BBQ Sauce Like Grandma Used To Make

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Jonathan Monfort, Huntington Beach, knows barbecue sauce.

It’s in his blood.

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He attained his grandmother’s secret sauce recipe after promising his reluctant mother that he would put the formula to good use. The sauce is tangy, with a mustard-vinegar kick that isn’t too sweet. It is Carolina style, an alluring flavor that is distinctive to western Kansas.

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In June last year his Grandma Izetta’s Kansas City Roadhouse Barbecue Sauce hit the market, an 8-ounce bottle selling for $4.99 at izettabbq.com .

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In 1938 his grandmother Izetta started serving the sauce atop ribs, brisket and chicken at her eatery outside Russell, Kansas.

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She bought the recipe from the roadhouse’s previous owners for $150, a very sizable sum at the time. Izetta put up her prized German china as collateral.

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Monfort’s wife, Lindsley Lowell, primarily uses it on pork ribs and beef ribs, but admits that she loves it on eggs, burgers and french fries.

She marinates ribs in the refrigerator, whether beef or pork, covered with the sauce for up to two days, then bakes them in a 400-degree oven for 60 to 95 minutes; Monfort finishes them off on the grill, slathering them with more sauce in the process.

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AND, she uses it in chocolate cake, a cake I call a ‘Texas Sheet Cake.”

CHOCOLATE BBQ SHEET CAKE
Butter for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, cut into several pieces
1 cup water
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/4 cup Grandma Izetta’s BBQ sauce
FROSTING:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature, cut into several pieces
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon Grandma Izetta’s BBQ sauce
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-by-15-inch pan with butter.

2. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in bowl. Set aside

3. Put butter, water and choc chips in medium saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Add melted chocolate mixture to flour mixture.  Stir in yogurt and BBQ sauce.  Pour into prepared.  Bake for 20 minutes.

4.   Prepare frosting: In small saucepan on medium-high heat, melt butter, milk and choc chips, stirring frequently. Bring just to a boil and take off stove. Whisk in bbq sauce and vanilla, then powdered sugar stirring until smooth and well blended. Note: If the powdered sugar is not melting, put on stove and turn on low heat and stir for about 15 seconds until melted. Stir in nuts. Pour frosting over warm cake and smooth out so it covers the whole cake.

Source: Lindsley Lowell, Huntington Beach

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Lincoln, Lindley and Jonathan’s dog, gives the chow at his house a stamp of approval.

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So does wee Winney, the alpha dog.

 

 

 

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Lazy Dog’s Spicy Thai Chicken Salad

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It’s easy to fall in love with a salad that showcases crunch and color, along with spicy-sweet flavors boosted with the just right tartness of fresh lime juice. Gabriel “Gabe” Caliendo’s Spicy Thai Chicken Salad hits all these tasty notes.

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Caliendo, the executive chef at the Lazy Dog Restaurants that have four locations in Orange County, showed me how to make the salad, assuring me that it is simple enough to prepare at home.

 

 

 

The spicy-sweet-sour dressing is convenient in that it can be prepared three to four days in advance and refrigerated. The vegetable components can be prepped and ready in the bowl an hour in advance, then tossed with the cold chicken and dressing just before serving.

It was interesting to see the technique used to cut the red bell peppers, a method that made the strips thin enough to be noodle-like malleable.  The video shows how he did this.

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He said that they gently poach the white-meat chicken at the restaurant to make it tender and juicy, but home cooks can use store-bought roasted chicken and include dark meat if that is preferable.

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The salad is part of the restaurants’ “nutritious and delicious menu,” a designation granted to dishes with less than 650 calories.

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Gabe’s ginormous chili paste jar crowned with my itty bitty jar.

Lazy Dog’s Spicy Thai Chicken Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Thai Peanut Dressing
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
4 tablespoons sambal chili paste, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
Salad
12 ounces cooked chicken breast, shredded (approximately 2 cups)
1 cup Thai Peanut Dressing, see cook’s notes
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup red bell peppers, cut julienne (1/16-by-1/16-by-3 inches), plus additional for garnish
1/4 cup peanuts, finely chopped
2 cups hothouse cucumber cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup small mint leaves without steams
8 cups shredded napa cabbage
Cook’s notes: Sambal chili paste is sold in many supermarkets in the Asian specialty section. If the label simply says chili paste or chili paste with garlic, that is fine too. The recipe for the dressing makes enough for 4 to 6 servings. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and used to dress salads or grilled poultry or pork.
1. For dressing: In a medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients except peanut butter. Whisk together until well blended. Add peanut butter and use whisk to stir until well integrated. Set aside.
2. For salad: In a large bowl, use tongs to mix chicken with 1 cup dressing. Add the rest of the salad ingredients, except for the napa cabbage. Toss to lightly coat ingredients with dressing. Add napa cabbage and gently toss. If desired, garnish with additional red bell pepper strips. Serve immediately.
Source: Executive Chef Gabriel “Gabe” Caliendo, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar with Orange County locations in Brea, Huntington Beach/Westminster, Irvine and Orange

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Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s Produce…

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Aqua fresca, which translates from Spanish as “fresh water,” is a refreshing beverage made most often from fresh fruit, water, and some kind of sweetener.

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Here the star is fresh watermelon, cut into chunks and pureed in a food processor with water. Agave syrup and fresh lemon juice add just-right balance to this refreshing drink.

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Watermelon Aqua Fresca
Yield: 5 servings
5 cups (1-inch) cubed seedless or seeded watermelon, divided use
1 2/3 cups water, divided use
1 teaspoon agave syrup, or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Ice, preferably crushed
Garnish: 5 fresh sprigs mint or peppermint or spearmint
Garnish: 5 thin lemon slices
1. Place a medium mesh sieve over a medium bowl; if you have a batter bowl with a spout and handle, it is handy for this.
2. Place 1 cup watermelon cubes and 1/3 cup water in food processer or blender. Pulse until pureed. Place in sieve. Repeat, using 1 cup of melon and 1/3 water, until all melon and water is used and strained in sieve.
3. Add agave syrup and lemon juice to strained mixture. Taste and adjust as needed, adding more agave syrup or lemon juice, or additional water.
4. Fill 5 glasses with ice. Stir mixture and pour into glasses. Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint and a lemon slice.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 45; fat calories 0, total fat 0 grams; sat fat 0 grams, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 5 milligrams; total carbohydrates 15 grams; fiber 1 gram; sugars 14 grams; protein 1 gram; vitamin A IUs 10%; vitamin C 20%; calcium 2%; iron 2%.

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This recipe is from the newest book, “50 Best Plants on the Planet.”

 

 

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Best Selling Author Mark Bittman Goes Vegan, Part Time

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Bittman’s lentil salad is delicious! No deprivation, honest!

Mark Bittman is a part-time vegan. A columnist for the New York Times and author of the best-selling How To Cook Everything cookbooks, Bittman abstains from eating meat, dairy or processed foods until six every evening. Nix before six on alcohol, too.

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After six he eats what he likes, usually (but not always) in moderation.

Watch this short video with Mark Bittman as he whips up his vegan lentil salad in my kitchen.

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It’s a diet deal he made with himself in 2007 when his doctor told him he needed to make changes in his eating habits. He was pre-diabetic with pre-heart-disease symptoms. His doctor told him he should become a vegan.

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“The idea of becoming a full-time vegan was neither realistic nor appealing to someone accustomed to eating as widely and well as I do,” he wrote in his new book “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” (Clarkson Potter, $26). “Furthermore I had no interest in becoming an isolated vegan in a world of omnivores and – though I have vegan friends, to be sure – the world of omnivores is where I live. Full time.”

His plan, which he calls “VB6” for short, resulted in a loss of 35 pounds, a weight-reduction that proved to be sustainable over the long haul. And his blood numbers moved in the right direction, too.

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Here’s my shortcut, stop by Trader Joe’s, Gelson’s, Bristol Farms or Mother’s Markets and buy these Melissa’s steamed lentils (usually stocked either in the refrigerated deli or produce department). They are delicious and ready to go! (At Trader Joe’s the label looks different, but the contents are the same.)

Lentil Salad
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons any wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons water
4 cups cooked or canned lentils, drained, see cook’s notes
3 large ripe tomatoes (chopped) or about 14 cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots or radishes
1 cup chopped celery or fennel
1/2 cup chopped red onion, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley
Cook’s notes: Trader Joe’s, Gelson’s Markets, Bristol Farms Markets and Mother’s Markets sell cooked lentils in Cryovac packaging (in the refrigerated deli); they are delicious and can save a lot of time.
If red onions are strong, to reduce mouth-burn, place in ice water to 20 to 30 minutes and drain before using.
1. Put mustard, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add water and whisk to combine.
2. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss until coated with dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning; serve. If making salad in advance, cover and refrigerate, but do not add tomatoes and parsley or dill until just before serving. Allow chilled salad to come to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition information (per serving): 425 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 53 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 1052 mg sodium, 20 g fiber, 11 g sugars
Source: “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” by Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter, $26)

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Lollipop Lamb Chops, Irresistible Finger Foods That Speak Greek

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Personal chef-caterer Katherine Louis Boucher knows how to turn lamb chops into luscious Greek style “lollipop” appetizers. 

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She says to offer guests napkins and stand back to watch the chops disappear.

Watch this short video to see her marinade and grilling technique. Opa!

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The chops are cut from the lamb rack, and each has a curved bone that is meat-free at the bottom making it the perfect handle for finger food grazing.

occhefkatherineready350Growing up in a Greek-American family in Santa Ana, her maiden name was Louis, an Ellis Island adaptation of the original Louizo. Marinated-then-grilled lamb was a culinary tradition in her childhood home, especially on holidays. Her father often prepared whole leg of lamb before deciding a couple of years ago that grilling the chops was easier and more delicious.

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She riffs on her father’s marinade enhancing the mix with chopped fresh parsley and thinly sliced fresh jalapeno chilies.

“Those jalapenos bring a little more depth to the flavor and by the time they are grilled, they are mellow,” she says.

She adds that similar lamp-chop lollipops will be sold at the upcoming “Taste of Greece” festival held June 21to 23 at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church  (4949 Alton Parkway, between Culver Drive and Jeffrey Road, Irvine). A long list of savory and sweet Greek specialties will also be available at the event.

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Louis Lamb Chop “Lollipops”
Yield: 25 chops
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Minced zest and juice of 2 lemons, Meyer lemons preferred
2 fresh jalapeños, halved, seeds removed, thinly sliced, see cook’s notes
2 medium shallots, minced
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
25 rib lamb chops, at least 1-inch at bone ends scrapped to clean them, see cook’s notes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: 1 lemon thinly sliced, Meyer lemon preferred, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies; upon completion wash work surface thoroughly and do NOT touch face or eyes.
The first 2 or 3 ribs off the large end of the rack contain more fat than those closer to the loin.
1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest and juice, jalapenos and shallots. On a cutting board, chop the garlic, oregano and 1/4 cup parsley until coarsely chopped; add to olive oil mixture.
2. Arrange the lamb chops in a nonreactive baking dish; top with the marinade and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
3. Heat grill to medium- high. Season the lamb chops generously with salt and pepper.  Grill until slightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with thinly sliced lemons and parsley.
Source: Katherine Louis Boucher, personal chef, caterer (Chef Katherine Events), consulting chef at Seventh Tea Bar in Costa Mesa

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Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …

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An easy, frothy-like-Cappuccino “cream” of mushroom soup!

From “50 Best Plants on the Planet.”

60 calories per serving

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Cream of Mushroom Soup with Green Onions
Yield: 6 servings
6 to 8 green onions, divided use
Olive oil cooking spray
14 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups)
2 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups fat free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (12-ounce) can fat free evaporated milk
1. Cut green onions into 1/4-inch thick slices. Make two piles; one with the white and light green slices, the other with the dark green stalks. Use enough onions to make about 1/2 cup of white and light green slices.
2. Spray a 4-quart pan or Dutch oven liberally with cooking spray and place on medium-high heat. Add white and light green slices of green onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook until mushrooms are tender-crisp and starting to release liquid, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add broth and evaporated milk. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. I prefer pureeing with an immersion blender – it makes it frothier. BUT, if you don’t have one … Working in 3 batches, puree soup in blender (use caution and hold down lid with potholder), or use a food processor. Ladle soup into bowls and grind a little pepper on each serving. Top with 3 or 4 slices of dark green onion stalks.

Nutritional information (per serving): calories 60; fat calories 0, total fat 0 grams; sat fat 0 grams, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 560 milligrams; total carbohydrates 11 grams; fiber 1 gram; sugars 8 grams; protein 5 grams; vitamin A IUs 8%; vitamin C 6%; calcium 15%; iron 4%.

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…sliced cremini mushrooms …

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Alicia’s Cherry Pie: Better Than Mine

I thought I was the queen of cherry pie. But I was wrong. Alicia is queen.

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Alicia Hitchcock, chef-owner of Alicia’s Cookery in Brea, bakes thousands of cookies each week. In the same time-frame, she also makes about one hundred pies. That’s in addition to an untold number of sandwiches and salads made to nourish the hordes of loyal customers that frequent her eatery.

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It is her unique double-crust cherry pie that I wanted to capture on video.

Her crust is foolproof; a dough recipe that shuns chilled butter or solid vegetable shortening. Instead she uses corn oil. No fancy equipment is required, just a bowl and a silicone spatula. The result is a crust that is scrumptious and crisp.

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To ensure the bottom crust isn’t soggy, she bakes it before adding the filling and top crust.

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She says that the filling was a happy mistake, a formula that came about when her husband called from the golf course asking her to make a cherry pie for his pals. She said that was fine, but he had to stop by the market and buy the cherries.

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I was up goose creek, because he bought the wrong kind of canned cherries,” Chef Hitchcock explains, her deadpan delivery ending with a big smile. Due to her husband’s error, she ended up with two kinds of canned cherries in her recipe, cherry pie filling and sour cherries, then flavor-spiked them with cherry liqueur, cinnamon and almond extract. Plus her secret ingredient, ground cardamom.

“We sell more cherry pies at Thanksgiving than pumpkin or apple,” she says. Sounds like a tribute to the taste, a deliciousness further enhanced by serving a slice with French vanilla ice cream and toasted (or candied) sliced almonds.

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Yield: about 8 servings
Crust:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups corn oil
1/2 cup whole milk
Large plastic bag cut on each side to open it, or parchment paper
Filling:
3 cups prepared cherry filling
3 cups tart cherries in juice (canned or frozen), drained
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided use
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided use
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 teaspoons heavy cream or milk
1. Prepare crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a silicone spatula, mix flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. In a glass measuring cup, mix oil and milk together with a fork. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in oil-milk mixture. Stir to combine with a silicone spatula. Open plastic bag on work surface. Place a little less than half of the dough on open plastic bag or sheet of parchment paper. Form into disk and cover dough with overhanging plastic bag or another sheet of parchment. Roll out until 1/8-inch thick and place in 9 1/2-inch pie pan (Pyrex preferred), lifting it on the plastic or parchment and turning it upside-down to place it in the pan. Crust should just come up to the lip of the pan; if necessary patch dough. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, combine cherry filling, drained tart cherries, 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, cardamom, Kirsch, almond extract and vanilla powder. Stir to combine. Place filling in the baked crust, dot top with butter. Roll out remaining dough in same manner as bottom crust, leaving a small portion of dough behind in the bowl to use for patching when crimping; place on top of filling. Build a ridge around edge of the pie pan and crimp it, using the reserved dough to patch as needed.

3. Brush top crust with cream or milk; sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for two hours before serving. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.
Source: Alicia Hitchcock, Alicia’s Cookery, Brea

Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s Produce …

Egg salad loaded with mayonnaise? You can forget that!

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Substitute plain Greek-style yogurt and boost the flavor with fresh dill, and you’re in business. And I love the idea of a knife-and-fork open-faced sandwich on toasted rustic bread.

Rub the warm toast with a clove of garlic, pile on the nutrient-dense red leaf lettuce and egg salad.

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Watch me make the salad at the end of the cherry pie video.

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Each of these delectable open-faced sandwiches requires a slice of toasted rustic whole grain bread as a foundation. What is rustic bread? It’s not easy to define. Some might describe it as artisanal, but that is also difficult term to qualify. Rustic whole wheat bread is sold whole, unsliced, usually in round or oval shapes. The bread has a crusty exterior and an interior with a chewy texture. No preservatives are used.

Open-Faced Egg Salad Sandwiches
Yield: 4 servings
5 large eggs
4 slices rustic whole grain bread, about 3/8-inch thick
1 large garlic clove cut in half lengthwise
2 1/2 tablespoons plain, fat-free yogurt, plus more if needed.
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon zest (colored portion of peel)
Red leaf lettuce or green leaf lettuce
Optional garnish: chopped chives
1. To hard cook the eggs: Put eggs in small saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Place on high heat. When water comes to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow eggs to sit covered for 12 minutes. Drain and run cold water over eggs. When cool enough to handle, crack and peel in cold water, place in airtight container and refrigerate.

2. Adjust oven rack to 6-inches below broiler element; preheat broiler. Place bread on rimmed baking sheet and place under broiler. Broil until toasted, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; turn on oven light and watch the progress because bread burns easily. Place each piece of toasted bread on a salad plate; rub top of bread with cut-side of garlic.

3. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, dill, salt, pepper and zest; stir to combine. Coarsely chop eggs and add to yogurt mixture; stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, and adding more yogurt if needed for a creamy consistency.

4. Top each toast with a lettuce leaf or two (or more if you like). Top with egg salad. If desired, top with chopped chives.

Nutritional information (per serving): calories 190; fat calories 60, total fat 7 grams; sat fat XX grams, cholesterol 235 milligrams; sodium 230 milligrams; total carbohydrates 16 grams; fiber 3 grams; sugars 3 grams; protein 13 grams; vitamin A IUs 15%; vitamin C 10%; calcium 8%; iron 10%.
FROM: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)

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Surfas Surfaces: Cooking Supplies, Ingredients, Stuff

Late last year, just minutes away from my old favorite restaurant supply shop Chefs’ Toys in Fountain Valley, another independently-owned cooking supply giant opened. Surfas, on the opposite side of the freeway in Costa Mesa’s SoCo Collection, sells more than 18,000 items in a space that boasts over 20,000 square feet. I love the photo that Register photographer Cindy Yamanaka took of the sidewalk outside the entrance.

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For 75 years three generations of the Surfas family have owned the original Surfas in Culver City, branching out over time to include more than strictly culinary equipment.

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The store became food-driven as well, packing aisle after aisle with impressive displays of hard-to-find ingredients. And so it is with the new Costa Mesa Surfas where domestic and imported cheeses and charcuterie abound. There’s a tasting bar with wines by the glass, a café and a demonstration kitchen.

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Olive-Charcuterie-Cheese Tapas-Style Appetizer

My first stop was the cheese counter where I purchased a small block of white cheddar. I knew I wanted something fairly firm and well-aged, unlike the infant-stage cheddars at the supermarket. The cheesemonger had me sample a few before I decided on a small block of 18-month aged Neil’s Yard Keen’s cheddar from England. It had a just-right degree of sharpness balanced with a gentle earthy flavor; it would make it a welcome partner with the thinly sliced lomo embuchado I had my eye on.

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Lomo embuchado is Spanish-style dry cured pork loin that is served cut into paper-thin slices. Spanish smoked paprika plays a role in giving the meat luscious flavor, along with garlic and other spices.

The adjacent catering bar offered open troughs of everything from marinated eggplant to seafood salad to peppadews. I snagged a container and filled it with unpitted Cerignola olives, green ones and red ones. Cerignolas are super-large olives with a mild fruity flavor and firm texture. I also picked up a tube of garlic paste (garlic pureed with oil and salt), an emergency source of garlic that can be easily stored in the refrigerator.

At home, I made an herbaceous paste and spiked it with a squeeze of garlic paste. I tossed drained olives with the paste and topped off the container with olive oil. After marinating in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, I spooned the olives into a serving bowl, reserving a tablespoon of the paste-olive oil mixture. I mixed the reserved mixture with small cubes of the cheddar and served the lightly-coated cheese next to the olives and lomo embuchado slices.

Rosemary Butter Cookies

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Years ago I invited a panel of chefs to evaluate dishes I had made with inexpensive butter and expensive French butter with high butterfat and low water content. I remembered their findings, and how evident their preferences were for sugar cookies made with high-quality butter.

I examined the butter case at Surfas. There were butters from France, Vermont and New Zealand; there was white truffle butter and two kinds of Plugra, butters made in the U.S. by Keller’s Creamery that have rich flavor and low water content.

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I nabbed unsalted Plugra and headed for the impressive baking area. I wanted to find some white sanding sugar, a decorative coarse sugar that doesn’t melt when heated. I found sanding sugars in eighteen glorious colors, so rather than white I selected gold as well as a sage green.

I made Rosemary Butter Cookies, rolling the edges of the chilled log of dough in sanding sugar before slicing and baking. And to accompany the cookies, hot chocolate made from milk, half-and-half and Surfas’ deluxe hot chocolate mix that showcases Valrhona chocolate.

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Rosemary Butter Cookies
The small amount of rosemary used in this recipe yields a very delicate herbal note. If you wish you can omit it. The cookies are delicious served with rich hot chocolate topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
Yield: about 4 dozen
1 cup (8 ounces or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 egg white, beaten until slightly foamy
1/2 cup sanding sugar
Cook’s notes: Sanding sugar is a large-crystal sugar used as an edible decoration that will not dissolve when subjected to heat. It is sold in a variety of colors.
1. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium speed until well blended, about 30 seconds.
2. In separate bowl, place flour, rosemary and salt; use a whisk to stir to combine. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on slow speed until partially combined; increase speed to medium and beat until well blended.
3. Divide dough in half. Place each portion of dough on a large sheet of wax paper. Roll each into a log with diameters of 1 1/2 inches. Enclose in wax paper and twist ends to seal. Place in zipper-style plastic bags and freeze 1 hour.
4. Fifteen minutes before baking, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 to 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sanding sugar on a sheet of wax paper. Brush logs with egg white and roll in sanding sugar to coat. Cut into 1/4-inch wide slices (if there isn’t enough sanding sugar on the edge, I “re-roll” edges of slices in sanding sugar) and place on prepared baking sheets, leaving a 1-inch space between cookies. Bake 17 to 19 minutes, or until bottoms are nicely browned and edges are golden. Sit baking sheets on wire racks to cool. Cooled cookies can be stored airtight for up to 3 days.
Nutrition information (per serving, assuming 2 cookies): 160 calories, 39 percent of calories from fat, 7 g fat, g saturated fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 140 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Cerignola Olive Mix
Cerignola olives, often called Bella di Cerignola olives, are very large and meaty, with crisp texture and mild fruity taste. At Surfas green and red Cerignolas are sold in separate troughs at the catering bar. I like to serve them tossed with herbaceous vinaigrette as an appetizer.
Yield: 2 cups, 10 servings
Zest of 1/2 tangerine, see Step #1
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 inch of garlic paste squeezed from tube
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups Cerignola olives, drained
Extra-virgin olive oil, or lemon extra-virgin olive oil to cover
Cook’s note: You can use leftover marinade to drizzle over salads or grilled rustic bread. Or toss it with cubes of cheese.
1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove peel of half of a tangerine, removing the zest (colored portion of peel) in strips about 1/2-inch wide. Cut strips crosswise into very narrow strips and place in bowl.

2. In food processor, place parsley, thyme, fennel seeds, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture forms a chunky paste. Stir mixture into bowl with tangerine zest strips. Add olives and stir. Add enough olive oil to cover olives. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or up to 1 week.

Nutrition information (per serving, assuming 2 teaspoons): 40 calories,  90 percent of calories from fat, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 2 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g protein, 420 mg sodium, 0.2 g fiber

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Surfas, 3309 Hyland, Costa Mesa  (714) 453-2665

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Poke, Can You Say POH-kay Yum-Oh-Lah?

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Tabu Grill’s Ahi Poke is so scrumptious.

At the hands of a capable home cook or chef, poke is an irresistible dish. The Hawaiian concoction showcases jewel-like cubes of chilled raw ahi (yellowfin tuna) napped with a delectable Asian-themed sauce.

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Rayne Frey, executive chef at Tabu Grill, Laguna Beach, formulates a sauce for poke that is sweet-sour-salty-spicy paradise; the vibrant flavors balance one another in a seductive way, bringing out the best in the fish.

Watch Chef Rayne make poke in this short video. It will make you hungry!

wakame317Garnishes of pickled red onion, sesame seeds, green onion and wakame (salad-like Japanese seaweed) make it incomparable. Here’s a photo of wakame; it’s sold at Japanese markets – if you prefer, you can leave it out. It will still be delicious!

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Frey, who grew up in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, lived and worked in Hawaii in several renowned restaurant kitchens before coming to Tabu Grill three years ago.

Although poke is most often thought of as a starter, he says that you can serve it over sticky rice as an entrée, or over mixed baby greens as a salad.

His recipe makes more sauce than is used to lightly coat the poke’s ahi. I used the leftover sauce on grilled halibut. My husband said it was the best halibut he’d ever had. We vowed to spoon some over skewered and grilled shrimp.

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Halibut with Rayne’s poke sauce.

Darn good.

 

Tabu Grill’s Poke
Yield: 6 to 8 appetizer servings
1/4 cup yuzu juice or fresh lemon juice or fresh lime juice, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup Sriracha sauce (Asian hot sauce)
1/4 cup Asian (roasted) sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound sushi-grade ahi
1/4 cup wakame, divided use, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion, divided use
1/4 cup slivers of pickled red onion, divided use, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup sesame seeds
For serving: taro chips
Cook’s notes: Yuzu is an aromatic citrus fruit that is the signature ingredient in ponzu sauce. It is sold in bottles at Japanese markets. You can substitute either fresh lemon or lime juice. Wakame is a delicious Japanese seaweed salad that is sold at Japanese markets; if you can’t find it, leave it out. To pickle onion, cut a large red onion into thin slivers and put in heatproof bowl; in a saucepan combine 2 cups red wine vinegar and 1 cup sugar and bring to bowl. When sugar dissolves, pour over onion slivers. Let rest 1 hour, or when cool, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Chef used a combination of white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. Taro chips are found at some supermarkets and natural food stores. Trader Joe’s sells them combined with sweet potato chips.
1. Prepare dressing: In large nonreactive bowl, add juice, sugar, honey, soy, oyster sauce and Sriracha; whisk to combine. Whisking, add oils in thin stream.
2. Place ahi in a separate nonreactive bowl. Add just enough sauce to lightly coat ahi; toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed. Add 1/8 cup wakame, 1/8 cup green onions, 1/8 cup pickled red onion; toss.
3. Refrigerate leftover sauce. Garnish with remaining wakame, green onions, pickled red onion and sesame seeds. Accompany with sturdy taro chips.
Source: Rayne Frey, executive chef Tabu Grill, Laguna Beach

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Here’s a quick and luscious tip from Melissa’s …

Beneath a kiwi’s fuzzy brown skin, a delicate sweet-tart treasure awaits. Kiwi’s interior is filled with vibrant flavors and alluring color, either bright green or golden flesh ringed with edible small black seeds that circle around a pale soft core.

Baby kiwi, no bigger than a marble, are edible – skin and all.

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Here’s a power breakfast that teams kiwis with strawberries, yogurt and toasted quinoa. The recipe makes more of the crunchy quinoa topping than is used in the dish. Once cooled, the quinoa mixture can be stored airtight up to one week at room temperature. Crunchy and nutty, the mixture is also delicious atop rice, baked apples or sliced stone fruit.

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Breakfast Bowls with Toasted Quinoa, Kiwi and Strawberries
Yield: 6 servings
1 1/4 cups white quinoa
1 tablespoon agave syrup, plus 1 teaspoon, divided use
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
1 cup sliced ripe strawberries
2 kiwi, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into crosswise slices, or 14 baby kiwi, halved
4 cups (2 percent fat) plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer under cold running water for about 45 seconds; shake strainer rigorously from side to side to remove as much water as possible.

2. Place well-drained quinoa on rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1 tablespoon agave syrup and oil on top; mix with rubber spatula or clean hands to combine and spread quinoa into single layer as much as possible. Bake until crisp, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 11 minutes. Place baking sheet on cooling rack: cool thoroughly.

3. In medium bowl, toss strawberries and kiwis with 1 teaspoon agave syrup.

4. Divide yogurt between 6 bowls. Top each with fruit mixture and sprinkle each serving with about 2 tablespoon of the crunchy quinoa. Serve.

Nutritional information (per serving, figuring 2 tablespoons topping): calories 290; fat calories 70, total fat 8 grams; sat fat 2.5 grams, cholesterol 10 milligrams; sodium 60 milligrams; total carbohydrates 39 grams; fiber 3 grams; sugars 13 grams; protein 18 grams

Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)

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Steak and Eggs – Charlie Palmer Style

Composed Salad of Flash-Seared Steak and Japanese Omelet – grab a fork!

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Charlie Palmer, celebrity chef and über restaurateur, has a culinary style that is often dubbed “progressive American,” a designation based on his irresistible cuisine that showcases American ingredients in vibrantly-flavored dishes.

With restaurants from coast to coast, Palmer’s Orange County restaurant, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s, offers tempting brunches on Sundays.

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For their brunch menu, Palmer and executive chef Seakyeong Kim teamed up to create a dish with a unique take on steak and eggs.

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Their Composed Salad of Flash-Seared Steak and Japanese Omelet crowns a beautifully seared ribeye with a tangle of greens, a crisp concoction of mixed baby greens with a spicy edge, cucumber slices and finely chopped fresh mint.

The vinaigrette used to nap the salad is made in the skillet used to cook the steak, combining caramelized shallots with sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard and e.v. olive oil.

On the side is a spiral of Japanese-style omelet. Spiked with a mirepoix of very finely diced vegetables, the thin layer of eggs is baked in a nonstick rimmed baking sheet. Out of the oven, it is rolled up jellyroll style, then cut into diagonal 1/2-inch portions and placed next to the steak.

 Watch Charlie prepare it in this short video. He shows off some interesting techniques in the preparations.

The flavors and contrasting textures are luscious; visually it is stunning. Here’s the recipe:

Composed Salad of Flash-Seared Steak and Japanese Omelet
Yield: 2 servings
Japanese Omelet:
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetables, cut brunoise, see cook’s notes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salad:
1/2 hothouse cucumber
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup mixed baby greens of choice, such as baby spinach, tatsoi, mizuna and red beet green
Steaks:
2 (6- to 7-ounce) boneless ribeye steaks, 1/2- inch thick
Salt, Maldon sea salt flakes preferred, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more if needed to generously coat skillet
Shallot Pan Vinaigrette:
2 cups finely diced shallot
1 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Cook’s notes: Brunoise means something is very finely diced into cubes that are 1/8-by-1/8-by-1/8 inch. You need a little celery, onion and carrot. Finely dice or mince vegetables.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg and vegetables to combine; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add oil to a nonstick 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet; rub to coat surface with oil. Bake in middle of preheated oven until just set but not browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
2. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Peel it with a vegetable peeler, leaving sections unpeeled. Cut into 1/8-inch crosswise slices on the diagonal. Place in bowl with mint and greens. Set aside.
3. Starting at one end, roll up omelet. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Heat skillet that is large enough to hold both steaks on high heat. Add canola oil and heat until starting to smoke. Remove from heat.  Cautiously add steaks and return to heat. Sear, about 12 to 20 seconds on each side. Place each steak on a dinner plate.
4. Use same skillet, unwashed, to make vinaigrette. On medium-high heat, add shallots and cook, scraping up brown bits, until softened and nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Stir in oil in a thin stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently toss salad with enough vinaigrette to very lightly coat. Cut rolled omelet into 1/2-inch portions on the diagonal and place next to steak. Place salad on steak. Drizzle a little vinaigrette around the plate and over the omelet slices.
Source: Charlie Palmer, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s

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Jet Tila’s Chicken and Waffles: Alluring Asian Twist Makes Them Yum-Oh-Lah

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Chef-restaurateur Jet Tila grew up in the food business, learning about Asian cuisine both in his family’s Thai grocery store, Bangkok Market in Hollywood, as well as their many restaurants.

He spent childhood summers working at his uncle’s Royal Thai Restaurant in Newport Beach, where he moved up over time from dishwasher to server. He admits that he viewed the work as miserable, and says that he had his eye on becoming a policeman.

But culinary passion took over when he was asked to teach cooking classes.

Watch Jet make his oh-so-luscious chicken and waffles in this short video. Maple syrup and Sriracha? You bet!

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Pure maple syrup, Sriracha and herbaceous compound butter meld over the surface.

An alluring mix of sweet, spicy and just-right saltiness, the crisp, golden brown fried chicken and crisp waffles are flavor boosted with Thai-inspired Sriracha hot sauce as well as real maple syrup. The dish is number one in popularity at the jazz Sunday brunches held at his Santa Monica gastro-lounge, The Charleston.

Jet’s accomplishments are many, including the creation of Wazuzu, the Pan-Asian restaurant at Steve Wynn’s Encore in Las Vegas, as well as his appearance on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” On the show, themed “Battle Seaweed,” his opponent was the acclaimed chef Masaharu Morimoto. Morimoto’s cuisine reigned supreme, but only by a mere four points.

Tila’s radio program, the “SoCal Restaurant Show,” broadcasts from Angel Stadium in Anaheim on KLAA AM830, Saturday mornings from 10:30 to noon.

Here is the recipe. If you like, you can eliminate many of the ingredients and the first three steps by substituting your favorite frozen waffles.

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Chef Jet’s Chicken and Waffles
Yield: 4 servings
3 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s
4 (4- to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded or sliced diagonally 3/4-inch thick
Waffles:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) baking powder
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick spray
For frying chicken:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 cup panko
1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s
Canola oil for deep frying
Presentation:
Pure maple syrup
Sriracha sauce, to taste, see cook’s notes
Compound butter: 1 stick softened salted butter mixed with 2 teaspoons minced lemon zest and 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
Cook’s notes: Sriracha sauce, sometimes called rooster sauce because the most popular brand has a rooster on the label, is a hot sauce most often packaged in squeeze bottles. The spicy, tangy sauce has a very subtle hint of sweetness; it is made with red chilies, garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar
1. In a medium-large nonreactive bowl, combine buttermilk and seasoned salt. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
2. Heat waffle iron. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a separate medium-large bowl, whisk eggs until pale in color and well blended. Whisk in milk. Whisk in salt and sugar. Whisk in flour mixture, 1/2 cup oil and vanilla, mixing just until mixture comes together (there will be some small lumps – that’s what you want). Finish with a couple of stirs using a silicone spatula, scraping against the sides and bottom of the bowl.
3. Spray heated waffle iron generously with nonstick spray. Add amount of batter to correctly fill waffle iron (see manufacturer’s directions for your waffle iron). Close iron and heat until nicely browned and crisp. Repeat, making enough waffles for 4 servings (Chef Tila’s waffle iron is divided into quarters; he uses 2 quarters for each serving).
4. In a shallow pan, combine flour, panko and seasoned salt; place it next to stove. Place a plate lined with paper towels next to stove. In a deep Dutch oven, heat about 3 inches of canola oil to between 360- and 375-degrees. Place one piece of chicken with buttermilk still clinging to it (do not shake if off) into the panko mixture. Firmly press panko mixture into chicken on both sides; shake off excess. Place chicken in heated oil, cautiously placing it away from you. Turn as needed with tongs. Fry until nicely browned and chicken is thoroughly cooked (165 degrees), about 3 to 5 minutes. Depending on the size of your pan, you can fry 2 or 3 pieces at a time.
5. Angle two waffle quarters on each plate. Angle chicken on waffles so that it stands up; top with maple syrup. Place a small scoop of compound butter on the chicken. Squeeze zigzags of Sriracha on top, to taste. Serve.
Source: Chef-restaurateur, radio host Jet Tila

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A Quick Tip From Melissa’s

Think Brussels sprouts are yucky?

THINK AGAIN!!!!

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I love to cut the orbs in half, then sear-steam them.

It an easy approach that brings out the best in the Brussels sprouts, which need to be no bigger than medium size. They are well browned on the cut side in a little olive oil and butter on medium heat, then covered and cooked on low heat until tender crisp.

The caramelization on the cut side makes them sweet, while the final steaming creates alluring texture.

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 I topped the cooked Brussels with coarsely chopped salted Marcona almonds.

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Best Apple Salad Ever! Zimzala’s Roy Hendrickson’s Irresistible Starter

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Reading the salad menu at Zimzala Restaurant always makes me hungry.

There is the Hearts of Romaine Salad napped with a hardy aged-jack cheese dressing and adorned with a perfectly-caramelized onion topped crostini.

And there’s the Shorebreak Wedge, a tasty mix of Nueske smoked bacon, baby heirloom tomatoes, fried red onions, blue cheese dressing and buttermilk blue cheese crumbles.

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It’s the Heirloom Apple Salad augmented with granola clusters, butter lettuce, Humboldt Fog cheese and high-quality lemon extra-virgin olive, that to my way of thinking is the salad star of stars.

I asked Roy Hendrickson, executive chef at Zimzala (Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach) if he would show me how he prepares the apple salad.

Here’s a SHORT video that shows how easy it is to make this delicious salad.

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The only time consuming part of the recipe is baking the apple chips that are used to garnish the salad. Home cooks could eliminate the fancy finish and shave off prep time; it takes one hour or so to turn thin-cut raw apple slices into beautifully brown crisp chips.

 

humboldtfogSoft-ripened Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove (California) is essential; it’s sold at most cheese shops and supermarkets with large cheese sections.

It is two irresistible layers of goat cheese with a layer of vegetable ash between them. It is rolled in ash and develops a soft white rind. A little oozy-goosy around the edge, the cheese’s center remains intact. Chef Roy cuts it into irregular chunks and wedges before adding it to the mixture.

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Chef uses five varieties of apples in the salad.

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Zimzala’s Apple Salad
Yield: 1 serving
Garnish:
1 medium-size skin-on Granny Smith apple, washed, dried
Non-stick spray
Cinnamon stick or pinch of ground cinnamon
Whole nutmeg or pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
Salad:
6-8 leaves butter lettuce, washed, drained
1/3 of each of 4 skin-on apples (Golden Delicious, Ambrosia, Braeburn and Fuji)
1 1/2 ounces Humboldt Fog cheese, cut into irregular chunks and wedges
2 tablespoons granola
1 tablespoon micro celery or the roughly chopped leaves of celery heart
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin lemon olive oil, see cook’s notes
Yield: 1 generous salad
Cook’s notes: At Zimzala, they make their granola with bran flakes, sesame seeds, pistachios, honey, canola oil, salt and slivered almonds. Chef Hendrickson says you can use store-bought granola, preferably one without dried fruit. Lemon-spiked extra-virgin olive oil is sold at upscale supermarkets and specialty shops. You can make it by adding finely minced lemon zest (colored portion of peel) to extra-virgin olive oil in a small saucepan. Warm mixture gently on medium heat; pour into bowl, cover and steep for several hours.
1. For apple chip garnish: Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut Granny Smith apple into very thin slices, either using a sharp knife or mandoline. Spray parchment paper with non-stick spray and place apple slices in a single layer on top. Spray apples lightly with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Use a microphane to grate cinnamon and nutmeg lightly over the tops of the apple slices. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and a second rimmed baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove top baking sheet and top parchment paper; return apples to oven. Bake until nicely browned. Cool.
2.  Place lettuce in large bowl. You will only use 1/3 of each apple. Cut portion of Golden Delicious that you are using into small cubes. Cut Ambrosia apple in half and cut into thin slices. Cut portion of Braeburn apple that you are using into thin matchsticks. Cut portion of Fuji apple that you are using into thin wedges. Place apples with lettuce in bowl. Add granola and micro celery or celery leaves. Drizzle on vinegar and toss. Drizzle on lemon olive oil and toss. Taste and add a little salt if needed or a little more lemon olive oil.
3. Place lettuce on serving plate. Top with apple mixture. Garnish with apple chip.
Source: Roy Hendrickson, executive chef Zimzala, Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach

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****Quick Tip from Melissa’s****

asparagushorizontalNickAsparagus is the most nutrient dense vegetable on the planet. On the Nutrient Balance Indicator, a trademarked analysis that illustrates nutrient density, kale weighs in at 85 points, spinach a little higher at 91 and asparagus a whopping 94.

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A gingered brown rice bowl is a luscious way to showcase asparagus. Here’s the recipe:

Gingered Brown Rice Confetti with Asparagus, Carrots and Mint
Yield: 8 servings
2 1/4 cups fat free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1 cup long-grain brown rice (such as Texmati)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks about 3/4-by-1/8-by-1/8 inches (some markets sell them ready-to-use in cellophane bags)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces, tips left whole
1 teaspoon agave syrup
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon minced fresh unpeeled ginger
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
3 green onions, trimmed, cut into thin slices
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) to taste
Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnish: lime wedges
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: Toasted sesame seeds are sold at some supermarkets and most Asian markets. Or, if you prefer, you can toast them. To toast sesame seeds, place in small skillet on medium-high heat. Shake handle to redistribute seeds, cooking until lightly browned. Remove from heat and cool.
1. In heavy-bottomed, medium-large saucepan (that has a tight fitting lid) bring broth (or water) to a boil on high heat. Stir in rice and salt. Cover, reduce heat to low and gently simmer 30 minutes. Add carrots and asparagus (no need to stir them in); cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until rice is tender and vegetables are tender-crisp, and broth or water is absorbed. Transfer to large bowl; fluff gently with fork.
2. In small bowl or glass measuring cup with a handle, mix agave, lime zest and juice, ginger, mint, green onion, salt and pepper. Add to rice mixture and gently toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Top with toasted sesame seeds, if using. Serve with lime wedges for optional use.
Nutritional information (per serving without sesame seeds): calories 120; fat calories 10, total fat 1 gram; sat fat 0 grams, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 740 milligrams; total carbohydrates 24 grams; fiber 4 grams; sugars 3 grams; protein 4 grams; vitamin A IUs 90%; vitamin C 15%; calcium 4%; iron 10%.
Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $35)

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