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methods & madness… 
recipes & ramblings from the culinary classroom

Thai Style Cabbage Salad with Grilled Shrimp

In the beginning…

As a child growing up on the farm, I remember loving to help my mother in the kitchen. At the wee age of one I was allowed to watch… and learn.  As mom kneaded bread, I played with the dough.  Soon I was baking mud pies in the sun, eventually graduating to edible cakes. My favorite part was food coloring and the creative license that came with it. Purple cake with green frosting, blue cake with magenta frosting…I mean really, why did they print color combinations on the back of the box if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

It has been many years since my cow pie inspired baking days. My inspiration these days come from culinary classrooms. “Hi, my name is Cathy and I am a cooking class junkie.”

Tiring of recreational classes, I recently upped the ante with a 20-week professional chef course at The New School of Cooking.  If you have ever dreamed of taking chef courses, or if you are a closet Food Network fan, I invite you to join my journey.  I will be sharing the adventure with my friend Rona Lewis who has penned two cookbooks.

Class One

I was already stressed after dealing with LA traffic, but quickly relaxed after meeting my fellow chefs in the making. First, we received our white chef coats, along with an explanation of how they worked and why.  I didn’t realize there was so much to this simple garment.  The double-breasted jacket can be buttoned both ways… In case you spill, you can simply cover it up by switching sides… clever! The second order of business, was receiving handouts of rules, regulations and other pertinent, but boring stuff. The real prize was an encyclopedia looking book called The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Score!

Parlez vous francais?

I was thrilled to discover a bonus – not only was this a cooking class, but I would be learning French as well since so many cooking terms are taken from the language.  I couldn’t remember them all, let alone spell them.  I am still regretting taking German in college.  Our first term was Mise En Place (meez ahn plahs) “everything in its place”.  It aptly describes the preparation and assembly of all ingredients and equipment prior to cooking.  We learned that a well-organized cook is the basis for a great chef.  Oh dear…I could be in trouble. 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.

shepaused4thought_line-NEW

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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figs in a blanket…
and other things to make you squeal

Figs in a Blanket

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

One year my father decided to raise pigs. Another year my mother thought we needed a pig in the house… as if three kids weren’t enough! (Okay, it was a guinea pig) In some cultures they’re considered one and the same – something we learned after taking our pig fascination on a family trip to Peru. We weren’t prepared to eat the family pet, but when in Rome…

Photo on left: My mother playing with her food before eating it. I do believe I was admonished for this as a child. Hmm.

Guinea Pig for dinner in PeruWhich one is the real guinea pig….
the one on the plate, or the one with the fork and knife?

Peruvians have hundreds of guinea pigs living with them in their one-room houses. They consume an estimated 65 million per year. Wedding gift starter-kits include a male and female guinea pig, which soon multiply exponentially. We found all this fascinating until one showed up on our plate during dinner, compliments of our tour director. It didn’t taste like chicken, more like rabbit. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, though it left a nasty aftertaste. I think I got the one whose diet consisted of rank gym socks and sewer water. Continue Reading →

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bodacious beets…
what they did not teach you in school

Beet Salad by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Beets belong in the category of vegetables I hated as a child. Anything that slid out of a can was high on the “yuck factor.” It was only until my girlfriend Nan gave me the “roasted beet challenge.” She said don’t tell me you hate beets until you have eaten a roasted one. Since I always enjoy a good challenge, I bought a single beet as I didn’t want to have too much to throw out. I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven for an hour and silently anticipated it’s doomed fate. Well the joke was on me as I devoured that tasty sweet thang with vigor.

Sweet Beets

Nutritionally speaking, the beet is a kindred spirit to the carrot, although it is much higher in sugar. In fact, of all vegetables, the beet has the highest sugar content. Not sure how I missed this opportunity to eat more sugar as a kid… oh yeah… my mother served it out of a can. It is estimated that about two-thirds of commercial beet crops end up canned. So sad.

Beets (everywhere else in the world they are called beetroot) are thought to have originated in prehistoric times in N. Africa. It is said that beetroot remains have been excavated in the Third dynasty Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt. I must of missed that when I was there.

Sand Storm at the Saqqara Pyramid in Thebes, Egypt

I couldn’t see much because I was too busy making a fashion statement in a blinding sand storm.

And the beet goes on…

Beet leaves have been eaten since before written history. The beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. You have to love the French!  I wonder if they were the ones that came up with making beet wine.

Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. Was that before or after it was made into wine?

If you are not getting your beets in wine, you might be able to get it in frozen pizza. Yep, some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.

Beets can even help melt snow! One way or another you are going to get your beets if I can help it.

Why? Because beets are loaded with lots of good stuff like antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

Some experts say adding beet juice to your diet could provide a performance boost even beyond the blood, sweat and tears of more training. Does this mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?

Don’t take my word for it. According to the NY Times Blog, beets are among the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.

Cathy’s Bodacious Beet Salad

If this recipe was a piece of art it would be mixed media. I took a little of this and a little of that from different recipes to make this as I saw it in my mind. The Santa Monica farmers market provided the fresh ingredients for this salad. I used french thyme because that what was growing in my herb garden, but use what you like. The dressing generously Serves 2.

Beet Salad Ingredients 

  • 2 fresh red or yellow beets
  • 4 ounces goat cheese – rolled into balls I used Redwood Hill Farm’s traditional chevre
  • french thyme – a couple sprigs per ball, washed well and dried
  • 2 cups micro greens or any small leaf greens – washed well and dried I used sweet baby lettuce with edible flowers from Harry’s Berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted – I used Peacock Family Farm’s locally grown walnuts

Walnut Oil Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil – I used La Nogalera Walnut Oil I could just drink this stuff plain!
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan, leaving a little of the root tail on. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
  2. While beets are roasting, mix the dressing. Whisk the dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar together.  While you are whisking or using a hand blender, slowly add the walnut oil and then olive oil to make an nice emulsification. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. After the beets have cooled for several minutes, peel off the outer skins and discard. If you do this under running water you will avoid staining your hands. Cut the bottom of the beet so it will sit up straight. Then cut the beets into quarters, but not all the way through.  Place on a plate and open it up like a flower.
  4. Roll the goat cheese into little balls about 1/2” in diameter and roll in the fresh thyme.
    Place ball in the middle of the beet.
  5. Add your baby lettuce around it and drizzle the walnut oil over the salad.
  6. Add toasted walnuts

Ta-da! Long live the beet season. Thanks Nan for the beet challenge. I wonder what other yucky childhood vegetable will next on my discovery list?
…and then she paused for thought.

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Wild about Watermelon

watermelon on grill

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE:

“…when one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat…” – Mark Twain

square watermelon

Mark Twain and King Tut have different beliefs on who eats watermelon. Whether it’s angelic or royalty, Homer Simpson is the one who knows how to pick a proper one.

Click here to see the video.

I have read about an Egyptian tradition to put watermelons in the burial tombs of pharaohs as a present for their afterlife. As unusual as this sounds, numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of King Tut.  I wonder if that meant King Tut ate the watermelons and spit out the seeds in his afterlife. Strange… I was in Egypt a few years ago and apparently missed the watermelon hieroglyphics. I went on a google pics quest to no avail, so I thought I would “imagine” what it would look like.

egyptian watermelon hieroglyphics

PHOTO ENHANCEMENT BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

The current thought is that watermelon originated in Southern Africa, where it is still found growing wild, in the Kalahari desert.  What I love about watermelon is every part of the watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Now that is what I call “wholestic” eating!  Watermelon doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 & C, and contains fiber, potassium and lycopene. It doesn’t get much better than that! Continue Reading →

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