Sunday, June 30, 2013

Not the Same Old 4th of July Side Dishes

We'll assume you have all the main courses figured out for your 4th of July cookout (if not, we can help), but just in case you're still looking for some side dishes, here are a few out of the ordinary ideas that should work beautifully. Just click the caption link to see the post and video. Enjoy!

Cold Broccoli Salad

Peach and Escarole Salad

Apple Jicama Coleslaw

Boston Baked Beans

Succotash Salad

Pickled Grilled Vegetables

Friday, June 28, 2013

No-Bake Cheesecake Flag Cake – Let Your Fruit Flag Fly!

I’ve been avoiding doing a no-bake cheesecake recipe, despite the many food wishes for it, simply because I love the dense, rich texture of the traditional baked version so much that it seems almost a crime to do something like this instead.

That’s a silly attitude, as these are two entirely different desserts, and since I needed a white canvas on which to demo the fruity, 4th of July flag design seen herein, I decided to go for it. The fact that we just had our first real heat wave of the summer didn’t hurt either.

That you can make this lovely, sweet treat without turning on the oven is probably enough of a reason to give this serious consideration. Besides the taste and texture, I think your guests will enjoy the iconic stars and stripes design provided by the fresh blueberries and strawberries.

Everyone knows that if you eat enough fresh fruit with a dessert, it cancels out the negative effects from the sugar and the fat, or at least that’s what I’ve always assumed. Anyway, there is no greater tribute an American cook can pay to this great democracy of ours, than to make a shortcut dessert that looks like our flag. USA! USA! USA! I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 portions:
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
For the filling:
2 cups (1 pound) cream cheese (I used half regular and half mascarpone)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cold heavy whipping cream (36% fat)
1/3 cup white sugar

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cold White Bean & Herb Salad – Mmm, Good Stems!

I’m showing this quick and easy white bean and herb salad for several reasons, not the least of which is to give you a perfectly delicious way to use up the end of that already used once bunch of parsley or cilantro. 

You told yourself you were going to add them to your next stock, forgetting you don’t make stock, and the sheared remains end up in the back of the vegetable crisper where they die a slow, slimy death. Well, this may be the answer.

Both cilantro and Italian parsley have tender stems that pretty much taste exactly like the leaves. By slicing the last half of the bunch thinly, across the stems, you have a perfect addition to any simple, cold bean salad. Besides herb stem recover and utilization, this recipe deserves to be in the rotation for two other very good reasons. It only takes like five minutes to makes, and goes beautifully with any and all of the traditional grilled or barbecued summer meats.

This video also reminds me that you wannabe food snobs need to stop making fun of people that don’t like cilantro. For about 10% of the population, due to certain receptors on the tongue, cilantro tastes nasty, which explains why so many people detest the stuff. The good news is that parsley works even better, so everybody wins.

On a spice note, I used Aleppo pepper here instead of cayenne or pepper flakes, and I hope you do the same. I only discovered this pepper recently, and just love it. It’s hot, but not too hot, and has a bright, fruity flavor I think you’ll really enjoy. Please note: In the video I said it was my new favorite pepper, but I only did that to make cayenne jealous. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1/2 bunch (the stem end) Italian parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 can (15-oz) white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cloves minced garlic
1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Aleppo pepper to taste
2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar (or rice vinegar if you want it a little sweeter)
3 tbsp olive oil

Saturday, June 22, 2013

So You Can Use Real Food to Lose Weight Without Dieting? – I Knew It!

I’ll probably never write a book on healthy eating (I know, you’re shocked), but if I did, I’d like to think it would be similar to “Foodist,” the new book by my friend, and favorite neuroscientist, Darya Pino Rose. I’ve never been able to articulate it as well as Ms. Summer Tomato, but have always believed that delicious food is the solution, not the problem; and that relying solely on willpower to change behavior never works, for anything.

Genetically predisposed appearances to the contrary, I live a relatively healthy lifestyle (or “healthstyle” as it’s referred to in the book). I’m quite active, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and generally stay away from processed foods. At this advanced age, I know what makes my body and mind feel good, and I try to eat as many of those foods as possible.

Of course, I’ve based most of my personal eating theories on intuition and anecdotal evidence, so it was nice having someone who actually understands all this stuff explain the science behind it. Besides learning why all those diets you tried didn’t work (spoiler alert: it wasn’t your fault), the smartly organized book is chock full of great tips and techniques, presented in an entertaining, often irreverent style.

I really did enjoy the book, and despite my complete lack of objectivity, I would enthusiastically recommend it to others. For more information, you can follow this link to Amazon, where the book is getting rave reviews (by people who actually paid for it).  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa – A Simple Green Sauce for Summer

This spectacularly simple green sauce may be the perfect summer condiment. It requires no cooking, only takes minutes, looks gorgeous, and tastes amazing with anything grilled, and most things not. 

It’s also great for treating a bad sunburn. That’s right, just serve this and chips along with three or four margaritas, and the victim will feel significantly better in no time.

I will admit this is a sauce I take for granted. I’m lucky enough to live near San Francisco’s Mission District, and there are hundreds of taquerias and restaurants, all of which feature some type of fresh, green salsa. Each place uses a slightly unique combination of ingredients, but I’ve never had one I didn’t enjoy. 

Not all contain avocado, but I really like the addition since it adds a wonderful richness, and the extra fat helps carry the other flavors around. As you’ll see next week, this was delicious on some pork tacos, but there are so many other amazing options. Try it on scrambled eggs, use it as a relish for sausage, or as a dip for fried-anything.  I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 1/4 cups:
1 generous cup sliced tomatillos (about 6 oz by weight)
*Note: if you can’t find fresh, you can use canned tomatillos in a pinch
1 tbsp minced Serrano pepper, or to taste
1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, juiced
salt to taste

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fondant Potatoes – A Creamy Crusty Blast from the Past

Every once in a while I get a food wish that instantly takes me back to culinary school. Things like aspic (not happening), larding a tenderloin (not happening), and pulled sugar (sort of already happened) always transport me back to those demos where the instructors fully admitted that we’d probably never use these skills, but since they were considered “classic techniques,” we’d have to spend time covering them anyway. Sure, makes perfect sense.

This fabulous fondant potato technique is a prime example. Made them a few times in school and loved them. Made them a few times at a hotel early in my career and loved them. Haven’t made them since, and not exactly sure why. They taste amazing, and as I try to make clear in the video, the texture this method provides is unlike anything you get by just roasting. The way the crusty, crunchy edges outside, works with the uniquely rich and creamy inside is truly a magical thing. 

I just think that we’re so used to the usual rotation of potato side dishes; fried, roasted, mashed, etc., that it’s hard to push ourselves to do a potato recipe that has multiple steps. In fairness, the multiple steps are super easy, but still. Anyway, if you’ve never experienced the old world awesomeness that is the fondant potato, I hope this video inspires you to try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 fondant potatoes:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 large russet potatoes (other varieties will not work as well)
salt and pepper to taste
a knob of butter (a 2 or 3 tablespoon size chunk)
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock, more if needed
*Roast at 425 F until tender, about 30 minutes

View the complete recipe

Monday, June 17, 2013

Next Up: An Old Potato Recipe That Has Nothing To Do With Golf

I hope you all enjoyed as nice a Father’s Day weekend as I did. I got to take in a baseball game, fireworks, and golf with my father-in-law, Al, who shot a masterful 78 at the Wildhorse Golf Club

It was a lot of fun to watch, and I came in a very close second…with a score of 97. If you had any fears that I might quit doing this blog to compete on the senior golf tour, you can relax.

Anyway, I wish I could think of a clever way to segue from golf on Father’s Day to the next video, but I can’t (if we’d played “skins” during the round I would have had a better chance).  So, I’ll simply say, our new video features a very old recipe, Fondant Potatoes. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Beerbecue Beef Flank Steak – You’ll Have Them at “Beer”

If you thought beer was just a refreshing adult beverage that made your friends seem more interesting and better looking, well think again. I was simply stunned at how a glass of beer poured into a homemade barbecue sauce created one of the most delicious grilled flank steaks I’ve ever had.

If you’re looking for something different for your Father’s Day cookout, consider this super simple preparation. I’m not sure if it’s the bitterness from the hops, or the malty notes, or just the alcohol, but something happens to produce a tender, juicy, and very flavorful steak.

Of course, half the battle is cutting this correctly, so pay special attention to that portion of the video. Cutting in half lengthwise will make life easier, and then straight down across the grain will yield tender slices of the smoky, aromatic meat. Drizzle on a little of the leftover sauce, and you’re in for a real treat.

Any beer will do, but try to use something on the more aggressive side if you can. Don’t forget, you’ll need to drink the other 5.33 beers, so you might as well get something tasty. I went with Belgian ale, and it was a beautiful thing. I hope you give this father-friendly beerbecue recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 (1 1/2 lb) trimmed beef flank steak
salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup strong beer

View the complete recipe

Next Up: Beerbecue!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

S’more Ice Cream Pie – Who’s Your Daddy’s Favorite Celebrity Dessert Chef?

Trick question; he doesn’t have one. That type of thing is more for women and food bloggers. In fact, your dad may not even have a favorite dessert, but if he had to pick one, I think a lot of fathers would go with s’mores – the campfire classic that inspired this frozen Father’s Day dessert.

S’mores are a simple, yet brilliant treat that represents everything most males, dads or otherwise, seem to love. It’s made over a crackling fire, the building of which triggers the release of all kinds of manly neurotransmitters in the brain. The same goes for sharpening sticks with knives, impaling things, and burning stuff.

And while you’re not experiencing those primitive pleasures here (except for the blowtorch, which is never not awesome), I think just the connection with the venerable s’more alone will be enough to have dad loving this pie.

If not, there’s always the crispy, buttery graham crackers, chocolate ice cream, and toasted marshmallows to make him proud of you anyway. Whether you make this for Father’s Day dessert or not, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (28-oz) container chocolate ice cream
2-3 handfuls mini marshmallows, or enough to cover the top

View the complete recipe

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grilled Sea Bass with Chili Lime Dressing – More Than Just a Nice Piece of Bass

While this is technically a recipe for sea bass, it’s really much more than that. This tasty technique represents a glimpse into my warm weather culinary habits. At least three times a week, I’ll toss some kind of lean protein on the grill, and finish it doused in some sort of dressing or vinaigrette.

When you consider the wide variety of meats and seafood, and the countless combinations of herbs, peppers, vinegars, and spices, you’re not just looking at a summer’s worth of stellar dishes; you’re looking at a lifetime’s worth.

This kind of operation always suffers from over-thinking. Don’t try too hard to come up with these adaptations, just let it happen. By the way, this is always a fantastic way to use up the last tablespoon of whichever bottled vinaigrette is languishing in the back of the fridge.

I always get concerned comments when I use sea bass, since there have been over-fishing issues, but this was labeled “Sustainably Produced” at one of those well-known, national markets. I didn’t do any independent research to verify, but if you can’t trust a giant corporate grocery chain, who can you trust?

Like I said, this will work with all kinds of things, and the more you use this style of cooking, the more you’ll want to use it. The dressing took five minutes, and the fish took maybe ten. That leaves plenty of time for savoring the long days ahead, which is why I hope you try this soon. Enjoy!

4 (4-oz each) sea bass filets
vegetable oil and salt to taste
For the dressing:
1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, mashed or grated of microplane
zest of one lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sambal or other chili paste/sauce
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
cilantro leaves
roasted parnips, click here for recipe

View the complete recipe

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Homemade (Mayo) with Love

This garlic and basil mayonnaise recipe was inspired by my friend Jennifer Perillo's fabulous new cookbook, Homemade with Love. As a longtime admirer of In Jennie's Kitchen, I expected her cookbook to be filled amazing recipes and gorgeous pictures, and it certainly was, but what I didn’t expect was to see my name and this blog mentioned on page 229!

That’s right, on Jennifer’s homemade mayonnaise recipe, we were credited with the always-impressive immersion blender method seen herein. She even called me a genius, which is obviously a very, very slight exaggeration. I feel kind of guilty since I didn’t invent this technique, but since I don’t remember who showed me, it’s just going to be easier to take credit.

Jennifer and I have very similar tastes, and if you like my videos I’m fairly sure you’ll love this book. I really enjoy when a cookbook author shares little stories and anecdotes to introduce the recipes, and she’s done that throughout. 

To understand where a recipe comes from, and why it’s being shared, always makes it more fun to cook and savor. That’s why I talk so much during my videos. Anyway, for more info, follow this link to Amazon where Homemade with Love is enjoying rave reviews. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 1 1/2 cups Garlic and Basil Mayonnaise:
(will last about 3-5 days)
1 cup basil leaves
3 cloves finely minced garlic
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
cayenne and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or a lighter tasting olive oil (or a combination of the two)
*For regular plain mayo, I generally recommend a neutral tasting vegetable oil like canola. 

View the complete recipe

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Extra Mayo

I'm back in San Francisco, and tomorrow I'll finally post the long-promised, updated homemade mayonnaise technique. Homemade mayo was one of our earliest and most popular videos, and I've wanted to do a new and improved, high-res version for years. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sweet Hot Mustard Chicken Thighs – Good to the Bone

I don’t make a lot of Indian food on this blog, but I do borrow a lot of techniques inspired by that cuisine. Things like toasting spices in fat for stews, marinating meat in yogurt, and slashing chicken down to the bone, as I did with these sweet, hot mustard thighs.

I know it’s a bit controversial, since some say you lose moisture, but any technique that's been practiced for a thousands years is okay by me. I think it helps permeate the chicken with the sweet, hot mustard marinade, as well as gives the final product some fairly cool “racing stripes.”

As I mention, if you insist on using boneless-skinless thighs, this will still work, but it is really is a recipe where the bone is key. You may have heard the expression, “the closer the bone, the sweeter the meat,” and it’s so true. There are many ingredients you can substitute for, but bones aren’t really one of them.

Imagine a chef boning out a rack of ribs before barbecuing them, so that they’re easier to eat? …actually, don’t imagine that, but I think you get the point. Anyway, I hope you try this very easy and delicious sweet, hot mustard chicken thigh recipe soon. Enjoy!

(consider all the spices “to taste” and adjust to your liking)
8-10 chicken thighs
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground dry chipotle
cayenne to taste
1 onion sliced into rings
4 cloves minced garlic
vegetable oil for the pan and top of chicken

View the complete recipe

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Next Up: Sweet Hot Mustard Chicken

Just a quick note to say thank you to everyone who left their get well wishes on the Family Matters post, and also to say stay tuned for a brand new video recipe tomorrow! My mother is doing much better, and really appreciates all the love you've shown. Thank you!