Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Savory Chocolate? Sweet!

originally posted at ChefsLine 16 Jan 2009
by Adam Cutsinger

Do you like chocolate? Yes? Do you like chocolate with cream? Or ice cream? Do you like chocolate with caramel? Or chocolate with nuts? How about chocolate with cherries? Or raspberries? Mint? Cream cheese? How about chocolate with rosemary? Thyme? Lavender? Or cayenne? Do you like chocolate with mustard?

If the last few options made you feel a little apprehensive, read on.

Chocolate is no less suited for cooking with savory than butter or fruit. But allow me to rewind here a moment, to explain that, in professional kitchens in the U.S., two major categories exist – pastry, i.e. pastries, desserts and sweets; and savory. i.e. everything else. And, for some chefs, never the twain shall meet, while some other chefs enjoy crossing over, dabbling and experimenting, seeing what works (and what doesn’t) by trial and error. As it turns out, there are many ingredients that help make successful dishes on both sides of the paradigm. And chocolate is irrefutably one of them.

Cooking with chocolate ought not be a cause for pause. After all, chocolate’s friends in the bakeshop – butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla honey, etc. all cross over into the savory kitchen quite nicely, don’t they? What chocolate brings to savory dishes is complexity and depth. The cocoa butter brings texture and mouthfeel, and the cocoa solids bring color and richness. A cook can choose a chocolate for his dish much in the same way he chooses a wine to cook/pair with his food. And there are just about as many options.

It may be noted that a little bit of chocolate goes a long way, although there are some daring chefs who deliberately push the envelope when marrying chocolate with savory dishes. It should also be pointed out that cooking with chocolate doesn’t necessarily mean sweetness on your plate. Although cooking with sweet components, chocolate included, is often desirable, good bittersweet chocolate is actually not very sweet at all and won’t generally make your dish taste any sweeter.

Question: So what does chocolate actually bring to a savory dish? Short answer: depth and complexity. Long answer: Chocolate consists of two very potent components, the cocoa solids (i.e. cocoa powder) and the cocoa butter (i.e. white chocolate). The solids are bitter and dark brown, and act like a starch, absorbing moisture and thickening liquids. The cocoa butter adds silkiness, lushness and mouthfeel. In fact, because chocolate has such a low melting point, it can give the sensation of cooling your mouth because it uses the heat energy of the tongue. Very cool indeed. (On a related note, chocolate also has a very low smoke point, meaning it burns easy, and once you burn chocolate, or most anything else for that matter, you can’t really get rid of the burnt flavor. Word to the wise.) Despite chocolate’s richness and complexity, however, you may be surprised at how mellow it makes food taste. It goes well with nearly anything, and yet possesses none of the qualities of the food it goes so well with – sourness, saltiness, pungency, sweetness. Almost like good bread.

Most people already know that chocolate is a psychoactive material, because of the caffeine (stimulant), theobromine (cousin to caffeine), tryptophan (antecedent to serotonin), and phenethylamine (natural amphetamine). Cooking with chocolate is comparable to cooking with wine, beer or spirits – not only are there noteworthy effects on the flavor and texture of the food, but the food itself has more of an effect upon the person eating it. Chefs, avid restaurant goers and foodies all around understand that great food has only so much to do with nourishing the body. It’s about enjoying life as much as possible. And cooking with chocolate can leave one feeling very high on life.

Mole poblano is probably the best-known chocolate dish (most sauces called moles actually don’t feature chocolate at all), and is traditionally served over chicken, but can be served over pork, beef, venison, even fish. And here chocolate is reunited with one of its oldest friends: the chile. Native South American tribes, including the Olmecs, the Incas, the Aztecs and the Mayans, used chocolate, usually as a beverage, with chiles, vegetables, meats and other savory elements long before Europeans began utilizing chocolate. Fact is, chocolate was not originally defined as a dessert ingredient until much later. Only as the distinction between desserts and the world of savory, nonsweet foods became more and more defined over time did chocolate eventually join the ranks of such foods as sugar, honey, and many fruits as fundamentally dessert-oriented. (Interesting side note? Cacao beans were also used as currency by Mayans as late as 400 AD in Guatemala – 3 cacao beans could buy you an avocado, and for 100 beans you could buy a turkey.)

Tips for introducing chocolate to your dinner:

  • If a recipe you are using calls for flour, substitute up to 25% of that flour with cocoa powder.
  • Put a small piece of bittersweet chocolate at the bottom of a bowl of hot soup or chili. As it slowly melts, you can experiment with how much chocolate you like with each slice of your spoon.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of melted chocolate (or cacao nibs in lieu of nuts, if your recipe calls for them) to a buttery sauté, or cacao nibs on a salad.
  • Try using rosemary, thyme, lavender, cayenne, olive oil, or some other ingredient normally associated with savory cooking, to your favorite chocolate dessert.
  • Be aware, water can make chocolate seize (stiffen and lump suddenly), but you can usually unseize it if you stir it vigorously enough.
  • Use good chocolate. It’s worth the extra cost.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Moveable Feast

originally posted at ChefsLine 25 May 2006

Although meals eaten outdoors always have a certain splendor, there are certainly key elements to planning and preparing your moveable feast that help ensure delicious tastes, food safety, and a pretty presentation. Use this checklist and have fun!

  1. Spruce up sandwich presentation by layering colorful wrapping paper with parchment or wax paper. Wrap like you would a present, tucking in the ends.
  2. Don’t forget the corkscrew, a sharp knife, a bread knife, small cutting board, and water.
  3. Bacteria and germs need the combination of food, moisture, and heat to grow. Temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees are not suitable for food storage and foods left in these temperatures for over four hours are firmly inside the “danger zone.” In hot weather (above 90 degrees) food should never sit for more than 1 hour. Any left over left out for more than 2 hours should be thrown away and always keep foods covered and in shady spots. The Partnership for Food Safety Education publishes very helpful information about safe food handling practices. ChefsLine is well versed in many food handling issues - do not hesitate to call us when in doubt.
  4. Lay a plastic tarp first so you can use that pretty blanket for seating.
  5. Bring a trash bag, wet naps, and of course, plates and forks.
  6. Prepare dishes that taste good at room-temperature including sandwiches, salads, and cheeses.
  7. Include a crunchy, lively salad as one dish to balance textures.
  8. And, unlike a cooler whose plastic and damp insides often give me pause before opening, there is nothing that says “look inside!” like a pretty picnic basket!
  9. Sources: Red butcher paper to wrap sandwiches or line tables Source http://www.pospaper.com
  10. Sources for red checkered take-out containers: http://www.plumparty.com/. http://www.mrtakeoutbags.com/
  11. Other ideas- Have the kids design own bags with stickers and markers. Wrap their own sandwiches with pretty plastic wrapping and stickers. Styrofoam soup containers can be decorated with markers and stickers too.
  12. Keep raw meats wrapped tightly and separately from cooked foods and those meant to be consumed raw.
  13. Pack ahead: Pack perishable foods at the last minute with ice or ice packs, and be sure not to open it too frequently.

Turkey for Sixty

If you are planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 60 people, just how many turkeys does she need to roast?

Not counting for leftovers, you’ll want to purchase 10 pounds of turkey for every 10 people. Four 15 pound turkeys (or 60 pounds total) should work well for this large group. If, however, you’ll be serving children as well, you can reduce the quantity. Children will need about ½ a pound per person. If making stuffing with bags of bread cubes, 1 bag will feed 8 so you’ll want to purchase 8 bags.

Don't let these turkeys get away from you!

Preparing the Best Turkey

  • Set up a work area, with roasting pan, cutting boards, paper towels, utensils, etc.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Remove the wrapper from the turkey.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity. Check to make sure there are no other surprises inside.
  • Drain and dry the turkey.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients of the stuffing.
  • Stuff the turkey.
  • Re-tuck the legs.
  • Place turkey breast-up on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Brush with oil to keep the skin moist.
  • Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh. Make sure it is not touching part of the bone.
  • Follow the recipe of your choice. Be aware of the important temperatures: 180 F in the thigh, 165 F in the stuffing.

    Defrosting Your Turkeys
    There are two predominantly accepted methods of thawing a turkey: the Refrigerator Method and the Cold Water Method. The Refrigerator Method takes longer, up to several days, but requires no effort other than to make room in the fridge. Make sure you pick a spot on the bottom shelf to avoid contaminating food below the turkey (it will drip as it thaws), and simply place the turkey breast-side-up, still in its original wrapper, on a pan, tray or platter. Allow a full day for every 4 pounds. The Cold Water Method is quicker, but requires more action on the part of the cook. Place the turkey in its original wrapper breast-side-down in a sink or tub, and cover completely with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to minimize bacteria growth, and allow approximately 30 minutes for every pound of the turkey.

    Baking the turkeys
    Generally, I would bake the turkeys 20-25 minutes per pound at 325 F, covered, and then uncover and raise the temperature to 400 for the last 25-30 minutes. Check them frequently, though, because ovens vary. Have fun cooking, Margie!

  • Can the Soup… Plan a Sauce!

    by Chef Adam

    Cream of mushroom soup is usually incorporated into a recipe because it is an easy way of getting the flavor of stock or broth as well as cream, and it also acts as a thickener. You can return to basics and provide these elements yourself with other common grocery items, namely cream, chicken and/or vegetable stock or broth, and a thickener, which could be flour, egg yolks, corn starch, butter, etc.

    Here is an easy recipe for a simple cream soup base:
    1 1/2 C. chicken broth
    4 T. flour
    2 T. butter
    1 T. cream
    1 egg yolk
    In a small saucepan, heat broth 10 minutes. Melt butter and stir in flour to make a roux. Whisk roux into broth. In a small bowl, blend together cream & egg yolk. Gradually add 1/4 c. of broth mixture. Pour contents of bowl into saucepan. Cook and stir for 10 minutes. Do not boil.

    Or try this “Cream of Anything Soup” recipe we have reviewed:
    2 1/2 cups milk
    1/2 cups flour
    2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
    dash salt
    dash pepper
    Put all 6 ingredients into blender “briefly” until smooth and pour into saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until it begins to thicken (watch it! can scorch easily!). Take off heat at first bubble of a boil. To this basic mixture you add any of the following optional items:

    For something a little more advanced and fun, try your hand at a roux-based sauce. A roux (pronounced “roo”) is a 1:1 ratio mixture of flour and fat (usually butter, but often meat-fat or other fat) that is heated slowly over low heat and then added to sauces and soups to give them the desired texture. The longer you cook the roux, the darker it gets, from white to blonde to brown.

    Here is a recipe for a Bechamel Sauce, which is roux-based:
    Roux-
    8 oz bread flour
    8 oz clarified (melted) butter

    Bechamel Sauce-
    1 gallon milk
    1 whole onion
    1 whole clove
    1 bay leaf
    salt to taste
    nutmeg to taste (very little will do)
    white pepper to taste

    1. Just stir the flour and butter together in a saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
    2. Heat the milk in another saucepan. Gradually add it to the roux, beating constantly.
    3. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. Reducve heat to a simmer.Use the clove as a tack and stick the bay leaf to the onion with it, and add them to the sauce. Simmer for a half hour or more.
    4. Adjust the seasoning with the remaining ingredients (not too much), and add more milk if you want to thin the sauce.
    5. Serve and/or save. (You can prevent a skin from developing on the surface of the sauce by covering or spreading a layer of melted butter over the top).

    You can also turn your Bechamel Sauce into a Mornay Sauce by adding Gruyere and parmesan cheeses and more butter!

    Please call the ChefsLine hotline for more tips, or to schedule a cooking lesson. Have fun cooking!

    Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms

    originally posted at ChefsLine 12 Jan 2007

    If you're making pot roast for 35 people and would like a great recipe idea, read on.

    You will likely want to use 2 ovens, or work in stages in order to accommodate the quantity of meat. For 35 people, you will want something in the neighborhood of 23 lbs of meat, or more depending on serving size.

    Here is a great recipe for you:

    Pot Roast with Porcini and Beer
    ~adapted from Roy Finamore’s Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day

    23 1/3 lbs; 2 whole 10 pound briskets
    Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/3 cups vegetable or canola oil

    8 lb onions, thinly sliced
    4 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
    5 bay leaf
    5 1/2 (12-ounce) bottles of beer (a pale ale is good here)
    3 cups water
    6 bouillon cubes
    6 cups dried porcini mushrooms
    3/4 cups Dijon mustard.

    METHOD
    If you can plan ahead, season the beef with salt and pepper the night before you make this, covering it loosely and refrigerating it. Otherwise, try to season it at least an hour ahead and just leave it on the counter.

    1. Heat the roaster oven to 225°F.
    2. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef well, until it's crusty on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate.
    3. Add the onions, thyme, and bay leaf to the pan, along with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have softened and reduced in volume by about half. The onions will release some of their juices, so scrape the bottom of the pan and use these juices to release any of the browned bits from the beef.
    4. Pour in the beer and water, and crumble in the bouillon cube. You might want to grind in some more pepper at this point; I usually do. Rinse the mushrooms under hot water, chop them, and add them to the pot. (Don't worry that you haven't reconstituted them; you'll be doing that directly in the sauce for the pot roast and getting all their flavor.) Bring the sauce to a boil.
    5. Nestle the beef, fat side up, in the sauce, cover the pan, and slide it into the oven. Roast for 1 hour. Turn the meat over, cover the pan again, and roast for another hour, until a fork goes into the beef like butter.
    6. Put the beef on a cutting board, tent it with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes or so. Fold a couple of kitchen towels and rest one side of the pan on them so that it is tilted and any fat will gather at the bottom of the slope. Leave the sauce to sit for a few minutes, then spoon off the fat.
    7. Most of the onions should have almost melted into the sauce. If you'd like the sauce a bit thicker, put the pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes, and stir a few times. When you've got the consistency you want, turn off the heat.
    8. Stir the mustard into the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper.
    9. Slice the beef and arrange the slices on a platter. Nap with some of the sauce. Serve with the rest of the sauce on the side.

    Here are some helpful some tips:

    -Trim off excess surface fat and any thin, shiny, white connective tissue. Brisket with too little fat can become stringy and dry or mealy when cooked.
    -Marinate or dry-rub with spices and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
    -Cook slowly in a moist environment: braise (or pot-roast) for 4 to 5 hours at 300°F, cook in a slow cooker for 8 to 10 hours on low.
    -Roast for 1 hour. Turn the meat over, cover the pan again, and roast for another hour, until a fork goes into the beef like butter.

    Click on the link below to read our most recent blog post about pot roast, and have fun cooking!
    http://www.chefsline.com/blog/articles/pot-roast-tips-and-recipe-review

    2 Responses for "Pot Roast in Your Electric Roaster"

    1. J'Aime` December 3rd, 2008 at 9:23 pm Edit Comment

      So, my electric roaster oven is not an 18qt crockpot like I was hoping. I’m not serving guests for another 8 hours and the food is done! HELP! WHAT DO I DO? :}

    2. Adam Cutsinger December 4th, 2008 at 2:39 pm Edit Comment

      Hi J’Aime,

      The best course of action at this point is to bring everything down in temperature to 40F and get the food in the refrigerator, which is usually set at around that temp.

      Wrap everything securely once it reaches room temperature or so.

      You don’t want to keep everything warm all day because it will greatly increase the growth of food-borne pathogens, or bad germs, to be at a mid-range temperature for an extended period.

      You would also probably overcook everything.

      Get everything cold and then begin reheating again when your staging time gets near.

      This is a catering technique often called ‘par-cooking’, or partially cooking (also items are ‘par-baked’ if possible, depending on what it is).

      Think of quick-cooking at high heat. Often meats are par-cooked by searing, then cooled, wrapped and trucked to, say, a wedding, where they are ‘fired again.’

      So, you can see the importance of keeping partially cooked meat cold until you can finish cooking it.

      Most foods ought to be a snap to reheat on the stove top or in the oven.

      If you are trying to cool and then reheat a large piece of meat, however, it might be too late for the ideal texture.

      You may consider employing a microwave oven, in order to slightly reheat the center of the meat, in conjunction with roasting/searing it, which will reheat the outer surface portion of the meat, so you you don’t end up cooking one part too much more than the other.

      If it’s a good cut of meat it may be too late for medium-rare, but if it’s a less expensive cut of meat it might be perfectly fine slow-cooking.

      You may let me know more about your menu, and please feel free to call 1-800-977-1224 and ask to speak with Chef Adam.

      And have fun cooking!

    Apple Onion Relish for Corned Beef

    originally posted at ChefsLine 15 Mar 2007

    Corned beef is spectacular. Try it with coleslaw and this apple onion relish, which is a great combo of sweet and savory.

    Apple Onion Relish

    Ingredients:
    2 large yellow onions, 1/4 thick slices
    2 firm green apples, cored and sliced 1/4 inch
    1/2 stick of butter
    1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
    Dash of nutmeg
    salt and pepper to taste

    Method:
    Melt butter in large pan over low heat (do not brown). Add apples and lemon juice and cook until slightly tender
    Add sliced onions and cook over medium-low heat until onions are transparent. Sprinkle mixture with a dash of nutmeg. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

    -It’s also great with pork and chicken dishes!

    Shamrock Shakes for St. Patricks’s Day

    Who wants ice cream?! What better non-alcoholic way is there to celebrate St. Patty’s day than with a minty green milkshake?! Just follow the recipe below and serve to all your little laddies and lassies.

    Uncle O'Grimacey

    Shamrock Shake

    Ingredients:
    2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
    1 cup whole milk (more for thinner shakes)
    1/4 tsp. mint extract or flavoring
    8-10 drops green food color
    Whipped cream (for garnish)
    Mint leaves (for garnish)

    Method:
    Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on medium-high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth and not streaked. Top with whipped cream and a mint leaf and serve.

    Pina Colada Tres Leches Cupcakes with Vanilla Ice Cream

    originally posted at Vivanista
    April 30, 2009

    featured

    Ingredients:
    • 2 cups sifted cake flour
    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
    • ½ cup oil
    • 7 eggs
    • 2 vanilla beans or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 2 ¼ cups coconut milk
    • 1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 ½ cups heavy cream
    • ½ cup pineapple juice
    • 2 tablespoons dark rum
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
    Method:
    Preheat oven to 350F.
    Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and half the vanilla.
    Add the eggs to the sugar mixture one at a time, allowing each egg to become fully incorporated before adding the next egg.
    Stir in ¾ cup of the coconut milk, then gently fold a little of the flour mixture into the egg mixture at a time.

    Lightly grease cup cake pans. Pour in the batter until each pan is about half full and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the center clean and each cupcake feels somewhat firm.

    Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature and turn them over onto a platter.
    Pierce the cupcakes with a fork about 30 times, then let cool in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.
    Whisk together the remaining coconut milk, the condensed milk, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, the pineapple juice and the rum.
    Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cupcakes and refrigerate for another half hour.
    You can spoon any milk run-off back onto the cupcakes.
    For the whipped cream frosting: Combine the remaining heavy cream with the remaining vanilla and 2 tablespoons of sugar, and beat to stiff peaks. Spread a layer over each of the cupcakes. Garnish with toasted shredded coconut. Serve with vanilla ice cream.



    Whole Roasted Chicken Mole Poblano


    originally posted at Vivanista April 30, 2009


    featured

    Ingredients:
    • 1 5-pound whole chicken
    • 4 dried pasilla chilies
    • 5 dried ancho chilies
    • 3 cups boiling chicken stock
    • 1 cup almonds
    • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
    • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
    • 3/4 cup lightly packed seedless raisins
    • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
    • 2 corn tortillas, broken in small pieces
    • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
    • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 8 tablespoons shortening
    • 3 cups cold chicken stock
    • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
    • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
    Method:
    In a large bowl, pour 3 cups of the boiling-hot chicken stock over the prepared chilies. Cover and soak them for about 30 minutes.

    Heat half the shortening in a large sauté pan or skillet. Cover the chicken in a light coating of salt and pepper. Optionally, you may stuff the middle cavity with halved onions, garlic cloves, lemon rinds, chile cores, or any other vegetable portions you have available. Sear each side of the chicken for 2-4 minutes, until thoroughly browned on all sides.

    Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 150F in the thickest part of the thigh (be careful not to touch the bone with the thermometer to ensure an accurate reading).

    While the chicken is roasting, roughly chop the soaked chiles, being careful to wear rubber gloves or to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching anything, especially your face. Combine the chiles, stock and all the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, then pour the mixture into a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

    Serve family-style on a platter with mole sauce drizzled over the chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    You may increase or decrease the chiles to adjust the heat of the sauce. I suggest increasing the heat here, and using a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and the Tossed Greens Salad with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette recipe above to cool your mouth and balance your palate. Also great with Spanish rice.

    Pan Seared Refried Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro-Key Lime Salsa and Chevre

    originally posted at Vivanista April 30, 2009

    featured
    Cilantro-Key Lime Salsa with Chevre
    Ingredients:
    • 4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
    • juice of 3 Key limes
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 2 oz goat cheese, cut into small pieces
    • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
    • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 medium red onion, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
    • salt and black pepper to taste
    Method:
    Stir together all of the ingredients except the chevre, then fold in the chevre until evenly mixed.

    Refried Black Beans

    Ingredients:
    • 1 30-oz can of black beans
    • 1 large Anaheim pepper
    • ½ red onion, diced small
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Method:
    In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil, onions and Anaheim pepper. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the beans. Smash the beans through a slotted spoon or similar utensil until they are fairly smooth.

    Pan-Seared Tacos

    Ingredients:
    • 15 corn tortillas
    • 2 oz chevre
    • small amount of oil for the pan
    Method:

    Drop 2 or 3 tablespoons of cooking oil into a large sauté pan over med-high heat. Layer 5 corn tortillas evenly around the pan, letting them overlap. Add a dollop of refried black beans to the center of each taco. Add a dollop of cilantro-Key lime salsa to the center of each taco. Fold each taco over in half, and allow to cook until the bottom side browns thoroughly, then flip each one over and finish on the other side. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the next 5 tacos.

    Tossed Mexican Salad with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette

    originally posted at Vivanista April 30, 2009

    Tossed Mexican Salad

    Ingredients:

    6 cups green leaf lettuce
    4 cups spinach, chopped
    1 cup celery, sliced
    ½ cup red onion, diced large
    1 cup English cucumber, sliced
    1 cup yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
    ½ cup carrot, grated
    ½ cup radishes, sliced
    zest from a lemon
    ½ cup corn
    ½ cup black olives, chopped
    2 corn tortillas, cut into strips, fried, for garnish
    chives and/or dill, chopped or whole, for garnish

    Method: Stack the cut vegetables according to size and color, as looks pretty, in a large bowl, with the greens on the bottom and the smaller pieces arranged on top.


    Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
    Ingredients:
    • 2 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup cider vinegar
    • 3 cups tomato juice
    • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
    • 3 tablespoons horseradish, grated or from a jar
    Method:
    Blend the vinegar and tomato juice in a blender, then add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil. Pour the oil in a slow stream while the blender is spinning until the dressing becomes creamy.

    Salted Corn Tortilla Chips with Spicy Avocado-Cilantro Salsa

    originally posted at Vivanista April 30, 2009

    Salted Corn Tortilla Chips

    Ingredients:
    • 12 raw corn tortillas
    • 2 cups corn oil (or canola or olive oil)
    • salt, to taste (plenty, any type, finely ground)
    Method:

    Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Cut the tortillas into 6 pieces each, like a pie. With a wide slotted or perforated spoon, lower a handful of the chips into the oil. Turn regularly to make sure they cook equally throughout. When they are golden brown, use the same tool to remove them from the oil and lay them onto a plate covered with a rack or paper towel. Salt them evenly and immediately while they are still wet with oil. Repeat with more chips until they are all evenly cooked.

    Tip: there is a perfect golden brown color that will give you a great crunch and great flavor, but a couple minutes too few: the chips will be very chewy; one minute too long and the color turns very dark and tastes bitter; so pay close attention when the chips start to take on a light brown color, and keep in mind they will cook just a bit more after you pull them out of the oil. Experiment a little with the first few chips and you’ll quickly find your color comfort [food] zone.

    Spicy Avocado-Cilantro Salsa

    Ingredients:
    • 6 avocados, roughly chopped
    • 2-3 tomatillos, diced
    • ½ red onion, diced small
    • 1-2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced
    • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
    • the juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (more to taste)
    • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
    Method: Gently but thoroughly stir all of the ingredients together in a large bow

    5-Course Menu for Cinco de Mayo

    originally posted at Vivanista April 30, 2009


    Please check out these five authentico y rico Mexican recipes with contemporary American twists. Enjoy them individually or all together for an unforgettable Mexican Independence Day feast.

    El Menu:

    Showcase the robust flavors of avocados, serrano peppers, red onions and tomatillos on crisp, warm and salty corn tortilla chips.

    A winning combination of vegetables gets even better with a vinaigrette based on the popular cocktail.
    These tacos are healthier, faster, easier and tastier than regular oil-fried tacos, and you'll certainly want to make them again and again.


    This recipe combines the intoxicating flavors of mole poblano sauce with the tender goodness of whole roasted chicken.
    As if Pastel de Tres Leches ("Three Milks Cake") wasn't already loaded with delicious flavor and delightful texture, this recipe adds the successful combination of pineapple and coconut that has made the cocktail such a favorite.
    and don't forget...
    Five fantastic takes on the official cocktail of Cinco de Mayo.

    How to Keep Lemon Meringue Pie Crust from Getting Soggy

    originally posted at ChefsLine 7 Apr 2007
    icon for podpress Standard Podcast: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

    Listen to Adam address this common problem.

    The egg proteins that make up a meringue become very susceptible to moisture once they are denatured (whipped up) enough. Even by spreading it onto a lemon filling that is completely cooled you can cause what’s known as ‘weeping’ because the little bit of extra moisture in a slightly underbaked filling is absorbed by the meringue. So spread it on while the filling is still warm.

    Also, by the same token, storing the meringue with any other food items that may contain a little bit of moisture will cause the meringue to soften.

    Undissolved sugar will cause weeping as well, so a good way to prevent that is to be patient and let the meringue rest, and the sugar to absorb, then return to it and whip it some more.

    Overbaking can cause moisture ‘beading,’ as the proteins tighten up in the oven and squeeze out moisture, which in turn then gets absorbed and makes the meringue soggy as well.

    Make sure to spread the meringue thoroughly over the top of the filling to seal it up at the edges, to prevent shrinking, which can lead to weeping as well since the moisture in the filling is unlocked.

    There’s definitely a trick, or several tricks, to making meringue work out right, and nobody gets it perfect the first time, but if you follow these basic principles you will undoubtedly be well on your way to magnificent meringues.

    Have fun baking!

    Enjoy Winter Squash Before They Go Out of Season

    originally posted at ChefsLine 22 Mar 2007
    icon for podpress Winter Squash Tips Audio Cooking Class: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

    Chef Kevin's Squash Soup with Maple Syrup and Horseradish

    Interested in trying butternut and/or acorn squash, but worried that they are too much like sweet potatoes. Listen to yours truly talk about both kinds of squash, including basic prep procedures. Soon we’ll necessarily need to focus on summer squash, so now is an ideal time to enjoy winter squash while they are still at their peak produce season.

    Here are three great chef recipes for butternut squash:

    Chef Melanie Underwood’s Butternut Squash Risotto
    Chef Kevin Week's Squash Soup with Maple Syrup and Horseradish
    Chef Barb Freda’s White Lasagna with Gorgonzola and Butternut Squash

    Slowcooker Baked Ham with Pineapple

    Clove and Pineapple Studded Baked Ham

    If you will be baking a ham in a crockpot this year here is some affirmation for your plans for a pineapple studded baked ham.

    Try scoring the top of the ham with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern, and attaching the pineapple rings with whole cloves, a traditional technique and always a hit.

    Baking fully cooked, semi-boneless, (unsliced) 6.6 pound ham in the crockpot
    Your semi-boneless ham will take about 7 1/2 hours of bake time and a total of 8 1/2 hours from crockpot to table. Unfortunately, this is difficult for us to gauge since crockpot temperatures vary so much. You’ll know it’s ready when the internal temperature reads 125-130 degrees when measured with a meat thermometer. Then, you have some options.

    To achieve a very shiny, carmelized ham, transfer the ham onto a roasting pan, on a rack and finish baking in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Or, if you oven is not available, apply an additional glaze and turn your crockpot on high for the final 35-45 minutes to achieve a similar effect.

    Crockpot Ham with Pineapple and a Mustard Glaze
    1 cup of water and optional: sage or bay leaves
    1 1/3 cup brown sugar
    2 tsp dry mustard or 2 Tbsp of dijon mustard
    2 Tbsp cider or white vinegar or lemon juice
    2 Tbsp orange juice
    2 Tbsp cornstarch
    1 can pineapple rings
    whole cloves
    toothpicks

    Score the top of the ham with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Attach the pineapple rings with whole cloves or place cloves in cente of diamond and attached pineapple rings with toothpicks (not too far in!). If your slow cooker has a roasting rack, use it. If not, line crock pot with aluminum foil. Place ham on rack. Combine brown sugar, mustard and lemon juice; spoon over ham. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes. Turn slow cooker to low and bake for 6 1/2 more hours. Test with meat thermometer after 5 1/2 hours. Once ham reaches 125-130 degrees, remove.

    Remove ham (use gloves or potholders) to a platter. Combine orange juice and cornstarch to form smooth paste. Taste your ham drippings - if very very salty, discard. If pan drippings taste delicious to you - pour into roasting pan (conventional oven) or keep in the crockpot. If using, stir orange mixture into drippings, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Place ham onto roasting rack (or in crockpot or on roasting pan….) Spoon glaze over ham.

    Place ham into preheated 350 degree oven. Or, turn crockpot onto high. Bake for an additional 35-45 minutes or until shiny and brown. Present and slice at table while studded (fun!) but be sure it rests for 15 minutes before slicing.

    Consider making a batch of Dauphinoise Potatoes, Chipotle Mashed Potatoes, Butternut Squash Risotto.

    And don’t forget dessert, perhaps Pear Walnut Cake With Broiled Maple Glaze or Dents de Loup (Wolf’s Teeth Cookies)

    Happy Holidays! Have fun cooking!

    ~ Chef Adam

    Easy Banana Bread

    originally posted at ChefsLine 10 Apr 2007
    by Chef Adam

    Want an easy banana bread recipe. Well, here you go.

    Get together:
    1 cup butter
    2 cups sugar
    4 eggs, slightly beaten
    6 crushed bananas
    4 cups all purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon of salt
    3/4 cup walnuts

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 loaf pans with butter. Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer. Add the eggs and beat them thoroughly. Add the bananas, flour, baking soda, salt and walnuts. Pour the batter into greased loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool before removing gently from the pans. Have fun baking!

    2-lb Round Roast: How Hot? How Long?

    originally posted at ChefsLine 14 Apr 2007

    If you want to roast a 2 lb round roast, what temperature is ideal? How long should you roast it?

    Short answer: go low and long to maximize the limited tenderness of this cut of meat. Say, 300F for an hour, maybe an hour and 10 minutes.

    And if you are open to variations, try braising the roast at the same temp with some aromatics, i.e. garlic, herbs, etc. A wet cooking method will give you even more tenderness, and will also give you a velvety sauce to go with it.

    Either way, I would recommend searing the roast on each side just to brown it up for flavor. This technique has historically been referred to as “sealing in the juices”, although somewhat recently there has been a strong argument that no such sealing actually occurs. Regardless, it makes it takes better due to the Maillard browning effect.

    Have fun cooking!

    Toffee Oil Separation

    originally posted at ChefsLine 14 Apr 2007

    What do you do about the oil that seeps to the top of your English toffee?

    Chances are there is nothing wrong with the butter you are using.

    Here are a few tips:
    1. Keep it moving. Constantly keep stirring the toffee in the pot, not necessarily vigorously, but don’t let it sit.
    2. Lower your temperature. Keep it around 300 F. You’ll have to stir it longer, but that’s what it takes.
    3. Add a little hot water. A couple of tablespoons of hot water can moderate the cooking process a bit. Be careful, it may spatter.
    4. Use salted butter, or add a teaspoon of salt per pound of butter.
    5. Pour it into a thin layer. It will cool faster, thus sealing the toffee before the oil can separate.
    6. Don’t fret, separation is normal. If you haven’t prevented the separation 100%, it’s okay to sop up a bit of oil off the top.
    7. Have fun cooking!

    Healthy Turkey Fettucini with Creamed Spinach

    originally posted at ChefsLine 28 Apr 2007

    If you want to make a classic hearty dinner recipe healthier, you'll be off to a great start by substituting healthier ingredients for standard dairy products.

    Make a creamed spinach recipe, for instance, incorporating a “goat cheese” from yogurt, almond milk, extra virgin olive oil, fresh crushed garlic, and a dash of fresh ground nutmeg.

    You might try fat-free cream cheese, unless you are trying to eliminate dairy items all-together, in which case, several of the egg-substitute products out today are very good.

    As for a substitute for sour cream, try food processing some cottage cheese and adding a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, or skim milk with a dash of vinegar.

    For the pasta, use a whole grain pasta, with no less than 4 g of fiber per serving. Barilla Plus or Ronzoni Healthy Harvest are good brands.

    Mexican Wedding Cakes

    originally posted at ChefsLine31 May 2007


    Create a real dining experience topped with delicious Mexican Wedding Cakes. Pastel de Tres Leches, a very popular cake translates literally as cake of three milks. The cake is a butter cake prepared with fresh, condensed, and evaporated milk. Many Latin American countries have different versions, with a key creative point being the topping.

    Often, Pastel de Tres Leches is topped with a caramel sauce and fresh fruit, other times with meringue, or even whipped cream. The addition of fruit in all cases is a great one for this cake and lends an air of ’special occasion.’ I’ve reviewed a number of recipes found online and am particularly fond of this recipe - looks like a winner and I now plan to test it at the restaurant next week. Thanks for the inspiration! Taste of Cuba, Tres Leches.

    Actually, the desserts properly known as Mexican Wedding Cakes, go by a variety of names including Russian Tea Cookies. They are essentially a shortbread cookie ball rolled in powdered sugar, and are common at holiday parties, cocktail parties and wedding receptions.

    If you mise en place before you begin cooking, making a Pastel de Tres Leches can be very easy and clean. That is, get everything you need set up and in order ahead of time so that when the time comes to begin cooking, your cooking process flows smoothly and quickly.

    Two more tips:
    Sign of a pro - clean as you go.
    Have fun cooking!

    ~ Adam

    Lamb, Salmon and Rice Pilaf for Forty

    originally posted at ChefsLine 31 May 2007

    Catering a formal dinner for forty? With roasted leg of lamb and wild salmon as entree options? Rice pilaf? Sounds great!

    You should be concerned about how to work the timing of the two very different entrees (since lamb takes much longer to cook than salmon and needs time to rest) in order to serve them simultaneously. And make sure your rice doesn't stick on the bottom of your pot.

    Tips of Preparing Leg of Lamb
    We’ll assume you are serving lamb as an option for half your guests (and the other will have the salmon). You’ll need to prepare about 8 ounces of lamb per person or 10 pounds of lamb. If you’re using boneless roasts that works out to around three roasts at 3 plus pounds per roast. You can cook all three roasts at once. (If you’re using bone-in legs then you’ll still need three, but you probably can’t fit them all in the oven at the same time and things get much more complicated and difficult. So we’ll assume you’re using boneless legs.) For medium rare, figure they will take about 12 minutes per pound.

    Step by-Step

    Heat the oven to 450 degrees and season the roasts generously with salt. When the oven is hot place the roasts on a rack in a shallow roasting pan in the center of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook about 25 minutes. Exact timing is impossible to predict; the fact that there are three roasts will slow the cooking down and variations in the cooking characteristics of individual ovens and individual roasts also have an effect. To be sure the lamb is properly cooking use an instant-read thermometer to check each roast and remove it from the oven when it reaches 125 degrees (it will warm another 5 degrees while resting).

    Tent the roasts with foil after removing from the oven and allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before slicing. If you’re cooking the salmon in the oven, then you may need to let the roasts rest a while longer as the salmon cooks, this won’t hurt the flavor but the meat will begin cooling. However, don’t slice the lamb until you start plating because it will cool quickly once sliced.

    Salmon Fillets
    Brush salmon with oilive oil and season in advance. While the lamb is resting, return the oven to 400 degrees and put in your salmon. The salmon should bake in a bake pan or similar surface for 10-12 minutes, until the juices run opaque. You can include vegetables like asparagus or zucchini to the salmon if you desire, or try a roasted red bell pepper coulis. Serve with lemon slices (for added fun, try griling the lemon wedges a bit).

    Tips on Not Overcooking Rice

    As far as the rice, here are some tips:

    • Use a thick-bottomed pot
    • Use 2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice.
    • Cover securely with a lid.
    • Get the rice to a rolling boil, then lower the heat just enough to keep the rice bubbling vigorously and let it cook 5 more minutes.
    • Turn OFF the heat and let the rice sit 10 more minutes, covered.
    • Err on the side of moderation, i.e. under-cooking the rice, when in doubt, because you can always return it to the heat and add hot water, whereas you cannot uncook it.
    • You can bake the rice too, although in this case the oven may be too full of lamb and salmon.
    • Fluff the rice with a fork when it gets to the right consistency to keep it from continuing to cook.
    • Substitute the rice with orzo pasta for something different.
    • large quantities of rice often absorb a little less than 2 cups water per 1 cup rice
    • saute the rice in butter and onions for a minute before adding to the boiling water

    We hope we’ve been able to help you Alice. Do not hesitate to call us while you’re cooking for last minute tips and assistance.

    ~ Chefs Adam and Kevin (check out Kevin's site: Seriously Good)

    Reduce Floury Flavor in Cakes

    originally posted at ChefsLine 5 Jul 2007

    Some bakers feel their baked goods have too much of a floury flavor, and would like to know what, if anything, they are doing wrong.

    Chances are you’re not doing anything wrong at all. Or, you consistently measure too much flour for your recipes. There are a lot of baking methods out there, so we’ll focus on cakes and cake-like products, like muffins and pancakes, and cover a few tips.

    Properly measuring your flour
    Use a whisk to fluff up the flour then spoon gently into measuring cup. Level cup with the flat edge of a knife. Don’t shake or tap the measuring cup to even it out because that can settle the flour and make it more densely packed.

    Use a different flour
    Try using a different flour, like cake or pastry flour, or a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour or bread flour. Also, make sure to purchase good quality organic flour whenever possible. You may also experiment with other kinds of flour to see if any offer a more agreeable flavor.

    Try your hand at some flourless baking
    Also, keep in mind that many recipes require little or no flour. Here is a recipe for low-flour pancakes, and here is a recipe for a flourless chocolate torte, only two examples of the pastry items that can be done without the use of any flour at all.

    Sweeten and contrast
    If you are going to use a flour-based recipe, however, one trick would be to make a simple syrup by boiling 3 cups and sugar and 2 cups of water in a pot for a couple minutes until the syrup is clear, and paint the finished, cooled cake with it using a pastry brush before frosting the cake. This will help the cake to be sweeter and moister.

    ~ Chef Adam

    Baking with Almond Paste

    originally posted at ChefsLine 5 Aug 2007

    Purchasing and Storing Almond Paste

    When choosing almond paste in the market, often the kind found in the can is of higher quality than the kind in the tube. Love N Bake is a preferred brand as it contains the most almond for the money (is 2 parts almond to 1 part sugar) and gives your baked goods the richest flavor. However, Odsense is also good, and provides a slightly creamier texture for preparing almond creme. Almond pastes are priced competitively - a single recipe will put you back around $7 for the paste.

    Love N Bake Almond PasteOdsense Almond PasteSolo Brand Almond Paste

    Almond Paste is generally kosher and gluten free but contains about 45% sugar. It should be firm but pliable before use in a recipe. If it becomes hard, it can be softened by heating for a few seconds in the microwave. To store, wrap tightly and refrigerate up to 4 months.

    Recipes and Uses

    Almond paste is often mistaken for marzipan, but it actually has less sugar and more almond flavor than marzipan. In many recipes, however, the two are interchangeable. You can actually make your own almond paste at home. Click here for a basic recipe.

    Generally, almond paste is used in baking. I have reviewed my online recipe files, and here are my favorites among reliable sources (some of which I have prepared) and featuring almond paste:

    Best Almond Cookies

    Pignoli and Almond Cookies - Decadent and delicious.

    Macaroons are a classic almond cookie. We are reaching out to other ChefsLine pastry chefs to find a great recipe for you.

    Basic Almond Creme or Frangipane

    Many pastry items can be filled with almond cream, sometimes referred to as frangipane. (Frangipane proper is the pastry prepared from almond paste which itself can be used as a tart base.) Below is a recipe that demonstrates how almond paste can be used to make almond cream and a recipe for the pastry cream. Use the almond pastry creme as a layer for a tart or to fill an Italian cream cake.

    Puff Pastry Tart Filled with Almond Cream

    Frangipane for Tarts

    Best Almond Cakes

    Almond Cake, Chez Panisse

    Almond Cake for Petits Fours, Tami Smith

    Almond Cake with Berries, Jacques Peppin

    Best Other Almond Pastry

    Almond Croissants, Adam Cutsinger
    I often prepare Croissants at my restaurant using almond paste. They are very good and the ‘Parisian’ style can be prepared at home using bakery-bought croissants.

    1) Make or purchase regular croissants.
    2) Cut them in half and drizzle a simple syrup on both inside halves. To make a simple syrup, combing 3 parts sugar and 2 parts water and bring to a boil.
    3) Spread a thick layer of almond cream on one inside half or croissant.
    4) Reassemble the croissants and spread a thin layer of almond cream on top.
    5) Sprinkle a layer of sliced almonds on top
    6) Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or just enough to toast the sliced almonds.

    Cinco De Mayo Menu

    originally posted at ChefsLine 3 May 2009

    I love Southwestern cuisine - highlighted in a Cinco De Mayo menu that hopefully will be one of your favorite party menus of the year. Enjoy with classic tequila cocktails or sangria. You can reach me on ChefsLine’s hotline and chat on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings if you’d like some personal guidance with my recipes.

    Cinco De Mayo Menu Espectaculo
    Salted Tortilla Chips with Spicy Avocado Cilantro Salsa
    Tossed Mexican Salad with Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
    Pan Seared Black Refried Bean Tacos with Cilantro Key Lime Salsa and Chevre
    Whole Roasted Chicken Mole Poblano
    Pina Colada Tres Leches Cupcakes with Vanilla Ice Cream

    Read more about Puebla’s Cinco De Mayo celebration > > >

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Vital Valentine’s Day Nightcaps

    originally posted at ChefsLine 16 Jan 2009

    Heads up, guys: 30 days until Valentine’s Day. Don’t let it sneak up on you, because you can bet your girlfriend remembers, or that girl you have a crush on who comes into the coffee shop every morning. Good planning can be as essential for a pleasurable Valentine’s Day experience as it is for Christmas, birthdays, or anniversaries.

    Whatever sort of plan you come up with, whether it’s dinner out, a romantic meal at home, dancing, what have you, it might be good to keep in mind that, ideally, the night ends with your lover in your arms. So I would like to share a couple of dessert cocktail ideas with you that make you feel as good as they taste.

    These drinks include phytonutrients proven to boost overall health and well-being, and which also offer the promises of increased libido and improved sexual performance.

    The trick is to plan ahead, so when you catch a cab home from the couples slow dance marathon you already have the ingredients ready for your Valentine’s Day ’09 nightcaps. You’ll also be planning ahead for the next morning, when you won’t be hung over.

    Fresh Ginger Blueberry Champagne Cocktail:
    Ginger contains blood-thinning and belly-calming elements, and prevents nausea. Plus it’s got a wonderful zesty spiciness that leaves just a touch of a burn after each sip.

    Blueberries are a ‘superfruit,’ containing tons of antioxidants, dietary fiber and micronutrients, most notably manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Together the ginger and blueberries create a remarkable cocktail with beautiful color.

    To prepare this cocktail, make a simple blueberry syrup by combining 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen) in a small saucepan and bringing it to a rolling boil for 2-3 minutes. Then press the syrup through a screen strainer with the back of a spoon and allow it to cool. Extract the juice from the fresh ginger root by putting it into a garlic press or grating it and then pressing the grated pulp in a screen strainer with the back of a spoon as you did the blueberries. For each cocktail, combine 4 tsp of the blueberry syrup, 1 tsp of the ginger juice, 1 Tbsp orange juice, and 2/3 cup of champagne. Serve in a champagne flute.

    Chocolate Chile Rumtini:
    It should be no secret that chocolate stimulates. It increases circulatory and brain activity, and triggers heightened sensitivity and feelings of euphoria. If you attribute the spicy burn from chiles to powerful nutritive effects, then your instincts are spot on. Chiles (chili peppers) contain capsaicin, a cancer-fighting anesthetic that also acts as an anti-inflammatory and kills the bacteria that cause such health problems as stomach ulcers.

    To make a Chocolate Chile Rumtini:
    Gently simmer 3-4 small dried red chiles in 3/4 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of sugar. The longer you keep it heated the hotter it will get. Gently melt 8 oz of dark (bittersweet) chocolate in a double boiler with 1/4 cup of sugar. Remove from heat. Swirl together the chocolate and chile cream so that you get a defined swirl shape and pour the mixture into ice cube trays. Freeze for at least an hour. Pour 1/2 cup of vodka and 2 Tbsp chocolate liqueur over ice and shake or stir thoroughly. Pour the alcohol over the chocolate chile crème “ice cubes.” You may substitute rum for the vodka, and may garnish the rim of the glass or drink with cocoa, mint, cherries or cinnamon.

    So this Valentine’s Day, or any time you want to make the most of a cocktail celebration, try either or both of the above cocktails. You’ll thank me in the morning.

    For more on healthy cocktail combos, check out this Women’s Health article. And have fun cooking something up for V-Day.

    Last Minute Cookies

    originally posted at ChefsLine 21 Dec 2007

    Need some easy, quick last-minute cookies for the Holidays? In our Holiday Cookie podcast, Chef Adam presents his tips for the speediest and most delicious recipes from ChefsLine’s Holiday Cookie Recipe Collection. The podcasts also includes excerpts of the ChefsLine Radio program featuring Chef Erika and Chef Gwin’s best tips for baking cookies. Listen while you stir!

    Last Minute Cookies
    Butter Cookies (or Chocolate Marble Butter Cookies)
    Eggnog Cookies
    Pine nut (Pinon) Cookies

    Diet Pepsi, Spaghetti Sauce, Mustard; Business, Science, Psychology; Malcolm Gladwell, Everybody...

    All About Beans: A ChefsLine Cooking Guide . . . best of articles, recipes, and downloads.

    originally posted at ChefsLine.

    Beans pictured are (from left to right, top to bottom): red lentils, black beans, pinto beans, French green lentils, split peas, navy beans, garbanzo beans, mung beans, and green lentils.

    One of the most readily available, affordable, and tasty “superfoods” are beans. Beans are the proof that many a beautiful meal can be made with just a few quality ingredients. I personally adore beans - and nothing is easier to pull together than a sublime soft pinto bean and veggie burrito. Even though I almost always have a pot either soaking or cooking - the prospect of dealing with dried beans can be daunting for some home cooks which is why I offer you some of my best time-saving tips in this guide. Packed with nutritional value and easy on the wallet … beans are also the centerpiece of a big range of cuisines and can satisfy almost any food mood.

    In the All About Beans Cooking Guide, you’ll find inspiration, tons of recipes, and large doses of tips on how to avoid some of legume’s infamous side effects.

    Dish Ideas and Recipe Collection

    Beans are so flexible and pair well with almost all vegetables and are great vehicles for a myriad of different sauces. You can truly consider and should think “can I add some beans to this dish” when preparing a meal. They are your opportunity to forgo meat and add protein.

    • Have beans with breakfast. They’re great day-starters, and go great with other breakfast foods, which is something that English cafes and American cowboys are very familiar with.
    • Bean dips and spreads are very easy to prepare and are perfect do-ahead appetizers for a party or buffet. Many beans dips and spreads also feature garlic and are presented with crostini or evoke the infamous Seven Layer Dip. For a change of pace, incorporate more citrus and offer steamed vegetables with your bean dips. For a great dip with corn chips, simply puree pinto beans with sour cream and scallions.

    Selecting, Storing, and Cooking Beans

    Most beans are extremely affordable, especially if they are available in bulk (with the possible exception of fava beans, which are less often available and so can cost a bit more).

    Canned and dried beans can sit around in a cold dry place for a very long time. Cooked beans can be frozen for up to a month if wrapped tightly in plastic, and for up to five days in the refrigerator.

    Cooking raw dried beans is also a mostly carefree operation. The time spent preparing beans is largely unattended time so requires just some advance planning. Personally, I almost always have a small pot of beans soaking in my refrigerator because they are a key to my daily diet. If you do cook your beans from scratch, I highly recommend preparing the whole bag because once cooked, they freeze very well. Of course, canned beans are a perfectly legitimate way to add more beans to your meals.

    When cooking kidney beans, boil them for at least ten minutes, then strain and rinse them to remove a dangerous toxin. Then cook them however you like.

    Soaking and Cooking Times for Different Types of Beans

    Adzuki Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    cook 1 hour

    Black Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    cook1 to 1 1/2 hours

    Black-Eyed Peas

    No need to soak

    cook 1 to 1 1/4 hours

    Brown Lentils


    cook 30 to 45 minutes (No need to soak Lentils)

    Dals

    No need

    cook for 30 minutes

    Fava (Broad Beans)

    soak for 12 hours

    cook for 3 hours

    Ful Nabed (Broad Beans)

    soak for 12 hours

    cook 3 hours

    Garbanzo Beans (Chick-Peas)

    Soak for 4 hours

    cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours

    Great Northern Beans soak for 4 hours

    Soak for 4 hours

    cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours

    Green Lentils

    cook 40 to 50 minutes Red Lentils

    Cook 30 to 45 minutes

    Lima Beans

    Soaks for 4 hours

    cook 1 to 1 ½ hours

    Mung Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour

    Pigeon Peas

    No need to soak

    cook for 30 minutes

    Pink, Calico, or Red Mexican Beans

    soak 4 hours

    cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours

    Pinto Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    cook1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours

    Red Kidney Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    cook1 to 1 1/2 hours

    Small White (Navy) Beans

    soak for 4 hours

    cook1 1/2 to 2 hours

    Soybeans

    soak for 12 hours

    cook 3 to 4 hours

    Split Peas

    No need to soak

    cook 45 minutes to 1 hour

    White Kidney Beans (Cannellini)

    soak for 4 hours

    cook1 hour

    Whole Peas

    soak for 4 hours

    cook40 minute

    Cooking times may vary, depending on cooking temperature, time spent soaking, size, age, and altitude. You can expect to get just over two cups of cooked beans for every cup of uncooked beans.

    Avoiding Gas

    So now, on to the gas part. Beans cause it. Nobody wants it. Today, though, we have access to the ancient remedies for this side effect as well as brand new science.How to Reduce Gas with Beans

    The reason beans cause gas is that there are some soluble fibers, which include carbohydrates, which break down into sugars, that are finally broken down in the large intestine rather than sooner, like most other foods. What we want to do it break down these components before they reach that point, either higher in the digestive system or before we even eat the beans.

    Here’s a quick list of ideas to help you develop a good relationship with beans without its uninvited cousin:

    • Soak beans longer. A lot longer. It’s okay to let them ferment somewhat, so I’m talking like 2-3 days here. They will foam and smell, but do not fear. You will be rinsing and cooking the beans thoroughly before eating. The beans are now releasing gas your body will have to release if you skip this step.
    • To err on the side of safety and to ease your mind’s concerns, add 1/3 cup vinegar to the soaking beans, which kill bacteria, and throw in some slices of ginger, which has digestion-aiding properties.
    • Add a teaspoon or two of lactobacillus casei and/or lactobacillus plantarum, available in health food stores. Recent studies have shown these digestive enzymes accelerate the breaking down of the aforementioned material.
    • On the same token, any digestive enzymes will help, so eat some yogurt, which should contain acidophilus, or Beano™, or even the two digestive enzymes listed above, as per the package’s instructions.
    • Also on the same token, just as some foods create gas, other foods remove it: any raw vegetables (all foods contain digestive enzymes, but their effectiveness is often nullified by cooking, so I always encourage the inclusion of something raw in every meal, to aid in digestion and to help maximize the nutrients actually absorbed by the body), ginger, fennel, anise, turmeric, lemongrass, dill, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin.
    • Include beans in your diet more often. Studies have demonstrated that the body acclimates to the digestion of beans, and you can eventually overcome the gassy effect to a large degree simply by eating them more often.
    • Refry, or cook twice by just about any method, which can help break down the gaseous components
    • The Gas Makers: Soybeans, Peas, Black beans and pinto beans, White beans, Great Northern beans, Lima beans, Garbanzo beans, Black eyed peas

    More Bean Resources

    *Superfoods - although there is no legal or medical definition, the term Superfoods applies to those whole foods that offer significant health benefits and healing capabilities because of their high nutrient content. Superfoods everyone needs