If you don’t know food writer, recipe developer, and owner of Nourish Evolution, a subscription-based real food community and online menu planner, you really should. And here’s the perfect opportunity; she just published a memoir called Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love. I can’t recall recommending a book in this space, but I think as chefs you’ll enjoy and appreciate her journey and certainly be taken by both her writing and her recipes.

Yes, recipes. Nourished, while not a cookbook, ends every chapter with an irresistible recipe–from Crab Ravioli in Saffron Lemon-Butter Sauce and Grilled Pork en Adobada with Cebollitas to a simple Zucchini Frittata and Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Lobster, and Caramelized Corn. What it is is a memoir of a woman who took the long road to find happiness and her place in the world, much of which has revolved around food and cooking. Traveling with her (and there is a lot of travel) through 20 years of her life journey was mouth watering, yes, but also an immersion into a life perhaps more adventurous than any of ours, but filled with the same sorrows and joys, discoveries of the spirit and heart, and ultimately a coming to as much peace and solace as anyone can be rewarded with in a life well lived.

Raised in Connecticut, Huber launches the book in 1991 in Corfu, Greece, where as a college student on break she falls in love with Alexi, whom she describes as a “tall, dark Greek man with mischievous eyes.” Huber digs into Corfu with loving descriptions of the food she discovered–the smokey fish roe dip, luscious lemony scented chicken, and the fluffy mass of boiled potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic and green-yellow olive oil that is skordalia (recipe included). She fully intends to marry Alexi but returns to the States for a cousin’s wedding and to finish school. The ambitious American college student, winning awards for her writing, ultimately breaks off the engagement and so begins a new chapter in her life, what she calls a “voraciousness for experience” that sent her to live in Manhattan–and then to Christianity. Not long after she meets Christopher, who would become the love of her life and partner in her travels and soul searching.

Nourished wends its way through Huber’s adventures and travails. She suffers from unresolved health issues, challenges in her marriage, challenges in the travels she and Christopher (and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Talisker–yeah, there’s that we also have in common) take trying to find their place in the world. It takes them from New York to San Francisco, where she launches her food writing and recipe testing career, to Costa Rica, making the 8,000-mile journey in their “gringo mobile” Rex, their Ford Explorer. They spend time in Italy and ultimately, they make their way to California’s wine country, where they endure a long, torturous process of foreign adoption and then the joys and angst of parenthood.

Throughout Huber’s travels, both geographical and emotional, is always food. She and Christopher cook their way through Anne Willan’s Look and Cook: Asian Cooking. They discover a rich, tangy asado de boda stew in Zacatecas, a dried beef machaca in a Chihuahua truck stop, and in Cuernavaca she learns how to make sautéed zucchini flowers stuffed into poblano chiles that are then wrapped in puff pastry topped by a creamy cilantro sauce and pomegranate seeds.

While many readers may find her struggle with and solace in God and Christianity just as rewarding as her culinary evolution, that part was not as resonant with me since I’m a non-religious Jewish woman. But I could feel her pain and appreciate her quest for answers and hope. She’s that good a writer.

In fact, I loved her vivid descriptions of her cooking experiences. I could see in my mind’s eye what she saw. In Italy, taking a pasta-making lesson, Huber describes her instructor Francesca as “nearly as round as the ball of pasta dough sitting in front of her…” She goes on to describe making pasta sheets:

“She cut the giant ball into several smaller pieces and covered them with a dish towel. She dusted the worktable with the flour as if she were feeding pigeons, and picked up a giant rolling pin longer than a baseball bat. ‘Matarello,’ Francesca said.”

Nourished takes us with Huber over a 20-year span and ultimately it’s a joyful, yes, nourishing ride. Read the memoir for its grace and honest reflections of a life filled with bumps, questions, and ultimately love. Keep the book for the recipes that provide delicious markers for each period of her life.

Frijoles de Lia
from Lia Huber

Frijoles de olla are a traditional dish of brothy beans cooked in an earthenware pot (an olla) that are hearty enough to be a meal in and of themselves. The recipes I followed in Costa Rica—from Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless—followed a simple equation of beans, lard, an onion or garlic, and epazote. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more goodies that I’ve appended on over the years. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large poblano chiles, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
11/2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or fast  soaked in a pressure cooker)
Sea salt

In a large, heavy  bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium  high heat. Add the onion, poblano chiles, and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chile and sauté for 1 minute, until fra grant. Add the beans, a generous pinch of salt, and 6 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until there’s a mix of whole beans and creamy mashed beans.

Serves 10 to 12


Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Do you have a favorite food or chef memoir? Is there a food-related book you think the rest of us should take to our heart? Perhaps you’d like to share it on this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you’re starting to plan holiday dinner parties for clients, consider the Peruvian ceviche. These are distinctively different from Mexican ceviches in terms of the ingredients. Chef Emmanuel Piqueras, who runs the kitchen of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in San Diego and was born and raised in Lima, explained to me that Peru is a true melting pot of cultures–from Chinese to Japanese to Italian. And the ceviches certainly reflect that, as do many other dishes he makes, like the stir fry “Lomo Saltado,” a stir fried tenderloin with tomatoes, green onions, and red onions, melded in a sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic, reflecting Peru’s Cantonese influence.

Piqueras has spent his life in kitchens–first under the tutelage of his grandfather’s cook, Jesus, who he says taught him to touch ingredients and make rice. “She was my mentor,” he said. “I always watched her.”

His other grandfather, an ex-Marine, took Piqueras fishing as a child and by age eight he was making ceviche. A career cooking, however, was not what his successful parents had in mind for him. (His mom was the first female mayor of Lima.) Trying to live up to their high expectations, he went to university and studied marketing, but his heart wasn’t in it. At age 22, he went to work as an apprentice to chef Don Cucho La Rosa at his Lima restaurant, Pantagruel before attending Le Cordon Bleu and moving to Spain to train with Chef Juan Mari Arzak in San Sebastian. Piqueras returned to Lima but the bad economy sent him off to the U.S., where he opened Andina in Portland, Mixtura in Seattle, Limon in San Francisco, and Panca in New York City’s West Village. In that time, he also became the host and co-producer of Sabor y Fusion, a popular Peruvian cooking show.

Fascinating career trajectory, huh?

Piqueras’ ceviches are very simple to make, with basic prep of the seafood and vegetables taking up the time in the kitchen, followed by mixing the sauces and then tossing the prepped ingredients together and plating. These are wonderful dishes to enjoy year-round, and pack a visual punch that’s perfect for holiday dinner parties for clients.

Ceviche Nikkei
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1.5 pounds of ahi tuna yellow fin, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup of fresh squeeze lime juice
4 ounces of Nikkei sauce*
1 ounce of Persian cucumber sliced
1 avocado cut into squares
4 ounces shredded Daikon root for garnish
Kosher salt

Method
In a cold bowl mix the ahi tuna squares, the Persian cucumber, pinch of salt, the Nikkei sauce and the lime juice. Mix carefully.
In a white china bowl serve the ceviche mix, garnish with avocado squares and topped with the shredded daikon root.

*Nikkei sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of tamarind purée, 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, 1 clove of garlic, 1 table spoon of organic brown sugar, 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of Rocoto purée (available online).

Martini De Tigre Ceviche
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
12 ounces of California Halibut, diced
6 ounces of Portuguese octopus, cooked and diced
4 ounces of calamari rings, cooked
12 each shrimp, cooked and peeled
12 half sea scallops
1/2 cup of Ají amarillo sauce*
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons of cilantro, chiffonade
1 small chopped onion
1 habanero, seeded and chopped
Cilantro micro greens for garnish
Kosher salt

Method
In a cold bowl mix the fresh fish, the octopus, the calamari, the half scallops and the shrimp.

Add the salt to taste, the Ají Amarillo sauce, the chopped onion, habanero to taste and the cilantro. Mix well.


To finish the Ceviche add the lime juice, mix well and add the ice cubes, mix well again and serve in a cold Martini Glass, garnish with cilantro micro greens.

*Ají Amarillo Sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of ají amarillo paste with 1 stick of celery and  1 clove of garlic with 2 ounces of canola oil for salad.

Are you starting to prepare holiday dinner party menus for clients? What 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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APPCA’s MidAtlantic Regional Chapter, or MARC, held their annual fall meeting September 24 at the Olney, Maryland, home of Iva Barrerra-Oro. The nine attendees had a packed day, starting with a light breakfast and meet and greet, followed by basic old and new business issues to address.

Then came the meat of the gathering: first a Fagor Pressure Cooker Demo, conducted by April Lee. As you know from an earlier blog post, APPCA members are able to get a 50 percent discount on selected Fagor equipment until Oct. 24. So April did a demo on Fagor’s electric 8-quart multi-cooker.

She likes the model because it frees up a burner and at high pressure is more than adequate to quick cook a variety of foods. According to April, she uses the multi-cooker all the time for stews, stock, long braises, corned beef, and more. As she pointed out, using the pressure cooker allows her to start a dish and let it cook unattended while she takes care of other tasks. As part of her demo, April prepared a Thai Chicken Green Curry with Kobucha Squash and Eggplant. She shared the recipe, which follows below.

Following April’s demo, the group held a business round table that allowed the participants to discuss how they’ve faced business challenges or grown their business and get help on a major challenge they need to resolve. That was supposed to be followed by a SCORE presentation from this year’s chapter president Keith Steury that described the nonprofit agency that helps small business and explained its various offerings–from mentors to a library filled with business templates, articles and e-guides, and videos and podcasts. Due to time constraints, Keith is sending the information from the presentation to the participants to review on their own.

Following a potluck lunch, Bernard Henry gave a knife sharpening demo, during which he demonstrated using a wet stone, which he noted, is time consuming but gets the best result because it’s more gentle on the knife. He also explained how to use a manual sharpening machine and gave an overview of the best types of knives to buy.

Following Bernard’s demo, Keith did a wrap up of the day and the group came up with proposed dates and locations for a spring 2018 meeting before the event concluded at 3 p.m.

 

THAI GREEN CURRY CHICKEN w/KABOCHA SQUASH & EGGPLANT

(adapted by April Lee from Daniel Gritzer, Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
One (14-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cubed skin-on kabocha squash (about half of a small 4-pound squash, washed skin)
1 medium (12-ounce) eggplant, cubed (about 4 cups)
4 pounds chicken (I prefer boneless chicken thighs)
Kosher salt for seasoning chicken and veggies
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
1. Cut chicken into large chunks and season with salt. Also season cubed eggplant and squash.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat (“brown” setting on Fagor multicooker) until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add curry paste and cook, stirring another 2 minutes. NOTE: You can actually just put all the ingredients in the pot and pressure cook on high for 13 minutes without browning first. Browning brings out a deeper flavor in the spices, but it’s not nec-essary.

3. Stir in coconut milk and fish sauce. Add half the squash and eggplant. Add chicken and top with the remaining squash and eggplant. Seal pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 13 minutes.

4. Release pressure, remove lid, and stir in chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Softened vegetables will thicken stew upon stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the stew into serving bowls and garnish with a few whole Thai basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges on side.

Do you live in a part of the country that has several APPCA members? Contact us if you’d like to start up a chapter!

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

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This past weekend, our Candy Wallace taught at cooking class at the Cardiff Greek Festival. The class, called “Drop the Butter” Baking with Olive Oil, featured Candy demonstrating how to make a cake using olive oil instead of butter both for flavor and health. Candy was invited to show off this technique by friend and cooking teacher Mary Papoulias-Platis, who is also a certified olive oil specialist. The class was one of eight free Greek cooking classes held at the festival over the weekend, and Mary said each one drew 50 to 60 people.

The cake, as you can see from the recipe, is extremely simple to make and you can easily change up the flavors. During her demo, Candy made the cake with orange zest and thyme. But, she pointed out, you could easily bake it with lemon and rosemary–or any other citrus/herb combo you like. She also topped it with orange marmalade and at the demo, sprinkled it with powdered sugar.

Olive Oil Cake
by Candy Wallace
Yield: 1, 8-inch cake

Note: This can be made with oranges and thyme or lemon and rosemary combinations.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons orange zest (lemon can be substituted)
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme or rosemary (optional)
2 eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange marmalade

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  3. Rub the zest and sugar between your palms to release flavor and oil in the zest into sugar and then add the eggs, milk, and olive oil. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Pour into a greased and lined 8-inch baking pan.
  5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 350F degrees until golden brown and the cake starts to pull away from the sides.
  6. When the cake is slightly warm cover with orange marmalade and serve.

Have you ever substitute butter for olive oil when baking? What was the dish and how did it turn out?

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 a frustrated pizza maker? I think all of us who love to cook have gone through a pizza-making phase, finally giving it up in frustration. We’ve lined ovens with tiles, spritzed with water, tried different flours, different methods of dough making. And then threw up our hands and went out to eat.

I think you should give it one more shot–based on an afternoon I spent with a young man from Milan, Andrea Burrone, who a year ago with two partners opened a delightful Italian pizza restaurant called Ambrogio15 in San Diego’s Pacific Beach. This sweet, charming, and very talented chef, who started out professionally working in banking, has clearly found his calling. And his calling is making pizza in San Diego using traditional Italian ingredients and techniques.

Now Burrone is working with something we don’t have: a ginormous Marana Forni oven imported from Italy that reaches temperatures of 700 degrees–something your clients’ home oven can’t even dream of. But are there any home cooks better than Italian home cooks? If they can do it in their ovens, so can we–if we know what we’re doing.

Burrone revamped the proprietary restaurant recipe to work for a home cook. For one thing, while he uses a biga–or starter–at the restaurant, the recipe we have here is for a direct dough, using active yeast, 0 flour, water, sugar, and salt.

The other thing we should do to make pizza successfully is to bake the crust first, then add the topping. This way the pizza crust gets nice and crunchy, not soggy (yeah, I’ve been there, too). And the dough should be baked first at the bottom of the oven sans toppings and then in the middle once it’s filled.

Burrone demonstrated dough making in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, using the dough hook. First, he began by activating the yeast, mixing it with room temperature water and sugar, then letting it sit for about 15 minutes.

Once the yeast was bubbling, he placed 0 flour in the bowl of the mixer. He then added the yeast mixture, slowly blending it until incorporated. With that, Burrone added more water and brought up the speed, then olive oil, speeding it up again, then salt. Max out the speed and keep it going until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Depending on the weather–both temperature and humidity–you may have to add more flour or more oil to get it to that point.

Stop the mixer, pull the bowl out, cover and let the dough rest until it doubles in size. Then comes the fun. Divide the dough into sections 100 grams each (yeah, you’ll need a kitchen scale to do all this). Each ball will make a 12-inch round paper thin Milano-style pizza.

Turn each piece into a ball by pulling the sides out and under until the ball is smooth. Then turn it over and pinch the underside to seal. Do this to each piece, cover, and let rest at least two hours until they’ve doubled in volume.


When you’re ready to make the pizzas, turn on the oven to 500˚F to preheat. Now you have a choice–you can either use a rolling pin to roll out the dough or use the tips of your fingers to gently press it out. Use flour or semolina to keep the surface from getting sticky when you shape the dough. And when you put the shaped dough on a pan, be sure to put oil topped by a sprinkling of semolina or cooking spray on the pan before placing the dough on it.

Now you’ll place the pan in the lowest part of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove it and add your topping–whether it’s the delightful Arugula Pistachio Pesto below or tomato sauce (be sure to use peeled San Marzano tomatoes with basil–in the yellow can–for what Burrone says is the most authentic margherita-style pizza), topped with cheese. Then put the pizza back in the oven, but on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake it for another 4 to 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. That’s it!

Here’s another Burrone tip. If you’re using fresh mozzarella on your pizza, make sure that the night before you place it in a colander over a bowl so that it will release its water–and you again avoid a soggy pizza crust. And don’t, don’t, don’t use pre-shredded cheese. Just don’t.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto Pizza
from Andrea Burrone of Ambrogio15

Note: Most American home cooks are used to measuring by volume, not weight. Here, most of the amounts are indicated by weight using grams. If you have a kitchen scale, this should be no problem–and the measurements will be more accurate, creating a more successful outcome.

Ingredients

Pizza dough
Yield, 5 to 6, 12-inch pizzas

25 grams fresh dry yeast
30 grams water, room temperature
5 grams sugar
575 grams 0 flour (If you can’t find it locally at places like Whole Foods or Mona Lisa it’s available on Amazon.com)
300 grams water
30 grams extra virgin olive oil
12 grams salt

Arugula Pistachio Pesto
Yield: 4 cups

3 cloves garlic
100 grams pistachio nuts, raw and unsalated
150 grams parmesan cheese
15 grams salt
300 grams fresh arugula
450 grams extra virgin olive oil

1 ball of fresh mozzarella, drained overnight
5 or 6 slices mortadella (optional)
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (optional)

Directions
1. Combine yeast, water, and sugar. Let sit 15 minutes. It should be bubbling.
2. Insert dough hook in stand mixer. Place flour in the mixer’s bowl. Add yeast mixer and start blending at the 3 speed until incorporated. Slowly add water and bring up speed to blend. Slow it down and add the olive oil and speed it up again. Slow it down to add salt (and, if it’s too thin, more flour). Bring the mixer to maximum speed (6 to 8) and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball.
3. Remove bowl from mixer, cover, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes until doubled in size.
4. Divide the dough into 5 to 6 pieces, each weighing 100 grams for a 12-inch pizza. Form balls with each by pulling the sides out and under while turning until the surface is smooth. Pinch the underside to seal. Sprinkle some semolina or flour on the counter or a tray and place the balls on them. Cover and let rest for at least 2 hours until the balls double in volume.
5. To make the pest, place all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend them together, then slowly add the oil. If it’s too thick, add a little water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
6. To cook the pizza, preheat the oven to 500˚F. Roll out the dough by hand, pressing and shaping it in a 12-inch circle with your fingertips, or use a rolling pin. Spread a little oil on the pan and then sprinkle it lightly with semolina or use a baking spray like Pam. Place the pizza dough on the pan and place on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
7. Remove pizza crust from oven. Spread about 2 tablespoons of pesto on the crust and top with pieces of mozzarella.
8. Place pizza back in the oven, but on the middle rack. Bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and top with folded slices of mortadella and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Do you make pizza for clients or for your family? What’s your technique? 

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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Cooking with the Seasons: Cherry Berry Salsa

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , August 21, 2017

Hey, chefs, for those of you who emphasize cooking with the seasons, I hope you’ve put cherries to good use in both sweet and savory dishes.

Because cherry season is short and I adore them, I feel an intense obligation to figure out how to make the most of them when they’re at that fabulous sweet/tart height of harvest. And that would be now.

Sure you can snack on them but I got to thinking about how well they go with savory foods like pork and poultry. Four years ago I made a salsa from stone fruit that included cherries, along with peaches. But I got to wondering how a salsa that really focused on cherries would work.

I had just bought about a pound of cherries and decided to put together a salsa that didn’t rely on some lovely balsamic vinegar, but traditional lime juice. Not basil, but cilantro. Since I also had a large container of blueberries I thought they’d add both an intriguing texture and flavor–not to mention stunning color–to the salsa.

In came red onion, the one and only serrano chile in my garden, and the lime’s zest. I didn’t think garlic would be a happy combination so I left it out. I tasted the mixture and it was fine but lacking something, so in went honey–not much, but enough to heighten the sweetness. Another taste and something was still needed.

Then I hit on it. Tajin seasoning! Those of us who live in regions with good-sized Hispanic populations have this terrific seasoning at hand. Tajin is a mild, slightly sour mixture of chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice (It turns ripe tomato slices into bites of heaven and is also terrific when making micheladas.) I had considered then discarded the idea of adding salt but the Tajin added just enough to bring out the other flavors, just a bit more acid/tartness from lime, and a different kind of heat. It proved to be exactly the right finish to create three-dimensional flavor.

While the salsa stewed in its juices in the fridge, I pulled out a pair of pork chops I had been brining since late morning. Despite the heat of the early evening, I put a cast-iron pan in the oven and let both pre-heat until the temperature reached 400˚. I pulled out the seasoned, lightly oiled chops (adding more Tajin) and pan seared them (be sure to use oven mitts while handling the pan.

I love this technique because you put the chops on the pan and immediately they sizzle and start browning. Once they were golden brown, I placed them in the pan into that still 400˚ oven to cook until they reached an internal temp of 145˚. While they rested on a plate under a foil tent, I tasted the salsa again. It was delightful.

The pork chop was a success–made summery with my cherry berry salsa. Don’t love blueberries? Add raspberries or strawberries–or both! You’ll have a colorful sweet and savory fresh sauce that will be equally terrific on a pulled pork taco, on a quesadilla, roasted chicken or duck, or a pork tenderloin.

Cherry Berry Salsa
Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients
1 cup cherries
1 large lime
1/1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Tajin seasoning

Directions
1. Pit the cherries, then quarter them. Set aside.
2. Zest the lime, then cut in half and juice both halves.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and let sit in the refrigerator at least one hour. Taste and adjust seasonings.

What special seasonal dishes are you making now to take advantage of height of summer fruits and vegetables?

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

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We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this post by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine, who owns the business with partner Dennis Nosko, posted a picture of the cake on Facebook so I had to ask her for the recipe and the backstory. She, of course, provided both.

Nothing sets the tone of a theme party more than an original creation made for a specific crowd…Designing a dessert just for your client is appreciated and remembered.

Cocktail theme-based desserts allow you flavor layers and combinations you may not have thought about. Dissect the components and you can come up with a unique ice cream, cake, mousse, or sauce.

We were lucky enough to get a request from a woman wanting to celebrate her husband and his 30th birthday with an “End Of The 20’s,” party, with theme dress and décor. Her husband’s family happens to own a vacation home in a town on the North Shore of Massachusetts, chock full of period furniture, antique Spode china, etched crystal goblets, sterling service, and flutes that go back several generations. The hosts and guests showed up in tuxedos and evening gowns. They sipped cocktails and champagne and listened to music from the Gilded Age.

After I got her email requesting the theme, I had to plunge into Google searches for food of the Roaring Twenties and what was popular. There were a few references to The Great Gatsby so I narrowed the search and two themes came up:

Lemon Poundcake/Tea Cakes

Mint Juleps

In Fitzgerald’s classic, Nick Carraway had hosted a tea for Gatsby and Daisy, for which he served 12 lemon cakes. Daisy Buchanan, being from Louisville, loved a mint julep. How to tie the two together?

The dessert we created was a lemon zest and buttermilk pound cake, served with lemon curd mascarpone cream, a mint julep and honey syrup with Knob Creek bourbon, and fresh whipped cream, topped with candied lemon peel.

I started with a classic lemon pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart and tweaked it slightly to add more lemon and more salt, with salted butter.

We call this Jay’s Gatsby….
Lemon Pound Cake
Yield: Each cake serves six

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
Zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour three 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.
    2. In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
    3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    4. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth
    5. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly). Cool 15 minutes in pan. Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool completely.

Note: The cakes can be frozen to serve later.

Lemon Curd Mascarpone Cream

1 cup fresh lemon curd
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend well with a hand mixer until fully incorporated and chill until dessert assembly.

Mint Julep Syrup With Lemon & Knob Creek

2 cups water
1 cup bourbon (we used Knob Creek)
½ cup unbleached cane sugar
½ cup dark raw honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of mint leaves, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons whole butter
1 large bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. In a large sauce pan, add the first 6 ingredients over medium heat and reduce to half. Strain out mint leaves and return to low burner. Add more lemon or honey to taste.
  2. Whisk in the butter and chopped mint into the sauce. Keep warm, not hot.

Assembly:

  1. Cut the cake with a serrated knife into slices about ¾-1 inch thick.
  2. On a dessert plate, fill the recessed area with mint julep syrup. The cake will absorb most of the liquid.
  3. Place the cake one side down in the syrup.
  4. Top the cake with 2 T of the lemon curd mascarpone, spreading it evenly.
  5. Add syrup to the bottom of the plate.
  6. Top with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  7. Garnish with fresh mint and/or candied lemon peel.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the dinner we served included Baby Crab Cakes with Cajun Remoulade and a Small Cheese Plate to start. We made a Chilled Fresh Pea Soup with Rosemary Cream, followed by Swordfish with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, and Garlic accompanied by Roast Baby Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach with Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Corn.

Have you had to create a theme-based menu for catering a client party? How did you go about it?

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

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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Tempeh fish tacos

When we talk about proteins, it’s not surprising if what immediately comes to mind is meat and seafood. Or dairy. Or eggs. In other words, animal proteins.

But here’s what else is protein: legumes, like beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils; other nuts; and soy. Yes, plant proteins. And they can create just as hearty a meal as any steak or pork chop. And can be just as rich as cream or custard.

If you’re looking for meat mimics, the trifecta is tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Most people are familiar with the soybean product tofu, but tempeh and seitan are still unusual food products in the typical U.S. household. They’ve been growing increasingly popular, however, as more folks than just vegetarians or vegans turn to plant proteins to round out their diet. And while all three are Asian in origin, you can go way beyond Asian flavors to create a great dish.

Tempeh is a traditional fermented soy product that was originally developed around the 19th century in Indonesia. The culturing can be complicated, which makes it difficult for home cooks to make from scratch.  But it’s easy to find in markets like Whole Foods.

This dense spongy product that can be cut into pieces and brined or marinated before pan frying. It can be crumbled into pieces for chili, stir frys, soups, and stews. It can be grated and substituted for ground beef. You can feature it in tacos, using a blackening seasoning that is pressed into tempeh slices, which are then seared. Add a chipotle sauce made with Vegenaise, an eggless mayo, as well as salsa, guacamole, and shredded cabbage.

Seitan is a very different product—made of wheat gluten. It’s believed to have first appeared during the 6th century in China as a noodle ingredient, but has long been popular throughout China, Japan, and other East and Southeast Asian countries. The term itself was coined in the ‘60s in Japan.

Seitan is for the person who is a meat eater—who likes steak. In the U.S. it’s usually sold in blocks, strips, and cubes by brands like Upton and WestSoy. In its natural form, it’s a perfect blank canvas for flavors, so it’s not uncommon to find a number of packaged flavor variations—even bacon. It’s also pretty easy to make. Home cooks can create loaves of it using vital wheat flour, nutritional yeast flakes, and other ingredients. Like tempeh, it can be refrigerated or frozen to keep longer. Use it to make sausages and lunchmeat or add it to sauces. You can even cook it like a roast.

Because it so readily absorbs flavors, you can take the flavors in a typical meaty dish, like meatballs or even a pastrami sandwich, and transfer them to seitan.

Now tofu is not a stranger to most of us, but let’s go beyond stir frying and other traditional savory applications you’re used to. How about dessert? My friend chef Marguerite Grifka sometimes use tofu to make desserts.

“I make a cheesecake using tofu as well as mousse,” she said. “It’s a good substitute for eggs.”

Grifka pointed out that the tofu used in dessert applications—as well as sauces, smoothies, chowders, and mock sour cream—is silken tofu. Unlike regular tofu, which can be grainy and crumbly, silken tofu has a smooth, creamy texture. Like regular tofu, you can find it in soft, firm, and extra firm. She uses firm or extra firm silken tofu for her Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse with Tofu.

One of the challenges of making a sweet tofu dish is the tofu aftertaste. Grifka discovered that adding salted caramel to the chocolate cut the aftertaste, resulting in a rich, satisfying sweet and creamy dessert.

The recipe takes all of about 10 minutes to make. First you create the caramel by melting sugar and adding coconut milk. Then you add chocolate chips and whisk until they melt. That cools and in a blender you combine that mixture with the tofu, salt, and vanilla. Then you just have to decide whether you’re serving it in small dishes, spooning it out of a large bowl, or perhaps piping it out from a pastry bag. Chill and then you can top it with berries or shaved chocolate—or a tofu cream topping that can serve as whipped cream.

Here’s the recipe:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse with Tofu
From Marguerite Grifka

1, 12-ounce package silken organic firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand or other in shelf stable/aseptic package)
4 ounces 60% shaved semi-sweet chocolate (or substitute ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons organic sugar
½ cup organic coconut milk
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt (or substitute with kosher salt)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Have all ingredients measured ready to go before you start, this comes together quickly.

To create the caramel, sprinkle sugar on the bottom of sauce pan. Heat over medium heat. Have the coconut milk close by. Sugar will melt and then quickly turn light brown (caramelize). As soon as you see it turn a light caramel color remove from heat and add coconut milk. It will sputter so be careful.

Return to heat, simmer, and whisk until caramel is dissolved.

Add chocolate chips and whisk until melted, remove from heat.

Put tofu block in blender or chop into a few pieces to fit in food processor. Add the coconut/chocolate mixture, salt, and vanilla. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

Pour into serving dishes or into a bowl to chill. You can place in a pastry bag and pipe through a star tip if you want to be extra fancy.

Chill 1 hour or more.

Top with dairy-free whipped cream or tofu topping (see recipe below), berries, shaved chocolate, chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

Tofu Cream Topping

1, 12-ounce package silken organic extra firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand or other in shelf stable/aseptic package)
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt

Blend until combined. Chill until cold.

Are you cooking non-animal proteins for clients? Share a tip with us for how you use it.

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

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

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The Case for Bison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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