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Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

This recipe comes from week 6 class of Pro Chef classes at New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. We made 11 salads that week, and this one was just exceptional in my book. I actually thought I didn’t like fennel until I tasted this. If you aren’t a fan of fennel… I dare you to try this one.

Insalata Bianca (White Salad)

From New School of Cooking
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Belgian endives, stem ends trimmed, cut lengwise into julienne
  • 1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Reggiano parmesan shavings

Directions
Combine all ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss.  Serve on a large brightly colored platter with parmesan cheese shavings scattered over the salad.

Let me know if you make it and what your thoughts are one this one.

 

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methods & madness…

class 3: soup’s on!

Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

It was “all hands on deck” this week as we made six soups in less than four hours. The secret to soup is fresh ingredients and a good stock. Oh yes, and a couple of spare hours, to say the least.

Soups are classified in two main groups with no fancy-schmancy French name (hence we will bypass our French lesson this week). You can practice the French you learned last week. And I don’t mean the “pardon my French” you already know.

1. Clear

  • Broth – a flavorful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/or vegetables
  • Consommé – French for “soup,” also used to describe a clear soup made from well-seasoned stock

2. Thick

  • Cream – based on béchamel (classic white sauce) and then finished with heavy cream
  • Chowder – classically made of seafood, including pork, potatoes and onions Today, it is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood and/or vegetable-thickened soups, often with milk and/or cream.
  • Puree – thicker than cream soups, often based on dried legumes or starchy vegetables
  • Bisque – a thick, creamy, highly seasoned soup, classically of pureed crustaceans

My partner for the evening was Mario; our assignment, consommé. How exotic… how French… how complicated, or so I thought. I looked at the list of ingredients and wondered how ground meat, vegetables, stock, tomato paste, and egg whites were going to produce a clear soup.

Grinding meatHumble Beginnings…

First up – grind the chicken and beef. Oh dear… my childhood farm pets’ faces flashed before me, and I’ve hated ground meat ever since. Pink Floyd’s movie, The Wall, didn’t help either! But now I’m paying for chef school, so it’s time to “get over it”.

The nice part about grinding your own meat is ensuring no “extras” end up in it. (can anybody say “chicken lips”)

I humbly grounded the beef and chicken. The only byproduct in this meat was my emotional state.

Next step – we chopped our mirepoix (carrots, onion & celery). We then added it to our meat and egg whites and placed the mixture in a large pot with cold stock.

mirepoixWe were then instructed to walk away and let the miracle of science take over. I think one reason we like to cook is because it puts us in control of cause and effect. Consommé (like most people in our lives) refuses comply. We are sure they need our help to become great.

I pondered these thoughts as I busied myself elsewhere. Upon returning to the pot an hour later, I was shocked to discover somebody threw up in our soup! I knew it, we should not have taken our hands off the wheel!

consommé cookingGuess what? I was wrong again.

cathy choppingThe ingredients we originally termed “fresh” are now “impurities” that rose to the top and formed a floating ugly mass referred to as a “raft”. Had we stirred it, the congealing process could not occur, and there would be no clear soup.

The raft was lifted out, and the remaining consommé strained.

Carrots, celery and leeks were julienned and par-boiled to garnish the consommé.

We served to consommé to the class with rave reviews. The real reward was tasting the essence of every ingredient that went into this soup.

consommeIn some culinary schools, a simple test is administered to student chefs making consommé: the teacher drops a dime into your amber broth; if you can read the date on the dime resting at the bottom of the bowl, you pass. If you can’t, you fail. I am not sure we would have passed that test, but according to the students, it made the grade.

To see a video on how to make consommé click here.

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Homework Assignment:

My homework this week was to make a soup that I didn’t make in class.  I chose the rustic Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It seemed perfect for Halloween.

Rona made the Dungeness Crab Bisque, and you can get the recipe on her blog.

butternut-squash-soup

Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup w/Pumpkin Seed Pesto

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 6-8 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft.  Add the carrot and celery, cook an additional two minutes. Add jalapeno, sweet potato, squash, water and bay leaf.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.
  • Puree. Add more water if mixture seems too thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 c unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c coarse, chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 T lime juice, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  • In a heavy skillet, roast the pumpkin seeds until they begin to pop. Some will brown, but do not allow all to turn brown. Remove the seeds to a plate and allow to cool completely. Heat the olive oil in the same skillet and cook the garlic until it begins to give off it’s characteristic aroma.
  • Pulse the seeds, garlic, olive oil, water, cilantro, scallions and salt and pepper to taste in a blender until the mixture forms a coarse paste, not smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust lime and salt quantities if necessary.
  • When the soup is ready, add in a dollop of the pesto. Garnish with cilantro if you like.

Lesson learned:

Beautiful things do happen when left on their own.
Know when to be involved and when to keep your mitts out!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join Rona and me each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

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markets of the world…
hoofs, nostrils and gold of the incas

Peru market hoofs and nostrils

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

“Waste not, want not” or so the saying goes. The Peruvians excel at this when it comes to food.  They are as resourceful as they are creative in their diverse cuisine.

Today’s market adventure finds us in Cusco, Peru. Continue Reading →

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a date with ginger…
guaranteed to please!

Ginger Spiked Dates

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

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.

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Today’s Featured Recipe:

These engorged delights are perfect for picnics,
afternoon tea and The Hollywood Bowl.

Just ask Sophia!

 

Ginger Spiked Stuffed Dates
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mascarpone cheese*
  • 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, minced
  • 10 Medjool dates pitted|
  • 10 walnuts or pecans
  • fresh mint sprigs
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl mix the mascarpone cheese and ginger until combined.
  2. Using a small spoon, spoon about ½ tsp of the mixture into the date
  3. Top with walnut and decorate with a mint sprig
Notes
*Substitute goat cheese, blue cheese, neufchatel cheese (cream cheese) or almond butter. Serves: 2-3

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Date-licious!

Special thanks to Yodi & Rikki for the beautiful Wedgewood tea set!

I have already put it
to good use.

 

Quote of the day:

If the heavens throw you dates, you got to keep your mouth open.
– Navjot Singh Sidhu

….and then, she paused for thought.

 

 

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creative carrots…
and their ingenious usages

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

I love the resourcefulness of people when it comes to food and its’ utilizations. Here are surprising places that carrots have shown up in: bio fuel, warding off the devil, coffee substitutes, lasers, hat decor, antifreeze, wine, & hangovers (for too much carrot wine).

 “The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.”
– Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

And you might of thought they were something you dipped in ranch dressing.  So here is to a crazy carrot history that warrants its own Carrot History Museum in the U.K.
(Information was gathered from their site unless otherwise linked)

Carrot’s Eccentric Past

Carrots are speculated to originate in Afghanistan. Wild carrots were purple, red, white, and yellow, but never orange.  It is rumored that we can thank the Dutch for the cheery orange color. In the 16th century, Dutch carrot growers created the orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange (the Dutch Royal Family) by cross breeding yellow carrots with red carrots.

The newly born orange carrots made their way to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  The British adopted the crunchy veggie with arms wide open. At one point there was a glut of them, and the Government campaigned that carotene, which is believed to help night vision was largely responsible for the Royal Air Force’s increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

“This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden.” – Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941 – So much for urban gardening being a new trend.

People bought this concept hook, line and sinker. This ruse not only reduced the surplus vegetables but also helped to mask the chief reason for England’s RAF’s success – radar. Imagine…. deception from the government that was beneficial for the public!

Britain continues the fun by manufacturing carrot wine. And…not wanting to be wasteful, carrot leaves were worn in ladies hats as decoration in the fashions of 17th C England.

Just across the English Channel, the Germans used finely chopped roasted carrots for a coffee substitute.

twisted carrotsThe Greeks also have their place in carrot history.  They called the carrot a philtron, which translates to “love charm.” The Greek foot soldiers that hid in the Trojan Horse were said to have consumed ample quantities of raw carrots to inactivate their bowels. Why haven’t the airlines taken this concept and run with it?  They should hand out bags of carrots instead of pretzels.

The packaging is already in place for the airlines. In what may be the best marketing campaign for vegetables since Popeye, baby carrots have been transformed into junk food. Well you just have to see this $25M ad campaign to believe it.
“Eat ‘em like junk food”

Wait…there is more! The Anglo-Saxons included carrots as an ingredient in a medicinal drink against the devil and insanity.  Ok, forget the airlines serving them as a snack…they should be serving them as a drink.

Not to be outdone, Two Scottish scientists found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships with a product called Curran.  If the airlines won’t serve carrots, maybe they could make a plane out of them.

I love that carrots are so versatile. I ask that you keep an open mind with this tasty recipe that I believe even the biggest cooked carrot haters will appreciate.

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

Vanilla Roasted Carrots with Cumin

Recipe adapted from Staci Billis.
You will be amazed how well these flavors go together! I learned how to cut carrots in squares at a knife skills class. I thought it looked fun….my husband thought they looked unnatural. So?

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots, washed and trimmed ( I cut them in squares)
  • ¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey (I used coconut nectar because it is low glycemic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place carrots on a baking sheet and toss with all other ingredients to coat thoroughly. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until carrots brown in spots and are soft throughout.
  3. Garnish with parsley and serve!

I will leave you with one last bit of carrot trivia. Did you know the last meal on the Titanic included creamed carrots in the fifth course. For a taste of the adventure, click here for the original recipe.

I wonder what else could be done with creative carrots.
…and then, she paused for thought. 

 

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