apple crisp1

When a client has type 2 diabetes, creating a healthy dessert can be a tricky thing. What everyone immediately fixates on is the sugar. But sugar is really a foil for something larger, which, of course, is carbohydrates. And all carbs are equal when it comes to diabetes management. The other component just as important in managing diabetes is fat. For most people with type 2 diabetes, excess weight is what led to the disease. Keeping weight in check through a healthy, low-fat diet along with exercise—and managing blood sugar through carb control—is what will help those with type 2 diabetes stay healthy in the long run.

Now that we’re smack dab in the holiday season, where does dessert fall into a healthy diet? Dessert is an indulgence, a part of the pleasure of a day. But the person with diabetes has to plan for it. My experience has been that it’s all about moderation and portion control—and they’re not necessarily the same thing.


Moderation includes portion control but it also means being discriminating in what you eat. In the context of dessert, it means looking for sweets that are mostly made with real fruit or dark chocolate. It means seeking out desserts that are airy—made with lots of egg whites, like angel food cake and sponge cake—which cuts down on the density and carb count. Or simply desserts which call for less sugar than conventional recipes.

Portion control can be tricky. So one approach is to look for desserts that are by their nature single portion: chocolate mousse servings in a small ramekin, a single piece of dark chocolate, a small honey crisp apple. If a client is craving pie or cake you can slice it into individual portions, wrap them, and put them in the freezer. Same with cookies or muffins.

Pudwill Berry Farms Honey Crisp Apples2

I know there are a lot of people who look for sugar-free choices. But what you have to remember about sugar-free options is that they aren’t necessarily lower in fat or carbs. And they usually include chemicals we may not want to consume. It’s better to eat natural ingredients. Yes, there are healthier sugar-free options; honey and maple syrup are favorites and many people love stevia. For a long time, agave nectar was considered a good alternative to sugar but doctors like Andrew Weil are now concerned about the impact of high fructose and are discouraging its use.

Sometimes your client just wants what she wants and you have to figure out how to make it work. Does she love apple pie? How about ditching the crust and instead make a crisp? By reducing the amount of butter, sugar, and flour—and eating small portions—she can have something healthier since it’s just topping cooked fruit, not encasing it. You can even make a bag of crisp mixture, store it in the freezer, and she can pull out a handful at a time to top a sliced apple or cup of berries.

Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Balancing carb portions, balancing fat and calories, balancing exercise with relaxation, balancing indulgence with healthy choices. Dessert isn’t something you have to cut out so much as balance with everything else you’re doing to stay healthy.

Caron Golden’s Crisp Mixture

What I love about this recipe is that I can make the mixture in advance and store it in the freezer. Then I can create an individual serving for myself or a large dessert for company, using whatever fruit is in season. In cool seasons, I peel, core, and slice a Granny Smith apple. Then I toss the slices in a small amount of flour and sugar, and place the slices in a large ramekin or individual pie dish that I lightly coated with baking spray or vegetable oil. I’ll pull out the crisp mixture from the freezer and spoon out just enough to top the fruit, then bake. In less than an hour I have a pretty healthy, fiber-rich dessert.

Makes 8 to 10 servings, depending on how much you use per serving

Mix together:
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 ½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fennel pollen
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Store in the freezer until you’re ready to bake.

crisp mixture

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare fruit. Toss with a little flour and sugar. Arrange in a baking dish lightly coated in baking spray or vegetable oil. Top with enough crisp mixture to cover the fruit. Store remaining crisp mixture in the freezer.

Raw apple crisp

Bake for about 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and the topping is browned.


I swear I’m seeing winter squash everywhere these days–not just at the market, but even at random places like Target. Everyone’s selling them–and not just the traditional Charlie Brown Halloween pumpkin but all sorts of interesting varieties like big Fairytale and Cinderellas, Sweet Dumplings and Tiger Stripes, L’il Tigers, and Blues. I’m sure you have your favorites in your region, but if there’s an opportunity to experiment with varieties you haven’t tried, give it a go.


Blue pumpkins

Winter squash are a marvelously deceptive vegetable. They look so hard and tough and impenetrable, but cook up to some of the sweetest and tenderest of edibles. I love the variety of clothing they wear–soothing cream, sexy blue, bright orange, rocking stripes, dappled sprays of color. But it’s only skin deep. Peel any of these hard squash and you get a glorious orange flesh that surrounds what may be the best part of all–the seeds.

big pumpkins4
The flavors of a freshly cooked pumpkin are so beyond what you get with the canned version that it’s worth the effort to peel and clean them for everything from pies and muffins to stews and soups. I love roasting pumpkin with other vegetables for a thick mellow soup. And, I enjoy chopping them up and adding the pieces to sweet and savory ingredients for a one-dish baked meal.

No doubt most of you use a traditional casserole dish or perhaps a high-quality enameled cast-iron pot to make a large one-dish meal. I love those, too, but I’m going to invite you to try something very traditional but perhaps new to you: cooking in clay pots.


If you are a cookbook junkie you’re probably familiar with longtime food writer and teacher Paula Wolfert. Her expertise is Mediterranean cooking and she wrote a book a few years ago called Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking that won over many fans, including our friend Caron Golden, who has since been collecting clay pots of all kinds and experimenting.

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking

Winter squash is the perfect ingredient for this style of cooking. All you need is a stoneware pot. Caron used this gorgeous silky brown 2 1/2-quart casserole made by San Diego potter Roberta Klein to make the dish below. Don’t worry about it cracking. As long as you don’t preheat the oven, but instead let the pot warm with the rising temperature, it should be fine. And, of course, make sure that the glaze is lead free.

Roberta Klein casserole

Caron came up with a recipe for a one-pot winter squash dish based on ingredients she happened to have in her kitchen, other than the squash. You can find frozen giant Cuzco corn at Latin markets. Native to Peru, they’re filled with protein, and have a dense chewy texture, making them perfect for stews and soups because they keep their shape. But if you can’t find them, just add something else like garbanzo beans. Same with the sausage. In her one-dish meal she added a couple of spicy and sweet apricot chipotle pork sausages she bought from a local rancher. While its juices and meat added a lot of flavor and some nice heat, this dish would work just as well without meat for a vegetarian meal–or with other protein selections.

Serve this with a hearty grain like quinoa, wild rice, barley, farro, or kasha (buckwheat groats).

Clay Pot Winter Squash1
Clay Pot Winter Squash
Serves 6

2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces (save the squash seeds)
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups giant Cuzco corn (you can find frozen in Hispanic markets)
1 cup golden raisins or other dried fruit
2 large fresh sausages, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup olive oil or 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup pumpkin or butternut squash oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar, plus more to sprinkle on toward end of baking
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste


1. Combine all the ingredients except the squash seeds and extra brown sugar and mix well. Add to 2 1/2-quart or larger stoneware pot and cover. Place the pot in the middle rack of the oven. Heat oven to 375. Bake.

2. Put squash seeds in a colander and rinse, separating the seeds from one another and the squash fibers. Let dry. Then toss with olive oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet or aluminum foil. Toast in the oven with the squash for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

3. Check the squash at about an hour and 15 minutes. If the squash isn’t completely cooked through, cover and cook another 15 minutes. When it is cooked through, sprinkle the mixture with brown sugar and let cook another 15 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and serve, sprinkling with toasted squash seeds to garnish.

Clay Pot Winter Squash2

Do you cook with clay pots? What’s your favorite, most unusual recipe?

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

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Amy DiBiase of Tidal

One of San Diego’s most talented chefs is Amy DiBiase, now executive chef at Tidal, the beautifully renovated restaurant overlooking the San Diego Bay at Paradise Point Resort & Spa. Our friend and food writer Caron Golden often spends time in the kitchen with San Diego chefs and she recently had kitchen time with Amy, who shared with her the technique for making ricotta gnudi. While this is a year-round dish, somehow it seems especially delightful as the weather takes on a chill, so we thought we’d share this recipe with you.

The gnudi are easy to make and pair with a variety of sauces. Here we’ll show you Amy’s pairing with lamb, eggplant, and zucchini, but really, you can top it with any sauce you’d use with pasta. We love that this dish is also low carb, meaning this could be a special treat for clients dealing with type 2 diabetes. Amy uses durum wheat flour to coat the gnudi, but if you have clients with gluten issues, you could probably substitute wheat flour with a gf flour without it suffering.

So, here are the basics. While gnudi feels like pasta it’s really is cheese coated in flour. Essentially you beat together the cheeses with a sparkle of fresh lime zest and salt and pepper, pipe it into a bed of ground durum and cover it up with more of the durum.

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Let it rest, refrigerated, for 36 hours so it forms a shell that encases the cheeses. Rub off the excess durum and pop the gnudi into boiling water for about four minutes.

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Then serve with your sauce. Bite into a gnudi and what bursts from the durum skin is a warm, creamy texture with a mild flavor from the trio of cheeses. You could easily add fresh herbs like chives, thyme, or a touch of rosemary or spices like nutmeg, cardamom, or sumac to create your own flavor profile.

On this day, Amy showed Caron her current menu sauce–roasted eggplant puree with zucchini, tomato, braised lamb, and black olives. While making the sauce, she warmed the already-prepared puree in a shallow bowl in the oven.

In a skillet, she sauteed the zucchini in olive oil. Then she added the shredded braised lamb shank and a hank of butter. Once the liquid had reduced and the gnudi were cooked she dropped them into the pan briefly with the halved tomatoes. Out came the bowl with the eggplant puree and over that went the gnudi with the sauce. Then she added fresh basil before garnishing the dish with the Moroccan black olive puree.

Ricotta gnudi is also the perfect dinner party dish. Make it ahead of time up to the point where you boil the gnudi. Then serve family style on a platter with a salad and perhaps big bowl of steamed clams or mussels, and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

Ricotta Gnudi
From Amy DiBiase

Serves six

1 pound ricotta
8 ounces marscapone
4 ounces grated parmesan
zest of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag fine ground durum wheat flour (you can substitute all purpose flour)

*Note, the proportions of the cheeses are 1 part ricotta to 1/2 part marscapone to 1/4 part parmesan cheese. Amy says the easiest way to measure is to buy a 1 pound container of ricotta. Empty that into a bowl, then use the container to measure the marscapone and parmesan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients but the durum wheat flour until they just come together.

Spread a one-inch deep layer of flour into a casserole dish. Using a piping bag, pipe the gnudi straight onto the flour in the shape of a large Hershey’s kiss (don’t swirl like a Dairy Queen ice cream cone). You’ll probably need to use a clean finger to push the dough off the tip of the bag with each gnudi. Keep them about an inch apart.

When you’ve filled the dish with the gnudi, cover them completely with more durum flour. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 36 hours.

When you’re ready to serve them, put a pot of water on to boil. Add salt to the water. Uncover the gnudi and remove them from the durum flour. Gently brush off excess flour. When the water comes to the boil, add the gnudi. They should boil no longer than 4 minutes (cook too long and they’ll fall apart). The key is that they’ll begin to rise to the top of the pot.

Drain the gnudi and add to your sauce. Garnish and serve.

photo 5-3

What’s your favorite fall dish to prepare for clients?

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

And don’t forget to tune in to Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act this Wednesday and Oct. 22 from 7:30 to 8 a.m. EST/PST. I’ll be on the show to talk about women in the culinary industry and how they can achieve an industry-recognized culinary certificate online through our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy.

This week marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays. On Wednesday evening at sundown, Jewish communities around the world will welcome Rosh Hashanah–the New Year (the Hebrew year 5775). Ten days later comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is also a day of fasting. That day ends with a celebratory meal that breaks the fast.

gefilte fish

Gefilte fish

There’s hardly a Jewish holiday that doesn’t involve food–and foods specific to the holiday. Come Rosh Hashanah, celebrants will be sharing slices of apples to dip into bowls of honey to harken a sweet new year. Challahs, usually braided into a straight loaf for each Shabbat Friday night are still braided but shaped into a circle for the High Holidays. Most traditional Rosh Hashanah meals will include dishes like gefilte fish served with horseradish, chicken soup with matzo balls, roasted chicken or brisket, and perhaps an apple or honey cake for dessert. To break the fast at sundown of Yom Kippur, many Jewish families choose a  buffet of light fare–usually dairy oriented–with noodle kugel or cheese blintzes; salads; bagels, lox, and cream cheese (as well as white fish and smoked cod) on a platter with sliced tomatoes, red onions, and capers; maybe some chopped liver, pickled herring, egg salad, and lots of mini rye and pumpernickel breads.

Personal chefs with Jewish clients may find themselves asked to prepare holidays meals for them and their families. So, for those who haven’t much experience with this type of food we thought we’d give you some resources for planning a meal and finding recipes–including your own APPCA colleagues–along with discussions here on our forums that offer recipes.

APPCA member Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Maryland grew up with traditional holiday fare. “We had matzoh ball soup, chopped liver (made with mayonnaise, not schmaltz–chicken fat–I come from a family of bad stomachs), and brisket in Lipton’s onion soup,” she says. “I’ve long given up on the powdered onion soup–too much salt!–and now make a brisket with coffee.”

Mrs. Ribakow’s Brisket
Courtesy of Shelbie Wassel
Serves 8

3 1/2 to 4 pounds brisket, first cut
2 medium onions cut into chunks
1 bunch celery, leafy tops only, sliced
1 large bay leaf
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup black coffee
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket in the pan and sprinkle the top of the brisket lightly with more salt and pepper. Arrange onions and celery around and on top of the brisket. Drizzle with the ketchup. Roast meat, uncovered for 15 minutes to sear.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Add bay leaf and coffee, then cover tightly with foil. Continue cooking for approximately 2 1/2 hours longer. The meat should feel tender when fork is inserted in the thickest part.

Remove from oven and let cool before slicing. Refrigerate gravy and vegetables. Skim off fat.

To serve: Puree gravy and vegetables in a blender. Pour over sliced brisket. Cover with foil and heat through in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Add some kick to the dish by offering freshly grated horseradish on the side.



So, what would you serve with the brisket? Well, tzimis is a really traditional dish focused on roasted carrots and dried fruit. Do it right and each ingredient sparkles. Mess it up and you got a mushy mess. So, to the rescue with a contemporary tzimis recipe here. But you don’t have to go completely traditional. A great salad, a side of grains of some kind, and veggies all work great.

And remember, you’re probably also serving matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish even before you hit the main event. Let’s talk matzoh balls first. These are Eastern European Jewish dumplings made with matzoh meal, eggs, water, and a little fat. The goal is for them to be light (floaters) as opposed to dense (sinkers)–although there are some who prefer sinkers.

APPCA member Linda Berns of CustomKosher,LLC. in Maryland has been making her gramma’s recipe for matzoh balls all her adult life. It’s oh so simple. And, as Linda explains, according to Jewish lore, matzoh balls are eaten at Rosh Hashanah because they remind us of the cycle of life and change of season ushered in by the new year.

Linda Berns’ Matzoh Balls

Yield: About 8 to 9 matzoh balls

1 cup Streits matzoh meal (be sure to use the Streits brand)
4 eggs
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring a large pot of water to the boil with a liberal 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. While the water is coming to the boil, set a bowl filled with water next to the stove. You’ll use the water to moisten your hands while forming the balls.

When the water come to the boil, crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat vigorously. Add approximately 1/8 teaspoon salt to eggs and continue to beat. When the eggs are well beaten, add the matzoh meal and continue to stir to combine with the eggs. Your mixture should be sticky to the touch and not shiny.

Dip a hand into the bowl of water to wet it, then scoop out enough matzoh mixture to form into a dumpling the size of a large golf ball. Drop gently into the boiling water. Repeat until you’ve used all of the matzoh mixture. If your batter becomes too dry, stir in another egg and a little more matzoh meal to avoid having hard matzoh balls.

Bring the water back up to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and let the matzoh balls simmer for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. You’ll see your matzoh balls float and puff to approximately twice their size. Take care to not let the water boil out of the pot or your matzoh balls will stick together and stick to the bottom of the pot.

Once the matzoh balls are done cooking, you can add them to the chicken soup. You can also make them in advance and keep them refrigerated, covered so they don’t dry out. Add them to the soup pot as you heat it up on the stove. When serving, place the matzoh ball(s) in the bowl first, then ladle out the soup.

Photo from Linda Berns

Photo from Linda Berns

Here are some websites where you can get more recipes for both matzoh balls and the chicken soup. Be sure to cook them first, then add to your chicken soup. P.S., You’ll see Passover mentioned a lot in recipe notes–matzoh balls and chicken soup  are multi-holiday dishes.

Andrew Zimmern’s version in Food & Wine

Smitten Kitchen version

Bon Appetit version

As for the gefilte fish (also served on Passover), this is a dish filled with tradition. Like many Eastern European Jewish dishes it was a way to create a nutritious dish on a very limited budget. Back in the day, this dish was handmade with inexpensive white fish (often carp, mullet, or pike), ground and then mixed with onion, eggs, and matzoh meal–or other ingredients–and shaped into individual ovals. Then they’re poached, cooled, and served chilled with a side of ground horseradish. These days, most people simply buy jars of it and perhaps doctor it a bit by adding cooked, sliced carrots and onions. But our Shelbie makes her own and you can find her recipe here.

Photo from Shelbie Wassel

Photo from Shelbie Wassel

Can’t forget the challah (egg bread)! Here we send you off to one of the best teachers of classic Jewish cooking–Joan Nathan. Our Caron Golden has been making challahs since she was a child, but when she saw this video of Joan Nathan making this challah, she converted. Try it; you’ll like it.

Round braided challah

In fact, for any of these dishes, simply Google the dish and Joan Nathan and you’ll get something splendid. Like her apple honey cake, which Caron made last year. You’ve got to try this!

Joan Nathan's Apple Cake

Now for Yom Kippur. You don’t really need to do a lot of major cooking since you want a gentle meal to follow a day-long fast. Salads are good–including a good tuna and/or egg salad. Pick up some rye and pumpernickel breads at a Jewish bakery, along with some challah, to put out. If you want to make chopped liver to create a real old-timey table, here’s a terrific recipe from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), which is more modern than what your client’s bubbe (grandma) probably made. For chopped liver, you’ll want crackers or broken pieces of matzoh to serve with it.

A classic treat for Yom Kippur (although you can serve this anytime of the year–except Passover) is noodle kugel. This is a sweet, rich casserole made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. Some people like to add fruit–fresh, canned, or dried–to it and top it with everything from bread crumbs to ground up Corn Flakes. Caron recently published her family recipe on her blog San Diego Foodstuff, which is as traditional as it is simple to make–pure comfort food.

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Another favorite is blintzes–crepes usually filled with a soft cheese like farmer cheese or ricotta, but also fruit–commonly cooked blueberries or apples. We send you back to Smitten Kitchen for these.

These dishes should get you started and will certainly make your clients happy as they ring in the new year!

What dishes do you make for the High Holidays? What is a client favorite?

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





There’s altogether too much zucchini that grows over the summer! Don’t you agree? If you have a garden planted with it or other summer squashes, you can pare down the bounty by picking some of the blossoms, which can be used for a variety of dishes. (And if you aren’t gardening, look for squash blossoms at your local farmers market or Latin markets.)

Squash blossoms can be chopped up and incorporated into an omelet. In Mexico, they’re frequently used in making quesadillas with beautifully runny cheeses. But, they’re also a favorite in Italy, where you’ll find them stuffed and fried.

Our friend Caron Golden spent some time in the kitchen with San Diego chef Miguel Valdez and he taught her all the tricks you need to know to turn these magnificent but fragile yellow blossoms into a winning appetizer. We’ll let Caron take it from here.

fried blossoms

So, here are some tips Miguel gave me that have really helped me do a better job in making stuffed squash blossoms. The first, of course, is the purchase. They should look fresh and firm, not wilted or browned around the edges. But you also want them closed, not wide open. My friend Trish Watlington, who grows squash for her restaurant The Red Door, where Miguel used to be the chef, gave me an additional tip. Wait until late afternoon to pick them. In the course of the day, they’ll have opened. By late afternoon they’ll have closed again and are ready for the taking.

When you’re ready to prepare them, don’t rinse the blossoms. They’re too fragile for rinsing and will bruise. Instead, fill a bowl with cold water, and after opening the blossom just enough to check for bugs, dunk the blossoms in the water and then lay them down gently on paper towels.

Now you want to make your stuffing. Miguel showed me a very basic approach, using ricotta, marscapone, eight ball squash, a red onion, fresh thyme and mint, eggs, bread crumbs, and oil. You’ll want to do a small dice on the squash and onion so they’ll fit through the hole of the pastry bag. The squash, onion, and herbs are sauteed in olive oil until they’re soft. While the vegetables cool, whisk the eggs vigorously to incorporate lots of air. What you want are large bubbles and a liquid texture–no strings of egg whites. (And, don’t toss what you don’t use. The eggs will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.)

Once the vegetables are at room temperature, you’ll make the stuffing by stirring them together with the two cheeses and some salt and pepper to taste. Then fill a plate or flat container with bread crumbs. They don’t have to be store purchased. If you have stale bread or crackers (or crackers you enjoy), pulverize them in the food processor.

Now, what’s your stuffing technique? Here’s where things can go seriously wrong–I know because I’ve been a perpetrator of this. Don’t do what I used to do, which was to open the blossom and fill it from the top, keeping the petals open. It makes a mess and tears the petals. What you want to do instead is slice off about a quarter inch of the bottom of the blossom, where the stem is. Keep it though. You’ll fill the blossom from that clean opening and then insert the bottom/stem inside so that it will look whole. Brilliant.

Another tip Miguel offered also related to stuffing. If you’re doing this solo, filling the pastry bag can be a tricky mess. Instead, pull out a tall container–like your utensil holder on the sink. Place the empty pastry bag inside and fold the top of the bag over the container. Then your hands are free to fill it with your stuffing. Pull the top up and twist it gently to ease the stuffing solidly down toward the tip. At that point, gently place the tip into the bottom of one of the blossoms to measure how far you need to cut (assuming you are using a plastic pastry bag or a plastic storage bag and not a pastry bag with plastic tips). Then you can cut the tip of the bag and start squeezing, filling the blossom until the top of the petals begin to bulge a little. Pull out the pastry bag and insert the stem piece, wiggling it to work it just inside so it will stay put.

Now you’re going to put it all together. Using one hand (to keep the other clean), gently dip the stuffed blossom into the egg, shake off the excess, then dredge it lightly in the bread crumbs. When you’ve done all of them, put them in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour or, if need be, overnight.

Then you’re ready to fry them. Use a vegetable oil and heat in a tall pot to 400 degrees. Add the blossoms (don’t crowd them) and give them two minutes in the fryer. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Serve them on greens or over a favorite sauce.

And, here’s the final tip. Be creative. One night last summer, The Red Door served stuffed blossoms for dessert. The stuffing was Nutella and cream cheese, breaded in panko crumbs, fried, then dipped in dark chocolate and chopped walnuts. Who knew…?

Nutella and cream cheese

Stuffed Squash Blossoms
by Miguel Valdez
Yield: 10 appetizers
20 fresh, firm squash blossoms
1 8-ounce container of marscapone
1 15-ounce container of ricotta
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 eight-ball squash, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup bread crumbs (purchased or made from crackers or dry bread)
Grapeseed, canola, or other vegetable oil for frying

Gently wash the squash blossoms by dipping them a few times into a bowl of cold water, then lay them carefully on paper towels. Heat olive oil in a pan and add diced vegetables and herbs, sauteing until soft. Spread on a sheet pan to cool so added cheese won’t melt.

Trim the bottom of the squash blossom and shake out the piston. Save the end/stem to place inside after stuffing the blossom.

In a bowl, mix the two cheeses and the cooled vegetables with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re quite liquid and bubbly and there are no strands of egg whites. Fill a plate or flat container with the bread crumbs.

prepping the blossoms

Using a tall, empty container slip a pastry bag (or large plastic bag inside, handing the top of the bag over the side of the container. Fill the bag with the cheese and vegetable stuffing. Pull the sides up and, twisting the bag, push the mixture to the tip of the bag. Measure the cut of the tip by inserting the tip into the cut end of the blossom. Snip the tip so that it will just fit inside the squash blossom bottom hole.

Squeeze the mixture into the blossom until the petal begin to bulge. Pull the pastry bag tip out and carefully insert the step back into the hole. When all are stuffed, dip the blossoms into the egg, then with one hand, dredge the blossoms lightly in the bread crumbs. They should be covered with the crumbs but not so thick you can’t see the blossoms. Place on a plate or tray and refrigerate. You can let them sit for an hour to firm up or even overnight. If you have leftover cheese mixture or eggs, you can keep these for other uses.

stuffing the blossoms

Heat the grapeseed or canola oil in a fryer or tall pot until it reaches 400 degrees. Dip the blossoms in the oil for two minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. You can plate them on a bed of greens or tomato sauce or salsa. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


New York, New York! The Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building. And, the Chelsea Market, where the Food Network is headquartered–and where the five remaining Food Network Star contestants, including our own Nicole Gaffney, headed to from Las Vegas for week nine of the competition. And what was the challenge? Making an appearance on The Rachael Ray Show!

Ronnybrook Milk Bar

But, we get ahead of ourselves. The five met up with all three mentor judges and learned that they would be going downstairs to the Chelsea Market to do a live feed story on a summer food staple. Each got an assigned vendor and Nicole was sent to Ronnybrook Milk Bar. As in… ICE CREAM! Nicole sailed through her stand up, even giving a tip about Philadelphia ice cream. Bobby Flay told her that she seemed a natural in her environment and she won the challenge. This gave her an advantage for the main competition. Each contestant was to appear on The Rachael Ray Show and in three and a half minutes cook a dish that resolved a dinner dilemma for a family. Nicole got to view each clip of each family and their dinner dilemmas and then strategically assign a contestant to that family.

Nicole chose the Flag family, who wanted healthier food ideas. Nicole gave them a shrimp and vegetable lettuce wrap. Her tips on her segment were terrific–keeping a well-stocked pantry among them. And she cooked up what looked like a terrific dish. Except that she included a sriracha sauce for the kids and the littlest one spit it out. Not good.

On Rachael Ray

Fortunately, Giada liked the dish, but did point out the obvious gaffe. Poor Sara and Loreal did worse. So, Nicole made it to the final four, while Loreal, the butcher babe, was cut. Next week should be interesting! Keep it up, Nicole!

Have you cooked with squash blossoms? What do you make with them?

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

Charred Meyer Lemon Chutney

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 19, 2014

As personal chefs we’re awfully good at creating delicious, nutritious, ready-to-eat meals for clients. But how many of us also develop little extras that can lift an otherwise satisfying dish into something truly memorable? Extras like condiments–salsas, unique mustards, aioli, pickled vegetables, or some other treat?

Our friend Caron Golden, a food writer in San Diego, loves to meet with chefs in their kitchens so they can teach her a dish or technique, which she then shares with readers in her blog San Diego Foodstuff. About a year and a half ago she spent time in the kitchen of Terra, a restaurant in San Diego’s East County with a local, seasonal focus. Terra’s sous chef at the time, a young man named Pablo Ibarra, taught her how to make Charred Meyer Lemon Chutney. Winter, of course, is prime time for Meyer lemons–well, for citrus in general–although we still have Meyer lemons and conventional Eureka lemons on our trees and can generally find them year round.

Mise en place

This chutney is sublime with chicken, seafood, and pork. It’s got a mellow combination of tart and sweet. Make it with thicker skinned Eureka lemons and you get an additional intriguing bitterness, not unlike marmalade. This recipe calls for relatively few ingredients, but of course that means they have to be top quality.

Set up your mise en place with minced shallots, sliced green onions, sugar and salt. Neatly cut a couple of  lemons into quarter-inch slices, hold each slice up to the light to track down seeds, then use fork tines to pop them out.

You’ll need a couple of sauté pans, one for charring the lemons, the other for sautéing the shallots. Pour a bit of canola oil into each before firing up the burners. Once the pans heat up add the lemon slices into one, then toss the lemons around to get both sides blackened and sizzling. In the other pan, sauté the shallots, and then add the little caramelized pieces to the charred lemons.

Caramelized lemons

Next comes the sugar and salt–if you’re working with Eureka lemons, add a little extra lemon juice and sugar that the sweet juicy Meyers would otherwise provide. (You might also consider adding some chopped, sautéed chiles for heat.)

Just before removing the mixture from the heat, stir in the green onions. The chutney will be almost done, but there is one optional task left: chopping up the rings of lemons. Here, we used Eureka lemons and you can see they’re still fairly firm, but Meyer lemons would collapse. In this case you might choose leave them alone.

Pablo Ibarra’s Charred Meyer Lemon Chutney

2 Meyer lemons, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, seeded
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste
(Whole grain mustard)
Canola oil

1. Add oil to sauté pan (not nonstick) and heat to high temperature. Carefully add lemon slices and cook on both sides until browned.
2. Sauté shallots in a second pan until caramelized. Add to lemons, along with sugar and salt. Once the mixture begins to turn soft, add the green onions.
3. Remove from heat and chop the lemon peels. If you want to add a little spice or boldness, you can add a teaspoon or so of whole grain mustard.

Serve with tuna, any kind of firm white fish, pork tenderloin, or chicken (or spread on toast).

Grouper with Charred Lemon Chutney

Grouper with Charred Lemon Chutney

Do you make condiments for your clients that complement the meals you prepare for them? What are your/their favorites?

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As we segue from winter to spring, it’s sometimes challenging to come up with dishes that can make the transition with us from chilly to warm weather. I’ve found that lentils are terrific to cook with year round. And they’re one of those nutritionally perfect foods–high in fiber, high in folate, and a good source of non-meat protein. And studies are showing that adding lentils to the diet of people with diabetes can slightly lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

And they can taste so delicious.

Food writer and friend Caron Golden shared with me our mutual friend Chef Flor Franco’s recipe for Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup, which she recently made with Caron’s mother and served for lunch with roast chicken, rice, salad, and fresh fruit. Flor is the owner of Indulge Catering and has created programs in San Diego that teach low-income women to prepare healthy, low-cost meals for their families.

The soup is an amalgam of lentils and split peas infused with fragrant cumin, coriander, turmeric, Spanish paprika, and cayenne. Add roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onions; fresh minced parsley and cilantro; and a splash of olive oil and that’s about it. The result is a richly flavored but very healthy dish that can be eaten as soup or spread over a steaming mound of rice, depending on how thick or loose you want it. Just add or take out water. For those of you who have vegetarian or vegan clients, you can add this to your repertoire.


And, here’s a tip, combine the spices in larger quantities in advance and keep in an airtight container to make preparation faster if you plan on making this soup regularly.


Flor Franco’s Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup
Yield: about 5 servings

15 cups of water
2 cups lentils
2 cups yellow split peas
2 cups green split peas
5 tomatoes (plum tomatoes are good for this)
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Moroccan spice mix
2 tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
3 dried Chinese chiles

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro

Preheat the broiler.

Add the lentils and split peas to a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 35 minutes until soft.

Broil the tomatoes, onions, and garlic until they start to brown and soften. Remove from the oven and peel the skin from the tomatoes.

Roasted tomatoes

When the legumes are ready you can remove some of the liquid if you want this mixture to be very thick (so you can mound the dish on a bed of rice) or add more water if you want it more like soup. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the salt, pepper, parsley, and cilantro. Cook for another 10 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and sprinkle with the parsley and cilantro.

Flor's lentils

Do you  have a go-to favorite recipe for clients that’s healthy and nutritious? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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