Bali Beef Curry

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 27, 2020

So let’s just get this out of the way first. What exactly is curry? If it’s on a restaurant menu, it’s a complexly flavored sauce that creates heavenly dishes with vegetables, tofu, chicken, beef, or seafood. And, well, it’s got to include fragrant ingredients like lemongrass, and ginger or galangal, and, perhaps chiles, although those herbs and spices will vary depending on the dish and its geographic origin.

Then there is curry powder. These aromatics tend to be used in the Indian subcontinent and in British dishes, but are also found across Asia and into the Caribbean. There’s no one combination of dried spices that makes up curry powder. They tend to have specific names to will tell you their use, like garam masala, which usually has cumin, cardamom, turmeric, pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. You can create a curry dish with curry powder but also use it for a marinade or a spice rub or sprinkled over roasted vegetables to add flavor.

And, there are actual curry leaves. These green leaves tend to be citrusy and sometimes bitter, and, yes, they’re used in Indian cuisine, but they aren’t a substitute for curry powder.

But for our purposes, let’s talk about curry, the well-traveled saucy dish. The name is derived from the southern Indian word “kari,” meaning sauce and was transformed into “curry,” probably by the British, who had colonized India in the 18th century. You’ll find curry not just in India, but also Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Japan, and the Caribbean—not to mention around the world in countries that have fallen in love with its powerful flavors and often creamy texture.

I have friends in San Diego who own a wonderful restaurant called World Curry. Bruce Jackson actually discovered curry in his mid-20s in Japan during a visit. Nothing fancy, it was the popular boxed instant curry that the Japanese, he said, eat all the time. He’d also find it in Singapore and Thai restaurants there and since he loved cooking, he started experimenting, taking cooking classes in Thailand and doing deep dives into cookbooks. His ex-wife Momoko, who is Japanese, started the business with him back in 1995 and continues to work with him, handling the marketing.

If you’ve been wary about trying your hand at making curry, Jackson assures that curry is pretty straightforward. “It’s like making spaghetti sauce in that you stir once in awhile and don’t let it burn. For Thai curries, all the work is in making the paste. Once you have that, it goes quickly.”

To achieve real smoothness with both the sauces and the pastes, Jackson recommends using a blender instead of a food processor.

The dishes also benefit from time—lots of it. Jackson likes to cook the curries the day before serving them to give the flavors time to mingle.

This is especially true, Jackson said, for the Bali Beef, a rich, thick stew that he explains is basically an Indonesian curry since Bali doesn’t use much beef. His inspiration was a curry at a Bali food cart, sticky rice and beef—like a rice ball with spicy beef—served with a banana leaf. In Jackson’s version, the brisket ultimately falls apart in the long, slow cooking process, bathed in garlic, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, onion, lemongrass, galangal, and coconut milk. Brown sugar adds depth and a little lemon juice, star anise powder, and cinnamon give it brightness.

Successfully making curry, according to Jackson, is basically about taking care with each step and creating building blocks of flavor. “Even an extra 20 seconds can make a difference in the results,” he said. “Letting the sauce gently simmer and settle in will yield more flavor.”

Bali Beef (Rendang)
From World Curry
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
¼ cup cooking oil (canola, peanut, or other vegetable oil)
1 ½ pounds brisket or stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 tablespoons cumin powder
2 tablespoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ cup fresh chopped onion
¼ cup fresh lemongrass chopped
2 tablespoons galangal or ginger chopped
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½  teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons star anise powder
½ teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

  1. Heat oil on medium/high heat and sauté the beef until browned on most sides. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. In the same pan sauté the garlic until golden. Stir in the cumin, coriander, black pepper, and chili powder and cook for another minute. Stir in the onion, lemongrass, and galangal. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the contents of the pan and the cup coconut milk to the blender. Blend until smooth and pour the blender contents back into the stock pot.
  4. Add in the browned beef, then add all the remaining ingredients to the same stock pot.
  5. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 4 hours stirring occasionally. When the beef falls apart and is tender the curry should be done. Serve with steamed rice.

Do you ever make a traditional curry? Tell us about your favorite recipe!

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Chill Out with a Homemade Shrub

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 13, 2020

Welcome to July! It’s getting hot! And while it’s easy for clients to reach into the fridge for a soft drink or juice or iced tea, how about making them a berry or other summer fruit shrub? If you haven’t heard of shrubs, they are a fruit syrup, preserved with vinegar. The chemical transformation in just hours of the mixture of fruit, perhaps some herbs, sugar, and vinegar creates a unique sweet and tangy libation as part of a cocktail, blended with soda water, or used as an ingredient to make a dressing or sauce. You can pour shrubs over ice cream, too. And you can blend them with fresh fruit and freeze into popsicles.

There are essentially two methods of making a shrub, both easy and requiring few ingredients. One is via heat and a fairly quick process. The other is a cold method that sits for several hours or even a day or two as the ingredients macerate.

Essentially what you’ll want is your fruit, sugar, and vinegar–red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar are good choices. You want something that has some substance but won’t overtake the fruit flavors. Balsamic is a good choice, too, but know that it will vie with the fruit in terms of flavors. It’s actually what I used for my shrub along with the apple cider vinegar.

Another cool thing about shrubs has to do with the fruit. Since the fruit will be turned into a liquid, you don’t need to buy the most flawless, perfect fruit. If you have peaches or plums or berries that are a little past their prime, they’re great candidates for a shrub.

Okay, so what do you do? The quick way is to combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and stir the mixture over heat until the sugar dissolves. Then add your fruit. Stir as it simmers and the juice melds with the sugar mixture, becoming syrupy. Let it cool, strain the solids, and add your vinegar. That’s it.

Now some people feel that the way to extract more complexity and brightness is to go with the cold method. There’s no heat to dull the fruit flavors. This, too, is quite easy. And, it’s what I did.

In a bowl I gently mashed a mixture of mulberries, blackberries, and raspberries to extract some of the juices to let the sugar to penetrate more easily–sort of a head start. Then I added the sugar, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerated it. The next morning, I pulled the bowl out of the fridge and could see the juices and syrup already forming.

At this point you strain the liquid from the fruit. If you have a fine mesh strainer or chinois, that’s the perfect tool for this. Press down on the fruit to get every last drop. )And save the fruit to enjoy on ice cream or to spread on French toast.) Then you’ll whisk the vinegar into the liquid. Pour it into a pretty bottle using a funnel and you’re good to go.

Your shrub will be wonderfully tart and sweet, a combination that will mellow with time when stored in the fridge. I like to keep it simple and enjoy it combined with sparkling water on a hot late afternoon. And, as I said, enjoy the remaining preserved fruit over ice cream!

I’ve got a recipe for you that I adapted from Serious Eats that outlines the process perfectly.

Cold Processed Berry Shrub
Yield: 20 to 24 ounces of shrub syrup

Ingredients
1 cup of berries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Place berries in a bowl and gently mash them to release some juice.
2. Add sugar and mix together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight until the fruit releases liquids into a syrup. There’s no hurry here.
3. Place the mixture into a fine mesh strainer or chinois over a bowl or measuring cup and carefully press on the fruit and sugar mixture to extract as much syrup as possible. If there’s some sugar remaining in the original bowl scrape that in, too. Save the fruit for ice cream or to spread on French toast or pancakes.
4. Whisk the vinegar into the syrup.
5. Using a funnel, pour your shrub into a bottle. Seal and keep refrigerated.

Have you ever tasted or, better yet, made a shrub? What flavors do you think you’d mix for a signature shrub? 

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What is a recipe? According to the ginormous reference on one of my bookshelves, The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, recipe is first defined as “A set of directions with a list of ingredients for making or preparing something, especially food.”

But the second definition is just as interesting: “A formula for or means to a desired end.”

The question is are recipes written in stone or a template for a concept for a dish? Let’s set aside baking–which requires fairly strict adherence to a recipe to result in a bread with the right texture, a cake with the right crumb, etc. How closely do you adhere to a recipe you got from your grandma, chose in a cookbook, or found online?  Do you stick to it the first time to see how it works and riff from there? Based on your expertise, can you see flaws in the ingredient amounts and make adjustments? And how do you expect others to use your recipes?

What does a recipe mean to you?

Eater recently ran an article by Navneet Alang that wrestled with this. Alang points out that cooking is an act of care and that following a recipe can be ritualistic, “the practice of repeating established, sequential steps a comfort when the world feels uncertain.” He likens it to received wisdom or repositories of knowledge. And,  he explains, “There is a reason recipes are passed down from generation to generation.”

APPCA member Lola Dee says, “I have a very difficult time sticking to recipes, I tend to tweak everything and substitute ingredients, using what I have. I think if you use the recipe as a guideline and apply correct methods you can come up with some delicious breakthroughs. However, if you’re cooking institutionally or for a restaurant, you do have to stick to the recipes for consistency, costing, etc.”

I know I can relate to this. I, too, am a recipe tweaker, although with recipes using a technique unfamiliar to me, I tend to follow them precisely the first time to learn.

But an experienced, confident home cook or chef can take the essence of a recipe and turn it into a dish that doesn’t just make do with the ingredients we have or can source–an issue we’ve faced through the pandemic. Their massage of the recipe can be an act of creativity, a way of imprinting oneself on a dish. Or, of course, a adaptive way to address dietary restrictions. We look at a recipe’s construction to learn where to build flavor, how to build body, how to transform texture. We are taking a basic melody and essential instruments and coming up with our own orchestration.

Essentially, the recipe transforms from a directive to a template. A happy guidepost to our own destination.

As personal chef, food blogger, and recipe developer Gina Bean explains:

“Recipe writing is a skill… A good recipe has its place, for sure. But, cooks should make dishes the way they, and their diners, like them.”

What is your approach to using recipes and writing them? Are they set in stone or a template for creativity?

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Caprese empanadas

Back in 2015, I posted here some recipes for empanadas. Well, just a few months ago, before lockdowns and quarantines, I spent time in the kitchen of an Argentine chef in San Diego whose entire business revolves around empanadas. I surely hope he’s still in business because these pastries are so divine.

Empanadas are traditionally shaped into crescents — a form that comes from simply pulling the edge of one half of a circle of dough over the filling to the edge of the other half and pressing together the edges to make a seam. But, as Matias Rigali, owner of Empanada Kitchen, explained, the array of beautifully shaped pastries and twisted seams that you can find in a home or a shop is a way of distinguishing pastries with different fillings. Beef and chicken filled empanadas tend to have the usual crescent shape, but the twisted seam of the beef has smaller folds than a chicken empanada. His Caprese and Ham & Cheese empanadas are both shaped into circles by pulling together the two ends of the crescent and sealing, but the ends of the Ham & Cheese variety are crisscrossed. The Mushroom & Goat Cheese variety has a more rectangular shape. And on it goes.

While beef is considered the classic version, Rigali explained that there are endless types of fillings. Many have an Italian influence, which aligns with Argentina’s population.

I got to learn Rigali’s dough recipe and his Caprese recipe, which I thought I’d share since we’re in the thick of spring, and tomatoes and basil are coming into season. This dough is home-cook friendly so even if you’re dough phobic, as a chef you should have no problem. And this dough, which uses Spectrum, an organic vegetable shortening, or Nutiva, an organic shortening that’s a blend of red palm and coconut oil, as the fat, is far more heart healthy than his country’s traditional beef tallow. Rigali said it also makes for a flaky pastry.

The dough is simple, made with all-purpose flour, salt, the vegetable shortening and water. Mix the first three ingredients together and slowly add the water. If the dough is still a bit dry, you can add more but a very little at a time. After forming balls, chill the dough for an hour. Rigali highly suggests using a pasta machine to roll it out, with the roller set at 8. But you can also roll it out with a rolling pin. It needs to be as thin as a flour tortilla. Then cut into 5 1/2-inch circles.

To make the Caprese filling, clean Roma tomatoes of the seeds and dice. Mince fresh basil just before using it to keep the edges from browning. And finely shred mozzarella cheese. Combine the mixture, which also includes salt and pepper, in a bowl, using your fingers to keep the tomatoes from breaking and to more evenly spread the spices. Then you’ll form 2-ounce balls.

The fun part comes with the assembly. Place a ball of the filling in the middle of the rolled-out dough circle. If you’re a beginner or teaching a child, do this on the counter, then fold over half the dough to meet the other half and use the tines of a fork to pinch the edges together and then pull the ends together and pinch to make a circle. Once you’re feeling a little more confident and competent, place the circle in your hand, place the filling in the middle and fold one half of the dough over the other and use your fingers to first seal together and then draw together the ends of the crescent to form a circle. Once assembled, each hand pie should be pricked with a skewer or toothpick twice on the upper side to allow steam to escape while baking.

Rigali stressed a great trick to perfect this hand pie: freeze the raw empanadas overnight and bake from frozen. This allows the pastry to cook briefly at high heat without either burning the dough or overcooking the filling. Before baking, give each pie a quick brush of egg wash. Bake a single layer 10 at a time at 550 degrees for 10 minutes. Then keep checking 1 minute at a time until they are a light brown. Serve them with a bowl of chimichurri.

Empanada Dough
Makes 20 empanadas

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons un-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 cup of water

Mix flour, salt and vegetable shortening in a bowl. Start adding water until it is absorbed. Add more water if necessary. Divide the dough ball in smaller balls, wrap each in plastic, and chill for at least an hour. Stretch the dough, ideally with a pasta machine set at 8. If rolling it out with a rolling pin, the dough should be about the thickness of a flour tortilla. Cut the dough into circular shapes about 51/2 inches in diameter.

Caprese Empanada
Makes about 20 empanadas

1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cleaned of seeds and diced
2 ounces fresh basil leaves, finely chopped just before using
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
20 empanada dough circles
1 egg, beaten

Mix the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl with your fingers to better disperse the spices. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Add the mixture to the mozzarella. Blend carefully, trying to avoid breaking up the tomatoes. Make 20 small balls of about 2 ounces each.

Assemble the empanada by placing a ball of the mixture on the center of the circle. Fold over and seal the edges, either with the tines of a fork or pinching the edges closed with your fingers. Poke the top side with two small holes to release steam while baking.

Freeze overnight on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees. Brush the frozen empanadas with the beaten egg and bake in batches of 10 for 10 minutes, checking in one-minute increments after that until they’re golden brown.

Do you make empanadas? What varieties do you enjoy?

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Both of my grandmothers were terrific cooks and one, my mom’s mother, was also an accomplished baker. I have a collection of recipe cards from her, my Nana, but when I was in my 20s I asked her to make me a cookbook of her recipes. By then she was closing in on 80, if not that already. Her memory of exact recipe ingredient amounts was sliding and her handwriting had become a bit wispy. But she accommodated my request and within months presented me with a blue denim three-ring notebook filled with handwritten recipes. I adore that book. It’s on my list of items to grab in case of evacuation.

I’m going to take a big leap and assume that you, too, have some stacks of cherished family recipes in a drawer or box, or shoved into cookbooks. Would I be right as well in assuming that on some to-do list somewhere is a goal of organizing them for yourself or your kids? I ask because I happened upon an article in My Recipes that has all sorts of wonderful ideas for how to turn old family recipes into heirlooms. Sure, there were the expected takes, like the notebook and box for index cards. But the author also surprised me with some unexpected ideas I just have to share. Because it seems to me that if you’re stuck at home looking for a new project to take on after binging on all your favorite shows and mastering baking sourdough bread, creatively corralling all those recipes–perhaps even your own, if not those of parents and grandparents–could be a satisfying activity.

What does the author suggest?

First, the photo album, of course. I’m partial to this idea, along with the next, because I love being able to hold the pieces of notebook paper, the backs of the envelopes, and the stained index cards with my Nana’s or mom’s sprawling handwriting.

Then, there’s the recipe box. This can be as well-ordered with section markers or totally random for the fun of discovery. When my mom sold her house following my dad’s death a few years ago, she gave me a hefty orange recipe box that I periodically riffle through. I even found what had been someone’s (my little brother’s?) art project with a recipe lightly written on it. Was it the first thing she grabbed to take down a recipe from a friend on the phone? I’ll have to ask her.

Now, you could just buy a recipe box on Amazon. Or you could get creative and make one or get a bare bones box and decorate it. Or have a kid decorate it. Or scour Etsy for the recipe box of your dreams.

From inmyownstyle.com

Then the writer surprised me. How about framing favorite old, handwritten recipes? She demonstrates this with recipe cards and burlap as the matting, but whatever works for your style could be wonderful. This is where inspiration from Pinterest could come in handy.

Next came the idea of creating a memory recipe box. This is quite a bit different from gathering and organizing family recipes. Here you’re hitting on a recipe or group of recipes that strike you where you live and build a sort of altar to them, placing them in a shadow box with photos and other items that represent what those recipes mean to you.

WeeCustomDesigns on Etsy

Finally, there’s this very cool idea of transposing a cherished family recipe onto a tea towel or cutting board. Imagine this as a gift idea for relatives who all know and love Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies or lasagna. It can be a DIY project (you can go to the original story for a couple of sources) or you could have an artisan do it for you–and you can find them on Etsy.

Do you have a collection of family recipes that need organizing? How have you pulled them together or displayed them?

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Asparagus Season is Almost Here!

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , March 9, 2020

When you were a kid were the food seasons really seasons? Did you have to wait for summer for tomatoes and corn? For fall for apples and chestnuts? For winter for citrus and root veggies? And for spring for asparagus and artichokes?

It seems that with our global economy comes global accessibility year-round to otherwise seasonal food–unless you’re committed to cooking and eating locally. That means that for many of us we can have what we want when we want it, as long as we’re willing to eat food shipped from other countries.

But wasn’t the anticipation of the first of the season produce or seafood or even flowers pretty thrilling? So, here it is March and while I can certainly find asparagus in my local supermarket and Trader Joe’s somehow its appearance at my farmers market or in the display areas for the seasonal produce just makes me happier and more eager to take it home to cook. And it’s almost time!

Back in the day, asparagus was exotic and pricey. At least pricey for my family. I may have first discovered them in their canned form, which is so not a winning introduction. Canned asparagus is overcooked and kind of slimy. But fresh asparagus! Oh, that’s another matter entirely. Especially grilled or broiled.

Now over the years two questions about asparagus persist:

1. Pencil thin or thick? (As if my preferred medium girth weren’t an option.)
2. Eat with your fingers or your fork?

I’d love to know your favorite way to prepare them and hope you’ll share them below. The way I enjoy them the most requires medium girth and a fork at the table–because I cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces. You see, I love them sautéed in olive oil and garlic, before being caramelized by lemon juice, and tossed with toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

This is the simplest of dishes and yet, to me, is all about the asparagus and how well it marries with each of these few ingredients.

Here’s how it goes down: Wash the asparagus and then snap off the tough, woody bottom end. Slice into two-inch pieces (or as close as you can get). Mince a couple of cloves of garlic. Lightly toast a couple of teaspoons of white sesame seeds. Get a nice juicy slice of lemon (I use Meyer lemons from my garden but a conventional lemon is fine, too).

Now pull out your favorite sauté pan and place it on the stove over medium high heat. To be honest, I have a Scanpan wok that I’ve had forever. I rarely use it for Asian cooking (I have a “real” wok for that) but love to sauté veggies in the Scanpan wok because the flat bottom perfectly fits one of my ceramic stove’s front burners and the swooping sides give me more cooking room.

Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and let it heat up a bit, then add the garlic. Once you can smell the garlic’s aroma, add the asparagus. Stir it in to coat with the oil and garlic.

Then be patient and let the asparagus cook for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. It takes about six minutes for the asparagus to show signs of browning. You don’t want it overcooked, just a little seared. Then add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. The garlic will turn into brown bits that actually are delicious, not to mention crunchy. Sprinkle the asparagus with sea salt, then toss in the sesame seeds. Mix well. That’s it. Time to plate it.

Sautéed Asparagus with Garlic, Lemon Juice, and Sesame Seeds
Serves 2

Ingredients
2 dozen medium-width asparagus spears (about a pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Sea salt to taste

Directions
1. Wash and trim the asparagus to remove the woody bottom. Slice into two-inch pieces.
2. Heat a sauté pan over medium high and add minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the asparagus. Stir to coat the asparagus with the oil and garlic. Then let it sit for a couple of minutes. Stir and let it sit some more. Continue to stir a couple of more times until the asparagus starts to brown–about six minutes.
3. Add the lemon juice. Stir and let the juice reduce and caramelize the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt and stir in the sesame seeds. Serve.

What spring food are you waiting, waiting, waiting for? And how do you love to prepare asparagus?

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Honey Skillet Chicken Thighs

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 25, 2020

Chefs are nothing if not creative, but sometimes every cook can get into a rut. And there may be nothing that induces a rut more than your basic roasted chicken. We like what we like. We’ve figured out our perfect technique and favorite ingredients and it’s just an easy go to.

But how about dialing it up a little with a slightly different approach, if not for clients perhaps for yourself? As in a skillet chicken with a finger-licking sauce?

This would certainly work for any piece of chicken–including a whole cut up chicken–but I’m partial to thighs. I love their moistness and flavor.

Since I like to caramelize chicken skin with honey on occasion we start here with honey, along with garlic–such a great pairing. To offset the honey’s sweetness I use anchovies. I have a large tin of salted Sicilian anchovies and they’re perfect to mince with the garlic. Meyer lemons are in season this time of year so clearly they, too, factor in.


Finally, butter. Yeah, butter, browned and foamy and nutty. That pulls it all together.

Making this dish isn’t just a matter of throwing the ingredients together and shoving the pan in the oven to bake for awhile. Nope, you have to hover over the stove to build the flavors.

So, pull out your reliable cast iron skillet and add a tablespoon of unsalted butter. While the butter melts over the heat, season the chicken thighs with a little salt and pepper. Then, with butter sizzling, place the thighs into the skillet to sear, skin side down first, then turned to cook for a few more minutes. Remove, along with most of the pan juices, which you can discard (the juices, not the chicken, of course). Add just a bit more butter to the skillet, scraping up the bits, and gradually the stirred butter foams and browns. To that add the honey, stirring it to get it to dissolve, then the garlic and anchovies. Now don’t make a face. The anchovies are fairly indiscernible in the dish, but create this lovely underlying salty umami.

Once the aroma becomes this side of mouth watering, add the lemon juice. Now you’ve got sweet, salty, and tart in a molten sauce. That’s when you add the chicken back to the pan skin side up and continue cooking, spooning some of that sauce over the chicken to baste. You’ll cover the pan to finish it up before running the skillet under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp the skin.

And that’s it. For the effort, you get tender, juicy chicken bathed in one of the best sauces you’ll ever love. Serve it over rice. Serve it over greens. I chose arugula for the spiciness. Then spoon the sauce over it all and swoon a bit.

Honey Skillet Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemon, Garlic, and Anchovies

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 anchovies, minced
Juice from 1 lemon

Instructions

Preheat your oven to broil.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a 12-inch oven-proof pan or cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. While the butter melts, season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Sear chicken thighs, skin side down first, until the skin is crispy. Turn and sear again until golden. Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the pan juices. Transfer chicken to a warm plate.

Melt the rest of the butter in the same pan or skillet the chicken was seared in over medium heat, scraping any bits left over in the pan from the chicken with a spatula. Stir the butter and swirl the pan occasionally for about 3 minutes as the butter changes color to golden brown and has a nutty fragrance.

Add the honey and stir it into the butter to dissolve. Then add in the garlic and anchovies. Sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the lemon juice. Stir well to create a well-blended sauce.

Return the chicken thighs skin side up to the pan with the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes uncovered in the sauce, occasionally basting the skin with the pan juices. Reduce heat to simmer, cover the skillet with a lid, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Use a thermometer to measure the doneness. It will be fully cooked at 165 degrees F.

Remove the lid and transfer the skillet to your oven to broil for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tops of the chicken are nicely charred. Then remove from oven.

Serve over rice or a plate of arugula. Drizzle sauce over the chicken and rice/arugula.

Have you recently been in a chicken rut? How did you change things up?

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Homemade Yogurt

Filed under: Recipes,Special Diets,Special Ingredients , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 10, 2020

Imagine being a New Stone Age human, just starting to engage in food production back around 9,000 B.C. You have sheep and goats that you’ve discovered are tasty (Domesticated cows wouldn’t show up until about 4,000 B.C.). And, their wool keeps you warm. But what really made them appealing is their milk. It’s so nutritious!

Just one problem that many of your clients can relate to. People—not all, but enough—couldn’t digest it easily. Yep, there was lactose intolerance back in the very old days. But by fermenting the milk—as in creating yogurt and cheese—a lot of that lactose morphs into lactic acid, which is much more easily digested.

Today, of course, there are entire walls of supermarkets dedicated to yogurt. And, yeah, it’s so convenient to toss a bunch of containers into your cart. It’s a great, easily transportable snack, transforms into a beautiful sauce or dip, and, yes, is magical when flavored and frozen.

But you haven’t tasted the real deal until you’ve tasted homemade yogurt. That’s because it’s missing all those chemical additives that keeps the processed stuff more time to languish in your fridge. What you have with homemade yogurt is the milk—cow’s, sheep, or goat—along with some culture. That’s it.

The most important element in making yogurt is the quality of the milk. Sure, you can buy milk, even goat milk, at a market but read the labels and you’ll find they’ve been pasteurized to within an inch of their lives. Your task is to dive into relationships with farmers, Local Harvest, and natural health food stores to find out how you can access farm-fresh milk.

The cooking process is then straightforward. First make sure everything—from utensils to the cooking container—is spotlessly clean. You’ll pour the milk into a stainless steel pot and heat it to about 180 degrees, then cool it down to 115 degrees with an ice bath. The milk is then ready to receive the culture that will transform it. Use either a cup of unflavored yogurt or yogurt culture that you sprinkle on the milk. Stir it in well and then place the yogurt in a water bath. If you have an Instant Pot you can use the Yogurt setting. If not, you can use a clean, sanitized ice chest with water that’s 120 degrees. Cover the milk mixture tightly and let it sit in the chest or slow cooker for up to 24 hours. Then you’ll refrigerate the yogurt, aiming for 38 degrees. If the yogurt isn’t as thick as you’d like, turn it into Greek-style yogurt by hanging it in muslin over a bowl to drain the whey (which you should save and use).

At that point you can flavor it if you want and pour it into individual containers. But first taste it. It will taste like no yogurt you’ve ever had—fresh and tangy and clean. You’ll want to eat it all up or, if you have some will power, use it as an ingredient in a sauce.

Two issues to note: Again, make sure everything involved is scrupulously clean, but if for some reason your creation doesn’t smell like yogurt or cheese, don’t eat it. And don’t flavor it until it’s cooked (except the coconut yogurt, to which you can add agave or other sweetener and vanilla bean). Ford explained that the flavorings will deteriorate the yogurt faster than if it is plain.

Sheep, Cow, or Goat Yogurt
Yield: Depending on the species, yields will vary. Sheep and cow milk will yield between ¾ and 7/8 of a gallon. Goat milk will not have as high a yield. If you make Greek-style yogurt, yield will decrease about 50 percent.

Ingredients
1 gallon fresh milk
Yogurt culture or a cup of yogurt

Tools
Stainless Steel Pot
Thermometer
Extra Fine Butter Muslin
Colander
40-quart Ice Chest, or a Slow Cooker, Ricer Cooker, or Instant Pot

Directions
Pour the milk into a large stainless steel pot on the stove and bring up to 175 to 180 degrees.

Once milk reaches the correct temperature, cool the milk down to 115 degrees by pouring it into a bowl and place that bowl into an ice bath.

When milk is cooled sprinkle culture on top of milk and let hydrate for a minute or two. If you use yogurt simply stir into the milk. Stir yogurt culture into the milk going both directions and bottom to top to make sure the culture is well mixed, otherwise your yield will go down and it can also result in a grainy texture.

In a clean and sanitized ice chest pour in 120-degree water for your water bath. It should be just enough so that the water line and milk lines are level. Not enough can cause yogurt not to fully develop, while too much will cause pot to float and possibly tip over. Cover the pot of milk tightly with lid or plastic wrap. You can also use individual, sanitized glass jars. Close the lid of the ice chest and let sit for 18-24 hours.

As an alternative you can pour the milk into a slow cooker, rice cooker or Instant Pot and set to low or yogurt setting for 12 hours.

Remove yogurt from ice chest/water bath or electric cooker and refrigerate until fully cooled and set.

Once yogurt is well chilled (38 degrees), you can create a thicker Greek-style yogurt by placing the yogurt in a fine butter muslin and colander and letting the whey drain into a bowl. The more you hang and drain the whey the sour/tart flavor will increase. Save the whey and use in smoothies, blend with fruit for frozen pops, or include in sauces.

Have you ever tried to make homemade yogurt? Did it live up to expectations?

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Many clients are eager, especially as part of New Year’s resolutions, to cut their carbs consumption. And yet they still crave a hearty, warming meal–like lasagna. Now, if you have clients who love eggplant–and all the great ingredients that eggplant complements–you can’t go wrong with this faux “lasagna.”

Eggplant is such a versatile vegetable. Fry them, bake them, roast them, marinate them… the list goes on and on. And you find them in so many cultures around the world, which adds even more to their versatility and the range of flavor profiles you can create.

Here’s a dish that features sliced, roasted eggplant; roasted, peeled red and yellow peppers; homemade tomato sauce, rich with spicy Italian chicken sausage and mushrooms; and lots of garlic mixed into the ricotta, Parmesan, egg mixture. Oh, and let’s not forget the panko mixed with grated Parmesan that tops it all off.

All of these ingredients are layered into a deep 9 by 9-inch ceramic baking dish and baked at high heat for about half an hour. It comes out of the oven brown and bubbling from the cheese. Cut into it and you have layers of sublime flavors all complementing each other. Your clients can pair it with a salad and serve it with a crisp white wine. And, you can freeze it before baking or freeze well wrapped baked slices.

Baked Eggplant and Bell Pepper in Ricotta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons for the baking dish and to drizzle on the casserole
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise, about ½ inch thick
3 bell peppers (any color but green, which is too bitter)
2 fresh spicy Italian chicken sausages
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups marinara sauce
15 ounces ricotta
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup reserved for topping
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup panko crumbs

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place eggplant slices on two half sheet baking pans and brush lightly on both sides with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes, turning slices over halfway. The eggplant slices should be golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, roast the peppers on your stove top or alongside the eggplant until all sides are blackened. Remove and place in a brown paper bag with the top rolled up to steam the skins off the peppers. Wait about 10 minutes and remove the peppers and peel the skins off. Slice in half and remove the core and seeds. Then slice into segments and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Slice through the sausage casings and add the meat to the skillet. Break it up and sauté until browned. Set aside and add the mushroom slices. Let them brown. Add the sausage meat and the mushrooms to the marina sauce.

4. In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper.

5. To put the casserole together, brush an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil. Then layer half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Follow that with half of the marina sauce and a layer of the peppers. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat these layers and end with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the ¼ cup reserved Parmesan cheese and the panko crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s your favorite low-carb riff on lasagna? What ingredients do you feature?

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Don’t waste time feeling anything like pity for those of us who live in Southern California and “endure” its  winters. While the rest of the country is digging out of snow over the next few months, we shiver when the temps drop into the low 60s. But it does at least mean we can all agree on one thing: the magical qualities of a steaming bowl of soup. Warming, comforting soup that’s also deliciously healthy with winter veggies.

I’m working on a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune on healthy winter soups and have my recipe line up ready. Somewhat similar to one of these recipes is one I came up with a few years ago when I was gifted with a huge bag of baby spinach, already cleaned and prepped and looking for a purpose. I had just made spanakopita so that was out. There’s only so much spinach salad one person can eat, so that wasn’t going to do it. And back then San Diego was about to get hit with another storm so a cold salad didn’t appeal to me anyway.

I already had the remains (meaning the breast meat) of a rotisserie chicken I had bought at Costco. (Existential question: Does anyone really enjoy a market rotisserie chicken beyond the convenience factor?) I had feta cheese and a just wrinkling jalapeño pepper I needed to use, a huge head of garlic, a quart of vegetable stock and an onion, fresh herbs and Meyer lemons in my garden, and purple prairie barley in the pantry. As I scoured my kitchen and garden I figured, okay, I had the makings of a big pot of soup.

Now you can, of course, add other vegetables to this. Mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, or winter squash would all be nice. You could leave out the chicken for a vegetarian soup or add sausage or other proteins to make it even more hearty. Couscous or rice would work instead of barley. Basically, add whatever your clients will love most. But what you really want to keep in–besides the spinach, of course–is the lemon juice. It’s the magical ingredient that makes this soup special. It turns a very nice conventional soup into something bright and interesting. And makes it the perfect go-to for a chilly cloudy weekend. And it freezes beautifully for clients to store.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Chicken and Barley
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 pound baby spinach, thoroughly washed, dried, and chopped
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces shredded chicken or other protein (optional)
6 ounces barley
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
crumbled feta for garnish

Directions

1. Heat a large Dutch oven and add olive oil. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until golden. Add the pepper and sauté another 30 seconds.

2. Add the spinach in batches, stirring until it cooks down.

3. Add the stock and water, stirring to mix. Then add the chicken and barley. Bring to a boil, then reduced to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes or until the barley is tender.

4. Add the herbs and lemon juice. Stir. Let cook another 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Serve with feta.

What winter soups are you preparing for clients–or your own family? What are your favorite riffs on ingredients?

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