If you’re a personal chef who is starting to get requests from clients for vegan meals, chances are you freaking out just a little. Because while there are plenty of meat- and dairy-free dishes out there in the world that would be considered vegan—salads, sautéed or roasted vegetables, pasta and tomato sauce just for starters—that’s not the stuff of a well-rounded diet. People need protein, for starters, and they want complex flavors that are so easy to come by when you add in animal-based proteins.

So, where do you start?

A brief survey of some of our members yielded some favorite websites. And I’ve also included some I’ve found.

  • You might want to start at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, which has a list of the Top 50 Began blogs. This directs you to blogs that will teach you how to make vegan yogurt to nut-based “cheeses.” Their top pick? Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows. Their favorite recipe? Sundried Tomato, Mushroom and Spinach Tofu Quiche.

  • Member Jennifer Zirkle of The Ginger Chef in Michigan likes Forks Over Knives. This plant-based diet website evolved from the documentary of the same name. The site offers a meal planner, cooking course, articles, and, of course, recipes—435 of them. They also have an app you can download. So, you can be inspired by Smoky, Saucy Black-Eyed Peas; Pesto Penne; Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese; or a Festive Vegetable Pot Pie.

  • Member Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services in Northern California is a fan of the blog Vegan Richa. Richa Hingle is its author. She’s been featured on Oprah.com, Huffington Post, Glamour, VegNews.com, The Kitchn, and many others. She’s also the author of Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. On the day I visited her site it featured Peanut Butter Cauliflower Bowl with Roasted Carrots. She includes Instant Pot cooking, as well. And check out her Indian Butter Tofu Paneer. It looks divine.
  • The Vegan Society is committed to making veganism easily adopted. They publish a magazine, The Vegan—and if you subscribe, you also get access to a website that addresses nutrition and health, food and drink, recipes, shopping, travel, and more.
  • Cooking for vegan kids? Check out the list on Hummasapien. They include a range of kid-friendly recipes like Zucchini Tater Tots, Vegan Carrot Dogs, Vegan Broccoli Cheeze Chickpea Burgers, and Summer Vegetable Lasagna Rolls.

  • Chickpea Magazine is a vegan food and writing quarterly. Love the idea of Cauliflower Wings? Get the recipe here!
  • Chefs like Jamie Oliver have developed vegan recipes. Oliver has well over 100, from Whole Wheat Maple Cinnamon Buns and Sweet Potato & White Bean Chili to Homemade Mustard and Spiced Plum Chutney. He also has videos that will teach you how to make vegan gravy, chocolate pots, and raw “spaghetti Bolognese.”

Because vegan eating has gone so mainstream, you’ll also find plenty of resources on conventional food websites, like Food Network, Serious Eats, Food and Wine, and even Good Housekeeping.

Finally, we have a lovely recipe for you to try from member Carol Borchardt’s blog From a Chef’s Kitchen. This Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup will surely make your clients warm and cozy in these chilly winter months. (Note that Carol offers a choice of chicken broth or vegetable broth. Use the latter, of course, to make this dish vegan.)

Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup
from Carol Borchardt
Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red curry paste (or to taste)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2-inch cubes)
1 can (15-ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups red lentils, picked over
1 can (14.5-ounce) coconut milk, light or regular
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish if desired

Instructions

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until onion begins to soften.

Add the garlic and red curry paste, give it a quick stir, then add the broth, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and lentils. Bring to a boil, cover slightly and simmer until potatoes and lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and heat through.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in cilantro.

MAKE AHEAD: Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool thoroughly. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave for individual servings. FREEZER-FRIENDLY: Cool thoroughly and package as desired. Freeze up to 2 months.

 

Do you have vegan clients you cook for? What dishes are in your repertoire? What were your biggest challenges?

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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Last month the National Restaurant Association released its 2018 Annual Chef Predictions of food and beverage trends. The survey of 700 professional chefs–members of the American Culinary Federation–predicts “what’s hot,” what they expect the food and beverage trends at restaurants to be in the coming year.

According to the survey, menu trends that will be heating up in 2018 include doughnuts with non-traditional filling, ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, farm/estate-branded items, and heritage-breed meats. Trends that are cooling down include artisan cheeses, heirloom fruits and vegetables, and house-made charcuterie.

At number 11 on the list of top 20 food trends is Peruvian food.

Peru is a culinary melting pot–a mix of Spanish, Italian, Cantonese, and Japanese styles and techniques that reflect the country’s unique history. Lomo Saltado–an intriguing stir fry beef tenderloin that melds Peruvian flavors with Cantonese influences–is a popular traditional Peruvian dish served with French fries or potato wedges on rice. I learned how to make it recently from a San Diego chef, Emmanuel Piquera, who grew up and learned to cook in Peru. In fact, I shared his ceviches with you last October. Loma Saltado is the dish of his I’ll be making during winter now that temperatures have dropped.

This dish features soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic to form the sauce that is its base. That’s made in the blender and reserved. Using canola oil, you stir fry seasoned tenderloin pieces, then add red onion, tomatoes (have you ever stir fried tomatoes?), and a jalapeño. All this is blended with that salty, sour traditional sauce and topped with scallions and perhaps a fried egg. It’s easy to prepare and the brightness of the stir fried vegetables really set off the richness of the tenderloin.

Lomo Saltado
From Emmanuel Piquera of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in San Diego
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
Canola oil for frying potatoes
8 ounces of potato wedges1 ounce of canola oil
1.5 pounds beef tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 large red onion, cut into strips
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into strips
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and julianned
6 ounces of lomo saltado sauce*
Scallions cut into strips for garnish
Optional: fried egg

*Lomo saltado sauce:
In a blender mix 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce, 1 ounce of white wine vinegar, 2 ounces of water, 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, and one clove of garlic.

Directions

Fill a large pot with oil or use a fryer and bring oil to 375 degree F. Carefully add potato wedges in small batches and fry for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Season the tenderloin pieces with kosher salt and black pepper.

In a wok with canola oil stir fry the tenderloin pieces and cook until golden over high  heat, add the red onion strips stir fry for two minutes, add the tomato strips cook for one minute, add the chilies, then add the lomo saltado sauce and mix everything together in high heat for one more minute.

Serve in a shallow plate, add the fried potato wedges and garnish with the scallions strips and fried egg if you like. For a traditional Peruvian experience, serve with white rice.

What new food trends are you embracing as you plan menus in 2018?

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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We all like to know what’s trending, whether it’s fashion or film, streaming media or music. And, of course, food.

Google recently released its 2017 list of most searched items in a variety of categories–from people and global news to actors, elections, and songs/lyrics. It’s really fascinating. In fact, the number one search among all categories was Hurricane Irma. The top “how to”? How to make slime. Go figure.

One of the categories is recipes. Here you’ll have not only the top 10 recipes searched but also their links. Since we figure you like to be on trend, here’s a look at what people globally wanted to learn how to make:

1) Chicken breast recipe
2) Ground beef recipe
3) Poğaça tarifi (Turkish bread recipe)
4) French toast recipe
5) Kek tarifi (cake recipe)
6) Pork chop recipe
7) Spaghetti squash recipe
8) Coleslaw recipe
9) Pesto recipe
10) 餃子 レシピ (Dumpling recipe)

Let’s look at a couple of the recipes to get some insight into what was going on. For the chicken breast recipe, the greatest interest came from Canadians. That was followed by the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. The U.S. only came in at the fourth position, followed by New Zealand. Related to searching for your basic chicken breast recipe was searching for air fryer chicken breast recipes, followed by–of course–recipes for instant pot chicken breast recipes, then (surprisingly) airline chicken breast recipes, and finally in the top five, sous vide chicken breast recipes (four and five were the same, just worded slightly differently).

Canadians must be great recipe searchers because they were the top searchers for ground beef recipes, followed by the U.S. For Turkish bread, don’t get cocky–it wasn’t Turks; it was us! Jamaicans were the most interested in French toast. Filipinos were all over pork chops. Canadians, again, were most interested in spaghetti squash. Americans (!) were most curious about coleslaw recipes, but get this, Malta has the most interest in pesto recipes. American’s didn’t even make the top five. There wasn’t any info given for the cake or dumpling recipe searches.

Now what can you do with this knowledge? Well, it’s something to keep in mind as you’re menu planning, of course. Chicken breasts and ground beef are food items that are versatile and relatively inexpensive. Spaghetti squash is obviously a great substitute for pasta. Coleslaw is fast and easy to make and pretty inexpensive, too.

And pork chops… oh, pork chops. Pork chops are the only food that’s on Google’s list of most searched-for recipes in the world and list of most-searched for recipes in the U.S. Pork chops also made the list in 2016.

Pork Porterhouse Pork Chop with Garlic Sage Compound Butter

With that in mind, here’s my favorite way of making pork chops. This is a one-pound Pork Porterhouse Pork Chop with Garlic Sage Compound Butter that serves two. I buy these from a butcher because supermarkets generally wouldn’t carry these thickly marbled chops. The process is extremely easy. All I do is grill it on my stove top.

It begins with a 24-hour brining. I used a simple brine inspired by Chef Anne Burrell that includes kosher salt, fresh sage leaves, crushed garlic, sugar, and a bay leaf mixed in a quart of water. Stir it up, add the chop, cover, and refrigerate.

At some point between brining and cooking you can make a simple compound butter to add even more richness to the dish. Because my brine includes sage leaves from my garden, I stick with the flavor profile and make a compound butter with minced sage leaves, diced red onion, garlic, and sea salt. All you need to do is leave a stick of butter out until it’s room temperature, slice off about a tablespoon and melt that in a small saucepan.

Add the sage, red onion, garlic, and sea salt, and sauté gently until it’s just cooked through, about five minutes. Remove from the heat and place the mixture in a small bowl. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Then slice the rest of the butter, add the slices to the bowl, and thoroughly mix all the ingredients with a fork. Pull out a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap and place the butter mixture on it. Shape into a small log about an inch thick. Then fold the paper or wrap over the log and roll it a bit until it’s evenly shaped. Then fold up the rest around the log and refrigerate it at least an hour so that it’s firm (you can also make it a couple of days before). Remove it from the refrigerator before you begin cooking the chop.

When you plan to cook the chop, remove it from the brine and pat it down to remove the excess moisture. I also trim off much of the fat cap. Slather the chop in olive oil and, as Burrell suggests, sprinkle the meat with crushed red pepper flakes. Heat a cast iron skillet and when it’s good and hot, place the chop in the skillet and cover with a splatter guard.

Cook for four to five minutes on each side until the internal temperature is about 145° and then hold the chop vertically with a pair of tongs to grill the edge of fat. That’ll take about a minute. Remove from the skillet and let it rest. You should have a chop cooked medium rare.

Cut the meat off the bone and slice it. (Save the bone to gnaw on secretly later.) Place the slices on the cooked mustard and top with a couple of slices of the compound butter.

Are any of these among your top recipe searches? What is your favorite item on this list?

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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It’s that time of year again! The food and demographics experts are weighing in on food trends we can expect in the coming year. Whole Foods is the first out of the gate. Why should you care?  As a personal chef creating menus for clients–both for family meals and catering events–you want to be on top of current and upcoming trends so you can start experimenting with ingredients and speaking to the interests of current and new clients. You want to be relevant. As for this particular list, Whole Foods is the shopping destination for so many of you–and your customers. If they have the pulse of the consumer, you want to know what that pulse is. We’ll mostly leave out their product marketing that follows each trend.

So, here we go with their Top 10:

1. Floral Flavors

Foragers and culinary stars have embraced edible petals for years, but floral inspiration is finally in full bloom. From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics. Look for flowers used like herbs in things like lavender lattés and rose-flavored everything. Bright pink hibiscus teas are a hot (and iced) part of the trend, while elderflower is the new MVP (most valuable petal) of cocktails and bubbly drinks.

Try the Trend: Jacobs Farm Organic Edible Flowers.

2. Super Powders

Powders are serious power players. Because they’re so easy to incorporate, they’ve found their way into lattés, smoothies, nutrition bars, soups and baked goods. For an energy boost or an alternative to coffee, powders like matchamaca root and cacao are showing up in mugs everywhere. Ground turmeric powder is still on the rise, the ever-popular spice used in Ayurvedic medicine. Smoothie fans are raising a glass to powders like spirulina, kale, herbs and roots for an oh-so-green vibrancy that needs no Instagram filter. Even protein powders have evolved beyond bodybuilders to pack in new nutrients like skin- and hair-enhancing collagen.

3. Functional Mushrooms

Shoppers are buzzing about functional mushrooms, which are traditionally used to support wellness as an ingredient in dietary supplements. Now, varieties like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane star in products across categories. Bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies and teas are leading the way. The rich flavors also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavors. Body care is hot on this mushroom trend too, so look for a new crop of soaps, hair care and more.

4. Feast from the Middle East

Middle Eastern culinary influences have made their way west for years, and 2018 will bring these tasty traditions into the mainstream. Things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top. Spices like harissa, cardamom and za’atar are hitting more menus, as well as dishes like shakshuka, grilled halloumi and lamb. Other trending Middle Eastern ingredients include pomegranate, eggplant, cucumber, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam and dried fruits.

Try the Trend: eggplant; bulk pistachios and dried fruit

5. Transparency 2.0

More is more when it comes to product labeling. Consumers want to know the real story behind their food, and how that item made its way from the source to the store. GMO transparency is top-of-mind, but shoppers seek out other details, too, such as Fair Trade certification, responsible production and animal welfare standards. At Whole Foods Market, this plays out in several ways, starting with these three happening in 2018: 1) In January 2018, all canned tuna in our stores will come from sustainable one-by-one catch methods; 2) In September 2018, labels will provide GMO transparency on all food items in stores; and 3) Dishes from Whole Foods Market food bars and venues are now labeled with calorie information. The FDA’s deadline for nutrition labeling is among the first regulatory steps for greater transparency, but expect consumers and brands to continue leading the way into a new era of product intel.

Try the Trend: Pole & Line canned albacore tuna traceable to the exact captain and vessel that caught the fish; 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rated fresh meat and poultry; sustainability certification or ratings on every type of wild-caught seafood in Whole Foods Market’s seafood department; Non-GMO Project Verified products; Fair Food certified tomatoes and strawberries.

6. High-Tech Goes Plant-Forward

Plant-based diets and dishes continue to dominate the food world, and now the tech industry has a seat at the table, too. By using science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins, these techniques are creating mind-bending alternatives like “bleeding” vegan burgers or sushi-grade “not-tuna” made from tomatoes. These new production techniques are also bringing some new varieties of nut milks and yogurts made from pili nuts, peas, bananas, macadamia nuts and pecans. Dairy-free indulgences like vegan frosting, brownies, ice cream, brioche and crème brûlée are getting so delicious, non-vegans won’t know the difference – or they might choose them anyway!

Try the Trend: Beyond Meat Burger; Ocean Hugger Foods Ahimi vegan tuna (available in NYC and LA Whole Foods Market stores); Ripple milks made from peas; Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan ToonaMALK cold-pressed nut milks

7. Puffed & Popped Snacks

Crunchy snacks are perennial favorites, but new technology is revolutionizing all things puffed, popped, dried and crisped. New extrusion methods (ways of processing and combining ingredients), have paved the way for popped cassava chips, puffed pasta bow ties, seaweed fava chips and puffed rice clusters. Good-old-fashioned chips also get an upgrade as part of the trend, with better-for-you bites like jicama, parsnip or Brussels sprout crisps.

8. Tacos Come Out of Their Shell

There’s no slowing down the craze for all things Latin American, but the taco trend has a life of its own. This street-food star is no longer limited to a tortilla, or to savory recipes: Tacos are showing up for breakfast, and trendy restaurants across the country have dessert variations. Most of all, tacos are shedding their shell for new kinds of wrappers and fillings too – think seaweed wrappers with poke filling. Classic tacos aren’t going anywhere, but greater attention to ingredients is upping their game. One end of the spectrum is hyper-authentic cooking with things like heirloom corn tortillas or classic barbacoa. And thanks to brands like Siete, there are grain-free options for paleo fans too. Taco ‘bout options!

9. Root-to-Stem

Between nose-to-tail butchery and reducing food waste, a few forces are combining to inspire root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable, including the stems or leaves that are less commonly eaten. Recipes like pickled watermelon rinds, beet-green pesto or broccoli-stem slaw have introduced consumers to new flavors and textures from old favorites.

Try the Trend: Produce butcher at Whole Foods Market Bryant Park; root-to-stem salad bar items, featuring Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and celery seasonal varieties

10. Say Cheers to the Other Bubbly

LaCroix may have paved the way, but now there’s an entire booming category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention. Just don’t call them “soda.” These drinks are a far cry from their sugary predecessors. Flavored sparkling waters like plant-derived options from Sap! (made with maple and birch) and sparkling cold brew from Stumptown will are shaking up a fizzy fix. Shoppers are also toasting mocktail must-haves like Topo Chico and Whole Foods MarketTMLime Mint Elderflower Italian Sparkling Mineral Water. Cheers to the other kind of bubbly!

Try the Trend: Waterloo Sparkling WaterSap! maple and birch sparkling waters and seltzers; Stumptown Sparkling Cold Brew (in Original, Honey Lemon and Ginger Citrus); Alta Palla Sparkling Waters; Whole Foods MarketTM Italian Sparkling Mineral Waters (in Citrus Blend, Lemon, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon Raspberry, Grapefruit and Lime Mint Elderflower flavors), 365 Everyday Value® Canned Sparkling Water (Pure, Lime, Lemon, Orange and Grapefruit flavors).

This year’s predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s experts and industry leaders who source items and lead trends across the retailer’s cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments, and spot trends for the retailer’s more than 470 stores. Shoppers can try the trends in their local Whole Foods Market stores or on Amazon.com.

What food trends are you noticing or are you clients sharing with you? Any of these something you’ll try?

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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We hope that you APPCA members were able to take advantage of the special 50 percent off deal we arranged with Fagor. Up until October 24, members in good standing could order Fagor portable induction cook tops and electric multi-use cookers (pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker all in one) at half price. (Thanks for organizing this, April Lee!)

Like the hugely popular Instant Pots, these electric multicookers can be a little intimidating until you get used to how they work. And while you may initially limit yourself to the obvious–stock, soup, beans, yogurt, you’ll want to broaden your mindset and learn about the many additional ways you can use these machines.

So, for all of us novice multicooker owners, I thought I’d offer up some essential resources to get you started. Bookmark them and return again and again because invariably yet another cool way to use these machines will come up. And perhaps you’ll think of some yourself. If so, please share!

  • Hip Pressure Cooking: Founder Laura Pazzaglia has written two books on pressure cooking and her site is filled with all sorts of great information. Beyond the many recipes, she writes pieces on nutritional information, best cuts of meats, machine reviews, even tips for how to open the machine effectively (it makes a difference). There are videos, forums, filling guidelines, and time charts.
  • Facebook Instant Pot Community Public Group: If you’re on Facebook, this is an invaluable group to join. Check out recipes, get cookbook recommendations, ask questions. You’ll be totally surprised by the dishes people make in the electric multicookers. Something go wrong? Troubleshoot it with members. While you’re on Facebook, also check out Instant Pot Recipes.
  • Pressure Cooking Today: Need to figure out how to get started with your multicooker or, specifically, Instant Pot? Here’s a great site to help. You can also get help with how to convert a recipe to pressure cook, which buttons to press, learn the difference between quick pressure and natural pressure release, and get a boatload of indexed recipes from breakfast to sides to dessert.
  • How to Use an Instant Pot: The New York Times has created this indispensable page, written by Melissa Clark (who has a new book out, Dinner in an Instant). Consider this your ABC primer. Clark breaks down every component of the multicooker and how you’d want to use it, as well as how to experiment with it. Just as important, she tells you what not to cook in this machine and why. Plus Clark offers some recipes from her new book.

  • Instant Pot Videos: Love a good YouTube cooking video? Then subscribe to Instant Pot on YouTube. You’ll find a wealth of recipes as well as equipment instruction that will get you up to speed. Learn how to make chicken stock, pork roast, unsoaked beans and grains, and chicken and pancetta risotto.
  • Instant Pot Recipes on Pinterest: Finally, the circus that is Pinterest can lead you to some interesting resources for using your multicooker. There are plenty of links to recipes, cheat sheets, cooking time lists, and mistakes to avoid.

While we’re at it, check out Fagor’s site for recipes to create using their (and perhaps your) multicooker.

Are you an Instant Pot or Fagor Multicooker user? Do you have a blog with recipes? Please share it here! And let us know if you have other great online resources we should know about.

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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The Case for Bison

Filed under: Culinary Trends,Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 24, 2017

I’m no vegetarian but I don’t eat nearly as much meat as I used to. I doubt many of us do anymore. And, we’re all looking for ways to make those selections a bit healthier.

Enter the shaggy American buffalo. Known scientifically as bison to distinguish it as a bovine more related to domestic cattle than to Asian and African Cape buffalo, our American buffalo has become a beef alternative.

According to the USDA, there are about 150,000 bison raised on public and private lands in the U.S. They’re huge — a bison bull is the largest animal indigenous to North America. A bull can be taller than six feet at the hump and weigh more than a ton. They’re free ranging for most of their lives, eating hay or grass until the last 90 to 120 days of their lives, when they’re fed grain — not unlike a lot of domestic cattle. Even with the grain diet before slaughter, there’s little marbling, which is why bison meat appears to have a deeper red color than beef before cooking. Neither hormones nor antibiotics are given to bison.

Because bison meat is very lean, it will cook faster than traditional grain-fed beef and more like grass-fed beef, so bear that in mind if you’re grilling a bison steak or a burger.

I tried the bison sold at Whole Foods recently. I picked up both a New York steak and a package of ground meat. The bison are are raised in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, and processed at 30 months of age after spending 14 days in the feed lot.

I broiled the steak, seasoning it just with salt and pepper. To accompany it, I made a tomato relish of chopped heirloom tomatoes and red onion, julienned basil, diced jalapeño, minced garlic, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The steak cooked quickly; just a few minutes on each side left it medium rare. It was more tender than I expected and had a lovely sweet flavor.

The following week, I pulled out my pound package of ground bison (packaged as “ground buffalo”) and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I used half to make burgers, which I gently mixed with salt, pepper and fresh jalapeños, then stuffed with about a tablespoon of Purple Haze goat cheese before putting them on the grill.

The rest of the ground bison went into a tomato and red pepper pasta sauce I had made. I’ll be honest; the sauce was just okay so I had frozen what I hadn’t eaten to give me time to figure out what to do with it. With the ground bison, I figured I’d defrost it and make a ragu. The flavors were tremendous. I wanted to dive into the bowl once the pappardelle was gone and lick up every last bit of the sauce. The meat gave it a richness and sweetness that the vegetables alone just couldn’t produce.

Bison comes in most of the same cuts as beef. I saw tri-tips, rib-eyes, and filet mignon at Whole Foods. But it is pricey at around $20+ a pound. The New York steak was about half that. The ground bison is pretty reasonable.

Are you substituting conventional beef with bison? What are you making?

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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As a gardener I’m a great grocery shopper. I come from a long line of excellent gardeners, yet whether it’s my lack of absolute dedication or the ever-compacting clay soil in my little pocket garden, I have yet to attain the success of my mother or her mother in growing a sustainable harvest even just for myself.

My Nana had a victory garden of at least an acre in East Los Angeles during the Depression and going into the privation of World War II. My mom recalls her using fish bones from the fish monger to fertilize the soil and growing every vegetable you can imagine, as well as berries and tons of flowers. My mom inherited this talent. All the years she had a garden she was like a plant whisperer. They responded to her with magnificent offerings–Meyer lemon trees weighted down with golden fruit, basil plants bursting with clean wide anise-scented leaves, zucchini and tomatoes enough to make Italians weep with delight.

Me? I compost and compost and the soil still seizes up. I get white fly on my Meyer lemon trees that never quite goes away. And some little varmints are stealing my ripe harvest.

And yet. There I am year after year tending to this lovely little space, and despite my shortcomings and that of the soil, I usually get a small if regular crop.

All this is to say if I can do it, so can you.

This isn’t a gardening blog, but many personal chefs and home cooks love to grow their own food. I’m no different. There’s such joy in picking a cucumber or pepper or handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that I grew from seed or seedling. It makes cooking and eating them that much more satisfying. My year-round edible garden includes Mexican tarragon, Greek oregano, English thyme, garlic chives, Italian parsley, Meyer lemons, limes, Thai chilis, sorrel, and a basil bush that produces year round. Then there are the seasonal plantings. In late spring, I planted three types of cherry tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, string beans, basil, more chiles, plus some strawberries. Some are in pots; some in the soil. All seem to be thriving so far.

So, given my tendency to growing failure, I thought I’d offer up some suggestions for what does work and, hopefully, give inspiration to the soil challenged.

Let’s start with my annual favorite: Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. I grow these in a large pot on the sun-drenched part of my patio. In the 16 years I’ve lived in my house I think I’ve only had one year of failure. This variety is easy to grow and you may find that the only reason you have nothing to bring into your kitchen is because you’ve munched on all the ripe ones while hand watering. They’re like eating candy. But if you do have enough ripe at one time to make a meal, halve them and serve with fresh ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil on toasted sourdough bread. Or toss with pasta and pesto. Or mix with watermelon chunks, feta, and basil leaves as a salad, drizzled with olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar.

Japanese eggplant: I’ve always grown this successfully in a pot but after working my garden soil decided to try planting it in the ground this summer. And, woo hoo, I’ve got gorgeous fruit coming in. I only have one plant so my harvest will be limited, but when the first little guy is ripe, it’ll probably be sliced lengthwise, pierced in a few places, then layered first with a thick coating of minced garlic and olive oil, followed by a layer of grated parmesan before heading under the broiler for a few minutes. Of course, you can also stir fry or grill these slender eggplants, or even pickle them.

String beans: This was an experiment last year and they did so well, I got another couple of plants this year and, as you can see, they’re popping out! These bush beans are pretty easy to manage and I love the sweet crunch they give when fully ready for picking. If I can keep from just snacking on them, I like to blanch them and include them in a summer salad with sliced radishes and cucumbers, tossed with a light vinaigrette.

Zucchini: This black zucchini variety–like almost any zucchini variety–has a mind of its own and its mind says “Be fruitful and multiply!” I can never decide whether to pick the gorgeous blossoms and stuff them or wait for the fruit. Currently I’m waiting for the first fruit to mature. Once I’ve had my fill, the blossoms will be snatched for stuffing with creamy cheeses before being dunked in a light beer batter and fried–or simply chopped and added to a quesadilla or omelet. I love having choices!

Peppers: No matter how bad things get in the garden, which includes stealing by varmints, peppers are my salvation. The local thieves don’t seem interested in them. I’ve had one Thai chili plant for years and it keeps popping out the hot stuff every summer. Last year I planted a Hungarian pepper plant that produced beautiful round fruit. I never pulled it and once again it’s heavy with green balls that will eventually turn a vibrant red. The same with my bell pepper plant in a big pot on the patio. It just keeps giving and giving so long as I water, feed, and weed it. I also have new serrano and jalapeño plants, both full of fruit, planted in the ground. It’s so cool to make a salsa and just go out the door with a little clipper to harvest what I need.

This morning I did one of my favorite garden chores–I fed the plants with fish emulsion, a byproduct of fish waste. This stinky source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is fabulous for photosynthesis, flowering, and fruit development. And, with its potent odor, it’s the rare plant food that makes you feel like something’s happening from the moment it hits the soil. When I feed them fish emulsion I feel like I’ve really done something wonderful for all my little garden babies.

You don’t need me to share the plentiful variety of gardening resources out there, whether online or at the bookstore (although I will give a shout out to my high school friend Nan Sterman, who has a terrific KPBS show called A Growing Passion). All I can emphasize is that you should buy organic seeds or seedlings from reputable resources, use lots of compost to both amend your soil and protect it from the heat, and water as needed. I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a pail in my shower to collect water since in California we’re still technically in a drought. That helps. So does composting. And to keep nasty bugs at bay, use natural pest control–whether it’s planting flowers that attract insects that will eat your critters or spraying with non-toxic, natural pesticides. Soon you’ll also start seeing bees and hummingbirds. That’s when you know you’ve created a magical little ecosystem.

What else? Oh, how about have fun!

Are you a gardener? What’s in your garden this summer?

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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Think about the last time you cooked fish for a client. Was it a salmon filet or steak? Perhaps a piece of swordfish or tuna? When you bought it was it already wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray accompanied by a sad little lemon slice?

If that’s the case, wow, are you and your clients are missing out because cooking a whole fish—or cooking a fish whole—can lead to richer flavors and, let’s face it, less waste.

Now no one’s expecting you to purchase a whole tuna or swordfish. In fact, when it comes to sustainability, buying the smaller fish species is actually a better idea since there are usually just more of them. We’re talking anything from sardines and sand dabs to trout and rockfish and snapper.

Cooking a whole fish can be as easy as stuffing it with aromatics, then encasing and baking it in salt. It makes for a fun meal for dinner parties, allowing clients to dig out the juicy pieces and enjoy parts of the fish that have great flavor, like the cheeks and collars.

It’s also less expensive per pound because you, not the store, are the labor. And, importantly, it’s a sustainable way to eat because you’re utilizing all of the fish.

It’s certainly how I grew up eating. One of my dad’s favorite meals to prepare was rainbow trout, which he would clean, dredge in flour, and then sauté until the skin was crispy and the flesh an opaque white. He taught my siblings and me how to filet the fish and remove the skeleton so we wouldn’t choke. His other favorite fish dish, still a treat, is preparing sand dabs, which are tiny delicate flatfish that he cleaned, then also pan fried. At those meals, eating was more than just cutting up food and popping bites in the mouth. It was an adventure and required both patience and some skill. It made the otherwise routine family dinner fun!

My friend and San Diego chef Andrew Spurgin takes cooking a whole fish up a few notches. His salt-encrusted fish is easy to make and creates a presentation worthy of a dinner party. Basically, you need a couple of boxes of kosher salt as well as egg whites, which are gently beaten and spread on the fish to allow the salt to adhere to it. Depending on the flavor profile you’re after, you need herbs, citrus, and spices for stuffing the cavity. And you’ll want to make a dipping sauce for the fish once it’s emerged from the salt. And that fish, released from its salt coffin, will be some of the moistest, most flavorful fish you’ve ever enjoyed.

That’s cooking a fish whole. But you can also cook a whole fish and break it down yourself, then cook up individual pieces. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, especially if your fishmonger does the cleaning for you. It’s also a hugely sustainable approach to utilizing seafood.

These are the four basic steps:

  1. Lift the pectoral fin (just below the head) and, using a flexible filet knife, cut across the shoulder. Turn the fish spine toward you and slice down the spine. Cut across the bottom of the fish, just above the tail. Then turn the fish belly toward you and slice from the shoulder cut down to the anal cavity. Then angle the knife parallel to the body and slice evenly down to the tail to create a filet. Flip the fish over and repeat. This is the main event—meat you can bake, grill, or fry. On some fish, like hiramasa, you’ll also have a section of ribs. Cut along the blood line, then remove and cut into rib sections. Gomes says they’re terrific dipped in a panko batter and deep fried.
  2. Cut the triangular section just under the head and below the fins. That’s the collar. The meat is full of fat and flavor. Save that to bake, grill, or fry. Gomes calls these “the chicken wings of the sea.”
  3. Cut off the rest of the head and split it to open flat. Get rid of the gills and then grill or bake the head to enjoy the sweet cheek meat.
  4. What’s left is the carcass. Don’t toss it. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and little lemon juice and put it on the grill or sauté it. Use a fork to scrape off the meat and enjoy.

Since we’re just easing our way into summer, grilling whole fish is a great weekend entertaining treat for client dinner parties. All you need is a flat grilling surface, like a plancha, and your favorite seasonings—or just salt, pepper, and lemon juice. The result will be sweet and beautifully moist meat guests will fight over.

Pacific Salt-Crusted Fish with Ginger Scallion Sauce

From Andrew Spurgin

Serves three to four

3-4 pound whole fish such as snapper, grouper or sea bass, scaled and cleaned, fins and gills removed by your fishmonger
1 fresh kaffir lime, sliced (replace with key lime if unavailable)
3 kumquats, sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves, slightly crushed before use
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced on bias
8 sprigs cilantro
2 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup wakame seaweed, crushed (eliminate if you want to)
4 egg whites
1 ½ 3-pound boxes Kosher salt
Water

For sauce:
½ cup scallions, whites and green, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh young ginger (different from typical ginger), very finely minced
½ teaspoon citrus flavored soy sauce (kinko ponzu shoyu)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon fish sauce
Sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºf.

Fill the belly and mouth cavity with the kaffir lime, kaffir lime leaves, kumquats, lemongrass, four sprigs of cilantro and the garlic

In a large bowl mix whip the egg whites until softly peaked, fold in the kosher salt and wakame seaweed. Add a little water to get to the consistency of a snowball. Too wet and salt will crack when baked.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

Lay down approximately ¾” layer of kosher salt, place the fish on top. Cover the entire fish with the salt mixture, approximately ¾” thick; basically you’re making a salt oven.

Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

To make the sauce, mix together the scallions, young ginger, yuzu-soy sauce, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, and fish sauce. Sprinkle with sea salt. Taste and adjust if needed. Set aside.

Remove fish from oven and, with a heavy kitchen knife, lightly tap around the bottom edge of the salt crust (near the sheet pan) until cracked all the way around. Carefully lift off the salt crust, it will pull away from the fish. Lightly brush off any remaining salt flakes from the fish with a pastry brush.

Slice down the dorsal side of fish and just behind the head, slice the filet just before the tail. Carefully slice the fish lengthwise to split the top filets in half. Gently lift out the two filets, check for pin bones, and place on a warmed serving platter.

Carefully pull out the backbone, from tail end. All, or most, of the other bones will come with it. Lift out the lower filets as you did with the upper ones

Top with Maldon sea salt, if needed. Serve the scallion ginger sauce on the side. Garnish with remaining cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Serving suggestion:

Serve with simple cucumber salad with Thai basil, mint, bean shoots and shredded cabbage. Toss in a vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, nước mắm, sugar and chilies. Flash fried wontons on the side.

Great with a dry Riesling wine or Champagne!

Alternative filling:

Parsley, thyme, basil, bay leaf, lemon and garlic. Serve with slowly roasted cherry tomatoes ON the vine. Roast tomatoes with sliced shallots, garlic, thyme sprig, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve warm on the side with torn fresh opal and green basil. Squeeze lemon on fish and drizzle with good olive oil

How do you prepare whole fish? We’d love to hear from you!

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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It’s so easy for contemporary home cooks and chefs who consider themselves sophisticated in the kitchen to poo poo casseroles. Many of us grew up in the days of tuna embalmed in noodles and Campbell’s mushroom soup. Or macaroni and ground beef. Yeah, we’ve all been there.

But think of it this way: lasagna is essentially a casserole and we all love lasagna. It’s really a matter of what you do with the concept, which is basically a meal in a baking dish. For some, it’s a way to use up leftover ingredients. For others, it’s the quintessential dish you bring with love to friends or family who are too stressed (from grief, illness, new babies) to be able to make meals themselves. For personal chefs, it can be an easy way to prepare a comprehensive meal packed with nutrition in a single container that just needs reheating by clients.

I got to thinking about this recently when I saw a piece on casseroles in The Kitchn. They ran a list of casserole links and what was interesting was that recipes not only described how to prepare the dish but in advance of that, how to prep the ingredients for freezing and provide instructions to the recipient for  making it later.

One of those recipes struck a chord with me. It was baked chicken with rice. Once I sorted through the freezing instructions, which I didn’t need, I realized that this was a casserole I could fall in love with. After all, it takes two dishes I really enjoy–roasted or baked chicken and grains filled with vegetables and herbs and spices. All this does it put them together in an easy-to-make, one-dish meal.

Like all great casseroles, you can change this up, depending on the season or the ingredients you have or prefer. I happened to find elephant garlic scapes at a specialty market in San Diego. These are a rare find so I nabbed what I thought I could use (I usually make pesto with scapes) and decided to add some to my casserole, along with mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, and onion.

You could add sliced kalamata olives and capers for one specific flavor profile. Or you could go in a totally different direction with tomatillos, fresh poblano or Anaheim chiles. Or eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, pine nuts, and za’atar. Cooking for one? I do–and I easily cut this recipe in half for two meals. I just used a smaller baking dish.

So, use this as a foundation for building your own one-dish wonder for clients. I hope you’ll share with us what you came up with.

Chicken and Whole Grains Casserole
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
½ cup of your favorite vinaigrette
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup garlic cloves sliced (or, when in season, garlic scapes)
1 cup marinated artichoke heart quarters
2 cups brown rice
¼ cup wheat berries, wild rice, farro, or other grains
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups water, white wine, or chicken broth, depending on your preference

Directions
1. The day before you make the dish, combine the chicken thighs and vinaigrette in a freezer bag. Seal and massage the bag to coat the chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
3. Grease a 9X13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
4. Combine the vegetables, grains, and herbs and spices in the baking dish. Stir in the liquids. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them on top of the grains mixture.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover the dish and bake for up to another hour. You want the grains to have absorbed the liquid and the chicken to be cooked through with crispy skin.

Do you enjoy a casserole or make them for clients? What is your favorite?

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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La Cocina Que Canta

One of my favorite food writing jobs was contributing to Rancho La Puerta’s blog and app. Every month, I would go down to their cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta, and participate in a hands-on class taught by a renowned cooking teacher, restaurateur, or cookbook author. One month it was Deborah Madison and it was memorable. For one thing, it was pouring rain, so the usual routine of participants first going to the magnificent garden just outside of the cooking school and picking the produce before returning to cook had to be scratched. But that was okay because the plan for that day was to make soup.

The kitchen

So, 15 of us sat around a long table and Madison led us through what you could call the soup-making journey—10 basic steps that most soups require, a concept she developed for her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a book she’s just updated and reissued. See, while recipes are wonderful, being liberated from them to make delicious soups through inspiration and basic knowledge is something any cook or chef aspires to. Of course, we had seven of her recipes on hand to guide us in the kitchen that rainy day—from Red Lentil Soup with Lime and Spinach to Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese (recipe below).

New Vegetarian Cookbook

Not familiar with Madison? You should be. A chef, writer, and clearly talented cooking teacher, she was among the first contemporary chefs to develop the farm-to-table menu style now so popular among restaurants across the country. With Greens restaurant in San Francisco, where she was the founding chef in 1979, Madison established a career that has led to more than a dozen cookbooks (which have earned awards from IACP and the James Beard Foundation among others) and writing assignments from Saveur, Cooking Light, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Garden Design.

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While she admitted she doesn’t spend time thinking about the connection between words and food, Madison believes that food is bigger than a recipe and has everything to do with what we are. For her food is a lens through which anyone can view his or her life.

“It has nothing to do with being interested in food, or a good cook, or a lousy one, or a foodie or any of that,” she told me that day. “It has to do with everything we are, starting with nurture or the lack thereof.”

Given her enthusiasm for the bounty of the garden and farm, it makes sense that Madison’s starting point is the contemplative space of her home garden in New Mexico, and the community scene of the local farmers market. In fact, Madison spent time as a market manager and is a big fan of the Santa Fe Farmers Market. “It’s about running into friends, some of whom are the farmers, exchanging greetings and news, maybe sharing a recipe idea for some new squash or other produce, sometimes planning an impromptu dinner.”

One of her books, Local Flavors, gives advice on how to shop at a farmers market, but she also offered some tips for those just venturing away from the grocery store and into the open air:

  • First of all, shopping at a farmers market for the first time is an adventure, and adventures are good for us to have, so go with an open mind and don’t worry.
  • Always make a pass through the market and take a look at what’s there, the prices, the quality, what appeals to you, before you buy. That way you get the lay of the land. As you shop more and more at a market, you may find you have favorite vendors that you always return to—I know I do —but even so, I like to take a look around first just to see what’s there.
  • Do accept tastes and ask questions about foods that may be unfamiliar.  And just because you took a taste of something, it doesn’t mean you have to buy. You’re sampling and informing yourself.
  • If you feel very unsure about what the food you see at the farmers market, for you might well see different varieties than what’s in the supermarket, start with those vegetables and fruits that are familiar, that you already use—carrots, onions, garlic, apples, strawberries. Then maybe choose one food that’s new to you—a white eggplant, a different variety of cabbage, an exotic fruit.

Once you have that produce back home—and maybe it’s a soup kind of day like ours was—Madison has suggestions that include making your own quick vegetable stock from the trimmings you would ordinarily immediately toss into the compost pile, tasting the soup not just for more salt but perhaps acid to create balance (it turns out a little lemon juice can go a long way to creating that “aha” flavor moment), and to just make plenty.

“Soup generally gets better as it sits,” Madison said. “It can make an instant homemade meal when you’ve got a big pot on hand, and, if you give a little thought to the garnishes and textures, you can turn one pot into many soups.”

That’s the über cooking teacher offering practical guidance. But now that we’re into cool, even cold, weather when soups become more than just a flavorful meal but, in their heartiness, are embracing and nurturing, it’s worth thinking about the connections Madison draws between food and our inner lives.

“Perhaps that’s where the magic lies,” she proposed. “Food is really about our larger, deeper lives, and we all have those, whether we’re close to our deeper selves or not.”

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Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Serves 6

“This grain-based soup is light, delicious, pretty, fresh, and very simple to make. And with the quinoa, it’s highly nutritious. What more could one ask of a recipe?” DM

Ingredients
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 small bunch spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and chopped
8 ounces Yukon Gold or other potato, diced in 1/4-inch cubes
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt, to taste, and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, finely diced in small cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced in rounds, including a few of the greens
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 hard-cooked egg, diced (optional)

1. Simmer the quinoa in 7 cups water for 10 minutes. When the quinoa is done, drain it, reserving the water, which you’ll use in the soup.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, cut the vegetables and set them aside.
3. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan with the garlic and chile, cook for about 30 seconds, without browning the garlic, then add the cumin, salt and potatoes. Measure the quinoa cooking liquid plus water, if needed, to make 6 cups. Add it to the vegetables, bring to a boil, then add the quinoa and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Taste for salt and season the soup with pepper. Add the cheese, then stir in the spinach and the scallions. As soon as the spinach is wilted, serve the soup, garnished with the cilantro and hard-cooked egg, if using.

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Is there a chef/cookbook author who inspires you? Tell us about that connection!

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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