About Caron Golden

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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Getting ready for Easter catering gigs? Need some inspiration? Who better to call on for a delicious recipe and stunning photos than our Carol Borchardt? She’s given us her twist on Deviled Eggs + a primer for successfully hard-boiling the eggs. Your clients will swoon and you’ll have a foolproof method for a technique many struggle with. 

Deviled eggs are essential for any Easter brunch.  However, this Easter favorite has a downside—peeling lots of hard-boiled eggs.

Peeling hard-boiled eggs used to be a real chore and I tried every tip and trick.  Nothing worked well until I began using a method from Cook’s Illustrated and now it’s my go-to method:

  • Get a saucepan full of water to a good, gentle boil over medium-high heat.
  • Prepare an ice bath.
  • Carefully lower cold eggs just out of the refrigerator into the water with a slotted spoon. Cook 10 minutes maintaining the gentle boil.
  • Transfer the eggs to the ice bath and let cool 5 minutes. Do not let the eggs sit in the water or they’ll become hard to peel.
  • Gently crack the eggs all over. Peel the eggs starting at the wide end where there’s an air pocket.  Refrigerate if not using right away.

Cook’s Illustrated explains that when the cold eggs hit the boiling water, the thin membrane between the white and the shell separates from the white and adheres to the shell.

Once you have perfectly peeled hard-cooked eggs, there are myriad ways to fill them.  These Southern-style Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs are my new favorite and will be on my Easter table!

Before moving to the South from Wisconsin almost 24 years ago, I had not experienced Southern food at all.  Where I lived, food was about brats, fish fries and cheese curds.

One of the first Southern specialties I experienced was pimento cheese.  The combination of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and diced pimentos is a Southern staple and every Southern cook worth their grits has their own version.

To make the jalapeno pimento cheese, start with a good prepared pimento cheese then simply kick it up with fresh jalapeno.  If you want to make your own pimento cheese, here’s my basic recipe:

BASIC PIMENTO CHEESE

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 jar (4-ounce) diced pimentos, drained
1 tablespoon finely grated yellow onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 block (8-ounce) yellow extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 block (8-ounce) yellow sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine mayonnaise, pimentos, onion, Worcestershire and cayenne in a bowl.  Stir in cheese.  Store up to one week in refrigerator.

JALAPEÑO PIMENTO CHEESE DEVILED EGGS
24 servings

1 dozen eggs, cooked, peeled and halved
3/4 cup prepared pimento cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon or yellow mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, finely chopped
Jalapeno slices, for garnish

Remove yolks to a bowl and mash.  Add pimento cheese, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and black pepper and stir until well blended.  Alternately, combine in a food processor and process until smooth.

Stir in chopped jalapeno.

Refill eggs with pimento cheese combination.  Garnish with jalapeno slices.

SERVING SUGGESTION:  Because every guest may not like the intense heat of fresh jalapeno slices, garnish every other egg and leave some slices off to the side.

Chefs, what are your favorite (or your clients’) Easter dishes? How do you make deviled eggs?

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!

Photos by Carol Borchardt

Passover is coming soon. In fact, it begins at sunset on April 19. If you’re cooking a seder for clients or meals for observant Jewish clients you know that there are some basic rules you have to follow. I’m not going to go through it all here, but send you off to a site that outlines what is “chametz” or leavened and what is “kitniyot” or food that traditionally Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jews don’t eat during Passover. Sephardic, or Middle Eastern, Jews have somewhat different Passover traditions, which you can learn about here
I thought I’d ask one of our longtime members, Shelbie Wassel for some recipes that might inspire you. She provided three that sound divine: Coffee Brisket, Gefilte Fish, and Passover Profiteroles. I’ll let Shelbie take over from here: 

Shelbie Wassel

As Passover is a sentimental holiday in many regards, my family and clients seem to navigate towards traditional recipes. I think the most requested recipe this time of the year, is the coffee brisket. I found this recipe many, many years ago published in the Baltimore Jewish Times. The “JT”, as we locals call it,  is a weekly magazine that provides local, national and international news pertaining to the Jewish community. One edition had locals submit their favorite brisket recipe and Mrs. Ribakoff”s recipe for coffee brisket was the editors choice. I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, but I still love the veggie gravy that is created in a blender after cooking. As with any first cut brisket, the trick is to leave a good layer of fat on its bottom side during cooking. After it’s cooked, the fat can be easily removed and sliced cross wise into ( my preference) thin slices.

Another Passover favorite for Seder and then served as either an appetizer or lunch dish is Gefilte fish…  Yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Many believe you must grow up with the concept of a fish meatball covered by gel and a monster sized carrot slice. The term “gefilte” is translated from the Yiddish word for “stuffed”. Originally, the ground mixture was stuffed into fish skins. Can’t say I’m sorry that the practice of “ fish skin stuffing” was abandoned somewhere down the pike. (fish pun intended). Now, gefilte fish is stuffed into jars with labels like Rokeach and Manischewitz. Passable in a pinch, the jarred variety is far more filler than fish.
I have concocted a homemade recipe that is less time consuming and less labor intensive than what our grandmothers made. I have also been able to reduce the cost of the fresh fish by shopping at H Mart, the Korean grocery store. Otherwise, the fresh fish can cost a mortgage payment.
Lastly, I am including one non-traditional Passover recipe for dessert. I’ll go on record saying that I loathe many of the traditional Passover desserts. They often use 12 eggs and create a cake that is never meant to leave the pan. ( Passover trifles were created just for this reason.) The other choice is Passover cake meal, which as a derivative of matzoh meal, is the reason stewed prunes became a Passover regular. While I generally do not mix dairy with meat during the Passover Seder, my profiteroles can be made with Almond milk and nondairy chocolate chips to create a parve dessert. These  chocolate profiteroles ( IMHO) are fabulous! Made with potato starch, the custard is rich and creamy… And, the profiterole shell could be used for other ideas.

Mrs. Ribakow’s Brisket
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 ½ – 4 pounds brisket, first cut
2 medium onions cut into chunks
1 bunch of celery, leafy tops only, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/3-cup ketchup
½ cup black coffee
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket in the pan and sprinkle top of brisket lightly with more salt and pepper.

Arrange onions and celery around and on top of the brisket.

Drizzle with the ketchup.

Roast meat, uncovered, for 15 minutes to sear.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Add the bay leaf, coffee, and cover tightly with foil.

Continue cooking for approx 2 ½ hours longer. Meat should feel tender when fork is inserted in the thickest part.

Cool before slicing. Refrigerate gravy and veggies. Skim off fat.

To serve: Puree gravy and veggies in a blender. Pour over sliced brisket and heat through.

Shelbie’s Gefilte Fish

Yield: 12 to 13 pieces
Ingredients
4 pounds, non-oily white fish fillets…let’s mix a few (snapper, haddock, cod) preferably on sale.
2 cartons fish stock, available next to the boxed chicken stock
3 large carrots, plus 2 additional large carrots, cut into diagonal slices for garnish
A bunch of celery
One large onion
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup matzo meal
Several cups of water
A little bit of bland veggie oil
About 1 ½ – 2T salt
Freshly ground pepper
1T sugar, optional

Directions
In a large stockpot, empty the contents of both cartons of fish stock. Add 1 roughly chopped carrot, a stick of celery, and ¼ of the onion. Bring to a gentle simmer while preparing the fish mixture.

In your food processor, grind about 2 carrots, 3 sticks of celery and ¾ large onion. Scrape the bowl and place the ground veggies in a large prep bowl. Cut the fish fillets into large chunks and add to the food processor. Give a few good swirls in the processor until the fish is nicely ground.
Add the ground fish to the veggies and mix well. Add the matzo meal, eggs, and about one tablespoon of oil. Mix well. Add freshly ground pepper and salt (sugar, if using)
Chill the fish mixture for a few minutes in the fridge to make handling easier.
Remove veggies from the stock and discard. Shape the fish into ovals and gently place into the simmering stock. Once all of the fish ovals have been placed in the pot, add enough water to cover the fish. Cover with a lid and keep at a simmer for about an hour.
 Towards the last 20 minutes, add the carrot slices to the stock. Strain the fish pieces and top with a carrot slice. Pour a little stock over the fish and allow to cool.
Serve with horseradish.

Shelbie’s Passover Profiteroles (Dairy)
Yield: At least one dozen

Choux Pastry
Ingredients
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
1-cup water
1cup matzo cake meal
Pinch of kosher salt
4 large eggs

Directions
Place butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the matzo cake meal all at once and stir vigorously.

Cook, until mixture forma a ball. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Using a large spoon, drop about 2 T of batter, roughly 2 inches apart. With wet fingers, lightly create a rounded mound.

Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 15 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

Remove with spatula and allow cooling on racks.

Pastry Cream
Ingredients
1/3-cup sugar
3-½ T potato starch
6 lightly beaten egg yolks
2 cups milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 t vanilla

Directions
Mix sugar, potato starch and egg yolks in a saucepan. In another saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles form along the edges. Cool the milk for a minute or so. Slowly, pour the milk over the egg yolk mixture, stirring rapidly with a whisk.

Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is thick and smooth. Cool and add vanilla. Chill in refrigerator until very cold.

Chocolate Glaze
Ingredients
1-cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2T unsalted butter or margarine
2-3 T milk or almond milk
1 t vanilla or 1 T instant coffee granules

Directions
Combine in small saucepan over double boiler. Mix gently until combined.

Cut cooled pastry in half. Fill with cream and drizzle chocolate on top.

 

Chefs, do you have favorite Passover recipes you create for 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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Chefs, how do you transport recipes to your cook dates? Do you bring a cookbook/notebook with your recipes? Do you keep them on a digital device or in the cloud to download to a device and bring that with you? Or are they all in your head (to which I say you are amazing)?

I asked our members on our Facebook APPCA group page about this. Here’s what I posted: How many of you use paper/book recipes at client cook dates? How many of you use a laptop/pad/cell phone? If the latter, how do you protect the device and more specifically the screens? How do you feel about hearing voice directions via Alexa or Siri?

I got some interesting responses I thought you’d find helpful:

Christina Hamilton Snow: “I make a binder to keep at my clients house and one at mine. If it’s a new recipe I’m trying I’m usually getting it on my phone. If the client likes the recipe I add it to each binder. That way my clients can review recipes and decide what they want me to cook.”

Javier Fuertes: “When I first started I had a binder I would carry with me. Each printed sheet was laminated.
That was 16 years ago. Today….. I cook from the top of my head. I know the recipes or basically….the ingredients, and just cook with passion PER customer. Remember, we customize. Whenever its a new recipe or so…. I literally will just print out for the day and bring it with me. I’m ok with it getting dirty. I’ll just toss out when I’m done. If its on digital form, I make sure to have the links on my phone ready to go. Basically…. I don’t fret over this anymore like I used to.”

Carol Borchardt: “I’ve tried techie ways of doing it but stick with Mastercook and print out the recipes for each cookdate on paper. 9 times out of 10 I never even look at the recipe and just cook on the fly. However, if I want to make a change to the recipe, all I need to do is jot it down and make the change in Mastercook. I like to keep my recipes up-to-date in the event I want to put it on my blog. Also, with Mastercook, they have an app now where you can sync recipes on all your devices so you always have them. If you do use a tablet and want to protect it, a big Ziploc bag will work.”

Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown: “I do both but mainly now I switched to That Clean Life. I just log on and it’s there you go.”

For those of you who would like to bring a tablet or laptop but need a connection to get online (and don’t want to ask your client for their WiFi password), a couple of people noted that you can use your cell phone as a hotspot. As Carol Borchardt helpfully explained, “If you have an iPhone, click on Settings and look for “Personal Hotspot.” You’ll need to enter that password on your tablet just like you would a wifi password. Doing that, however, will drain the battery on your phone very quickly.”

Chefs, how do you transport recipes to a cook date? Paper? Device? Something else?

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!

Do You Need a Mentor?

Filed under: Business Strategies,Training , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 25, 2019

Throughout each phase of your career you no doubt will need advice, someone to bounce ideas off of, a role model, and inspiration. We think of mentors as older, experienced people who help young professionals with their wisdom and advice. But take a look at this definition by Oxford Dictionary of a mentor: “an experienced and trusted advisor.” It’s that simple.

If you’re just starting out as a personal chef, no doubt you could use a mentor to guide you through starting this kind of business and career. Advising you on how to get clients, how much to charge, how to market yourself, how to deal with cranky clients or those who don’t communicate well with you.

But it’s possible that even an experienced personal chef could use a mentor. Times change—and change quickly. If you’ve been in business for 20 years maybe you want to shift what you do and how you do it. Perhaps you want to add catering or food writing or food styling to your personal chef umbrella but don’t know how to get started. Or you’re happy with your business but think you could do more. You may need advice in how to market yourself in 2019 compared to what you did in 1999.

So, what should you look for in a mentor? What should you expect?

First, pinpoint what you need. Are you a newbie and need overall help in figuring out how to get started? Do you need coaching in marketing yourself? Do you need coaching in branching out into another aspect of being a culinary professional?

Now before you seek a mentor, consider what options you already have in gaining the information and coaching you need. If you belong to APPCA you have a leg up. You have Executive Director Candy Wallace to turn to, who is the queen of expertise in this industry. You have this blog, which we fill with helpful posts on a wide spectrum of business-related issues for personal chefs. And you have both our Personal Chef Forum and our Facebook Group.

Still need a mentor? Then consider what you’re looking for in that person. According to Forbes, it’s not about finding a mentor with the most years of experience or the biggest title or profile. It’s about finding someone with the knowledge and experience you need—someone who has been in a similar situation to you and has worked their way through it.

  • You want to find someone you can trust—since that person will be privy to what you share about your business. And you need to be just as trustworthy.
  • You want someone who will challenge you to improve, who may ask tough questions of you and will provide honest feedback.
  • You want someone who has the time to talk with you. Maybe it’s weekly or maybe it’s monthly. Or something else. Do you get together in person or by phone?

Now what should you expect? A mentor won’t solve your problems. That’s on you. A mentor is there for guidance and ideas, for reassurance and critique. Perhaps he or she could make introductions or referrals. Let’s say you want to do some public speaking or chef demos and this person is a pro at these skills. Perhaps that person can do a little instruction (not cooking) in social media or photography or public speaking. Make sure you aren’t too needy or demand too much time, recognizing that this person is bound to be quite busy. But if they put you off repeatedly you probably need to move on to someone else.

Then comes the most crucial part: how do you find the person?

Again, APPCA can be a great resource. There are so many talented people who are members. You no doubt could find someone through your membership. Post a request on our forum. Ask Candy for a suggestion and referral for someone in your area or even outside who has the expertise you’re looking for.

Scroll through our Facebook business and group pages or our Twitter feed to identify individuals who are addressing what you need and reach out to them with a note introducing yourself and your situation with a concise explanation of what you’re looking for. Ask if you can set up a call or meeting to discuss a mentor relationship. Try to come up with at least a couple of people and don’t be discouraged if they tell you they don’t have the time to help. It’s all about finding the right person.

And, remember to pay it forward. Once you push your way through your brick wall, bring someone else along who could benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Have you had experience with a mentor or as a mentor?

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!

 

 

I have biscuits on my mind. My friend Matt Gordon just closed his two restaurants in San Diego. Among the many pleasures of dining there my guess is that for most of Matt’s devotees, it will be his biscuits that are missed the most. I say that because at the closing meal last week, which was packed, almost everyone seemed to have ordered the biscuits.

Now you may think you’ve got the best biscuit recipe ever. Maybe it came to you from your grandma or your mom or great auntie. I’m sure it’s divine but why wouldn’t you want another one that is so good that people were standing at the bar several people deep drinking cocktails and scarfing down biscuits. Yeah, they’re that good–and your clients deserve the best.

So, what do you know about biscuits? We may think of biscuits as an almost scone-like pastry, but in fact the word  biscuit covers a range of flour-based edibles. According to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, they are generally small in size, thin, and have a crisp texture. But that mostly refers to the British context, where biscuit can equal cookie or cracker. It didn’t account for North America’s meaning that is more like a scone. The actual name biscuit is derived from the Latin panis biscoctus, meaning “bread twice cooked.” Think hard, crumbly rusks or biscotti. The idea was to create a long-lasting product.

Today, you’ll find all sorts of baked goods under the biscuit umbrella, from snickerdoodles and sable cookies to British digestives and Garibaldis to Spanish tostadas. Our North American biscuits remain most closely related to soft, quickly baked, leavened British scones. Yet we use the biscuit name.

Matt alternately uses cream and buttermilk as the liquid. You can interchange them, but if you play to make the dough in advance, you should use cream. Matt says he found that the buttermilk version of the dough will turn a bit gray. It won’t affect the taste, but it’s not very attractive.

Now if you’re actually a biscuit-making novice, no worries. Biscuit recipes are very forgiving so long as you get the basics right. One of the first rules you must follow is to keep the butter cold and work the dough as little as possible to keep the butter from melting.

Cut the butter into small pieces to make sure it’s evenly dispersed and, as the mixture comes together, can form small, pea-sized pieces. And don’t use a food processor for this. Either mix it by hand or use a stand mixer on the lowest speed.

Another tip is to slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients mixture. Start with the smaller amount. If you’re using a stand mixer, it’s okay to stop while you still have some dry ingredients at the bottom of the mixing bowl. You’ll keep from over mixing and can better judge how much more liquid to add by finishing by hand.

You should still have pieces of butter visible in the dough, like you do when making pie. That’s what creates the layers. But, unlike pie dough, biscuit dough doesn’t need to rest. Just keep it cold and roll it out. You can use a rolling pin, but Matt pats it down and shapes it by hand with his fingertips. And, because restaurants are all about preventing waste, he cuts his biscuits into squares. Another tip he has is to brush the formed dough with an egg wash before separating the biscuits.

Say, you’re catering a party and want to get some of your dishes prepped in advance. Like Matt’s now former  staff you can prep all the dry ingredients except the herbs for a batch and bag it, keeping the mix chilled until you’re ready to bake. Then add the herbs and liquid to mix, shape, and bake. You can also make a batch of biscuits ahead of serving them and then reheat them.

Cheese and Chive Biscuits
From Matt Gordon
Yield: About 15 biscuits

1 ½ cups pastry flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 1/2  sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups loosely packed white cheddar, grated
¾ cup loosely packed fontina cheese, grated
1/8 cup minced chives
1 ¼  to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Egg white from 1 egg (optional)

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter, chives, and cheeses, and mix with a pastry knife or the paddle attachment of a mixer on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate the butter. There should still be small pea-size chunks of butter; this will make the biscuit flaky.  At this point you can store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two if necessary.

Slowly add the buttermilk, starting with 1 ¼ cups and fold together for about 10 seconds. Move the ingredients around by hand and pour the remaining ½ cup of buttermilk into the bottom of the bowl to make sure the moisture gets there. Mix again for just a few seconds. Add slightly more buttermilk if the dough hasn’t pulled together. Do not over mix dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times only.  Handle the dough as sparingly as possible to keep the butter from melting. Using your fingertips, flatten dough out to about ¾ -inch thick and brush the top with egg whites (optional). Cut in desired shape.  Brush the top with egg whites (optional).

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. (If you have a convection oven bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.)  You can crack a biscuit open to make sure it is cooked inside. If it is not, lower heat to 250 and check again in a couple of minutes. You can bake these ahead of when you plan to serve them and reheat before serving.

Orange Honey Butter

½ pound unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon grated orange zest
½ tablespoon honey
¼ tablespoon kosher salt
¼ tablespoon garlic, chopped

Whip butter in mixer for 10 minutes until light and airy. Add remaining ingredients and whip for another 3 minutes.  Use immediately.  Store in refrigerator but let it warm up slightly before using.

Do you ever make biscuits for clients? What do you serve with 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.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Celebrating Norooz

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 11, 2019

This year Norooz, the Persian New Year, begins on March 21. Celebrating Norooz, which means “new day,” is a very old celebration that has nothing to do with religion. It marks the transition from winter to spring and is filled with feasting.

In fact, the holiday, celebrating the vernal equinox, has been a part of the culture of the people of Iran and Mesopotamia since antiquity and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian, the religion of ancient Persia before Islam. Weeks before, people will put seeds of grass or lentils or wheat or mung beans in water in a decorative pot so that they will sprout by the first day of Norooz—bringing to life the concept of growth and the arrival of spring. Then the house gets a thorough spring cleaning.

Norooz is celebrated for 12 days, but my friend Mahin Mofazeli, who owns a Persian restaurant in San Diego called Soltan Banoo, explained that on the 13th day, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated. In Iran, she said, the tradition was to leave the city and go for a picnic to “get rid of the thirteenth.” They’d bring the sabzeh that had grown tall in the pot and tie knots in the young growth, then make wishes on the knots. Then they’d leave them behind, throwing them in the river, before returning to the city because after that, having the sabzeh would be bad luck.

So, what foods are made for the new years?

The first thing to know about Persian food is that everything starts with basmati rice. Know how to make this well and you have the foundation for numerous dishes. The rice requires rinsing a couple of times to remove the starch and then soaking to reduce cooking time. When you’re ready to cook it, you’ll drain the water and transfer the rice to a large pot of boiling water containing a little olive oil where it will cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Perhaps the most traditional Norooz dish is Sabzi Polo, or Rice with Fresh Herbs. The herbs usually include cilantro and parsley, but could also include dill weed and fenugreek. At the bottom of the pot is really the best part—the tahdig, a crunchy layer formed by rice or bread or sliced potatoes, or even tortillas. Mofazeli prefers potatoes. She slices russets with the skin on and makes a single layer on the bottom of the pot, which already has a little olive oil and saffron water (she always has a mixture of that in her kitchen), then starts layering with rice, then herbs, then more rice, then more herbs until she’s used all the ingredients. She’ll add a little saffron water, then put it on the stovetop over fairly high heat to cook uncovered for about five minutes. Then she puts on the lid, lowers the heat, and lets it cook for about 30 minutes. The dish is traditionally served with Mahi, or fish, since it represents abundance. In Persia, it’s white fish from the Caspian Sea.

For a true feast,Sabzi Polo can be accompanied by dolmehs, or stuffed grape leaves; kookoo sabzi, an herbaceous omelet-like dish; Baghali Ghatogh, lima beans with egg and dill; and pastries like honey-soaked baklavah.

Norooz Pirooz! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!

Sabzi Polo (Rice with Fresh Herbs)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
1 large russet potato, sliced
3 cups cooked basmati rice, prepared using the four steps
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 whole cloves garlic or green garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, ½ cup water and 1 tablespoon saffron water. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a large non-stick pot. Place a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Cover potatoes with a layer of rice. Combine the herbs and then add a layer of the herbs and the crushed and whole garlic over the rice. Repeat the layering of the rice and herbs, adding a sprinkling of cinnamon between the layers.
  3. Pour a mixture of 4 tablespoons oil and 1 cup of water over the top of the rice and add the remaining saffron water.
  4. Place pot on medium high heat for five minutes, uncovered. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon out the rice onto a platter. Garnish with the potato tahdig and serve with fish.

Do you celebrate Norooz? Have you ever made any Persian 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!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been air fryer curious for awhile. What’s prevented me from buying one when I scoped them out at Target awhile back was their sheer size. They’re huge and can take up a lot of counter real estate.

But I came across this article in The Kitchn and both it revived my desire and helped me focus on some options. Now there was no way I was going to spend $350 on one so I’d have to go for second best for about $100. This was the NuWave Brio 6-Quart Healthy Digital Air Fryer.

I always go big since even though I live alone, I want to have the flexibility to cook for a crowd. But my fears panned out. I couldn’t put it on my counter. It had to go on my glass-top stove. And I didn’t like it at all. It was hard for me to figure out how to use it, took way too long for the food–sweet potato fries (of course) and a chicken thigh–to cook separately. But I’d have put in more time to figure it out had my entire house not reeked of burning plastic.

I returned it.

But I couldn’t let go and a month or so later I went back to The Kitchn article and thought I’d scale down and give this much smaller Dash air fryer a try. Dash has the fryers in multiple cool coolers with a small compact footprint, and both manual and digital displays.

Here’s mine (and no, I don’t get any payment from either Dash or Amazon):

I used it for the first time on, what else, the shishito peppers. Normally, I would toss them in a little oil and let them blister in a hot cast iron skillet. It’s not a big undertaking, unless the temperature is soaring in the summer. But cooking them up in the air fryer–essentially using convection heat–was even better because I didn’t have to hover over the skillet and deal with peppers so twisted they wouldn’t stay where you turned them.

With the air fryer all I had to do was toss them in a little vegetable oil and place them in a single layer in the crisper  basket, which rests in the crisper drawer. The downside? Because it’s a small unit I had to do two batches, but it wasn’t a big deal since the cooking time is a mere five minutes. This particular air fryer is very intuitive so you press the power button and it immediately shows the temperature, which I turned up from its default 360° to 390° with the + button.

Then you press the timer/temperature button, which displays the default time of 10 minutes and move it to 5 minutes using the – button. Press the start arrow button and it takes care of the rest. In fact, the temperature and timer alternate on the display so you know exactly what is going on as it counts down. And once it hits the one-minute mark, it counts down in seconds.

Midway, pull out the basket and shake, then put it back into the machine. When the timer beeper goes off, check and make sure your shishitos are sufficiently blistered. If so, pull out the basket and use tongs to pull out the shishitos (excess oil may have collected in the bottom of the crisper drawer below the basket so you don’t want to risk burning yourself by flipping it over).

Now how do you season your shishitos? If you’re like most people you salt the shishitos, then squeeze lemon juice over them. And that’s perfectly wonderful. I’m fond of ponzu sauce on them as well. But with this batch I sprinkled coarse sea salt and shichimi togarashi, which is a traditional Japanese seasoning mix.

It has a bite, thanks to chili pepper and szechuan pepper. But it also contains black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, and dried basil. So it offers plenty of zesty flavor, too, and pairs beautifully with the blistered shishitos.

Now do I think you’ll use an air fryer for clients? I don’t know. But if you can think of it as a mobile convection oven you might think of some uses for it when cooking for clients who only have a conventional oven. I’ve made chicken thighs with this little one and they cook up nicely and faster than if I put them in the oven. You can create “fried” foods for clients who can’t have all that oil. In other words, it’s another tool to add to your cooking arsenal. And, hey, it’s something to have at home to get a meal for yourself made with less hassle.

Have you tried using an air fryer yet? What do you think?

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!

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!

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!

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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