Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Big Game Snacks - Stephen Colbert Said Don't Call Them "Super Bowl Sunday" Snacks

Last night Stephen Colbert warned that anyone writing about Super Bowl Sunday should beware the wrath of the NFL. His workaround for a week-long series of specials devoted to Super Bowl Sunday was to call it "The Big Game."


I'll take Colbert's lead anytime, so here are my suggestions for snacks to enjoy during The Big Game on this coming Sunday.

The easiest snacks are store bought. No one has to stay in the kitchen to serve the pizza, dips and chips, beer and sodas. But fast food doesn't make you feel good. There are easy ways to make food for friends that only require a bit of time in the kitchen and here are some suggestions.

All these dishes can be made the day ahead, so on Sunday, you can spend the morning lounging in  front of the TV watching the pundits analyze the upcoming game.

Roasted Beet Salad

Requiring little to no effort, the beets do all the work.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large beets, washed
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 scallion (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a Silpat sheet.

Leaving the skins on the beets allows them to cook in their sweet juices. No need to wrap them in aluminum foil and definitely don't peel them. Place them on the lined baking sheet, Drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place in the oven.

Depending on the size of the beets, the cooking time is anywhere from 30-90 minutes. For even cooking, turn the beets every half hour. Use a pairing knife to test for doneness. Don't let them overly cook. They are best cooked al dente, so there is a firmness.

In a small saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar over a low flame until the 1 tablespoon is reduced on 1 teaspoon. Set aside.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the beets to cool.

For the salad, the beets should be peeled, the top and root end removed. To avoid staining your hands, use plastic gloves. The skin should come off easily. Don't cut away any of the flesh.

Cut the beets into any shape you like--wedge, diced, sliced or julienned. Season with the olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Optionally, finish the beets with a finely sliced scallion. Also, optional, dust with cayenne to add a bit of heat.

Kimchi Chicken Wings

Much more effort is required to make Kimchi Chicken Wings. The result is so delicious, they are definitely worth the extra effort. The wings can be cooked the day ahead and refrigerated, then reheated before the game. The wings are delicious served hot or at room temperature.

Servies 4

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, washed, pat dried
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup kimchi, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kimchi water from the bottle
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, washed, peeled, sliced thin
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

Dissolve the brown sugar in the kimchi water, olive oil, and soy sauce. Add the kimchi, onion slices, and chicken wings. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with tin foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on the tray and arrange the wings on the rack. Drizzle the wings with olive oil. Put into the oven and bake 30 minutes. Turn over with tongs. 

Bake another 30 minutes. The wings should be tender and golden brown. If not, turn the wings over and continue baking another 10 minutes. Check again and continue baking at 10 minute intervals, turning the wings each time, until they are done.

In a small saucepan on a low flame, reduce the marinade by a third. Reserve.

Pour the heated, reduced marinade over the wings. Place in a leak proof container. 

Make sure everyone has plenty of napkins and a chilled drink of choice.

Variations

Add 1 tablespoon julienned garlic and 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley to the marinade
Just before serving, top with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

Serves 6-8 (makes 1 quart)

Ingredients

8 large carrots (preferably farmers market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions.

Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Add chopped capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds

Chicken Salad with Mango Chutney and Roasted Almonds


The salad can be eaten on small romaine lettuce leaves, crackers, bread or heated tortillas. The dish has a flavor pleasing mix of savory (chicken), sweet (mango), crunchy (almonds) and heat (cayenne). The dish can be made with either white or dark meat. Personally, I think the dark meat has more flavor.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, pat dried
1/4 cup whole, raw almonds
2 tablespoons or 1/4 cup mango chutney (amount depends on taste), finely chop the fruit
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Heilman's or Best Foods)
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
1 scallion, washed, pat dried, root end trimmed, green and white parts finely chopped (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place whole chicken breast side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or a Silpat sheet. Season with sea salt and black pepper. After 30 minutes, remove and turn over the chicken.

Season the breast side with sea salt and black pepper. Return to the oven. After 30 minutes, check for doneness by moving one of the legs. The chicken is fully cooked once the leg moves easily. Continue cooking until done. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Because it is criminal to waste food, make stock with the skin and bones by covering them with water in a large pot. Simmer 60 minutes, strain, remove the bones and skin, reserving any bits of meat for soup. Refrigerate the stock, skim and discard the fat. The stock can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or kept frozen for several months.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and mango chutney. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces. Place the cut up chicken, parsley, scallion (optional), cayenne into the bowl with the dressing. Toss well. At this point the chicken salad can be refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Toaste the whole almonds in a toaster oven heated to 300 F for 5 minutes. Turn the almonds and continue toasting for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Roughly chop and reserve.

To keep the almonds crisp, sprinkle them on the chicken salad just before serving.

Variations

Substitute cilantro for Italian parsley.

Add 1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped.

Substitute finely chopped yellow onion for the scallion (optional).

Sauté 1/4 teaspoon cumin and turmeric in 1 teaspoon olive oil until nut brown. Add to the mayonnaise-mango chutney dressing. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift, Handmade Chocolate Truffles

One of the things I love about travel is discovering new culinary ideas. In the fall I spent three weeks in Switzerland. Traveling around Lake Geneva, part of the focus for the research trip was chocolate. We visited dozens of artisans whose passion for chocolate led them to create their own unique, handmade confections.
Sharing an insistence on using quality ingredients, all their chocolates were different, reflecting the personality and palate of the individual chocolatier.

Last year I created mini-bars that riffed on classic American candy bars. This year I combined the lessons from Switzerland with my desire to reach back into my memory for flavors and textures I loved as a child.
The result is a deliciously unique chocolate, a truffle with layers of flavor and the sweet crunch of caramelized almonds.

For Valentine's Day, I would love to make you my handmade chocolates.

$18.00 a dozen in a gift box, available in one and two dozen sizes. They can be sent anywhere in the United States for an additional charge.

Please email me so we can talk about what you want to order. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Eve Treats: Salmon with Crispy Skin and Buckaroo Cookies

Where does time go? Last I looked, it was almost Thanksgiving. Now it's almost New Year's Eve. 2013 was a good year. Wishing everyone a great 2014.

On New Year's Eve we're having friends over for a late dinner and an evening of movie watching. We've seen most of the movies in Oscar contention and we have our favorites (HerNebraska Philomena and Fruitvale Station). But we have more to watch so we'll enjoy the evening with food and films.

Two of the treats I'll make include holiday cookies and salmon filet with crispy skin.  A few months ago for my oldest son's birthday party, we had a dinner at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood. Franklin likes farm fresh food, simply prepared, not fussy. We sampled the menu and the food was delicious. The chef stopped by to see if everyone was happy. A friendly, nice guy, chef Taylor Boudreaux sent out a pasta dish with truffles as a gift to the table. What a nice thing to do.
One of the dishes we had at the dinner was  a salmon filet with crispy skin. It's a simple dish but I've never been able to get the skin right at home. Chef Boudreaux agreed to do a video demonstration.
The interview and video are on Zester Daily. He makes it look so easy. He shared the magic. I tried it at home. It worked! So cool.

Chef's Secret To Crispy Skin For Pan-Seared Salmon Filets

Alana Vague, a friend of a friend, was baking cookies as holiday gifts. She put them in little brown paper bags, nicely tied with a ribbon.  They are delicious and Alana says they're easy to make, a recipe from her great-grandmother. They'll be perfect to snack on while we're watching movies.

Alana's Great-Grandmother's Buckaroo Cookies
Yield: a lot

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats
1 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Cream butter and sugars
Add eggs and vanilla
Add dry ingredients
Stir in oats and chips
Drop by tablespoon on cookie sheet
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes
(I bake them for 7ish then let them rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes or so)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts - a Perfect Thanksgiving Side Dish

For Thanksgiving we have a menu we love. Roast turkey, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms and Turkish apricots, baked sweet potatoes with butter, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sautéed string beans with garlic-toasted almonds.

Since I started doing travel writing, I like to include one dish I've learned to make on a trip. Last year, I made Moroccan style pickled vegetables to go with the Kosher dill pickles I've made for years. This year I am going to make risotto with hazelnuts.
On a month long trip in Switzerland, I enjoyed dozens of meals. Since I was researching local Swiss wines, those meals were wine-paired. Needless to say, I had a very good time. At one of the first stops on the trip, our group of six journalists was treated to a dinner at the chef's table at restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. One of our group was a vegetarian. We always envied her meals, especially that night when she was served risotto with hazelnuts.

That dish made an impression. So, last night I made risotto and hazelnuts. The combination of creamy rice and crunchy nuts is hard to beat. I'm thinking it would be a great Thanksgiving side dish.

Herb Scented Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts

Last night's risotto was made with vegetable stock. Any stock would add to the flavors of the rice, but whatever kind of stock you use, it would improve the dish if you use homemade not store-bought stock. The salt content of processed stock is very high and the flavor is, well, not that great, in my opinion. Making stock is not difficult. Stock freezes so easily if kept in an air-tight container. It will keep for months with no lessening of flavor.

The recipe can be entirely vegetarian or can be adjusted to include meat, poultry and seafood. Adding more vegetables and protein will turn this side dish into an entrée.

If whole, toasted hazelnuts with the skins removed are not available, find whole, raw hazelnuts. Roast in a toaster oven set at 350 F for five minutes. Remove when hot and wrap in a cotton towel. Rub with your hands. The skins will come off. To crush then, place the roasted hazelnuts on a cutting board and press down on the nuts with the flat side of a chefs knife. That will crush them. Use the cutting edge of the knife to more finely chop the nuts. Reserve.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups risotto
4 cups homemade stock (vegetable, chicken, duck, beef, pork or shellfish)
2 cups leafy green (black kale, spinach, Italian parsley) washed, stems removed, finely chopped
1 cup yellow onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins and root end removed, finely chopped
5 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the leafy greens, onion and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the olive oil and heat over a medium-low flame. Add the risotto and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the rice is translucent. Add back the sautéed vegetables and stir well.

Add half a cup stock, stir well and let the rice absorb the liquid. Add a half of cup of stock as the liquid disappears. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is al dente. If you run out of stock, a little bit of water can be used.

Finish the risotto with a tablespoon of sweet butter and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Top with the crushed hazelnuts. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on the side.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Little Bit of Planning Makes Thanksgiving a Lot More Fun

Every year I look forward to Thanksgiving. A time to celebrate what is good about our life, to see family and friends we don't see often enough and to have a really great feast. Because we host the meal at our house, there is a lot to do.
Being prepared means less stress and more fun on Thanksgiving. The first step is to make lists. 

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - cook
Step 8 - eat
Step 9 - clean up
Step 10 - lie down

As of today we've completed Step 1.

Tomorrow we'll start on Step 2 by pulling out favorite recipes, the ones that "it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without."

Which would include: kosher dill pickles, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage and shiitake mushrooms, cranberry sauce with nuts and orange juice, shiitake mushroom-turkey liver pate and chocolate banana walnut cake.
To mix things up, I'm adding Moroccan style pickles that I learned to make on a trip to Marrakech. And because this Thanksgiving is also the first night of Hanukkah, Michelle is making latkas using Yukon Gold potatoes and also ones made with sweet potatoes from Yang Farms at the Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers Market.

10 Delicious Holiday Recipes

Last year I published my first e-cookbook 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
The ten recipes are easy-to-make, festive and fun. With a recipe for roasting a perfect Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing.
Using the Kindle App you can read the recipes on any smart phone, computer or tablet. The app is free and downloads easily.

I hope you'll buy my book and let me help you plan your holiday meals with recipes for special cocktails, appetizers, salads, sides, entrees and really delicious desserts.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

East Comes West at Chi Lin in West Hollywood

Part of a growing trend to serve Chinese food with locavoire sourcing and an attention to healthy choices, Chi Lin off the Sunset Strip  (9201 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood CA 90069, 310/278-2068) pays homage to the spirit of Chinese cuisine with upscale versions of classic dishes like Peking Duck, soup with steamed dumplings, tangerine beef, tofu with pork and stir fried clams.
Tucked away just off Sunset Boulevard next to the much larger restaurant, Rivabella, the entrance to Chi Lin is marked by a bordello red neon sign suggesting forbidden treats and dangers are inside.

Chi Lin is a restaurant for special occasions. The dining room  is perfect for a romantic liaison with a new friend or to celebrate the love of your life on an important anniversary. A hostess in a clinging black leather dress, cut mid-thigh, will lead you to your table in an intimate dining room.
Rows of lights hang down from the ceiling, their dim rays illuminating not so much the room as the essence of the space. The mirrored walls reflect the ceiling lights to infinity. Tables and booths allow for comfortable seating. The waitstaff is attentive. The menu accommodates omnivores, pescetarians and vegetarians.

Of course, if you are an omnivore, willing to eat whatever flies, walks and swims on planet Earth, you will be very happy indeed. Shellfish, fish, pork, lamb, beef, chicken and duck are featured ingredients. As befits an upscale restaurant, the plating of the dishes is beautiful. Chi Lin embraces the theatrical in its setting and its dishes in a good way.
Every Tuesday, a sampling of Chi Lin's signature dish, Peking Duck, is offered in two presentations along with a Sparkling Mao vodka cocktail at an affordable $24.00.  The mini-tasting gives diners an authentic presentation of a classic Chinese dish, with it's intoxicatingly mix of fatty-crisp-salty-sweetness.

The menu is extensive enough to encourage repeat visits. After a tasting with other food writers, everyone made notes about the menu items to try next time.
I definitely want to try the Steamed Char Siu Bao, Fresh Kale and Crispy Shiitake Mushroom Salad, Wok-Fired Manila Clams with Lap Xuong and Xo Sauce and the Charred Haricot Vert with Chinese Flavors.
And, I would order again the 5-Spice Smoked Shaved Beef on Crispy Scallion Pastry, the vegetarian Yu-Shiang Style Eggplant Chips, the pescetarian Peking Prawns, Black Pepper Two Basil Filet Mignon with Crispy Shiso Leaf and a selection of the desserts.
The photographs tell the story. The food at Chi Lin is beautiful to look at, delicious to eat.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Don't Do This At Home! Keep Your Eye On the Barbie When the Corn's On the Grill

Cardinal sin of cooking. Put a pan on the stove or a steak on the barbie and then go answer a couple of emails. Minutes pass. The emails are sent. A link sent from The Wrap leads to a few more minutes following the latest entertainment news and gossip. More minutes pass as checks are written to pay bills due in three days.
Then....what's that scent in the air? Sweet smoke with a hint of bitterness. Oh, yeah, that's the bacon in the frying pan or the ears of corn on the grill, now burnt to a blackened crisp. Perfect for the trash and compost bin but definitely no good for the table.

First rule of cooking: use a timer.
Second rule of cooking: keep it with you.

Third rule of cooking: when it goes off, check what you are cooking.

Yesterday I was making grilled corn for one of my favorite summer salads: chopped italian parsley with grilled corn. Simple, easy-to-make and delicious, the salad is such a summer treat. The perfect kind of dish to serve with grilled meats, fish and poultry.

The ears of corn were husked, washed and dried, then dredged through seasoned olive oil and placed on the grill. Nothing could be easier. All I had to do was turn the ears every couple of minutes, take them off the grill, let them cool and remove the kernels, toss them with freshly cut parsley and season the salad with more olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Easy, except I burnt the nine ears of corn.

That meant a dash back to the Sunday farmers market to pick up nine more ears from Underwood Family Farms and do it all again.

And so it goes. Use a timer. Carry it with you. Listen when it goes off. And all will be good.

Parsley and Grilled Corn Salad

Yield 4 servings
Ingredients

2 ears corn, husks and silks removed, washed, dried
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, stems discarded, leaves finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot or set the oven to 350F.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil on a large plate or baking tray, season with sea salt and black pepper and dredge each ear of corn to coat.

Using tongs, place the seasoned ears of corn on the grill or on a parchment lined baking tray in the oven.

Turn every 3-5 minutes so the kernels brown but don't burn.  Remove once the some of the kernels have browned. Set aside to cool.

Using a sharp chefs knife, cut the kernels off the cobs and collect in a large mixing bowl.

Add the finely chopped Italian parsley, toss well and dress with the remaining olive oil.

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently reduce to 1 tablespoon. Allow to cool and add to the corn and parsley mixture. Toss well.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Variations

Add 2 tablespoons raw or grilled onions.

Add 1 avocado, diced.

Add 6 quartered cherry tomatoes.

Add dusting of cayenne.

Add 2 cups cooked chicken breast or grilled shrimp.

Have a Picnic for Super Bowl Sunday - Kimchi Chicken Wings, Salads & So Much More

A week to go for Super Bowl Sunday and I have my menu planned. No chips or dips. No ordering in (although a sausage pizza with mushrooms, on...