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methods & madness…

class 6: fruits, veggies, herbs & salads

Persimmons - Pomegranate Salad

 Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

Fall has arrived in Southern California bringing a crisp chill to the air. That’s when I gravitate towards steamy soups; but did you know Fall is actually great weather for salads? Many salad greens grow best in cooler weather. Add some seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re on your way to some exciting Fall dishes, including today’s recipe. If you’re looking for a festive holiday salad, this one is a showstopper!

In addition to salads, this week we learned about herbs, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Herbal Essence

Ancient Greeks crowned their heroes with dill and laurel. Today, fresh herbs are the jewels in our culinary dishes, paramount to any great recipe. Additionally, fresh herbs add flavor without the calories. They’re easy to use and can last over a week, if stored properly.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

  • Rinse fresh herbs well, lay on a paper towel. A salad spinner works great.
  • Wrap loosely in the paper towel, then place in zip-lock bag, leaving bag open.
  • Store open bag of herbs in your refrigerator’s crisper.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

  • If you are substituting fresh herbs for dried ones, use about three times as much.
  • Add the more delicate herbs a minute or two before completion of cooking, or sprinkle on food before serving.  e.g. parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, cilantro, basil, and dill.
  • The less delicate herbs, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and sage, can be added in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Continue Reading →
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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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methods & madness…

class 2: stock & sauces

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

This week we actually got to get our hands dirty…as well as my once perfectly white chef coat. Stocks are a messy business, at least when I am involved. I learned so much this week in class, yet it didn’t prevent my homework disaster. Let’s start with what I learned.

Lock, Stock and Barrel

Stock is basically simmering various ingredients in water to extract their flavor. We touched briefly on broths. I have always used the words “stock” and “broth” interchangeably, until this class. They are similar in technique and cooking time.

The difference being stocks are made with bones, and broths are made with meat with salt added. Stocks are thick and gelatinous like jello when cooled because of the collagen that is extracted from the bones. Pure broth will stay liquid when cooled and can be served as is.

Stock is a blank slate of sorts, and considered a starting point for other dishes like soup, and sauces.

“AFTER BEING IN CAMBODIA, NO DEAD FISH CAN SCARE ME!”


There are basically 4 things needed for stock.

Bones – The best bones are veal knucklebones or chicken necks and wings because of their high collagen content.

Mirepoixmeer-pwah It a mixture of 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots & and 1 part celery.  Note: Cut veggies on the bias to extract more flavor.

Water – Best if filtered and cold. Certain proteins will only dissolve in cold water; this also keeps your stock from getting cloudy.

Fresh Herbs & Spices – Traditionally they are tied in a cheesecloth bag that is known as a Sachet d’Épices sa-SHAY DAY-pees that translates to “bag of spices” in French.  A basic sachet: 5-10 peppercorns, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 parsley stems, 1 bay leaf, 2 whole cloves.

In class we were divided into groups to prepared Chicken, Fish, Brown & Vegetable Stocks. Rona, another classmate & I were assigned to the veal brown stock. Good thing little Rona has some big muscles because the pan of bones was too heavy for her wimpy partners. Because of the time frame we were only able to get halfway through making the stock. The recipe can be found on Rona’s blog.

The Mother Lode…

One of the secrets of becoming a pro chef is learning to make all five of the “Mother Sauces”. Master these and you will be ready to prepare hundreds of variations on the classical French repertoire.

5 Mother Sauces:

1. Béchamel (bay-shah-mel) white sauce made with milk and a white roux

2. Veloute (veh-loo-TAY) based on a white stock and thickened with a blonde roux

3. Brown or Espanol based on brown stock and thickened with a brown roux

4. Hollandaise (HOL-uhn-dayz) is an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon or vinegar  (short of time…try this recipe)

5. Tomato based on tomatoes

I roux… how about you?

Then there is the business of roux “roo”. It is a thickener for sauces & soups that combines equal parts flour and butter. If you have ever made Mac and Cheese (and I don’t mean from the box) you have made a roux.

To make a basic roux, use equal weights of fat and flour. Four ounces of fat and four ounces of flour equal about 8 ounces of roux. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, one tablespoon of flour equals about ¼ ounce. One tablespoon butter = ½ ounce.

We had a cooking demonstration of Béchamel Sauce and then released to make a Veloute, which was easier to make than pronounce.

At the end of the evening we sat down to eat Macaroni et Fromage (okay, it was Mac n’ Cheese) with a green salad.

“Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking” – Julia Child
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Homework Assignment – A Disaster in the Making

This week’s project is to make the Mac and Cheese. Sound simple? Not so much for me. The first dilemma was how to make breadcrumbs from scratch. I had to enlist the help of Rona for this one (see recipe below). I should have stopped there and had breadcrumbs for dinner. It would have been glorious.

But instead I continued on and somehow managed to mess up the Mac and Cheese. I did my Mise En Place before I started like I learned last week. But I decided to make a few substitutions, as well as talk on the phone while I cooked.  Because I am a girl, I know how to multi-task. And as an artist…I enjoy taking creative liberties. But, when you are learning something new, make the recipe as-written, next time – alter it to your choosing. I am leaving the re-engineering of recipes to my expert cooking school partner Rona.

Needless to say, I had to throw out the whole dish (after we ate two servings) and try it all over again.  This time I had my friend Terese help keep me on track while I cooked it again.

Following the directions with the correct ingredients paid off big dividends this time.  We had two helpings and my husband ate three, which tells me it was a huge success.
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Today’s Featured Recipe:

You can easily cut this recipe in half.  Stay away from using any stringy cheeses.

Mac and Cheese with homemade bread crumbs

Macaroni and Cheese

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

•  3 ounces unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
• ½ c flour
• ½ tsp. cayenne (start with ¼ tsp and add to taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 ¼ c hot milk (2% will work)
• 1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
• 1 lb. macaroni, cooked according to package
• ½ c breadcrumbs *see below for recipe

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly till light brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in cayenne, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, ¼ c at a time, and cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens.

Add cheese one cup at a time and stir each additional until incorporated into the sauce.  Reserve the last cup of cheese.

Combine the macaroni with the cheese sauce. Place half in an 8×11” baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over pasta and add the rest of the pasta.  Distribute the breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake until crust is golden and interior is hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

  • Put four slices of bread (your choice) into a food processor, and pulse for about 10 to 15 seconds. (Approx. 4 slices of bread will make one cup of crumbs.)
  • To sauté fresh breadcrumbs, heat olive oil (or butter) over medium heat (1-2 tablespoons of oil for every cup of breadcrumbs.  When the oil is hot, add some finely chopped garlic cloves and fresh herbs (thyme, parsley or rosemary) and stir for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the breadcrumbs, tossing until evenly coated.  Sauté the crumbs until they are golden brown, and then allow them to cool.

If you would like to get more creative with your Mac and cheese, check out these recipes.

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Lesson learned:

Even if you can’t pronounce it, you can still make it.
And just because you can pronounce it, doesn’t mean you can make it.
…and then, she paused for thought

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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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