The Best and Easiest Thanksgiving Throwback Recipes – Cranberry Mold and Pumpkin Pie

thanksgivingpumpkinmascarponepieA Throwback Thanksgiving menu – that’s the underlying theme of what fills many family’s feast-day tables. The backbone of the meal is made up of core dishes that kindle memories, culinary traditions that are part of what makes each family’s repast unique.

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Through three generations, the names of many dishes carried attributions with monikers that called-out the name of the family member that “invented” them and were responsible for providing the gems year after year. Those concoctions’ place on the table remains set in stone; dishes such as Mom’s Apple-Spiked Dressing, Aunt Mary’s Cranberry Salad, or Cathy’s Pumpkin Pie.

Reluctant to tinker too much with tradition, I’ve sought out ways to freshen up those classics, tweaking each dish just enough to build flavor and create texture contrast, without creating a lot of extra work.

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Aunt Mary’s Cranberry Mold Cuddles Fresh Berries: I know that gelatin has lost foodie status over the years, but this version boosts the flavor by replacing half of the water with whole cranberry sauce, and adds diced celery and coarse-chopped nuts for crunch.

In my aunt’s childhood, gelatin was considered rather fancy. It was considered a sign of wealth before the dawn of prepared “pre-granulated” gelatin in 1894 by Charles Knox (a little more than twenty years before Mary’s birth). Prior to that only members of the elite classes could afford it; wealthy families employed cooks to labor for hours, rendering gelatin from beef bones and clarifying it to make elaborate aspics, salads and desserts. They were dishes with a Downton Abbey kind of splendor.

I updated Mary’s salad by generously garnishing it with fresh berries tossed with a mixture of orange liqueur, agave syrup and fresh mint.

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Cathy’s Pumpkin Pie Facelift

Delicious, and glammed out with cut-outs made with extra pie crust, I found a way to make the pumpkin filling taste better. Adding mascarpone, the Italian-style cream cheese, adds creaminess and subtle nuttiness. And increasing the spice components, just a smidgen, increases the allure.

As for the crust, I’ve included the recipe here. But in truth, during the holidays I often resort to using prepared refrigerated rounds of pie dough. I ease them into glass Pyrex pie pans, crimp them to look homemade charming, and hide the dough boxes deep within the recycle trashcan.

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Pillsbury’s pie crusts contain lard. That gives the crust a dandy texture, but prevents me from using it due to the vegetarians at the table (they can’t eat the dressing or the cranberry mold, so I have to have a dessert that pleases them). I use thawed Trader Joe’s pie crusts; they are made using palm oil and butter as shortening.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Ask guests to help. It builds a warm feeling of community to give everyone a feast-job.

 

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Pumpkin Pie with Mascarpone Update
Yield: one 9-inch pie, about 8 servings
Crust (or substitute refrigerated pie crust):
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup chilled non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup (or more) ice water
Filling:
1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, room temperature
For serving: sweetened whipped cream
Cook’s notes: Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese; sold at many supermarkets (often stocked in the refrigerated deli with imported cheeses) and at Italian markets. To prevent dough from pulling in toward the center during baking, ease it into the pie pan, don’t stretch it. Often I cut the rolled-out dough in half down the middle, and then ease both halves into the pan. I close the seam by using two fingers to press it together. Whether or not you use the cut-in-half method, use your knuckle to press dough against side of pan where the bottom of the pie pan meets the sides.
1. If making crust from scratch: Blend flour and salt in food processor for 10 seconds. Add butter and shortening; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup ice water; pulse until dough begins to clump, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish (see cook’s notes). Trim overhang to 1 inch beyond rim. Crimp edges. Chill crust while making filling.
2. For filling: Using electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat pumpkin and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and next 7 ingredients and beat until blended. Add mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is blended and smooth. Transfer filling to prepared crust.
3. Bake pie until custard is set, about 55 minutes. A tip for preventing crust’s edge from over-browning: Pie rings, made of aluminum or silicone, are gizmos made to fit over the edge of the pie crust. Often the edge of the crust starts to get very brown long before the filling is cooked. Check pies after 20-25 minutes of baking. If crust is nicely browned, place pie ring on top of crust and continue baking until filling is cooked. Remove ring with potholder.Transfer pie to rack and cool. DO AHEAD: Best served the day it is baked. But can be made 1 day ahead. Tent with foil and chill. Serve with whipped cream.
Filling facelift: Often pumpkin pies develop a crack or two in the filling during baking. For camouflage (just in case), you can cut leftover dough into leaves, twisted twig shapes or pumpkins; place in a single layer on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush cut-outs with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy whipping cream). Try to keep wash on cut-outs, not dripping over the sides onto the paper. Bake in 350-degree oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool. Place on pie filling in decorative pattern. (This is also a way to make store-bought pie look homemade.) Source: adapted from Bon Appetit magazine

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Aunt Mary’s Cranberry Mold
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Large package (6 ounces) raspberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
1 (14-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Garnish:
3 cups mixed fresh berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier (or orange juice) mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup
Fresh mint leaves
Cook’s notes: To avoid nuts and celery from floating to the top, chill the gelatin until thick (but not set) before adding them. My preference is to not worry about the nuts and vegetables floating to the top, because when the mold is inverted, the “jelly” part shows and looks pretty, plus when serving every scoop will have those components in it.
1. Combine Jell-O and boiling water in medium bowl; stir until completely dissolved. Add cranberry sauce; stir to combine and dissolve the “jellied” portion of the cranberry sauce (I use two big spoons and mash undissolved cranberry “jelly” between the spoons). Stir in celery and walnuts. Pour into ring mold or ornate crown mold. Chill until set. MAKE AHEAD: Can be prepared two days in advance, refrigerated in mold, well-sealed with plastic wrap.
2. To unmold, hold mold in warm water for 15 to 20 seconds; invert on plate. If it doesn’t unmold, repeat resting in warm water at 5 to 10 second intervals.Just before serving: In a medium bowl, combine blueberries and blackberries. Add liqueur mixture and gently toss. Add raspberries and use a clean hand to very delicately toss one time (raspberries are fragile). Arrange berries around mold and garnish with mint leaves. Source: adapted from Mary Kast, designer, watercolor artist

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Holiday Cookie Search – LUCCA Cafe and Provenance Restaurants Pay $1,000 to Winner!

ATTENTION BAKERS! LUCCA & Provenance Host $1,000 Holiday Cookie Contest 

christmascookiesreindeerChef Cathy Pavlos Conducts County-Wide Search for the Best Holiday Cookie

What fun! I want one of YOU to win. 

The public is invited to submit their most prized cookie recipe through Sunday, November 30th.

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Chef Cathy Pavlos, owner of both sponsoring restaurants, will select five finalists to go head-to-head in a “cookie showdown” in December at Provenance. With the help of a panel of judges, Chef Cathy will name one cookie the winner and award its baker a $1,000 cash prize!

cathypavlospeek“This search is an opportunity for my guests to share a piece of their family history, beginning with the age-old tradition of holiday baking,” comments Chef Cathy, whose cookies at LUCCA have grown a fan club of their own over the past decade.

“Growing up in Orange County, one of my favorite things about the holidays were the wonderful cookies my mom would bake. We couldn’t wait for them to cool before we sunk our teeth into their sugary, warm goodness.”

HERE IS HOW TO ENTER:

Submit a recipe and photograph (optional), along with name, age, and city of residence, via email to mona@moxxepr.com. The entries will be collected through midnight on Sunday, November 30th.

Five finalists will be notified and invited to a final judging during which their cookies will be evaluated on taste, appearance and holiday spirit. Finalists must be present at the final judging to qualify for the $1,000 prize.

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“A good holiday cookie can transport you to a simpler time, when all your problems could be solved with a freshly baked ginger spice cookie. This competition will boil down to a search for that one cookie that best evokes a sense of nostalgia with the perfect balance of flavors and ingredients,” added Chef Cathy.

Details about the final event and the judging panel to join Chef Cathy to determine the winning entry will be released in November. Those interested in following details may refer to the Facebook pages for LUCCA and Provenance.

Provenance is located in the Eastbluff Village Center in Newport Beach (2531 Eastbluff Drive). For more information, please call 949-718-0477 or visit http://ProvenanceOC.com.

LUCCA is located in the Quail Hill Village Center in Irvine (6507 Quail Hill Parkway).  For more information, please call (949) 725-1773 or visit http://www.LuccaCafe.com.

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For more information, contact:
Mona Shah-Anderson, Moxxe PR at +1 818 749 1931 or mona@moxxepr.com

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Roasted Cauliflower – Stonefire Grill’s Salad Secrets

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Stonefire Grill’s Chilled Cauliflower Salad is delicious on its own or used as a warm filling in pita bread.

What happens when a strict vegetarian takes his place in his family’s popular meat-and-potatoes restaurants? Some luscious plant-based retooling evolves, with cauliflower, kale and wild arugula taking center stage along with the well-established rib, chicken and tri-tip favorites.

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Justin Lopez is the son of Mary Harrigan, the co-founder of Stonefire Grills. Lopez leads the menu development team for the large family eateries that include locations in Fountain Valley and Irvine as well as 4 Los Angeles sites.

Without abandoning the most popular offerings, he reshaped the menu to include a focus on vegetarian dishes. Sales of the new meat-free items soared and the restaurants found a growing numbers of vegetarians and vegans among their loyal clientele.

Roasted cauliflower is one of the stars. See how its done in this short video.

Roasting transforms the cruciferous veg into something irresistible and highly versatile, the exterior caramelization yielding rounded flavors and subtle sweetness.

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Lopez teams the browned tender-but-not-mushy cauliflower with Lemon Tahini Sauce, a tasty concoction that combines smooth sesame paste with fresh citrus juice and garlic.

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When serving it as a salad or as a warm pita filling, he includes Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce, a perky puree that can be mild or fiery depending on the amount of chilies that are added to the mix.

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Leftover sauces can be chilled and used to augment other roasted vegetables or grain-based dishes.

Stonefire’s Chilled Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Yield: 4 servings
1 cauliflower, whole, thoroughly washed
2 to 3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Lemon Tahini Sauce:
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
6 large garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce:
1 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed, stems trimmed about 2 1/2-inches long
1 to 2 fresh Serrano chilies, or more to taste, stems removed, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salad:
1 head roasted cauliflower, cooled
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 to 3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced or chopped, including dark green stalks
1/2 cup Lemon Tahini Sauce
1 tablespoon Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a shallow slice off the bottom of the stalk so that cauliflower will sit flat on baking sheet; leaves and most of the stalk should remain intact. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to large deep pot (such as a pasta cooker) of boiling water on high heat. Submerge cauliflower and boil for approximately 10 minutes.  Then, remove cauliflower from water, drain and place on rimmed baking sheet stalk-side-down to cool for 3 minutes. Pour oil atop cauliflower and use clean hands to rub oil over entire surface. Sprinkle on 2 pinches of kosher salt. Roast approximately 30 minutes, turning as needed for even roasting. If additional browning is needed turn on broiler and broil until nicely browned (watch carefully to prevent burning).
2. Prepare Lemon Tahini Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in food processor; process for approximately 1 minute. Set aside.
Prepare Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce: Place about 1/3 of cilantro, plus all of the Serrano chilies, garlic and kosher salt in food processor; process until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add half of oil in thin stream through the feed-tube. Add the remainder of the ingredients, little by little, processing between additions.  Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Blend for a total of 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Prepare salad: Use hands to tear cauliflower into small florets. In a large bowl gently toss all salad ingredients together. Chill for approximately 1 hour. Taste; add more Lemon Tahini Sauce and/or Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce as needed.
Source: Justin Lopez, Stonefire Grills

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…Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

Sweet and Spicy = Delicious piquant-sweet melon.

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Use any ripe melon for this delicious dish. I like to serve this as a first course or as part of a showy buffet.

(Make the syrup in advance if you like, and then drizzle on the melon up to 30 minutes before serving.)

Spicy-Sweet Melon
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons seeded and minced serrano chili
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
2 large, ripe cantaloupe
1. In a small saucepan, make a chili syrup by combining the sugar and water over medium-high heat and boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the chili, lime juice, mint, and bell peppers.
2. Cut the melons in half and remove the seeds. Cut into wedges or other interesting shapes and arrange attractively on 8 chilled plates. Drizzle about ½ cup of the chili syrup, or to taste, over all the melon. Reserve the remaining chili syrup for another use.

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Chef Alan Greeley Wants to Take “The Ride of His Life”

CHEF-RESTAURATEUR-CATERER ALAN GREELEY IS ONE OF A KIND.
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HE is a man who can’t say no to helping others.
His goal is to raise funds for the Providence Speech and Hearing Center.
Yup, Chef Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle is looking to take “The Ride of His Life.” Greeley’s fundraising goal of $2,500 by Dec. 2, otherwise known as “Giving Tuesday,” will not only allow him to take a “ride” in the chair, but will raise awareness and support for those in Orange County who suffer from balance disorders.
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Providence Speech and Hearing Center (Providence) offers a unique and uplifting approach for patients, both children and adults, who have speech and hearing problems. The staff of audiologists and speech and occupational therapists value teamwork and making their patients feel at ease. In addition, Providence provides financing options to ensure that no patient is without the care they need.
Brain miscommunication can be caused by disabilities from strokes, and other brain injuries, resulting in nausea and dizziness. Greeley’s fundraising efforts will go towards “The Ride of His Life,” which refers to a “ride” in a Neuro-Kinetics rotary chair designed by NASA, which simulates dizziness and measures how the eyes, ears and brain communicate with one another during motion. 
 
“Dr. House, who was involved with the hearing intervention that Providence [Speech and Hearing Center] applies, was a long-time customer at The Golden Truffle so I was more than happy to get involved with the cause,” Greeley said. 
For some, a simulation of dizziness may not sound very appealing, but for Greeley, this is a welcome adventure to add to his lists. Greeley is a long-time motorcycle racer and rider, Pikes Peak Hill Climb participant, and Formula One racing fan. In addition to his passion for cooking, his passion is fundraising and helping those who need assistance.
Donations can be made to Providence by check in person at The Golden Truffle, where those who donate will sign a poster that will be framed and displayed at the restaurant for years to come.
(This is what Phil and I plan to do – go to the restaurant and give Alan a check – that way be can enjoy a great meal and sign the poster.)
Or is you prefer, donations can also be mailed directly to Providence or be made through the website: www.pshc.org/chefgreeley.
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The Golden Truffle
1767 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 645-9858
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Great Eats This Week: Aleppo Peppers, Chicken Oysters and Other Delicacies

ZOV’S ANAHEIM OPENS FOR LUNCH AND DINNER

zovanaheimZov450ZOV Karamardian: Opened her new 130-seat restaurant, Zov’s Anaheim, at the corner of Katella and State College.

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It’s a beauty! Architect/designer Charles Ramm has created a space that integrates the outdoor and interior spaces and includes a large bar as part of the centerpiece.

The restaurant is light and airy, a “city-fied” contemporary space.

zovanaheimLouieEggsThere’s something magical when life’s events come full circle. That’s the case as acclaimed chef Louie Jocson (most recently partner/executive of Red Table in Huntington Beach), returns to Zov’s as director of culinary operations after a 25 year separation. He started his career in the restaurant business at 15 washing dishes and helping in the kitchen of Zov’s before enrolling in culinary school and working his way up the ranks at many of OC’s top restaurants in the ensuing years.

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Irresistible Sumac Roasted Seabass with Caper Citrus Butter Sauce: The tart sumac brings out the sweet-edge of the fish. It represents the highly successful collaboration of two gifted palates – Zov and Louie.

The menu is a blend of Zov’s Tustin Bistro, her Cafes, plus plenty of new menu items, too.

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Gorgonzola Nueske Burger: caramelized onion, arugula, sauteed mushrooms, Nueske bacon, Pinot Noir reduction sauce. Mmmm.

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Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie: Incredible. Treasures in every bite.

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Signature cocktails, craft beers, wines. These Triple Pepper Deviled Eggs are a hearty nibble. Aleppo pepper, toasted urfa pepper and a red pepper sauce – not over-the-top spicy, they are just-right spicy.

Zov’s Anaheim, 1801 East Katella (at State College), Anaheim

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THE NORTH LEFT, SANTA ANA: NOT THE CLOSED CROSBY

The Crosby closed early this year, but to my way of thinking, the eatery that took it’s place is far more delicious.

The North Left’s Team:  Ryan Adams, the oh-so-talented chef-owner of Three Seventy Common in Laguna Beach stepped up to collaborate with Crosby chef Aron Habiger.

Both chefs are masters at New American Cuisine.

I love the whimsey of the enormous stuffed Kodiak bear that resides over the front door.

Here are some delicious dishes on the lunch menu (I am eager to return for dinner).

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Tender-crisp Brussels sprouts with crunch-toasted hazelnuts, butter and garlic, plus a generous crown of shredded San Joaquin Gold, an artisan cheddar from Cowgirl Creamery.

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Government Issue: A grilled cheese generously spiked with carnitas. Ole!

House-made potato chips.

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What is the very very very best, most tasty part of the chicken?

The chicken oysters! They are the two small, oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat that lie on either side of the backbone.

So the chefs fry up a whole mess of those chicken oysters and serve them with a tangy dipping sauce, a blend that is somewhat like a thick BBQ vinaigrette.

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Spicy Moroccan Chicken Sandwich showcases moist chicken, kale salad, fresh harissa and lemon aioli. Oh, and house-made chips.

(There’s a vegetable garden on the roof. Looking forward to fall dishes made with roasted carrots from that rooftop.)

The North Left, 400 North Broadway, Santa Ana – 714 543-3543

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Oktoberfest Feast: Austrian-Born Chef Shares Flavor Secrets

 

Far from a beer-hall atmosphere, the chic Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach probably isn’t what comes to mind when considering Oktoberfest reveling.

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YET, their menu heralds the seasonal celebration through October 20, offering a number of German-themed specials that are flavor boosted with Executive Chef Paul Gstrein’s contemporary spins.

 

Austrian-born and California inspired, Gstrein showed me how to prepare sausages with sauerkraut and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes. I’ve made the dish many times, but his tastes a thousand times better than mine. I wanted to see his secrets. The short video shows the secrets, step by step.

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First of all, his sauerkraut is nuanced in delectable ways. The fresh kraut is poured from the jar, rinsed and drained. Diced bacon cooked with thinly-sliced onion amp the concoction on the stove; chicken broth, bay leaf, caraway seeds and juniper berries come to the party, too.

Sweet-sour elements are also added – a pinch of sugar and a drizzle of sherry vinegar. He enhances the mix by adding slurry during the final minutes of cooking, a mixture of cornstarch and water that builds rich silkiness.

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The sausages that he uses are far better than any I’ve tasted. Plump Kaese Krainer sausages are made of lightly smoked lean pork generously dotted with small chunks of Emmentaler Swiss cheese. He carefully heats the fully-cooked links; nestled in a saucepan they bathe covered with water kept just under a simmer.

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The sautéed spuds are crisp and browned on the outside, lending a welcome texture contrast to the other components. Honeyed whole-grain mustard as well as pretzel bread, served on the side, put it over the top.

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The Search: I wasn’t able to track down those Kaese Krainer sausages stuffed with smoked lean pork and chunks of cheese in Orange County. I found them online at www.lobels.com (1 pound – about 4 sausages – is $15.98). Chef Gstrein said that Weisswurst could be substituted; it’s a traditional Bavarian sausage made with minced veal and pork (spiked with parsley, lemon, onion and spices). I found them at the deli in Old World Village in Huntington Beach. I also bought some sweet Bavarian mustard there.

Sausage – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Chef Gstrein also showed me how to showcase sausages in morning and midday dishes. For morning, Kaese Krainers are cooked in milk and served with an AM beer to wash them down (see photo below). For lunch, Kaese Krainers rest in partially-split pretzel buns and are topped with zigzags of honey-whole-grain mustard.

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Sweet-Spicy Mustard and Pretzel Bread: Gstrein makes his own version of Bavarian mustard. He mixes 1 part Dijon-style mustard with 1 part whole-grain mustard and 1 part honey. He advises that pretzel bread is sold at Trader Joe’s.

Kaese Krainer Sausage with Sauerkraut and Roasted Potatoes
Sauerkraut:
1 teaspoon canola oil or vegetable oil
4 ounces smoked bacon, diced
1 small brown onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces fresh Sauerkraut, rinsed, drained
1 cup chicken broth
5 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Slurry: 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water
Salt, white pepper, sugar, to taste
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
4 Kaese Krainer sausages
Roasted potatoes, recipe follows
For serving: pretzel bread
For serving: whole-grained honey mustard
Garnish: parsley sprigs
1. Set a saucepan large enough to hold the sauerkraut on medium heat. Add oil and when hot, add bacon. Cook until bacon renders most of the fat and is just starting to turn brown, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and cook until onion softens. Add sauerkraut, broth, juniper berries, bay leaf and caraway seeds. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Stir the slurry; add to sauerkraut little by little, stirring often, to thicken it. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar.
2. Heat sausages in a water bath (just below a simmer) at about 165 degrees for about 10 minutes until heated through.
3. To serve: Remove bay leaf from sauerkraut. Arrange sausages, sauerkraut and potatoes on warmed serving platters and garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve mustard alongside with some pretzel bread.
Source: Paul Gstrein, executive chef Bayside, Newport Beach

Roasted Potatoes
6 medium-sized unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes, cooked, quartered
3 tablespoons clarified butter (or a combination of canola oil and butter)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, some sprigs for garnish
Salt, white pepper to taste
1. In a nonstick sauté pan on medium heat, toast quartered potatoes in clarified butter (or butter and oil) until golden brown. Add herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Source: Paul Gstrein, executive chef Bayside, Newport Beach

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…Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

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This Provencal-style vegetable concoction is delicious and quick to prepare.

The dish showcases a brand new (delectable and time-saving) product – steamed, ready-to-eat artichoke hearts (available at Bristol Farms, Gelsons and Mothers Markets).

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Provencal-Style Artichoke Melange
Yield: 5 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence or dried Italian spice mixture
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 ounces steamed artichoke hearts, quartered or halved
1 (9-ounce) package thawed shelled, cooked edamame
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 pitted olives, drained, coarsely chopped
For serving: 4 cups cooked brown rice, long grain preferred
1. Heat oil in large, deep skillet on medium heat. Add onion and fennel; cook, stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and herbs; cook 30 seconds.  Add wine and increase heat to high; cook until most of wine evaporates (about 2 tablespoons of liquid should remain).
2. Add artichokes, edamame, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Garnish with feta cheese and olives. Serve over cooked brown rice.

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Indian Appetizers Guests Will Gleefully Gobble

Serve these to guests and they’ll gobble them down with gusto.

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Snacking is a part of everyday life in India.  I was delighted to find a wide variety of delectable chaats (savory street-style snacks) at ADYA restaurant at the Anaheim Packing House. ADYA’s chef-owner, Shachi Mehra, has a talent for combining tradition with innovation.

Her avocado raita is one example – one very delicious example.

Typically the condiment is made with plain yogurt, herbs, chilies and spices; often cucumbers are also included in the ingredient list. But in Mehra’s kitchen, a cucumber-free version is whirled with generous amounts of ripe avocados, making it creamy smooth and irresistibly rich.

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Move over guacamole, her raita topping is a contender.

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Here’s a short video that shows how easy this dish is to prepare … really!

THANKS to CURT NORRIS for photos and videos.

One way she uses her raita is atop masala papad, a salad-like concoction that is served on crisp poppadums; imagine an Indian version of tortilla chips topped with a mouth-watering vegetable concoction and garnished with tangy guac.

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Shachi used watermelon radishes. You can use other radish varieties.

Poppadums are the foundation of the dish; they become blistered and cracker-crisp when flame toasted. Also referred to as papads, at first glance the plain ones look something like fried-and-wavy flour tortillas. They are made of lentils and can be used like brittle tortilla chips for dipping or spreading.

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Mehra joined me in my home kitchen to show how to prepare these dishes. Of course she made it look easy, joking that in India a perfectly toasted poppadum, one without any scorch marks, is a sign that a woman is ready for marriage. She said that they can also be toasted in the oven or microwave, two options that require much less skill.

Best Gizmos: To whirl the raita, you can use a food processor or a high-speed blender. To remove avocado flesh from the skin, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Keep a small electric coffee grinder to use specifically for grinding spices. It is best to use a mandolin slicing device when cutting the radishes for the salad because it cuts such thin slices.

Avocado Raita
Yield: about 5 cups
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, divided use
3 cups plain Greek-style yogurt, nonfat is OK, divided use
Salt to taste
4 ripe avocados, seeded, scooped from the skin
1/4 to 1 green chili, unseeded, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1. On medium heat, toast cumin seeds until one shade darker and fragrant, shaking handle to redistribute seeds from time to time. Place on plate to cool. Grind in spice grinder or place in zipper-style plastic bag and pound with mallet or bottom of a saucepan until ground. Use 1/4 teaspoon in this recipe and 1/2 teaspoon in the Masala Papad (recipe follows); leftover toasted cumin can be refrigerated airtight and used in a variety of dishes.
2. Puree 1 cup yogurt, salt and avocadoes in food processor or high-speed blender. Add remaining yogurt and puree until smooth and totally blended. Transfer to bowl and using a whisk, stir in chili, cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon toasted ground cumin and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Masala Papad
Yield: 4 servings
2 ears fresh corn, roasted until caramelized, kernels removed from cob
1 small watermelon radish or red radish, trimmed, cut into very thin slices, mandolin sliced preferred
1 small skin-on cucumber, Persian or English (hothouse) preferred, diced
1 teaspoon minced unseeded Serrano chili (use less if a less spicy version is preferred)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1/2 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 toasted poppadums (plain, or with black pepper), see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: Uncooked poppadums and chaat masala are sold at Indian Sweets and Spices Market in Tustin. If you are using a gas stove, set the flame at medium-high. Holding 1 poppadum with a pair of tongs, flip it back and forth over the open flame until bumps start to appear on the surface and the poppadum turns light brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remember to shift the tongs in order to toast the part initially covered by them. Repeat with the remaining poppadums. Set them aside to cool. (Note that I find it easier on my stove to use tongs in both hands and hold the poppadum about 1 inch from the flame, turning frequently). OR, if you prefer, broil them in the oven. Place rack as close as possible to heating element, and preheat the broiler to high. Toast the poppadums until bumps appear on the surface and they turn light brown, 1 to 2 minutes. There is no need to turn them. Set them aside to cool. Microwaving poppadums on high power for 30 seconds to 1 minute is also an option. The poppadums will turn crisp and brittle as they cool. You can store them (cooled) in airtight plastic zipper style bags at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (but I bet they will be gone long before that).
1. Toss all ingredients except the poppadums in bowl; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Place poppadums in single layer on platter or four individual plates. Top with corn mixture and serve; pass avocado raita for topping. Guests can break the poppadums into pieces and eat them using  their hands.
Source: Shachi Mehra, ADYA restaurant, Anaheim Packing House, Anaheim

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… Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

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Pickled turnips are a great way to showcase the tasty root.

Serve them alongside pate, or include them on a cheese board.

Quick Turnip Pickles
Makes about 1 quart
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1 fresh thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar or for milder version – seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound small turnips, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into wedges
Cook’s notes: I like to add a couple of cooked beets along with a little of their juice to stain the turnips pink.
1. Combine the garlic, herbs and spices, salt, water, vinegar, and olive oil in large saucepan. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Add turnips and stir. Bring to a boil on high heat; lower heat and simmer gently for 8 minutes (turnips should still be firm). Cool the pickles in the brine, then refrigerate overnight (airtight) before serving. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

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Gizmo Can Can: New Canning Contraption Cuts Work and Heat

New canning contraption changes the game …

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Dad said that his mother never cried. He could remember only one long-ago exception that brought tears. That was the winter day when the shelves collapsed in the basement of their Midwest farmhouse. All of her packed-to-the-brim canning jars broke into smithereens. The preserved bounty of the summertime harvest was lost.

Grandmother Young must have been devastated. She had a family of nine to feed, and a reputation as one of the best cooks in the county to uphold. (But I also imagine that the labor it took to “put-up” fruit and vegetables from the fields also factored into her sorrow.)

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Canning isn’t for sissies.

Large kettles of boiling water aren’t a picnic on a hot day. Traditional water-bath preserving requires large amounts of bubbling liquid for sterilizing jars and covering jars during processing. The kitchen gets steamy and the kettles are heavy, plus they require monitoring on a regular basis.

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The Sur La Table catalog featured a full-page display heralding the new Ball FreshTech Automatic Home Canning System, a pricy contraption designed to take the heat and heaviness out of home canning.

I longed to take this $300 counter-top electric canner for a spin. My small home garden produces a good number of cucumbers and tomatoes, too many to consume as they ripen, but not enough to open a roadside stand. I bit the bullet.

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I canned peaches (Honey-Spiced Peaches) and tomatoes (Tomatoes Packed in Own Juices), and then preserved pickles (Bread & Butter Pickles). I was happy with the delicious results, and the machine greatly reduced the work load.

Only a little more than 4 cups of water go into the gizmo, and that water is used both to heat the jars and do the canning process (so no heavy water-filled pots to carry). And the only steam that escaped was when the lid opened to remove the sterilized jars. Yes, I still had to boil some water to remove the skins from the tomatoes and peaches, but that was minor compared to the hot mist that usually fogs the kitchen on canning day.

The machine has digital buttons that relate to specific functions; jams, fruits, tomatoes, salsas, pickles and sauces line up mid-screen, with numbers one through 6 below. The recipe book that is included details which ones to push for each recipe. It was easy to use, and because I don’t have a big garden, it was sufficient that I could only can 4 pints jars at a time (or 3 quart jars, or 6 half pint jars). No monitoring was required, so I could do other tasks while the canning took place.

After I used it a couple of uses, I operated the auto canner while cooking dinner, drinking a glass of wine while the machine whistled and hummed.

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But getting back to the accompanying recipe book brings up the downside of using the auto canner. Only the recipes in the book and on the Website can be used. Many ambrosial canning classics are included, and according to test-kitchen chef Sarah Page, culinary marketing manager at Jarden Home Brands the manufacturers of Ball canning products, additional recipes are frequently added to the Website ( http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes?field_category_tid%5B%5D=861). I asked her about tweaking recipes with dried spices, chili flakes in the pickles or a bay leaf in the tomatoes, and she gave me the green light. But as for canning low acid vegetables such as green beans, she said that the auto canner isn’t the appropriate tool. For that, she said, it is best to use a pressure canner. The auto canner is designed for high-acid foods.

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Here is a recipe for tomatoes packed in their own juices that is designed for using the Ball FreshTech automatic home canning device. I include it here for readers to get an idea of how the machine is utilized. The recipe includes instructions for using either 4 pint jars or 3 quart jars.

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Tomatoes Packed in Own Juices
Yield: 4 pints or 3 quarts
6 pounds ripe tomatoes for 4 pints, 9 pounds for 3 quarts
1 teaspoon Ball Citric Acid for 4 pints, 1 1/2 teaspoons for 3 quarts, see cook’s notes
Optional salt, 2 teaspoons for 4 pints, 1 tablespoon for 3 quarts
4 Ball glass preserving jars with new lids and bands for 4 pint jars or 3 quart jars
Cook’s notes: Bottled lemon juice may be used instead of citric acid; use 4 tablespoons bottled lemon juice for 4 pints, or 6 tablespoons for 3 quarts, divided between the jars. Bottled juice is suggested because it has a consistent acidity level.
1. Prepare tomatoes: Working in small batches, immerse tomatoes in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins start to loosen (the riper the tomato, the less time it requires). Immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water and slip skins off. In the meantime, preheat jars (see Step 2). Remove cores and any bruised or discolored portions. Leave tomatoes whole, halve or quarter.
2. Preheat jars: Remove inner pot from appliance. Remove rack and set aside. Fill inner pot with warm tap water to the fill line. Return inner pot to appliance. Place rack back into inner pot. Place empty jars onto rack in inner pot. Set clean preserving bands and new lids aside in your work space. Close and lock lid. Press “pre-heat” button, then press “start.” The red pre-heating light will illuminate and the appliance will begin preheating jars. Jars are preheated when green “ready” light is flashing. Keep jars in appliance with lid closed and locked until ready to fill with tomatoes.
3. To Preserve Tomatoes: Unlock and open appliance lid. Remove one hot jar (using jar lifter that is included). Close lid, but do not lock, to keep remaining jars hot. Add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart. Or add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint, or 2 tablespoons per quart. If using, add 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint, or 1 teaspoon per quart. Pack prepared tomatoes into jar, pressing gently on tomatoes until the natural juice fills the spaces between the tomatoes, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles; slide a small non-metallic spatula inside the jar between the food and the jar wall, and then gently press back on the food, towards the opposite side of the jar, allowing air bubbles to escape. Air bubbles inside the jar can impact the seal – repeat 2 or 3 times around the jar. Wipe rim of jar with clean cloth or paper towel. Center a new lid on jar. Twist on band until fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in inner pot. Repeat until all jars are filled and returned to inner pot. Close and lock lid.
4. Press “tomatoes” button, then press “recipe 6” button. Press “start” button. The appliance will start sensing your recipe, indicated by the orange “preserving” light. When the appliance beeps and the green “ready” light is flashing, the tomatoes are done. Press “stop” button and open lid.
5. Remove jars using a jar lifter and place upright on a towel. Allow to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours. Check lids for seals. Press on the center of the cooled lid. If jar is sealed, the lid will not flex up or down. Or, remove band and gently lift up on lid. You should not be able to lift it off the jar. If for some reason your lid did not seal properly, refrigerate and use within 5 days.
Source: Ball FreshTech Everyday Canning, instruction cookbook that accompanies the Ball FreshTech Home Canning System

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Gnocchi alla Marinara – With or Without Sausage
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (include leaves if present)
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes or 3 1/2 cups home-canned Tomatoes Packed in Own Juices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
Optional: 1 tablespoon drained capers
If using: 6 ounces Italian sausage, hot Italian sausage preferred
1 pound prepared gnocchi, or dried gemelli pasta (or penne or fusilli)
Garnish: grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Cook’s notes: Shelf stable potato gnocchi are sold in the unrefrigerated pasta section of Trader Joe’s and some supermarkets.
1. In a large deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring when needed, until vegetables are softened and starting to lightly brown. Add wine and stir to combine; simmer 3 minutes, reducing heat as needed. Add tomatoes and their juices; cut them into small pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper (use less salt if adding capers). Increase heat to high and add parsley; immediately after mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Stir in capers, if using. Sauce can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated; reheat on medium, adding a little water or dry white wine if sauce is too thick.
2. Meanwhile, if using meat, break sausage into chunks (misshapen balls) about the size of a very large grape (if using link sausage, first remove casing). Place in nonstick skillet on medium heat and cook until crisp on the outside and thoroughly cooked, turning as needed, about 9 to 11 minutes. Set aside. When sauce has completed cooking, add sausage.
3. For gnocchi: cook according to package directions; drain. Or for pasta, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil on high heat. Add gemelli and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain. Toss gnocchi or pasta with sauce. Add sausage if using. Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Garnish with cheese and more parsley.

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Here’s all the stuff you get with it.

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Lobster Marries Crab: Slapfish’s Clobster Roll

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Andrew Gruel, chef and CEO of Slapfish Restaurant Group, knows what makes an irresistible lobster roll.

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His repertoire also includes a crab-spiked rendition dubbed a Clobster Roll, a half New England lobster-half Dungeness crabmeat creation. It hoists the allure even higher.


Have a look at this short video; see how chef makes it easy and delicious.

Thanks go to videographer/photographer, Curt Norris

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Both versions let the cool, gentle sweetness of the shellfish shine through, the picked meat dressed in a mayo-sour cream mixture that boasts just-right acidity derived from fresh lemon juice and zest.

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More flavor bling is added with a smidgen of Sriracha hot sauce and Colman’s mustard, plus some snipped fresh chives and Old Bay Seasoning. For crunchy contrast, the roll is butter toasted until nicely browned and warm, and augmented with a judicious salad component. Crisp lettuce and sliced heirloom tomato snuggle in before the bun is liberally seafood stuffed.  heirloomtomatoes425On the international scene, the first Slapfish franchise has opened in Dubai, with a second due in November. American restaurants and shops are very popular in Dubai, especially in ginormous malls where everything from Cheesecake Factory to P.F. Chang’s share foot traffic with retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Forever 21.

Slapfish Clobster Rolls
Yield: 4 servings
4 elongated top-split rolls (butter rolls, hot dog rolls, Hawaiian sweet rolls or baguettes)
For toasting bread: about 2 tablespoon softened butter
1/4 cup mayonnaise, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Colman’s prepared mustard, or more to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce, or more to taste
1 lemon (minced zest and juice to taste)
2 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 pound cooked, shelled, picked, chilled Dungeness crab
1/2 pound cooked, picked, shelled, chilled New England lobster
1 ripe, medium-large heirloom tomato, sliced
4 pieces lettuce, cleaned, drained, such as green leaf lettuce
Garnish: additional snipped chives and Old Bay Seasoning
Cook’s notes: Gruel says you can use all mayonnaise rather than half mayonnaise and half sour cream, if you prefer. He likes to use mayonnaise made with olive oil.
1. Brush the butter all over the rolls and surface of a large nonstick skillet. Toast on all sides using medium heat.
2. In medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, Sriracha, zest, juice, chives and Old Bay Seasoning; stir to combine. Add seafood and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. (Can be refrigerated at this point (well sealed), up to 24 hours. Taste before serving, adjusting seasoning if needed.
3. Pack toasted rolls with lettuce, tomato, and generous portion of seafood mixture. Garnish with chives and a small sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning. Serve.
Source: Andrew Gruel, Slapfish

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Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s … lettuce wraps

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My family loves these delicious lettuce wraps. Instead of ground pork, ground turkey comes to the party! They are flavor-boosted with 5-spice powder and hoisin sauce. Jicama, carrots and bell peppers bring added crunch.

Eat them like tacos!

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Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1/2 cup raw brown rice (I use Texmati long-grain brown rice)
2 heads of Bibb lettuce (Boston lettuce)
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian-style roasted sesame oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut into narrow crosswise strips
1/2 cup peeled, finely diced jicama
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
Garnish: shredded carrots and chopped fresh cilantro or fresh mint
1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Separate lettuce leaves; rinse in cold water and drain (I like to put them in a single layer on clean dish towels).
2. In a large deep skillet heat sesame oil on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add turkey and ginger; cook, breaking up meat with a spatula or sturdy spoon, until meat is cooked through about 5 minutes. Add rice, bell pepper, jicama, broth, hoisin sauce, and 5-spice powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until broth is almost evaporated and vegetables are heated through. Place lettuce “cups” in single layer on a platter. Spoon filling onto lettuce; top with shredded carrots and cilantro or mint. Serve.

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Alfonso Ramirez’ Seared Albacore Salad Reaches for the Stars

Alfonso Ramirez learned in baby steps in his childhood home.

Eat. Walk. Cook …

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The executive chef at Pinot Provence, Costa Mesa, says that his chef-father is his culinary hero and was the one responsible for his early training.

His father was the accomplished executive chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C., where the late, fearless French chef Jean-Louis Palladin reined over the Jean-Louis restaurant. jeanLouiePalladinChefs, foodies, and restaurateurs from all over made pilgrimages to the Watergate to sample Jean-Louis Palladin’s cuisine. And Alfonso’s chef-dad must have soaked it up.  The talent. The taste.

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Due to his father’s influence, Ramirez says that he feels like he has cooked French cuisine all his life. He brings to Pinot Provence a passion for French provincial cooking, a style that he calls “rustic French.”

With a fondness for his food, I asked if he would come to my home and shoot a culinary video with me. Watch the short video we shot, and get an up-close look at how he seasons and sears the fish and prepares the salad.

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Behind the scenes: It was clear that due to time constraints, Canard Cassoulet with Duck Confit was off the table. So we settled on a very flavorful and easy-to-prepare salad that showcases seasoned-and- seared albacore atop a colorful mélange of Bibb lettuce, radishes, tart apples and avocado. The mixture is draped in a shear glaze of ginger-honey vinaigrette.

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Best Gizmo: A Sugimoto 10-inch chef’s knife that has a carbon steel interior and has a stainless steel exterior to prevent discoloration. He appreciates the thinness of the knife and says it has great balance in his hand.

Fave Veg: Sunchokes are one of his most loved vegetables. Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, these plump knobby roots have a nutty taste and are subtly sweet, something like a blend of jicama and potato. They look something like fresh ginger.

The Competition: His favorite restaurant (other than Pinot Provence) is Taco Maria in Costa Mesa at the OC Mix. He loves the smoked potatoes and chorizo with shiitake mushrooms; it’s topped with a 62-degree egg.

Pinot Provence’s Albacore Salad
Yield: 1 serving with enough dressing for 8 servings
Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh peeled ginger
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup yuzu juice, see cook’s notes
1/2 cup oil blend (90 percent grapeseed oil and 10 percent olive oil)
Salad:
3 ounces sushi-grade albacore tuna
Coarse salt (such as fleur de sel), to taste
About 1/8 teaspoon sesame seeds (black sesame seeds preferred)
About 1/8 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper, see cook’s notes
1 to 2 tablespoons oil blend (90 percent grapeseed oil and 10 percent olive oil)
4 or 5 leaves of Boston (Bibb) lettuce, smaller interior leaves preferred
1 French Breakfast radish (or radish of choice), trimmed, thinly sliced or cut in narrow strips
6 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/8-inch wide strips
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled, diced
Garnish: sliced fresh chives
Cook’s notes: Yuzu juice is sold in bottles at Japanese markets and online. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that is prized for its perfume-rich juice. Ground Espelette pepper (piment d’Espelette in French) is made using dried chilies grown in Espelette, a town in the Southwest region of France, close to the Spanish border. It is often sold at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa, Savory Spice Shop in Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa, or online at amazon.com.
1. Prepare vinaigrette: Place all vinaigrette ingredients except oil in blender. Blend on medium-high speed until pureed. Add oil in a thin stream. (Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated; whisk to combine before using.)
2. Season fish with salt. Spread sesame seeds and Espelette on plate; roll fish in it to coat on all sides. Heat oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet using medium-high heat. When very hot but not smoking, add albacore. Sear well on all sides, about 1 to 2 minutes per side for rare interior, using tongs to turn. Allow to cool in refrigerator for easier slicing.
3. In a bowl, combine lettuce, radish, tomatoes, apple and avocado. Add enough dressing to lightly coat; gently toss. Arrange lettuce on plate. Top with salad. Cut albacore crosswise into thin slices. Place slices on top of salad, slightly overlapping. Drizzle a little dressing on top of fish and season lightly with salt. Top with chives and serve. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated (well-sealed) up to one week.
Source: Alfonso Ramirez, executive chef, Pinot Provence, Costa Mesa

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Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

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Mustard greens are one of the most nutrient dense plants on the planet! I love the way adding a smidgen of hot Italian sausage to this dish tames the greens.

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It’s quick and easy to prepare.

I like to serve it atop cooked farro or brown rice.

Mustard Greens with Hot Sausage and Farro

Yield: 6 servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces hot Italian sausage
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 pound mustard greens, washed, drained, cut crosswise into 3- to 4-inch wide pieces
2 tablespoons water or dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For serving: 2 cups cooked farro or brown rice tossed with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
1. In a large, deep nonstick skillet heat olive oil on medium heat. Break sausage in clumps (about the size of very large grape) and add to skillet in a single layer. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned and crisp. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 2 minutes.
2. Add mustard greens. Use a spatula to push the greens down as they heat.  Add 2 tablespoons water or wine; cover. Cook 3 or 4 minutes, or until greens are wilted. Uncover and turn heat to high. Cook until moisture evaporates, about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper; toss. Serve over cooked farro or brown rice.

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