Selanne’s Heavenly Scallops – Sauce Balances Sweet and Sour Flavors to Perfection


Joshua Severson’s culinary talents aren’t limited to topnotch red meat cookery. The executive chef for Teemu Selanne’s steak-centric restaurant in Laguna Beach, Severson also works his magic with seafood. His impressive work experience includes a stint working with celebrity chef Tom Colicchio at award-winning Craft Steak in Las Vegas. But his flair with fish stems from his Pacific Northwest upbringing, where he grew to love the region’s produce and seafood from Puget Sound.


I’m a fan of the scallops on Selanne Steak Tavern’s appetizer menu. The Pacific Diver Scallops with Pickled Chanterelles, Black Garlic and Cauliflower Puree is a favorite. How delighted I was when he consented to show me how to concoct it in my home kitchen.

Watch this short video to see how easy Chef Severson makes it look! Catch his tricks.

With the exception of the pureed cauliflower, it’s a one-skillet dish.

The puree is easy to prepare; the cauliflower florets cook in a saucepan along with some tender sweet onions and is blanketed in heavy cream. Once tender, the whole shebang is pureed and seasoned with salt and truffle oil.


He uses U10 scallops, a size designation that means fewer than ten of these beauties add up to less than a pound. They are 1 1/2- to 2-inches across and are sushi grade; the scent is as fresh as the deep waters of the ocean.

black garlic

Once seared in a hot skillet, mushrooms and black garlic come to the party. The mushrooms, chanterelles and Shimeji, were added along with white balsamic vinegar and black garlic. The black garlic is a type of caramelized garlic with a sweet-sour taste; it is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks. It is sold at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa and online at

Chef Severson said that home cooks could substitute quartered cremini mushrooms for the harder-to-find ones that he uses in his quick-pickled mix, and that they could substitute roasted garlic for black garlic.

Pacific Diver Scallops with Pickled Chanterelles, Black Garlic and Cauliflower Puree
Yield: 2 servings, plus leftover cauliflower puree
Cauliflower puree:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, such as Walla Walla or Maui onion, cut in matchsticks
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
About 2 cups heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste
Optional: black truffle oil, divided use
4 diver scallops, sushi grade U-10 preferred
Salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Mushroom mixture:
1 ounce small fresh golden chanterelle mushrooms, washed, air-dried
1 ounce Shimeji mushrooms, washed, air-dried
Salt and pepper for seasoning
3 to 4 ounces butter, divided use
2 cloves black garlic, peeled and split in half
1 medium shallot, cut into very thin crosswise slices
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 small sprig fresh thyme
Optional garnish: fresh chervil sprigs
1. Prepare cauliflower puree: Place oil in large thick-bottomed large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add cauliflower florets and cover with heavy cream. Simmer over low heat until florets fall apart to the touch of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. Place cooked florets in blender and add just enough liquid to start the cauliflower blending, about 2 tablespoons.  Blend until completely smooth, adding more reserved cream if necessary. Remove the puree from blender and transfer to a food-safe container and adjust seasoning with salt and truffle oil, if desired. (For a nice soup, add additional cream or broth to the unused portion of the puree and whisk.)
2. Prepare scallops: Dry scallops with paper towel. Season them with salt and white pepper. Place 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in a thick-bottomed skillet on medium-high heat. When oil is very hot but not smoking, add scallops and cook until bottom edges start to turn golden to dark brown, about 1 minute. Turn the scallops over. Add mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté for one minute. Add 1 ounce butter, black garlic, shallot, vinegar and thyme. Baste scallops with a spoon by tipping pan towards you and spooning browned butter over the scallops for about 10-15 seconds. Remove scallops to a paper towel. Remove excess browned butter from skillet. Over medium heat, add white balsamic vinegar and reduce by half. Remove from heat and add remaining butter, stirring to emulsify.
3. To Plate: Reheat cauliflower puree. Place a tablespoon-size amount of cauliflower puree on each dinner plate; smear it with the back of a spoon. Then place scallops over the puree, spoon mushrooms and sauce over the top of the scallops. Finish with a few fresh thyme leaves and truffle oil to enhance. If desired, garnish with small sprigs of chervil.
Source: Joshua Severson, executive chef Selanne Steak Tavern, Laguna Beach



Farro, an ancient variety of wheat, is both delicious and nutritious.

A favorite way to serve it is in a room temperature salad napped with a citrus-y vinaigrette.


It is especially delicious with Pixie tangerine segments.

Farro Salad with Tangerines
Yield: 8 servings
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided use
3 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided use
Kosher salt, divided use
1 3/4 cups semi-pearled or pearled farro
5 small tangerines, such as Pixie tangerines,  divided use, plus more if needed for juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced including half of dark green stalks
1. Bring 2 thyme sprigs and broth to a boil on high heat. Add a pinch of salt and farro; reduce heat to medium and cook at a low boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; remove and discard thyme sprig (leaves will most likely stay behind and that is fine). Cool.
2. Peel 3 tangerines and tear into segments; set aside. Juice 2 tangerines and place juice in salad bowl; you should have about 1/2 cup of juice (squeeze more tangerines if necessary). Add vinegar, salt and pepper; stir to dissolve salt. Whisk oil into tangerine juice. Add tangerine segments, farro, and green onions; toss gently to coat; taste and season with more tangerine juice, if desired. Remove remaining thyme leaves from stems and add leaves to salad; toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Salad can be prepared 6 hours ahead of serving and stored airtight in the refrigerator.



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St. Patrick’s Day Fare – The Essentials and The Frills

St. Patrick’s Day is a party day enjoyed by Irish and Irish-wannabes alike. From coast to coast, at the core of the celebration is satisfying, easy-to-prepare fare. It’s the corned beef and cabbage that first comes to mind.


The briny classic’s origin is a subject of great debate, but whether it was the Emerald Isle or the New World doesn’t seem to matter.

Thumbing through Kevin Dundon’s new book, “Modern Irish Food” (Beazley, $24.99), sparked devilish hunger pains. Dundon, an award-winning Irish chef and PBS television personality, features beautiful recipes for what he calls “modern Irish house cooking.”  USM-110

But it’s often the goodies that accompany the corned beef that make the meal so darn splendid.

Irish Soda Bread is a menu must. I’ve always made it in loaves, but found a recipe for making a dandy muffin-style version that is studded with dried currants.


 And a finale of an irresistible apple tart is perfect. Use refrigerated prepared dough, such as Pillsbury Pie Crusts or Trader Joe’s crusts, and then layer thin apple slices on top, slightly overlapping the slices in concentric circles to cover the dough.

The flavor of the tart-sweet apples shines through, the crust offering a pleasing texture contrast that compliments the fruit and corrals the rich juices.


According to the Irish proverb, there are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were. With the table laden with Irish fare, we can all be Irish at least for a day.

Pulled Corned Beef
Yield: 6 servings
1 (about 3 1/4 pounds) corned beef (brisket or bottom round), cut in half, without packet of additional spices
1 cup beer
2 oranges, halved
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
3 star anise, see cook’s notes
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 cups water
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 1/4 pound baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled, quartered
1 1/4 pound baby carrots, peeled, cut into sticks about 2 1/2-inches long
7 ounces baby turnips, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 small head of cabbage, about 10 ounces, cut into wedges
Cook’s notes: Star anise is a dried spice. It is a star-shaped pod that is native to China. It is sold in the spice section of some supermarkets and in Asian markets. If you want, you can omit it.
1. Place the beef in a large saucepan with the beer, oranges, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, honey, vinegar, spices and peppercorns and cover with water. Put a lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 1/2 to3 hours, topping up the water during cooking if necessary, until a fork can be easily inserted into the center of the meat. Carefully remove the beef and put it on a cutting board to rest for about for 10 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups water to the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Put in the vegetables and bring back up to the boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the orange pieces.
3. Use 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Divide it between bowls. Add broth and vegetables.
Source: “Modern Irish Food” by Kevin Dundon (Beazley, $24.99)

Simple Apple Tart
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated crusts (2 rolled crusts in rectangular box), chilled
Juice of 1 lemon
5 to 6 medium-sized Pink Lady apples, see cook’s notes
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup turbinado sugar, divided use
2 tablespoons honey
For serving: whipped cream or ice cream
Cook’s notes: Pink Lady apples are delectable in this tart. I find them at my local supermarket, but if you prefer, substitute Gala apples. Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam-cleaned. The coarse crystals are a honey-brown color and have a subtle molasses flavor. It’s often sold in the natural food section of the supermarket and is available at natural food stores.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll one of the pie crusts and place on parchment paper. Unroll second pie crust and cut out a ring 1/2-wide around the edge of the crust. Cut crosswise into three pieces to make them easier to transfer. Transfer to edge of crust that is on the pan and press in place (so now you have a double layer of crust around the edge). Pinch to make a ridge around the edge about 1/2-inch high. Prick with tines of a fork at 2-inch intervals. Place in refrigerator.
2. Squeeze lemon juice in medium-large bowl. Peel, core and cut apples into thin slices, placing them as you work in the bowl with the juice and tossing them from time to time to prevent browning.
3. Remove crust from refrigerator and lightly brush with butter. Arrange apple slices in two concentric circles overlapping them slightly (start with the outside circle). Brush with half of the remaining melted butter. Remove 1 tablespoon of the sugar and set aside to use as garnish; sprinkle remaining sugar over apples. Bake 12 minutes.
4. Remove from oven (and shut oven door). Brush apples and rim of tart with remaining butter. Drizzle apples with honey. Return to oven and bake 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved sugar. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. If desired, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided use
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pan(s) with butter. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and caraway seeds; stir to combine with whisk. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, butter and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in currants.
2. Fill greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm.
Source: Taste of Home


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Grain Salads – So Very Delicious, So Very Healthy



Trying to make sense of what comprises a healthful diet can be a challenge. The news is filled with information about what not to eat, which sometimes leads to a what-to-eat conundrum.

Most experts say that the solution is to attain the correct proportion of animal protein to plant-based foods.

The American Institute for Cancer Research advises that we should aim for meals made up of 2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans and 1/3 (or less) animal protein. Not every meal will easily fit this prescription, but generally speaking it is a guideline that is fairly easy to follow.

One way I’ve found to make sticking to these parameters easier is the “trough cooking” approach used by my editor of many years, the late Steve Plesa. He would cook up a big batch of some kind of whole grain on the weekend. Cooled and refrigerated, the “trough” was used in a variety of dishes throughout the week. One night the chewy grains would be showcased in a vegetable-rich soup, while another night they would be a side dish or stirred into a casserole. Other evenings the chilled grains would be tossed into mixed green salads, or incorporated into grain-based salads spiked with fruit and/or vegetables.

It’s the later, those delectable whole grain salads that most delight my palate.

Tossed with tasty vinaigrette and adorned with fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs, they are irresistible. Bless my little heart, if it doesn’t taste enticing, I don’t care how healthful it is.


Barley: Pearled barley has the darker bran shaved off, but cooks more quickly than whole barley and is more esthetically pleasing. I prefer to buy pearled barley at natural food stores because it tends to be larger and have a small portion of bran still attached. At the supermarket it’s fine, but has all of the bran removed and is smaller and whiter.


Farro: An ancient grain called “emmer wheat,” farro sated the Roman troops in biblical times and is said to have been first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent almost 10,000 years ago. It is nutty and delectably chewy. I use pearled (bran layer removed) or semi-pearled farro because it cooks quickly. For a quick side dish, throw a handful into boiling broth or water; reduce to medium and gently boil for 15 minutes, then drain and toss with a little olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.


Wheat Berries: Whole kernels of wheat that have the bran still intact. Use either red or white wheat berries; they have similar flavors and the same chewy textures. Look for wheat berries at natural food stores or in supermarkets with large natural food specialty sections.


Wild Rice: I love the crackly-crunchiness of wild rice. It used to be an expensive, special-occasion side dish. The 70s brought a wild-rice growing-gathering revolution. Previously, wild rice (an aquatic grass) was harvested only by hand in the rivers and lakes of the northern Great Lakes area. Now much of the nation’s wild rice is grown in California, flourishing in paddies designed for machine harvesting. That means more wild rice and more affordable prices. grainsaladfarrowildrice450

Farro and Wild Rice Salad
Yield: 8 servings
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided use
3 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided use
Kosher salt, divided use
3/4 cup wild rice
1 1/4 cups semi-pearled or pearled farro
5 small tangerines, divided use, plus more if needed for juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced including half of dark green stalks
Optional garnish: roasted cauliflower florets, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: To roast cauliflower, preheat oven to 450 degrees and blanch the unpeeled cloves from 1 head of garlic in boiling water for 25 seconds. Drain and peel garlic. If cloves are large, cut in half lengthwise. Toss garlic with 1 large head of cauliflower (cut into 1- to 2-inch florets) and 3 1/2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, tossing twice during roasting. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
1. Bring 2 thyme sprigs, 1 3/4 cups broth, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, then rice; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is just barely tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove thyme sprig (leaves will most likely stay behind and that is fine). Drain, if needed. Cool. Meanwhile, cook farro: bring 2 thyme sprigs, 2 cups broth, and 1 1/2 cups water to boil on high heat. Add farro and cook, uncovered, 14 to 18 minutes, or until tender but still chewy. Drain; cool.
2. Peel 3 tangerines and tear into segments; set aside. Juice 2 tangerines and place juice in salad bowl; you should have about 1/2 cup of juice (squeeze more tangerines if necessary). Add vinegar, salt and pepper; stir to dissolve salt. Whisk oil into tangerine juice. Add tangerine segments, wild rice, farro, and green onions; toss gently to coat; taste and season with more tangerine juice, if desired. Remove remaining thyme leaves from stems and add leaves to salad; toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Salad can be prepared 6 hours ahead of serving and stored airtight in the refrigerator.
3. Mound on platter. If desired, place roasted cauliflower florets around edge.

grainsaladbarleysalad450This salad is adapted from “Ancient Grains for Modern Families” by Maria Speck (Ten Speed, $29.99). Speck used marinated dried figs in the salad, which is delicious. But last week I had a luscious quinoa salad at Marche Moderne restaurant (Costa Mesa) that was adorned with candied kumquats. I love the sweet-tart spark that those kumquats added to the mix, so I subbed them in for the dried figs. Kumquats are like inside-out oranges. The peel is sweet while the interior is tart. They are rich in vitamin C and are generally available from November through July.
Barley Salad with Kumquats and Tarragon
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
2 cups water
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 (2-by-1-inch) strip lemon zest (colored portion of peel)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 kumquats
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided use
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 4), white and light green parts (save dark stalks for garnish)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped unpeeled cored tart apples, such as Granny Smith
Cook’s notes: Salad can be prepared (without the apples or garnish) 6 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and garnish before serving. If serving as a vegetarian entrée, garnish with toasted walnuts or almonds.
1. Cook barley: Place water, barley, lemon zest strip and salt in a 2-quart saucepan; bring to boil on high heat. Decrease heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender but slightly chewy, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid. Spread out on rimmed baking sheet to cool. Discard zest.
2. Cut kumquats in half lengthwise; pluck out and discard any large seeds with tip of a paring knife. Place 1/2 cup water and sugar in saucepan; bring to boil on high heat. Decrease heat and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add kumquats and simmer 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool (I reserve the syrup that is drained from the kumquats and store it in the refrigerator to use in cocktails.)
3. In a salad bowl, combine lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Whisk in oil in thin stream. Add tarragon and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley; stir to combine. Add celery, green onions and apples, cooled barley and cooled kumquats. Gently toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with 1 thinly sliced dark green onion stalk and remaining parsley.

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SOLITA! Grilled Corn Elote – so easy, so delicious AND Best Queso Fundido


Deborah Schneider, executive chef-partner at Solita (Huntington Beach) and SOL Cocina (Newport Beach and Scottsdale, AZ), draws on her rich culinary background to bring the seductive flavors and relaxing vibe of the Baja Pennisula to the plate.


Street foods cooked on simple wood-fired grills are at the heart of Solita’s scrumptious grilled corn. The treat is so tempting, I asked her to cook some at my house on my kettle-style barbecue. I fueled the fire with both hard wood and charcoal. Schneider, the author of five cookbooks, made the process look easy.

Watch this short video to see Deb’s secrets!

 The browning concentrates the sweetness and makes the texture alluringly chewy.


Off the heat the corn gets slathered with butter and topped with a zigzag of chipotle sauce, a mixture of mayonnaise, pureed chipotles in adobo and fresh lime juice.

A little crumbled Cotija cheese, and a little sliced green onion. A sprinkle of ground toasted California chilies and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


Although it is delicious on its own, I love to cut the kernels from the cob and use them as a topping for Schneider’s queso fundido (Queso al Forno), a melted cheese concoction that is best enjoyed tucked into warm tortillas. The ingredients, a mixture of cheeses, fresh salsa, cilantro and garlic, are assembled in a small, shallow cast iron cazuela; it cooks on the grill alongside the corn or can be heated on the stovetop.


Solita’s Grilled Corn Elote
Yield: 4 servings, with Chipotle Sauce leftover
Chipotle Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pureed chipotle chilies, see cook’s notes
Juice of 1/2 lime, plus more if needed
4 ears of corn, husks intact
3 tablespoons melted butter, divided use
Salt to taste
Crumbled Cotija cheese, about 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground toasted California chili
2 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced – including dark green stalks
Garnish: 4 lime wedges
Cook’s notes: Chipotle chilies are sold in small cans in the Mexican specialty section of many supermarkets. Puree the contents of the can in a small food processor or blender, including the red adobo sauce. Use what you need and freeze the rest.
1. In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, chipotle chili puree and lime juice. Taste and add more lime juice if needed. Place in squeeze bottle and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place corn in single layer on baking sheet or directly on the oven rack. Roast uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle.
2. Meanwhile, start fire in barbecue using charcoal and chunks of wood (hardwood designated for barbecuing). Pull off a couple of outer crispy husks on the corn and tear them into strips to use as ties. Pull back husks on corn to expose kernels, leaving the husks attached; tie husks together with the ties. Brush with melted butter, just enough to very lightly coat; sprinkle with a little salt. When flames die down, grill on clean grate, letting husks extend over side of barbecue to use as handles. Turn as each side browns.
3. Place corn on platter. Brush with remaining butter. Top each with Chipotle Sauce squeezed from the bottle in a zigzag pattern. Top with Cotija cheese, a sprinkle of ground chili and green onion. Serve lime wedges on the side.
Source: Deborah Schneider, Solita, Huntington Beach

Solita’s Queso Fundido (Queso al Forno)
Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons diced tomatoes or fresh salsa
1 cup shredded Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Menonita cheese or Asadero cheese
1/3 cup cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon minced serrano chilies, see cook’s notes
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced green onions
1 teaspoon crumbled Cotija cheese
For serving: warm corn tortillas
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies. Upon completion, wash hands and work surface thoroughly and do NOT touch eyes or face.
1. Heat a 6-inch flameproof ramekin or cazuela on medium heat. Add oil; when hot, add garlic and tomatoes (or salsa). Cook until softened but not browned. Stir in shredded cheeses; when hot add cubes of cream cheese, pushing them down into the mixture with the back of a spoon.
2. Scatter the chilies, cilantro, green onions and Cotija cheese on top. Continue to cook slowly, reducing heat if needed, until cheese is melted and bubbly. If you like, place under the broiler to lightly brown the top. Additional salsa can be spooned on top, if you like. If desired, top with grilled corn cut off the cob. Serve spooned into warm corn tortillas.
Source: Deborah Schneider, Solita, Huntington Beach


… Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

Kumquats are delicious used in a quick-to-prepare relish.


Here it is used to top a roasted chicken breast.

Hey, without this relish the chicken would be blah!

With the relish it is delicious. Kumquats add a lot of pizzazz. They are sweet on the outside and tart on the inside. Perky.

Kumquat Relish
Yield: enough to serve with 4 small chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
6 kumquats, washed, dried, thinly sliced crosswise, seeded if seeds are large
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1.  Heat vegetable oil in medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add kumquats, sugar, water, cranberries, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Bring to simmer; simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens, about 8 to 11 minutes.
Adapted from “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)


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Easiest Chicken Ever – Snoozes Overnight in Slow Cooker

USE THIS SLOW COOKER CHICKEN in recipes that call for cooked chicken!

Fall off the bone tender and juicy shredded chicken.

Easy, very easy.


Sometimes less is more. Fewer ingredients to gather and a minimal amount of dishes to wash. Ready for some survival cooking? Relax. Help is on the way.

Slow-Cooker “Roast” Chicken: Slow cookers are a blessing to busy cooks. This slow-cooker “roast” chicken recipe is a foolproof technique for producing a moist bird with very little effort.

I use this technique when I need cooked chicken for salads, tacos and casseroles, or to toss into cooked grains or pasta.


Notice that no liquid is added to the pot. Excess liquid dilutes the flavor. As the bird stream-roasts in the slow cooker, an impressive amount of juices accumulate around the chicken; for delicious, fat-free broth, refrigerate those juices and once chilled remove the congealed fat at the top. Use the broth in soups, sauces and casseroles.




Slow-Cooker “Roast” Chicken
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.
1 whole chicken, 2 1/2 to 4 pounds
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Cook’s notes: To add more flavor, before cooking you can place a tablespoon of butter or olive oil on top of bird along with 1 tablespoon of minced fresh basil, parsley or tarragon. Reserve the juices that accumulate around the chicken; for delicious, fat-free stock, refrigerate and remove congealed fat at the top.
1. Remove giblets and thoroughly wash chicken. Pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle cavity with salt, pepper and, if desired, fresh parsley. Place in slow cooker, cover and cook 8 to 9 hours on low setting.
2. Remove skin and bones; shred into bite-sized pieces.


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Banana Bread Pudding Voted Best Dessert in OC


Debra Sims’ Banana Bread Pudding is so scrumptious that it won Best Dessert in Orange County at the 2013 Golden Foodie Awards. Sims, the executive chef at Maro Wood Grill in Laguna Beach, turns humble bread pudding to an irresistible finale.

The dense goodness is served warm nestled in a puddle of Bourbon-spiked cream sauce, the floral scent of warm bananas adrift above the shallow bowl.

Watch this short video to see how the chef makes this ambrosial dish.


She augments egg-and-cream soaked buttered brioche slices with hand-squished bananas and a topping of dulce de leche. (The video shows how she does this … wow.)


Popular in South American dishes, dulce de leche is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to give it toast-like color and a consistency that is thicker than room temperature hot fudge. It gives the bread pudding luscious caramel notes as well as Argentinian flare. It is sold in jars in Hispanic markets or in some supermarkets with large ethnic specialty sections.



At the restaurant the bread pudding is baked ahead. Before serving, hearty squares are surrounded with cream sauce and reheated in individual skillets in a 425-degree oven.

The eatery is intimate, with eight seats at the counter inside and 20 seats on the deck. Their wood-grilled steaks are delectable, especially when slathered with chimichurri, the classic Argentine sauce that showcases parsley, chilies and garlic. Be sure to leave room for bread pudding. If not, you now have the recipe for making it at home.

occhefBreadPudRaw450 This is how it looks before going into the oven.

Banana Bread Pudding
Yield: One 9-inch square pan, about 9 servings (you can serve smaller servings if you like)
6 large eggs, organic preferred
1 1/2 cups Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk, organic milk preferred
2 cups heavy whipping cream, organic cream preferred
Butter for greasing pan
About 2 sticks butter, room temperature
About 1 1/2 loaves brioche bread, see cook’s notes
5 to 6 bananas, organic preferred, divided use
About 1 cup dulce de leche
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Vanilla-Bourbon Cream Sauce:
1/4 cup simple syrup (1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water)
2 cups heavy whipping cream, organic preferred
1/2 cup Bourbon
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Cook’s notes: Sims buys the brioche loaves at Bread Artisan Bakery in Santa Ana. Call in advance to order brioche loaves at 949-429-5301. This recipe makes more custard than you will probably need; if you have leftover custard, you can use it to make French toast.
1. Position oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare custard: Combine eggs, sugar, seeds from vanilla bean and a pinch of salt; whisk until well combined and light in color. Whisk in milk and cream. Strain and set aside.
3. Assembly: Butter the inside of a deep 9-inch square baking pan; set aside. Cut the crusts off of the brioche; slice each loaf into 3/4-inch slices and very generously butter one side (about 1/4-inch thick). Soak enough bread slices to cover bottom of pan one at a time in the custard, about 30 seconds for each. Place in prepared pan in a single layer butter side up. Then peel half of the bananas and mash between your fingers and spread onto the buttered brioche. After you spread the bananas, stick your fingers through to the bottom of the pan and mash the bananas and bread more (this method is clearly demonstrated in the video).  Repeat with the remaining custard, brioche and bananas. Top with dollops of dulce de leche (she used a small ice cream scoop and placed 9 of them at equal intervals).  Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake in preheated oven, about 1 1/2 hours (or until the center doesn’t wiggle when you shake the pan).
4.Prepare cream sauce: For the simple syrup, mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water in small saucepan. On medium-high heat, simmer until sugar melts; set aside and cool. Put cream, 1/4 cup cooled simple syrup, bourbon and vanilla bean in a bowl.  Whisk slowly to combine
5.To serve, cut bread pudding into servings and place in shallow bowls. Heat the cream sauce until bubbling.  Pour over bread pudding and serve.
Source: Debra Sims, executive chef Maro Wood Grill, Laguna Beach


Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …


Use kale in an open-faced sandwich.

Kale-topped toasts adorned with sunny-side up eggs make a delectable breakfast treat, but they also could be the centerpiece of a tasty lunch or supper. If you prefer firmer yolks, turn the eggs to cook on both sides, or substitute moist scrambled eggs or scrambled egg whites.

Breakfast Toasts with Kale and Sunny-Side Eggs
Yield: 4 servings
4 (3/8-inch thick) slices rustic whole wheat bread
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 cups Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero) or curly-edge kale – that has been washed, patted dry, midrib removed, loosely packed, cut into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices, see prep
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 eggs
Seasoned salt
1. Adjust oven rack to 8 inches below broiler element. Turn on oven light and broiler. Place bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from oven, turn bread over and lightly brush with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon. Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon cheese. Return to broiler. Keep a close eye on the toast; broil until lightly browned, about 40 to 50 seconds.
2. Line a large plate with paper towels. Heat oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, kale and water; season with salt and pepper. When liquid comes to a boil, cover and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes, tossing mixture 2 or 3 times during cooking (common kale will take longer to cook than Tuscan kale). Remove lid and cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and toss. Place on paper-towel lined plate.
3. Place toasts on 4 plates. Generously spray a medium-size nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place on medium-high heat. When hot, add eggs one at a time, placing them in a single layer. Reduce heat to low. Cook until white is set, about 2 minutes. Divide kale between 4 toasts. Using a spatula, remove each egg from skillet and place on top of kale. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 300; fat calories 120, total fat 14 grams; sat fat 4 grams, cholesterol 190 milligrams; sodium 710 milligrams; total carbohydrates 27 grams; fiber 5 grams; sugars 4 grams; protein 17 grams; vitamin A IUs 310%; vitamin C 210%; calcium 30%; iron 20%
Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)



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Five Ingredient Wonders – Delicious and No Canned Soup, Baby!

5 veg

Five ingredients (or less), yes, and no canned cream of celery soup!

So darn easy …


Sometimes less is more. Fewer ingredients to gather and a minimal amount of dishes to wash is appealing, especially after the challenge of holiday cookery.

Ready for some survival cooking?

A list of simple recipes taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet can be as comforting as a silky blanket is to a tired toddler. My inside-the-cupboard list includes dishes with short ingredient lists that don’t sacrifice flavor or appearance.


Here are two recipes that you can add to your post-holiday survival list, they are favorites that I have been making for years.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Help is on the way.


Jacques’ Berry Gratins
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups (about 8 ounces) IQF (individually quick frozen) unsweetened raspberries or blackberries
1 1/2 cups crumbled cookies, either chocolate chip cookies or shortbread cookies; see cook’s notes
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Optional garnish: Sour cream
Cook’s notes: Pepin recommends Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread or Mrs. Fields (individually wrapped) Chocolate Chip Cookies, but advises that homemade cookies or other brands of store-bought cookies will work. The chocolate chip cookies are best crumbled by hand rather than in food processor. The shortbread can be crumbled in food processor or placed in plastic bag and crushed with small skillet or rolling pin.
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide frozen berries among 4 (1-cup) shallow gratin dishes or custard cups.
2. Toss crumbled cookies and sugar in small bowl. Divide crumbs among dishes, sprinkling them evenly over berries. Dot with small pieces of butter. Place dishes on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 16 to 18 minutes, or until nicely browned on top and berries are bubbling. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Top with spoonful of sour cream, if desired.
Source: “Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way” by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin, $30)


It’s no secret that I adore pureed soups. The classic French potage that teams leeks with spuds has an appealingly short ingredient list. When this soup is served cold it is called “vichyssoise.”

There’s nothing tricky about making it and using an immersion blender to puree the mixture eliminates aggravation and additional dishes to wash. For years I resisted buying one. I thought it was silly to buy an additional piece of equipment for blending soups when I own a food processor and blender.

If I had known how much time it would save, I would have bought it decades ago. The gizmo, sometimes dubbed a stick blender, purees in the pot in which the soup is prepared.


Leek and Potato Soup
Yield: 8 servings
6 medium leeks, white and light green portion only
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium-large baking potatoes, such as Russets, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
5 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: sliced dark green portion of green onions or chives
Cook’s notes: If desired, garnish each serving with a small spoonful of prepared refrigerated basil pesto (spoon off excess oil before adding).
1. Use only the white and light green portion of the leeks. Trim off roots and cut in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place in small bowl of water and swirl to remove any grit; drain.
2. In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes and broth; bring to simmer on high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of broth; this can be added as needed after adding the cream to attain desired consistency. Sometimes all the broth is needed, but it isn’t consistent. You want a fairly thick, creamy consistency.
3. Puree soup in batches in blender or food processor (cautiously hold down lid with potholder if using blender) or puree it in the pot using an immersion blender.  Return puree to pot and heat. Stir in cream and season generously to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with sliced green onions or chives. leeks           ***************************************************************************



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Kohlrabi – The New Kale – Well Maybe

Time magazine’s 2014 trend-focused issue, touted that kohlrabi is gaining popularity among the nation’s chefs.


                                                   (photo shot at my local Albertson’s)

Kohlrabi, they wrote, is “more like a dinosaur than a vegetable … hiding inside jagged armored skin, is likely to be this year’s trendiest new food.


It’s pickled in India, Nepal and Tibet.  In countries closer to the equator it is grated into flat breads and fritters.


Kohlrabi info – From my book, “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce” (photo by Nick Koon)

Stems spout skyward from kohlrabi’s squat bulb-like tuber. They look oddly misplaced, erupting from sides as well as cap, the weight of their leaves making those stems arch at graceful angles.

There are two varieties, purple and green. Purple has bright purple skin, stems, and leaf veining. Green has apple green skin, stems, and leaf veining. Inside the flesh is identical in both, a creamy white tinged with apple green. Both immature “baby” kohlrabi and more mature regular kohlrabi are sold. The babies have bulbs that are about the size of a golf ball (but flattened at top and bottom); they have a more delicate, sweet flavor profile. The bulb of mature kolhrabi is about the size of a tennis ball.

The taste is a delicious surprise. It’s a very pleasing blend of mild broccoli and cucumber flavors with a gentle sweetness and a very subtle hint of peppery radish. Purple-skinned kohlrabi tends to be slightly spicier. They are as crisp as a green baking apple and are delicious either raw or cooked. The leaves look and taste something like collard greens, and can be washed, trimmed and cooked in a similar manner.

Sometimes, especially with large kohlrabi, stems are removed before it’s marketed. Which is too bad. Chef Kuniko Yagi of Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles says the stems can be turned into a delicacy.

Vegetable soup: Add diced kohlrabi along with other firm vegetables  (such as carrots) to vegetable soup.

Roast: Cut 2 pounds peeled kohlrabi bulbs into 1-inch dice. Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Season with coarse salt or seasoned salt. Bake in 450-degree oven for 35 minutes, tossing kohlrabi 2 or 3 times during roasting.






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Deviled Pickled Eggs, a New New Year’s Tradition

occhefGregDanielsMonaEggsDeviled Pickled Eggs are sweet, tart, spicy nirvana … The Devil Wears Pink, indeed …

Greg Daniels is executive chef-partner of Haven Collective, a group of eateries that include Haven Gastropub and Provisions Market in Orange, as well as Taco Asylum in Costa Mesa. These eggs are sold at Provisions Market.

occhefGregDanielsPickledEggsDownA 30-tap tasting room is just part of what Provisions Market has to tempt guests. Their menu includes gourmet sandwiches, house-made sodas, and salads, plus artisanal breads to-go and a wide assortment of cheeses and charcuterie.

These pickled deviled eggs, an appetizer they dub “The Devil Wears Pink,” is a favorite.

The irresistible pink-to-purple eggs are Daniel’s twist on the traditional. Hard-cooked eggs pickle in the refrigerator swimming in a mixture of fresh diced beets, seeds-in fresh habanero slices and white balsamic vinegar.


The red beets add the pinkish color. The chilies add the kick. The vinegar adds sweet-sour personality.


After bathing in refrigerated brine for 2 days, the eggs are cut in half and the yolks are whirled with aioli and habanero juice, a concoction made by steeping habaneros in water that has been brought to a boil.

Daniels says he prefers habanero chilies because long with a high degree of spicy heat, they have a fruitiness that he loves. Habanero chilies are those lantern-shaped wonders that are most often orange, but can also be yellow or green. They rank high on the Scoville scale, generally boasting between 100,000 to 300,000 units (a jalapeno ranks in between 2,500 to 10,000 points).


Yet when you taste these eggs, the heat is subtle, a just-right spicy nudge.













The Devil Wears Pink, Provisions’ Habanero-Spiked Pickled Deviled Eggs

Yield: 4 servings
4 fresh habanero chilies, stems removed, see cook’s notes
4 fresh red beets, peeled, diced
32 ounces white balsamic vinegar
12 cage-free eggs, hard-cooked, peeled
1 cup mayonnaise or garlic aioli
Habanero juice, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
Salt to taste, flakey salt preferred
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies. Upon completion wash work surface and hands thoroughly and do NOT touch eyes or face. If you have sensitive skin, wear kitchen gloves. To make habanero juice, remove stems from 10 habaneros; place in small saucepan and cover with water, and then bring to boil on high heat. Cover and steep for 30 minutes; strain and cool. For aioli, whisk yolks with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon dry mustard. In a slow stream, whisking the entire time, add 1 cup canola oil blend (half canola oil and half extra-virgin olive oil). If it is too thick, you can whisk in a little water, but you probably won’t need to. Stir in 1 teaspoon smashed-to-a-paste fresh garlic and salt to taste
1. Cut habaneros into 1/8-inch thick slices, leaving in seeds and veins. Place in large nonreactive bowl. Add diced beets. Bring vinegar to a boil in medium saucepan on high heat. Pour vinegar over beets and chilies. Cool at room temperature. Add eggs; cover and refrigerate for 2 days.
2. Remove eggs from brine and cut each in half. Remove yolks and place in blender along with either mayonnaise or aioli. Whirl until smooth, adding enough habanero juice to reach a creamy consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Place mixture in pastry bag fitted with star tip or plain tip (or use a small plastic bag with one corner cut off). Pipe mixture into the cavities of the pickled egg halves. Garnish with chives and salt; serve.
Source: Greg Daniels, executive chef/partner at the Haven Collective


Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …


A salad that teams fresh cantaloupe with figs is an irresistible treat.


If you can’t find figs, substitute orange slices, such as blood oranges or Cara Cara oranges. Cut oranges in half and place in heaf-proof bowl. Bring sherry- honey mixture to a simmer and pour over orange slices . Let cool and proceed with Step #2.

Cantaloupe and Fig Salad
Yield: 10 servings
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup honey
12 fresh figs, Kadota figs preferred
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 large cantaloupe, halved, peeled, cut into very thin wedges
Garnish: 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts, salted if desired
1. For figs: Place sherry and honey in large saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to simmer on medium-low heat. Remove from heat and add figs; gently toss with rubber spatula. Cool to room temperature.
2. For dressing: In a small bowl or glass measuring cup with a handle, whisk lime juice, salt and pepper together until salt dissolves. Add hot water and honey; whisk to combine. Whisk in oil. Add mint and stir to combine.
3. Arrange cantaloupe wedges slightly overlapping on rimmed platter. Arrange figs on platter. Stir dressing and spoon over cantaloupe and figs, adding just enough to lightly coat. Scatter pistachios on top.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 210; fat calories 60, total fat 7 grams; sat fat 1 gram, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 200 milligrams; total carbohydrates 37 grams; fiber 3 grams; sugars 32 grams; protein 2 grams; vitamin A IUs 60%; vitamin C 50%; calcium 4%; iron 4%.

Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle)



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Better Than Hummus, A Bean Dip That Dazzles


Amber’s Ful Medames (fava bean dip or salad base)

I’ve known Amber Cauble since she started preschool with my daughter more than three decades ago. It’s so heartwarming when grown children share their friends with parents, and even better when those friends share their culinary treasures.


Cauble is a skillful cook and a bit of a culinary detective. Growing up in Huntington Beach, she spent a lot of time at the Ququndah home, endearing Arab-American neighbors that endlessly created delicious fare sourced from their culinary roots in Beirut.amberfavabeandip450


She watched.

She ate.

She took mental notes.



One of those dishes is Ful Medames, a delectable fava bean concoction that I love even more than hummus.

It can be used as a dip or served for breakfast topped with salad-like garnishes such as cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, parsley and hard-cooked eggs.


Cauble prepares the dish in minutes. She uses canned favas that she partially mashes, adding plenty of fresh lemon juice, plus ground cumin, garlic, dried red chili flakes and olive oil. She serves it as a dip accompanied with either crackers or pita.

Amber’s Ful Medames (Fava Bean Dip or Salad Base)
Yield: 6 servings
1 (15-ounce) can fava beans, half of liquid drained off
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more if needed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
Good pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For serving as a dip: crackers or pita chips
For serving as a meal: sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, sliced green onion, chopped parsley, hard-cooked eggs
1. Place partially drained beans in a medium large bowl; use tines of fork to mash about half of the beans. Add cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, juice and pepper flakes; stir to combine. Drizzle on oil and stir to combine. Taste and add more cumin, pepper flakes and/or juice as needed. (Don’t be reluctant to tinker; I add more juice and more cumin.)
2. Serve as a dip or as a meal accompanied with cucumber, tomato, green onion, parsley and hard-cooked egg.
Nutrition information (per serving as a dip): 150 calories, 30 percent of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 19 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 475 mg sodium, 3 g fiber


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