-ready sauté pan. Toss onions in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot sauté pan and put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. At about 5 minutes, pull out the pan and carefully flip each onion over to cook on the other side. Remove the onions from the pan and let cool. Cut them in half and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While water is heating up, in a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil and cook sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. When the sausage is almost done, add cippolinis and chanterelle mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes more. Add cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cook the fresh spaghetti in the boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds or until al dente (fresh pasta cooks very quickly); drain spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture, along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Toss all ingredients together and finish with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pasta in a bowl and drizzle with a nice extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!

 

Have you ever made homemade sausage for clients? What did you make and how did they turn out?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

I don’t know about you, but as the temperatures warm, I’m drawn to pickles. I love the chilly crunch that explodes all sorts of tangy flavors in my mouth, depending on the vegetable–or even fruit–I choose and the seasonings I include. Onions, radishes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and even fennel make for wonderful and unusual pickles; in other words, pickles don’t have to be synonymous with cucumbers–although they’re, of course, pretty wonderful, too. And while I will start with salt for some pickles, employing a tasty vinegar leads to some great flavors. Pair with herbs and spices–and a little sugar–let them sit briefly in the fridge and you’ll dazzle clients with your creativity. And, yes, they’re that easy.

The chefs I know in San Diego are always toying with pickles, using them as the acidic accompaniment to a charcuterie plate, to finish a piece of fatty fish like black cod or salmon, or in the case of my friend Chef Christopher Logan, to go with a dish of Peruvian-style Bay Scallop Ceviche.

He plated that dish with pickled red onions, pickled kumquats, and pickled purple carrot. Each flavor profile was unique in its own way, but together they further brightened what is always a fresh tasting dish, ceviche. I can see each of these three pickles served throughout the summer with many other dishes–grilled flank steak, fish tacos, sushi/sashimi, and even burgers–so I asked Logan for more his recipes–and can share them with you.

For the ceviche, Logan created a marinade for the scallops of lime zest and juice, garlic, basil, serrano chili (with seeds), cilantro, and sea salt. Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor, then pour over the scallops and refrigerate.

Once the scallops have been “cooked” by the marinade, you can plate it with the pickles and add a little micro cilantro for garnish.

But before you get there, you’ve got to make those pickles. Here’s how:

Pickled Red Onion
from Christopher Logan

1 medium red onion
Sweet rice vinegar, enough to cover the onions in a bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar

Peel and slice the onion–either whole or cut in half–and place in a metal or glass bowl. Mix together the salt, sugar, and vinegar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over the onion and cover the mixture in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. The color should be a nice purple. Refrigerated, it can keep for a week.

Pickled Kumquats
from Christopher Logan

1 pound kumquats, washed in warm water and drained dry
2 cups sweet rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt,
1/4 cup whole allspice
1 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
4 sticks fresh rosemary
1/8 cup red chile pepper
1/8 cup cracked black pepper

Place dry kumquats in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved taste to be sure you have the flavor you want, then adjust to more sweet or spicy or salty. Add the garlic, rosemary, red chile pepper, and black pepper. Stir, and then pour over kumquats. To be sure the kumquats are covered, weigh them down with a plate. Let cool, then place in refrigerator for two days, mixing the pickles twice, tasting for the flavors you want and adjusting over that time. These can be kept for up to a month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Pickled Purple Carrots
from Christopher Logan

It’s tempting to blanch or roast these gorgeous carrots so they’ll retain their color, but Chef Logan says that, in fact, the color will end up bleeding in this recipe. So, instead, just peel them very thinly and enjoy the vibrant color that results.

3 to 4 pounds purple carrots (You can find these at farmers markets–or you can also use conventional carrots.)
1 cup white sugar
4 cups white distilled vinegar (or just enough to cover the sliced carrots)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh tarragon

Peel and slice the carrots and place in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the carrots. Let cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator for two days, periodically stirring and tasting. At that point, they’re ready to use. They can be kept for  up to one month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Do you make pickles to serve clients when you’ve got a catering gig? Tell us your 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.

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

Be Sociable, Share!

It’s so easy for contemporary home cooks and chefs who consider themselves sophisticated in the kitchen to poo poo casseroles. Many of us grew up in the days of tuna embalmed in noodles and Campbell’s mushroom soup. Or macaroni and ground beef. Yeah, we’ve all been there.

But think of it this way: lasagna is essentially a casserole and we all love lasagna. It’s really a matter of what you do with the concept, which is basically a meal in a baking dish. For some, it’s a way to use up leftover ingredients. For others, it’s the quintessential dish you bring with love to friends or family who are too stressed (from grief, illness, new babies) to be able to make meals themselves. For personal chefs, it can be an easy way to prepare a comprehensive meal packed with nutrition in a single container that just needs reheating by clients.

I got to thinking about this recently when I saw a piece on casseroles in The Kitchn. They ran a list of casserole links and what was interesting was that recipes not only described how to prepare the dish but in advance of that, how to prep the ingredients for freezing and provide instructions to the recipient for  making it later.

One of those recipes struck a chord with me. It was baked chicken with rice. Once I sorted through the freezing instructions, which I didn’t need, I realized that this was a casserole I could fall in love with. After all, it takes two dishes I really enjoy–roasted or baked chicken and grains filled with vegetables and herbs and spices. All this does it put them together in an easy-to-make, one-dish meal.

Like all great casseroles, you can change this up, depending on the season or the ingredients you have or prefer. I happened to find elephant garlic scapes at a specialty market in San Diego. These are a rare find so I nabbed what I thought I could use (I usually make pesto with scapes) and decided to add some to my casserole, along with mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, and onion.

You could add sliced kalamata olives and capers for one specific flavor profile. Or you could go in a totally different direction with tomatillos, fresh poblano or Anaheim chiles. Or eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, pine nuts, and za’atar. Cooking for one? I do–and I easily cut this recipe in half for two meals. I just used a smaller baking dish.

So, use this as a foundation for building your own one-dish wonder for clients. I hope you’ll share with us what you came up with.

Chicken and Whole Grains Casserole
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
½ cup of your favorite vinaigrette
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup garlic cloves sliced (or, when in season, garlic scapes)
1 cup marinated artichoke heart quarters
2 cups brown rice
¼ cup wheat berries, wild rice, farro, or other grains
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups water, white wine, or chicken broth, depending on your preference

Directions
1. The day before you make the dish, combine the chicken thighs and vinaigrette in a freezer bag. Seal and massage the bag to coat the chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
3. Grease a 9X13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
4. Combine the vegetables, grains, and herbs and spices in the baking dish. Stir in the liquids. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them on top of the grains mixture.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover the dish and bake for up to another hour. You want the grains to have absorbed the liquid and the chicken to be cooked through with crispy skin.

Do you enjoy a casserole or make them for clients? What is your favorite?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

All too often on our private forums and our Facebook pages, we hear from chefs about sketchy and downright fraudulent communications they receive that seemingly inquire about personal chef services. In reality, these missives are almost always phishing scams.

Here’s a typical one that several chefs around the country received about five years ago:

Hello,
I’m in need of a professional chef to handle surprise birthday party i’m planning for my Husband upon our return from Quito, Ecuador. We’re here right now on vacation and my husband will be turning 45 on 28th of this month while our return is slated for 27th but we’re looking at planning the party between 28th Nov and 8th Dec. As you would see, there’s hardly any time for me to make all the plans myself so i want to hire a professional chef on standy for that day who would cater for at least 20 friends/family members for a sit down dinner party style. Kindly respond back to let me know how much you charge and if you’re able to accept payment in form of check so we can finalize plans long before our return.
Thanks.
(Tee Marcy)

As member April Lee of Tastefully Yours explained, these phishing scams have many things in common, “most noticeably is poor English, poor grammar or improper use of capital letters and punctuation (although I’ve noticed that the scam emails have gotten a little better about this over the years).”

She added that the context of scams also follow certain themes:

  • Vacationing in “fill-in-the-blank” area with family and needing meals for everyone for one to two weeks (or more)
  • Need to throw a surprise party/dinner with little advance notice, but inquirer is impossible to contact directly via telephone (because s/he is in the military and overseas, or s/he is deaf and doesn’t communicate by telephone) and they cannot give a physical address of the venue
  • Wanting to hire you for the event without even talking to you
  • Requesting a bizarre menu, ranging from 100 wrapped chicken salad sandwiches to everything that’s listed on a deli menu somewhere
  • Offering to send a driver to pick up the food and/or deliver a check. Many times they offer to send you a big check and will ask you to pay the driver when they get there.

Seasoned email recipients who have endured their fair share of banking requests from Nigerian princes will immediately see that these emails that are too good to be true are. But all too often personal chef newbies, eager for new gigs, are vulnerable to these scams. And, as Lee pointed out, they can stand to lose thousands of dollars to rip-off artists.

How do they do it? APPCA Executive Director Candy Wallace explained that once they lure you with the full service for an extended time, ask you to submit menu plans, and basically befriend you, they then go for the close.

“What they want is the chef’s banking information so they can clean out the chef’s account,” Candy said. And, she added, while that letter above is typical, they are growing more sophisticated.

“You could at one time spot these right off the bat because the scammers use of the English language was so bad, or their lack of knowledge of food was also a tip,” she said, “but they have done their homework and present a much more believable scenario.”

So, how do you protect yourself?

Christine Robinson, who with partner Dennis Nosko, owns A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service, suggests several tactics: “Google the person contacting you; ask questions, pointed questions; use common sense; and, if you doubt what is sent, use the APPCA Forums, ask, run it past people you know.”

Candy has offered some tips of her own on our forums:

  • Watch out for “phishy” emails. The most common form of phishing is emails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization, or government agency. The sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed, an order for something has been placed in your name, or your information has been lost because of a computer problem. Another tactic phishers use is to say they’re from the fraud departments of well-known companies and ask to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft! In one case, a phisher claimed to be from a state lottery commission and requested people’s banking information to deposit their “winnings” in their accounts.
  • Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that looks just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. If you follow the instructions and enter your personal information on the Web site, you’ll deliver it directly into the hands of identity thieves. To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call it directly or go to its Web site (use a search engine to find it).
  • Beware of “pharming.” In this latest version of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you’re taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
  • Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company’s, organization’s, or agency’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you against pharming and other techniques that phishers use. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer – which is especially important if you have a broadband connection because your computer is open to the Internet whenever it’s turned on. Look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches that manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems. Go to www.onguardonline.gov and www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to keep your computer secure.Also check out Microsoft Phishing Info page: http://www.microsoft.com/secur…ishing-symptoms.aspx
  • Only open email attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain. Even if the messages look like they came from people you know, they could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal your personal information.

You can report internet scams to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and to Consumer Fraud Reporting:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

Oh, and are you tempted to reply with a scathing little letter of your own? Yeah, it’s almost irresistible to give them a taste of their own medicine and some of our chefs have responded with rather brilliant responses. But a word of warning. Often these scammers will send emails to test if the email address is live (not unlike those annoying telemarketing calls you also get). Don’t respond, just trash the email and move on in your life.

But not before checking in on our Forum. Yes, we have one specifically dealing with Internet frauds issues. If you’re an APPCA member, this is a benefit you should take advantage of.

Have you gotten fraudulent, phishing emails? How did you handle 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.

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

Be Sociable, Share!

Ideas for what to publish in à la minute can come from the least obvious situations. Back in January on the morning of the big Women’s March I met a number of friends in San Diego’s Little Italy to head to the Civic Center where the march was gathering. When I reached the parking lot pastry chef Joanne Sherif, who owns Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, was handing out the most stunning madeleines. Coated in sugar and grapefruit zest, you could almost eat the fragrance before taking a bite. And the bite! Crunchy from the sugar coating but with a bright citrus flavor in the subtly sweet chewy cookie. At that moment that’s all I wanted and I told her I needed her to teach me how to make them.

She did. And she added a chocolate version to the mix.

Now publishing recipes is all well and good but what you really get here is the benefit of Joanne’s expertise–her tricks and tips. When it comes to madeleines, which she considers more of a cake than a cookie but with a thick, cookie-like dough, Joanne’s firmest piece of advice is to refrigerate this dough for at least two hours before baking (and you can even refrigerate it overnight).

She has two reasons for insisting on this. The first is that you want the flour fully hydrated. The second is you want it completely chilled when it gets into the oven. Like bread baking, the steam for the cold moisture when it hits the heat will give it “oven spring.” In other words, it will help it puff up.

Another suggestion Joanne has, and this is for the chocolate madeleines, is to use a top grade cocoa. Joanne discovered Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge, which she adores. I found it on Amazon’s and Sur La Table’s websites, along with Guittard’s own site.

Finally, again for the chocolate madeleines, add a bit of espresso powder. This brings out the flavor of the chocolate.

Now if you aren’t a grapefruit fan, no worries. You can use any kind of citrus. The day I was with Joanne, she had blood oranges and the reds and oranges in the zest were striking. And assuming you have leftover citrus sugar, don’t toss it! Instead, says Joanne, use it to sweeten iced team, rim a cocktail glass, or add to a homemade salad dressing.

Finally, before you place the dough in the madeleine forms, brush a little butter inside the forms to make sure the cookies won’t stick. And don’t fuss over smoothing the top of the dough. Use your fingers to press the dough into the molds but as they bake, the top will smooth itself.

Chocolate Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder
100 grams all-purpose flour
90 grams cocoa powder
pinch salt
185 grams plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup cocoa powder

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and espresso powder. Slowly add flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix and then slowly stream in 185 grams of melted butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl several madeleines. Place cocoa powder in a sifter and sift cocoa over madeleines. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are topped with cocoa powder. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Citrus Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups sugar
2 pieces of citrus, zested (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit all work)

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Slowly add flour and then butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the sugar and citrus zest. Place several madeleines in the bowl and gently toss them in the sugar and zest mixture. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are coasted in the sugar and zest mixture. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Do you make desserts for clients? If so, what are your favorites to prepare?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!
Older Posts »