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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mussels Adobo
From Anthony Sinsay
Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eggplant Onion Gratin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eggplant Onion Gratin
Serves 2 to 3 depending on your generosity

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

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

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup
Yield: about 5 servings

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

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

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

Preheat the broiler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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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