There are times when we get so tripped up in the nomenclature we forget that diets stressing vegetarian or vegan practices embrace dishes we already create or eat. Instead we think of them as eliminating something–in the case of vegetarianism it’s meat, of course–and not bringing something absolutely delicious to the table. Dishes already in our considerable repertoire.

Knowing that not everyone in my circle eats meat–and that I, while an omnivore, have cut down substantially on meat–I turn to dishes that feature vegetables combined with other proteins. But, admittedly, I don’t really think of them that way. It’s vegetarian, just food I enjoy. Dishes like eggplant soufflé. Salads and sides with ancient grains.

And spanakopita.

Mediterranean cuisines in particular are great sources of beloved everyday dishes that happen to fall into the vegetarian category. As chefs you’re already well are of them. Spanakopita is one of my favorites–big greens, almost always spinach, combined with cheese and herbs and eggs, enveloped in a crunchy crust of phyllo. It’s impossible not to love this dish. And, for personal chefs who will freeze portions for clients to reheat, it’s a perfect freezer candidate. I always store my leftovers in the freezer and reheat individual slices in the oven or toaster oven.

Spanakopita is also the perfect entertaining dish. It’s like a casserole–only prettier. The two challenges, of course, are cooking down the greens–I do it in batches using a wok to take advantage of its depth–and working with phyllo. Brushing the phyllo with oil or melted butter and layering it repeatedly is a bit time consuming but not a deal breaker. Just remember to keep the phyllo, which has a tendency to dry out, covered with a damp towel when you aren’t pulling off a sheet.

While traditionally, spanakopita is made with spinach, there’s no reason you can’t substitute the spinach with other greens like kale or Swiss chard. Or combine them. Take advantage, especially in spring and summer, of bright herbs like mint and dill, and earthier herbs like Greek oregano. Add a unique spin to onion by using leeks instead. You could also include sliced kalamata olives or artichoke hearts to make the recipe your own. Just be sure that the greens and other additions are drained of as much liquid as possible before you mix them with the eggs, feta, and seasonings. Otherwise you’ll get a soggy bottom.

Spanakopita
Serves 8 to 12

You have a choice of olive oil versus melted butter to brush the phyllo leaves. I used olive oil but butter will add a rich flavor to it. And a tip here: Cooking down 2 pounds of spinach requires some skillet space. I use my wok because it gives me the cooking elbow room it needs. This part also just takes the most time. Once that’s done the rest will go by fairly quickly, even with the phyllo. Don’t worry about tears in the phyllo. It’s all very forgiving, thanks to all the layers.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek, or melted butter, plus a lot extra for brushing filo
3 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh spinach or other greens, well rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ pound Greek feta cheese, crumbled or diced
½ cup fresh dill weed, minced
½ cup fresh mint, minced
¼ cup fresh oregano, minced
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 pound phyllo, defrosted overnight in refrigerator

Directions
Preheat oven to 375° and place rack in middle of oven.

In a large skillet, heat oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until fragrant and soft, about 4 minutes. Add spinach in handfuls, stirring in as you add each batch. Let it wilt and cook down before adding the next handful. Once all of the spinach is in the pan, season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and spoon mixture into a colander. Place over sink and, using the back of a large spoon, press down to release excess liquid. Set aside to cool.

Once spinach mixture is at room temperature, add feta cheese, dill, mint, oregano, and eggs. Fold together until well incorporated. Set aside.

Brush the bottom and sides of a 9”-by-13” baking dish with olive oil. Keep ½ cup of olive oil (or melted butter) nearby. Unroll the phyllo and lay flat. Carefully pull the top sheet and place it into the baking dish with ends hanging well over the sides. Brush lightly with oil. Continue placing sheets one at a time into the dish at different angles so the entire pan is lined with sheet ends hanging down over the sides. Do this until you have only 3 sheets left.

Pour the filling into the dish, then fold over the hanging ends to cover the filling and brush with oil. Layer the remaining 3 sheets on top, brushing each sheet with oil. Fold the excess into the sides of the pan.

Use a sharp knife to cut through the layers to the filling in a few place. Brush the top with oil or butter and bake for 50 minutes until the top is puffed and golden brown. Let sit on counter for 10 minutes. Then cut into squares and serve warm.

Be Sociable, Share!

APPCA members never fail to amaze me. It’s so exciting to read both our website forums and our Facebook business and group pages to learn about how creatively you’re running your businesses and marketing them. So, I when I saw that Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas recently had a radio interview experience I wanted to learn more–and figured you would, too. Not only did Anne come through with her story about the interview, she has included a wealth of great tips on preparing for it and–even more important–serving it up as a way to promote her business. You’ll want to take notes!

Recently I was contacted by a company called All Business Media FM, which is a subsidiary of I Heart Radio. At first I was skeptical, since I receive so many “spam” calls on a daily basis. My philosophy is “if they don’t leave a message, it’s not important.

But I did receive a voice mail from this company and it sounded fairly legitimate so I returned their call. When I spoke to the lady I queried her with my usual questions to verify their intent/legitimacy. How did you find me? Why did you select me/my business? And most importantly, “How much is this going to cost me?” She was a “fast-talking New Yorker” (apologies to all of you in the NYC area!) but as I listened, she was able to answer my questions. She said that she had visited my website (and cited some sample menu items I have listed) and had seen the reviews on my business on Google and Facebook, so I felt comfortable that she had at least done some research on me and wasn’t just a “scam artist.” She was very honest about the fact that there would be a follow-up call and that it would probably involve a marketing pitch, although there was no obligation after the interview.

The company specializes in small businesses and since I am not only an entrepreneur but a female in what is still (unfortunately) a fairly male-dominated profession of being a chef, this was an “enhancement” for them contacting me and wanting to do an interview. Once I said “yes” she put me through to their scheduling department and we verified all of my information and e-mail address. We scheduled a date and they sent four questions to me via e-mail that I answered and returned to them prior to the show. She had given me information about the fact that it would be an eight-minute interview, who my host would be on that day, and how to retrieve the interview afterwards from their website so I could post it on social media.

I created an “event” on my business Facebook page so everyone could see when the interview would be and posted the information on my personal Facebook page as well, since I knew some of my friends would listen in. In addition, I took the time to listen to a few of their other live interviews to get a feel for what would be the experience. I happened to listen to a woman who is a massage therapist and focused on Reiki as well, which was interesting to me, so I ended up listening to the whole eight minutes.

To prepare for my interview I reviewed the answers to the questions they had sent me and highlighted some important points. I knew it would go quickly and having been in Toastmasters at one time, I also knew the importance of no slang, no “uhs, ers, and ums,” as well as not starting sentences with “OK” and “So.”

They called me at the set time and the host chatted briefly with me about some simple instructions. I was nervous but truly most of the information is in my head since I’m always ready with the “elevator speech” and how to condense what I do in a few short paragraphs. Although I repeated myself a few times, overall it went well and they were very complimentary (which I’m sure they tell everyone!) A week later I was able to retrieve the interview and posted it everywhere on social media, as well as sent the link via e-mail to clients, friends, and family. (You can listen to it here.)

My joke with everyone was “Well, I got through my radio interview and at least I didn’t use the “F” word – except for “Food!” It’s just one more thing to be able to add to my repertoire of marketing tools. The power of social media is amazing and the more you can post in various places, the more your traffic will increase. I have had my website for some time, but constantly review and try to change something on it at least once a month (new menu items, videos, this radio interview link, etc.) I have also created accounts everywhere in the name of my business, “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” This includes Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, and as “Anne Blankenship” on LinkedIn. I review my traffic every week on all of these entities and have seen it increase dramatically in the past two years, thanks to consistent postings.

I thought no one really listened to the radio much anymore, but Caron Golden pointed out that podcasts are a huge thing now (something I had totally forgotten) so doing this radio interview and promoting it through social media is a terrific way to keep “oiling that marketing machine.”

What kind of marketing are you doing to promote your business? Do you have a gap you need help with?

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 all know the frustration of preparing a dish and making various components for it, only to have leftovers. We all hate waste, but what do you do with that extra squidge of tomato sauce or pie filling? Well, APPCA member Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York City has a lot of thoughts about this–and some marvelous tips. Here he is with them: 

Recently my baking sous-chef, aka my wife, and I made a delicious and easy Meyer Lemon Tart—from this recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/lazy-marys-lemon-tart and had extra filling after topping off  our tart shell. I wasn’t about to toss it so I grabbed a handful of Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Wafer cookies and crumbled them into the bottom of a ramekin. I should have added melted butter to them but time was of the essence. We baked the ramekin along with the tart, then cooled the tart and the ramekin in the fridge overnight. When I took the ramekin out for lunch dessert I realized that during the baking process the cookie crumbs in the ramekin rose to the top and the filling baked underneath the crumbs! It was Awesome!!! I couldn’t stop eating it!

This successful spur-of-the-moment rescue of otherwise wasted ingredients got me to thinking about other ways I work with “overruns.”  BTW the term overruns is a throwback to my life in the garment industry!

Cooking for two can be challenging when you try cutting recipes from 4 to 6 servings, so very often you are left with extra ingredients that you had to purchase due to packaging sizes. The best examples are canned beans, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.

Of course it’s often easier to make the dish to the full amount of servings and then store it for another meal.  After all as a personal chef, that is what I do for my clients.  But sometimes I want to try new recipes and increase the variety of what we consume in a given week. Hence, leftover ingredients…

Some examples of how I use up the bits and pieces:

  • Generally, it’s easy to use up lots of the bits and pieces in soups and stews and stir-fries.
  • A 1/2 a can of beans that have been rinsed and drained are often used the next night, added to a simple tossed salad or dropped into a quick soup using up other leftover raw and/or cooked vegetables. Also I frequently will add them another vegetable such as sautéed green beans or blanched broccoli.  Chickpeas are great in ratatouille.
  • Extra canned tomato products work great in soups and stews, even when not called for in the recipe.  It’s also good to use them as a base for a quick pan sauce.
  • One of the most obvious uses I learned as a child from my mother is the extra egg batter from making French toast: scramble it and add to the serving platter.

  • It’s always easier to imagine using up extra herbs by making pesto and freezing or even simply chopping and mixing with small amount of olive oil and freezing in ice cube trays to be added to soups, stews and sauces. Or mince garlic and stir the herbs and garlic with some sea salt. Spread on a tray and let dry for a few days to create a rub. (Bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!)
  • Half a bag of spinach or other greens can be chopped and stirred into rice pilaf, quinoa, or couscous as well as soups or stews. Once I was out of parsley that I wanted to add to some simple boiled new potatoes. I found the extra spinach in the fridge and tossed it into the pan of drained potatoes with butter and garlic for a colorful side dish.
  • When dealing with extra parts of fresh vegetables I often create a mélange of roasted vegetables and serve them over pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous or my wife will put them chilled over cottage cheese for her workday lunches.
  • A great way to finish off pieces of cheese along with other ends of the jar ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, etc. is to make pizza.  The combos are boundless.
  • We have always used up extra pie/tart fillings by baking them separately in ramekins with and without crusts.  Good for a quick individual dessert for lunch or afternoon tea. Do you have extra pie dough? Reshape the dough into a disc and freeze or roll it out and make tartlets in muffin tins or get out cookie cutters and make cookies sprinkled with sugar or sprinkles.

  • Buttermilk is always a challenge, as I have never been a fan of drinking a glass of it!  I push myself to use it up in salad dressings, sub for milk in baking muffins, quick breads or even bread machine recipes.
  • Have leftover cooked grains? Sure you could just reheat them but for more imaginative repurposing Google things like “Leftover Risotto.” You’ll get anything from Classic Arancini to Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms, or dig around in your own fridge and produce Risotto Fritters stuffed with mushrooms and cheese!

Of course, there are plenty of well-known uses for bits and pieces like Parmesan rinds in your slow simmering tomato sauce and leftover wine (an anomaly in my house) for pan sauces. It just takes a little creative thinking but it’s easy to find places to tuck the odds and ends into other dishes, sometimes adding some extra nutrition and flavor profiles along the way.

Let’s bring in more ideas! What are some of your favorite ways to repurpose “overruns?”

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!

Want Sustainable Meat? Try Rabbit

Filed under: Special Ingredients , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , May 7, 2018

Rabbit is one of those meats that has yet to find a place on a mainstream U.S. menu. While it’s more commonly found in European countries, like France and Spain, just try to find it in a supermarket in the States.

And yet, farm-raised rabbit is a lovely, mild meat and lends itself well to a variety of dishes—if you know how to treat it. Because it’s so lean, it needs moist heat. And, because it’s so lean, it’s very healthy. Some call it the true white meat.

Rabbits are commonly braised or stewed—because of their leanness. If you have a whole rabbit, you can stuff the cavity with spices, truss it, sear it in fat, and cook it in a roasting pan or tagine surrounded by mire poix, stock, and potatoes. Not unlike cooking a whole chicken.

You can also break down the body. Trim the hind legs like chicken quarters by following the line and breaking at the joint. Cut the rest—a rather bony rib cage and a saddle attached to the spine—by cutting away the rib cage to use for stock and then cutting the saddle in half along the spine. Braise the pieces stovetop with olives and pine nuts or in the oven with stock, red or white wine, beer/ale, or cider, accompanied by root vegetables, earthy mushrooms, sliced apples, citrus, or herbs. Or, as a winter dish, cook it in a crust of Dijon mustard and horseradish.

If you do buy a whole rabbit, be sure to keep the liver and whatever fat you get. You can stuff the fat back into the whole rabbit when you braise it. And the liver? It’s sublime sautéed in bacon fat and sliced. You can also add it to flavor gravy or make paté.

Because rabbit is so lean, you have to be careful about not overcooking it. Be sure to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You want the temperature to reach no more than 145 to 150 degrees, then remove it from the heat and let it rest. The meat will continue to cook as it cools, and you should get a resting temperature of 160 to 165 degrees.

While braising is a virtually foolproof way to prepare and serve rabbit, don’t limit yourself to that; rabbit’s very versatile. How about making rabbit street tacos? This is a dish I learned from San Diego chef Karrie Hills. You can grill meaty legs outdoors or sear them on the stove and then finish them in the oven, flavoring them with the smoke from a cedar plank.

Once the rabbit legs are cooked, slice the meat from the bones and build your tacos with sliced avocado, cheese (Hills uses feta, but you can use whatever appeals to you), and pico de gallo. You’ll turn a conventional SoCal dish into something deliciously memorable and unique.

Rabbit Street Tacos

From Karrie Hills
Yield: 10 tacos

Ingredients
2, 8-ounce rabbit legs
1 tablespoon powdered galangal
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 orange, quartered
½ yellow onion, peeled and sliced
5 to 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
5 dried red chiles
3 sprigs fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter

Cedar plank
10 small corn tortillas

For Pico de Gallo
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice from 2 limes
Pinch of salt

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise—enough for each taco
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the galangal, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to make a rub. Pat dry the rabbit legs and apply the rub. Let set from 15 minutes to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in a frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat until the fat is close to smoking. Reduce to medium heat and add the rabbit legs. Brown three to four minutes on each side and, using tongs, pick up the legs and brown the edges.

In a baking dish, create a bed of the quartered orange, onion, garlic cloves, red chiles, and oregano sprigs. Top with the rabbit legs. Top with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 to 150 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest. The internal temperature should rise to 160 to 165 degrees.

While the rabbit is cooking, making the pico de gallo by combining all the ingredients.

Heat the cedar plank on the stovetop (you’ll need a gas stove to do this). Once it starts to smoke, place the rabbit on the plank and cover with foil to smoke while heating the tortillas. Melt more bacon fat or a neutral oil in a pan and sauté the tortillas.

Remove the rabbit from the cedar plank and pull the meat off the bones. Slice the meat (keep the bones to use for stock).

Make the taco by adding rabbit meat to the tortilla. Add a slice of avocado. Spoon on the pico de gallo, and top with crumbled feta. Garnish with cilantro.

Have you cooked with rabbit? What are 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.

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!

Last updated by at .