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Showing posts from June, 2018

Marcella Hazan’s Pesto, but with a twist.

Marcella Hazan is the chef that taught me how to cook authentic Italian. She was tough and demanded authentic ingredients and no short cuts, but the recipes are timeless and still work today as well as them did 20 years ago. If you want one cookbook on Italian cooking, you can’t go wrong with her classic, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.

Summer is the perfect time to make pesto. With all the rain we’re been having, my basil in pots has been going crazy.

There are many recipes for pesto, but I think Marcella gets the balance just right. I make a small change, because I’m not a huge fan of pine nuts. I’ve even seen authentic recipes from Genoa where they use walnuts, but I love pecans, so that’s my hack.

The basil, washed and patted dry, olive oil and butter

Use a food processor, with garlic, pecans and basil to begin.

Pesto, finished by hand.

Ingredients

1 lb Pasta, I think Spaghetti, linguine or spaghettini work best. But if you can’t manage that, fusilli, orecchiette or farfalle can…

Pan Fried Cod with Gochujang Glaze

This is very good recipe for any firm fish, but is particularity well suited to cod. Additionally, this would also be good on a grill.

If you are unfamiliar with gochujang, it is a Korean fermented chili paste which is packed with flavor and recently has become a very popular ingredient in the food press. Now there's gochujang catsup, mayo and potato chips.

I used a pan and it created an amazing glaze on the cod. One day I will tackle the Black Cod Miso from Nobu. Stay tuned.

Ingredients

Marinade:
1 Tbsp Gochujang Paste
1/2 cup White Wine or Rice Wine
Freshly ground Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Shallots, minced
3 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1/2 cup White Wine
4 pieces Atlantic Cod loins or evenly sized filets.

Mix up your marinade and thoroughly coat the cod loins. Cover and put into the refrigerator. I find they improve with at least an hour in the marinade.

Remove your cod from the refrigerator. Add your shallots and white wine into a small saucepan and gently simmer them for 5 minutes and set aside.

Heat y…

Pan Seared Scallops

These are so simple to make, yet people seem to shy away from preparing them. You often see them on the menu in fine restaurants. They are a popular and tasty restaurant dish, so why not learn make them at home.
I find the frozen raw Costco scallops to be very good. They are not treated with chemicals and are frozen immediately after harvesting. Just thaw them, rinse them and pat them dry and they are ready to go.

The key to getting these seared to perfection is to make sure they are absolutely dry before they go in the pan. The pan must be very hot, hence why you need to use clarified butter. Normal butter would burn before the pan got hot enough to sear.


If you do not have clarified butter use a sturdy vegetable oil, but the clarified butter gives them an amazing flavor.

Finally, and most importantly, do not over cook them. Literally, they need 2 minutes on each side.

Ingredients

10 dry Sea Scallops, 15-20 ct or slightly larger
Celery Salt
Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1/2 Lemon, juice…

Seafood Rice Pilaf - Updated

This is an interesting pilaf recipe because it uses Thai brown jasmine rice rather than normal white long grain rice. Also, I've omitted the traditional orzo, as I just don't feel it adds anything to the recipe.

I find the resulting pilaf has more flavor and when prepared with the seafood stock it’s the perfect side for any sort of fish or seafood. Or, any grilled or roasted dish for that matter.


With the seafood stock and the addition of the Thai fish sauce, I don’t find that additional salt is needed.

Ingredients

1 cup Brown Jasmine Rice
2 cups Seafood Stock. I think Imagine stock is very good.
1 tsp Thai Fish Sauce
3 Tbsp Butter
1/2 Onion, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground Turmeric
2 Bay Leaves
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Smoked Paprika

In a saucepan, add the butter and sauté the onions, red pepper and garlic. After these are translucent, add the rice and brown it until it starts to smell toasty.

Add your seafood stock, fish sauce, bay leave…

Pasta, the long and short of it.

I have probably had this conversation with more people than just about any other subject in Italian cooking. The usual comment is, "Isn't all dried pasta basically the same"? "Are the imported pastas really worth the extra money"?
Well, let me get the first question out of the way. Yes, if you are looking at a reputable brand, which we will discuss later, they should all be made with 100% Durum wheat semolina and water. As for the second question, well that requires a bit of explanation.
If the ingredients are basically the same, then what could contribute to a better tasting pasta? I believe there are a few fundamental differences. One, the wheat used should be 100% Durum wheat semolina, not durum flour. This is one the most basic differences. And, how does this effect the final result? If a pasta is made with durum flour, it will tend to be starchy and not really hold up to be al dente when cooked. This durum flour is commonly used in American pastas, and is ch…

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs

This is a wonderful dish from Yotam Ottolenghi. It is a stable in his famous London restaurant, Ottolenghi. 

It is not difficult to prepare, but just takes a bit of time to roast the sweet potatoes. It is infinitely better with fresh figs, but in a pinch, you could use dried figs. 




Yotam's suggestion to use a balsamic glaze is a good one and really saves a lot of time. If you can not find a balsamic glaze, then you can make your own by slowly reducing balsamic vinegar with some added sugar.

Ingredients

4 medium Sweet Potatoes (2 lbs in total, try to get them in a similar size, so they will cook evenly) 

5 Tbsp Olive Oil 

3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

12 Spring Onions, halved lengthways and cut into 2 inch segments 

1 red chilli, thinly sliced 

6 fresh and ripe Figs, quartered 

1 tsp Sea Salt 

Black Pepper 



Preheat the oven to 475F.Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthways and then cut each again similarly into three long wedges. Mix with three tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and s…

Hummus, the ultimate mezze.

I'm always trying to improve my recipes, so when I get in the mood to make some hummus, it's time get out the chemistry set. Hummus is so simple to make, yet so easy to ruin. It can be too garlicky, too much lemon or coarse and lumpy. 
After quite a few batches, I have a very good recipe and one secret technique to produce the most creamy hummus you've ever tasted. After making this, you will never want store bought hummus again.

Often, I find that people add too much garlic in hummus and it becomes bitter and sharp. The garlic should be an afterthought, not front and center. My way to avoid this, is to roast the garlic prior to adding to the hummus.

Additionally, I always use organic chickpeas, because the non organic will have preservatives and it leaves a bitter taste that can not be washed or rinsed away.

Ingredients
1 29 oz can of Organic Chickpeas, drained. Or retained for other uses. 5-6  cloves of fresh Garlic, roasted. 1/2 cup Tahini Juice of 3-4 Lemons
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest 3 …

Babaghanoush - Smoky and Delicious

This is a traditional "mezze" dish. Mezze are small dishes that can be served for either lunch or dinner and can also be starters for a larger meal. I personally like to have 3 or 4 different ones and serve them as a meal.


There are many versions popular throughout the Middle East, but fundamentally most are quite similar. I like this one because it is smoky and richly flavored.

Ingredients
3-4 Medium Eggplants 2 cloves crushed Garlic 4 - 5 Tbsp Tahini Juice of 2-3 Lemons 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sea Salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating, take the eggplants and prick them all over. This is essential so they will not explode when you cook them. Turn on a gas flame and brown the eggplant skin on all sides, turning them frequently. A pair of tongs makes this very easy. This will take about 5-8 minutes, but keep a close watch on them.
After they are well browned, put them onto an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and into the preheated oven for approx 45 minu…

Golden Mountain Sauce - The secret to authentic Thai cooking.

I love making Thai food at home, and I've always prided myself on getting that authentic Thai flavor, but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit it always seemed to be missing a little something. 

Well, I have found out what that little something was. It's called Golden Mountain Sauce and it has been called the "secret of Thai cooking" and has been used in Thailand for over 50 years.

Use it as you would soy sauce, but mix it equal parts with fish sauce to get the real Thai flavor. Here is the perfect dish to try it out.

Gai Pad Prik Grapao/Chicken with Hot Chilies and Basil
Thais’ love fresh basil, and use many different types. Most of us are familiar with Sweet Basil, and this is easy to find in any market. However, it’s the “Holy Basil”, known as Bai Grapao, which is the most flavorful and authentic. 
This basil has an anise type of flavor and gives this dish an amazing flavor and dimension that just doesn’t taste the same with sweet basil. 
You should always use fres…

Goong Pad Gra Phrao- Stir Fried Prawns with Basil

This is a common dish in Pattaya and also in Phuket as these areas have a lot of seafood This is simple to make and very tasty. There are so many versions of this recipe, as each chef or street vendor has there own trick. The brilliance of Thai cuisine is it's inventiveness, so experimentation is encouraged.



The key to make this perfectly is to not over cook the shrimp. It’s hard to believe it, but once they curl, they are done.
Ingredients 
1 lb. raw Prawns, shelled. 18-20 count is good size.
2 Tbsp. of Peanut or another Vegetable Oil 4 cloves chopped Garlic 1 tbsp chopped fresh peeled Ginger Root
1/2 large Onion, sliced 1/2 Sweet Red Pepper, sliced 2 finely chopped Thai Chilies, or you can substitute Serranos chilies.
Handful of fresh Basil, pulled apart just before adding to the dish. 
Sauce, this will be added at the end.
1 Tbsp. Oyster Sauce, use a premium quality brand. 1 Tbsp. Fish Sauce 1 Tbsp low sodium Light Soy Sauce 2 tsp. white sugar, brown sugar or palm sugar

Heat your wok, or a lar…

Chicken Khoresh

I have been experimenting with Persian food, and must say I am really enjoying it. It's healthy, has lots of flavor and tastes wonderful. It's so different than other foods I have tried, so here is my most recent attempt. I think it really turned out well.


Just so you know a khoresh is sort of stew and can be made with many different ingredients. It is a really versatile cooking method. I would love to give credit for the initial  recipe, but I've totally forgotten where I started. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs of boneless skinless Chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
5 cups of Celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces.
3 cups of Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of Mint, chopped
1/2 cup of Cilantro, chopped
5 Tbsp of Vegetable Oil
4 cloves of Garlic, sliced
2 medium size Onions, sliced thinly
2 tsp Turmeric
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp Saffron crushed with a tiny bit of sugar and then mixed with 2 Tbsp hot water.
1-2 cups Water
Basmati Rice

In a sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil and cook the celery for 10 minutes un…

Vietnamese Caramel Glaze/Sauce

I ran across this Vietnamese Caramel Glaze/Sauce a while back. It's the perfect glaze for any grilled meat, seafood, tofu or veggies. No matter how I tried I couldn't get it quite right.
After moving to Louisville, I had an opportunity to experience the local bourbon culture and while making this sauce I thought, well why not add some bourbon? It worked perfectly and added the smokey nuance that had been missing.

So after much struggle, this is the sauce. As mentioned, it works very well with salmon, tofu or any sort of meat. It is a very versatile sauce, so be creative.


Ingredients

4 Tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce, omit if you want it to be vegan.
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce or Kecap Manis Sedang
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 clove of Garlic, crushed.
1 Tbsp freshly grated Ginger Root
Juice of one Lime
1 Tbsp Bourbon
1 Green Onion, cut in half and then chopped.
1 tsp Chili Flakes, optional.
Cilantro, chopped and sprinkled on top, just before serving.

Put all ingredients, except the sugar, in…

Dill Potato Salad - Perfect Summer Dish

I think summer is the perfect time to bring out the garden fresh food and the easy to prepare side dishes to accompany the grill.

I'm a big fan of potato salad, but not the overwhelmingly sweet and gooey kind. I like to add fresh herbs, to give a blast of intense summer goodness. 



I don't think it really matters which herbs you use and whatever you have on hand can be lovely. In this recipe I have used fresh dill, but I have also used basil, tarragon and if it is a roasted potato salad, rosemary. 
Ingredients

1 lb of Fingerling Potatoes
3 Green Onions, sliced in half and chopped
2 Tbsp Pickle Relish
2 Tbsp fresh Dill, loosely chopped 
2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Celery Salt
1 tsp Powdered Mustard
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
Black Pepper

Cut the potatoes into equal sizes. There is no need to peel them. Drop into a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for approx. 10 minutes, or until they slide off the knife easily when tested. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and rinse away a…

Vegan Southern Style Slow Cooked Green Beans/Snaps

Southern slow cooked green beans, or snaps, are an institution. Most are done with fat back or salted pork. I wanted to make a vegan/vegetarian version that could hold up. 

These are packed with flavor and are a great side dish or can be a meal if served with roasted or boiled baby potatoes. If you like southern style green beans, give this a shot. 
Ingredients 

2 lbs Green Beans, cleaned.
1 1/2 32 oz containers of low sodium Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, peeled, left whole or sliced in half.
1 clove Garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 Tbsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tbsp Chili Flakes
1/4 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke
Put all the ingredients into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a lazy simmer. Keep the cover slightly ajar. Cook for at least one hour, but two is better. Regarding the onions, they literally melt, so you don't need to fish them out.

Pan Seared Pacific Halibut in a Lemon and Shallot Reduction

I don’t think much can surpass a well prepared piece of fish. The key is to avoid adding too much. Let the fish be the star.


This is very good with fresh Pacific halibut, but would also work with hake, cod or even salmon. The key is to have a very fresh fish. Since there are not many ingredients, each one needs to be flawless.

Ingredients

1 - 1 1/2 lbs Pacific Halibut Filets, about 1 1/2 - 2 inch thick are perfect.
3 Tbsp Butter
1/2 cup White Wine
2 Tbsp Shallots, thinly sliced
2 whole Cloves
5 Black Peppercorns
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Add the white wine, shallots, cloves and black peppercorns to a small saucepan and gently simmer them for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside. Salt both sides of your halibut filets.

Heat your sauté pan over medium high heat. Try to use one that’s slightly larger than you need, so you don’t crowd the filets. Once the pan is up to temperature, add 2 Tbsp of butter and after it has melted and just started to turn golden, add your halibut filets. Cook for about 3 - 4 minutes…

Cacio e Pepe - Pure Comfort Food

I think this is one of my favorite Italian dishes. When I need a pasta fix, this is my go to recipe. There are so many versions of this dish, but I personally like my version because it is basic, rich, very good, but not overwhelming. 

Cacio e Pepe translates as "cheese and pepper" and hails from Rome. In its most pure form it is made with only pasta, Romano cheese and black pepper. I've adjusted my version to include Parmesan and butter. 



I previously posted a vegan version of this classic dish, but wanted to pass along my original version as well.

Traditionally this dish is served with a long thin pasta, but I have had it with penne and rigatoni and it’s also very good with these pasta shapes.


Ingredients

1 lb Spaghetti, Rigatoni or Penne.
4 Tbsp Butter, softened
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
3/4 cup Romano Cheese, finely grated
1/2 to 1 Tbsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp Sea Salt. Adjust as desired.
Pasta Water


Remove your butter from the refrigerator and grate yo…

A Few Kitchen Basics To Up Your Game

When you’ve cooked regularly for over 30 years, you learn a few things, ruin some things and occasionally come up with a few classic recipes. I don’t proport to be a professional chef, but rather a fairly experienced cook. 
I’ve tried my hand at French, Italian, Chinese, Creole, Cajun, Indian, Thai and quite a few others including regional American cuisine. I've self published a cookbook which features my own photography throughout.
I enjoy the different cuisines for a variety of reasons, but the diversity has given me an insight into the fundamentals that apply across all cuisines. 

A lot of people have asked for my advice on how to be a better cook and after giving it some thought I’ve realized there are a few critical techniques that can make a vast improvement in your cooking. 
I guess I took these for granted, but after realizing that I had to learn them through trial and error, I decided to pass along a few of the more basic ones. They aren’t revolutionary, but just basic kitche…