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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APPCA member Jim Huff of the Traveling Culinary Artist in New York is a self-described Nutella-holic, constantly fiddling with Nutella desserts. He admits that many have been complete failures while others have been just passable, thanks to the Nutella. And there have been some good and a few great. One of the great ones is this bread pudding.

So, how did it come about? As chefs, I’m sure you’ve had what you thought was a great idea for a dish that contains an ingredient you’re passionate about. Then reality hits as you struggle to turn that concept into reality. This bread pudding was no different. Its roots come from banana bread, specifically Kathy Huff’s Banana Nut Bread. Jim’s wife made this on request for get togethers f0r years. The recipe itself was no secret. It came from the Jiffy Mix baking mix box. Unfortunately, by the late ’80s, Jiffy Mix was becoming hard to find and what Jim could find didn’t yield the delicious bread everyone had loved.

“We ordered some directly from Jiffy and by the time we used them up they must have been stale because the famous Banana Nut Bread was never as good as we remembered,” Jim says.

In the meantime, Jim’s grandmother had given him James Beard’s famous Beard on Bread cookbook, which Jim fell in love with. So the Huffs started making the quick breads from the book. 

Then Nutella entered the equation. According to Jim, “The idea for the recipe came from two of these experiments. 1. Nutella Bread Pudding–great concept boring application. Might as well have made good brioche toast with Nutella spread on it!  2. Banana bread with Nutella swirled a la Marble cake. The Nutella ended up gathering itself while baking and the result was more like blobs than swirls!  My quest for a great Nutella Bread Pudding led me to the Internet. I found lots of recipes adding bananas and or chocolate chips, etc.  Then I had an epiphany, what if I used Banana Bread!  I found many bread pudding recipes using banana bread, now to adapt, using bananas, Nutella and Chocolate Chips.”

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding

Good enough, but then there was the quest to turn this concept into individual desserts, something that could be served at the dinner parties he caters.

“We find we get great response for people receiving their ‘own’ self-contained slice of heaven versus an actual slice of something made en masse,” he explains. “So simultaneously my Internet searches included bread pudding in muffin tin recipes.”

The problem was coming up with the right ratio of bread to custard, plus factoring in using muffin tins. Every chef friend and home baker Jim consulted had their own advice–more milk/less egg, soak longer/don’t soak. “A less obsessed person would have moved on,” he jokes.

But eventually, after many failed attempts they finally got the right proportions of bread, custard, Nutella, and banana bread down pat–and they did their testing in oversized muffin tins. The biggest test? How would their son-in-law, also a borderline Nutella-holic like it? But all was well after sending their daughter home with two. His comment after his second bite? “There’s only two?”

Cross section

Jim and Kathy added the bread pudding to their menu, pairing it with vanilla gelato and caramel drizzle. They got their first request for a client party of 10 and plated their new creation over raspberry sauce. Everyone loved it but couldn’t finish it because the portion was too big. So, they’ve downsized it to standard muffin size. And, as Jim says, “They’re always devoured completely!”

The recipe is still a work in progress. The Beard on Bread recipe calls for nuts, which Jim’s omitted. But now he says he’ll be experimenting–with hazelnuts of course.

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding
from Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist
Servings: 6

Use the banana bread recipe you like. We link below to the banana bread recipe found in Beard on Bread, which is what Jim uses.

Ingredients:

6 slices banana bread, ¾”-1” thick
4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup Nutella
3  large eggs
1  cup whole milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1/2  cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Cut the banana  bread into small cubes.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes to create dry stale bread. Cut into cubes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl mash the ripe bananas with a potato masher. Add in the Nutella and mix with the masher until blended with the potato masher. Add the eggs and mix until blended, add the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Stir.

Once fully mixed add your bread cubes and stir until the bread is totally wet. Let it soak for 10 minutes. Stir again and spoon mix into a 6 cup extra large muffin tins. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350°F 25 to 30 minutes until set.  Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove from the tins and serve immediately.

Serve with vanilla gelato and a drizzle of salted caramel!

Ready for plating

Do you have a recipe you’re passionate about that took awhile to reach perfection? Share your story!

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Like Candy and Dennis, I live in San Diego. And I’m cold. All of you on the East Coast and Midwest may laugh but thin-skinned San Diegans have been living in temperatures in the 50s with winds and rain. We’re shivering, actually wearing jackets and rain boots, turning up the heat in the furnace.

And eating a lot of soup.

I’m sure each of you has your favorite for the winter months. I know I have a bunch–hot and sour, roasted tomato, lentil, and, of course, chicken soup come immediately to mind. But one that truly warms me is this Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens. It’s hearty and thick, thanks to the barley and beef. And the umami flavor that comes from the mushrooms (my favorite to use are dense shitakes) gives it a rich, earthy mouth feel.

Shitake mushrooms, barley, garlic

Plus, like most soups, once you wrangle the ingredients, it’s so simple to make–and then freeze in individual containers for weeks to come.

A note about the barley. While pearled barley is the most common you’ll find, try to find hulled barley. This is the whole grain version of the grain. Both are chewy. Both are healthy. But compared with pearled barley, where the outer husk and bran layers are removed, hulled barley only has the outermost layer removed, which makes it even more nutritious. Remember, also that with the additional layers removed, pearl barley takes less time to cook than hulled barley.

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Can you change this up to suit your clients’ or your own preferences? Of course! If you have vegetarian or vegan clients, eliminate the meat and use vegetable stock and more mushrooms. For those who don’t eat beef, substitute with chicken and chicken stock. Use multiple varieties of mushrooms and multiple types of greens. Add root vegetables and winter squash. Consider this a template and make it your own.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound of boneless beef short ribs, cut into cubes
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, grated
3/4 cup of barley, preferably hulled
1 quart of beef stock (if using meat, otherwise you can use chicken or vegetable stock)
A couple of splashes of good dry sherry
Salt
Pepper
3 cups or so of Swiss chard or kale

Directions

Use a large stock pot. If you’re including the beef, heat the pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom, let that heat for a minute till it shimmers and then add the beef. Let it brown on all sides and then remove and set aside.

Add a splash more olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. Sauté on low heat until the onion turns translucent and just a little golden.

Then start adding everything else: the mushrooms and carrots, then the beef, then the pearl barley. Then add the liquid. If that’s not enough to cover the contents, add a little water, then a splash or so of sherry to up the flavor. Finally add some salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom Barley soup

Mix it well. Then bring it all to a strong simmer and skim the fat. After that, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook for a couple of hours and toward the end of the cooking time, add the greens. Adjust the amounts if it doesn’t look right to you. Add other ingredients you might like. Cook until they’re wilted and serve.

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

What’s your favorite winter soup to make for yourself or clients? 

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

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Phyllo rolls

Are you launching a catering service under your personal chef business umbrella? If so, you may be looking to build your appetizer recipe repertoire. We have just the pass-around app for you for this season: Savory Ricotta + Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls!

I got this recipe years ago from Atlanta chef Alisa Barry when she was visiting our region and teaching at Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta. Her Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls was so straightforward and so divine I knew I’d be making them for parties. And I have, twice. Plus, I made them with the kids when I taught at Olivewood Gardens.

So, what is it that makes this such a winning recipe? I love the crunch of baked phyllo combined with the lusciousness of ricotta and wilted Swiss chard. The touch of nutmeg adds a spicy note. But, what’s truly great about this recipe is how versatile it is. Add tiny pieces of preserved lemon. Add toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Or, as I did the last time, add scallions, marash pepper for some subtle heat, and plump raisins soaked in Grand Marnier for sweetness.

rolling up

The other change I made to Alisa’s recipe was to the assembly part. Alisa calls for folding one sheet of phyllo dough twice. That’s fine, but yesterday I decided to make the rolls a little thinner so I sliced the sheet in half lengthwise and folded it just once. Since you roll the filled dough like a cigar, it’s still plenty thick. But, I leave that choice to you.

Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls
Adapted from Alisa Barry

1, 1 pound box frozen phyllo (or filo) dough (follow the directions on the box for thawing)

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups mixed winter greens (Swiss chard, kale, arugula, for example)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large scallions (green onions), sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Marash pepper or other red pepper flakes
3/4 cup raisins, marinated for at least two hours in Grand Marnier
1 container (15 ounces) of ricotta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For Assembly:
Olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking sheet/s with olive oil (or use parchment paper.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and add garlic, greens, scallions, and salt. Cook until wilted. Strain excess liquid and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. Add Marash pepper, ricotta, drained raisins, and nutmeg to greens and mix well.

4. To assemble, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough* and slice in half lengthwise. Brush both pieces lightly with olive oil. Fold in half lengthwise. Spoon two teaspoons of the filling mix at the short end of the dough and roll up like a cigar. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, placing each roll on the baking sheet. Brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

baking

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Depending on the quality of the phyllo and how many usable sheets you get, you should have about 3 dozen rolls.

*Note: When working with phyllo, be sure to keep the sheets from drying out. Dampen a dish towel and lay it over the stacked dough, removing it only to remove a sheet of dough and then placing it back over the stacked dough.

Just out of the oven

Are you developing new appetizer recipes for new catering gigs? What will be on your menu?

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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Crabby salad2

We’ve written about Suzy Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services. Suzy is a longtime APPCA member and recently started using essential oils. We’ve long been curious about these oils–what they are and how they’re used in the kitchen so we asked Suzy to give us a primer. If you, too, have been wondering about them, you’ll want to ready Suzy’s post below and enjoy the recipe she’s included that incorporates two essential oils:

I went into my local nutrition store and picked a couple, black pepper and lemon, then started learning more about the healing properties of EOs. What I found out is that while they are rising in popularity today, using plants for healing dates back thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals have their origins in plants. And it’s not uncommon today to use lavender oil for calmness or ginger to treat nausea. Using essential oils in cooking, however, requires research because some EOs are only meant to be used topically, as cleaners, or sprays, not ingested, while others that are edible are very strong and could cause problems if they aren’t used correctly. Look for a supplemental facts area on the bottles, which notes the oils are safe to ingest.

Once I felt I understand how essential oils worked, I started teaching a monthly class on their healing properties and how to cook with them.

Here are answers to some of the most basic questions I get about EOs:

What is an essential oil (EO)? EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, skins and/or seeds. Funnily enough, EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to perform various functions with a few drops.

What purpose do they serve? EOs can provide a myriad of benefits to the body, mind, spirit…and wallet! EOs are used to treat everything from anxiety to yeast infections. All EOs are adaptogens, a natural substance that promotes a balancing reaction in the body.

EOs work by targeting the cause of the problem rather than simply addressing a symptom(s). In some cases you are likely to experience rapid relief and steady improvement. Many EOs are analgesics, acting directly with the nervous system to subdue pain; anti-inflammatory; antiseptics; promote relaxation and stress relief.

Let me give you two examples of how the two favorites I mentioned above work:

Black Pepper: Spleen strengthening, digestive issues, stress reducer, natural painkiller, stimulates the circulatory system, added to hot water or tea, savory dishes.

Lemon: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, fights (colds, flu, fever, headaches). Add to water, warm or cold for a natural detox. Flavor Enhancer for savory, sweet, cocktails.

How are EOs made? EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, including water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. For example, citrus EOs are cold pressed. One pound of essential oil requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. So, for instance, one pound of rosemary EO requires 66 pounds of fresh rosemary.

Are EOs safe to digestWhile contemporary society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, civilizations have been using them for centuries. Today, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven safe to ingest.

When you buy essential oils, look for organic, therapeutic-grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company labels that include the following: 100 percent natural, an English plant name, a botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. And they should state they are safe to ingest.

What is the toxicity of EOs? Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic when ingested in large doses. A little goes a long way. It only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they may experience these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, list has been tested with contemporary technology. Note, per the FDA, there are oils that are NOT recommended for ingestion, and oils that are not recommended for use by folks with particular medical conditions, or who are pregnant or nursing.

How do you cook with EOs? First, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic, therapeutic-grade oils (these oils are 100 percent pure). Also, keep in mind brand reputation. Choose products from reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe.

Some of my favorite EOs you’ll find in my kitchen include black pepper, cilantro, grapefruit, lemon, all varieties of citrus, and peppermint. Below is my recipe for “Crabby Salad,” which features black pepper and lemon essential oils.

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“Crabby” Salad Featuring Black Pepper & Lemon Essential Oils
Recipe by The Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients:

  • 1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
  • 5 cups fresh celery, minced (baby leaves too)
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, vegan or homemade preferred
  • Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
  • Large pinch Himalayan Salt
  • 4 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 2 to 4 drops lemon essential oil

In a large mixing bowl add in the chickpeas. Dice the hearts of palm into small pieces, about the size of the garbanzo bean. Mince all the remaining vegetables and add them into the mixing bowl. Toss with the mayo, spices and essential oils. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serving suggestions:

  • Lettuce cups
  • Avocado half
  • With crackers
  • If you mash the garbanzo beans a bit you can even put this salad into a sandwich

Essential Oil Chefs Notes:

  • Start with 1 drop of oil then taste.
  • Adjust as needed.
  • Remember you can always add… you can not remove.

Are you using essential oils for cooking? What are your favorites?

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

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

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Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes

Happy 2017! With the holidays in the rear-view mirror now, we’re guessing clients are asking you for more healthy meals. Maybe they’re going vegetarian–or at least cutting back on meats. This dish isn’t the most low fat, but let’s say it’s for those times when clients want a vegetable dish but also want a little indulgence. Plus, you can make the Spicy Chipotle Mayo on its own to serve on sandwiches or top tacos or tostadas. It’s wonderfully versatile.

If you’re familiar with elotes you know that they’re a summertime treat–traditional Mexican street food in the form of corn on the cob that’s been grilled to smoky perfection, sprinkled lavishly with salt and chile powder, then slathered with mayo or crema, and topped with cotija cheese and lime juice. One crunchy bite yields layers of popping flavors and textures.

Of course, corn is summer crop. So what to do when it’s unavailable? One of my favorite hang outs is Galaxy Taco in La Jolla. Its chef de cuisine Christine Rivera says take the basic concept and extend it to other vegetables–in this case, Brussels sprouts.

For the Brussels sprouts dish the idea was to create the same flavor profile as traditional elotes, but use vegetables currently in season. I love the charred, smoky flavor the roasting gives the Brussels sprouts. Combining them with the heat and richness of the Spicy Chipotle Mayo, the acid of the lime juice and the salty cheese creates a lively bite that makes you just keep digging in. It brightens the fundamental earthiness of the Brussels sprouts. I can see making this dish with corn kernels, with cauliflower, string beans, carrots, and baby artichokes. It’s just a perfect side to add to your repertoire for clients.

Adding the ingredients

While the finishing of the dish is done in a cast iron skillet, Rivera pre-cooks the Brussels sprouts to cut the working time. Here she roasts them in a pan with olive oil. She also makes the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so that the flavors come together. Be sure to get everything prepped before starting because the stovetop cooking goes very quickly.

Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes (Street Corn)
Christine Rivera of Galaxy Taco
Yield: 4 to 6 servings as a side dish

You can use Brussels sprouts—or other vegetables you enjoy—to make this dish when corn is out of season. Or instead of corn, if you like. If you make it with corn, you can grill the corn on the cob and add the ingredients when you serve the corn (traditional style) or remove the corn from the cob and prepare it as directed below. Be sure to mix up the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so the flavors will meld. Once you get started with the cooking process it will take about five minutes so you want everything prepped and ready to go.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, and halved
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup cilantro, chopped, reserving 1 teaspoon for garnish
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Cotija cheese plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
1 lime, cut in half
Spicy Chipotle Mayo (see below for recipe and make ahead of time*)

Spicy Chipotle Mayo
1 cup mayo
1 chile from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (you can find this in your local supermarket)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine and mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts in extra virgin olive oil and salt. Roast Brussels sprouts for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on size) and let them chill.

Place a pan on the stove at a low medium heat, add extra virgin olive oil. Once the pan is hot add Brussels sprouts. Toss them to cook evenly, then add cotija cheese, cilantro (saving some for a garnish), and lime juice from half a lime. Stir for about 5 minutes on low to medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chipotle mayo. Stir well to insure that the mayo is evenly distributed. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the reserved cotija cheese and cilantro on top and squeeze the second half of the lime.

Christine Rivera and dish2

What new dishes are you incorporating this year for clients? Any you want to share with readers?

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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Spatchcock Your Client’s Holiday Turkey

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 19, 2016

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Yeah, I know. For some people a roasted turkey is strictly a Thanksgiving affair. But many people also feature turkey for the Christmas holiday table. Turkeys can be a challenge. You want the skin crisp but if only the breast if facing the heat, the skin on the thighs below tends to get greasy and unpleasant. You want moist white meat but it can get overcooked while waiting for the dark meat to reach the right temperature. Bottom line? Roasting a turkey can be an aggravating guessing game.

So, I’m going to make it easy for you. Spatchcock your bird and roast it at high heat.

Spatchcocking is a way of breaking down the bird so it will rest flat in a roasting pan and cook evenly. You avoid the age-old problem of having the white meat dry out while the dark meat continues to cook below. Instead, you have moist meat from the drumstick to the breast. And because it roasts at high heat, the turkey cooks quickly and the skin all over the turkey is fully exposed, making it all nice and crisp.

But heads up–it really only works well with turkeys 14 pounds and smaller so it will fit in a roasting pan. Think that’s not a big enough bird for a crowd? Well, I had 14 people for Thanksgiving dinner at my house and with all the sides that 14-pound bird was plenty and there were still some leftovers.

Here’s how you do it. Place the turkey on a cutting board and pull out whatever may be in the cavity (neck, giblets), trim any excess fat, and drain the bird of any liquid. Pat it down with paper towels so it’s as dry as possible. Using a very good pair of kitchen shears, cut the bird from one end to the other along the backbone. Most people cut the backbone out entirely but I like to keep it and roast it too. When you’ve done that open up the bird skin side up with the breast facing you. Place the heel of one hand over the breast bone and your other hand over the first. Bear down on the breast until you feel and hear a crack. That would be the breast bone. Now your turkey can rest flat on the pan, which is where it should now go.

Pre-heat a conventional oven to 450° F.

I season my bird lightly with garlic salt and paprika. Then I rub in olive oil (you can also use butter) and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over before tucking the remaining lemon halves under the bird. You can also add slices of onion and fresh herbs.

Put the turkey in the oven and let it roast for about an hour and 20 minutes. Don’t baste it. Really. Just leave it alone so the skin gets crispy.

At 1 hour, 20 minutes, pull the turkey out of the oven and measure its temperature with a meat thermometer to test if it’s done. The breast should hit 150° and the thigh should be 165°. If you’ve hit that, turn off the oven and lightly tent the turkey (if not, put the turkey back in the oven and try again in five minutes). Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

Yeah, it’s that simple. Here’s my cheat sheet from year to year:

Turkey instructions

 

P.S. This is a great roasting technique for chicken and even Cornish game hens (just shorten the roasting time).

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Turkey Roulade

For many of us Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. Why? Most likely because we gather with people we care about over a great meal–without the pressure of exchanging gifts.

That’s not to say there aren’t other pressures, especially if you’re a personal chef and catering the holiday. Over the years we’ve written a lot on Thanksgiving–offering tips and recipes. So, for this Thanksgiving week post how about we revisit a few of these posts? Below are links to our best Thanksgiving tips and recipes. And at the end is a recipe for a multi-grain salad that can be a great side dish for the holiday meal–and easily be adapted for the vegetarians and vegans at the holiday table.

Chef Suzy Brown's roasted Thanksgiving goose

Chef Suzy Brown’s roasted Thanksgiving goose

Straddling the Holiday Service Dilemma: Can you possibly take on a catering gig or do extra cooking for Thanksgiving for clients and not fall asleep at your own holiday table? It’s a classic personal chef tug of war but APPCA’s founder and executive director Candy Wallace has some pointed suggestions for making this work so you can get the best of both worlds–provide your clients with service and enjoy the holiday yourself.

Prepping

Beth Volpe’s Thanksgiving Turkey Two Ways: Undecided about how to prepare your turkey/s or how to get the dinner on the table so you can enjoy it with your loved ones? APPCA member Beth Volpe of Savory Eats figured out a way to make her Thanksgiving meal two days before so that she would have the holiday to enjoy with her family. “I make a brined, butterflied turkey, the gravy, the dressing, and the cranberry sauce the day before. Come Thanksgiving Day, all I do is slide my turkey in the oven and pour myself a glass of wine.” Beth offers her method of brining the turkey and has an additional recipe for a sensational turkey roulade.

Turkey Stuffing Muffins-small

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. What a cool idea! You could certainly do with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, but take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

FullSizeRender-5

Now how about a Thanksgiving dish that’s also healthy? Grains are always a favorite of mine and grain salads are a no brainer–but have you thought of combining grains in a salad?

Creating a multi-grain salad means you get a more interesting combination of flavors and textures, not to mention colors. It all depends of what you mix together. I love the chew of red wheat berries. They’re perfect with robust vegetables like winter squash and thick-cut portobello mushroom. Quinoa is more delicate and colorful and works well with fruit, red peppers, cheese, beans, and cucumbers. Farro’s nuttiness fits somewhere in the middle. I enjoy combining it with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, and lots of herbs.

I decided to mix these three up together and add fruit in the form of fuyu persimmons and some beans–garbanzo and edamame–for color, texture, and sweetness. I got some crunch from toasted walnuts and pecans.

A word of advice, here. Combining grains doesn’t at all mean cooking them together. It’s a little extra work, but you must cook each grain type separately. If you don’t, you risk getting mush instead of the individual textures and flavors you’re after.

Also feel free to mix together your own combinations of whole grains. Consider barley, brown rice, kamut, and spelt, among others. And all sorts of other seasonal vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs will work well, too. This recipe should be inspiration to create a dish based on what you enjoy and what you find in the markets.

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Three-Grain Salad with Persimmons, Beans, and Nuts
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth for vegetarians)
1/ cup red onion, diced
2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1 cup cooked edamame beans (available at Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 tablespoon Mexican tarragon, chopped

Sherry Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch sugar
pinch salt
pinch ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook each grain according to directions. For the farro and quinoa, the proportions are like rice: 2 to 1 water to grain. Bring the stock or water to the boil, add the grains, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. You’re looking for the stock or water to be absorbed and the grains to still have a little chewiness. For wheat berries, it’s more like 3 to 1 with a longer cooking time, more like 35 to 40 minutes. It’s okay if the water isn’t fully absorbed as long as the grains are cooked and are a little al dente.

In a large bowl combine the grains with the rest of the salad ingredients.

To make the vinaigrette, mix together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Pour enough into the salad to coat the ingredients, but not so much that in drenches it. Serve at room temperature.

Wishing all of our members and friends the happiest of Thanksgivings! We are so grateful to you!

What will you be doing for Thanksgiving? Catering? Enjoying time with friends and family? Both?

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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apple crisp1

When you have type 2 diabetes dessert can be a tricky thing. What everyone immediately fixates on is the sugar. But sugar is really a foil for something larger, which, of course, is carbohydrates. And all carbs are equal when it comes to diabetes management. The other component just as important in managing diabetes is fat. For most of us, our weight is what brought us head to head with the disease. Keeping weight in check through a healthy, low-fat diet along with exercise—and managing blood sugar through carb control—is what will help clients stay healthy in the long run.

So, as we head into the holiday season, where does dessert fall into a healthy diet as you start writing menus for clients? Dessert is an indulgence, a part of the pleasure of a day. But the person with diabetes has to plan for it. My experience has been that it’s all about moderation and portion control—and they’re not necessarily the same thing.

Moderation includes portion control but it also means being discriminating in what you eat. In the context of dessert, for me it means looking for sweets that are mostly made with real fruit or dark chocolate. It means seeking out desserts that are airy—made with lots of egg whites, like angel food cake and sponge cake—which cuts down on the density and carb count. Or simply desserts which call for less sugar than conventional recipes. This is when you need to consult with clients about what this means for them.

Portion control can be tricky. So, you might look for desserts that are by their nature single portion: chocolate mousse servings in a small ramekin, a single piece of dark chocolate, a small honey crisp apple, a bowl of fresh berries. If they want a whole pie or cake you can slice it into individual portions, wrap them, and put them in the freezer. Same with cookies or muffins.

3 kinds of strawberries

I know there are a lot of people who look for sugar-free choices. But what you have to remember about sugar-free options is that they aren’t necessarily lower in fat or carbs. And they usually include chemicals you clients may not want to consume. Yes, there are healthier sugar-free options; honey and maple syrup are favorites and many people love stevia. For a long time, agave nectar was considered a good alternative to sugar but doctors like Andrew Weil are now concerned about the impact of high fructose and are discouraging its use.

You can also figure out workarounds for some sweet treats. For instance, if I want to make a mocha, instead of carb-laden chocolate syrup, I use a couple of teaspoons of honey mixed with a teaspoon or so cocoa powder and some 1 percent milk in a large mug of coffee. It suits me fine and the carb count is much lower.

Your clients may also enjoy desserts that substitute conventional high fat or high sugar ingredients to create a flavorful but healthier result. Here are some suggestions from Fitness Magazine.

But sometimes your clients just want what they want and you have to figure out how to make it work. I love apple pie. If I make one, yes, I’ll have a small slice. But I also discovered that I could make a crisp and by reducing the amount of butter, sugar, and flour—and eating small portions—I could have something healthier since it’s just topping cooked fruit, not encasing it. I keep the bag of crisp mixture in the freezer, pulling out a handful at a time to top a sliced apple or cup of berries. You can do the same for clients.

In the bigger picture, dessert doesn’t and can’t stand alone. In the course of a day, the person working to manage diabetes has to count carbs. If your type 2 diabetic clients allow themselves three servings of carbs in a meal at 15 grams of carbs per serving, you have 45 grams to work with. That needs to include dessert. So, let’s say you want to have a portion of the Cannoli Cream Napoleon in the recipe below. Each serving of that is 11 carbs. That gives you 34 grams of carbs for the rest of the meal. That could be a couple of servings of whole grains with a protein like chicken or fish and low-carb vegetables, like greens. In other words you have to create balance to make it all work so that your weight and blood sugar stay down.

In fact, it’s all about balance. Balancing carb portions, balancing fat and calories, balancing exercise with relaxation, balancing indulgence with healthy choices. Dessert isn’t something your clients have to cut out so much as balance with everything else they’re doing to stay healthy.

Cannoli Cream Napoleon
Prevention Diabetes Diet Cookbook
By the Editors of America’s Leading Healthy Lifestyle Magazine with Ann Fittante, MS, RD
Makes 8 servings

11 grams carbohydrate

Ingredients
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, divided + 1 teaspoon for garnish
3 sheets frozen whole wheat or regular phyllo dough, thawed
Vegetable oil in a spray bottle
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup natural pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the sugar to a small fine sieve, sifter, or dredger. On a work surface, lay out 1 sheet of dough so the shorter sides of the rectangle are left and right. Cut from top to bottom into 4 equal rectangles. Coat the top of 1 rectangle very lightly with vegetable oil. Dust very lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Stack a second small rectangle on top of the first. Coat the top of the second rectangle very lightly with vegetable oil. Dust very lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Repeat the procedure with the remaining 2 small rectangles. Spray and dust the top layer. Carefully transfer the pastry to a large nonstick baking sheet. Repeat cutting and layering with the remaining 2 whole sheets of phyllo dough to make 2 other layered pastries. Bake for about 7 minutes or until crisp and browned. Let stand to cool.
  2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons sugar, orange peel, and extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Place one of the reserved pastry on a rectangular serving plate or tray. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle on half of the pistachios. Cover with the second pastry, the remainder of the ricotta mixture, and the remaining nuts. Top with the remaining pastry. In a small fine sieve, sifter, or dredger, combine the remaining teaspoon sugar with the cocoa powder, if using. Sift over the top of the Napoleon. Cut with a serrated knife.

Note: This dessert is at its finest when served immediately after assembly, but it can be refrigerated, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours without becoming soggy. Alternatively, you can bake the pastry and store it in a cool, dry spot for up to 24 hours. Prepare the ricotta mixture; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Assemble just before serving.

What kinds of modifications have you made for clients with type 2 diabetes? How do you manage dessert?

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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Autumn Braised Chicken

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: — Author: Caron Golden , October 31, 2016

braised mediterranean chicken-2

Do you have a favorite fall comfort dish? Mine is braised chicken. The chicken is transformed into melt-in-your-mouth bites by braising in vegetables that release their juices, along with the fragrant herbs and smokiness from the dry Marsala I usually add. The added bonus is the sweet aroma the kitchen takes on when it’s cooking. It just makes me feel good to be home.

I make this dish many ways, depending on what I’m craving and what ingredients I have, so this is hugely versatile for satisfying the various preferences of clients. Braised chicken is so easy and so versatile you almost don’t need a recipe. What you do need is the chicken, of course, some vegetables, herbs, spices, and white wine. I veer from tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, onions, and leeks to marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, capers, and fennel. Do your clients love carrots and celery? Add them. Winter squash? Eggplant? Go for it. Sometimes I’ll bread the chicken, otherwise I’ll just sprinkle the pieces with salt and black pepper. I like to include dried herbs like oregano, marjoram, and thyme. If I want heat, I’ll add diced chiles or crushed red pepper flakes. Most often I turn to Marsala or sherry, but if I have an open bottle of Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, in that will go. I usually make this just for myself. Two pieces turns into two meals for me. But I’ve made it for six people with a dozen pieces and just added more ingredients to a larger pot. No problem. You may just need to brown the chicken in batches and cook the dish longer.

Braised chicken takes about an hour in a 375° oven. You can use a clay pot (don’t preheat in that case so the pot won’t crack from the shock of the heat) or a heavy metal pot, like a Le Creuset Dutch oven. Whatever you use needs to be oven ready in terms of the handles and lid top for metal pots and pots that can absorb higher heat for clay.

browning skin

Prep your veggies. Then add some olive oil to the pot on the stove and add your seasoned chicken in batches, skin side down, with enough space between them so they don’t steam. Let the skin brown–don’t pull the chicken from the bottom of the pot. Wait to turn the pieces until they lift easily. Brown the second side and remove. Repeat with the next batch until done.

browning bottom

Place the chicken skin side up back in the pot and start layering half the vegetables. Once you have one layer in, add half the seasonings. Add the rest of the vegetables, the rest of the seasonings, and your wine. If your clients don’t drink wine, you can add a little apple juice or chicken broth.

ready for oven

Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and place it in the oven to cook for an hour. Serve it over grains–I made farro for it this week–so you have something to absorb the sweet and salty juices. Make enough for a second meal. It tastes even better the next night!

Just out of oven

Braised Chicken with Mediterranean Flavors
Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
8 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 onions, thinly sliced
8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 dozen or more pitted Kalamata olives
2 dozen quartered marinated artichoke hearts
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
crushed red pepper flakes
12 ounces Marsala

Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°.

Heat olive oil in a heavy, oven-ready pot that has a lid.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place a few of the chicken pieces skin side down in the pot. Let brown. Turn only once the chicken easily lifts from the bottom of the pot. Let brown on the second side. Remove and repeat with the next batch. When all are cooked, return, skin side up, to the pot.

Layer half the onion, garlic, olives, and artichoke hearts over the chicken. Sprinkle with half the herbs and sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Layer in the rest of the onion, garlic, olives, and artichoke hearts. Add the rest of the herbs, more crushed red pepper flakes if you like, and salt and pepper. Drizzle the Marsala over the mixture.

Put the cover on the pot and place in the oven. Cook for about an hour.

What’s your favorite cool weather comfort food for clients?

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

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

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