Depending on where you live in the U.S. you may be nodding your head in agreement or be totally dismissive when I complain that right now in San Diego the heat and humidity is making me wilt. Yes, San Diego is probably much cooler than almost any other part of the U.S. but I’m not in any other part of the U.S. and while it’s not in the three-digit temperature category, it’s September, and temperatures beyond the coast are in the 90s and could very well go up further tomorrow or next week. In the meantime, those thick clouds that hang in the East tell me a monsoon is happening elsewhere and slipping humidity to us.

No one likes to cook in heat and humidity if they don’t have to. Or eat heavy food. That’s why I take advantage of late summer harvests of cucumbers and tomatoes to make this easy, very refreshing salad. It’s something you can make for clients or show clients how to make for themselves–or, hey, make it for your family to have something cool and simple to have at the ready once you’ve gotten out of your client’s kitchen.

For this salad I use either hothouse cucumbers (you know, the ones so delicate they’re wrapped in plastic) or Persian cucumbers, along with cherry tomatoes. I’m lucky because my garden is overflowing with Sweet 100s and other cherry tomatoes.

To make the salad I pull out my handy little Kyocera slicer, set it to the thickest opening, and get to work. It takes no time to slice the cukes. Then I slice the tomatoes in half in what, maybe two minutes? I clip some mojito mint from my garden and rinse and chop that up in less than 30 seconds. Then I quickly mix together a dressing using seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I layer the cukes in a serving dish with a two-inch lip, toss the tomatoes over them, followed by the mint, then a few dashes of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. I slosh the dressing over the salad, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about an hour so it can marinate.

The reward is a mouthful of fresh crisp veggies complemented by a mix of flavors and textures–sweet, salty, smoothness, crunch, and a pop of heat. It takes so little effort and the flavor rewards are so great (since all these vegetables are at their peak ripeness) it would be a shame to not make this part of your hot weather  repertoire.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 8

2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced (if conventional cucumbers, peel the skin)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Dressing
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Layer the cucumbers in a bowl or flat serving dish with a lip at least an inch high to hold the dressing. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the mint over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, the red pepper flakes, and sea salt over the top. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, give it a good shake, and then pour over the salad. Cover and chill for an hour. The vegetables should absorb most of the dressing and the cucumbers will soften a little but still have a little crispness to them. If you want to add some protein to the salad cooked shrimp or beans (I love garbanzo beans with this) will work just fine.

What’s your summer/heat wave go-to salad for yourself or 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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Grilled Peach Parfait

Filed under: Catering,Desserts,Vegetarian , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , August 26, 2019

Ah, stone fruit. It’s truly the sweetness of summer, especially when you take a bite out of a ripe peach or nectarine and the juices dribble down your chin like when you were a child. It’s the perfect peach pie or apricot crumble. A scented nectarine skinned and gently bathed in a syrup of lemon verbena. A tart plum upside down cake. There are endless ways to prepare stone fruit. Poach them. Grill them, cut into pieces and turn into a dessert kabob with pound cake. Cook them into preserves.

With all these options, how do you pick one or two dishes? I had some ideas, but then I went to a local farmers market and got to talking with a cheese monger, who mentioned a dish created by a friend: Grilled Peach Parfait. Brilliant!

Basically, you grill peaches, chop them up and mix in agave syrup or honey and toasted nuts — maybe some dried fruit, too. Then layer the mixture in a parfait dish with slices of burrata cheese, all topped with a sprig of mint.

Burrata Cheese

That sounded delicious and different. So, off I went back home with peaches and burrata to play with this idea. And, while I love the burrata, I could also see replacing it with homemade vanilla ice cream, mascarpone, or vanilla- or honey-flavored Greek yogurt. And why not add berries to the layers for flavor, texture, and color?

Chefs, doesn’t this sound perfect for client dinner parties?

Grilled Peach Parfait
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 peaches (preferably freestone so the flesh will separate easily from the pit)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup toasted pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 pint blueberries or combination of berries
6 ounces burrata, cut in thick slices
Mint or edible flowers for garnish

1. Wash and dry the peaches, then slice in half along the ridge and remove the pits.
2. Heat grill to medium, brush the peaches with butter on the cut side and place cut-side down on the grill. Close the grill cover and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes. When the peaches show grill marks, brush the skin side with butter and turn the peaches over to cook. Close the cover and cook for another 4 minutes.
3. Carefully cut the hot peaches into bite-sized pieces and place in a medium-size bowl. Add the pecans, agave syrup, vinegar, and rosemary. Mix well.
4. Layer the peach mixture, berries, and cheese. Top with garnish and serve.

Chefs, what is your favorite way to use this summer’s stone fruit? 

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

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

My note: These tomatoes freeze well.

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

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

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

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

Serves 8 – 10

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

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

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

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

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

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

Be Sociable, Share!

With this chill in the air it feels like bean time. While Alubia Blancas are my favorite, I recently tried Moro beans, which are a project of Rancho Gordo with XOXOC. Moros are black beans indigenous to Mexico and grown by small farmers.

Uncooked, the beans are like little gems. You would hardly be surprised to see them along a sea shore like little pebbles you’d want to collect. They appear to be a cross between pintos and black beans and when cooked, release a delicious broth. The website notes that they should be cooked as simply as possible, which is fine. I, of course, played around with them a bit and came up with a very basic first batch, which was delicious, then turned them from there into an even more flavorful, nutritious soup. It was perfect for San Diego’s recent chilly, rainy weather, but more to the point, these dishes would be perfect for clients–and easy to change up, depending on their dietary preferences and what’s in season in your region.

First things first–actually cooking the beans. You can do this in all sorts of ways: in your basic pot on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker. You can soak them. Or not. You can add all sorts of flavorings to the cooking water. Or not. It all depends on what you want the results to be and how you want to use them.

Here’s what I did: First, I picked the beans over to remove any non-bean debris (little stones can inadvertently get into batches of packaged beans so always do this). Then I rinsed them and soaked them in a bowl of water covering them by about two inches. I did this in the morning and let them soak for about six hours. I kept the soaking liquid because that’s where the flavor and some of the nutrition of the beans can leach out.

For the flavorings I diced and gently sautéed a couple of slices of bacon, not to crisp them but to render the fat (you can skip this for a low-fat or vegetarian dish), and then added diced onions and smashed garlic cloves. Once they turned opaque I added a couple of bay leaves along with the beans and soaking water. I brought the bean mixture to a boil, then lowered the heat after 10 minutes and partially covered the post with its lid (oooh, new brilliant red Staub 4-quart Dutch oven!). I simmered the beans for a little over two hours until they were al dente, adding more boiling water (to maintain the temperature in the pot) as needed. Then I added salt and enjoyed them as a side dish.

After a couple of days I revisited my leftover beans and decided they’d make a nice soup. I’m growing lacinato kale in my garden–a wonderful variety that I think is much more tender than standard kale). I lopped off half a dozen leaves, clipped a couple of Serrano chilies from their plant, and opened a bag of shiitake mushrooms, pulling out half a dozen or so to hydrate for several hours until nice and chewy.

As you’d expect, I kept the mushroom’s soaking liquid and sliced the mushrooms. I roughly chopped the kale, and minced the chilies, along with a few cloves of garlic. The garlic started the sauté process. Then I added the chilies, then the mushrooms. The trick to getting the most beautiful and flavorful mushrooms is to place them in a single layer in your pan and just let them brown. Then flip and repeat. At that point I added the kale and sautéed them briefly–just until they began to wilt.

At this point I was ready to put the soup together. The beans went into my go-to little white Le Creuset pot with the remaining bean liquid and the sautéed vegetables. Then I added the mushroom liquid, stirred it all together, and brought it to the boil. Now it was ready to simmer gentle for about an hour. During that hour, when it started to look a little less soupy, I added a little more water to get it to the consistency I wanted. If you don’t want it to be soup, let the liquid cook down. After an hour I salted it and dug in. I ate about half and when I had the leftovers the next day, it was even better.

Moro Beans with Lacinato Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup Moro beans
Water
2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
Sea salt to taste

6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
Water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red Serrano chilies, minced
6 large leaves lacinato kale, chopped
Sea salt to taste

Directions
Pick through beans and remove any debris. Rinse well, then place in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for several hours.

Sauté the bacon just enough to render the fat, then add the onions and garlic. The goal is for them to soften and become opaque, not brown.

Add bay leaves, the beans and the soaking water. Add more water if necessary so that it is about two inches higher than the beans. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to as low a simmer as possible and partially cover the pot to allow for evaporation. Cook until the beans are al dente. If necessary add more boiling water (to keep the temperature up). Remove and discard the bay leaves.

At this point they are ready to enjoy. However, you can add additional ingredients to create more flavor and even turn the mixture into a hearty soup.

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of water until they are soft. Remove the mushrooms and set aside the liquid. Slice the mushrooms.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add minced garlic. Sauté until fragrant then add the chilies and sauté another minute. Add the sliced mushrooms, spread them into a single layer and let them slightly brown. Turn them and repeat. Add the kale and sauté until slightly wilted.

Place the prepared beans and any bean liquid in a pot with the sautéed vegetables. Add the mushroom liquid. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Simmer for an hour, adding a little water if necessary. Add sea salt to taste and serve. It’s even better the next day.

Do you prepare beans from scratch? What are your favorites or those of 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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Holiday Brunch Blintzes

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 17, 2018

Are you going to be catering holiday brunches? Have you considered making blintzes for guests? They’re easy enough for a kid to make (I’ve been making them since I was a child) but sophisticated enough to impress. Plus, you can make them in advance and freeze them, meaning all you have to do the day of is fry up the defrosted blintzes to serve. You can even make the fruit compote ahead and freeze that. What’s not to love?

Unfamiliar with blintzes? Okay, you don’t want to miss these. They’re thin pancakes that are crepes-like (but with more eggs and no milk), cooked only on one side, then stuffed with a filling (traditionally cheese or fruit compote to be a dairy dish, but they can also be savory and have a meat filling). Once filled, they’re pan fried. The sweet, dairy blintzes are traditionally topped with sour cream or a fruit sauce. Think Eastern European Jewish breakfast burrito.

Earlier this fall I had a cook date with a chef friend who actually asked me if she could come over and make them with me. She had a craving and figured this Jewish girl could help fill it. And this Irish-American introduced me to a slightly different approach to the cheese filling that totally won me over. Instead of the traditional eggs and ricotta and cinnamon sugar my Nana Tillie taught me, my friend Maeve Rochford blends goat cheese and ricotta with melted butter and sugar. So the filling remains creamy and full bodied, with a slight tang.

One thing I love about making blintzes is how forgiving the batter is. Eggs, water, sugar, flour, and vegetable oil come together in a mostly smooth, just slightly thickened texture. Whisk it together well to get as many lumps as possible out–but don’t worry if some remain. Heat a non-stick pan and add just a bit of oil. Using a ladle drop a couple of ounces into the center, swirling the batter around until you get a nice large circle. Let it sit until the edges curl up. You won’t be flipping it. Instead slide it onto a plate and then start the next one.

At this point, if you aren’t ready to actually make the blintzes, you can just refrigerate the crepes for a few hours or overnight. You can also prep the blintzes, which involves dropping a dollop of the filling onto a blintz crepe and folding it up like a burrito. Wrap them well to freeze them until you’re ready to defrost them and then pan fry them in butter. So, yes, they’re very versatile.

And we haven’t even discussed the compote, which is divine. Maeve and I collaborated on this. Here’s our blueprint, but feel free to riff on it with flavors you enjoy. We used citrus liqueur, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice with the fresh blueberries. Simmer and stir it over heat until the blueberries begin to burst. You could just as easily, with just as marvelous a result, use sugar and cinnamon, and no liqueur.

You can also go seasonal and make an apple compote or applesauce. Or come up with other toppings for the season: jams, a sweet compound butter, even maple syrup or chocolate sauce.

(But make the compote. It’s really good!)

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote
Yield: 12 blintzes

Ingredients
Crepes:
5 eggs, beaten slightly
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:
Maeve’s version
2 cups ricotta cheese
12 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup sugar

OR

Nana Tillie’s version
2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Blueberry Compote:
¼ cup water
¼ cup citrus liqueur, like Cointreau (or substitute with more water)
½ cup honey
Lemon zest from half a lemon
10 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions
Make the crepes by beating the 5 eggs slightly. Add the water and sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and pour it onto the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 9 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.

Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely–you won’t be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the blueberry compote, bring to the boil compote ingredients. Simmer, stirring periodically, 3 to 5 minutes until the blueberries begin to burst. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To make the filling, blend together the ingredients from either of the choices above.

Make the blintzes by placing 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center. Refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat a sauté pan and add butter. Once the butter has melted add three to four (or five, depending on the size of the pan) and fry at medium heat until the first side browns, then flip the blintzes and brown on the other side. Serve with the blueberry compote.

The blintzes can be frozen before or after frying. The compote can also be frozen.

Are you catering holiday brunches this year? What are your go-to dishes?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Last Call for Summer: Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , September 10, 2018

The calendar may say September, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a sudden shift in the weather. In San Diego, heat waves will continue well into October–and I’m betting that’s no different across the country. So, to help out you and your clients endure those sudden blasts of rising temperatures and humidity, here’s a dish that will make you sigh in relief–and it brings together savory and sweet: Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho.

When I came across this gazpacho in Serious Eats I immediately felt refreshed–and bet you will, too. Instead of prepping a hot soup that you can then chill, here’s a cold summer soup that requires only the patience of waiting for flavors to come together in the fridge, not of schvitzing over a hot stove. The big activities are roughly chopping the fruit and vegetable ingredients and, after they have been mixed together with salt and marinated for an hour to bring out more flavors, puréeing them into soup in your blender. So easy!

So, what besides the watermelon makes this gazpacho unique? Well, first, let’s not under rate the value of the watermelon since who doesn’t love a cold slice in 90° temps plus high humidity? Add that splendid sweet juiciness to a traditional tomato soup and you’ll be sighing in happiness. But the other factor is the substitution of toasted almonds for bread. Now we have a light, low-carb summer soup that adds nuttiness and creaminess.

Like a little heat to offset the sweetness? Me, too. So I added a couple of seeded Serrano peppers from my garden to the soup. It won’t blow your top, but it will give your mouth a little zing, along with the acid of the sherry vinegar.

Top this light soup with crema, sour cream, or, as I did, some crumbles of goat cheese.

Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho with Toasted Almonds
Adapted from Serious Eats
Yield: 2 quarts

Ingredients
6 cups watermelon, roughly diced
2 medium tomatoes, roughly diced
1 medium cucumber, roughly diced
1/2 medium red onion, roughly diced
2 Serrano peppers, seeded and roughly diced
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1/3 cup crema, sour cream, or goat cheese
Additional diced vegetables for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. In a large bowl combine watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, peppers, toasted almonds, kosher salt, and pepper. Set aside to marinate for about an hour.

2. In a blender, working in batches, purée the vegetables and their liquid until smooth and creamy. Transfer the soup into a large bowl. Whisk in the sherry vinegar and olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper (and even the sherry vinegar, if necessary, to balance the acid).

3. Cover soup and chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Taste and further adjust seasonings if necessary. Ladle soup in bowls and garnish with the crema and diced vegetables.

What are your favorite end-of-summer, no heat dishes to make for clients? What’s your go-to dish for yourself and your family?

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

For years I’ve been making pickles, mostly dill pickles. I never really thought of it as “fermenting.” But I recently researched and wrote a story on fermenting vegetables for the San Diego Union-Tribune. It was then that I realized that fermenting was exactly what I was doing. Perhaps you’ve been doing it too. Or, perhaps you’ve been curious about it and intrigued enough to want to do it for clients–perhaps as a gift of a healthy snack.

Thanks to my friend Curt Wittenberg, a scientist who has been fermenting everything from beer to sauerkraut and has been my guru through this, I decided to branch out and pickle some vegetables I had  using a salt brine. (Pickling with vinegar is just pickling.) And that’s what I did last month with a simple quart of vibrant purple cauliflower, a pretty red and yellow stripped bell pepper, huge jalapeños, and lots of garlic cloves. I kind of had the makings of a giardiniera so I thought I’d use the seasonings for that: black peppercorns, dried oregano, celery seeds, and red pepper flakes. No olive oil, though.

And, by the way, this is the perfect post-farmers market shopping project. Do it with your kids or grandkids. Hey, it’s a science project!

I had forgotten that several years ago I had contributed to a Go Fund Me for a little company called FARMcurious that was creating a fermenting set, with lids, stoppers, and airlocks. The set locks out air–and mold and yeast–and provides an escape for carbon dioxide. As a funder, I got one and put it in my garage–and it just became part of the landscape of the shelves. But no more. I pulled it out and was almost ready. But in interviewing Curt I realized I needed two other tools I didn’t even know existed (I had jars): glass fermentation weights, to make sure the vegetables stay covered by the brine, and a vegetable tamper, which you use to cram as much produce into your jar. I ordered those from Cultures for Health.

The process is simple. Chop up the vegetables to the size you like. Make a salt brine of water and salt. Make sure everything you touch–from the jar to the fermenting set to the tamper to the weights–is perfectly clean. Then start filling the jar. Add your spices first, then the vegetables. You can layer them by vegetable type or mix them up. I layered these. Tamp them down. Then add the brine. Top with the weight (and carefully pull out any little random pieces of vegetables or spices. Screw on the lid of the fermenting set. Set it out on your kitchen counter, away from direct sun, and let science do its work.

That’s it. If you don’t have a fermenting set, no worries. I never used one before and have been making pickles for seeming centuries. Instead use a clean lid and “burp” the jar, meaning slightly loosen it and then tighten it again once a day for the first few days. This lets that carbon dioxide escape.

Here’s a quick note from Curt about the proportions for the brine and vegetables. In short, it’s kind of improvisational. It depends on the size of the vegetable pieces and their density. So, he suggests having an extra bottle or bottles in different sizes in case there’s overage. You can always rummage around your fridge and add more vegetables if you didn’t prepare enough for another quart jar. And save any excess brine to add in case some bubbles out of the bottle or to add after you remove your pickle pebble and want to start sampling.

After a few days or up to 12 days (I pegged it for five days, at Curt’s advice, given the hot weather), unscrew the fermenting set and replace it with a regular screw-on lid and refrigerate. Then eat! Add these to a sandwich or a cheese or charcuterie platter–or just snack on them.

So, here we were on Day 1. I was hoping: A) No mold develops and B) It tastes terrific. I expected that those vibrant colors of the first day would fade but with luck/science, the colors would be replaced by big flavor.

Instead, I was surprised to find that the purple from the cauliflower leached through the mixture to create a jar of fuschia pickles. And they are wonderful. Crunchy and briny, but with the essence of oregano coming through. I love snacking on them, even the slices of jalapeños. In fact, they turned out so well I made a second jar with conventional cauliflower and sans the peppers for my mother, who is tickled with them.

Fermented Giardiniera
Adapted from Curt Wittenberg’s Lacto-Fermented Mixed Vegetable recipe
Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Approximately 1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
6 black peppercorns
4 or more peeled garlic cloves
1 cup cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 large jalapeños, thickly sliced

Instructions
To prepare brine, warm 3/4 cups of water, add salt, and stir to dissolve. Add 3/4 cups cold water to bring brine to room temperature.

In a quart jar add the oregano, red pepper flakes, celery seeds, peppercorns, and the garlic cloves. Fill jar with vegetables, leaving about 1 ½ inches of headspace. Pour brine over all, just covering the vegetables and leaving the headspace. Top with the glass fermentation weight.

Cover jar with lid and airlock, if using, or tight lid. Ferment at room temperature for 3 to 12 days. If using a tight lid, be sure to burp the jar by slightly loosening the lid and then tightening it again daily for the first few days of fermentation.

Once the vegetables have developed the desired acidity, move them to cold storage.

Have you gotten into fermentation? What do you make and what advice do you have for beginners?f

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Chefs, what vegetables are you growing this summer? In my garden I’ve been growing two varieties of sweet Italian peppers: Jimmy Nardellos and Marconi Reds. Both are considered frying peppers, although the Marconi Red–yes, singular; so far I’ve only gotten one–is at least three times the size of the Jimmy Nardellos.

These are what you could call “wash and wear” peppers. They don’t need skinning. They barely need seeding. Put them on the grill, chop and add to a sauce, add raw to a salad, pickle them, or sauté and add to eggs or a quiche or wherever you enjoy a pepper.

I decided to culture bend and create a lovely summer appetizer I call Sweet Italian Peppers and Goat Cheese Toasts–and want to share it with you as an easy and really tasty dish you can create for catering gigs. This doesn’t call for a strict recipe. All you’ll need are olive oil, the sweet peppers, a red onion, garlic, sea salt and pepper, a baguette or long loaf of Italian bread, and a creamy cheese.

Slice the peppers into thin strips. Slice the red onion. Mince the garlic. Sauté them in olive oil until they’re soft and just beginning to caramelize, then season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Want to change up or deepen the flavors? Add capers like I did. Or add toasted pine nuts. Add currants or diced dried figs. Or basil leaves. Or sauté a small amount of fennel root. Or a dash of sherry vinegar or dry sherry or your favorite red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Okay, once you’ve cooked up the peppers, turn on the broiler. Slice the bread in half lengthwise and into individual pieces (about 2 1/2 inches in length), then place in the broiler cut side up for just a few minutes. While the bread is lightly toasting, break up the cheese. It could be mozzarella or ricotta or panela, or–as I used–chevre (remember, I already acknowledged culture bending).

Pull the bread out of the oven and top with the pepper mixture. Then dot with the cheese. Put back under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese begins to melt or darkens. Remove from the oven to plate and serve.

Have extra pepper mixture? Don’t toss it! Leave it for your clients to add to scrambled eggs. Or a tomato sauce. Make polenta and top each serving with a spoonful. Stir it into pasta. Just don’t waste it!

Do you have a much-loved go-to summer appetizer you make for clients? Please share!

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Peach Tomato Panzanella

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 30, 2018

I don’t know what kind of steamy swampy weather you’re enduring right now, but in San Diego, where Candy, Dennis, and I live, it’s been pretty hot and humid. Just the thought of standing over a stove or turning on the oven makes me sink onto my couch in front of a blasting fan. It’s forced me into a chill–salads and summer soups and smoothies. If you feel the same way–along with your clients–here’s a dish you’ll love and that you can make for clients and their special events. And the only heat involved comes from toasting bread.

I’m talking about panzanella. But not your traditional panzanella. This one marries peaches and tomatoes.

Now you may wonder why peaches and tomatoes? But they actually pair beautifully together. And peaches are perfectly lovely in a savory dish. Is it authentic panzanella? Well, consider this, the “pan” is panzanella means bread. Food experts, including one of my heroes, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, put it this way: “Panzanella is not a tomato salad with bread; it’s a bread salad flavored with vegetables.” I’m going to extend that to fruit. I doubt he’d mind.

There are a couple of tricks to making this salad that I picked up from López-Alt. First is that instead of letting the bread sit out to get stale, try drying it in the oven, tossed with olive oil. What you’ll have are magnificent large croutons that will soak up the vinaigrette and vegetable/fruit juices, yet still remain crispy. It makes for a great bite.

The other is to chop your tomatoes (if you use them), toss them with salt, then drain the juices into a bowl with a colander. This will increase your juice yield, which you’ll want when you make the vinaigrette.

Everything else is easy peasy. While the bread is toasting, make your vinaigrette, chop the peaches and basil. Once the toasted bread has cooled it’s time to put it all together. Then let it rest for half an hour so the vinaigrette can penetrate the bread and the flavors come together.

One other thing I learned–on my own. It doesn’t make for great leftovers unless you’re fond of soggy bread. The next day, facing leftovers, I just picked around the bread and ate the tomatoes and peaches. My suggestion? Add just enough of the croutons for the servings you plan to eat at that meal and save the rest for possible leftovers and add them at that point.

Peach Tomato Panzanella
Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt’s Classic Panzanella Salad
Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients
1 pound tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound rustic bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups bread cubes)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons for the bread)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions
Place tomatoes in a colander over a bowl and toss with kosher salt. Place on counter at room temperature to drain for at least 15 minutes. Toss periodically during that time.

To toast the bread, pre-heat oven to 350°.  Place rack in center position in oven. You can also do this in a toaster oven. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but before they brown—about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Remove colander from the bowl with tomato juice. Place the colander with the tomatoes into the sink so it won’t drip on the counter. Add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with the juice and mix. Gradually whisk in the remaining olive oil until it emulsifies. Season vinaigrette with sea salt and pepper to taste.

In a serving bowl mix together the toasted bread, tomatoes, peaches, capers, and basil. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat all the ingredients. Season again with sea salt and pepper. Let rest 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by the bread.

What’s your go-to hot weather dish? 

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Last updated by at .

Older Posts »