Love to cook? Read on for professional tips on building flavor without all the calories!

Brussels Sprouts – especially caramelized ones – are really popular these days. I was introduced to the deep fried, dark and crispy ones at a Michelin One Star Korean restaurant in New York City. Although I don’t usually like my food to look

Raw Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

blackened or burned, I found that I could not stop eating these crispy nuggets filled with Umami. I didn’t like the fact that they were deep fried though, so I set out to try to make them without so many calories. As it turns out, It only took one try. When you make these, you have the Brussels sprouts cores left over, so I roasted them also, adding a little sweetening jam flavor to make them different. Here are the recipes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Leaves

3 cups Brussels Sprouts Leaves
3 Tablespoons Tangerine Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Wash the sprouts. Pat dry. Cut off the core and the top and peel off the outer leaves. Place these leaves on a baking sheet. (Save the middle parts that are left for the following recipe.)

IMG_2333

Brussels Sprouts Outer Leaves with Centers on sheet behind

2. Sprinkle the leaves on the first pan with Tangerine Olive Oil (or another flavored olive oil of your choice. Lime flavored is also great.) Mix them with your hands, spreading the oil throughout the leaves. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
3. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes, stirring after 8 minutes. (You can cook them less if you don’t like them quite so brown.) Cool on the baking sheet. Use as a side or garnish at room temperature.

IMG_2337

Finished Roasted Outer Leaves

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Cores

METHOD:
1. Cut the leftover cores in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and mix with your hands to spread the oil on all pieces. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes.
3. Place 3 Tablespoons Dalmatia Fig Jam in a small metal bowl. Place the hot sprouts on top and carefully fold to melt and distribute the jam. Cool. Cover until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature. (Another great glaze could be mustard thinned a bit with cream.)

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

Spatchcock Chicken

Finished Dish

Finished Dish, Served with Cabbage Balls and Sweet Potato

In the past, I have always called this method of cooking chicken “Butterflied” but it turns out there’s another name for it called “Spatchcock” that dates back to a time nobody can personally remember.  Originally, this term meant a bird that was killed, split and flattened and then grilled on the spot. Today, however, we use this term to describe the bird’s preparation, not including how it’s cooked, because it’s also done in the oven.

For the Spatchcock method, start with a whole chicken, check for anything inside, wash it and pat it dry. Then turn it breast side down. Get out your sharp poultry shears (which can cut through bone by the way, so watch out for your fingers). Cut along one side of the backbone and then the other so you totally remove it. (You can freeze and use that piece later to make stock or to enhance gravy.) Then spread the chicken apart. Some people also make small cuts in the cartilage on both sides of the sternum (at the center of the breast) so it will lie even flatter. This isn’t necessary, but I also like to do it. Now flip it over and push down hard to flatten it.

Cut out the backbone

                  Cut out the backbone

Flip it over and press it flat.

                     Flip it over and press it flat.

If you like, you can wrap clean bricks in tin foil and put them on top of the chicken to weight it down (also called bricked chicken) but it isn’t necessary. If you use them, remove them ¾ of the way through your cooking time so the skin has a chance to brown.

The major advantage of this preparation is that it reduces cooking time. You can finish a chicken in 30 to 40 minutes (at 425⁰F) as opposed to an hour. Plus, it makes a very cool presentation and is much easier to serve, especially if you cook some homemade dressing underneath it. (If you add dressing, you will need more cooking time to bring it to the poultry safe temperature of 165⁰F.) Imagine how much quicker you could carve and serve your meal if you use this method to cook your Thanksgiving turkey! I highly recommend it, as long as you have a cooking pan that is large enough. It also makes a nice presentation for a bird as small as pigeon or Cornish hen.

This method is great for grilling where it’s harder to cook the meat of a whole bird evenly. Just stay away from recipes that include a lot of fat that could drip onto the fire, causing flaming and please don’t char it. (Both of these things are thought to create cancer causing properties in your food.) Remember, however, that you can push your hot charcoal to the sides of your grill, cover it and basically create an oven where you don’t have to worry about that so much.

Beyond that, you can use any poultry recipe you like. If cooking in the oven, you have more options. You can put butter and herbs under the skin, stuffing or herbs underneath or use any rub that you like. Brushing oil on the skin before cooking is the best way to seal in the flavors. I also like to sprinkle paprika on top of the oil, which gives the finished bird a rich brownish color. Give it a try! Add some vegetables and rice and you’ve got a great comfort meal for any time of the year!

Let’s Stir Fry!

Want a quick meal that includes healthy ingredients, is simple to make, doesn’t require a lot of equipment and that can be

Chicken with Cashews

Chicken with Cashews

executed in a small space? Learning to stir fry properly might be your answer. All you need is a wok, a sharp knife and a stirring utensil. The Wok is used almost exclusively in many Chinese households for these very reasons. Space is at a premium, especially in poorer households, refrigerators are small and ovens are almost non-existent.

The wok makes up for a lot of these inefficiencies because it is extremely versatile. You can fry, sear, boil, steam and braise – all in one pot.

The shape of the wok concentrates the heat at the bottom. Racks are sometimes attached to the lip and used to store pieces that are done cooking (so you don’t overcook them). When frying, a wide, flat spatula works well for stirring and scooping.

With stir frying, it’s important to prepare and line up the ingredients you will need ahead of time. Each ingredient is chopped or otherwise prepared placed in the order it will be used. Stir fry is a quick preparation and you don’t have time to prep in between each addition. You want to be able to toss in the next layer of ingredients just at the moment you are ready for it.

Steamer Basket

Steamer Basket

Steaming in a wok requires a steamer basket like the one shown in the picture. The steamer is placed over water and the cover is then put on the wok to contain the vapor. You can also use individual serving size steamers, which are about 4” across. Just place them next to each other inside the wok and prepare them all at once.

Meats of choice are nearly always the fattier ones. Fat means flavor, as well as calories necessary to people living on small budgets. For example, when cooking with chicken, dark meat is usually chosen. Breast meat is frowned upon because the meat is more dry.

Cleavers

Cleavers

The knife of choice is the cleaver. They vary in size and weight and have different purposes. Lighter cleavers are for chopping and are used exactly like a French or Chef’s knife. Heavier cleavers are for chopping up bones and other tough ingredients. They are also used for smashing vegetables and garlic. Their wide surface areas are also great for picking up the chopped bits and transferring them to the wok.

In Chinese cooking, typically corn, peanut or vegetable oils are used. Olive oil has too strong a taste for the Chinese palate. Peanut oil with its high smoke point is especially suited for stir frying.

Rice

Oriental Sticky Rice

Rice is a common accompaniment for meals – especially in southern China, where it is grown. There are many varieties, but if you want to eat your dish with chopsticks, be sure and use a relatively short grain rice with high starch content so it will stick together. I use U.S. No. 1 Extra Fancy Hanmi, available in Asian stores.

Stir Fry Secrets and General Facts:

Before you begin to heat the wok, make sure the ring is centered on the heat source. This positions the wok so the heat surrounds its base evenly.

If your wok has metal handles, it’s not a bad idea to have oven mits handy or to get in the habit of wearing one when you are frying. You never know when you will need to grab a handle to stabilize it or re-position it.

Don’t crowd the pan! Too much meat in the pan will cause it to boil, not sear and caramelize (turn brown). As the meat heats up, it releases juices that can create a pool that cools the pan down and keeps the meat away from the hot surface. If you are making a lot, work in batches so this doesn’t happen.

Meat and vegetables both need to sear quickly, so keep them in the bottom of the wok, near the heat source. You can tip the wok around on the ring in different directions to get high heat contact in different places if you need to in order to help with even cooking.

Remove ingredients from the wok with a slotted spoon. This will cause any leftover oil to stay in the pan for the next batch. This also helps you to use as little oil as possible, which will keep the fat and calorie content of your dish lower.

Many sauces for these dishes contain soy sauce. Soy sauce in the U.S.A is very salty. The taste of the salt intensifies with reduction, so be careful to read labels and find the lowest sodium content that you can. If salt is called for in any recipe, taste what you have already cooked before you add it. The reduction of the soy sauce may make it already salty enough.

Marinades are widely used in China because they were originally invented to mask the smell of the meat. Marinate at least fifteen minutes before stir frying so the flavor will penetrate the meat. Stir fry is a fast method of cooking and if you don’t give the marinade a little time, instead of penetrating the meat it will sit on the outside.

Marinade components: Rice wine is added for its fragrance, light and dark soy sauces are for flavor. Cornstarch seals the flavor and thickens the sauce.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

Peppers are also a common addition. You know your taste buds, so make sure you know your peppers! It’s very easy to make a dish too hot. Lantern shaped ones – shown in the picture – are the hottest.

Here’s a typical recipe, shown above: Chicken with Cashews

2 chicken breast halves (About 1 pound)
cut into large bite-sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, crushed, 3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced on an angle, into 1/4” pieces

1/4 cup light soy sauce, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup oyster flavored sauce

3 tablespoons corn-starch, 1 cup cashew nuts,

1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper salt (or 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon pepper + several shots of hot sauce)

4 spring onions, sliced on an angle or Chinese garlic stems

  1. Whisk together the soy sauce, water, oyster sauce and corn-starch.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wok. On high heat, stir fry the chicken pieces with the garlic. Fry them in batches, until they are white all the way through, about 7 minutes. They should be browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and hold in a dish close by.
  3. Change to medium heat and stir fry the carrots for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken back to the wok. Add the cashews and pour in the soy sauce mixture.
  5. Cook uncovered, over medium high heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  6. Mix in the spring onions or Chinese garlic stems. Sprinkle with the pepper salt.
  7. If desired, serve with sticky rice.

Chef Lynn’s Secrets:

  • When a recipe calls for spring (also called garden) onions, use the entire onion. They make a lovely garnish when they are cut on the diagonal.
  • When deciding on the size to cut the ingredients for stir fry dishes, think about how large they need to be in order to pick them up with chopsticks. That’s why I say “large” bite-sized pieces.
  • Remember… don’t crowd the wok!

Creative Cooking

One of my favorite things to do is to look in my refrigerator with the goal of creating something delicious from whatever I find there. Using up leftovers makes me feel thrifty. Often, they even taste better because the flavors have had a little time to develop.

Here’s a perfect example of that. For dinner the night before this project, I had made chicken breasts dipped in egg and sprinkled with cheese. Two were leftover. I had also made corn on the cob and cut off the extra kernels from extra cobs. I found some extra dried cherries, left over from a diabetic cake I had made my mom and a number of staples, like onions. All of this turned into a flavorful chicken salad that could become sandwiches for lunch or a nice side for dinner. Another possibility was to make “deviled” eggs without yolks by filling the eggs with the salad. Believe me; it quickly disappeared! Simply warming up those chicken breasts and over cooking them would not have been the same.

"Deviled" Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

“Deviled” Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

Here is the salad recipe and some tips for using it as an egg filling for a healthy after school snack!

Chicken-Cherry Salad(Makes about 6 cups)

2 large chicken breasts, cooked

½ large yellow onion, diced tiny

½ cup cooked, fresh corn, sliced off the cob

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 cup dried cherries, chopped small

¼ cup cheddar cheese (This was already cooked onto my chicken as indicated above.)

Salt and pepper

Optional Garnishes: Sliced garden onion, red bell pepper, diced small

Method:

  1. Thinly slice the chicken, and then cut across the strips to make a tiny dice. (Chopping all ingredients very small protects your finishing options – especially if you think you want to fill eggs.)
  2. Mix all ingredients together except the garnishes (toppings). Taste it and if necessary add more spices.
Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish

Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish. Garnished with sliced garden onions.

Notes:

  1. You can mix the salad ahead and chop the garnishes. Cover and refrigerate. If making deviled eggs, make them up at the last minute. If serving as a side, add garnishes at the last minute.
  2. Older eggs peel better than really fresh ones. Every carton has a sell by date on it. Just make sure you stay within that time frame.
  3. Think of a boiled egg simply as a container. They can be filled with your favorite tuna or any other salad for variety. Make a small slice on the bottom of each egg half so it will sit on a flat surface and won’t go sliding around on your plate.

    Thinly Slice Egg Bottoms

    Make a small slice on the bottom to “anchor” your eggs and keep them from sliding around on the plate.

Looking for a high protein brunch that’s healthy and not so high in calories? Turn to the incredible, edible egg. It’s The Incredible Egginexpensive, has no gluten, is high in protein, and contains choline which promotes liver function and helps transport other nutrients throughout your body. You can also add in a number of vitamins as well as no sugar and no carbs! Add in the right kind of carbs with the recipes you choose – carbs from vegetables.

So let’s choose spinach! Spinach is a super food – providing a very dense nutritional content in relation to its calories. Besides that, its vibrant green color provides a wonderful visual contrast, making the dish colorful and appealing. After that, I’ve added in other nutritious and colorful vegetables that you probably have on hand – making this a “go to” meal that you can prepare in a hurry.

Thinking of leaving out the cheese? It helps you to feel full and ¼ cup only adds 27.5 calories. Worth it to me! Cheese also adds a little more protein. My trainer always told me to be sure to eat something with protein and carbs within an hour after working out. This recipe is the perfect mix – and I’ll mention again – it’s so quick to make! After I work out, I’m hungry and if I head for the omelet pan, I can satisfy that need before I grab something sweet that works against my goals. (I try to keep Jerky around for that reason too – something else that’s quick to grab during a snack attack!)

Here’s the recipe:

(370 calories, 21.3 grams protein, 5.4 grams fiber, 15.4 grams carb)

2 large eggs, whisked

¼ red or yellow onion, diced small

½ red bell pepper, diced small

1-1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves

¼ cup finely grated Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil

Pinch each of salt and pepper

Garnish: A few sliced, green garden onions

Method:

  1. Place 2 cups water in a frying or sauce pan. Add the spinach and heat just until the leaves soften. Do not overcook. Remove from the pan and drain well. You can even blot it a bit with a paper towel.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick omelet pan. Add the onion and pepper and sauté until just soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the egg and as it starts to cook, scrape the sides of the pan and fold it in on itself (preferably using a heat free spatula).
  4. Just before the egg is completely cooked, add the rest of the ingredients except for the garden onions and sprinkle with spices. Fold together once more. Sprinkle with a few sliced green garden onions and serve immediately.

Concerned about cholesterol? WebMD says it best… “In 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary guidelines and gave healthy adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again. The AHA’s guidelines now allow an egg a day for healthy adults while still advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.

The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended daily limit.

When scientists learned that high blood cholesterol was associated with heart disease, foods high in cholesterol logically became suspect. But after 25 years of study, it has become evident that cholesterol in food is not the culprit — saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol. Full-fat dairy products and fatty meats are examples of foods that are loaded with saturated fat and which trigger the body to produce cholesterol.”

As an aside, it’s well known that you can spread out your nutritional needs over a period of days. So, if you make this dish one day, you can keep your egg limits in check by not eating any on the day following. This applies to most people, but if you have a heart condition and your doctor has advised you otherwise, follow his/her advice!

Gluten Free Baking

The trend toward gluten free baked goods is on the rise. Even my own doctor says there is no reason for anyone to eat wheat in its current non-nutritional state – even if you do not have Celiac Disease. As a result, I’ve tried to take gluten out of my diet. I tested negative for Celiac Disease, but now when I eat gluten, I see by my aching stomach how difficult it is to digest. If you carefully read labels and learn the gluten free buzz words, you can do pretty well. However, baking at home is the real challenge.

A friend suggested that I try the Chebe bread mix for making pizza crust and my daughter-in-law pushed me off the mark Chebe Bun Boxby ordering me some online and handing it to me (God love her. http://www.chebe.com/) At first glance, online ratings are pretty good and it’s not terribly expensive. A box, which makes a small loaf or four buns is three dollars and change. You can find sales as well. The second plus is that making it is very easy. They basically combine the flours for you – not always so easy to find – and you add the other ingredients. So basically, they are making out like bandits, but the ease of making a home baked product is worth the (not exorbitant) cost.

I started with the cheese buns because I had some turkey burgers stuffed with Feta and Spinach that I wanted to try. To make the buns, all I had to do was to follow the recipe on the box by adding two Tablespoons oil, a cup of finely grated cheddar cheese, 2 eggs and ¼ cup of water. You mix this together and knead it. You have to really press it together to get it to mix. I ended up lightly wetting my hands in the end to provide just a bit more moisture. Then you divide the dough into four pieces and form them into balls.

Here are some tricks for you. 1. If you want to divide dough equally, make it into a roll. Then cut the roll in half, then each
half into half again. 2. If you want to get a nice “bun” shape, form the ball and then continue to work it around as you would to make a ball, but cup your hands. That makes a higher more bun-like shape.

Equal Sections

Bun ShapingThe next step is to place the buns on an oiled baking sheet or one that is lined with parchment paper and brush them with oil. Then bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, until – as the package says – they are lightly browned. I used the full baking time, but although they did not brown, I took them out anyway and let them cool. The result was a great bun that was crispy on the outside and delightfully soft on the inside – not terribly large, but decent in size. They do rise a little, but not a lot.

According to the box, these buns are gluten, soy, corn, rice, potato, yeast, peanut, tree nut, egg, lactose/casein, iodine, and sugar free, non GMO and Kosher Certified. Whoa. The only thing that is pretty funny though, is that they tell you to add eggs and cheese to the mix, so go figure. That negates a number of those things! I can’t imagine the buns would be as good without them, especially the cheese.

The result – with the cheese – was pretty good. I would make them again. The crispiness, however, made it a bit hard to Finished Bunseat. You could mitigate this by brushing the hot buns with melted butter to soften them. This does, however and of course, add calories, which brings me to one of my pet peeves.

The box says this mix makes 4 sandwich buns. The calorie count per serving is 70. That sounds pretty good at first, but if you look at the Servings per container, it’s 10. Yes, TEN! So if you make 4 buns, each bun is actually 175 calories. Not only that, the calorie count on the box only includes what is in the box. So let’s add the other ingredient calories and divide that by 4. (2 T olive oil = 238, 1 cup cheddar cheese = 455, 2 large eggs = 156) So our total is 1,024 divided by 4 = 256 per bun. That’s not terrible. Now if we look at what I put on the bun, I had 5 oz. ground turkey breast at 150 calories, 1 slice of red onion and 1 pieces of lettuce that are practically negligible, Spinach and feta cheese providing about 60 calories and 1 Tablespoon low fat mayonnaise at 40 calories. So Burgermy total sandwich came to 506 calories, which really isn’t bad for eating something that really tasted like a hamburger. My point is just that it’s a lot more than it looks like at first glance. I even noticed online that when you look up calorie contents, the Nutrition box will often say “1 serving”, but they won’t tell you how much that serving is. So easy to be deceived! So be careful and look closely.

Long story short. Good buns! You can also use this mix for pizza crust, rolls and other things. It just depends on how you shape them.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever you eat fresh breads, they are not best straight out of the oven. They still need time to rest and develop. I would make these buns in the morning next time and serve them for dinner. Later – and the next day toasted – or simply buttered and sprinkled with salt, they were really, really good. They were also not quite as crispy, which would make them better for a burger. This bread mix will be a staple in my pantry from now on. 🙂

Raw Cauliflower Salad

Raw Cauliflower Salad

Almost any restaurant you walk into these days will feature a signature Cauliflower Salad. Thank goodness it’s one of the top trends this year because it’s a great diet dish that’s really healthy for you.

As an aside, if you’re on a low carb diet and you steam cauliflower and puree it, it will help you not miss your potatoes. In fact, many people won’t even be able to tell the difference. Often when I serve it to guests they remark, “Wow. These potatoes are really good!” Cauliflower also contains a lot of fiber, which should help you feel full longer as well as being healthy for your heart.

Cauliflower has antioxidant properties (Vitamins C and E, folic acid, lycopene, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene). It also contains nutrients that protect you from the sun and help you to age well. It’s possible to find conflicting information on whether nutrients are destroyed by cooking, but certainly some of the less stable ones are lost. So why not eat it raw? If you slice the florets very thinly, you won’t notice so much that it’s not cooked. Mixing in other things will also help to develop an interesting taste.

Here’s a recipe that I like. It pairs well with anything – meats, poultry, pork, or fish. It’s just a little spicy but you can make it more so by adding more Peppadew pickled peppers (usually found in the deli section of your grocery store). For interest, you can use other colors of cauliflower (yellow or purple) or mix up the colors. The purple variety has even an extra antioxidant, the same one found in red wine.

RAW CAULIFLOWER SALAD 

1 head Cauliflower, florets sliced thinly

1 large Romaine leaf, sliced thinly

2 red Peppadew peppers (or more, to taste), chopped tiny

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped tiny

1 teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon salt

½ cup salted and roasted cashews, rough chopped

1/3 cup sweetened coconut

1/4 cup olive oil

¼ cup Champagne vinegar

½ teaspoon ground garlic

1 teaspoon orange zest

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Method:

  1. Layer the first seven ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix together the oil, vinegar, garlic, zest and juice. Pour it over the ingredients.
  3. Mix by folding with your hands, trying not to break up the cauliflower too much and that’s it. Couldn’t be simpler! Can be made several hours ahead of your meal.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits hopefully have an honored place in your diet. Their refreshing taste on a hot day is unequaled. But more importantly, citrus fruits contain flavonoids. According to the Dairy Council of California, they “have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the spread of tumors. Citrus flavonoids are also antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and may protect against heart disease”… as well as preventing “the oxidation of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, and are good sources of folate and potassium. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damaging free radicals. It is also required for the synthesis of collagen, which helps wounds heal and helps hold blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bone together. Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that is essential for the function of nerves, heart contraction, and some enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism.”

Because they contain citrus acid, they are also great for tenderizing meats, an important aid for dieters who are trying to create flavor without fat. Not only do they add taste, this ability to tenderize makes cheaper (and tougher) cuts of meat more palatable and actually delicious. Here’s a good example of a citrus marinade from Chef Seamus Mullen of Tertulia in New York City.

Citrus Marinated Pork Chops

Raw Chops Marinating

Raw Chops in the Marinade

Mix together: 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grated lime zest, ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup honey, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 small red onion, sliced, 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt and pepper. Marinate 4 pork chops for 15 minutes and then fry in a hot pan in a small amount of butter.

The recipe says 15 minutes, but I actually left the marinade on for more like a half hour. These were thin chops. If you use thicker ones, I would pierce the chops and leave it on for an hour.

This is a delicious recipe. I have always hated cooking pork because if it’s overdone it’s awful. So make sure to cook the chops just until their color changes throughout. Watch on the side as they are cooking and when they are white half way through, flip them to cook the other side.

Bring the sauce to a boil

Bring the sauce to a boil.

Chef Mullen says to strain the marinade and cook them in the marinade. Remember that you must heat this marinade before serving because it has been in contact with the raw pork. If you like, you can sear them quickly over high heat to add taste and color. Then add the marinade and continue cooking. However, getting the color is a bit difficult since the chops are wet. They will boil first instead of searing. If you don’t mind that they aren’t brown, they will be juicier if you do not sear them.

Pair this with a fruity wine like a red Zinfandel. It would also be great with a sweet drink like a Whisky or Pisco Sour. Or if you’re on a diet, simply drink water and enjoy the citrus flavor even more.

Finished dish

Finished Dish

2-Sunray Venus Clam Shell

Sunray Venus Clam Shell

You’ve all heard the old adage “You eat with your eyes first”. As a Chef, I’m always looking for ideas for making a plate appealing. If it looks attractive, I can be sure it will be gobbled up by my guests and besides the quest is fun! I look for pretty dishes everywhere I go – even on my recent trip to Marco Island, a place known for its beautiful shells washing up on the beach. As well as shells for table decoration, I was looking for dishes. Yes, I said dishes!

When you find your shells, first sanitize them by dissolving one “San Tab” (available at Gordon Foods) in a gallon of water. Then add the shells for at least 20 seconds and that takes care of it. Be sure to also rinse them well to remove the chemicals and you’ve got an interesting and attractive dish. (You can also paint them with Mod Podge on the outside to make them a little shinier if you like, but don’t paint the surface where you will place food.)

I looked for large white clam shells, Sunray Venus clam shells and the largest scallop bowls I could find. Most of these were out on Tiger Tail Point Beach. What’s really interesting about the ocean is that different things wash up each day. One day it will be full of Fighting Conch shells and the next day you might not be able to find any at all. Different shells can be found in various parts of the beach. Make sure not to take one that’s alive or inhabited, which is actually illegal. If you really want to help protect the eco system, you take those that are alive out beyond the waves and throw them out into the ocean so they will have another chance.

3-Table decoration

Variety of small shells for decoration

But let’s get back to the table. Small shells went into decorative bowls. (You can leave them simply as they are or fill the bowls with water and float candles or flowers above them. You could also partially fill a vase and add flowers.) Fighting conchs, starfish and a sand dollar became appetizer tray decorations. Larger shells became containers for little specialties I like to make. The larger shells could simply be handed to people with appetizers in them. I took it one step further and added them to a Bento Box (a Japanese lunch box divided into four sections. Plastic boxes can be found in Japanese grocery stores. Or, if you want beautiful lacquered ones like these, you can find them online). I found the little dishes that fit in them in all kinds of different stores on my travels as well as at Crate and Barrel.

What you see in the box below is grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and perched on purchased Quinoa-Vegetable Salad, marinated chicken skewers, lump crab and a crab cake topped with a little fresh thyme. The sauces are Sweet Chili Sauce and Thai Peanut Sauce – both simply purchased. On the clam shells on the appetizer tray are seared scallops topped with shredded ribs, Sushi and sashimi. You don’t have to use these exact things. Just use little things that you like to make and don’t forget about your leftovers for toppings or other little creations. Simply have fun with it!

1-Scallop Shells

Large Scallop Shells

4-Bento Box Presentation

Bento Box

 

To make the ribs: Cut four pounds of bone-in ribs into four pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Then spread a small can of tomato paste on the meaty side. Turn them over so the tomato side is down. (Heating the tomato sauce sweetens it.) Add 1 cup of beef stock. (If you don’t make your own, I like the Kitchen Basics brand the best.) Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours at 350 F – or until the meat pulls away when you rake a fork over it. Remove the meat and chop it. Freeze any extra for another meal.

The marinade for the chicken is ½ cup Sesame Seed oil, ½ cup Soy Sauce, 1 Clove minced Garlic, 1 minced Green Onion, 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper, 1 Tablespoon Curry Powder and 1 Tablespoon ground ginger. Marinate for at least 45 minutes and then cook them in a pan. Remember to soak your skewers ahead of time so they won’t burn.

To make the crab cake: Mix 1 pound of crab with 1/4 cup chopped pepper, 1/4 chopped shallot, ¾ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb dressing (first mixed with 2 Tablespoons Dijon or Mucky Duck mustard and 1 egg and then added to the mix) and salt and pepper to taste. Press into cakes and dip in Panko. Fry in butter.  Enjoy!

6-Finished Appetizers

Finished Appetizers

7-Finished Bento Box

Finished Bento Box

Sous Vide Cooking…Now so easy to do at home!

Sous Vide Tuna with Carrots

Sous Vide Tuna                                                       With Carrots and Cauliflower Puree

What is Sous Vide?  Sous Vide is French for without air. It’s is worth knowing about because it’s a way to cook meats and fish with absolutely no fat – reducing in calorie reduction. But most important, it’s a way to get your food the perfect temperature with no fear of over cooking. It can supply a big window of time within which you can serve your food, all the while keeping it warm and perfectly cooked. The sous vide method was popularized by high end restaurants for just these reasons – and now, even the home cook has an opportunity to take advantage of this unique method of cooking without a huge expenditure.

To use this method, you place a circulator/heater in a tank with enough water to cover the food. You heat the water to the desired temperature and then you drop sealed bags containing your food into the water for a specified period of time. (Charts come with the equipment.) You can slow cook thick fish for several hours and meats for many more. Once you reach your minimum cooking time, you can leave it in there to keep it warm for quite a while, taking it out when everything else is ready – a cook’s dream!

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Does food taste the same? Your food will be moist and the texture will be extremely tender. However, it might look a little different. You won’t see any caramelization, so you might want to use a blow torch, broiler or blow torch with a diffuser on it to brown up your meat. I don’t think this is so important for fish and with fish – because it’s more tender and thinner – you risk over cooking when you have just gone to the trouble of preparing it perfectly. You can compensate for the lack of caramelization with tasty and colorful spices. In general, you will want to use more spices anyway to compensate for losing the taste of the fat you would normally use in cooking.

Blow Torch With Diffuser

Blow Torch With Diffuser

There are some important precautions! Watch out for safe temperature ranges. Bacteria proliferate exponentially between the temperatures of 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Some bacteria grow without the presence of air, so vacuum packing it in this sense doesn’t make any difference. When your food is in this range for four hours, you should throw it out. This includes cooking, cooling and eating time – and it’s cumulative. So if you save leftovers, even though your refrigerate them, when you bring them back into that temperature zone, you have to count the time it was out before. (You can extend this by two hours by re-heating to specified temperatures.)

All this means is that if you plan to cook a roast, for example, that has six hours of cooking time, make sure your water temperature is above the zone. A product like fish, for example, that might, also for example, take an hour or two to cook, would be fine cooked at a lower temperature – even within the zone.

What equipment is required and where do I get it? All you need is a large, plastic tank and a heater/circulator, as well as a way to vacuum pack your food. It’s important to circulate the water in the tank so that all the liquid is a constant temperature. Basically, you are poaching without your food touching the water, which would leech out the flavor.

Take a look at the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circular for $199 and the ARY tank, for $39 (found online at the time of this printing). A vacuum pack machine can be found at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Although there are more expensive ones available, I got a Food Saver brand machine there for $69 and it has worked fine for years. A nice aside to these machines is that you can freeze food without air in the packages, eliminating or highly reducing freezer frost. For sous vide, you can even use Ziploc bags, as long as you press out the air and make sure they are sealed tightly.

This method of cooking is easy and fun. Especially for those of you who are afraid to cook fish, just can’t get it right or don’t like the smell of fish in your kitchen, here’s your answer!

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