What’s in this apple pie that makes it so indefinably good? See below!

Are your flavor profiles in need of a refresh? Do you have a recipe or two that you and your clients enjoy but could be elevated? Brightened? Recharged?

If so, here are some suggestions we hope you’ll consider inspiration. All are easy to find, whether in your local market–if not the traditional supermarket, then an Asian or Latinx market–or online.

Let’s start with sumac. It’s a deep red powder that you’ve probably enjoyed in Middle Eastern food. It comes from the sumac flower, which is a relative of cashews of all things. Sumac has a fruity tart, lemony flavor–just a bit astringent, which makes it wonderful in vinaigrettes, sprinkled over roasted vegetables, or to season meat or fish. Incorporate it in a dip you want to have a lemony flavor. You could even include it in a dessert. Importantly, it’s a key ingredient in the spice mixture, zatar. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets and Whole Foods, or online on Amazon, The Spice House, Williams-Sonoma, and Penzys.

Next up is merquén. A friend of mine who was a buyer for years at Dean & DeLuca introduced me to this Chilean smoked chile condiment long ago. I add it to everything savory–from meats to whole grains to tomato sauce. Merquén’s base is the cacho de cabra, a pepper that is first dried naturally in the sun, then smoked over a wood fire before being ground. The merquén I buy and have used since that long-ago introduction is a brand called Etnia. It mixes this smoked chile with salt, dehydrated cilantro seeds, and cumin. Use it as a dry rub for lamb, beef, or poultry. Sprinkle it over sauteed vegetables or an omelet. Add it to stews or soups, to ceviche, tacos, or a bowl of lentils or beans. This is your go-to for a touch of smoky heat. I found it at My Panier, Walmart, and The Gourmet Import Shop.Nigella seeds are a fascinating spice. If you taste these tiny black seeds on their own with your eyes closed you would swear you were munching on oregano. They’re native to the Mediterranean but found wild across Egypt and India, as well as North Africa. Leave them whole or grind them. I leave them whole and use them as a substitute for sesame seeds. Add them at the end of cooking a dish like sauteed or steamed potatoes to add a crunchy texture. Mix them into a whipped feta and yogurt dip for crudites. Add them to whole grains. If you bake crackers, top the crackers with the seeds before baking. You should be able to get them at your local Middle Eastern market or online at Amazon, Spice Jungle, World Spice Merchants, and The Spice House.Oh, how I adore Shichimi Togarashi! It’s a much-loved Japanese seven-spice mixture that offers citrus and just a bit of heat. It can vary but typically, the blend includes red chili peppers, sanshō or sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, ground ginger, poppy seeds and nori (seaweed). Add this to eggs, steamed or sauteed vegetables, ramen, soups, sauces, edamame, chicken, lamb, salmon, shrimp, or tofu dishes. Whisk it into a marinade or dressing. Sprinkle it on skewered, grilled dishes to finish. You can easily find it at an Asian market or any online store that sells spices.Yuzu Koshio is quite unusual. It’s a spice mix, but in the form of a fermented paste made from chilies, salt, and citrus fruit. The traditional name is actually yuzu kosho but the version I bought comes from a Seattle-based company called Umami Kushi and they added an “i” to the second word. It is truly an umami flavor bomb for fish, steak, noodles, soups, and desserts. If you have a dish for which you want to cut the fat flavor, this is the antidote. It’s also perfect to add to a dressing to pour over sturdy vegetables like eggplant or winter squash. You can find it on Amazon, but I discovered it and bought it on My Panier.

 

Finally, there’s fennel pollen. Fennel pollen is collected from wild fennel, with an anise flavor melded with  a musky sweet, floral taste. You can use it alone to elevate pasta dishes, sauces, grains, roasted pork or chicken, and sausages. But I’m actually a sucker for “Divine Desserts,” which is a blend of fennel pollen, orange peel, lemon grass, cayenne pepper, sour plum powder, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, vanilla powder, clove, coriander. If you’re a baker coming on fall dessert season–think apple pie–add a touch of this mixture to your apples. It’s now part of my apple pie recipe and I always get questions about what’s in the pie that makes it so different and good. You can also add it to banana bread, carrot cake, or muffins or scones, or spice cookies. Not into baking? Sprinkle it over fresh fruit. I get mine from Pollen Ranch but you can also find it on Amazon.

What new magical spices or spice mixes are you now enchanted by? How do you use 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!

 

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Depending on where you live in the U.S. you may be nodding your head in agreement or be totally dismissive when I complain that right now in San Diego the heat and humidity is making me wilt. Yes, San Diego is probably much cooler than almost any other part of the U.S. but I’m not in any other part of the U.S. and while it’s not in the three-digit temperature category, it’s September, and temperatures beyond the coast are in the 90s and could very well go up further tomorrow or next week. In the meantime, those thick clouds that hang in the East tell me a monsoon is happening elsewhere and slipping humidity to us.

No one likes to cook in heat and humidity if they don’t have to. Or eat heavy food. That’s why I take advantage of late summer harvests of cucumbers and tomatoes to make this easy, very refreshing salad. It’s something you can make for clients or show clients how to make for themselves–or, hey, make it for your family to have something cool and simple to have at the ready once you’ve gotten out of your client’s kitchen.

For this salad I use either hothouse cucumbers (you know, the ones so delicate they’re wrapped in plastic) or Persian cucumbers, along with cherry tomatoes. I’m lucky because my garden is overflowing with Sweet 100s and other cherry tomatoes.

To make the salad I pull out my handy little Kyocera slicer, set it to the thickest opening, and get to work. It takes no time to slice the cukes. Then I slice the tomatoes in half in what, maybe two minutes? I clip some mojito mint from my garden and rinse and chop that up in less than 30 seconds. Then I quickly mix together a dressing using seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I layer the cukes in a serving dish with a two-inch lip, toss the tomatoes over them, followed by the mint, then a few dashes of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. I slosh the dressing over the salad, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about an hour so it can marinate.

The reward is a mouthful of fresh crisp veggies complemented by a mix of flavors and textures–sweet, salty, smoothness, crunch, and a pop of heat. It takes so little effort and the flavor rewards are so great (since all these vegetables are at their peak ripeness) it would be a shame to not make this part of your hot weather  repertoire.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 8

2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced (if conventional cucumbers, peel the skin)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Dressing
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Layer the cucumbers in a bowl or flat serving dish with a lip at least an inch high to hold the dressing. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the mint over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, the red pepper flakes, and sea salt over the top. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, give it a good shake, and then pour over the salad. Cover and chill for an hour. The vegetables should absorb most of the dressing and the cucumbers will soften a little but still have a little crispness to them. If you want to add some protein to the salad cooked shrimp or beans (I love garbanzo beans with this) will work just fine.

What’s your summer/heat wave go-to salad for yourself or 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!

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Every couple of months, my friends Erin and Dave Smith can be found at a Chinese market in San Diego filling up a cart with vegetables, eggs, and meat. When I went with them, they launched their expedition with huge bags of carrots and eggplants, sweet potatoes and broccoli, big bunches of leafy bok choy, and ginormous king oyster mushrooms. They eyed amounts, compared notes on what each had bagged, then moved on to the meat and poultry aisle. There they grabbed three dozen eggs, then packages of pork cushion, beef peeled knuckle, tripe; and pork livers, hearts, and spleen. They found chicken livers and gizzards and added them to the cart. Oh, and they picked up a big bag of red cargo rice before checking out. The total came to about $142, including Dave’s can of coconut water.

The shopping was for their two corgis, Ricky and Tanuki. And their Sunday would mostly be dedicated to turning that cart full of food into meals that would last for close to two months.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are estimated to spend $29.69 billion on food for their pets. That could mean your basic kibble or it could extend to organic dehydrated human quality food.

As pet owners have become more aware of what goes into their own food, eschewing processed products for more healthful, seasonal, and organic ingredients they’ve also been eying the labels on their pets’ food—and are not necessarily sanguine about what they read. Pet food recalls haven’t helped. Plus, some owners are addressing specific health issues their pets have with dietary changes. Others are augmenting high-quality foods with home-cooked meals or treats. Still others, at the urging of their pets’ breeders, feed raw diets.

Why mention this? Well, you’re cooking for human clients, but if they have dogs, perhaps you can create a side business of augmenting their diet with healthy meals and treats.

The big challenge in all this is determining how closely home cooked foods adhere to basic nutritional requirements, requirements that change as a puppy or kitten mature, perhaps have litters and lactate, how much they exercise, suffer from health issues, and, eventually, age. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, establishes nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods that pet food companies adhere to. But these standards aren’t easily available for pet owners, change over the years based on new research, and are not easy to follow even if you can figure out how to access them.

Lucy Postins, founder, owner, and Chief Integrity Officer of San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen, explained that the AAFCO standards have guidance on everything from how much fat and protein to include to nutrient profiles—all for every stage of the animal’s life.

“Our biggest challenge is getting recipes to meet AAFCO requirements,” she said. “It’s very difficult to do that across an entire recipe. It’s a $2,500 minimum undertaking to get a recipe evaluated. So, you can imagine that it’s a big challenge for pet owners.”

Erin Smith is a geneticist at UCSD and an avid cook who uses science to coax the best flavors out of food, including caramels that she used to sell locally. She has managed to find older standards and five years ago developed a complex Excel spreadsheet to work the numbers. Based on that, she said she’s pretty comfortable with the ratios she’s come up with to feed Ricky and Tanuki.

No one is saying you should create meals that would strictly feed your clients pets. It’s unlikely that like Smith, you could figure out how to meet AAFCO requirements. But the key to a healthful pet diet is diversity and that’s something you can offer. Bake doggie cookies, make a dish of ground turkey and whole wheat pasta filled with peas, cranberries, and broccoli. Just make sure that the ingredients you use aren’t toxic to dogs (like onions and garlic).

Need some inspiration? Try this meatball recipe from Honest Kitchen’s Lucy Postins:

Turkey and Raspberry Summer Meatballs
From Lucy Postins of The Honest Kitchen
Yield: About 24 small meatballs for humans and their dogs

Just the slightest bit sweet, these meatballs are so fancy and colorful that your guests will think you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. Little do they know! 

Ingredients
1 pound ground turkey
2 free-range eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.
  2.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, basil, and raspberries. Stir until thoroughly combined (the raspberries will break apart and spread throughout the mixture).
  3.  Using your hands, make marble-size balls of the mixture and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm to the touch. Cool before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Have clients been talking to you about making food or treats for their dogs? Have you considered pitching them about this?

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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Are you feeling the burn yet? If not, it’s coming. It always helps to have a few solid no cook recipes in your back pocket. We all have them. I thought I’d share some of mine in case you could use some inspiration–either for your own family or clients.

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
This dish has long been a family go to in the high heat of July and August. It’s the most wonderful combination of flavors and textures. It’s healthy. It’s cold. Add some cooked shrimp or crab, a hank of crusty sourdough bread, and a cold beer and you’ve got a great meal.

Serves 8 – 10

5 – 8 large tomatoes, quartered
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ English cucumber, roughly chopped
1 or 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 scallions, roughly chopped
6 – 8 radishes, roughly chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
½ bunch parsley with major stems removed and/or 1 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
2-6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 regular-sized can beef broth
1 can low-salt V-8 juice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned – if fresh is unavailable, I like the frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s)
1 pound pre-cooked bay shrimp, lump crab (optional)
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Pull out the food processor and a very large bowl. Process each of the vegetables until the pieces are small — but before they’re pureed — and add to the bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the proteins and dairy, which I keep on the table separately for guests to add as they wish. Refrigerate until cold and then adjust seasonings to taste. Top when serving with sour cream or Mexican crema. Serve with fresh tortillas or even hearty sourdough bread.

Spicy Kale, Corn, and Mango Salad
I came up with this during a killer heat wave. It was so refreshing. Add cheese or some other protein like roasted chicken from the market to bulk it up a bit, but it’s a great base for some serious eating.

Serves 4

1 ear of corn, shucked with kernels sliced off
1/2 slightly ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1/2 medium onion, red or white, diced
4 large kale leaves, spine removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and soaked

1/2 cup of Country French Vinaigrette made from Penzeys’ mix — or your own vinaigrette

Combine vegetables, add dressing. Marinate for about an hour. Serve.

Cucumber and Radish Confetti Soup
For at least 30 years I’ve been making a cucumber soup with yogurt and tomatoes that’s been a go to on hot summer days. But one day I found myself with radishes as well and thought that I’d change things up a bit. This is still a classic for me, but I now also add a bit of low-fat buttermilk to the soup.

Serves 4

1 large English cucumber or 3 good-sized Persian cucumbers (about 6 inches long)
1 dozen radishes
1 1/2 cups unflavored yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fenugreek (for a different flavor, try dill or mint — they’re all equally good)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard. (If you’re using a conventional cucumber first peel the skin; for the other types, leave the thin skin on for color.) Cut into chunks and put in the bowl of a food processor. Trim all the radishes and cut all but one into chunks and add to the food processor. Save the remaining radish for garnish. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend thoroughly. Remove to a bowl, cover, and chill at least two hours or overnight. Just before serving, slice the remaining radish very thinly, again with the little mandoline, and use it to top the soup. Feel free to add a little hot sauce when serving.

Stone Fruit Salsa
And now for dessert! Yes, you could use this on a taco or pork tenderloin–but it’s so fabulous over a couple of scoops of ice cream!

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 dozen cherries, pitted
2 plums
1 large, firm peach
1/2 serrano or whole jalapeño pepper
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the fruit and the pepper (removing the seeds if you want to reduce the heat intensity). Add to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour. Adjust the seasonings. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey to taste.

What are your no cook summer go-to recipes? What are client favorites?

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

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

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Every year our friends in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) of APPCA gathers in the spring to share stories, business insights, and a cooking demo followed by a potluck lunch. This year, the meeting was held on April 13 at Lettie Lavallee’s home near Annapolis, Maryland, and attended by Keith Steury, April Lee, Katie Enterline, Mary Stewart, Laura Knight, Lettie Lavallee, Shelbie Wassel, and Iva Barrera-Oro.

The meeting first addressed old business–reviewing the Treasurer’s report and member dues) and then nominated chapter officers for a tw0-year term. Keith Steury will hand over the presidential reins to Lettie Lavallee. Treasurer Laura Knight nominated Mary Stewart for her job, which was accepted. And Secretary Katie Enterline accepted a second term.

April Lee let the attendees know about a new Zavor (formerly Fagor) equipment promotion she helped organize for APPCA members. (Note: we’ll have all the info about this great discount for equipment in an upcoming post.)

Next, the group spent some time discussing Personal Chef Kits. Photos were provided by many of the chefs to demonstrate the items and equipment that they take with them to a typical cook date. The discussion provided the participants with some useful tips for improving efficiency when packing materials in support of their cook dates for clients.

The next portion of the meeting was reserved for the very robust topic of “Maximizing Profits,” including alternative income streams and tips for increasing overall business efficiency. This section of the meeting included a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Executing “Pop-Up” Demo Dinners
  • Transitioning to a commercial kitchen space
  • Tips for how to differentiate ourselves from the glut of meal delivery service providers now active in the marketplace
  • Exploring less traditional methods for marketing/extending our services:
    • Cozymeal 
    • TryHungry 
    • Publishing regular newsletters to provide useful content to clients/potential clients about our services (e.g., ConstantContact, MailChimp, etc.)
    • Considering “partnerships” between chefs to accommodate and support larger jobs or client requests that we might not consider if working alone.
    • Increasing community involvement to help generate goodwill for your business and get your name out to a broader group of people.
    • Exploring summer camp and/or summer course meal preparation and/or cooking class opportunities for school-aged children
  • A discussion of recipe management software options to help improve product consistency and efficiency of service, including:

    • Bigoven

    • Mastercook

    • Modern Meal

Iva Barrera-Oro

The meeting continued with a demonstration of a Vegan/Plant-Based recipe by Iva Barrera-Oro of Chef Iva’s Kitchen. Iva prepared a delicious Indian-Style Mung Bean Soup for the group. The chefs exchanged their own plant-based recipes for the benefit of the group. The demo was followed by a delicious sit-down pot-luck lunch prepared by the members of the chapter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several of the participants extended their stay and traveled to Great Frogs Winery for a wine tasting before breaking for the day.

The next meeting, which will be hosted by member Laura Knight, has been tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2019.

Now, you may ask, why get a group of personal chefs together–let alone organize a chapter? I asked Keith Steury and he responded, “For me the MARC group provides a networking opportunity with fellow chefs who understand the unique challenges of running their own businesses. It is an opportunity to see what others are doing. What is working for them, as well as what is not. All of the members are very open, supportive, and willing to share both their successes and failures with the group. This exchange helps to make us all better business owners, because being a personal chef is about so much more than being a good cook. We have to wear many hats in order to make our businesses successful and keep them that way. Since I started my business back in 2007, this has become an increasingly more difficult task. Many of us work alone or rarely with other chefs, so this time together helps to recharge or batteries and re-focus our efforts on the tasks and activities that are likely to yield the best results for us moving forward. I always come away with at least one great idea for my business – typically many more. This is why I look forward to our meetings and so value the benefits that the chapter provides to me and my business.”

April Lee

Member April Lee, who founded the chapter, explained,”When I decided to create MARC eight years ago, the idea was to form a network of local personal chefs to get together a couple times a year to share ideas. What I didn’t know then is that I would meet not only talented chefs from this area, but we would form friendships that have lasted and grown over the years. I have been to every meeting (of course) since MARC’s inception and, even though I am one of the more veteran personal chefs in the area, I still come away from every meeting with at least one new idea, inspired and revitalized by the other members. There is nothing like the bonding and spontaneous brain-storming that goes on during our face-to-face gatherings, every member contributing with their experience and ideas to help support their colleagues. I suspect that even when I hang up my apron and retire as a personal chef, I will still want to be part of MARC just to be inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of my fellow PCs whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Katie Enterline

And for member Katie Enterline,”It is such a pleasure to get to meet with all the wonderful chefs in our area. I learn so much every time. It makes a mostly solo profession feel less lonely.”

If you would like to launch a chapter in your region, get in touch with our Executive Director Candy Wallace. She’d be happy to give you some tips on how best to get organized.

Chefs, are you interested in gathering fellow personal chefs into a local chapter? 

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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What are you doing Oct. 8? In San Diego, Candy will be seeing the fruits of her hard labor come to life. She’s been organizing the first Disciples Escoffier International Induction and Celebration Dinner for Southern California and Baja chefs and culinary professionals. The event, presented by the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a group Candy is active in, will be held at The Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla and presided over by Michel Escoffier, great-grandson of the renowned August Escoffier and president of the Foundation Escoffier in France.

This year’s inductees include Bernard Guillas, executive chef at the Marine Room; Patrick Ponsaty, chef de cuisine at 1500 Ocean; Jeffrey Strauss, owner/executive chef of Pamplemousse Grille; Mark Kropczynski, executive chef of U.S. Grant Hotel;  Javier Plascencia, executive chef/owner of Mision 19, Finca Altozano, Jazamando, Erizo and Cafe Saverios;  Luis Gonzalez, executive chef/owner of Puesto Restaurant Group; Dame Flor Franco, executive chef/owner of Indulge and Franco’s on Fifth; as well as, Dame Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach, Founder of Berry Good Food Foundation; Dame Maria Gomez Laurens, Past President of LDEI International/Hospitality Professional/Philanthropist; and Dame Araceli Ramos, Director of Worldwide PR for Mundo Cuervo.

Chef Bernard Guillas

Guillas described the menu:

“I have designed an Escoffier “Evolution” menu based on classic recipes from the early 1900s Escoffier cookbooks from my collection in memory of the Grand Maitre Auguste Escoffier. The highlights will include porcini veloute cappuccino, wild steelhead tartare, purple haze goat cheese pot de crème, Brandt farm beef cheeks bourguignon and, for dessert, passion fruit macadamia Dacquoise, paired with wines from the Languedoc Region of France, which is the birthplace of Escoffier.”

Candy’s Induction Ceremony in 2014

For Candy, who is already a Disciple d’Escoffier, this is a hugely important milestone. “Presenting the first induction ceremony in Southern California highlights the significant contributions being made by area culinary professionals,” she said. “San Diego and Baja California have become dining destinations and they are now receiving their richly deserved acknowledgement, both chefs and food and wine purveyors.”

These new inductees are in exemplary company. Along with Candy, who was inducted in 2014, recent inductees into Disciples Escoffier include Thomas Keller, Jeremiah Tower, Mark Franz, Nancy Oakes, Fred Dame, David Fink, and Cyril Chappellet.

Disciples Escoffier International is an invitation-only society of professional chefs, food and wine producers, sommeliers, Maitre d’Hotel, restaurateurs, hospitality industry professionals, epicures and food industry media. Its mission is to honor Auguste Escoffier’s memory and preserve and honor the kitchen, its culture and its continuing evolution. The iconic French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. Today, Disciples Escoffier has a worldwide membership of more than 30,000. It is in this spirit that the Disciples Escoffier International USA strives to develop its national membership, establish a culinary scholarship fund, and continue its charitable endeavors.

Want to join us? The event, which will also be the last High Tide dinner of the season at The Marine Room, will begin with a champagne and appetizer reception followed by a three-course dinner with paired wines and a silent auction.  Seating for this grand culinary evening is limited. Tickets are $179 and can be purchased on Eventbrite or by calling 619-838-5040. Proceeds will fund educational scholarships and grant programs in San Diego.

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Aged Fruit 911: Savory Plum Compote

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 9, 2018

No doubt, like me, you have the best of intentions when you are at the market, especially during spring and summer. All that gorgeous produce in all their vibrant colors and alluring fragrances can be too much to pass up. So you buy. And buy. And buy. You put the veggies away in the bins in the fridge and set out the fruit on the counter to ripen.

And you forget about them. Or you accept too many dinner invitations. Or you just overbought and can’t keep up. But time passes and what was once bursting with freshness and seduction is now just this close to becoming garbage.

Of course, you want to prevent that to begin with, but if you somehow let that produce go beyond nature’s expiration date there are ways to save it before it’s time to toss. Veggies can go into soup or a sauce or undergo roasting. And, the same with fruit, too. Puree strawberries (which have virtually no grace period),  add them to a smoothie, or make jam or sorbet. Turn blueberries into a granita. And, as I did recently, rescue über soft plums and pluots and make a savory compote.

Those plums. Oh, they were delicious when fresh. Dribble down the chin juicy with a hint of crunch. Sweet yet tart. But, then I had a spell of outings and there they sat, waiting–fruitlessly–for me to remember they were there. They softened. They sank. And then finally when they caught my eye again they no longer held any attraction and I tried to ignore them. But there was no ignoring them and since I had some free time–and a gorgeous Berkshire pork chop I planned to make for dinner–it occurred to me that I could work their sad state to my advantage and turn them into compote.

Plums and pluots have plenty of natural pectin so they are perfect for jamming and for compote. Since I only had half a dozen pieces of fruit to work with, I decided on the compote as a perfect accompaniment for the pork chop and in about an hour and a half had a gorgeous purple sauce at the ready.

The process is simple. You’ll sauté shallots and garlic until they’re translucent, add a little wine–in my case, Madeira–and reduce it, then add the plums and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer slowly, stirring periodically, and the liquids will gradually evaporate, leaving you with a deeply rich perfumed sauce that complements pork, chicken, and duck.

Now, I’m offering this in the context of preventing waste, but even if you’re cooking for clients and think they’d enjoy a fruity but savory sauce to accompany the proteins you’re cooking for them, a plum–or peach or other fruit–compote is a lovely addition.

Plum Compote

Ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot bulb, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Madeira
6 plums, very ripe, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons blackberry balsamic vinegar (or other fruity balsamic)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 dried red chile
2 dried lemon verbena leaves, crushed (or 1 teaspoon fresh, minced)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
In a stainless steel saucepan, add olive oil and heat. When warm, add shallots and garlic. Sweat them until they’re translucent. Add the Madeira and simmer until it disappears.

Add the plums and the rest of the the ingredients and stir to mix. Slowly and gently simmer until the mixture reduces and thickens until jammy–stirring occasionally. It should take about an hour. Discard the cinnamon stick and red chile.

Serve as a sauce with pork, chicken, or duck.

What are the ways you use up tired produce (besides soup)?

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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Do you ever have an occasion in which you feel you should gift one of your clients? Usually we discuss this around the holidays but over the course of the rest of the year there are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or other special events your client celebrates. And, how about a thank you on the anniversary of your beginning work for them?

Well, if you’re feeling the need to present a gift, how about making them sea salt caramels? If your client can eat–and absolutely loves–sweets, this will be such a cool way to say thanks or congratulations.

There are certain foods that no matter how simple they actually are to make if you actually endeavored to learn how still have a mystique about them. Caramels, for me, fall into this category. Honestly, we’re talking just four basic ingredients–butter, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. But this quartet, once cooked together, is the foundation of sweet magic–that is, if you use really good ingredients and have the finesse and creativity to take it to a sublime level of deliciousness. I found someone in San Diego, where I’m based, who taught me her secrets.

Nancy Flint created a small business–Sugar Mamma–around caramels five years ago. She’s taken these four basic ingredients and elevated them with various flavorings to create 17 flavors of caramels that you can find all over San Diego County.

Flint makes everything by hand by herself out of her Talmidge home kitchen, usually working in the neighborhood of 12 hours a day every day to meet her orders. She starts by combining her foundational ingredients–the butter, sugar, cream, and corn syrup, in a large pot, heating the mixture over medium high heat until it reaches 248° F–stirring all the while.

“Once the sugar dissolves, you can step away briefly, but stay close,” she advised. “You can stir every minute instead of constantly but you don’t want it to stick or burn.”

With a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper next to her, Flint stirs until she reaches the temperature she wants, at which point she removes the pot from the heat. Then she adds kosher salt and vanilla, stirs to incorporate them and pours the mixture into the pan. If it’s her Sea Salt Caramel flavor, she’ll give the mixture a few minutes to set, then sprinkle Maldon sea salt over it. In general, fruity flavors get the fruit addition during the cooking process. Any alcohol flavor gets that at the end of the cooking process, once it’s off the heat.

If you make these–Flint has generously given us her Sea Salt Caramel recipe–follow these additional tips of hers:

  • Use the best ingredients you can.
  • Pour what comes out into the pan. Don’t scrape the dregs of the pot into the pan because they won’t crystalize. Instead, scrape them into a silicon ice cube mold.
  • Got bubbles? Don’t worry. Flint said they tend to pop on their own over the 12 hours.
  • Got a sticky pot? Soak it in hot water to melt the sugar so the mess will release.
Sea Salt Caramels
from Sugar Mamma
Yield: 240 1-inch pieces
Ingredients
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher stalt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Maldon sea salt to sprinkle
Directions
1. Line a 10- X 15-inch jelly pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Combine the butter, cream sugar, and corn syrup in a large pot. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Once the mixture comes to the boil continue stirring by just every minute instead of constantly. Add a candy thermometer to the side of the pot reaching into the caramel mixture. Once it reaches 248° F, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. When mixed well, pour into the jelly pan.
5. After 5 minutes sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the mixture.
6. Let set for 12 hours or overnight. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap them individually in wax paper.
Have you ever made caramels? Do you ever make special edible gifts 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!

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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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The UCSD Multiple Sclerosis Expo was held in San Diego on Sunday, October 8 on the Medical School Campus of University of California San Diego (UCSD).

The Expo was designed and offered in support of individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis, caregivers, physicians, and all interested parties. A program developed and offered by Dr. Revere Kinkel, Clinical Director and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program, offered speakers on “An Integrated Medicine Approach to Living with Multiple Sclerosis” as well as a Keynote Speaker topic, “Medical Cannabis for Chronic Neurological Diseases.” Exhibitors offered information and demonstrations of programs and equipment in support of MS patients needs.

A menu of anti-inflammatory, plant-based and MS program-specific foods was offered by Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, a duo of talented and well-known San Diego chefs, Mary Platis and Chef Mia Saling, as well as a team of talented volunteers. The chefs offered culinary coaching for MS patients and caregivers as well as demos, information sources and healthy plant-based anti-inflammatory recipes. The demos included how to peel fresh turmeric and fresh ginger with a teaspoon, how to break down a watermelon into triangles, and an olive oil tasting.

“It was a beautiful, supportive, enlivening day spent answering questions, assisting in designing menu plans for patients, coaching, answering questions and just enjoying being helpful,” Candy said. She was there with plenty of food samples to show patients and caregivers support of their eating fresh food rather than prepared HMR’s or worse yet, frozen gunk from the cases in the grocery store, and provided info and examples of how food prepared from a fresh local source can have a terrific impact on their wellbeing.

Some of the dishes offered were Watermelon Radish Tacos, Brussels Sprout Apple Raisin Slaw with Honey Mustard Dressing, Creamy Potato Leak Soup, Mediterranean Multi Bean Salad, Roasted Spiced Nuts and Lemon/Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.

Candy, Mary, and Mia not only served food, but were available to answer attendee questions about how to shop and cook for themselves in support of their–or their loved one’s–specific medical challenge.

Here are a couple of recipes from the dishes they served. Candy explained that the vinaigrette recipe accompanied a demonstration on how to use a microplane to zest citrus and how zested citrus and chopped fresh herbs can enhance dressings and sauces.

Basic Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, slat, pepper, and pinch of sugar.
  2. Slowly add the oil, whisking until emulsified, or shake the ingredients in a jar, or whirl them in a blender.

Variations

To make different types of vinaigrette:
Garlic: Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/2 clove, crushed
Balsamic: Substitute balsamic vinegar for the wine vinegar
Lemon Parmesan: Use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar and add 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Scallion: Add 3 chopped whole scallions (about 1/4 cup)
Herb: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, or tarragon
Blue Cheese: Add 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort

Roasted Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Union Square Spiced Nuts

Ingredients
2 ½ cups of assorted unsalted nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, etc.
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
½ cup dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Toss assorted nuts in a large brown to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chopped rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, dried cherries, and olive oil.
  4. Toss hot roasted nuts in the spiced olive oil mixture to coat nuts evenly, and serve warm.

Do you have an area of specialization when it comes to cooking for clients with health issues? How do you help spread useful culinary information?

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!

 P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re an APPCA member you can take advantage of our great 50 percent discount sale of selected Fagor appliances. We wrote about it here. The deadline is October 24! Hurry!
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