What’s in this apple pie that makes it so indefinably good? See below!

Are your flavor profiles in need of a refresh? Do you have a recipe or two that you and your clients enjoy but could be elevated? Brightened? Recharged?

If so, here are some suggestions we hope you’ll consider inspiration. All are easy to find, whether in your local market–if not the traditional supermarket, then an Asian or Latinx market–or online.

Let’s start with sumac. It’s a deep red powder that you’ve probably enjoyed in Middle Eastern food. It comes from the sumac flower, which is a relative of cashews of all things. Sumac has a fruity tart, lemony flavor–just a bit astringent, which makes it wonderful in vinaigrettes, sprinkled over roasted vegetables, or to season meat or fish. Incorporate it in a dip you want to have a lemony flavor. You could even include it in a dessert. Importantly, it’s a key ingredient in the spice mixture, zatar. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets and Whole Foods, or online on Amazon, The Spice House, Williams-Sonoma, and Penzys.

Next up is merquén. A friend of mine who was a buyer for years at Dean & DeLuca introduced me to this Chilean smoked chile condiment long ago. I add it to everything savory–from meats to whole grains to tomato sauce. Merquén’s base is the cacho de cabra, a pepper that is first dried naturally in the sun, then smoked over a wood fire before being ground. The merquén I buy and have used since that long-ago introduction is a brand called Etnia. It mixes this smoked chile with salt, dehydrated cilantro seeds, and cumin. Use it as a dry rub for lamb, beef, or poultry. Sprinkle it over sauteed vegetables or an omelet. Add it to stews or soups, to ceviche, tacos, or a bowl of lentils or beans. This is your go-to for a touch of smoky heat. I found it at My Panier, Walmart, and The Gourmet Import Shop.Nigella seeds are a fascinating spice. If you taste these tiny black seeds on their own with your eyes closed you would swear you were munching on oregano. They’re native to the Mediterranean but found wild across Egypt and India, as well as North Africa. Leave them whole or grind them. I leave them whole and use them as a substitute for sesame seeds. Add them at the end of cooking a dish like sauteed or steamed potatoes to add a crunchy texture. Mix them into a whipped feta and yogurt dip for crudites. Add them to whole grains. If you bake crackers, top the crackers with the seeds before baking. You should be able to get them at your local Middle Eastern market or online at Amazon, Spice Jungle, World Spice Merchants, and The Spice House.Oh, how I adore Shichimi Togarashi! It’s a much-loved Japanese seven-spice mixture that offers citrus and just a bit of heat. It can vary but typically, the blend includes red chili peppers, sanshō or sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, ground ginger, poppy seeds and nori (seaweed). Add this to eggs, steamed or sauteed vegetables, ramen, soups, sauces, edamame, chicken, lamb, salmon, shrimp, or tofu dishes. Whisk it into a marinade or dressing. Sprinkle it on skewered, grilled dishes to finish. You can easily find it at an Asian market or any online store that sells spices.Yuzu Koshio is quite unusual. It’s a spice mix, but in the form of a fermented paste made from chilies, salt, and citrus fruit. The traditional name is actually yuzu kosho but the version I bought comes from a Seattle-based company called Umami Kushi and they added an “i” to the second word. It is truly an umami flavor bomb for fish, steak, noodles, soups, and desserts. If you have a dish for which you want to cut the fat flavor, this is the antidote. It’s also perfect to add to a dressing to pour over sturdy vegetables like eggplant or winter squash. You can find it on Amazon, but I discovered it and bought it on My Panier.

 

Finally, there’s fennel pollen. Fennel pollen is collected from wild fennel, with an anise flavor melded with  a musky sweet, floral taste. You can use it alone to elevate pasta dishes, sauces, grains, roasted pork or chicken, and sausages. But I’m actually a sucker for “Divine Desserts,” which is a blend of fennel pollen, orange peel, lemon grass, cayenne pepper, sour plum powder, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, vanilla powder, clove, coriander. If you’re a baker coming on fall dessert season–think apple pie–add a touch of this mixture to your apples. It’s now part of my apple pie recipe and I always get questions about what’s in the pie that makes it so different and good. You can also add it to banana bread, carrot cake, or muffins or scones, or spice cookies. Not into baking? Sprinkle it over fresh fruit. I get mine from Pollen Ranch but you can also find it on Amazon.

What new magical spices or spice mixes are you now enchanted by? How do you use 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.

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How are your clients feeling? A little achy around the joints with arthritis? Perhaps they’ve got diabetes or cancer or are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, our immune systems become activated when our bodies recognize something foreign—be it an invading microbe, pollen, or chemical. What follows can be a process called inflammation and while intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders can protect our health, if the inflammation persists when we’re not threatened, it can take us down. And so many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, have been linked to inflammation.

If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself way to address inflammation, you can find it in the kitchen via farmers markets and grocery stores. Instead of eating refined carbohydrates, soda, and fried foods, for instance—all foods that cause inflammation—you should prepare more anti-inflammatory foods for clients using ingredients like olive oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and fruits, in your diet.

And spices, like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Let’s focus on turmeric.

Turmeric, which is related to ginger, and its most active compound curcumin, is grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and Central America. The National Institutes of Health reports that turmeric has been shown in preliminary studies to reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients had after surgery, control knee pain from osteoarthritis, and reduce skin irritation that can occur after radiation treatments for breast cancer.

One simple thing you can make for clients to add to their coffee or tea is a spice compound that my friend Su-Mei Yu, a San Diego expert in Thai cooking and former owner of Saffron Thai restaurant in San Diego, taught me. It’s something she spoons into her morning coffee daily to help her address the inevitable aches and pains of aging.

Su-Mei Yu grinding spices

She combines one-part organic turmeric powder with half a part ground black pepper, and one-quarter part each of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. She adds a teaspoon of this compound, along with a dash of olive oil, which she explained boosts the spices’ effectiveness, to her coffee. The flavor is comforting, yet potent—kind of like chai on steroids. If your clients are coffee or tea drinkers, they should find it compellingly delicious. I add it to my coffee every morning now, too, and love it.

Turmeric root can be found in some specialty ethnic grocery stores, but, of course, you’re more likely to find the ground form in the spice section of grocery stores. You can find turmeric supplements in capsule form at various health stores.

Turmeric can be included in fresh root or powder (or both) forms in curry paste or marinades. You can also encourage clients to make a Turmeric Tea. Here’s a recipe from DLife:

Ingredients:

  1.  Water
  2. Turmeric powder
  3. Honey

Directions:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water
  2. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered turmeric.
  3. Let the turmeric seep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
  4. Strain the tea, add honey if desired and sip.

And here is Su-Mei Yu’s recipe for her Yellow Curry Paste.

Yellow Curry Paste
 
5 cloves garlic
2 shallots
2 teaspoons rice bran oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 dried de arbol chilies, soaked, dried, roasted and break into small pieces
1 lemongrass, outer tough layer and green parts removed, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced galangal
1 teaspoon minced kaffir lime peel (substitute with lime)
1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon red miso
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, roasted and ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  1. Wrap the garlic and shallots in separate aluminum sheet, coat with oil and bake at 400 for at least 20 minutes, cool. Remove from the foil and peel. Set aside.
  2. In a mortar with a pestle, pound the salt and dried chilies together until combined into a coarse paste.
  3. Add the lemongrass and pound to puree.
  4. Add the fresh ginger, galangal, kaffir lime peel and turmeric. When the paste becomes pureed, add the roasted garlic cloves and shallots. Pound to combine and puree. Add the red miso and pound to puree and combine.
  5. Add the ground coriander seeds, cumin, white peppercorns, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger powder and turmeric. Mix and combine with the puree.
  6. The paste can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks

Be sure when you use this past to add it to coconut oil in a large saucepan over low heat to keep the ingredients from burning. Once it darkens, add a bit of coconut cream to render the paste to release its flavor. Then you can add ingredients like bite-sized pieces of room-temperature chicken or very firm tofu, cut-up potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, along with chilies, bay leaves, salt, and brown sugar–and then more coconut cream. If the chilies make the dish a little too spicy, add some more brown sugar to balance the flavors. Su-Mei likes to finish the dish off with a little fish sauce at the end. And, if you can find chewy red rice from Thailand, clients should really enjoy it with your curry.

Do you cook with turmeric for clients? What dishes do you use it in?

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

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Depending on where you live in the U.S. you may be nodding your head in agreement or be totally dismissive when I complain that right now in San Diego the heat and humidity is making me wilt. Yes, San Diego is probably much cooler than almost any other part of the U.S. but I’m not in any other part of the U.S. and while it’s not in the three-digit temperature category, it’s September, and temperatures beyond the coast are in the 90s and could very well go up further tomorrow or next week. In the meantime, those thick clouds that hang in the East tell me a monsoon is happening elsewhere and slipping humidity to us.

No one likes to cook in heat and humidity if they don’t have to. Or eat heavy food. That’s why I take advantage of late summer harvests of cucumbers and tomatoes to make this easy, very refreshing salad. It’s something you can make for clients or show clients how to make for themselves–or, hey, make it for your family to have something cool and simple to have at the ready once you’ve gotten out of your client’s kitchen.

For this salad I use either hothouse cucumbers (you know, the ones so delicate they’re wrapped in plastic) or Persian cucumbers, along with cherry tomatoes. I’m lucky because my garden is overflowing with Sweet 100s and other cherry tomatoes.

To make the salad I pull out my handy little Kyocera slicer, set it to the thickest opening, and get to work. It takes no time to slice the cukes. Then I slice the tomatoes in half in what, maybe two minutes? I clip some mojito mint from my garden and rinse and chop that up in less than 30 seconds. Then I quickly mix together a dressing using seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I layer the cukes in a serving dish with a two-inch lip, toss the tomatoes over them, followed by the mint, then a few dashes of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. I slosh the dressing over the salad, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about an hour so it can marinate.

The reward is a mouthful of fresh crisp veggies complemented by a mix of flavors and textures–sweet, salty, smoothness, crunch, and a pop of heat. It takes so little effort and the flavor rewards are so great (since all these vegetables are at their peak ripeness) it would be a shame to not make this part of your hot weather  repertoire.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 8

2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced (if conventional cucumbers, peel the skin)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Dressing
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Layer the cucumbers in a bowl or flat serving dish with a lip at least an inch high to hold the dressing. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the mint over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, the red pepper flakes, and sea salt over the top. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, give it a good shake, and then pour over the salad. Cover and chill for an hour. The vegetables should absorb most of the dressing and the cucumbers will soften a little but still have a little crispness to them. If you want to add some protein to the salad cooked shrimp or beans (I love garbanzo beans with this) will work just fine.

What’s your summer/heat wave go-to salad for yourself or 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.

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Grilled Peach Parfait

Filed under: Catering,Desserts,Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 26, 2019

Ah, stone fruit. It’s truly the sweetness of summer, especially when you take a bite out of a ripe peach or nectarine and the juices dribble down your chin like when you were a child. It’s the perfect peach pie or apricot crumble. A scented nectarine skinned and gently bathed in a syrup of lemon verbena. A tart plum upside down cake. There are endless ways to prepare stone fruit. Poach them. Grill them, cut into pieces and turn into a dessert kabob with pound cake. Cook them into preserves.

With all these options, how do you pick one or two dishes? I had some ideas, but then I went to a local farmers market and got to talking with a cheese monger, who mentioned a dish created by a friend: Grilled Peach Parfait. Brilliant!

Basically, you grill peaches, chop them up and mix in agave syrup or honey and toasted nuts — maybe some dried fruit, too. Then layer the mixture in a parfait dish with slices of burrata cheese, all topped with a sprig of mint.

Burrata Cheese

That sounded delicious and different. So, off I went back home with peaches and burrata to play with this idea. And, while I love the burrata, I could also see replacing it with homemade vanilla ice cream, mascarpone, or vanilla- or honey-flavored Greek yogurt. And why not add berries to the layers for flavor, texture, and color?

Chefs, doesn’t this sound perfect for client dinner parties?

Grilled Peach Parfait
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 peaches (preferably freestone so the flesh will separate easily from the pit)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup toasted pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 pint blueberries or combination of berries
6 ounces burrata, cut in thick slices
Mint or edible flowers for garnish

1. Wash and dry the peaches, then slice in half along the ridge and remove the pits.
2. Heat grill to medium, brush the peaches with butter on the cut side and place cut-side down on the grill. Close the grill cover and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes. When the peaches show grill marks, brush the skin side with butter and turn the peaches over to cook. Close the cover and cook for another 4 minutes.
3. Carefully cut the hot peaches into bite-sized pieces and place in a medium-size bowl. Add the pecans, agave syrup, vinegar, and rosemary. Mix well.
4. Layer the peach mixture, berries, and cheese. Top with garnish and serve.

Chefs, what is your favorite way to use this summer’s stone fruit? 

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Ask a personal chef for his or her pet peeve and the answer may just be the irritation of people calling them caterers.

“It’s over 20 years in and people still refer to me as a caterer,” said longtime APPCA member Phyllis Segura. “For 20 years I’ve been correcting them. A personal chef, a private chef, is not a caterer.”

“Happens to me too,” said Jodi Giroux. “Same person over and over, ‘How’s your catering business?’ My same response, ‘My personal chef business is going well, thanks!’ I may/may not give another explanation of the difference. Also, people refer me as a caterer on the local Advice site pages. STOP…I’m a personal chef! I’ll just add my website.”

If you’re a personal chef and this aggravates you, too, maybe we should have some definitions at the ready. You, as a personal chef, prepare custom meals for clients in their homes or in a rental kitchen for them to reheat and enjoy throughout the week or whatever your arrangement is. You often create menus tailored for specific needs–from cancer diets, anti-inflammatory diets, low fat or gluten free diets to cardio, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of you are trained dietitians or nutritionists. Others of you have developed an area of specialization. But the word “personal” is there for a reason.

Catering may be a service under your personal chef umbrella but it’s altogether different. It’s preparing food and drink for a one-time event.

As chef Renee DuBose explained, “Catering is a whole other beast that requires offsite kitchens, special licenses, permits, and a crew of many talents. Plus, you get into the rental arena for tables, dinnerware, etc. You need multiple contracts…..who’s liable for specific situations, set up, break down, clean up, trash hauling, the list goes on. It is a much more intense job, but you also get volume which can balance costs.

“My mind gets all tangled up thinking about it all,” she added. “I don’t think people, in general, really take into consideration all the things needed to make a large party gig happen. I have much respect for caterers, but personally am not equipped to handle it as a solo chef.”

Of course, not all catered events are massive. Perhaps you have a personal chef client who wants you to cater a special anniversary dinner party or a holiday brunch. We have members who include that kind of service, along with others, such as teaching cooking classes.

APPCA members Christine Robinson and Dennis Nosko of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service have actually come up with a way to clarify the distinctions between their personal cheffing and in-home catering.

“Most view caterers as those who service parties or dinners rather than those who prepare off-site and finish when they arrive so we say we cater small parties,” said Nosko. “I tell them we are not full-service caterers and explain. We also send out IHC How it Works.”

He explained that the IHC is a word document they send out to people along with their menus. “We have one document designed for our personal chef side and another for our In Home Catering. The IHC How it Works document will let them know about a deposit… what part of the process that we do and what is the responsibility of the client. After this, we will direct clients to rental companies and waiter/bartender service providers if necessary.”

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Of course, Robinson often has to address a very different irritating issue: sexist assumptions.

“Dennis and I are partners in life and in business ….there are still those who hire us who assume I am the assistant and I have heard many people say in 20 years, ‘Thank you Chef Dennis….and Christine….,'” she said.

She’s not the only one. “happens to me ALL the time!,” said Carol Crikelair Taradyna of The Occasional Chefs. “My new husband and I just laugh now. I started the business 12 years ago down here in Forida. He joined me a few years back when we first met. I could be at a job for hours. He walks in and they swarm all over him saying, ‘Hello, Chef!'”

But, that’s an issue for another post…

Shelbie Wassel

As member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service joked about the personal chef versus caterer confusion, “I get it! But, hey… we could be called worse!”

Chefs, have people referred to you as a caterer? What’s your response?

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

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Back in the day when I first joined the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier the group had a summer BBQ potluck. I’m not usually a fan of potlucks, mostly because you just never know what kind of food will arrive. But a potluck with dishes by women who are restaurant owners, caterers, cookbook authors, and cooking school teachers? Now, game on.

As it happened, the organizers also enjoy making it just a little competitive, and they had a contest for the best salad. You could also bring an appetizer or dessert, but since I was pressed for time and happened to have the ingredients on hand, I decided to make my version of Mark Bittman’s Israeli couscous salad. This salad really takes advantage of the bounty of summer produce. And, I love the impact of the cinnamon, cumin, and preserved lemon.

Anyway, there were a lot of salads on the table that night, each one different, each delicious. Most, like mine, were simply plated in large bowls, but one member, a cooking teacher and writer, made a potato salad in the shape of a hat, decorated with flowers. It was absolutely charming. Another salad, linguini with shrimp, was arranged in a huge margarita glass. Along with the salads was an array of barbecued chicken thighs, pork ribs, and lamb chops. And, I don’t have to tell you how delicious the half-dozen desserts were.

Okay, so the salad competition. The newbie won. I was pretty surprised and delighted. And my prize? A stunning plastic tiara. Because, of course, every girl should have one.

Israeli Couscous Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Israeli Couscous Salad from “How to Eat Everything Vegetarian”

1 8.8 oz. package of Israeli couscous
1 small chopped white onion
1/4 cup plus 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups boiling water
2 T. sherry vinegar
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon, skin only, sliced thinly
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup currants or golden raisins
½ cup drained canned chickpeas
2 T. capers
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ pint roasted cherry or grape tomatoes*
Kernels from 1 ear of fresh white corn
6 shishito peppers, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Using a large frying pan, saute the white onion and half of the shishito peppers in 2 T. of olive oil until the onions are golden brown Add the Israeli couscous and stir until the couscous begins to brown. Add salt and pepper, then add two cups boiling water. Cover the pan and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour the couscous into a large bowl and let cool. Then stir in oil, vinegar, and spices. Add the remaining ingredients. Let the salad stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

*I used Peggy Knickerbocker’s recipe below for slow-roasted tomatoes:

36 to 48 cherry tomatoes, or more
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 to ½ cup fresh chopped herbs: any combination of parsley, marjoram, oregano, chervil
Sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half width-wise. Place the halves in one or two baking dishes cut side up in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
  2. Bake for three to four hours or until the tomatoes soften and almost collapse. Fifteen minutes before the baking is completed, combine the garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle the herbs and cheese on top of the tomatoes. Return to the oven for the remaining time.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My note: These tomatoes freeze well.

What is your favorite or go-to summer salad? Share your favorite 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.

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Meet (And Read) Shaya

Filed under: Cookbooks,Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 5, 2019

Do you read cookbooks? I don’t mean simply dipping into them for recipes. I mean really reading them. Because if your idea of a perfect evening or weekend is settling in with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a good cookbook–and you’re curious about how Israeli and American Southern food interconnect–then you’ll enjoy “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” by Alon Shaya.

Shaya has won two James Beard awards for his restaurants Shaya, Domenica, and Pizza Domenica in New Orleans. He was born in Tel Aviv to parents originally from Bulgaria (mom) and Romania (dad). But at age four his mother moved his older sister Anit and him to Philadelphia to reunite with his father, who had moved to the U.S. years before. The marriage broke up and Shaya was left to mostly fend for himself.

“Shaya” is a memoir/cookbook that traces his life through food. The sense of family he gained from his maternal grandparents–and the food his safta (grandmother) made for him when they visited from Israel, starting with Lutenitsa (a dish of roasted red peppers and eggplant). The first dish he made (hamantashen). Finding himself in a home ec class with the teacher of every student’s dreams and making Linguine and Clams “Carbonara.” Landing at the CIA, then going out to Vegas to work in a casino, and eventually New Orleans, where he would settle. The recipes in each chapter, including Chilled Yogurt Soup with Crushed Walnuts, Mom’s Leek Patties with Lutenitsa, Pan-Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Harissa, and Malai with Strawberries, are connected to these memories that eventually take us through the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, when he worked for chef John Besh, to Italy and Israel, and then back to New Orleans.

Because, once upon a time, I worked in publishing in New York I have a habit of reading the acknowledgments first in books. And I knew I’d be smitten by this book with the story he tells there in praise of his collaborator Tina Antolini. He initially showed her some stories he’d written and she sent him off to read one of her favorite cookbooks, “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin because his writing reminded her of the narrative form Laurie used in her book. Then, he worked with editor Vicky Wilson, a legendary Knopf editor, whose sister I worked with back in the day at The William Morris Agency. And Wilson told Shaya that the only cookbook she’d ever published was “Home Cooking.” That was kismet for him but why would that matter to me? Because back then I was friends with Laurie, who was the godmother to my boss’s daughter. Laurie passed away quite young, but “Home Cooking” and “Home Cooking II” as well as novels and tons of fabulous short stories are some of my favorite reading dating back to my early 20s.

So, there’s that connection. But even if that weren’t there, I’d still encourage you to get this book. Shaya is a terrific storyteller and his story is unusual. So are the recipes, and that’s part of their charm. Are they Jewish? (His Kugel in Crisis features bacon.) Are they Southern? Or Italian? Or Israeli? You’ll have to read the book to learn how he pulls together all these traditions and flavors. All I can say is that I’m looking forward to trying his recipes, especially since I had the great good fortune of interviewing him for an event in San Diego recently.

Do you read cookbooks or dip into them? What’s your favorite go-to or your happiest surprise on the page?

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

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Every couple of months, my friends Erin and Dave Smith can be found at a Chinese market in San Diego filling up a cart with vegetables, eggs, and meat. When I went with them, they launched their expedition with huge bags of carrots and eggplants, sweet potatoes and broccoli, big bunches of leafy bok choy, and ginormous king oyster mushrooms. They eyed amounts, compared notes on what each had bagged, then moved on to the meat and poultry aisle. There they grabbed three dozen eggs, then packages of pork cushion, beef peeled knuckle, tripe; and pork livers, hearts, and spleen. They found chicken livers and gizzards and added them to the cart. Oh, and they picked up a big bag of red cargo rice before checking out. The total came to about $142, including Dave’s can of coconut water.

The shopping was for their two corgis, Ricky and Tanuki. And their Sunday would mostly be dedicated to turning that cart full of food into meals that would last for close to two months.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are estimated to spend $29.69 billion on food for their pets. That could mean your basic kibble or it could extend to organic dehydrated human quality food.

As pet owners have become more aware of what goes into their own food, eschewing processed products for more healthful, seasonal, and organic ingredients they’ve also been eying the labels on their pets’ food—and are not necessarily sanguine about what they read. Pet food recalls haven’t helped. Plus, some owners are addressing specific health issues their pets have with dietary changes. Others are augmenting high-quality foods with home-cooked meals or treats. Still others, at the urging of their pets’ breeders, feed raw diets.

Why mention this? Well, you’re cooking for human clients, but if they have dogs, perhaps you can create a side business of augmenting their diet with healthy meals and treats.

The big challenge in all this is determining how closely home cooked foods adhere to basic nutritional requirements, requirements that change as a puppy or kitten mature, perhaps have litters and lactate, how much they exercise, suffer from health issues, and, eventually, age. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, establishes nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods that pet food companies adhere to. But these standards aren’t easily available for pet owners, change over the years based on new research, and are not easy to follow even if you can figure out how to access them.

Lucy Postins, founder, owner, and Chief Integrity Officer of San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen, explained that the AAFCO standards have guidance on everything from how much fat and protein to include to nutrient profiles—all for every stage of the animal’s life.

“Our biggest challenge is getting recipes to meet AAFCO requirements,” she said. “It’s very difficult to do that across an entire recipe. It’s a $2,500 minimum undertaking to get a recipe evaluated. So, you can imagine that it’s a big challenge for pet owners.”

Erin Smith is a geneticist at UCSD and an avid cook who uses science to coax the best flavors out of food, including caramels that she used to sell locally. She has managed to find older standards and five years ago developed a complex Excel spreadsheet to work the numbers. Based on that, she said she’s pretty comfortable with the ratios she’s come up with to feed Ricky and Tanuki.

No one is saying you should create meals that would strictly feed your clients pets. It’s unlikely that like Smith, you could figure out how to meet AAFCO requirements. But the key to a healthful pet diet is diversity and that’s something you can offer. Bake doggie cookies, make a dish of ground turkey and whole wheat pasta filled with peas, cranberries, and broccoli. Just make sure that the ingredients you use aren’t toxic to dogs (like onions and garlic).

Need some inspiration? Try this meatball recipe from Honest Kitchen’s Lucy Postins:

Turkey and Raspberry Summer Meatballs
From Lucy Postins of The Honest Kitchen
Yield: About 24 small meatballs for humans and their dogs

Just the slightest bit sweet, these meatballs are so fancy and colorful that your guests will think you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. Little do they know! 

Ingredients
1 pound ground turkey
2 free-range eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.
  2.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, basil, and raspberries. Stir until thoroughly combined (the raspberries will break apart and spread throughout the mixture).
  3.  Using your hands, make marble-size balls of the mixture and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm to the touch. Cool before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Have clients been talking to you about making food or treats for their dogs? Have you considered pitching them about this?

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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Are you feeling the burn yet? If not, it’s coming. It always helps to have a few solid no cook recipes in your back pocket. We all have them. I thought I’d share some of mine in case you could use some inspiration–either for your own family or clients.

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
This dish has long been a family go to in the high heat of July and August. It’s the most wonderful combination of flavors and textures. It’s healthy. It’s cold. Add some cooked shrimp or crab, a hank of crusty sourdough bread, and a cold beer and you’ve got a great meal.

Serves 8 – 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 tablespoons lime juice
2-6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon 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 (optional)
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.

Spicy Kale, Corn, and Mango Salad
I came up with this during a killer heat wave. It was so refreshing. Add cheese or some other protein like roasted chicken from the market to bulk it up a bit, but it’s a great base for some serious eating.

Serves 4

1 ear of corn, shucked with kernels sliced off
1/2 slightly ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1/2 medium onion, red or white, diced
4 large kale leaves, spine removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and soaked

1/2 cup of Country French Vinaigrette made from Penzeys’ mix — or your own vinaigrette

Combine vegetables, add dressing. Marinate for about an hour. Serve.

Cucumber and Radish Confetti Soup
For at least 30 years I’ve been making a cucumber soup with yogurt and tomatoes that’s been a go to on hot summer days. But one day I found myself with radishes as well and thought that I’d change things up a bit. This is still a classic for me, but I now also add a bit of low-fat buttermilk to the soup.

Serves 4

1 large English cucumber or 3 good-sized Persian cucumbers (about 6 inches long)
1 dozen radishes
1 1/2 cups unflavored yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fenugreek (for a different flavor, try dill or mint — they’re all equally good)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard. (If you’re using a conventional cucumber first peel the skin; for the other types, leave the thin skin on for color.) Cut into chunks and put in the bowl of a food processor. Trim all the radishes and cut all but one into chunks and add to the food processor. Save the remaining radish for garnish. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend thoroughly. Remove to a bowl, cover, and chill at least two hours or overnight. Just before serving, slice the remaining radish very thinly, again with the little mandoline, and use it to top the soup. Feel free to add a little hot sauce when serving.

Stone Fruit Salsa
And now for dessert! Yes, you could use this on a taco or pork tenderloin–but it’s so fabulous over a couple of scoops of ice cream!

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 dozen cherries, pitted
2 plums
1 large, firm peach
1/2 serrano or whole jalapeño pepper
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the fruit and the pepper (removing the seeds if you want to reduce the heat intensity). Add to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour. Adjust the seasonings. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey to taste.

What are your no cook summer go-to recipes? What are client 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!

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Some of you asked Candy to respond to a recent slew of scam emails that some members have received. Here is her expert advice:

Here we go again!

SCAMS! SCAMS! SCAMS!

We have posted warnings and notified members for years in the APPCA Internet Fraud Forum about the latest internet scams directed at the personal chef industry, and since the scamsters seem to have upped their game recently, this is a good time to sound the alert once again.

The latest version of this classic scam features a pretend geologist who found your business info on the APPCA website: 

He is coming to your town with his family for 6 to 8 weeks and wants to hire you.

What he is NOT telling you is that he has also targeted every other personal chef in that town as well as the car service companies, caterers, event planners, personal shoppers, and any other personal service business he/she can identify.

The goal on his end is to get you to give up your banking info to him so he can send a money transfer to you OR, to send you a money order or check for you to deposit in your account that is significantly larger than the agreed upon amount and have you send a check to him for the overage. His check IS NOT REAL, and your bank account may be drained as a result of this action taking place.

One of our newer members who had never been exposed to this scam before recently responded to it, and it got as far as his receiving the bogus check from the scamster. Fortunately, his bank notified him immediately that the check was bogus and he was saved by their swift action.

I suggested he write the bank a letter of thanks and hand deliver it with a basket of homemade personal chef treats to acknowledge their commitment to their small business owner account holders.

I also suggested he share the incident and the bank’s quick action with the business editor of his local daily newspaper, the local Better Business Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce so they can warn small personal service businesses how best to protect themselves from this type of criminal activity.

Here are a few ways to protect your business from an “out of town” potential client:

  • Tell the potential client from out of town you do not book service dates for non-local clients who do business exclusively by e-mail.
  • You require the potential client’s banking information, current workplace contact information, workplace contact information he will be associated within your town and two references with contact information.
  • Tell him/her you must meet with them personally when they arrive in your town before you will book cooking service dates.
  • All cook date service dates MUST be paid in full and personal checks or money orders must clear your bank prior to you booking cook dates for service.

Finally, those of you who are APPCA members who do receive what you think may be a scam, please post it to our personal chef forum or our Facebook group page. Not only can you get feedback (many of your colleagues may have gotten the same or similar request), but you’ll help your colleagues avoid falling for one should they receive a request that is too good to be true!

Have you received a scam letter since you’ve been a personal chef? Please share how you addressed it.

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

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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