In San Diego we have it easy, weather wise. But these last few weeks have been chilly and wet. Temps down into the 30s in the morning and lots and lots of rain. Personally, I’m loving it. I get to wear heavy wool sweaters and indulge in stews and soups that usually are just to heavy for balmy weather.

But as we wind up February it’s all starting to get old and, like you no doubt, I’m looking forward to spring. In that spirit I offer a spring dish you may not have heard of: Carciofi alla Giudia: Roman Jewish-Style Baby Artichokes.

If you weren’t aware of this, there’s a whole category of food related to Italian Jews. According to the book, Tasting Rome, the Jewish community there evolved from a 16th-century migration from Spain—and much later, in the 1970s from Libya. Forced to live in a walled ghetto for centuries, Roman Jews created their own cuisine from limited resources, authors Katie Parla and Kristina Gill say. It’s called the “cucina ebraica romanesca”—or Roman Jewish cuisine. When Libyan Jews fled North Africa from antisemitic violence and landed in Rome in the late ‘60s, they brought their cuisine, “La Cucina Tripolina.”

One of the most famous dishes that come out of the original cucina ebraica romanesca is deep-fried artichokes, or Carciofi alla Guidia. I actually came to this dish about five years ago in San Diego at a restaurant that has since closed. This dish was the best thing on their menu, and I was lucky that the owner invited me to the restaurant to teach me how to make it.

While restaurants can order prepared artichokes from Italy, the best way to make it, of course, is with fresh artichokes when they’re in season. Look for young, medium-sized artichokes that haven’t developed enough to have a fuzzy choke. Strip the dark, tough outer leaves until you hit the soft, lighter green leaves. Keep the stem intact. As you prep the artichokes add the finished ones to a large bowl of cold water with lemon juice to keep them from discoloring. Then you’ll simmer them in a mixture of olive oil, water, and garlic until they’re tender. At that point, you can strain them for the dish and save the liquid for sauteing later.

Then you have two options. Either saute the artichokes first, then run the pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp. Or put them in a 500-degree convection oven for a few minutes, then pull out the pan and settle it on the stove top to crisp. It works fine either way. When the artichokes are done, remove them from the pan, add some chopped parsley and basil to the pan with slices of garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add them and some uncooked parsley and basil to garnish. That’s it.

Carciofi alla Giudia
10 servings based on 3 artichokes per serving

To prepare artichokes:
30 baby artichokes, intact
Bowl of water and juice of one lemon
Half gallon olive oil (extra virgin oil isn’t necessary)
10 ounces water (optional so you don’t have to use so much oil)
12 cloves garlic

To prepare each serving:
3 prepped artichokes
1 clove garlic, sliced
garlic-infused olive oil from the prep above
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Strip off tough artichoke leaves until you reach the tender, light green leaves. Place cleaned artichokes in lemon water.

2. Bring olive oil, water, and garlic cloves to a boil. Add the artichokes and simmer until tender.

3. Remove artichokes strain, and keep the liquid.

4. Pre-heat the oven to broil. Heat an oven-ready skillet and add olive oil mix to the pan with sliced garlic and salt and pepper. Spread the leaves of each of three artichokes to look like a blooming flower and place on the pan. Saute for a few minutes, then put the skillet under the broiler for four to five minutes to crisp.

5. Remove skillet from the oven and remove the artichokes to a plate. Add a small handful of herbs and briefly saute with the garlic. Then add to the artichokes on the plate. Garnish with more herbs and serve.

What are you most looking forward to cooking this spring? What are your clients telling you they’re craving?

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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Dining with Oscar

Filed under: Food Entertainment , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 18, 2019

Are you or your clients movie fans? If so, I’m sure you know that this year’s Academy Awards will be held on February 24, just one week away!

What has this got to do with food? Well, like everything! I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite movies are all about the food.

In celebration of Oscar, I thought I’d list some of the movies I’ve enjoyed that celebrate food. Some are obvious, some you might have seen years ago but may have forgotten, and some may be new to you. And, help me jog my memory with those I may have left out!

  • Julie and Julia: 2009, directed by Nora Ephron (Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci) Based on Julie Powell’s blog/book of the same name and Child’s book, My Life in France, written with nephew Alex Prud ‘homme. Most of my friends agree we’d have rather spent the two hours, or more, just with Julia/Meryl, but still a delicious movie.
  • It’s Complicated: 2009, directed by Nancy Meyers (Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin). Forget the ridiculous plot. I want Meryl’s house and garden and I want to make croissants with her.
  • Big Night: 1996, directed by Campbell Scott (Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub and cast of thousands) Remember the big dish, Timpano? A feast!
  • Eat Drink Man Woman (Taiwan): 1994, directed by Ang Lee – remade into Tortilla Soup in 2001 with Hector Elizondo about Mexican-American family. The former is one of my very favorite movies. I love the scenes in which the father prepares multiple complex Chinese dishes for his daughters. Woks sizzle, cleavers fly, crustaceans and chickens give it up for the sake of a sumptuous family meal. The remake is fine, a close parallel with the Taiwanese family film, but there’s just something so much more poignant about the original.
  • Babette’s Feast: 1987, based on novel by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) set in 19th-century Denmark. The setting is grim and as restrained as you can get, setting us up for the stunning opulence of the dishes Babette prepares with her winnings.
  • Mostly Martha: 2002 (German) – remade in 2007 into No Reservations with Catherine Zeta- Jones and Aaron Eckhart. I think Mostly Martha is the better film, showing us a woman chef who must take in her niece following her sister’s death and learn how make a family, not just food.
  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: 1971, based on Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum) Charlie breaks my heart. Grandpa Joe is my hero. And Willie Wonka? Gene Wilder’s Wonka is marvelously nuts. But what I want is a dip in the chocolate river and plenty of Everlasting Gobstoppers. It’s the world’s greatest candy factory! I like this version more than Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp.
  • Like Water for Chocolate: 1993, based on Laura Esquivel’s novel. You can’t not want to learn to cook after seeing how these women transform the people around them with the food they prepare and the spirituality that infuses it.
  • Soul Food: 1997, directed by George Tillman, Jr. (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Irma P. Hall, Nia Long, Brandon Hammond). One of the great family movies and, oh, the Sunday night dinners. But the family begins to disintegrate with Big Mama’s illness. Can a great meal bring them back together?
  • Last Holiday: 2006, directed by Wayne Wang (Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu, Timothy Hutton) Yes, it’s a silly silly movie, but I love Queen Latifah and her character’s passion for food. And Gerard Depardieu is the quintessential French movie chef.
  • Sideways: 2004, directed by Alexander Payne (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen) Oh, the angst. Oh, the Pinot Noir!
  • What’s Cooking: 2000 (Mercedes Ruehl) Taking place in LA’s Fairfax district, four families of different ethnic groups celebrate Thanksgiving in between dealing with family conflicts.
  • Ratatouille: 2007, directed by Brad Bird (Pixar) – Parisian Remy the rat wants to be a chef. That rodent can cook!
  • Chocolat: 2000, French, directed by Lasse Halstrom (Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin). France. Chocolate. Johnny Depp. Mmmm.
  • Christmas in Connecticut: 1945 (Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sidney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, SZ  “Cuddles” Sakall) This movie actually made me hungry for kidneys. But America’s top food writer Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) can’t cook! No, she can’t cook.
  • Waitress: 2007, directed by Adrienne Shelley (Kerri Russell) Sweet, heartbreaking on so many levels. All about the pies!
  • Dinner Rush: 2001, directed by Bob Giraldi (Danny Aiello, Polly Draper) Food and the mafia. It’s New York’s Little Italy so why not?
  • Woman on Top: 2000 (Penelope Cruz) Motion-sick Chef Penelope starts out in Brazil then goes to San Francisco and ends up a TV celebrity chef. Uh huh. But it’s a fun romp.

What are your favorite food films? Are you catering an Oscars party this year?

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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Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 11, 2019

We talk a lot about the importance of family recipes–both yours and your clients’. Sometimes it’s the process of making the recipe that brings home a rush of memories, like making holiday cookies or even a complete holiday meal. Sometimes it’s the aroma of a family dish that wafts through the house like a hug from your grandma. Of course, often, it’s simply the eating of it that takes you back to your childhood.

Like many of you I come from a long line of cooks and grew up with two grandmothers in close proximity. One was a great cook whose family owned a major Jewish catering hall in Brooklyn. My mom’s mother–my Nana–came from much humbler circumstances and was a phenom both in cooking and baking. And I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen and got her to write me a little cookbook filled with her recipes.

This time of year I crave this sweet and sour cabbage soup that she used to make. It’s thick with cabbage and tomatoes, rich from beef short ribs, and has that terrific tang of acid from lemon juice. I’ve always adored this and, fortunately, got the recipe from her when I was in college. I don’t know if the soup was something her mother made and if it goes back to her early childhood in Ukraine. She never talked about that part of her past. All I know is that this recipe, along with many others, went from her to my mom or directly to me in that cookbook.

My mom, who inherited and then bested her mother’s skills, changed up the recipe to reflect a healthier approach. Back when she was still cooking, instead of browning the cabbage in butter, then adding the beef and cooking up the soup all at once to create a soup with chunks of beef flanken, she had the butcher trim all the fat off and cooked the beef separately, then shredded it, adding the cooked beef to the rest of the ingredients to simmer into soup. And, she didn’t brown the cabbage.


Mom also added carrots, potatoes, and onions. As she says, it’s one of those recipes that you can change without doing any harm.

I love these additions. She made the soup a few years ago when my brother was visiting from North Carolina. We came into the house and found this pot burbling on the stove. The scent was home.

I’m taking the middle ground. I’m all for getting rid of the unhealthy fat from the beef, but I think sauteing the cabbage, onion, and carrots–in olive oil–adds more flavor. Like Mom, I then add the rest of the ingredients. Nana? She didn’t add the salt, sugar, and lemon juice until the soup had cooked for a couple of hours. We’ve tried it both ways and don’t think it makes a difference. So, for convenience, we toss it in all together at once and let it cook.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
Serves 8

2 pounds short ribs, trimmed of fat, with bones
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1 large green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 large cans crushed or diced tomatoes (juice included)
2 red potatoes, diced
1 or 2 carrots, grated
Salt to taste
Juice of two lemons
4 to 5 cups water
Brown or white sugar to taste (Nana’s directions start with 1/4 cup)

In a large pot, add meat and cover with water. Add a little salt to season the meat. Bring to the boil and skim. Reduce the temperature and simmer for a couple of hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the pot and let cool. When you can handle it, shred the meat and discard the bones.

Wash the pot, heat the oil, and add the cabbage, onions, and carrots. Saute until browned. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for two hours or until the cabbage is transparent and soft. Taste to adjust the lemon juice for sweet and sour balance.

My mom also likes to top it off with a bit of fresh dill and a little (non-fat) sour cream. I also like a crusty sourdough bread for sopping up the liquid.

What is a family recipe that when you make it, gives you joy? What is a favorite family recipe of a client? 

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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Colleagues, Not Just Competitors

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 4, 2019

Our friend and colleague Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine in Dallas sent this guest post. As a freelance writer who relies on referrals for much of my business I could easily relate her conviction that the very people who I could consider “competitors” are also the best people to recommend me for a gig that may not be right for them or that they’re too busy to take on–and that I could reciprocate in this as well. It’s also just good karma and makes life richer. Take a read and think about your relationships with personal chefs in your locale. If you don’t already know one another perhaps it’s worth reaching out and befriending and assisting one another. 

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford.

When I started my personal chef business 12 years ago, I was so excited to discover that I could potentially do what I loved and be able to make a living. After undergoing the initial training through APPCA, I was fired up about putting into action all the terrific marketing ideas that had been learned during their seminar.  However, my phone didn’t ring off the wall as I had hoped.  This was probably due to the fact that I couldn’t quite let go of the steady paycheck, so was unable to devote all my time and attention to growing a new business.

Reality hit when I lost my paralegal job and was at a crossroads in my career.  I knew if I didn’t give it my all to pursue personal chef business, I would never do it.  I had to focus and concentrate all my attention and waking hours to culinary school and finding clients.  Now was the time to dip into that savings account.

Not ever known for being a “shrinking violet” I contacted two APPCA members in the Dallas area and we met and got to know each other.  I think this was the beginning of my trying to network with other personal chefs in the area and possibly get or give referrals of clients.  One became a good friend, with whom I have worked over the years.  If you are just starting your personal chef business, add to your marketing list of things to do a reminder to start contacting AND stay in touch with other personal chefs in your area.

Clients started slowly trickling in and I found that small dinner parties and catering jobs were more plentiful, so I took what I could get, still working for some of the large catering companies to make ends meet.  At one point I was attending culinary school, cleaning houses, doing odd catering jobs, and working for my fellow APPCA member on occasion while hoping for those clients to start calling.

Looking back at 2018, I know that I have finally achieved what I set out to do – my phone is ringing, I have a full roster of clients, and am actually having to turn business away.  Again, never one to be shy I started contacting fellow personal chefs in the area to see if they could take on any new clients.  In the e-mail exchanges to them I made the point that we are not just competitors for clients, but we are colleagues as well in the same profession.  Lately there seems to be plenty of business to go around, so my thought was “why not join forces and work together instead of constantly competing against each other??”  A novel concept to some, but when you can refer a potential client to a fellow personal chef whom you trust, that client will remember you and be grateful that you have helped them.

Recently I received an inquiry from a lady in North Carolina who wanted to hire a personal chef in Dallas to handle a dinner for her elderly parents.  I was unable to do so but referred her to a good friend of mine with whom I attended culinary school.  I knew his personality would be perfect for what she wanted.  What she wrote back to me after she hired him, is exactly why I am happy to make referrals to those I know:

“Hi Anne,

You really put the personal, into “personal chef.” 

Thank you for being so gracious and so helpful. Yes, we are working with Chef Thomas, and we think he’s a great fit for our parents’ needs.  What a nice and, obviously, talented person he is.

 It was great to have a referral as we were just wingin’ it, being from out of town.  You gave us peace of mind and we’ll always remember that. 

 Merry Christmas.  Best wishes with the holiday parties!

It is good business to know your competitors and what they have to offer so you can ensure you are at the “top of your game” with your own business. I feel strongly about not looking at the personal chefs in your area as just competitors, but as colleagues. When I finally got to meet with the personal chef in Dallas last month with whom I had corresponded, we both agreed that it made sense to be able to refer business to each other if we were overloaded and to keep each other in mind for parties and events if we were unable to do them.  We made “short work” of discussing our backgrounds, our businesses and how we could help each other.  It was an excellent meeting and since we run into each other while shopping many times, we can now say hello and briefly trade stories on our respective businesses and “the good, the bad & the ugly” about our clients.  Being on friendly terms with your colleagues who are also competitors just makes good business sense.

Do you know the personal chefs in your area? How have you helped one another?

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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