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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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)



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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           ***************************************************************************



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.






Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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)



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best Bass – Beyond Delectable at Scott’s Restaurant & Bar


Michael “Mike” Doctulero, executive chef at Scott’s Restaurant & Bar in Costa Mesa, fell in love with cooking early in his childhood. Working in the kitchen with his grandfather fueled the fun. One of his fondest early memories is the time spent with his granddad while spreading newspaper on the kitchen table and devouring fresh Dungeness crab. Earlier in the day, they caught the treasured seafood off the San Francisco piers.


In his almost 20 years at the restaurant, Doctulero’s inventive style with fish cookery has consistently impressed me. When I asked him to share some secrets in a video, he suggested the popular Chilean seabass that is marinated in a sake kasu mixture, an then seared and served with sushi rice and tangy red pepper relish.

Watch this short video to see all the tricks for making this dish.

It’s over-the-moon delicious, but I was concerned about the fish species’ sustainability status.

I queried him about the Chilean seabass (Patagonian Toothfish) and he assured me that it is no longer on the endangered list, referring me to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Website, Seafood Watch.

“Longline-caught Chilean seabass from the Heard and McDonald Islands, the Falkland Islands and Macquarie Island are a ‘best choice’ because of effective management practices that have ramped up to preserve an abundant population, and mitigated the effects of catching unwanted species,” according to the Website (seafoodwatch.org). “Each of these toothfish fisheries, with the exception of the Falkland Islands, is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).”

If you wish, other firm white-fleshed fish can be substituted.



Scott’s Sake Kasu Chilean Seabass
Yield: 4 servings
1/4 cup sake kasu, see cook’s notes
2 cups water
4 (5 to 6 ounces each) Chilean seabass fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
4 cups cooked nishiki sushi rice, see cook’s notes
8 cups clean spinach, thick stems removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 tablespoons red pepper relish, recipe included
Cook’s notes: Sake kasu are the lees (residual yeast) left over from sake production. It is sold at Marukai or Mitsuwa markets in Costa Mesa. If desired, substitute white miso (sold at natural food stores, Japanese markets and some supermarkets). For sushi rice, rinse 2 cups Japanese rice (such as Nishiki) with water. Drain. Place in rice cooker; add water to 1 inch above the top of the rice; cover, and cook. Allow it to rest 10 minutes. Transfer rice to a large shallow bowl; using a diagonal slicing motion, gently cut into rice with a wooden paddle. Pour 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar over top of rice. “Cut” rice with paddle several times to evenly distribute vinegar mixture, then cool. Gently turn rice over from time to time with paddle so that rice cools evenly.
1. In a large nonreactive bowl, combine sake kasu and water (you may need to work it in with your hands to dissolve it). Add fish and marinate, covered in refrigerator, 4 to 6 hours.
2. Prepare sushi rice and red pepper relish.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a hot large, deep ovenproof skillet, heat half of oil on high heat. Sear both sides of the marinated bass, then bake in preheated oven, 6 to 8 minutes or until just cooked through (time varies depending on thickness of fish).
4. Heat remaining olive oil in large, deep skillet. Add spinach and cook, tossing frequently until leaves are soft, yet a little crunchy. Season with salt and pepper Plate spinach and sushi rice on individual plates. Remove fish from oven; place over rice and spinach. Top with red pepper relish.
Red Pepper Relish
Yield: about 2 cups
2 red peppers, seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice, see cook’s notes
1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup sugar
1 whole (small) lemon, cut into 4 pieces, seeds removed if present
1 cup water
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
Cook’s notes: Chef Doctulero uses ripe (red) fresh Fresno chilies. If you can’t find them, substitute red bell peppers, adding a little more jalapeno if desired for desired spiciness.
1. Place all ingredients into a large, deep non-stick skillet. Simmer slowly until sugar is dissolved and mixture reduces to a marmalade consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Source: Mike Doctulero, executive chef Scott’s  Restaurant & Bar, Costa Mesa


Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s ….


In French homes, a simple salad is often served after the entrée as a separate course. It’s a refreshing palate cleanser, sometimes followed with a cheese course, fruit or something sweet. A simple trick enables the host or hostess to stay at the table and toss the salad with the dressing when it is time to serve it.


The vinaigrette is made in the bottom of the salad bowl, and then the salad servers (often referred to as salad tongs) are crisscrossed over the dressing for a makeshift shelf. The torn lettuce is gingerly placed on top of the tongs. The salad is placed close to the host or hostess, generally on a side table or cart.

At serving time, the tongs are removed and the lettuce falls into the dressing and is quickly tossed and served. Voila!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars – Gotta Try This


Doesn’t the thought of caramel make your taste buds perk up?

The taste and texture are so luscious, so luxurious.


My favorite? Chocolate-Caramel Shortbread Bars – shortbread on the bottom and caramel-amped chocolate on top. DELICIOUS.

Caramel flavor is hard to pin down in words. Carole Bloom, author of “Caramel” (Gibbs Smith, $24.99) said that is because the word caramel itself is often used to describe the flavor of wine or foods.


“It’s a rich, pleasurable flavor that everyone loves,” Bloom said. “The sugar is caramelized to a dark color creating depth of flavor.”


“Caramel” by Carole Bloom (Gibbs Smith, $24.99)

For me, the flavor offers a just-right amount of sweetness, a taste made even more irresistible by an alluring aroma. Caramel enlivens everything from versatile sauces to candies to bar cookies; custards, tarts and ice creams.

TIP: Cookbook author Carole Bloom advises that when you decide which caramel treat you want to make, read through the entire recipe before getting started to make sure you have all the necessary equipment, utensils and ingredients. She recommends that you layout everything you will need, including all the measured ingredients. If some preparation work is required, such as chopping or toasting nuts, do that before you start the recipe.

Chocolate-Caramel Shortbread Bars
Yield: 16 (4-by-1-inch) bars
Nonstick spray
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces, 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 3?4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt
Chocolate Caramel:
10 ounces bittersweet (64 to 70% cacao content) chocolate, finely chopped, see cook’s notes
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt
Cook’s notes: It is important to use a chocolate that is high in cacao; Bloom recommends 64 to 70 percent. I used the Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s that is labeled “72 percent dark chocolate.” It was delicious.
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, letting it curl over the edges. Spray the foil with nonstick baking spray.
2. Prepare shortbread: Beat butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the flat beater attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat mixture together until smooth and completely mixed.
3. In a medium bowl, sift the flour. Add the salt and toss to blend. Add this mixture to the butter mixture, in 3 stages, blending completely. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Dust your fingertips with flour and press the shortbread evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
4. Prepare chocolate caramel: Place the chocolate in a large heat-resistant bowl; set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil around the edges, then brush around the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of the pan. Do this twice during the cooking process to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Cook the mixture over high heat, without stirring, until it turns amber colored, 6 to 8 minutes. When the mixture is amber colored, remove pan from heat and immediately add the butter, cream, and salt. Be very careful because the mixture will bubble, foam and steam. Stir constantly with a long handled heat-resistant spatula until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour this mixture over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then stir together until completely combined. Let the chocolate caramel stand for 8 minutes to cool, stirring frequently.
5. Pour the chocolate caramel over the shortbread in the pan. Cover the top of the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until the chocolate caramel is firm.
6. Use the edges of the aluminum foil to lift the shortbread from the pan then carefully peel the foil away from the shortbread. Use a large chef’s knife dipped in warm water and dried to trim the edges of the shortbread. Cut the shortbread in half; then cut each half into 8 equal bars, dipping the knife in warm water and drying between each cut. Serve the bars at room temperature. (I like to cut the bars into small squares!)
Make ahead: Store bars tightly covered with aluminum foil at room temperature up to three days.
Nutrition information (per serving): 222 calories, 59 percent of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 4.1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 64 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber
Source: adapted from “Caramels” by Carole Bloom (Gibbs Smith, $24.99)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stonehill Tavern’s Scrumptious Holiday Burger – It Has It All


Raj Dixit, executive chef at Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, makes a  scrumptious holiday-themed turkey burger. It captures the bright flavors of a traditional holiday turkey menu: turkey, gravy, crisp apple salad, cranberry marmalade and a sweet potato bun.


Dixit grew up in Mission Viejo, about a ten-minute drive from where he works. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Dixit studied and worked in kitchens in France, Spain and Japan before cooking in in some of New York City’s most prestigious restaurants.

Watch Chef Dixit make it happen in this short video!


I dream of his whole-fried Jidori chicken served with long beans and truffled mac and cheese. And his masterfully cooked Kurobuta pork belly and bone-in chop served with perfect spaetzle. But his seasonal burger  is the source of new longing.



The home cook may prefer to take some shortcuts. Prepared whole cranberry sauce could substitute for his made-from-scratch version. Store-bought potato buns could replace his made-in-house sweet potato pan au lait buns. Leftover turkey gravy or, heaven forbid, prepared turkey gravy, could be swapped for freshly made.


Dixit freshly grinds the turkey he uses, generally a Bourbon Red heritage bird. He combines 50 percent dark meat and 50 perfect white, so when buying ground turkey at the supermarket, don’t opt for the extra lean.

Stonehill Tavern’s Holiday-Themed Turkey Burger
Yield: 4 burgers
Cranberry Marmalade Spread
1/2 cup whole fresh cranberries
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, boiled down to 1 1/2 cups
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1 small parsnip, peeled, finely diced
1 small celery stalk, finely diced
3 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground turkey, not extra lean
1/2 cup finely diced apricots
About 4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
3/4 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Apple Salad:
2 heads Little Gem lettuce or small hearts of romaine, cut into thin strips on diagonal
1 apple, Pink Lady or Fuji, unpeeled, cut into matchsticks (julienne)
1/2 cup very thinly sliced white onion
Vinaigrette: 1/2 cup cider vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt to taste
4 buns, brioche or pretzel (or potato roll), toasted
1. Prepare marmalade: Place all marmalade ingredients in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan; bring to boil. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool; remove cinnamon stick. Puree if desired in food processor.
2. Prepare gravy: In a medium saucepan on medium heat, combine butter and flour. Whisking frequently, cook mixture 1 minute. Whisk in stock. Bring to boil, whisking constantly on medium-high heat, until mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper; set aside to cool.
3. Prepare patties: In medium skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat; add onion, parsnip and celery. Cook until softened, reducing heat if necessary. Stir in garlic; cook until softened, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. If preparing patties ahead, cool mixture completely.  Preheat barbecue. In large bowl combine vegetable mixture, ground turkey, 1/4 cup cool gravy, apricots, panko, sage and parsley. Gently form into 4 patties.
4. Grill patties: Chef Dixit uses a hot cast iron skillet with a little vegetable oil that heats on the grill, but he says that patties can be grilled directly on a clean, oiled grate. Cook on both sides until cooked through.
5. Prepare salad: Place lettuce, apples and onion in bowl. Drizzle enough vinaigrette to lightly coat leaves around side of bowl; toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
6. Assemble: Slather bottom of toasted bun with cranberry marmalade. Top with burger. Top with apple salad and top bun.
Source: Raj Dixit, executive chef Stonehill Tavern, St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point


A quick tip from Melissa’s …


Here’s a delicious passed appetizer that is quick-to-prepare!

Shots of cold cucumber soup.


Chilled soup: In blender combine 1 peeled and sliced hothouse cucumber or 2 peeled, seeded and sliced common cucumbers, 2 1/4 cups honeydew melon chunks, 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint and 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt. Cover and whirl until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

From: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95, available at melissas.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mahi Mahi a la Salt Creek Grille


Salt Creek Grille’s Mahi Mahi

Including liquid pectin in a glaze for fish was new to me. I was eager to see how Scott Green, the company executive chef for the Salt Creek Grille restaurants, utilized it in his Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi.

Joining me in my home kitchen, he showed me how he prepares the glaze that includes full-flavored components such as a reduction of sweetened fresh orange juice, lemongrass and ginger.

Here’s short video to see how Chef Scott Green prepares the fish and kale side dish.


Pectin, a substance found in ripe fruits and vegetables that is used for thickening, not only changes the consistency of the flavorful glaze, it also makes it shimmery. The surface of the fish has appealing glossiness once the glaze is spooned over it.


The fish is cooked over a mesquite-fueled grill at Salt Creek Grille in Dana Point, the restaurants’ Orange County location. In my kitchen, Green used a grill pan on my stovetop.


Two colorful accompaniments shared the plate with the fish, a generous smear of avocado mousse, as well as quick-to-prepare kale concoction. The kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped, was sautéed with garlic until it began to wilt. Halved cherry tomatoes and peeled orange segments came to the party and the bright green and red combo was ready.


Green grew up in Palos Verdes and is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a degree in Culinary Arts. He lives in Irvine with his wife Sarah and two children.

Scott Green’s Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi
1 serving, with enough glaze and mousse for 4 to 6 servings
Citrus Glaze:
2 cups fresh orange juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 stalk lemongrass (lower portion), bruised with back of knife
1/2-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, crushed
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 small shallot, sliced thin
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
2 ounces liquid pectin, such as Certo brand liquid pectin
1 5-by-5-inch square of cheesecloth
Avocado Mousse:
2 medium-ripe avocados
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 small garlic clove, peeled, crushed
1/4 jalapeno, sliced, seeded
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons cold water
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
One 7-ounce mahi mahi filet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil or canola oil for brushing on grill pan
2 ounces Citrus Glaze, divided use, recipe included
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup kale, central stems removed, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cherry tomatoes, halved top to bottom
5 orange peeled segments
1/4 cup Avocado Mousse
Optional garnish: small amount of microgreens
Cook’s notes: A grill pan is a heavy metal pan containing ridges spaced evenly across the bottom. The glaze can be prepared up to two days in advance and refrigerated. To cut orange into peeled segments: Cut top and bottom off orange, making those two cuts parallel to each other and cutting just below white pith.  Place cut-side down on work surface. Cut off peel and pith in strips about 1-inch wide, starting at the top of the fruit and cutting down (following contour of shape). Use a sharp small knife to cut parallel to one section’s membrane, cut to center; turn knife and cut along the membrane on the other side of that section to remove it. Repeat until all sections are removed. The kale, tomatoes and oranges came from local grower VR Green Farms in San Clemente.
1. Prepare glaze: 1. In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat bring the orange juice and sugar to a simmer; stir to dissolve sugar. Slowly reduce to half its original volume. Meanwhile, make bouquet garni: place the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallot and rosemary in cheesecloth and tie to close it using cotton string. Add it to the orange juice reduction and simmer 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 45 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Remove bouquet garni and stir in liquid pectin. Set aside.
2. For mousse: Place all ingredients except for the cream in a blender; puree until smooth on low speed. Stop and stir the mixture if it becomes too stiff. With motor running, slowly add the heavy cream.
3. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat grill pan on high heat and brush with oil; add fish and cook until cooked through, turning half way through cooking. Place fish on a rimmed plate and coat with 2 tablespoons of citrus glaze.
4. While the fish is resting, heat olive oil in a medium-size skillet on high heat. Add kale and garlic; sauté until kale begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and orange segments; gently toss and cook just long enough to heat tomatoes and oranges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Make a generous smear of mousse across plate. Place kale mixture on one side and top with fish; spoon 2 tablespoons citrus glaze on top, and drizzling some around edge of plate and over the mousse. If desired, top with a small amount of microgreens.
Source: Executive Chef Scott Green, Salt Creek Grille, Dana Point


Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s!

cucumbersstilllife450Peppery Jack cheese adds a perky edge to the chopped salad mixture.


Pita Sandwiches Stuffed with that chopped salad and cheese are scrumptious for lunch or a light dinner.

Each sandwich weighs in at 270 calories. Not bad!!!!

Pita Sandwiches Stuffed with Chopped Salad and Cheese
Yield:  8 halves
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or fresh basil
1/2 tsp. each:  salt and pepper
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 hothouse cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup sliced pitted green olives
1 cup grated pepper-jack cheese
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
4 pita rounds, 6 1/2-inch
1. In large bowl, combine lime juice, oil and honey; stir to combine. Add mint, salt and pepper; stir to combine.
2. Add avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes and green olives; gently toss. Add cheese and lettuce; toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cut pita rounds in half, open pocket and fill each half with salad. Do not over-fill or pita will tear.
Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)

You can watch me make these sandwiches at the end of Scott Green’s video (see above).



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment