We’re now launching into week three of our month-long member discount on Zavor multicookers and induction cooktops. All APPCA members are eligible to get a 35 percent discount on Zavor Electric Multicookers and Induction cooktops PLUS free shipping. Members may purchase up to one induction cooktop and one multicooker of their choice with the discount. The discount will be valid from September 15 to October 15, 2020, and you can obtain the details on our member forum’s private discussion group.

If you’re a chef who hasn’t put a multicooker to use on behalf of clients (or yourselves), we thought we’d share collections of recipes for its pressure cooking function this week. Next week, we’ll look into recipes for several other functions the multicooker offers, like making rice and yogurt, searing and even stir fry. The multicookers by Zavor can do both of these and much more. NOTE: Some of these links reference Instant Pot–but that shouldn’t make a difference to you in the context of recipes.

So, here are links to general recipes:

We’ve got vegetarian pressure cooker recipes, too!

Need vegan pressure cooker recipes? There are tons out there!

Need Keto-friendly pressure cooker recipes? Look at these!

Finally, if you’re a chef who hasn’t been noodling around with pressure cooking and need some tips to get started, here you go…

Have clients with other food needs? We’re pretty sure there are pressure cooker recipes perfect for them, too! In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of this member discount and order your Zavor equipment before October 15, 2020!

What are your favorite pressure cooker dishes you make for your clients?

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

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

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As you might have read, we’re in the middle of a month-long member discount on Zavor multicookers and induction cooktops. All APPCA members are eligible to get a 35 percent discount on Zavor Electric Multicookers and Induction cooktops PLUS free shipping. Members may purchase up to one induction cooktop and one multicooker of their choice with the discount. The discount will be valid from September 15 to October 15, 2020 and you can obtain the details on our member forum’s private discussion group.

If you’re a chef who hasn’t put a multicooker to use on behalf of clients (or yourselves), we thought we’d share collections of recipes for it’s slow cooker function this week. Next week, we’ll have lots of resources for you for pressure cooking. The multicookers by Zavor can do both of these and much more.

So, here are links to general recipes:

Need vegetarian slow cooker meals? No problem!

Got vegan clients? There are slow cooker recipes for them!

We’re guessing some of you have Keto diet clients. Here you go…

Have clients with other food needs? We’re pretty sure there are slow cooker recipes perfect for them, too! In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of this member discount and order your Zavor equipment before October 15, 2020!

What are your favorite slow cooker dishes to make for your clients?

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

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

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Winter may be the common period of time when cultures around the world ring in the new year. But for Jews around the world the new year begins in the fall on the first day of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, which, because it’s a lunar calendar, changes annually. This year it begins on the evening of Friday, September 18. And while you may assume it marks a period of celebration, quite the contrary. In fact, it begins the 10 days of repentance that culminates in Yom Kippur, a day of fasting, confession, and asking forgiveness. Collectively, they’re known as the Days of Awe.

My not-so-religiously observant family has tended to consider Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the context of food—no surprise there. Yes, we went to temple, but we planned either with our extended family or our friends the gatherings afterwards that would feature the foods of our Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, heritage. In other words, mostly hearty, cold-weather dishes, which is deeply ironic during the inevitable heat waves of Southern California in September and October.

Nevertheless, that was our food and that was what we made and enjoyed. Chicken soup with matzo balls (matzo dumplings) was non-negotiable. So was a round challah to symbolize the repeating of the seasons and holidays, and apples dipped in honey to symbolize the hope for a sweet year. There might be gefilte fish, an appetizer of ground fish shaped into quenelles that are poached and served chilled. We loved eating it with horseradish. Then there would be one of three choices for the main course: brisket (pot roast), roasted chicken, or stuffed cabbage in a rich reddish brown sweet and sour sauce. A sweet noodle kugel, made with egg noodles, sour cream, and cream cheese, had to accompany it since it was our favorite. And, of course, we’d have to have a vegetable, like tzimmes—made with root vegetables. For dessert, there might be a traditional honey cake, or perhaps my Nana’s mandelbread, a biscotti-like cookie filled with almonds and dusted with cinnamon sugar, or slices of her apple strudel.

None of these dishes are specific to Rosh Hashanah—we ate them at other holidays (except the kugel during Passover) or at family meals during the year. But these always showed up at Rosh Hashanah.

Now, as chefs you know that chicken soup is just something every non-vegan/vegetarian home cook and professional cook should know how to make—and have on hand in the freezer. It’s especially helpful when a cold or flu strikes. There’s just nothing so comforting. Plus, it’s so easy to make. Everyone who makes it has their own style, but for those who haven’t made it before, you’re basically filling a large pot with vegetables, like carrots, celery, parsnips, onions, and garlic (my mom also likes to add zucchini for its sweetness), adding pieces of chicken (mostly drumsticks and thighs because the bones are larger and have more marrow for flavor; if you can find chicken feet from a butcher or at an Asian market add them as well for an even richer stock). Add salt and pepper, cover the ingredients with water, bring to a rolling simmer, place a lid on top, and reduce the heat and simmer for about three hours. At that point add some parsley and dill. Cook a bit more and you’re done. You can eat it with all the chicken and veggies or, what we do for the holidays, strain the liquid and put back some cooked carrots and shredded chicken meat. Of course, for the holidays, like Rosh Hashanah, we also add the best part: the matzo balls.

Evie forming the matzo balls

Matzo balls may seem like they should be tricky, but over the years watching my mom, Evie Golden, make them has been confidence building. You mix together beaten eggs, a little chicken soup, vegetable oil (or schmaltz—chicken fat), salt, pepper, and matzo meal. It’ll be goopy at first so refrigerate the dough for an hour to thicken it.  From there you bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and fill a little bowl with cold water (that’s just to dip your fingers in to keep the matzo mixture from sticking to them). Now you form the balls by pulling a golf-ball amount of dough onto your fingers and then gently rolling into a ball before dropping it into the boiling water. Repeat until you use up all the dough. Let the matzo balls simmer in the pot, covered—and, my mom warns, don’t even think of lifting the cover for 30 minutes. Then you can leave them there until you’re ready to serve them, drop them into the chicken soup, or—if you make them ahead of time, freeze them.

And if you’re making these dishes for clients, wish them a Shana Tova, or Happy New Year!

Evie Golden’s Matzo Balls (Knaidlach in Yiddish)
Yield: 16 golf-ball size matzo balls

Ingredients

4 large eggs
¼ cup chicken soup
¼ cup vegetable oil (unless you have some chicken fat—known as schmaltz— around)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus salt for boiling water
Dash of black pepper
1 1/3 cup unsalted matzo meal

Directions

Beat the eggs in a medium size bowl. Add soup, oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then add the matzo meal. Stir until it just comes together and then refrigerate it for an hour to thicken.

In a large wide pot with a lid, bring a lot of salted water to a boil. Fill a small bowl with cold water to dip your fingers in to keep the dough from sticking to them. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Dip the fingers of one hand in the cold water and use it to pull out a golf-ball size amount of the matzo mixture and place it in the other hand, then gently roll into the ball without working it too much and drop into the boiling water. Repeat with each ball, including wetting your fingers.

The balls will rise from the bottom of the pot to float. When all of the balls have been made, turn the water to a low simmer (to prevent the balls from falling apart) and cover the pot. Do not lift the lid while they’re cooking. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave them there until you’re ready to serve or remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the hot chicken soup.

Do not double the recipe if you need more balls. Make another batch instead. The matzo balls can be frozen. If you freeze them, either put them in the chicken soup or put them in a container, submerged in the salted water from the pot. Or, you can put them on parchment paper/wax paper on a baking sheet, freeze until hard, and then pack in a plastic bag or container.

Do you cook Jewish holiday dishes for clients? If so, what do you make?

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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Hatch Chile Potato Salad

Filed under: Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 31, 2020

In a year in which time has come to mean almost nothing, here we are at Labor Day–that weird pause that declares summer to be over even if it’s really not yet fall.

I have two tells, though, for this transition. The first is in late August when there’s always one day in which the harsh light of summer changes to something slightly more subtle, more refracted.

The other is the start of Hatch chile season. The chiles, also known as Big Jims, are grown in one region, the Hatch Valley, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, although it’s also an umbrella term for the green chiles grown throughout New Mexico. It could be the elevation that makes them so distinctive or perhaps it’s the volcanic soil. Or the hot days and cool evenings. Or the combination of all three, plus its short August/September season. It really doesn’t matter. They’re delicious. And they’re available beyond New Mexico. I find them in markets in San Diego this time of year and already have seen them.

But everything that’s of value comes at a price. Hatch chiles are a bit labor intensive to prepare initially since they require roasting and peeling/seeding.

You could do it on the grill but really all you need are heavy cookie sheets, and the oven broiler. There’s no special trick to it. Just line them up in a single layer and fire them up. Let your nose tell you when they’re ready to be turned–once–and then removed from the oven. You’ll get the distinctive aroma of burning chiles and, indeed, they should be well charred.

Then gather them into plastic or paper bags, close the opening, and let them steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. This helps loosen the thick skin from the flesh. Then peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds, and chop or slice them. I bag what I don’t use immediately and put them in the freezer, so I have them to use the rest of the year.

While Hatch chiles are a go to for posole or other stews, omelets and frittatas, and, well with anything you’d usually add chiles to, it is going to be Labor Day this weekend, so how about Hatch Chile Potato Salad to go with your socially distanced picnic? This potato salad has some heat but also the smoky flavor of the chiles combined with slow roasted tomatoes and garlic in a lemon-garlic dressing.

Hatch Chile Potato Salad
Serves four as a side dish

1 pound red potatoes (baby or regular size)
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 large roasted Hatch chiles (about 1.5 ounces), peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large pieces of sun-dried or oven roasted tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
Lemon-Garlic Dressing (see below)

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add whole, unpeeled potatoes and cook until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).
2. While potatoes are cooking, make the Lemon-Garlic Dressing and prep the other ingredients.
3. When potatoes are fork-tender, remove from heat and drain in a colander. When they’re still warm but cool enough to handle, slice or quarter them into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large bowl with the shallots, chiles, tomatoes, parsley, and about 3/4 of the scallions. Reserve the rest for garnish.
4. Pour enough dressing over the potato mixture to moisten it, then toss to mix well. Let sit so the potatoes absorb the dressing. If necessary, add more dressing before serving. Top with the rest of the scallions.

Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
A mix of herbs (I use chives, epazote, and parsley)
Kosher salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients, then slowly whisk in oil until the dressing thickens.

Do you enjoy cooking with Hatch chiles? How do you cook with them?

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Bake a Blueberry Pie!

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Desserts , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 17, 2020

I know many of our chefs aren’t bakers, but in this time of homebody-ness, perhaps learning how to bake a pie could be your new sourdough bread. Summer is a brilliant time for pie baking, given the gorgeous fruit that’s in season.

I’m an inveterate pie baker, thanks to my grandmother, who taught me how to bake apple pies. Ironically, all these years later I do it totally differently than she did. She made crusts with margarine and Crisco. I use butter (although adding Crisco for a flakier crust isn’t a bad thing and if you’re into lard–that’s even better). But I still cherish the memories of learning how from Nana to combine the ingredients–cut the fat until they’re the size of peas and use your fingers to combine the fat, flour, and water until just shaggy. Form into discs, wrap, and refrigerate to let the dough rest. Roll gently and make sure excess dough hangs over the pie plate to have enough to form a consistent edge. Cut into the top crust to allow steam to release.

My Nana? She taught me well–as have numerous pastry chefs who have since instructed me. More importantly, she gifted me with the passion to bake. If you have children or grandchildren, you probably have given them a similar gift.

Despite the heat, this time of year is perfect for a big fat blueberry pie. With this one I changed up my usual crust just a little. I scouted around online and recalled that vodka can make a crust flakier. I had some vodka in the freezer so I added that to the crust, along with a little sugar, salt, and fresh lemon juice, as well, of course, ice water.

For the filling, I combined the fresh blueberries with the usual: lemon zest and lemon juice, along with cornstarch to thicken it. But instead of granulated sugar I opted for brown sugar to lend a deeper flavor. And instead of cinnamon, I added a wonderful pie standby of mine: Divine Desserts fennel pollen blend.

The rest went along the usual way. I made the dough, formed it into two discs, wrapped them in plastic and refrigerated them for a couple of hours. When you make the dough be sure you don’t overwork it. You want striations of butter throughout to help make a flakier crust.

Before you start rolling the dough for the pie plate (and try to use a deep dish pie plate), make the filling. Just combine all those filling ingredients. The mixture can sit a bit and macerate while you roll out the dough.

Roll out one at a time, leaving the other to continue to chill in the fridge. Make a circle larger than the pie plate, then using your rolling pin, lift and set it into the pie plate. You’ll want to trim the overhang to about 3/4 inch over. Save the excess dough and set it aside. Fill the pie with the blueberry mixture, then roll out the other dough disc, place it over the filling, and trim that overhang. Then you’ll pinch and crimp the edges.

Brush the top crust with the egg wash, then cut slits into the crust to let steam out while the pie bakes.

That’s it! Now it goes into the oven to bake. You’ll start out at high heat for about 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature while it bakes another half an hour or so. Check at the 30-minute mark to make sure the pie isn’t burning. If it’s getting a little too brown but not ready to remove, cover it with a piece of foil.

Once you remove it from the oven, place it on a rack to cool before serving.

Oh, and that leftover dough? Form it into a small disc and wrap it up for the freezer. You can use it to make a small tart later just for yourself–perhaps with apples for fall.

Blueberry Pie
1 deep dish pie

Ingredients

Dough
4 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) cold European-style butter cut into 1-inch chunky pieces
¼ cup chilled vodka
¼ cup ice water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Filling
6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed with stems removed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon Divine Desserts fennel pollen blend (optional) or ground cinnamon

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Directions
1. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Toss in butter and using your fingertips, lightly coat with the flour mixture. Then quickly rub butter into flour mixture to get pea-size pieces.
2. Mix together in a small bowl the vodka, ice water, and lemon juice. Then drizzle over flour and butter mixture and mix together with a fork until it starts to get a little shaggy looking. Then use your hands and knead briefs just until the dough comes together. If it’s still dry, add a little more ice water.
3. Gently form the dough into two ¾-inch discs and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight. You can also put them in the freezer.
4. When you’re ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 425°. Make the filling by combining the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, brown sugar, and fennel pollen blend in a large bowl. Stir gently but thoroughly to make sure all the blueberries are coated. Set aside.
5. Pull one of the dough discs from the refrigerator. Flour your surface and roll out the disc into a circle large enough to drape over your pie plate. Place the dough into the pie plate and trim the edges to 3/4-inch over the pan. Refrigerate while you roll out the second dough disc.
6. Pull the pie plate out of the refrigerator and fill with the blueberry mixture. Place the second crust over the blueberry filling and trim.
7. Gently press the crust edges together and tuck the dough under the edge of the bottom dough. Crimp the edges by gently pushing the index finger of one hand into the edge of the dough and your thumb and index finger of your other hand, going around the edge of the pie.
8. Quickly make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk together. Brush the top crust with the wash. Then score the top crust several times to let steam release.
9. Place the pie on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350˚ and bake another 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is a golden brown and the juices are bubbling.
10. Remove to a wire rack and let cool before serving.

Chefs, are you pie bakers? If so, what’s your favorite to make?

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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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!

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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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? 

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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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?

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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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?

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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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?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

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