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!

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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.

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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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?

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How are your pasta-making skills? Do you default to dry or refrigerated fresh found in the grocery store? Here’s a tip from Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW’s Good Food radio show and the woman behind the great Caffe Angeli on Melrose in LA (which I adored when I lived there). She wrote about why shoppers should not buy supermarket “fresh” pasta.

“If imported Italian dry pasta were choice A and fresh pasta were choice B and I could only choose one to eat for the rest of my life, there would be no contest. I’d choose A, dry pasta. Many home cooks, bamboozled by the glut of fresh pasta in restaurants, have come to believe that if it’s the chef’s choice, then it’s the better product. It is not.”

Now while she acknowledges her story is about her love of dry durum wheat pasta, she also readily acknowledges that fresh pasta made well and served with appropriate sauces is a great dining experience.

Making really good fresh pasta demands quality ingredients and skill–and it’s something that with practice home cooks can do for themselves. Back in the 80s, the idea was to make it, then hang it on “pasta racks” or broom sticks to dry and then cook later. Today, of course, we recognize that you can put a big pot of water on the stove to heat and make your pasta while the water is coming to the boil.

I’m lucky in that I get to spend a lot of time with chefs in their kitchens, learning their techniques, getting their recipes. And I’ve been hanging out with several recently who have taught me how to make pasta. Each has their own technique but I thought I’d share what a young man, Daniel Wolinsky, showed me. He’s the Chef de Cuisine at cucina SORELLA in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego. Wolinsky, who teaches pasta-making classes at the restaurant, made a simple Tagliarni with Hot Sausage and Clams. Like many of us who cook at home, he created a “what’s in the fridge” style dish. Initially he was thinking of a corn pesto, which intrigued me. But, there was no corn around that day. But clams and other seafood were. So we were going to go in a seafood and tomato pasta direction. Until he noticed his house-made sausage. Scratch the seafood. Instead it evolved into just clams with the sausage, along with garlic, and even green garlic (it was then spring), lemon juice, and white wine. Actually, there was fresh minced basil, too, which you can certainly add, although Wolinsky didn’t include it in the recipe below.

He started by making the pasta. He already had a batch of dough mixed that one of his line chefs had been turning into ravioli. This dough, rich in eggs, is a house specialty and Wolinsky felt it might be too difficult for those not all that experienced in making pasta to get right. Instead, our recipe below is a little more user friendly with fewer eggs (three whole eggs instead of nine yolks) and your success that much more guaranteed.

The noodles Wolinsky prefers for a seafood pasta like this are thin. He explained that they cook quickly in water and in the broth of the seafood component they better absorb the flavors.

When running the pasta through the machine, you’ll want to get it as thin as possible. When Wolinsky did his final roll, you could actually see the grain of the wood counter through the sheet.

The long flat pasta stretched about three feet along the counter so Wolinsky cut it into several pieces. Then sprinkled them lightly with flour so when he folded each up there’d be no sticking.

Then he sliced through the folded piece of pasta to create long, thin noodles of tagliarini.

With the pasta made we went into the kitchen to create the sauce. It was ridiculously quick. So first put a pot of water to the boil. Then grab a pan and add the sliced sausage. Sauté the coins until just golden brown on both side. If they don’t give off enough fat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, and then add the garlic. Just before the garlic starts to brown add the clams and quickly cook together before pouring the wine into the pan. Cover the the pan so the clams will steam open–it’ll take just a couple of minutes. Once the clams open, add the pasta to the boiling water and the green garlic to the pan. The pasta should be cooked in less than a minute. Pull it out of the water and drop into the pan and toss, adding the fresh lemon juice. Taste and add salt if necessary. If the dish is too dry for you, add a little of the pasta water to the pan.

At that point, it’ll be ready to plate. Pour the pasta mixture into a bowl and top with the bread crumbs. Because you can make the dough in advance, this is perfect for an impressive dinner party for clients.

Tagliarini with Hot Sausage and Clams
from Daniel Wolinsky of cucina SORELLA
Feeds about 4 people

Ingredients
1 pound fresh tagliarini (Any long noodle will work but he recommends fresh long noodles; recipe below.)
8 ounces or 2 spicy Italian sausage links pre-cooked and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped1 pound Little Neck clams (Manilla also work.)
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon green garlic (or minced garlic cloves)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh toasted bread crumbs

Directions
1. Put on a 8-quart pot of water to boil and season heavily with salt.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium/high heat sear the sausage till golden brown on both sides.
3. Add the garlic and right before it starts to color add the clams and toss together. Cook for 30 seconds.
4. Carefully pour the white wine into the pan and cover to steam the clams open, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. When the clams open drop the pasta to cook and add the green garlic to the pan.
6. Toss in the pasta and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Season the dish to taste with salt. If you like the dish more brothy, add a few tablespoons of pasta water.
7. Plate and top the pasta with a healthy portion of bread crumbs. Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta Recipe

Ingredients
3 whole eggs
300 grams 00 flour
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions
1. In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer add the flour and on a low speed with a dough hook slowly pour in the eggs and olive oil.
2. Mix for about 10 minutes (Note you may need to add a touch of water if it’s too dry.). After the dough has formed wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough using a pasta rolling machine to the desired thickness and shape. He recommends longer,  thinner noodles.

Do you make your own pasta for clients? What’s your specialty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the four basic steps:

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

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

Pacific Salt-Crusted Fish with Ginger Scallion Sauce

From Andrew Spurgin

Serves three to four

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

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

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºf.

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

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

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

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

Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

Serving suggestion:

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

Great with a dry Riesling wine or Champagne!

Alternative filling:

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

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

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

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

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Chefs, now that summer is here again and the temps inside and out make us dread turning on the stove, how about a break? Inside of turning up the heat, turn on the blender and make your clients (or yourself) some easy, refreshing chilled soups.

This is something I’ve been doing for years–and it’s been made so much easier with a powerful Vitamix. Some of my summer soups are savory, filled with veggies and garlic and herbs–to which chilled seafood, like shrimp or crab, can be added.

Others soups are more of a dessert treat. Melons and berries are terrific for them. Great a little good dark chocolate over the top or dunk a nice sandy shortbread into it and you’ll have a satisfying meal ender.

So, what have we got? The first is my most recent creation: Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup. I had a bit of a gardening episode and landed myself with a huge pile of green onions. So, soup! This recipe is easy and so satisfying on its own. The only thing I add is a hunk of sourdough baguette and homemade cultured butter.

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup
Serves 4

2 cups spinach, tightly packed
1 cup green onions, sliced (set aside a couple of tablespoons for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat or “light” sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces panko crumbs

1. Place all of the ingredients until the butter in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the panko crumbs. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until the crumbs become slightly brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
4. To serve, divide the soup between bowls. Garnish with the set aside slices of green onions and a sprinkling of the panko crumbs.

Another chilled savory soup I’ve loved for years is gazpacho. As many of my friends know, this chunky gazpacho is something my mom has made for years and I adopted as my own. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients and the more nutrients, the better the flavor. This soup is packed with it. It starts with the tomatoes, but adds cucumbers, corn, onions, garlic, bell peppers, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice–and I’m just getting started! Just be sure to chop each vegetable individually–unless you want a puree. Make your own tortillas to accompany this!

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 8 to 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 tbls lime juice
2-6 tbls red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp 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 or cooked chunks of chicken or pork
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.

To make the flowered corn tortillas, simply prepare the masa according to the directions on the package (water, masa, and salt). Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. On your tortilla press, lay an edible flower (we’ve used nasturtiums, pansies, society garlic, and the flowers of herbs that bolted) right side down. Then put the dough ball on top of the flower and press.

Place the uncooked tortilla flower side up on a hot skillet. When the edges curl, flip it over and cook just a minute or so more. That’s it.

Now for the sweet soups. Let’s start with this Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup. Chilled melons may be the most refreshing of summer eats. Combine the melon–and an über sweet honeydew at that–with fresh ginger, coconut milk, lime juice, and a smidge of kaffir lime powder and you have a dish that will serve as virtual armor against the dastardly rays of the summer sun.

Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup
Yield: 2 cups

1/2 honeydew melon (about 2 cups), seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
1 pinch kaffir lime leaf powder (available at spice shops)
Juice from one lime
Drizzle of honey

Combine all the ingredients. Puree in a blender until smooth. Chill for an hour before serving. Grate a little lime zest over the soup as garnish.

Finally, here’s my Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup. When the heat is on I love this combination of melon with blueberries and potent herbs like tarragon and basil. Thanks to the yogurt, it has a welcome creaminess and tang.

Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup
Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups melon
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain yogurt
Pinch kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

What’s your favorite go-to summer soup? Feel free to share the recipe!

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