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Shakshuka

When we think of breakfast, we usually don’t imagine a dish of tomatoes, peppers and onions slowly simmered with spices and gently poached fresh eggs. Yet, shakshuka is a breakfast staple in the Maghrebian regions of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Israel. In Tamazight, shakshouka means “a mixture.” When my roommate tried the dish in Israel, he was overcome by the intensity of the spices and said it was the best breakfast he had ever had. The good news is that shakshuka is much easier to make than it is to say.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 4 medium red bell peppers, diced
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
• 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with juices
• 1 tablespoons smoked paprika or 4 teaspoons of regular paprika
• Salt, turmeric, cumin, fresh black pepper and Ancho Chili powder to taste
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
• 4 large eggs
• Pita bread or baguette, for serving

Directions:

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Add the red bell peppers, salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for another minute. Add tomatoes and season with more salt, cumin, turmeric, paprika and ancho chili powder.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until thick and concentrated, stirring occasionally. For this recipe, you will have extra sauce that you can save for another meal.

Stir in half of the parsley and break the eggs over the tomatoes. Cover with a lid and continue to cook for about seven to eight minutes until the eggs are set. Sprinkle the remaining parsley and serve immediately with pita bread or baguette. Serve in the pan you cooked it in.

Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • chopped chicken breast
  • celery, peeled and diced
  • red onion, diced
  • mayonnaise
  • dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • turmeric
  • fresh black pepper
  • paprika
  • cilantro, chopped
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • poppyseed challah
1. Chop chicken breast and mixed with the celery and red onion. Make the dressing separately by mixing mayonnaise, a bit of dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic powder, turmeric,  fresh black pepper, and paprika. Mix in chopped cilantro.
2. Combine the dressing with the chicken and sandwich between challah with lettuce and tomato.

Navratan Korma

This is my version of a Navratan Korma, which is an Indian curry dish. Navratan means nine gems and this usually refers to the vegetables, fruits, or nuts in the curry. I cut down on the fat—which is why the color is a pale orange instead of a bright yellow—, but not the the flavor and depth of this vegetarian dish.

 

Ingredients:

  • very fresh tomatoes (enough to fill a whole sheet pan when cut)
  • olive oil or wegmans basting oil
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 3/4 of a 16  oz. can 0f coconut milk
  • 4-5 tablespoons plain, greek yogurt
  • 1 zucchini, cut into cubes
  • 1 squash, cut into cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, pepper, turmeric
  • a handful carrots, chopped
  • broccoli (similar amount)
  • ground coriander (few pinches)
  • garam masala (few pinches)
  • red curry powder (few pinches) It’s spicy
  • a handful of whole, unsalted cashews
  • 3 small waxy potatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk (whatever fat content you like)
  • 1 cup of peas
1. Cut the tomatoes (large-bite size) and scatter, filling an entire foiled sheet pan. Roast them on 400º for about 30 minutes with olive oil and seasonings (I used a Wegmans basting oil blend). In a blender or food processor, purée.
2. Roast the cauliflower in the same manner, but only for about 15 minutes.
3. Cook the tomato sauce in a pot with the coconut milk. Add the greek yogurt and stir until homogenous.
4. Sauté the zucchini and squash in olive oil with salt, pepper, minced garlic, and two pinches of turmeric and par-cook the broccoli  and carrots however you choose. I parboiled the carrots until just cooked through and used frozen broccoli. Add all these vegetables to the pot.
5. Add the spices to the curry: turmeric, ground coriander, garam masala, and red curry powder. Salt and continue to season to taste. Add the cashews. Microwave the potatoes until fork tender and cut into bite-size pieces, adding them to the curry.
6. Add the cream or milk . You can adjust richness by adding more coconut milk, cream, or yogurt. Although I didn’t, butter would be a good addition since most recipes call for ghee. When the consistency is perfect, cover the pot, If it reduces too much, add a bit of water.
7. Add half of the peas. Serve over basmati rice (add the remaining peas to this). Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Italian Quesadilla

This twist on the traditional quesadilla makes for a great snack. My sister was thinking of what to eat for about 30 minutes, so I just made her this so she’d stop complaining. She offered to make the quesadilla and took out the peanut butter. That’s when I told her firmly that I would be cooking it. I think she was glad I did.
  1. Spread a light coating of store-bought pesto on a flour tortilla.
  2. Scatter on ripped pieces of sliced jarlsberg cheese.
  3. Thinly slice tomatoes and cut into half-moons. Use any tomato you like. I used a really sweet golf-ball shaped variety with no label (from the farmer’s market). Distribute these on as well.
  4. Top with lots of hand-torn fresh basil, a rivulet of olive oil and a few drips of lemon juice.
  5. Top with the other tortilla
  6. Heat a pan over medium heat and coat with melted butter. Cook the quesadilla until buttery golden and crispy on the bottom. Press lightly. Slide off onto a plate.
  7. Add more butter to the pan and cook the other side of the quesadilla. If the pan seems to hot, turn it down a bit. Press lightly and remove when the tortilla is golden and crispy and the cheese is melted. You can use a spatula or place an upside-down plate over the pan and invert the whole thing.

For those of you who have not had fish tacos, you’re missing out on a real pleasure. Chewy, dry corn tortillas can be transformed into crispy, yet pillowy ones by lightly frying them. With fish tacos, it only takes one bite to enjoy many flavors and textures: tender and flaky tilapia with a fresh grilled flavor, cool crema with a hint of tequila and the bright flavor of lime, a Margarita salsa fresca that is slightly sweet and bursting with flavor. Some fresh lettuce or cabbage slaw tops off the presentation as well as the final textural component. I served mine with crispy plantain tostones and black beans.

Tilapia: tilapia, salt, pepper, dried oregano, annatto seeds, olive oil

Season the fish with salt, pepper, dried oregano, and annatto seeds. Annatto provides a subtle peppery flavor, but mostly gives the fish an appealing orange color. Grind the annatto in a coffee/spice grinder or buy pre-ground. Coat the fish in olive oil and grill until they are almost done. Finish them off in the oven (this will prevent flaking on the grill and will allow you to make sure the fish is hot when you serve it)

Tequila Lime Crema: sour cream, lime juice, tequila, cumin, garlic, Goya Adobo seasoning

Mix sour cream with lime juice and a few tablespoons of tequila. You should be able to taste tequila and lime easily, but they should not be overpowering. Add minced garlic, ground cumin, and a little Adobo seasoning. Let the flavors marry in the refrigerator for an hour and taste again for readjustments.

Margarita Pico de Gallo: Tomatoes, onion, margarita mix, honey, Adobo, white vinegar, corn

Dice tomatoes and add diced onion. Add Jose Cuervo Margarita mix and a good drizzle of honey. Add diced mango, more of that Goya Adobo seasoning, and a bit of white vinegar.  Cilantro would make a great addition. Boil an ear of corn, char it on the grill, and add it to the Pico de Gallo.

Black Beans: olive oil, onions, garlic, oregano, Adobo

Use either canned or fresh beans—fresh must be soaked a whole day. Sauté diced onion in a pot in some olive oil with plenty of minced garlic. Add the beans and season with dried oregano and Adobo. Canned beans may be salty enough already.

Tostones: Plantains, olive oil, salt

Use plantains that are just beginning to yellow. Cut into thick slices, coat lightly in olive oil, and bake in the oven on a foiled sheet pan for about 10-15 minutes on 350°. With a spatula, press them so they’re half as thin. Brown both sides in a pan with a light coating of olive oil, transfer to some paper towels and salt generously.

Making the Taco: corn tortillas, canola oil

Heat about an inch of canola oil in a pot and fry the corn tortillas on both sides until they are crispy, yet pliable. transfer to de-grease on paper towels and serve immediately.

Penne with Walnut Pesto

Try something other than your usual pasta and meat sauce. Pesto takes little cooking to make and is very healthy and light. Add whatever vegetables you feel like. You can also experiment with different types of nuts; pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are great and even pistachios could work. You won’t miss meat at all!

Ingredients:

Pesto Sauce

  • Basil (2 cups, almost filling a small food processor)
  • Walnut pieces (a palm full)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese (a palm full)
  • Artichoke hearts (A few pieces from a jar)
  • Olive Oil (until desired consistency is reached) I used thyme-infused oil that I made.
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper
♦ Make extra pesto and use as a condiment for sandwiches, a marinade for steak, or mix with mayo and slather on salmon.
Pasta and Veggies
  • 2 small yellow squashes cut into chunks
  • 1 ear of corn, boiled and de-kerneled
  • Cannellini beans (White Kidney)

Sauté the squash in olive oil with salt, pepper and dried oregano. When the squash has softened, add the corn, spinach, and Cannellini beans and re-season. Boil Pasta until al dente. A few minutes before it is done, start the pesto sauce. In a food processor, grind the pesto ingredients, adding olive oil gradually. The basil should not be chunky, but over-blending will affect the pesto color.

Strain the pasta and mix with the pesto and vegetables. Fold in freshly grated parmesan cheese while it’s warm. Garnish with parmesan ribbons, basil chiffonade, and toasted walnut pieces.

Inspired by a Caribbean restaurant in Delray Beach, FL, this basa basa is steamed inside a banana leaf with exotic spices, fresh vegetables, cilantro, coconut milk, and lime juice. The fish comes out of the sauna, refreshed and invigorated, while all the vegetables are imparted with the coconut and lime flavors. Feel free to eat as much as you want; this dish is low on calories.

Ingredients:

  • banana leaves
  • basa basa
  • salt
  • blackpepper
  • garam masala
  • turmeric
  • red curry powder
  • ground cumin
  • canned corn
  • zuchinni
  • squash
  • limes
  • cilantro
  • coconut milk

1. Blanch a banana leaf in boiling water for about a minute. Lay down a skinless filet of basa basa and season on both sides with the spices. Top with slices of zuchinni and squash, canned corn, squeezed lime wedges, torn cilantro leaves and a pour of coconut milk. Finish with some more salt and pepper for the vegetables.

2. Wrap up the fish like a present and flip over onto aluminum foil. Wrap it up in the foil and flip again. Place on a sheet pan and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.

3. Open the package and take a taste, if it is not fully cooked, finish it off in the oven uncovered.

Rustic Peach Tart

Crust (from epicurious)

  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Filling (based on Paula Deen recipe)

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Glaze (based on Paula Deen recipe)
  • drizzle of honey
  • squeeze of orange juice
  • some canned peach juice
  • a few tablespoons of sugar

Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until coarse meal forms. Add 3 tablespoons ice water and vinegar; using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form, adding more water if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball. Flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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Allow the rested dough to come back to room temperature and roll thinly using plenty of flour. Trim the rough edges to make a circular shape. Blanch the peaches by dunking in boiling water for 30 seconds and transfer to ice water. After a minute, the skins should come right off. Remove the pits and cut them into slices. Layer inside the dough, leaving room to fold the edges.

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To make the glaze, whisk together honey, sugar,  a splash of orange juice (fresh or in carton), and sugar.

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Whisk together the egg yolks, the sugar, and the sour cream. Drizzle over the tart. Brush the crust with cream and dust the whole tart with sugar. Heat in a 350° oven for about 2o minutes on a foiled baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. For the last five, drizzle the top with the glaze or apply with a pastry brush. Remove from the oven when the crust is golden brown and crispy, not doughy.

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Picture by Ashley

This was a nicely composed dish. The mint and basil flavored the lamb without overpowering that great lambyness. A ripe pomegranate inspired me to make this pomegranate molasses that actually includes molasses, which gives it a balanced sweetness. I turned seemingly hopeless bok choy—frozen to the point of shaterring— into a colorful, rustic veggie braise. 

Lamb:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º. Remove any tough fat from the lamb. In a food processor, grind lots of fresh mint, basil, and cilantro. Use any herbs you have. Add about 3 tablespoons of dijon mustard, a bit of olive oil, salt,  lime juice, and 6 cloves of minced garlic (I used a garlic press). Wash the lamb and pat dry.
  2. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and massage the meat. Slather on the herb-dijon mixture to both sides.
  3. Cook for about 1 hour, lower the heat to 350º and cook for about 30 minutes. Insert a thermometer, when it reads 150º, allow it to rest, cut, and serve (for medium). I cooked mine a bit more for some guests who prefer done meat. I think lamb is delicious at all temperatures.

Pomegranate Molasses:

  1. Cut a pomegranate in half and whack with a wooden spoon so that the seeds fall into a bowl. Then, squeeze out the juice. Blend the pomegranate in a food processor or a blender and pass through a sieve to get rid of the bits of seed. This maximizes the amount of juice you get.
  2. Heat in a sauce pan with a few tablespoons of molasses, a splash of red wine or Rosé (I used White Zinfandel), about 5 tablespoons of sugar, and a bit of lemon juice. Simmer until you have a thick sauce and cool to room temperature.
Braised Baby Bok Choy:
  1. Steam the bok choy. When it’s bright and tender, chop it into small pieces. Sauté half of a diced white onion in a pot with olive oil and salt. When they are soft, add the bok choy. Add some corn, diced tomatoes, plenty of chopped basil, a bit of soy sauce, onion powder, a splash of white wine, and some drippings from the lamb. Simmer and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste.
Plate assemblage:
  • Drizzle on the pomegranate molasses, pile on some bok choy mix, and fan out the lamb. Drizzle some lamb juice on top and garnish with the pomegranate seeds.

This salsa is delicious, healthy, and takes about 10-15 minutes to make. What’s not to love?! My parents want me to sell it in 16 oz. containers. I’ll have to think about that. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for a mildly spiced yet  flavorful and refreshing salsa. The charred flavor makes my salsa unique and basil provides a more sweet herb flavor. Add a little sweetness and you have a tasty salsa, perfect for topping burgers, tacos, or your tortilla chip—the best of which would have to be Xochitl corn chips.

Ingedients:

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • About 6 plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, diced (for a mild salsa)
  • small handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • small handful of basil, roughly chopped
  • salt
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • hefty pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 of a 16 oz. can of corn
  • 2 tablespoons of diced red onion
1. Set the grill to medium-high heat and char the poblanos. They should be covered in black blisters. Cut them in half and remove the stems, seeds and inner membranes. Roughly chop.
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 2. Quarter the plum tomatoes and put in a food processor with the poblanos, the garlic, the shallots, the jalapeños, the herb and a few pinches of salt. Use the chop setting and pulse. Pulse in lime juice, honey, and sugar.
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3. Taste for sweetness (honey/sugar), salt (be generous), acidity (lime), heat (jalopeño), and herb action.
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4. In a hot saute pan, cook the corn until it browns and add to the salsa. Mix in diced red onion.
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Replace the tomatoes with grilled tomatillos (the fruits that look like green tomatoes with husks) for a salsa verde.

Ingredients:

  • goat meat
  • 2 limes
  • ground cumin and cumin seeds
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • red curry
  • 1 sweet onion
  • same quantity of carrots, chopped
  • same quantity of celery
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger paste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • port wine
  • basmati rice
  • peas
  • a coconut product (dried, shredded, fresh, coconut milk)

Preparation

1. Separate goat meat from bones, clean, and cut into bite-size pieces. Roast the bones in the oven on high heat for an hour and boil in water until a concentrated stock is left. Marinate the meat in lime juice, ground cumin, and red curry for 1 hour.

2. In olive oil or butter if you can, caramelize chopped sweet onions along with chopped carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Add about a teaspoon of tomato paste, a tablespoon of ginger paste, and minced garlic. Add a few bay leaves, more cumin and more spicy curry.

3. In a very hot metal pot, try to brown the goat (no oil is necessary). Add to the stew. Deglaze the pan with port wine (or any red). Add enough good quality tomato sauce to coat the goat and vegetables.  Add the concentrated goat stock too.

4. I had dried coconut, which I ground into a paste, reconstituted with some hot water, and mixed into the stew. Coconut milk would work beautifully. Re-season to taste and add more wine if necessary.  Simmer for a few hours with no lid, adding broth when necessary. For the final 1 or 2 hours to tenderize the goat, cook with a tight-fitting lid and add frozen peas. For an extra rich sauce, add plain yogurt or cream.

5. Follow the directions to cook basmati rice. Toast the grains first in a saute pan with some oil and cumin seeds. Add peas as well 3/4 of the way through the cooking. Serve with naan. Cooking time may vary depending on the cut of goat. Expect between 5 and seven hours of cooking.

Port Wine Sabayon

Sabayon is a egg foam made stable by the coagulation of the yolks. Mine, however, is more like a sweet and rich dessert sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 4 yolks
  • sugar (approximately equal to yolks)
  • port wine
  • 1/2 orange
  • cinnamon
Preparation:

1. Make a double boiler by adding an inch of water in a medium-size pot and topping with a pyrex bowl. Over medium to high heat, whisk egg yolks until they become pale and add about 6 teaspoons of sugar, gradually. Add 1-2 tablespoons of port wine and cook until the mixture is hot and thick.

2. Remove from the heat and place the bowl over ice (with some water) to cool. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon and the juice of half an orange. Taste for balance and serve atop whipped cream and fresh berries.

Limoncello Souffle

The souffle is a great technique to have in your repertoire. Everybody gets their own and they’re quite impressive. Just don’t tell your guests that they’re dirt cheap! My limoncello souffle is light and refreshing, with an interior that is both creamy and fluffy. You have to do a little guess work with the amount of flavor in your base, but souffles are much easier than they sound.

Prep time: 10minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients: (Serves Four)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 lemon
  • 6+ tablespoons of sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons limoncello (Italian lemon-flavored liqueur)
  • butter
  • powdered sugar
You will need 4 small ramekins (also called timbales) for the souffles.
1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Separate 4 eggs into two separate bowls (a glass pyrex for the yolks). Any yolk in the whites will ruin the souffle. Make a double boiler by adding about an inch of water to a medium-size pot and heating, placing the pyrex bowl on top. Whisk constantly. When the yolks start to heat up, add tablespoons of sugar, gradually. Eventually, the yolks will start to pale and thicken like a sauce. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and about 2-3 tablespoons of limoncello.
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2. Give the limoncello a chance to cook off. When you have a thick, pale-yellow sauce, remove from the heat. Give the base a taste; if it tastes perfect, it will be bland when lightened with tasteless egg whites and air. Make the base twice as flavorful, anticipating this. The base should taste very lemony, very sweet, and the limoncello should be prominent.
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3. Fill a large bowl with ice and add water so that the glass bowl can rest on top and cool. You may change bowls to quicken the process. For your information, the ratio for a souffle is about 1/2 cup of base per egg white.
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4. Whip the whites on medium and then high power. If you have cream of tarter, add a pinch and your souffle will be more stable and may evade deflation. The whites should be opaque, glossy, and form stiff peaks like whipped cream.
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5. Meanwhile, the base should have thickened a lot and should be a lemon-curd or pie-filling consistency. When cool, double-check for taste. Vigorously stir a bit of white into the base to lighten it and slowly pour the base into the whites, gently folding them until incorporated, but without losing too much volume. Butter four small ramekins and coat evenly with sugar.
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6. Put a cookie rack on top of a baking sheet and disperse the ramekins. Bake in the oven until the tops are slightly browned and a toothpick could be inserted and removed cleanly or almost cleanly (some prefer there souffles more creamy). Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with opening the oven… they don’t magically sink. However, if they did, bring them back up to temp and they’ll rise almost as high.

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Marinated Hanger Steak

The hanger steak, also known as the hanging tenderloin, is an underutilized cut. It is prized among butchers and is usually the cut they save for themselves. Although it takes quite a bit of butchery work, the steaks are almost as tender as filet mignon, but with much more flavor. Mine is marinated for hours in herbs, garlic, dijon, and citrus and soaks in the flavor to its pink, succulent core. A squeeze of lime—grilled to bring out the sweetness—is the perfect finishing touch.

Ingredients:

  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • dijon mustard (2-3 tbsp)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 lime (plus some for grilling)
1. Trim the hanger steak, separating both strips from the tough tendon in between. Clean thoroughly by removing fat, tendons, and silver skin.
2. De-stem a few sprigs of rosemary and roughly chop. Grind a few cloves of garlic in a food processor with the rosemary and some thyme leaves. Grind with olive oil and plenty of salt. Add cilantro leaves—some stem is okay—and parsley and continue to grind with fresh pepper, dijon mustard, and a squeeze of lemon and lime juice. Add olive oil if necessary to create a smooth and pasty marinade.
3. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours and then bring them up to room temperature. Heat the grill to medium and oil it. Grill for 2.5 minutes (lid closed) and rotate 45° for another 2.5 to make cross-hatches. Repeat on the other side.

4. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes and cut into medallions against the grain. The meat is tender enough for thick pieces. This recipe will make a medium-rare steak, although it will vary in different sections of the organically shaped meat. For medium, try 6 minutes on each side. For well-done, try a microwave. Serve with grilled limes.

Asian Cucumber Salad

I literally made this salad because there was no room in the refrigerator for the cucumbers, but it turned out lovely. The cucumbers stay crisp, cool and refreshing while the dressing is light and complex. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1/2 red onion
  • fresh mint
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh basil
  • ginger paste
  • wasabi paste
  • rice wine vinegar (Mirin)
  • honey
  • sesame oil
  • olive oil
  • salt

1. Peel the cucumbers and cut in half longways. With a spoon, remove all the seeds and pulp with a gentle scraping motion. Flip over  (cavity side down) and cut strips—about 1/4″—on a bias. For the onion, slice in half and remove the skin. Take one half, place cut-side down on the board, and cut off the very top and root end. Angling the cut will make it easier to dislodge the core which is the next step. Make thin semicircle slices and add to the cucumber.

2. De-stem cilantro and mint leaves and roll inside a basil leaf. Make a chiffonade cut (very thin ribbons) and add to the veggies. Hint: slicing with a backwards motion is the most effective way to cleanly cut herbs.

3. For the dressing, whisk ginger paste and a little wasabi paste with rice wine vinegar, honey, sesame oil (only a little is needed), olive oil and salt. The dressing is perfect when every ingredient’s flavor is pronounced. Keep in mind that the cucumbers will only get a thin coating of the dressing, so make it more pungent than fits your taste. If you like it sweet, add more honey. If you like heat, add more wasabi, etc.

4. Mix the dressing with the cucumbers and onions and marinate for a short time in the refrigerator (10-15 minutes). Before serving, break off fennel fronds and mix in for garnish.

Many of us don’t put enough thought into scrambled eggs.  We crack some eggs into a bowl, whisk it up until blended, pour ’em into a hot non-stick skillet and call it a day. Most scrambled eggs end up with curds that are large, foamy, dry and flavorless, notwithstanding some notes of sulfur.

Before we make the eggs, we must first understand how they work:

  1. Egg proteins begin as folded chains of amino acids.
  2. As they’re heated, they move faster and faster, bump into each other and unravel.
  3. These chains re-bond to each other, forming a network.
  4. With constant stirring, solid, but moist curds form.
  • For good eggs, start by thoroughly scrambling them with a whisk or a fork until they become a homogenous mixture.
  • To avoid rubbery eggs, an additional liquid must be added. This dilutes the proteins and forms a looser, yet still stable network upon coagulation. Cream, milk or even butter are the best bets. I add a splash of cream and a splash or orange juice. Here’s why:
  • Proteins have negative charges and repel each other. Fruit juices—like orange juice—are acids and lower the pH, decreasing the repelling charge. Consequently, proteins aggregate sooner, before they have a chance to unravel completely and form strong bonds. Also, salt dissolves into positively and negatively charged ions, effectively neutralizing the proteins and, similarly, creating a more tender curd. Thus, I also add salt to my eggs for that reason and the fact that eggs too need to be seasoned.
  • Add butter to a pan on low heat. When the butter jsut starts to bubble, add the eggs and stir constantly until many small curds form. Add the cheese of your choice and mix until there is still a thin coating of liquid on the curds. This is the thin white that takes longer to coagulate than the yolk. Remove from the heat, and the thin white will start to coagulate, yet your eggs will be at the peak of moisture and tenderness. Finally, the combined efforts of the low eat and acid will reduce the eggy flavor and aroma that turns people off.
Harold McGee On Food And Cooking helped me better understand eggs.

For those of you who are new to quail, there’s nothing to be afraid of; quail tastes just like chicken. I made a cherry and wine reduction and blended it too create a sauce. The quail is grilled until crispy and charred and you can eat it with your hands. You can also try my cherry and wine sauce on chicken, duck, or pork chops.


Ingredients:

6 jumbo quail

1/2 white onion, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

fresh thyme

1 container of fresh cherries, de-pitted and chopped

1 teaspoon beef base

red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)

cherry juice

sugar

3 caps of apple cider vinegar

olive oil, salt, and pepper

Sauce:

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Coat the pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions with a bit of salt and when they have softened, add thyme leaves and garlic. In a minute, add the cherries.

I stirred in about a teaspoon of beef base, dissolved in some hot water. Along with this makeshift beef stock, add a good splash of wine, and cherry juice—you can find it at most grocery stores. Incorporate about three five-finger pinches of sugar and the apple cider vinegar. Reduce for a bit. I also added some store-bought ginger paste, but this is optional.

Blend in a blender or just grind in a food processor until the sauce is relatively smooth and homogenous. Adjust for consistency by reducing or by adding water and adjust the flavor by adding more wine, vinegar, or sugar. Also, salt to taste at this point. If you have the technology (a chinois or cheesecloth) strain the sauce for a luxuriously smooth texture and refined look.

Quail:

Butterfly the quail by cutting along the breast bone. Rub both sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper and get the grill nice and hot. Quail needs to be cooked quickly or it will dry out. Grill for about 6-7 minutes on both sides (with the grill closed), starting skin-side down. Make your desired grill marks and just cut into it, taking it off the grill when just cooked through.

Duck confit with dirty rice and citrus gastrique from Herbsaint

I worked the carving station and had to serve this T-Rex meat. Really just a cow's thigh.

Crabcakes and crawfish sauce from Oceana Grill

Crawfish tails, basil-fed snails, with tasso ham, herbs, wild mushrooms, and grits. I could actually taste a hint of basil.

Roasted shrimp in skirts of shredded phyllo with barbecue shrimp sauce, roasted pineapple & young coconut slaw. This was outside at night, so the picture looks terrible, but it was unbelievable

Purty tart made in pastry

Look what I happened to find

Po'boy 3 ways at Stanley. Fried ersters, korean BBQ and chicken caesar

Best Oysters in New Orleans are from Drago's. They were sizzling when I got them.

Creole tomatoes taste better than they look.

Panna Cotta with berries, lavender-infused blueberry pureé with champagne geleé, dark chocolate mousse, and pavlova with fresh fruit and strawberry sauce

Opera cake with gold leaf

Key Lime Pie tarts with bruleéd meringue

Crawfish boil at Acme oyster house. Not really my thing to suck seasoned water out of a crawfish head.

Blow torch!

Playing with fire. Rum+ Fire+Cinnamon

Plated dessert: coffee pot de creme, citrus mascarpone, poached pair, and rum spice cake

Port of Call burger and baked potato. Pretty good...for the South

Irene's Cuisine soft shell crab with crawfish reggiano, ribbons of pasta, roma tomatoes and sauteéd spinach. 🙂 So good.

Frickin' Good Chicken in the Hood. Willie-Mae's chicken is rated the best in the country. The moment was too personal to delineate on this blog.

You'd never know.

Why did I order blackened avocado's at a place that is famous for seafood? I just really like avocado.

Chef had an idea for this heart-stopping sandwich in the shower.

Veal parmesan from Mandinas. I think they treat portions based on how much fits on a plate. The meatball was baseball size and there must have been three onions used to make the onion rings.

New Orleans: Dessert

Turtle Soup with a bit of Sherry. Tastes like beef.

Salmon with shrimp, spinach & crabmeat over risotto with dill cream sauce. Not my mamas salmon.

Crepes with a cream cheese, brandy pecan stuffing with strawberry sauce...if you like that sorta thing

Everything is set up for an Indian wedding

I forgot what this is called, but it looks pretty cool

Brie wrapped in puff pastry with a fleur-de-lis

I co-worked the shrimp and grits station at the wedding. It's no wonder why it was the favorite dish of the night.

sesame-crusted tuna hors d'oeuvre

The Court Of The Two Sisters. Boy, was this outdoor seating a find!

chicken breast served over potato mash and steamed asparagus, topped with lump crabmeat and tasso hollandaise. French has never tasted so light!

I got down with my soul at Lil' Dizzy's. I guess that's what was making those strange sounds from my stomach later. Just kidding. Sorry about the bad picture, I didn't like the meal enough to spend the time editing.

Muffalleta featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. This was the half size. Half a boat! It's basically an italian sub with some olives.

New Orleans: Entree

Rabbit and Dumplings at Cochon. The chef is a James Beard Award winner. I watched the dish bubbly in a blazing wood-fire oven. It was served to me in a skillet, rich and satisfying.

At the Roosevelt, I worked on salmon roullades, rolls of smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread with microgreens and dill, for a wedding.

Weirdest hors d'oeuvre ever. crab and mango salad in a curry-flavored cone.

Run-of-the-mill day in the French Quarter

impromptu mini street parade. I don't think any streets were closed off

A multitude of blinis topped with creme fraiche and caviar, garnished with brunoise chives, egg whites, egg yolks, and shallots for an event

pork pate for the breakfast buffet.

strawberries and prosciutto at brunch buffet.

Ceviche. Luckily, we have a peruvian in garde manger.

carpaccio with pickled red onions, parmesan, and spinach chiffonade.

What a spread!

Shrimps and ersters. Did I mention it's all-you can eat?

The Blue Room. I really don't want to list all of the famous musicians that performed or got there start here.

Rabbit tagliattele from John Besh's Domenica. I can't remember if I enjoyed it; I ate it too quickly

He can pull off "pizze" too.

Olivier's. Best corn bread I've ever had. I asked the waitress if she could get me the recipe. She went to the kitchen, returned, and said, "We use the Jiffy box recipe." So disillusioned.

Duck breast and plum port sauce at Oliviers. It was overcooked and the sauce tasted like artificial jam. I sent it back.

Much better! Half roasted chicken and corn maque choux. Good homestyle cookin. Lay off the dried herbs though!

Meatloaf at Besh's American Sector. Made with brisket, cooked low and slow, and mayhaw—like a cranberry, but less tart—tomato sauce with mashed potatoes, gravy, and crisp haricot verts.