What is a recipe? According to the ginormous reference on one of my bookshelves, The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, recipe is first defined as “A set of directions with a list of ingredients for making or preparing something, especially food.”

But the second definition is just as interesting: “A formula for or means to a desired end.”

The question is are recipes written in stone or a template for a concept for a dish? Let’s set aside baking–which requires fairly strict adherence to a recipe to result in a bread with the right texture, a cake with the right crumb, etc. How closely do you adhere to a recipe you got from your grandma, chose in a cookbook, or found online?  Do you stick to it the first time to see how it works and riff from there? Based on your expertise, can you see flaws in the ingredient amounts and make adjustments? And how do you expect others to use your recipes?

What does a recipe mean to you?

Eater recently ran an article by Navneet Alang that wrestled with this. Alang points out that cooking is an act of care and that following a recipe can be ritualistic, “the practice of repeating established, sequential steps a comfort when the world feels uncertain.” He likens it to received wisdom or repositories of knowledge. And,  he explains, “There is a reason recipes are passed down from generation to generation.”

APPCA member Lola Dee says, “I have a very difficult time sticking to recipes, I tend to tweak everything and substitute ingredients, using what I have. I think if you use the recipe as a guideline and apply correct methods you can come up with some delicious breakthroughs. However, if you’re cooking institutionally or for a restaurant, you do have to stick to the recipes for consistency, costing, etc.”

I know I can relate to this. I, too, am a recipe tweaker, although with recipes using a technique unfamiliar to me, I tend to follow them precisely the first time to learn.

But an experienced, confident home cook or chef can take the essence of a recipe and turn it into a dish that doesn’t just make do with the ingredients we have or can source–an issue we’ve faced through the pandemic. Their massage of the recipe can be an act of creativity, a way of imprinting oneself on a dish. Or, of course, a adaptive way to address dietary restrictions. We look at a recipe’s construction to learn where to build flavor, how to build body, how to transform texture. We are taking a basic melody and essential instruments and coming up with our own orchestration.

Essentially, the recipe transforms from a directive to a template. A happy guidepost to our own destination.

As personal chef, food blogger, and recipe developer Gina Bean explains:

“Recipe writing is a skill… A good recipe has its place, for sure. But, cooks should make dishes the way they, and their diners, like them.”

What is your approach to using recipes and writing them? Are they set in stone or a template for creativity?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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While many in the greater world are just discovering their kitchens, thanks to lockdowns, you chefs have tons of expertise is all aspects of meal making. But there are things we do by habit or were taught that could be improved on, whether it’s to save time, save clean up, or just be more effective.

We thought it would be interesting to learn what some of your favorite kitchen hacks are so we asked people on our Facebook pages to share. Here’s what they had to offer:

  • “I grate my eggs when preparing egg salad. I create a simple sauce with lemon mayonnaise mixed spicy mustard and seasoning. Mix in capers and serve with butter lettuce salad.” Allyson Demlinger Shapiro
  • “I zest my lemons holding the lemon and using the zester facing up. It holds the zest and I can see how deep I’m going. It’s backwards but makes more sense to me.” Jennifer M. Grawberg
  • “Using a jumbo paper clip — opened to like a “C” — to truss the legs of poultry before roasting. Way easier than twine.” Kim Jones
  • “Using a frozen stick of butter and a (preferably flat) grater, peel down paper on stick of butter and grate butter into flour for pastry dough; then combine with pastry cutter or fingers.” https://www.facebook.com/designedcuisine/videos/712702312420776/  Anne Blankenship
  • “A year ago I bought a wooden oyster holder from France … I broke it eventually and looked for a replacement at Sur La Table … replacement was made of plastic and rubber … accompanying knife was dangerously sharp … I have reassembled my broken wooden French version … and will take my chances … how do you open oysters?” Walter Newell

And, because who doesn’t love a great kitchen hack, here are some others I found around the Internet:

  • Employ a “garbage jar”: If you love baking and find yourself with bits of leftover ingredients like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts, and dried fruits, put anything less than half a cup into a jar. Next time you bake a batch of cookies or Rice Krispie Treats or the like, shake up the jar and add your collection to your recipe. From MyRecipes 
  • Flattening parchment paper from a roll: Got parchment paper that won’t stop curling up on the pan? Easy fix–just crumple it up in a ball and then flatten it out. From Food & Wine
  • How to clean your spice grinding: Remember the old coffee grinders we used to use for coffee. We’re so sophisticated we use burr grinders for the beans and use these for spices. But cleaning them is a drag. Unless you use a hunk of bread. Bonus! You wind up with spiced bread crumbs! Don’t want to use them at the moment? Put them in a bag and store in the freezer. From Epicurious
  • Juice your lemon without cutting it: If you only need a teaspoon of juice from a large lemon, why cut it when you stick a skewer into the non-stem end and squeeze out just what you need? Then put the lemon in a bag and store in the fridge. From Southern Living
  • Get more use from your loaf pan than banana bread: Make smaller casseroles, meatloaf, a terrine, a stacked dessert, pull-apart bread. From MyRecipes
  • Get rid of static plastic wrap syndrome: Simple–store it in the freezer. From Southern Living

What are your favorite kitchen hacks?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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Caprese empanadas

Back in 2015, I posted here some recipes for empanadas. Well, just a few months ago, before lockdowns and quarantines, I spent time in the kitchen of an Argentine chef in San Diego whose entire business revolves around empanadas. I surely hope he’s still in business because these pastries are so divine.

Empanadas are traditionally shaped into crescents — a form that comes from simply pulling the edge of one half of a circle of dough over the filling to the edge of the other half and pressing together the edges to make a seam. But, as Matias Rigali, owner of Empanada Kitchen, explained, the array of beautifully shaped pastries and twisted seams that you can find in a home or a shop is a way of distinguishing pastries with different fillings. Beef and chicken filled empanadas tend to have the usual crescent shape, but the twisted seam of the beef has smaller folds than a chicken empanada. His Caprese and Ham & Cheese empanadas are both shaped into circles by pulling together the two ends of the crescent and sealing, but the ends of the Ham & Cheese variety are crisscrossed. The Mushroom & Goat Cheese variety has a more rectangular shape. And on it goes.

While beef is considered the classic version, Rigali explained that there are endless types of fillings. Many have an Italian influence, which aligns with Argentina’s population.

I got to learn Rigali’s dough recipe and his Caprese recipe, which I thought I’d share since we’re in the thick of spring, and tomatoes and basil are coming into season. This dough is home-cook friendly so even if you’re dough phobic, as a chef you should have no problem. And this dough, which uses Spectrum, an organic vegetable shortening, or Nutiva, an organic shortening that’s a blend of red palm and coconut oil, as the fat, is far more heart healthy than his country’s traditional beef tallow. Rigali said it also makes for a flaky pastry.

The dough is simple, made with all-purpose flour, salt, the vegetable shortening and water. Mix the first three ingredients together and slowly add the water. If the dough is still a bit dry, you can add more but a very little at a time. After forming balls, chill the dough for an hour. Rigali highly suggests using a pasta machine to roll it out, with the roller set at 8. But you can also roll it out with a rolling pin. It needs to be as thin as a flour tortilla. Then cut into 5 1/2-inch circles.

To make the Caprese filling, clean Roma tomatoes of the seeds and dice. Mince fresh basil just before using it to keep the edges from browning. And finely shred mozzarella cheese. Combine the mixture, which also includes salt and pepper, in a bowl, using your fingers to keep the tomatoes from breaking and to more evenly spread the spices. Then you’ll form 2-ounce balls.

The fun part comes with the assembly. Place a ball of the filling in the middle of the rolled-out dough circle. If you’re a beginner or teaching a child, do this on the counter, then fold over half the dough to meet the other half and use the tines of a fork to pinch the edges together and then pull the ends together and pinch to make a circle. Once you’re feeling a little more confident and competent, place the circle in your hand, place the filling in the middle and fold one half of the dough over the other and use your fingers to first seal together and then draw together the ends of the crescent to form a circle. Once assembled, each hand pie should be pricked with a skewer or toothpick twice on the upper side to allow steam to escape while baking.

Rigali stressed a great trick to perfect this hand pie: freeze the raw empanadas overnight and bake from frozen. This allows the pastry to cook briefly at high heat without either burning the dough or overcooking the filling. Before baking, give each pie a quick brush of egg wash. Bake a single layer 10 at a time at 550 degrees for 10 minutes. Then keep checking 1 minute at a time until they are a light brown. Serve them with a bowl of chimichurri.

Empanada Dough
Makes 20 empanadas

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons un-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 cup of water

Mix flour, salt and vegetable shortening in a bowl. Start adding water until it is absorbed. Add more water if necessary. Divide the dough ball in smaller balls, wrap each in plastic, and chill for at least an hour. Stretch the dough, ideally with a pasta machine set at 8. If rolling it out with a rolling pin, the dough should be about the thickness of a flour tortilla. Cut the dough into circular shapes about 51/2 inches in diameter.

Caprese Empanada
Makes about 20 empanadas

1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cleaned of seeds and diced
2 ounces fresh basil leaves, finely chopped just before using
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
20 empanada dough circles
1 egg, beaten

Mix the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl with your fingers to better disperse the spices. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Add the mixture to the mozzarella. Blend carefully, trying to avoid breaking up the tomatoes. Make 20 small balls of about 2 ounces each.

Assemble the empanada by placing a ball of the mixture on the center of the circle. Fold over and seal the edges, either with the tines of a fork or pinching the edges closed with your fingers. Poke the top side with two small holes to release steam while baking.

Freeze overnight on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees. Brush the frozen empanadas with the beaten egg and bake in batches of 10 for 10 minutes, checking in one-minute increments after that until they’re golden brown.

Do you make empanadas? What varieties do you enjoy?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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There’s the Rub

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 4, 2020

Have you been absorbed over the past several weeks with intense cooking projects beyond or instead of what you do for your clients? Perhaps some attempts at sourdough bread? Maybe a complex cooking technique you’ve been itching to experiment with?

Well, if you’ve exhausted all those experiments or feel exhausted by them, here’s a hugely satisfying kitchen endeavor that requires minimal effort, yet will yield wonderful flavors to the other dishes you make:

A homemade herb rub.

I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I saw this piece in The Kitchn that advocates making taco seasoning at home instead of buying those tired, usually stale yellow packets at the market. In fact, you probably have many of the dried herbs and spices already.

The same goes for making your own curry seasoning. And chile. And so many others.

But if you have a garden filled with herbs, you can also do what I’ve been doing for years and make an herb rub.

I wrote about this particular rub years ago. But I thought that with spring here and our gardens our havens now more than ever, enjoying the bounty of those fast-growing herbs would be a joy. A good rub is not only perfect on meats, poultry, and fish, but also roasted vegetables. And, they’re so versatile you can enjoy them mixed with a really good, young extra virgin olive oil as a dip for bread. Make your rub the basis for a vinaigrette or creamy dip. Stir it into a sauce for pasta or into a soup. Oh, man, I can’t stop!

Now the rub I made last weekend features what’s going crazy in my garden right now: rosemary, sage, and thyme. Sometimes I add oregano. Or chives. To this foundation, I include garlic cloves–lots of them–along with hot pepper flakes, and coarse sea salt. I’ve also added lemon zest from Eureka lemons. Right now all I have are Meyer lemons, but the skin is too thin and delicate to zest well.

Collect your herbs and pull off the leaves. If the stems are young, go ahead and leave them on, but rosemary can get woody and thyme stems brittle, so if you have older rosemary and thyme stems, make sure you take just the leaves.

Unless you want to mince the herbs, garlic, and salt together by hand (which I used to do), pile everything into the bowl of a food processor (which I now do) and let it whirl. Make sure the mixture is reduced to small pieces that are about the same size. They don’t need to be–and shouldn’t be–reduced to powder.

Then pour out the very fragrant mixture onto a sheet pan. Spread it out thinly. Don’t dry this in the oven. Its secret power is the oils in the ingredients so place the sheet pan somewhere where the mixture can slowly dry on its own over the course of about three or four days, depending on the humidity. Stir it around daily with your fingers to break up any clumps. Once it feels dry, place it in spice containers. You may want to give some of it away to friends or clients to enjoy.

And, the additional benefit? Your house will have the most devastatingly delicious fragrance and you’ll be hungry all the time the rub is drying.

Do you make your own spice mixes or herb rubs? What ingredients do you use?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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One of the great things about our website’s forums and our Facebook business and closed group pages is that members share all sorts of great ideas they have about food. When I saw longtime member Suzy Brown’s post about making a lentil-walnut meat substitute I had to ask her to share it here. The owner of Thyme to Heal, Brown has been on a quest to offer clients holistic nutrition therapy. Here we get to share this cool concept and chefs can try it out with their own clients. Thanks, Suzy!

As many people are looking to reduce their animal protein consumption they look to different alternatives to emulate the same taste and texture of animal protein. Some people, like myself, prefer using whole food plant-based foods instead of resorting to the highly processed plant-based foods on the market.

I started using lentils and walnuts in combination to give the texture of ground beef. Even though the taste is not exactly the same as ground beef it is a great substitute even for your pickiest eaters.

When you combine black lentils and walnuts together almost any recipe calling for ground beef can be substituted with 1:1 swap.

Why use lentils? These gems are easy to prepare and are an affordable ingredient to swap in many meals. And they’re so nutritious. One cup of cooked lentils contains around 230 calories, 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 16 grams of fiber–both soluble and insoluble. 

As for walnuts, they are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. While walnuts are harvested in December, they’re available year round and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and benefit the heart and circulatory system. 

How to Prepare the Lentil Walnut Mince:

Boiled walnuts

I prefer to use the Beluga Black Lentil. I like their texture and flavor, especially when using it as a ground beef swap. For a quick and easy batch which would replace roughly one pound of ground beef I use 1 can of organic black lentils, drained and rinsed, and 1/2 cup of organic walnuts, boiled for 5 to 10 minutes. Then you strain and chop the walnuts into a mince. Combine them with the lentils. That’s it.

Note: Sometimes, I will pulse lentils in a food processor or smash with a fork to give a greater ground beef texture.

So, here’s how I make Lentil Walnut Taco Meat:

Lentil Walnut Taco Meat

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 recipe of lentil-walnut mince (about 2 cups of mince)
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat avocado oil and add onion. Sauté until golden brown. Add lentil walnut mince and continue to cook until well combined.

Add green chilies and dry spices. You may need to add some water to thin the mix. Continue to cook until you have the texture and consistency of ground taco meat.

Adjust seasonings as needed.

I also like to make Cuban “Beef” Picadillo using lentil-walnut meat. Here’s the recipe:

Cuban Beef Picadillo
Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup diced Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 recipe of lentil-walnut mince
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoe
  • ½ cup whole green olives, stuffed w/ pimentos
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • Vegetable stock, as needed

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the diced onion until soft.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and tomato paste. Cook until almost golden.
  3. Mix in the bell pepper, cumin, pepper and a little salt – not too much as the olives and capers are salty.
  4. Add potatoes pieces and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the lentil-walnut and the wine, let the liquid reduce.
  6. Add diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 more minutes and then add the olives and capers.
  7. Add as much stock to cover. Reduce heat and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are ready, the sauce thickens–about 90 minutes
  8.  Taste and adjust any seasonings: salt, pepper, cumin or additional olives/capers.

Have you created any delicious and nutritious meat substitutes you’d like to share?

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 Suzy Brown

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving? No Problem!

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Holiday Foods , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 18, 2019

If you have vegetarian clients–or family or friends, for that matter–and you’re in charge of Thanksgiving, whether it’s a personal gathering or you’re catering, you may be smacking your forehead trying to figure out how to create a meal that’s not all about the turkey.

No worries. But, first a couple of ground rules your guests will appreciate. Let’s start with the whole premise of the meal: it’s celebrating a holiday with family and friends and making it your own–not about specific dishes. So, don’t be rigid in your thinking about what dishes you feel you have to make.

Second, if you’re going vegetarian or vegan, don’t try to make things taste like something else. As one chef friend of mine told me, “You’ll never see tofurky in my house.”

 

Many vegetarian and vegan people are used to composing courses much like non-vegetarians—a main course of protein, starch, and vegetable. But, the beauty of vegetarian courses is being able to focus on just one or two primary vegetables and back them up with flavors that enhance. Say, grilled eggplant with sauteed shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, and tomato jus with herbs.

Keep it simple. It’s very easy for cooks to combine so many vegetables on a plate that it gets messy in terms of flavor. Try a stuffed acorn squash with a simple vegetable medley or grain with bright flavors to contrast with the creamy, earthy, and sweet flavors of the squash. Stuffed vegetables are a hit for presentation and the combinations are endless.

You can’t miss by using what’s in season. This time of year, for Thanksgiving, it’s all about greens, root vegetables, pumpkins and squashes, wonderful citrus fruits, apples, pears, and persimmons. Instead of fake meats use grains to add flavor. Also, contrast textural elements of dishes to put them in the forefront rather than have a table full of side dishes. Stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, Swiss chard tamales, and parsnip au gratin are all dishes that can stand up proudly to any turduckin.

Many of these dishes above work well as main courses. Build around them with complementary Think salads made of greens with Gorgonzola, toasted hazelnuts, persimmon slices, cranberries, and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

And don’t skimp on the good stuff—rich cheeses, chestnuts, morels and chanterelles, even truffles for a splurge. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge in culinary treats.

For vegetarians, that could also mean a gorgeous puffy cheese soufflé as the meal’s centerpiece, or a truffle mac ‘n cheese, or an omelet roulade filled with spinach and roasted peppers. For vegans, it could be a root vegetable pot pie spiked with truffles, with a rich sauce made from root vegetable stock. Or consider sautéed or roasted vegetables snuggled rustically in phyllo packages—which have the additional benefit of being able to be made in advance and frozen before cooking. You can wrap each portion individually with a big fluffy knot of phyllo on top, and use olive oil instead of butter when cooking for vegans.

The idea boils down to having a holiday feast that highlights a few main dishes with side dishes and salads to complement them.

Here are some great cooking tips for making vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving dishes from my friend Susan Sbicca, a chef in San Diego:

  • Use flaxseed meal as a thickener for sauces and gravies.
  • Cashews make excellent cream and milk alternative.
  • Use mushroom stems, soy sauce or tamari and a touch of molasses for a hearty rich broth for gravy.
  • Use combinations of raw and cooked vegetables and grains for more flavor depth. Example:  quinoa or farro with matchstick cut carrots, marinated grated parsnip, julienned raw arugula and of course spinach
  • Keep close watch on the amount of oil used in recipes and vegetable marinades. Eggplant and portabella mushrooms (delicious hearty entrees) act like sponges. Use a combination of soy sauce or amino acids, good olive oil, a touch of lemon and vegetable stock to keep them moist but not fat bombs. (throw in a medjool date or two for deeper sweetness).
  • Stuffed vegetables are a hit for presentation and the combinations are endless.  Stuff baby pumpkins, acorn squash, patty pan squash etc.
  • Make salads interest using seasonal dried berries such as dried cranberrys and cherries.
  • Add more texture to a dish with seasonal nuts: walnuts and pecans.
  • Think about combining mashed foods: potatoes and parsnip,  butternut and pumpkin, yams and yellow potatoes.
  • Use medjool dates as sweeteners in recipes that call for sugars.

Are you making a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving meal? What are some of the dishes you’re presenting?

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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This time of year I wish I lived in New Mexico–and for one very specific reason. It’s Hatch chile season. This year Labor Day barely passed when I came across them at my local Sprouts. I also see them at farmers markets and more conventional supermarkets. I assume that across the country they make a play as well. Don’t ignore them. Scoop up a couple of pounds of these long, firm green chiles and head back to your kitchen or your client’s kitchen to roast them.

I wish I could tell you I had some fantastic hand-cranked fire-roasting contraption that you see at the farmers markets. Nope. It’s just the chiles, heavy cookie sheets, and the oven broiler. There’s no special trick to it. Just line them up in a single layer and fire them up. Let your nose tell you when they’re ready to be turned–once–and then removed from the oven. You’ll get the distinctive aroma of burning chiles and, indeed, they should be well charred.

Then it’s time to gather them into plastic or paper bags, close the opening, and let them steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. This helps loosen the thick skin from the flesh. Then peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds, and chop or slice them. I bag what I don’t use immediately and put them in the freezer, so I have them to use the rest of the year. Which means I’ll be heading back out to Sprouts again soon to stock up.

You could rightly ask at this point, “What’s the big deal about Hatch chiles?” Clearly, there’s some superb marketing going on. The chiles, known as Big Jims, are grown in one region, the Hatch Valley, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, although it’s also an umbrella term for the green chiles grown throughout New Mexico. Maybe it’s the elevation that makes them so distinctive; maybe it’s the volcanic soil. Or the hot days and cool evenings. Or the combination of all three, plus its short August/September season. Anaheim chiles are descendants of the Hatch chiles, but Anaheims don’t have nearly the allure or the uniquely sweet, smoky, earthy scent and flavor. You can learn more about Hatch chiles in this Bon Appetit article.

Traditionally, your prepped Hatch chile can go into posoles and enchiladas. I have long used them in a pork stew, corn bread, and tomato sauces. They can run from mild to hot, so gauge your accompanying ingredients accordingly, whether its for a savory dish or even desserts like ice cream, cookies, and brownies (you’ll want to use a puree for those to create a uniform flavor).

No time to fuss over a big recipe? Then how about a Hatch Chile Frittata? That’s what I did with a couple of the chiles I had after packaging the rest. There’s no recipe here, just some suggestions.

Take a look in the fridge and see what’s in need of being used. I had a quarter of an onion, a couple of boiled red potatoes, and a wedge of Pondhopper farmstead gouda. It’s a goat milk that’s slightly yeasty thanks to being steeped in beer. It would easily match the flavors of the chiles.

You’ll need a well-seasoned cast iron pan. I have several but my favorite is an eight-inch Lodge pan I bought about 30 years ago at a hardware store on Broadway on the upper west side of Manhattan, where I lived once upon a time. It’s in perfect, shiny condition from years of use.

Heat up the broiler. Slice the onions, chop the chiles and potatoes, and break the eggs. Beat them with a little milk till frothy. Heat the pan on the stove and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Then add the onions and sauté until they start to brown. Then add the potatoes and do the same, adding some salt and pepper. While they’re cooking, dice up some cheese. Once the potatoes and onions are browned to your liking, reduce the heat and add the beaten eggs. Let them just start to cook, then sprinkle the chile pieces over the forming omelet. Let it cook for a minute or so, then top with the cheese. Use a thick towel or oven mitt and carefully move the pan to the broiler. It’ll just take a minute or two to finish it off.

The result will be a puffy, almost souffle-like egg dish. For me, two eggs and an egg white made a complete solo dinner. More eggs, more servings. Add a salad, a glass or wine or beer and you’ve got an easy meal after a long day of cooking for someone else.

Are you enchanted with Hatch chiles? How do you cook 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!

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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?

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How are your clients feeling? A little achy around the joints with arthritis? Perhaps they’ve got diabetes or cancer or are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, our immune systems become activated when our bodies recognize something foreign—be it an invading microbe, pollen, or chemical. What follows can be a process called inflammation and while intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders can protect our health, if the inflammation persists when we’re not threatened, it can take us down. And so many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, have been linked to inflammation.

If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself way to address inflammation, you can find it in the kitchen via farmers markets and grocery stores. Instead of eating refined carbohydrates, soda, and fried foods, for instance—all foods that cause inflammation—you should prepare more anti-inflammatory foods for clients using ingredients like olive oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and fruits, in your diet.

And spices, like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Let’s focus on turmeric.

Turmeric, which is related to ginger, and its most active compound curcumin, is grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and Central America. The National Institutes of Health reports that turmeric has been shown in preliminary studies to reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients had after surgery, control knee pain from osteoarthritis, and reduce skin irritation that can occur after radiation treatments for breast cancer.

One simple thing you can make for clients to add to their coffee or tea is a spice compound that my friend Su-Mei Yu, a San Diego expert in Thai cooking and former owner of Saffron Thai restaurant in San Diego, taught me. It’s something she spoons into her morning coffee daily to help her address the inevitable aches and pains of aging.

Su-Mei Yu grinding spices

She combines one-part organic turmeric powder with half a part ground black pepper, and one-quarter part each of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. She adds a teaspoon of this compound, along with a dash of olive oil, which she explained boosts the spices’ effectiveness, to her coffee. The flavor is comforting, yet potent—kind of like chai on steroids. If your clients are coffee or tea drinkers, they should find it compellingly delicious. I add it to my coffee every morning now, too, and love it.

Turmeric root can be found in some specialty ethnic grocery stores, but, of course, you’re more likely to find the ground form in the spice section of grocery stores. You can find turmeric supplements in capsule form at various health stores.

Turmeric can be included in fresh root or powder (or both) forms in curry paste or marinades. You can also encourage clients to make a Turmeric Tea. Here’s a recipe from DLife:

Ingredients:

  1.  Water
  2. Turmeric powder
  3. Honey

Directions:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water
  2. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered turmeric.
  3. Let the turmeric seep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
  4. Strain the tea, add honey if desired and sip.

And here is Su-Mei Yu’s recipe for her Yellow Curry Paste.

Yellow Curry Paste
 
5 cloves garlic
2 shallots
2 teaspoons rice bran oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 dried de arbol chilies, soaked, dried, roasted and break into small pieces
1 lemongrass, outer tough layer and green parts removed, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced galangal
1 teaspoon minced kaffir lime peel (substitute with lime)
1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon red miso
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, roasted and ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  1. Wrap the garlic and shallots in separate aluminum sheet, coat with oil and bake at 400 for at least 20 minutes, cool. Remove from the foil and peel. Set aside.
  2. In a mortar with a pestle, pound the salt and dried chilies together until combined into a coarse paste.
  3. Add the lemongrass and pound to puree.
  4. Add the fresh ginger, galangal, kaffir lime peel and turmeric. When the paste becomes pureed, add the roasted garlic cloves and shallots. Pound to combine and puree. Add the red miso and pound to puree and combine.
  5. Add the ground coriander seeds, cumin, white peppercorns, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger powder and turmeric. Mix and combine with the puree.
  6. The paste can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks

Be sure when you use this past to add it to coconut oil in a large saucepan over low heat to keep the ingredients from burning. Once it darkens, add a bit of coconut cream to render the paste to release its flavor. Then you can add ingredients like bite-sized pieces of room-temperature chicken or very firm tofu, cut-up potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, along with chilies, bay leaves, salt, and brown sugar–and then more coconut cream. If the chilies make the dish a little too spicy, add some more brown sugar to balance the flavors. Su-Mei likes to finish the dish off with a little fish sauce at the end. And, if you can find chewy red rice from Thailand, clients should really enjoy it with your curry.

Do you cook with turmeric for clients? What dishes do you use it in?

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Enjoying a Garden Burger

You know the drill. You, as a Mom or Dad or in your role as a personal chef, are going out of your way to prepare healthy meals for your kids or your clients’ kids, filled with nutritious vegetables. The kids, however, greet their plate with a scrunched up nose. They don’t care that it’s good for them. They won’t eat it and challenge you or their parents to make them. And who has the energy to sit at a table all night facing down a plate of peas? Or listen to parents complain that the meal you carefully prepared sat uneaten by finicky children?

But with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children over the past 30 years, adults need to find effective ways to help children eat more healthfully— and that, of course, includes eating more vegetables.

According to the USDA, children should eat one to three cups of vegetables a day, depending on their age, with toddlers from two to three eating one cup and teens eating two-and-a-half to three. But making that happen is a challenge when they reject broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and squash at home and toss the lunch  made them for school.

As a volunteer for the Olivewood Gardens & Learning City in National City, near San Diego, I taught cooking classes to young, mostly low-income children using organic produce mostly grown on site. That experience taught me that adults tend to go about wooing kids with vegetables all wrong. Bits and pieces of information are good. Lecturing is dull. Making food all about color and flavor wins hearts. And, well, so does a little subterfuge. It’s not so much that you’re tricking them — after all, they may be around while you’re cooking. They certainly are if you’re teaching a kids’ cooking class. It’s more like you’re incorporating vegetables through clever cooking techniques that don’t blast that they’re eating what they’re trying to avoid.

Try these five approaches:

  1. Make pancakes and waffles — using summer squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or other vegetables you can grate.
  2. Turn salsa into soup — if the kids you cook for enjoy salsa, they’ll love gazpacho.
  3. Sauce it up — steam veggies and puree them with a little stock and herbs/spices to turn into a simple sauce. Forget the bottled ranch dressing. Make dips by steaming vegetables and pureeing them with yogurt and light mayo.
  4. Wrap it up — Make healthy burritos and wraps by steaming, sauteeing, or roasting veggies. Create a burrito bar with beans, brown rice, cheese, chunks of chicken or fish and set the kids loose.
  5. Hide in plain sight — Chop and add more vegetables to tomato sauce. Stir fry or mix brown rice, whole grains cooked orzo or other pasta with diced, cooked vegetables. Add vegetables to chili or thick soups.

But the most important way to get kids to eat vegetables — and, in general, eat more healthfully — is to cook with them. Even the youngest kids can help in some way. And if they also help with the marketing, even better. Also, whether you’re a parent or cooking class teacher, create a rule that they have to take one big bite before they turn something down. Chances are they will love what they cook.

Do you cook with kids or teach kids cooking classes? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned help children eat more healthfully?

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