Back in the day when I first joined the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier the group had a summer BBQ potluck. I’m not usually a fan of potlucks, mostly because you just never know what kind of food will arrive. But a potluck with dishes by women who are restaurant owners, caterers, cookbook authors, and cooking school teachers? Now, game on.

As it happened, the organizers also enjoy making it just a little competitive, and they had a contest for the best salad. You could also bring an appetizer or dessert, but since I was pressed for time and happened to have the ingredients on hand, I decided to make my version of Mark Bittman’s Israeli couscous salad. This salad really takes advantage of the bounty of summer produce. And, I love the impact of the cinnamon, cumin, and preserved lemon.

Anyway, there were a lot of salads on the table that night, each one different, each delicious. Most, like mine, were simply plated in large bowls, but one member, a cooking teacher and writer, made a potato salad in the shape of a hat, decorated with flowers. It was absolutely charming. Another salad, linguini with shrimp, was arranged in a huge margarita glass. Along with the salads was an array of barbecued chicken thighs, pork ribs, and lamb chops. And, I don’t have to tell you how delicious the half-dozen desserts were.

Okay, so the salad competition. The newbie won. I was pretty surprised and delighted. And my prize? A stunning plastic tiara. Because, of course, every girl should have one.

Israeli Couscous Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Israeli Couscous Salad from “How to Eat Everything Vegetarian”

1 8.8 oz. package of Israeli couscous
1 small chopped white onion
1/4 cup plus 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups boiling water
2 T. sherry vinegar
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon, skin only, sliced thinly
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup currants or golden raisins
½ cup drained canned chickpeas
2 T. capers
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ pint roasted cherry or grape tomatoes*
Kernels from 1 ear of fresh white corn
6 shishito peppers, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Using a large frying pan, saute the white onion and half of the shishito peppers in 2 T. of olive oil until the onions are golden brown Add the Israeli couscous and stir until the couscous begins to brown. Add salt and pepper, then add two cups boiling water. Cover the pan and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour the couscous into a large bowl and let cool. Then stir in oil, vinegar, and spices. Add the remaining ingredients. Let the salad stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

*I used Peggy Knickerbocker’s recipe below for slow-roasted tomatoes:

36 to 48 cherry tomatoes, or more
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 to ½ cup fresh chopped herbs: any combination of parsley, marjoram, oregano, chervil
Sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half width-wise. Place the halves in one or two baking dishes cut side up in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
  2. Bake for three to four hours or until the tomatoes soften and almost collapse. Fifteen minutes before the baking is completed, combine the garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle the herbs and cheese on top of the tomatoes. Return to the oven for the remaining time.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My note: These tomatoes freeze well.

What is your favorite or go-to summer salad? Share your favorite dishes!

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Meet (And Read) Shaya

Filed under: Cookbooks,Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 5, 2019

Do you read cookbooks? I don’t mean simply dipping into them for recipes. I mean really reading them. Because if your idea of a perfect evening or weekend is settling in with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a good cookbook–and you’re curious about how Israeli and American Southern food interconnect–then you’ll enjoy “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” by Alon Shaya.

Shaya has won two James Beard awards for his restaurants Shaya, Domenica, and Pizza Domenica in New Orleans. He was born in Tel Aviv to parents originally from Bulgaria (mom) and Romania (dad). But at age four his mother moved his older sister Anit and him to Philadelphia to reunite with his father, who had moved to the U.S. years before. The marriage broke up and Shaya was left to mostly fend for himself.

“Shaya” is a memoir/cookbook that traces his life through food. The sense of family he gained from his maternal grandparents–and the food his safta (grandmother) made for him when they visited from Israel, starting with Lutenitsa (a dish of roasted red peppers and eggplant). The first dish he made (hamantashen). Finding himself in a home ec class with the teacher of every student’s dreams and making Linguine and Clams “Carbonara.” Landing at the CIA, then going out to Vegas to work in a casino, and eventually New Orleans, where he would settle. The recipes in each chapter, including Chilled Yogurt Soup with Crushed Walnuts, Mom’s Leek Patties with Lutenitsa, Pan-Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Harissa, and Malai with Strawberries, are connected to these memories that eventually take us through the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, when he worked for chef John Besh, to Italy and Israel, and then back to New Orleans.

Because, once upon a time, I worked in publishing in New York I have a habit of reading the acknowledgments first in books. And I knew I’d be smitten by this book with the story he tells there in praise of his collaborator Tina Antolini. He initially showed her some stories he’d written and she sent him off to read one of her favorite cookbooks, “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin because his writing reminded her of the narrative form Laurie used in her book. Then, he worked with editor Vicky Wilson, a legendary Knopf editor, whose sister I worked with back in the day at The William Morris Agency. And Wilson told Shaya that the only cookbook she’d ever published was “Home Cooking.” That was kismet for him but why would that matter to me? Because back then I was friends with Laurie, who was the godmother to my boss’s daughter. Laurie passed away quite young, but “Home Cooking” and “Home Cooking II” as well as novels and tons of fabulous short stories are some of my favorite reading dating back to my early 20s.

So, there’s that connection. But even if that weren’t there, I’d still encourage you to get this book. Shaya is a terrific storyteller and his story is unusual. So are the recipes, and that’s part of their charm. Are they Jewish? (His Kugel in Crisis features bacon.) Are they Southern? Or Italian? Or Israeli? You’ll have to read the book to learn how he pulls together all these traditions and flavors. All I can say is that I’m looking forward to trying his recipes, especially since I had the great good fortune of interviewing him for an event in San Diego recently.

Do you read cookbooks or dip into them? What’s your favorite go-to or your happiest surprise on the page?

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

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

Serves 8 – 10

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

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

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

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

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

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

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Deconstructed Elote Salad

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 8, 2019

Now that we’re officially living the summer life, we really need to talk corn. Beautifully grilled corn on the cob is a classic summer treat, but those of us who live near the Mexican border take that a step further with elote, or Mexican Street Corn. With elote you get a corn on the cob that’s beautifully grilled and then sprinkled with salt and chile powder before being slather with mayonnaise or Mexican crema (think sour cream), and topped with a sprinkling of cotija cheese and squeeze of lime juice.

I’ve posted about elote before, but that was off-season, using Brussels sprouts. This week I’ve got yet another version of elote from APPCA member Anne Blankenship, who lives and runs her personal chef business, “Designed Cuisine,” in Dallas. When I posted a link to traditional elote on our Facebook page, Anne immediately came back with her version of a deconstructed elote salad. And, because she’s such a generous chef, was happy to share her recipe.

“I was looking for a Mexican-themed side dish for a client and found this; an alternative to guacamole or Mexican rice,” she said. “I loved the idea. And much as people love guacamole, it looks pretty ugly after it sits awhile. 

Anne pointed out that this can be great for picnics and it’s versatile. You can certainly add additional ingredients, per your clients taste.

“You can serve this dish chilled, at room temperature, or warm,” Anne said. “In all the recipes I read said it was great for picnics and pot luck parties. I read through a LOT of recipes as I wanted to see what each one had to offer and the different variations available.  It’s great because you can add things like the diced red bell pepper or avocado if you want.  It definitely says add the lime, as the dish needs that acid to complete the flavor. I already had a black bean and roasted corn salad in my repertoire but this was more “cool” to me. For that black bean/roasted corn salad I roasted the frozen corn in the oven but who wants to turn on the oven in the summer (especially in Dallas!)  So I loved the idea of the iron skillet on top of the stove for roasting (since neither I nor many of my clients have grills).”

And how’s this for a catering idea:

“I even helped cater an event here one time and they had an “Elote Bar” which was a cool idea,” Anna noted. “They had the charred corn kernels in a chafing dish and then all the toppings in large martini glasses (for effect) so you could add your own toppings.  It was a big hit, and something different than your usual canapes.”

After reading a bunch of different versions of elote salad, Anne pulled this one together. “I had to eliminate the green onions because my client is allergic. I only made it once but it was really good!  I really liked the idea of charring the corn in an iron skillet too.”

Deconstructed Elote Salad
From Anne Blankenship
Yield: 4 servings
Note: You can make it with frozen corn kernels roasted/charred in an iron skillet (which is great if you don’t have a grill).

Ingredients
4 ears of corn, husked OR 24 ounces frozen corn (NOT thawed)
2 stalks green onions, sliced thin
½ teaspoon neutral-flavor vegetable oil
1/3 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1/4 cup mayonnaise
½ cup finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese (plus more for serving)
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Options you can add:
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ fresh avocado, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

1 lime, cut into wedges (For serving)

Instructions
Roast ears of corn: Soak corn with husks still attached in water for 1 hour prior to grilling.
Grill corn with husks on until charred–about 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then shuck ears and remove corn kernels. Set kernels aside to cool.

If using frozen corn, heat vegetable oil in an iron skillet. Add corn and green onions and roast on stovetop over medium-high heat for approximately five minutes, until charred. Set corn aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese of choice, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cilantro, and salt and pepper. If you are including any of the optional ingredients, add them now. Mix well with small spatula. Add cooled corn and mix well. Refrigerate before serving.

May add extra cheese, onions, cilantro, paprika and/or chili powder when serving

NOTE: Salad needs lime juice for the acid when serving; do not leave it out.

Do you have an unforgettable summer recipe you’re just starting make this season? 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.

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I wish I lived near you. You, exquisitely talented chef, who shows off your equally exquisite photos of mouth-watering dishes you make for your very lucky clients on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You, who have updated favorite family recipes to reflect the way we eat today–more sustainably, healthier, fearless with flavor. You, who studied hard in culinary school to master challenging culinary techniques and takes inspiration from everything from other chefs and cookbooks to the kitchen garden you nurture.

If I did live near you, I’d try to finagle time with you in your kitchen so you could teach me how to make a favorite dish or master a technique that elevates a dish we already love into something even more magical.

If I do (I’m in San Diego), then please invite me to learn from you to share with fellow APPCA members. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to periodically share what local chefs have taught me, hoping it will spark some inspiration for you wherever you happen to cook.

In that spirit, I’m sharing this seared scallop dish that features grilled peaches, candied bacon, and a colorful micro salad. As I write this, we’re marking the summer solstice. It may be gray and dreary outside (yes, it happens in San Diego; we call it June gloom), but already summer produce is appearing in the markets. I’m especially anticipating local peaches, sweet and juicy and perfect for the grill.

Many of you have spread your personal chef business umbrella to include catering. If you create dinner parties for clients, this recipe, taught to me a while back by a very talented chef, Kurt Metzger, is perfect to serve. It’s layered in flavor and texture. It features grilled peaches that have macerated in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Plus it’s kind of a riff on surf ‘n turf, with thick slices of bacon oven cooked in brown sugar and maple syrup until crisp, then sliced up and sprinkled over the peaches, scallops and lovely herbal micro salad. Sweet, salty, savory. Who could resist this!

The dish is easy to make but you need to be organized to get it to come together for the final plating. Of course, since you’re chefs, organization’s not an issue. Make the bacon and marinate the peaches ahead of time. Have your salad ready to assemble. Grill the peaches and set aside, then cook the scallops. Then you can pull it all together for your meal without breaking a sweat.

Seared Day Boat Scallops with Grilled Peaches, Candied Bacon, and Micro Salad
From Kurt Metzger
Serves 4

Ingredients
12 scallops
salt
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock
5 teaspoons white wine
1 dollop butter, room temperature
red chile flakes
4 white peaches, sliced in half and pitted
4 pieces bacon
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup, plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar for bacon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 cups mixed greens like arugula
2 spring onions, whites sliced
4 Padron peppers (can substitute jalapeno or another chile), seeds and ribs removed
Fresh herbs and edible flowers
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Truffle oil
Chives, minced
Caviar (optional)
Burrata cheese (optional)

Instructions

Mix equal parts balsamic vinegar and brown sugar together and place in a dish with high sides and large enough to hold eight peach halves. Spread out the vinegar and sugar mixture in the dish and place peach halves in the mixture cut side down. Let sit for at least an hour and up to seven hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a rack. Place the bacon slices in a single layer on the rack. Cook until they’re about 65 percent done (about 6 or 7 minutes). Brush with maple syrup and 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Return to the oven and remove when crisp and brown. Cut roughly into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Pat scallops with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Heat a large pan and add olive oil. Sprinkle scallops with a pinch of salt and add to pan. Cook 4 minutes. Turn and add chicken stock, white wine, and butter. When golden brown, remove from pan. Sprinkle with a little more salt and red chile flakes.

Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill. While the scallops are cooking, remove the peaches from the maple syrup and brown sugar mixture and add the peaches to the grill, sliced side down for about 7 minutes. Flip and let cook a minute, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Mix together the greens, spring onion, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. Drizzle with truffle oil and gently mix together with your hands.

To plate each dish sprinkle the dishes with the greens mixture, then artfully add slices of peppers and edible flowers. On each plate, place three scallops and two peach slices. Top with bacon. Sprinkle with chives. You can also top with caviar and pieces of burrata.

Do you cook scallops? What’s your favorite way to prepare them 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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Tuna-Stuffed Chayote Squash

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , June 17, 2019

Are there moments in your life when you’re going about your day and out of the blue you have some gustatory memory that you have to re-experience–now? Well, this happens fairly regularly for me but it’s been a while since I’d thought of this dish that my mom used to make our family for dinner when I was growing up. But there I was at the market picking up some garlic and onions and other random items when I was struck by the memory of my mom’s chayote squash stuffed with tuna. And then I realized that the chayote squash were in my peripheral vision, stacked up among the produce aisle where I had been scanning my shopping list.

If you’ve missed chayote squash at the supermarket, head over to a Mexican market or farmers market. They’re a pear-shaped, light green fruit with deep lengthwise folds that meet at the blossom end. They have a firm texture with white flesh that becomes tender with cooking, and a large (edible) seed. And, it’s wonderfully healthy. Chayote squash contains vitamin C, vitamin B-6, folate, dietary fiber, and potassium. When raw, you can shred them and add to salads. You can pickle them. You can dice them and add to soups and stews. And because of their shape, they’re just asking to be stuffed.

At the market that day, I didn’t think twice about grabbing a couple of the squash. Then I had to search my memory for what went into the dish, besides canned tuna (okay, think of this as sort of modestly elevated tuna casserole from someone who grew up in the 60s and 70s). When all else fails, call Mom. So, while I was standing in front of the display, she reminded me of how she had made it and off I went home with my ingredients to make the dish.

My mom also reminded me that this dish actually was something her mother made for her young family when my mom was a girl. Call it a Victory Garden meal. My grandparents had a large enough yard in their East L.A. home during World War II for a sprawling garden that provided most of the produce for the family. Including chayote squash. What else would be affordable for a family of five in the 40s? Canned tuna. So, my Nana came up with this dish and my mom continued it for our family.

If you haven’t been exposed to chayote squash, now’s the time for an introduction. It’s a hard light green pear-shaped fruit with creamy white flesh–like a pear. To be honest, it doesn’t have a lot of flavor; it’s a little sweet in a bland sort of way. But that makes it the perfect receptacle for all sorts of powerful ingredients. While you can dice it and saute it, its shape makes it a wonderful vessel for stuffing–once you remove the flesh. And that requires about 20 minutes of parboiling.

My mom pairs it with the canned tuna–along with sauteed onion and garlic, mixed with bread crumbs. In my version, I add Dijon mustard as well, along with salt and pepper. And, how did it come out? Actually, even better than I had remembered it. The juices from the tuna. The heavenly sauteed onion and garlic. The spiciness of the mustard. They all married beautifully with the squash, with the crispy oniony, garlicky breadcrumbs the cherry on top. Totally a mom–or Nana–kind of economical comfort food.

Tuna-Stuffed Chayote Squash
Serves 4

4 chayote squash, sliced in half lengthwise, remove seeds
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus another tablespoon
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2, 5-ounce cans wild albacore tuna (I used Wild Planet’s 100% pole and troll caught), drained and flaked
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and boil for 20 minutes or until they’re almost fully cooked. Drain and let cool.

2. While the squash halves are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Saute on medium heat until the onion becomes golden and the garlic fragrant. Then add the breadcrumbs. Stir the mixture over the heat until it just begins to brown. Then remove from the heat and spoon the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350˚. When the squash halves are cool enough to handle, remove the seed, then use a large spoon to carefully scoop out the flesh. Try not to tear the skin so you have an intact shell. There will probably be water in the remaining shell. Drain it.

4. Chop up the squash flesh and add it to a large bowl. Add the tuna, 3/4 of the onion mixture, the Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

5. Gently stuff the squash shells with the mixture. Top with the remainder of the onion mixture and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the stuffed shells on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the top is brown and crisp.

Do you make dishes for clients or your family with chayote squash? How do you use them?

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

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

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Last weekend, I took my dog Casper over to Candy and Dennis’ house to hang out for a little while. As you’d expect, Candy had something tempting for me to enjoy–her new Rosemary Vanilla Bean Olive Oil Cake. Well, I swooned. My experience with olive oil cakes has mostly focused on citrus. This was a completely different animal that as she says below can be enjoyed as a sweet or savory treat. Actually, I’m rambling on too long. Let’s hear Candy’s take on her cake:

I do not personally care for overly sweet desserts but do occasionally like a bit of sweet to linger over and enjoy after a meal.

Summer fruit and herbs mean lazy brunches and conversation and music in the back yard or garden, so I am always on the lookout for ways to incorporate ingredients from my garden onto the table for guests and family.

I love baking with olive oil and have used my trusty Escoffier-based recipes for decades of baking, using blood oranges and fresh thyme, or my default summer ingredient, lemons.

I ran across this clever twist from Janelle Maoicco of Talk of Tomatoes that features fresh rosemary, vanilla bean, and the astringency of a cup of white wine, which introduces a way to skew the cake into a savory option. Now it may be offered either as a sweet cake dusted simply with confectionary sugar and accompanied by fresh berries or fruit curd, or it can go savory with salty touches like bacon, a charcuterie platter, sensual cheeses, and spiced nuts. Have fun with this one. This simple, refreshing cake option now had my full attention and I have enjoyed serving it to sometimes surprised and always delighted guests, family, and clients.

It is now yours to enjoy and share.

Thank you, Janelle Maoicco! (Always credit the Source of your inspiration.  Change the way the world eats!)

This cake is simple and straight forward. It takes just minutes to assemble, and is visually stunning with fresh herbs on a plate. Serve in small pieces.  It keeps well for days. Welcome to Summer!

Candy’s Rosemary Vanilla Bean Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Janelle Maiocca’s Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray inside of 9-inch cake pan with oil or non-stick baking spray. Line bottom with parchment, then spray again. Note: this fills a 9-inch cake pan plus a small loaf pan so plan on filling a 9- inch cake pan or 3 to 4 small loaf pans or make some overflow muffins. (Next time I will make small loaves, plus a few muffins. Just fill containers leaving an inch for cake pans and loaves, and 1/2 inch headspace for muffins.)

Beat sugar and eggs, then add oil, wine, flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds,  plus rosemary. Beat for one minute. Pour into pan.

Bake 30 minutes until cake begins to pull away from sides (it may take a little longer, but keep an eye on it, making sure it doesn’t jiggle in the middle and passes the ‘toothpick’ test). Remove from oven and let cool.

This cake is scrumptious. I was thinking it would be savory or subdued (Italians have a penchant for subdued cakes and snacks, leaving the overtly sweet tones to treats like cookies, limoncello, and Vin Santo, but in fact, it has a slightly sweet note. You could pair this cake with a creamy cheese, lemon curd, marmalade, fig relish, or even salty bacon. It would be perfect for breakfast or to end a rich meal.

Do you make olive oil cakes? How do you flavor them?

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

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

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French Sorrel and Mint Granita

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 27, 2019

With Memorial Day now behind us, summer is unofficially here. And yet, depending on your part of the country, summer fruits may not have caught up yet with the season. If you’re catering brunches or dinners for clients this summer you’re probably trying to come up with fruit-forward desserts and feel frustrated that we’re in that in-between stage. We’re over apples and citrus but stone fruit and watermelon aren’t at their high-sugar best yet.

My suggestion? Look around your garden or farmers market and give some thought to turning herbs like basils, thyme, mints, and sorrel into dessert. Specifically into a granita.

Granitas are one of the great go-to dishes in the spring and summer because they pack so much flavor into an icy refreshing form–and are so ridiculously easy to make. Too intimidated to make ice cream (which you shouldn’t be)? Opt for the granita. You just make a simple syrup with two parts water to one part granulated sugar. Add your flavor–be it fresh berries or vanilla or coffee or something else you come up with. Puree it in a blender. Then pour the mixture into a casserole dish or baking sheet and put it in the freezer. Every couple of hours, scrape it up with a fork and refreeze until you have frozen little granules of flavor.

Sorrel is a terrific, broad-leaf brilliantly green herb with a sour, almost lemony flavor. I make pesto with it, sauces, salads–and granita. It’s easy to grow and it pairs beautifully with mints, which are so easy to grow you should keep plants in pots so they won’t spread through the garden.

Now the issue with sorrel granita is that you want the leaf color to stay vibrant. So you have to let the syrup cool down before blending. I took advantage of that by adding sprigs of the mint to the hot syrup to pull the oils and resulting flavor from the mint, then I removed them when the mixture was blended.

This granita has a grassy, tangy flavor, punctuated by undertones of chocolate mint. I enjoyed it on its own but plan to serve it as part of a savory dish–think cold poached salmon–or dessert, with lemon cake. It’s truly refreshing and something that’s a bit unusual for a dinner party.


French Sorrel and Mint Granita
Makes 1 quart

Ingredients
2 cups cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 sprigs or more of fresh mint
2 cups fresh French sorrel leaves

Directions
1. Combine the water, sugar, and half the lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass container. Add the mint and let cool to remove temperature.
2. Wash the sorrel leaves, remove the tough spine, and coarsely chop the leaves. You’ll want two well-packed cups.
3. When the sugar syrup has cooled, remove the mint and discard. Add the syrup, the rest of the lemon juice, and the sorrel leaves to the bowl of a blender. Puree until smooth.

4. Pour the mixture into a large shallow pan or casserole dish. Freeze until icy–about 3 hours. Then using a fork, scrape through the mixture to break it up. Refreeze another 2 hours and repeat. Do this once more and it should be ready to serve. You can store it in a container for up to a month.

Have you ever made granita? What are your favorite flavor combinations?

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Miso Butter Turkey

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 20, 2019

 

Compound butters are truly a gift to cooks looking to create something memorable with vegetables, or poultry, pork, beef, or seafood–and odds and ends of ingredients. Because they’re so versatile and can be made out what might seem like strange flavor partners, I thought I’d share this with you to try with your clients. This combination features miso on a roasted turkey thigh. My usual go to with miso is to make a marinade or glaze for an oily fish like salmon or black cod. But I thought miso could work with turkey and decided to pair it with butter.

And several other ingredients.

I riffled around my pantry and pulled out honey and rice vinegar. Back in the fridge I got out soy sauce. Garlic and ginger made sense–and I remembered my ginger garlic bombs in the freezer (a great hack from Bon Appétit) and got one out to defrost.

After I let the butter soften and the ginger garlic bomb defrost, I mashed the butter and miso and started adding the rest: a teaspoon each of honey and rice vinegar, half a teaspoon of soy sauce, and the ginger garlic bomb. It was divine: salty and sweet with a kick from the vinegar and a little spice from the garlic and ginger.

I smeared it over the large turkey thigh, but once I did that I still had some left over. I pulled out an eggplant from the refrigerator and cut some slices, then smeared the slices with the miso butter. They all went into the oven to roast and within about 10 minutes my entire house already smelled dreamy. (Imagine how much your clients will enjoy the aroma in their homes.)

Within 45 minutes I had a beautifully browned turkey thigh and perhaps the most delicious slices of eggplant I’d ever eaten. The miso butter had infused the eggplant with all those flavors and each slice melted  in my mouth.

This is one of those concoctions I’d make again in a heartbeat not just for the turkey and the eggplant, but to smear on fish or chicken or winter squash slices. I’d toss it in pasta or hot whole grains.


Miso Butter Turkey Thigh
Serves 1 or 2, depending on the size of the turkey thigh

Ingredients
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons miso
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon plain rice vinegar
1 ginger garlic bomb
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 large turkey thigh

Directions
Mash together all the ingredients except the turkey to make the compound butter.

Spread as much of the compound butter as you need all over the turkey thigh. If you have any left over, refrigerate it or spread over vegetables.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place the turkey thigh and any vegetables you plan to roast in a roasting pan and cook for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 170° and 175°. Remove from oven. Let rest about 10 minutes, then slice the turkey.

Do you make compound butters? What are your favorite go tos? 

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Flaming Poke Bowl

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 14, 2019

Poke is quite the thing in San Diego. Has this fad made it to your city? Is it something your clients are interested in?

If the answer to both questions is yes, then I have the perfect recipe for you to make for them: Flaming Poke Bowl. It comes from the sweetest little eatery in San Diego called Fish Pit. Think Moondoggie’s beach shack in Gidget. Chef/owner Zach Stofferahn looks like he could be one of the students at neighboring San Diego State University, but despite his youth, he’s got a world of experience. His Green Papaya Salad is a refreshing mixture of julienned green papaya, mango, and cucumber with sprouts and roasted peanuts tossed in Thai Lime Vinaigrette and his sweet chili sauce. His Jumbo Shrimp Taco, made with fired garlic spiced shrimp, mixed cabbage, fresh salsa, and cilantro, is a dynamite bite. But his Flaming Poke Bowl? Oh, I loved the fresh Big Eye tuna that’s featured but it also featured grilled salmon skill. C’mon, who wouldn’t want to just snack on grilled salmon skin!

Watching Stofferahn prepare a seemingly simple dish would impress you. Because it’s not at all simple once you get past dicing vegetables. The daikon sticks, for example, require a thorough competency in katsuramuki, a Japanese technique for peeling away a thin, wide, even layer of the daikon around its circumference before slicing it into matchstick-size pieces.

There’s the skinning of the salmon and then seasoning and grilling it. Stofferahn advises leaving some meat on the skin for flavor and when you grill it, starting with flesh side down, leave it for longer than you think you should–until it starts to lift off the grill, then turn it over to the skin side.

Finally, there’s the defining Triple X Sauce that is the “flaming” part of the poke bowl. This is a sauce you can use in other dishes. But here’s the thing, combine the ingredients a few days out from when you plan to use it because you want the chili slices to marinate in the vinegar. Then you have pickles, some of which will be turned into sauce, some left to top the poke bowl.

There are lots of steps to this bowl, but it’s not at all complicated. And it’s so worth the effort. But the most important thing? Make sure you get really fresh fish.

Flaming Poke Bowl
From Zach Stofferahn of Fish Pit
Yield: 1 bowl

Ingredients
1 tablespoon each olive oil and canola oil
¼ red onion, sliced
1 piece of raw salmon skin about 3” by 6” with just a little meat on it
Salt and pepper
4 to 5 ounces raw Big Eye tuna, diced into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced
1 ½ ounces seaweed salad (available at Asian markets)
¼ avocado, diced
1 ounce daikon, peeled, thinly sliced into matchsticks (keep in cold water to stay crisp)
1 quarter fresh lime
1 cup white or brown rice, cooked
Handful of mixed greens
1 tablespoon Triple X Sauce (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 ounces Ponzu sauce
Peppers from Triple X Sauce
Sesame seeds

Directions
1. Heat oils in a skillet and add onion. Sauté until caramelized, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. While the onion is cooking, season the flesh side of the salmon skin and place flesh side down on a hot grill or griddle. Season the skin side and let cook until the flesh side of the grill almost lifts off the grill. Flip it over to grill the skin. Remove and let cool, the slice thinly.

3. In a bowl, mix together the tuna, cucumber, seaweed salad, avocado, and daikon.
4. While putting together the dish, grill the lime quarter on both sides. Set aside.
5. In the bottom of your serving bowl, place the rice on one side and the greens on the other. Spoon in the tuna mixture. Add the three sauces. Arrange caramelized onions on the tuna mixture, then spoon the pickled pepper slices over the top. Add the salmon skin slices and sprinkle the dish with sesame seeds. Finish with the grilled lime quarter.

Triple X Sauce
Yield: 24 ounces

Mix together the ingredients for this spicy sauce at least three days before you expect to use it so the chili slices can absorb the garlic, vinegar, and sugar. Then reserve some of the pickled slices and blend the rest.

Ingredients
6 garlic cloves, skinned
20% habanero chilies
12.5% serrano chilies
12.5% fresno chilies
35% jalapeños
20% Thai chilies
Rice wine vinegar—enough to cover chilies
Handful of sugar

Directions
Slice chilies crosswise. Mix together with garlic cloves. Cover with rice wine vinegar and add sugar. Mix well and refrigerate for at least three days. Remove a couple of tablespoons of the pickled chilies and set aside. Blend the rest until smooth.

Do you eat poke? Do you prepare it? What’s your special recipe?

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