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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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