My ramblings from Pro-Chef French Cooking Class have sadly come to an end after spending the last six months learning techniques, styles, and culinary terms. In the end, there was always a method to the madness.
The first week of testing stressed everyone out – not knowing what recipes would be asked of us, or if we could remember how to make them. Continue reading →
Bread was one of the first things my mother taught me to bake. The fragrance of freshly baked bread was as familiar as a Saturday night bath on a frigid evening in Iowa. I could often be found covered head to toe in flour, my hands gooey with bread dough, and a satisfied grin on my face.
Today, the aroma of baked bread still evokes fond childhood memories, as did this week’s cooking class where we baked five different yeast breads and a pizza.
Basic bread contains very few ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt. Other additions can be oil, butter, eggs, sugar, milk, grains, and nuts. Today my goal is to cover the basic ingredients of a good bread. Continue reading →
What a huge learning curve I had this week with shellfish. If you read last week’s blog, you know that I am a Midwest farm girl who had no experience with fins, scales, and particularly things that carry a house on their back! After this week’s class however, I am shocked at how easy most shellfish are to cook.
Shellfish are categorized according their skeletal structure:
Univalves – Single-shelled mollusks
e.g. abalone, sea urchins, conch, escargot
Bivalves – Mollusks with two shells joined by a hinge
e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops
Crustaceans – Jointed exterior skeletons or shells
e.g. lobster, crawfish, shrimp, crab
Cephalopods – Mollusks with tentacles attached directly to the head
e.g. octopus, squid/calamari, cuttlefish
When buying live crab or lobsters, look for movement. If you buy them frozen or pre-packaged and they are still moving—run.
This recipe comes from week 7 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made several fall dishes that week, and this recipe is such a fabulous appetizer that I wanted to share it with you. Wild mushrooms usually can be found at your local farmer’s market or higher end grocery stores.
1 tablespoon cognac (substitute pear, peach, or apricot juice)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
¼ cup creme fraiche
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped marjoram ( I used fresh oregano from my garden)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
sliced baguettes, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted in oven
Sauté the shallots in the butter until browned. Add the cognac. Flame. Remove from heat. When flame subsides, add the vinegar, lemon juice, and creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove any hard or dry stems from the mushrooms. Use a pastry brush to remove any sand or dirt. Cut into ¼″ slices. Toss the mushroms with the olive oil, herbs, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Put them into an earthenware baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer.
Roast mushrooms until tender and juicy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add to the shallot mixture. Return to the oven and cook another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
Serve on top of toasted baguette slices.
Cook time: 30 mins
This recipe was wildly popular with my holiday guests.
To date or not to date… that is the question. After trying today’s recipe, you will no longer have to ask. Dates are an intoxicating indulgence of the senses by way of a sugar rush. This is brilliant, considering they’re a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates; AND they’re virtually free of fat, cholesterol and sodium! Warning – after I’ve had my way with them… that all changes.
The Virtuous Date:
Dates come from the date palm. They’ve been instrumental to humans since the beginning of time and believed to have originated near the Persian Gulf.
Primeval Mesopotamians capitalized on the tree’s versatility and value. They felt the palm offered 360 uses including needles, thread, lumber, mattresses, rope, baskets and other household items; as well as food and beverage.
Ancient literature praise the merits of the date’s diverse powers – from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive. Wow… I don’t even want to know how they figured that one out. Probably while on a date of some kind.
Egypt is currently the top producer of dates followed by Iran.
If you can’t find dates at your local store they are readily available online. Medjool are my favorites as they are plump, deep in color, soft in texture and rich in flavor. Dates can also be kept frozen for up to a year with no loss of taste or quality.
Today’s Featured Recipe:
These engorged delights are perfect for picnics,
afternoon tea and The Hollywood Bowl.