Friday, April 30, 2010

Cooking Class: California Grilling with Chef Jacqueline Buchanan

Central Market in San Antonio was the setting for a cooking class I attended this evening with my daughter, Natalie.

Chef Jacqueline Buchanan is a Culinary Instructor and chef at Laura Chenel's Cheve

The following feature was one of several delicious items served during the class.  It was also listed on the website, and I asked permission of the chef to write about the class on the blog, and was grated permission.

One of the points she made about this dish is that it is very accessible to any cook.

Antipasto of Grilled Eggplant Spirals with Fresh Chevre & Pesto

(Makes 16 appetisers)
½ cup of Laura Chenel’s Chef’s Chevre
2 Japanese eggplants
¾ c. pesto (can use prepared or your favorite recipe)
½ c. toasted pine nuts
1 T. Kosher Salt
¼ c. Olive Oil
Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/8 “ slices
Salt eggplant and let purge for ½ hour – Blot dry
Toss with olive oil
Grill until eggplant is tender – Remove from grill and hold at room temperature
Spread eggplant slices with Laura Chenel’s chevre, top with pesto and toasted pine nuts
Roll and secure with toothpick
*These can be served plain at room temperature or warm with a marinara sauce.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Best Hot & Sour Soup in the World!

Hot and Sour Soup

Recipe from the cookbook, “Soup:  A Way of Life”
by Barbara Kafka

4 dried shiitake mushrooms (or ½ cup fresh)
5 ½ cups Roasted Pork Stock (or substitute chicken or beef stock)
¼ pound boneless pork loin, or leftover roasted pork loin, cut into matchstick strips
Two ¼ pound cakes firm silken tofu, cut into matchstick strips
3 tablespoons cornstarch*
4 to 5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt**
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
One 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained, blanched for 2 minutes, and drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten

for serving:
2 medium scallions, trimmed and cut across into thin slices or thin matchstick sections
Toasted sesame oil

In a small bowl, soak the mushrooms in ½ cup warm water for 15 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms.  Strain the liquid through a coffee filter and reserve.  Remove and discard the mushroom stems. Slice the caps across into thin strips and reserve.

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock and mushroom soaking liquid to a boil.  If using fresh mushrooms, don’t worry about replacing this liquid.  Stir in the mushroom strips and the raw pork, if using.  Return to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  Stir in the tofu and cooked pork, if using, and simmer for 3 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch with ¼ cup water.  Stir some of the hot soup into the mixture.  Whisk into the soup.  Stir in the vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the bamboo shoots and heat through.

With a circular motion, pour the eggs into the soup.  Stir once to break the eggs into threads.

Sprinkle each serving with scallions and a few drops of sesame oil.

Makes 7 cups.

* This time I experimented with using xanthan gum, a thickener, as a replacement for the cornstarch.  It took a very small amount, the equivalent of ¼ tsp! to achieve the thickening I desired.  If you wish to replace the cornstarch to remove the gluten from the recipe I encourage you to try this, but start with a small amount and add it gradually to the soup base.  I couldn’t tell any difference in taste.
**I didn’t add salt while cooking.  I did add a small amount to my bowl at the dinner table.

Note:  Until I learned to blanch the bamboo shoots before adding them to a dish I didn’t like them because they always had a metallic taste.
The blanching completely removes that weird aftertaste!

One of the most satisfying things about this soup is the interesting combination of flavors and textures.  It is delicious!

blanching the bamboo shoots

leftover pork tenderloin, crosscut, then cut into matchsticks

I prefer cutting my scallions into thin strips

beaten egg

mushrooms added to soup stock

rice vinegar added to stock

stirring the soup in a circular fashion before adding the beaten eggs

here is the soup after eggs have been added and break into "threads"

garnishing the soup with scallions and a few drops of toasted sesame oil 
prior to serving.

Easy Chicken and Veggie Stir-Fry

3 Boneless Chicken Breasts
4 large carrots, chopped
1 Maui onion or a sweet onion, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
2-3 zucchini, chopped (not shown)
1 package of Annie Chuns Teriyaki Noodle Bowl
1/2 c Trader Joes General Tsai Stir Fry Sauce
Cut up all of the veggies (not the onions) and cook in a saucepan till fork tender or
in a microwave safe dish for 3 minutes or so
set aside

cut chicken into bite size cubes, place on a plate and sprinkle olive oil over it
toss around the chicken to coat all sides
to a hot skillet or stir fry pan, add the onions and cook till the sides are a light brown color
add the chicken and stir it all around to brown all sides
in the meantime, open the package of noodles.  Take the noodles out of the plastic wrap and cut in half.  Fill the bowl that is comes with in about 1 C of water, put the noodles in, lid slightly ajar and cook according to the package instructions, then set aside.
add the cooked veggies to the stir fry pan, and the sauce.  Lastly add the cooked noodles, separating them as you add it into the pan.  When ready to serve top with sesame seeds, and you've got dinner.  I am cooking for 2 and we had enough leftover for 2 lunches.  Yum.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ruth Reichl and other "foodie" books

I absolutely love Ruth Reichl.  Ruth is the former food critic for the NY Times and editor of Gourmet Magazine.  She has also written a variety of books, all of them worth reading.  I would recommend beginning with "Tender At the Bone:  Growing Up at the Table" and proceeding from there.  I must admit that I have yet to read her latest.  I'll be putting that on my Goodreads list soon.

I'm enough of a cooking geek that I admit to reading some cookbooks like others read novels.  Local cuisine books are fascinating, like the recent one from my husband's hometown of Belmond IA, created to honor the sesquicentennial for the town.  In it, there were 4 separate (but identical) recipes for "Pink Junk"(you know that pinkish jello stuff our grandmothers always made for Sunday dinners?  That stuff).
It is delightful!  One can surmise that politics entered into that cookbook-production!

I would love to know what some favorite books, cookbook or otherwise, are for the blog readers out there.  
Let us hear from you!

In the meantime, here is a link to Ruth Reichl's website listing of her books:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Veggie Stir Fry Side Dish

1 Maui Onion, chopped
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
Olive Oil

Add some Olive Oil to a hot non-stick skillet, and then add the chopped onions to cook, stirring, so they don't burn.
I pre-cooked the asparagus in a micro-wave safe baking dish for about 2 minutes; you could also do this on the stove
When the onions have turned brown on their tips, add a sliver of butter and the mushrooms to the onion mixture.
When the mushrooms turn brown and shrink up a bit, add the asparagus. I like to add some garlic to this mixture. When the asparagus is fork tender - it's done. The perfect side dish for the meat of your choice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Toasted Coconut

Until recently, I regarded coconut as something that you topped a cream pie with.  I have changed my tune, thanks to my good friend who grew up in Hawaii:  fresh coconut is a wonderful treat that can be used as both a sweet or savory topping.
Preheat oven to 325-350.
To prepare, spread fresh coconut onto a baking sheet, preferably on top of a silpat or parchment paper.
Try to spread the shreds evenly for more consistent toasting.  Toast for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, but watch carefully as it tends to brown quickly at the end.  I removed the baking sheet once and mixed the shreds around to improve the toasting.
Remove from oven when lightly toasted.  I separated part of the coconut for use as a topping for berries.
I sprayed the remainder with a very small application of olive oil spray, just enough for salt to contact.
I lightly dusted a very small amount of fine popcorn salt over the batch, then tossed.  Store in a sealed container once it has cooled.

This is wonderful as a salad topping.  If you haven't tried coconut as a savory addition to appetizers or salads, you will be pleasantly surprised.  I am looking forward to combining this with some almond meal in the food processor as a coating for fish.  It is splendid used as an appetizer to top cheese & crackers, or as a stand-alone treat.  Try some!  

Coconut is a wonderful, low-carb, high fiber food item.  One cup of shredded coconut has 12 grams of carbohydrate and 7.5 grams of fiber.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blackened Salmon and Slaw

First thing - get out the Salmon steaks and put them on a plate with olive oil underneath and on top to marinade into the fish. Set aside. And a 1/2 bag of baby spinach to set aside.

The Slaw - make this first so it's nice and cold when it's time to serve with the Salmon.

1/2 bag of broccoli slaw - chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 red pepper, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained and chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces
1/2 Maui onion, chopped
1 C Jicama, chopped
3-5 springs of fresh Cilantro - chopped
Kraft Fat-Free Catalina Dressing 1/8 - 1/4 C
sea salt and pepper

Throw it all into a bowl or ZipLok container, stir together and chill in frig till ready to serve
Blackened Salmon rub from All
2T ground paprika
1T ground cayenne pepper
1T onion salt
2 t sea salt
1/2 t ground white pepper, and black pepper
1/4 t dried thyme, basil and oregano
Mix together in a bowl and set aside

Coat the top of the fish with the rub, before putting the Salmon in the skillet. When the non-stick skillet is hot, had a touch of olive oil and place with a spatula the Salmon in the pan to cook. Sometimes, I put the lid on the pan to make sure that it cooks all of the way through. 4-5 minutes.
At the point when I turn them over, I added 1/2 bag of baby spinach to the pan on the sides, return the lid to the pan.
You can stab the fish with a knife to check the insides for done-ness. Serve the salmon with the spinach on top, and don't forget the chilled out slaw. Spicy and Sweet together on one plate.

Scrambled Eggs with Leftover Steak

I had some steak leftover from the night before, so got to thinking how great it would be in my eggs the next day, adding some veggies too!
left over steak (1/2 of a filet) - cut into small bite size pieces
1/2 bag of fresh baby spinach (pre-cooked in a microwave safe container - 2 min)
bok choy - chopped (gives eggs a sweet taste)
6 eggs
sea salt
perhaps an 1/8th of a cup of cheese, any kind.

Baby spinach in microwave cooker with a little water on the bottom - cook for 2 minutes
BokChoy - I cut off the leaves at the top and discarded them, and then proceeded to chop the bottom section for my eggs. Put a sliver of butter in a hot non-stick skillet and added the steak.

Steak is cooking along, then added Bok Choy, spinach, add a touch of sea salt. Beat 6 eggs together with a smidge of low fat milk, maybe about 1/4 cup or less; add cheese to steak mixture in the pan, and then add eggs.
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Branzino all’Acqua Pazza (Sea Bass in “Crazy Water”)

Tonight I'm calling this Seafood in Crazy Water because I did not use Sea Bass: I substituted lobster.

recipe from "Rustico", by Michele Negrin

Serves 4

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp chili flakes
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
20 basil leaves, sliced
¼ cup salted capers, rinsed and chopped
20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ pounds sea bass fillets, boned, cut into 3-inch pieces*
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the chili & garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, basil, capers, cherry tomatoes, salt, and 1 ½ cups of water. Bring liquid to a gentle boil, then add the seafood in a single layer and reduce to a medium heat.
Cook for 8 minutes without allowing the liquid to return to a boil (some fish might flake if it does). Distribute the seafood and its broth among 4 bowls, and serve hot, sprinkled with the pepper.
Great accompanied by a rustic Italian bread.

*I have prepared this dish with numerous types of seafood. It is best to use a firm, mild-tasting seafood such as sea bass, halibut, and lobster. Any fleshy white seafood will work, but the caution about the cooked fish falling apart is something to consider. The original recipe calls for Sea Bass but it is expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain. Consider a wider set of options.

When I began the food preparation I discovered that my Italian parsley was a bit wilted..

I trimmed the ends and submerged it in a bowl of ice water for about 45 minutes to rehydrate

and it perked right up!

This dish is very simple to construct. It is important to have all the ingredients prepared before you actually begin to cook on the stove.

Two beautiful lobster tails (huge: they weigh a total of 2 lbs!)

turn them over so you can visualize the little swimmerettes on the underside of the tail.
Using kitchen shears, cut right down the middle.

Start at the large end and cut to the tail.

Once cut, open the shell to facilitate removal of the lobster meat

Once the shell is opened the meat is quite easy to extract.

This is a lot of lobster meat!

Cross-cut the lobster tail, then cut those sections into 1-1.5 inch cubes.
Don't get too caught up in the exact size: the main thing is to get the sections fairly consistent
which makes it easier to cook them evenly.

Cut the entire amount of seafood, place in a bowl, cover with wrap,
and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Be sure to rinse your cutting board, kitchen shears, and knife.
I wash everything in hot, soapy water, and all but the knife goes into the dishwasher.
I rarely, if ever, wash my knives in the dishwasher, but I compulsively wash them with near-boiling water. I'm a bit of a fanatic about food-safety.
It is probably a side-effect of having been a surgical nurse....

A little sideline: I don't have cutting boards dedicated to specific tasks. I have several plastic cutting boards, several good (sharp!) knives, and I use several sets of them when I cook. If I cut meat, chicken, or seafood on a board I rinse it and put it in the dishwasher, clean the counter and get another set of tools out for the next step. If you don't have multiples, be sure you wash your tools with hot, soapy water and clean off the work counter frequently. I DO NOT use bleach in my kitchen. I use Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products. I have a ton of dish towels and I use a bunch of them when I cook. I wash my hands after each step. That is really enough to keep the kitchen clean and the food safe.

I get a large bottle of cleaning solution and reconstitute it in these spray bottles.
My favorite scent is basil. It cleans well and is very non-toxic.
Ok, where was I? Oh, I remember.....

Basil! I LOVE basil!
I went outside and clipped 4 sprigs. I need about 20-25 leaves.


This is what summer smells like to me.
I frequently cut a bunch of basil and put it in a vase.
I adore it!

Wash it under the faucet.
Lay the stalks on an absorbent towel to pull off some of the moisture.

After the basil leaves are a bit dry, pick them off the stems
and "stack" them about 5-10 deep. Put them aside until just before adding them.
If you cut them too soon they will bruise.

When you cut them, roll them up and slice through the roll.

I usually slice each stack about 4 times.
Note the little bowl on the cutting board.
Everything goes into a separate bowl.

Chop the parsley and set aside.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and set aside.
I put each ingredient in a separate dish because it keeps me organized.
Note that I used both yellow and red cherry tomatoes. Why? Because this is what I had on-hand!

Sideways bottle of capers (sorry about that)

Capers need to be rinsed. They are packed in a salty solution.
I put the capers in a strainer and ran quite a bit of water through them
before coursely chopping them.
Often, people don't like capers because of the salty flavor, and it is because
they need to be rinsed!
Here are all the prepared ingredients, oil, water, and red chili flakes.
I placed everything next to the stove for convenience.

Once olive oil is heated add red chili flakes and chopped garlic.
Cook until it becomes aromatic.

Then add parsley & basil...

The lovely tomatoes....

and the water.
Bring it to a gentle boil.

Add the seafood to the pan in a single layer.

See how some of it is beginning to look whiter, more opaque?
I gently turned the pieces to assure they were cooked through.

Ladle the seafood, along with the "crazy water" into a bowl.

Italian comfort food!
Serve in warmed bowls, if at all possible.
Great with a crusty Italian rustic bread.

I served this dish with freshly sliced red pepper
and a dollop of roasted red pepper hummus for dipping.

For dessert: A lovely assortment of fresh berries
Buon Appetito!