For those of you who may still be following this blog I left the restaurant industry in 2008, but I’m still cooking up a storm. To see what delicious and nutritious meals I’m preparing check out my new blog - LeafyGreensAndMe!
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When I decided to switch careers and attend culinary school I thought about opening a small cafe which focused on serving both savory and sweet tarts, as well as sandwiches, soups and baked goods. So I spent a lot of time researching tart and pie dough recipes and experimenting with different ingredients. But after working in the restaurant industry for the past three years, and being exposed to so many ingredients and techniques—the concept for my restaurant changes on a daily basis. I have at least 10 ideas going on at any given time—it’s exhausting! However, I still love working with dough—any type of dough—whether it be short crust, puff pastry, pizza, bread, or cookie dough.
Now that the fall season is here, I decided to create a Roasted Cauliflower, Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart with Fresh Figs and Ruby Port Reduction. I really look forward to when the season changes and you have an opportunity to work with new ingredients. And fall is my favorite time of year!
To make the tart dough, I used 4 cups of flour, 10 ounces of diced cold (frozen) butter, 1 tsp of salt and 3/4 to1 cup of ice cold water. After processing the dough, I let it rest in the walk-in for about an hour before rolling it out. I prefer using 4” individual tart pans, but somehow small items get lost in the restaurant and so I used a 10” pan and cut the tart into individual wedges. Either way it looks beautiful on the plate.
I make my tart fillings different than most recipes whereby you saute your ingredients, let them cool and then whisk in cold cream and egg yolks. To me this has the consistency of French toast batter or scrambled eggs and you end up tasting more egg than the main ingredient. I prefer to roast and then slowly saute all the ingredients and seasonings together and then add the cream and reduce until thick and creamy before tempering in the egg yolks and stirring in the cheese. You won’t believe the difference in flavor—it’s amazing! We sold out of this tart during dinner service—everyone loved it—and so will you! Enjoy!!
My step-son’s birthday is today and so I thought that I would make a Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with White Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream and Rum Raisin Caramel Sauce.
I think that I’ve made two cakes in my entire life and so this was a bit of a challenge for me. If I were to do this type of cake again I would definitely leave the raisins out of the batter because they made it difficult to slice the cake into even layers. Perhaps freezing the cake prior to cutting would of made it easier—so instead of eight layers it turned into a four layer cake.
There are several different methods for making buttercream icing and I prefer the Italian Meringue Buttercream method where you heat the sugar syrup to 245 degrees and slowly pour it into stiffly beaten egg whites and whip the mixture until cool before adding in softened butter. If you heat the sugar syrup to the correct temperature then the rest is easy and you’ll have a beautiful, silky buttercream that won’t become stiff or runny. And for someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of experience with layer cakes I need an icing that is easy to work with. To flavor my buttercream, I folded in a teaspoon of vanilla extract, one tablespoon of orange zest and a 1/2 cup of melted and cooled good quality white chocolate. Another option instead of white chocolate would be to add softened cream cheese which would work nicely with this cake as well.
So Happy Birthday Jerm! I’ve saved you a piece in the freezer and will bring it with us on our next visit to Portland.
I have never been to New Orleans, but I love everything about their cuisine—their traditions, their slow and low cooking methods, and especially their flavorful spices. Whether it’s Creole or Cajun—tomato or roux based, or a combination thereof—it all works for me. I mean how can you go wrong when your cuisine is influenced by France, Spain, and Africa!
So for yesterday’s special I made Blackened Catfish with Smoky Red Beans with Basmati Rice, Braised Mixed Greens in Apple Cider and a Spicy Creole Sauce.
When I blacken fish, I like to use a rub that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the fish. I feel that the blackening should provide great color, but also allow all the other components of the dish to shine through. Also, too much blackening spice can give the fish a gritty taste and so I only sprinkle the top side of the fish with a light coat of seasoning. For the beans, I always recommend that you use dried or fresh. Yes, it’s a bit more time consuming to soak dried beans overnight or to shuck fresh beans, but the flavor and texture is well worth the effort.
After soaking the beans overnight, drain them and set aside. Dice applewood smoked bacon and render until crispy. Next add finely diced onion, minced garlic and saute until soft. Add the beans, a bay leaf, minced fresh thyme and chicken stock or water to cover. Simmer the beans on low adding additional stock or water until beans are al dente. When finished, drain the beans immediately and spread out on a sheet pan and chill until ready to use.
For my Creole sauce, I use Old Bay Seasoning. I grew up on the spice blend which is manufactured in my hometown of Baltimore, and I use it in a lot in chowders and with steamed shrimp and crabs. Old Bay has a high salt content on its own so be careful when adding additional salt to the dish, especially if you are reducing the sauce.
For the sauce, dice onion, celery and green pepper and saute until soft. Next add minced garlic, chopped oregano, thyme and deglaze with white wine and reduce. Add the Old Bay Seasoning and good quality canned tomatoes (pureed in a food processor), a bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, and a small amount of water to cover. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce heat and simmer slowly until thick. Blend the sauce until smooth and stain through a small china cap. You can then finish the sauce with a small amount of cream or salt and pepper upon serving.
I love taking simple dishes and putting my own signature on the dish. When I grew up Beef Stroganoff looked and tasted a lot different than it does today—and my mom was a really great cook. Somehow I have bad memories of cream of mushroom soup (and I don’t think it was from my mom)…anyway, no more cream of mushroom soup required—this pasta dish is fresh, light and full of flavor!
I make my stroganoff with thinly sliced grilled flat iron steak, roasted shiitake mushrooms scented with thyme, caramelized red onions, fried capers, and linguine tossed in a Madeira creme fraiche sauce.
As with any dish, it helps if you start out with a really good foundation and in this case, a dark, rich veal stock. To start, I grill my flat iron steak to a medium rare to get a nice smoky flavor. Let the steak cool completely and then slice as thin as possible. Meanwhile, thinly slice shiitake mushrooms and toss in canola oil, minced thyme, salt and pepper. You can either pan saute the mushrooms or roast in the oven until caramelized and crispy. Next, julienne red onions and saute over medium-high heat until caramelized. Toss some capers into a saute pan with olive oil and cook over medium heat until crispy. However, keep the pan partially covered because once they start to fry they’ll pop and jump out of the pan. Drain the capers on paper towels and salt lightly and set aside.
To finish, start cooking the linguine in plenty of salted water. In a saute pan with a small amout of canola oil, over medium heat, add the steak, onions, and minced garlic and deglaze with Madeira. Reduce the Madeira and then add the veal stock and reduce to a sauce consistency. Add the mushrooms, a small amount of creme fraiche (you can use sour cream instead, but it should be added at the very end because sour cream will break under heat). Toss in the pasta and finish with parsley, fried capers, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Enjoy!
We were really busy at the restaurant last week with the San Jose Grand Prix in town and so on Friday I made this pasta special which was incredibly easy and delicious. You can use any pasta shape you like, but I like using orecchiette because the pasta holds a small pool of sauce in the center. I also added diced grilled chicken, but you can leave it out if you prefer. Pancetta or prosciutto would also be great with this dish.
To start, make a standard garlic cream sauce by sauteing an onion in canola oil. Add fresh garlic, roasted garlic, salt, pepper and deglaze with white wine, and simmer on low until the wine is reduced. Add heavy cream and simmer until cream is reduced by about a quarter. Set cream mixture aside to cool for about 10 minutes before adding the other ingredients. Pour cream mixture into a blender and add a large bunch of fresh basil, freshly grated parmesan cheese, lemon juice, fresh garlic, and a small amount of spinach for color. Blend until smooth and taste again for seasonings and add additional, salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste.
Since there are so few ingredients in this dish, I recommend that you purchase fresh English peas instead of using frozen—their taste and texture is amazing. To finish, cook the orecchiette to al dente. If using chicken or pancetta, saute in olive oil with fresh garlic and deglaze with a small amount of wine and reduce. Add the basil-pesto cream sauce, blanched peas, arugula, parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding fresh lemon juice. Finish the dish with shaved parmesan and a fried basil leaf. Enjoy!
For today’s special I made Pan-Seared Mahi with Applewood Smoked Bacon-Corn Fritters and Charred Yellow Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho. This dish has great flavor, color and texture. The Yellow Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho is served cold, which is quite refreshing during the summer and boasts a beautiful golden color with flecks of black and green. For even more contrast, a traditional red tomato gazpacho would pop nicely against the golden corn fritter and seared Mahi.
For the bacon-corn fritter, I sauteed the bacon and then added diced onion and fresh shucked corn kernels and cooked until the corn was tender but still had some crunch. Set the mixture aside and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a blender, add a small amount of cream, egg and fresh corn kernels and blend until creamy. In another bowl, add about a cup of flour, a tsp of baking powder and then stir in the cream-corn and the bacon-corn mixtures to combine. Add chopped fresh basil, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
You can either drop spoonfills of the mixture into a saute pan, or spray a small cookie cutter with oil and then spoon the mixture into the form to create a more defined circle. Saute on low until somewhat firm (remove the cookie cutter) and then flip and finish in the oven until fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
This bacon-corn fritter is great served with either roasted chicken, ribs, salmon, shrimp, or soft-shelled crabs. Change up the sauce/salad depending on what you serve it with and you’ll have delicious entree for summer! Enjoy!
When I lived in Maryland I had friends who had a vacation home in St. Michaels’ on the Eastern Shore. I would spend holidays and many weekends during the summer months with their family fishing for the ultimate catch—the Maryland Blue Crab. We would get up at the crack of dawn—4:00 am to tie salted dead eels to a 1,500-foot trout line to catch crabs before the sun became too intense to scare the crabs away. We would walk down the pier in the dark, with our flashlights and thermos of hot coffee in hand, as we got in the boat and headed out to the glassy coves of the Chesapeake, laying out our bait in hopes of an abundant catch. After we finished laying the lines, we headed back to shore, but only briefly, before we headed back out again with our nets in hand as we slowly motored the boat, netting our feast for the day.
Once we arrived back at the house, we would sleep until at least 1:00 pm and then fire up the steaming pots getting ready for our Crab Feast. And everyone in the neighborhood was invited. Picnic tables would be covered in today’s newspapers, kegs of beer would be plentiful, corn on the cob would be grilling, vats of butter melting, along with tubs of freshly made coleslaw and of course, the star attraction…bushels of Maryland Blue Crabs would be steaming with plenty of Old Bay Seasoning, Rock Salt, Distilled Vinegar and of course Beer! That was in the 1980’s–and unfortunately things are a lot different today…:-(
Several weeks ago, I was visiting my family in Maryland and I wanted to purchase steamed crabs, but at $55 per dozen for really small crabs, I was shocked and decided to purchase jumbo lump crab meat instead at $18 per lb. I know that blue crabs fully mature in late August-September, but I never remember them being so small and expensive for mid-June. So I decided to use my jumbo lump crab meat and make a creamy crab soup with charred fresh corn, which was absolutely incredible. I served the soup with a salad tossed with a fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, arugula, mint, lemon and olive oil, and served it with crusty, fresh bread and it was delicious!! And of course, a really nice refreshing wine. It brought back all of the memories when crabs in the Chesapeake were plentiful and those 4:00 am fishing trips
So when I got back to work, I was happy to see that the Executive Chef had purchased Chesapeake Bay Soft-Shelled Crabs and so I wanted to make my favorite Soft-Shelled Crab BLT Sandwich with Cajun Remuolade and Old Bay Fries!
A soft-shelled crab is the same as a regular hard shelled blue crab except (unfortunately) he was captured at his most vulnerable point when he is shedding his shell (and his skin is really soft) before he has an opportunity to mature to a larger crab. Most people (unless they grow up in the mid-Atlantic East Coast, Gulf of Louisiana, or even San Francisco) are really turned off by the sight of wholes crabs or cleaning them and prefer crab meat, which has already been cleaned and processed. But once you sit down at a table covered in old newspaper and crack open a cold beer and have this steaming flavorful, seasoned crab in front of you—you can’t help but take the next step! And the same goes for cooking and eating soft-shelled crabs!
I cleaned and soaked the soft-shelled crabs in buttermilk and then tossed them lightly in seasoned flour (paprika, old bay, salt and pepper) before lightly pan-frying in canola oil until crispy. Meanwhile, make your Cajun remoulade sauce—you can even use good store bought mayonnaise seasoned with Cajun spices. Next cook strips of applewood smoked bacon until crispy, and then shred romaine lettuce and slice fresh heirloom tomatoes. Serve everything on a warm crusty bun, along with fries or chips tossed with Old Bay Seasoning and salt.
This to me is my ultimate summer sandwich and I hope that you’ll give it a try and it will become a favorite of yours as well. Enjoy!
I wanted to make a light dessert for summer last week and so I made Lemon-Ouzo Mousse and Yogurt Cake with Roasted Strawberry Syrup. My original plan was to make a 4–layer lemon cake, but the cake was too dense and heavy for the mousse filling and so I decided to use the cake as a base for the mousse instead. It turned out really great—refreshing with bold flavors and interesting textures.
The cake base is yummy enough to eat on its own without the mousse. It turned out incredibly moist and rich and would be great drizzled with a light lemon syrup or lemon icing. For the cake, I used thick Greek yogurt and lots of fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. For the mousse, in addition to fresh lemon juice, I added a small amount of Greek Ouzo, which is a sweet anise flavored liqueur and goes really well with the lemon flavor and roasted strawberry syrup.
So next time you’re making a dessert and it doesn’t turn out exactly as you had planned rethink the design and use the ingredients in another way. You’ll end up with a great tasting, beautifully presented dessert. Enjoy!
This time last year my husband and I were traveling around the Island of Crete for a two-week vacation. We met really wonderful people, ate delicious food, drank great wines, (as well as Raki) and took in all the beautiful scenery. It’s crazy how fast this past year has gone by and I would love to be back there experiencing it all over again. Perhaps we’ll have another opportunity to visit again in the near future.
So lately, I have been reminiscing and all I want to do is eat Greek food and experience their culture. Two weeks ago we went to a Greek Festival in Oakland and this weekend we’ll be attending another festival in San Jose. We also went out to eat last weekend for my husband’s birthday at a very nice Greek restaurant. However, it’s just not the same and so I wanted to make something today, which reminded me of the special times during our vacation. So I decided to make Loukamades, tossed in Hot Cinnamon Syrup with Toasted Walnuts. I’ve eaten so many of these today that I’m sure I’ll be up all night with a sugar rush. They were really fun to make and all the employees at work loved them.
While we were traveling through Crete, we spent the night in a town called Paleochora, which is located on the southwest coast of Crete along the Libyan Sea. The town is very beautiful, quaint, with two gorgeous beaches. Anyway, I believe it was a weeknight and my husband and I had just finished dinner and we were walking around the streets and we stumbled upon this small little cafe where they only serve Loukamades—the best in the area! So it’s about 11:30pm when we arrive at the cafe and there are one or two other couples chatting, but by midnight, the place was packed with locals (about 30) eating Loukamades and drinking Greek coffee and Raki. It was such a wonderful experience, watching all of these people (family, friends, neighbors discussing their day with their kids playing in the street) and it was all centered around food—these little delicious balls of dough. I’ll never forget that experience and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to be there.
I have never made Loukamades, Beignets or donuts before and so I researched a bunch of recipes and combined certain elements to make it taste exactly how I remembered. You can use a basic donut recipe, but what surprised me the most about the dough was how soft and sticky it was. It almost reminded me of brioche, without all of the butter, and it was just as difficult to work with. To avoid adding unneeded flour while forming the balls, spray a little bit of canola spray on your fingertips and form the dough into small balls the size of cherries. I let the dough rise for about an hour, formed into balls and then dropped into hot oil at 375 degrees, turning constantly so that they browned evenly. I then drained them on paper towels and then tossed in the hot Cinnamon Syrup.
For the syrup, I chose to make a simple syrup (3 cups sugar to 2 parts water) instead of using melted honey. I reduced the simple syrup, along with ground cinnamon, orange zest, and lemon juice to a thick consistency. While the Loukamades are still hot, pour over the cinnamon syrup and toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a bowl and sprinkle with toasted minced walnuts. They are soft and moist on the inside with a slight crunchy exterior—and they are a sticky mess—but you’ll love them! Serve hot and enjoy a small taste of Greece no matter where you are!! Opa!