Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sweet Summertime…

"Skinny Caesar" with Kale, Spinach,
Hearts of Romaine
Well folks, it’s officially summer-time… swim suits, beaches, roof-top pools, sun-kissed tans and colors galore.  The produce during the summer is always seemingly abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables.  Rather than consuming heavy dishes composed of roasts, potatoes and grains, the shift in the summertime is often focused primarily on vibrant colors and lighter proteins.  In order to save money, I will typically purchase organic chicken breasts in bulk – then grill the breasts immediately, cut into portions and freeze the cooked chicken.  I prefer the grill for two reasons: first – I love the taste of the grill marks.  To me, nothing can fabricate the unique “burnt” taste… it is unique and able to stand alone.  Second, the need for additional oils and butter are not needed when grilling.  Granted, yes – brushing the grill with an oil is necessary in order to prevent whenever protein or vegetable from sticking, but considerably much less oil is required compared to sautéing or pan-frying. 

Chicken salad has always been a favorite when dining.  However, most are laden with mayonnaise and are stacked atop croissants.  A healthier option is provided:
Lowfat Curried Chicken Salad


Lowfat Curried Chicken Salad

2 Cups Grilled Chicken – cut into cubes (you can use leftovers or thaw chicken that was precooked on the grill) - can also substitute shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, turkey
1 Cup. 0% Greek Yogurt – plain
1Tbsp. Curry Powder
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 stalk of celery - diced
½ Cup of Grapes – cut in half
Spinach/Romaine heart lettuce/ Kale
½ Lemon – juice
Slivered almonds/walnuts/cashews
¼ Red Bell Pepper – diced
Whole Wheat Pita Chips/Whole wheat baguette/9-grain bread – toasted

Lowfat Lobster Salad
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, yogurt, curry powder, cayenne, grapes, celery, nuts and bell pepper.  Mix with a spoon, then squeeze a few drops of lemon juice to the salad.  Season with salt (to taste).  Refrigerate for 10 minutes (until chicken is cold).

Can either serve atop a bed of lettuce/spinach, or enjoy with whole wheat pita chips, baguette or 9-grain bread.  In order to provide a healthy “high tea” sandwich, cut the crusts away from the whole wheat bread and cut bread into 2in by 4in rectangles.  Layer the chicken salad in between the bread and add additional vegetables/gold leaf for decoration.  May also cut the baguette on a bias (diagonal cut) and toast the thin crostinis.  Then top with chicken salad, micro greens and gold leaf for an elegant, high tea sophistication. 

Lowfat Shrimp Salad
Gluten free option would be enjoyed by spooning the chicken salad atop a fresh bed of spinach/romaine heart lettuce/kale.  Rather than dousing the delicate leaves in dressing, simply drizzle lemon juice and lightly salt the vibrant greens.  The curry and yogurt from the salad provide dressing enough to compliment the salad.  If a dressing was to be added, it may over-power the curry from the chicken.

Not a fan of curry?  How about a Skinny Caesar Salad? 

Does that even exist?  Try using the tofu as the binding agent in the dressing.  It works, trust me.

Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad

½ c. Silken Soft Tofu
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard (the wine in the mustard provides a nice sweetness)
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
1 ½ tsp. Red Wine Vinegar
"Skinny Caesar" with Shrimp and Parmesan Cheese 
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Anchovies – minced and ground into paste (or ½ tsp. anchovy paste)
1 Tbsp Water
1 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Whole Wheat croutons – lightly toasted

In a blender combine the first 10 ingredients.  Add water to thin, as needed while mixture is blending.

Voila – there is your low-fat Caesar Dressing… sans the cholesterol since egg yolks are not needed in this recipe.  “Safer” to consume, as raw eggs are not included in this recipe either.  Not too shabby.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, romaine lettuce, cooked chicken breast, and as many diced vegetables as your little heart desires.  The more colors, the better.  Serve with dressing on the side.

Many lighter Caesar salad dressings use fat-free mayo.  Of course this is an option (may substitute fat-free mayo for tofu) – however, I prefer the tofu, as tofu contains more protein and calcium than mayo.  Proteins are essential in order to rebuild muscle. 

A few quick and healthy recipe ideas to kick start your summer, darhlings.

And now to work out… wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah.

All my love from Dallas, y’all,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whimsical, Yet Sophisticated… It’s All About the Placement in Presentation

Cannes, France
Location of the Cannes Film Festival

Hey Family and Friends!

Down in Marshall, Texas working with a client for the week… ergo, no cooking.  However, I did want to briefly mention a few ideas pertaining to the presentation of plating different foods.

The old adage, “You eat with your eyes first,” is a familiar phrase of truth.  Individuals tend to gravitate towards things in life which are aesthetically pleasing, clean, unique and captivating.  
Cannes, France 2008
When I was living in Paris, I visited Cannes (yes – famous for the Cannes Film Festival).  While vacationing in the sister-city of Beverly Hills, I conversed with many of the natives – establishing friendly relationships and learning more about the French culture.  I remember one retired couple asking about my work experience.  As soon as I mentioned attending Le Cordon Bleu in order to learn how to cook, as well as working in the restaurants of Hotel de Crillon and Hotel Le Meurice in both cuisine and pastry, their eyebrows raised and they exchanged “knowing” glances. 
Cannes, France - sister city to Beverly Hills

“Non, ma chérie,” the elegant, elderly French woman softly spoke in her thick Bourgeoisie French accent as she removed her sparkling Chanel glasses… “You did not just learn how to cook… you learned the art of cooking.”

The Ritz in Cannes, France
From time to time, I reflect on her words.  Cooking truly is an art.  Honestly, one can even make a cheeseburger look glamorous (believe me, I have accomplished that before).  What is the secret?  Time.  Patience.  Passion.  And quite honestly, a certain, “Je ne sais quoi,” factor that is difficult to teach… yet one is able to master if given the opportunity.

Simple, yet composed.  Sleek, yet orderly.  Meticulous, yet elegant.

An orange, for example.  By cutting the peel away with a knife and removing the segments piece by piece, one can transform a simple fruit into an impressive plate.  By layering the segments into a circular flower pattern, dimension and height are created.  Final touches?  An edible flower provides a hint of color while a few pieces of gold leaf add the necessary “gold kisses” to elevate the presentation from “oh… an orange… thanks,” to, “Wow!  Is that an orange?!  I don’t even want to eat it because it is stunning!” 

Know what I’m saying?


Beet Coulis, Japanese Beech Mushrooms,
Squash and Almond Puree, Quinoa and
Brown Rice with Veggies
Vegetables compose the majority of a vegetarians diet (wow, no surprise there!)  But all too often, said group is forced to eat a mound of veggies – tossed together, neither rhyme nor reason.  However, so many opportunities are presented when noticing the brilliant and vibrant colors of vegetables.  I served a brilliant couple who own a vineyard in Napa Valley, California while I was working as the private chef in Dallas, TX.  They were strict vegans which challenged me in creating unique and healthy recipes on a restricted menu.  One of my favorite dishes that I composed included: grilled squash and almond puree, quinoa and brown rice and diced carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets, beet puree and Japanese White Beech mushrooms.  When plating, remember the “odd rule.”  Three is better than four.  Five is better than six.  Etc.  In terms of “balance” on a plate, odd number look better (e.g., three apple segments arranged into a circle look better than four on a plain plate.)  Do not ask me why… it just… does.


Quinoa-flour Pancake
While working as a private chef, I adored teaching the incredible, young daughter of the family how to “plate” her food.  Having a sweet tooth, I tried to create recipes that balanced whole grains, lean proteins (hard-boiled eggs – I would simply remove the yolk and we would snack on the egg whites together), and fresh fruits/vegetables.  Pancakes were always a favorite.  Instead of consuming white-flour pancakes (empty calories with little nutrition), I would make pancakes from quinoa flour and add diced strawberries and blueberries.  I will not lie… at first, she was not a fan.  She wanted the familiar taste of her old pancakes – dripping in syrup and lathered in butter.  However, in order for her to “warm up” to the healthier option, I knew I had to do something in order to create a “playful presentation.”  Ergo… a garden atop the quinoa flour pancake.  I crumbled ½ an Oreo in order to make “dirt,” then placed small edible flowers and chopped wheat-grass atop said dirt.  Instant garden.  Blue sprinkles replaced the syrup (and still provided a sweet factor).  Blue sprinkles also acted as a river upon the pancake.  Edible gold transformed into “goldfish” swimming in the river. Strawberry Shortcake figurine surrounded with diced strawberries?  That is one way to encourage a young child to eat her fruit. 

Trust me.  It worked.


Free-hand decorations while I worked as a chef
in Phoenix, Arizona
Sauces of any kind can also provide instant color and character to any food.  When plating desserts, my favorite aspect is free-drawn designs.  I used to doodle designs on my notebooks during school when I was younger.  I would be thrilled whenever my mother would cover my books for the year with fresh paper bags… a new opportunity to leave my artist flair (all the while covering up the intimidation factor of a middle-schooler carrying a Geometry book).  My favorite sauces to use include: chocolate, crème anglaise and caramel.  Recipes for the sauces will be provided in the future… for now, this is an overview on how they can “dress up” any type of dessert.  I love to “customize” plates by melting chocolate and writing phrases (e.g., "Happy Birthday","Happy Anniversary", etc).  
Pistachio Ball with Caramel, Creme Anglaise, Mango and
Chocolate Mousse, Edible Flowers,
Crushed Hazelnuts, Mint, Edible Glitter and Golf Leaf

I have also had the privilege of decorating dessert plates for engagements and including the rings on said plates.  I love being able to present something of beauty to warm the hearts of others.

Scrambled Eggs with Creme Fraiche,
Caviar, Edible Glitter and Gold Leaf

Now this was an impressive presentation… difficult to execute, yet worth it.  First, wash a raw egg and gently (gently!!) remove the top of the egg shell by either purchasing a machine to do the work for you, or by carefully cracking the top with your knife and removing the top of the shell.  Remove the raw yolk and egg white.  When hollow, boil the shell in hot water for 5 minutes, in order to sanitize the hollow shell.  Store in refrigerator.  Then cook your scrambled eggs in a manner which you prefer… when I am preparing a “rich” scrambled egg recipe, I use heavy cream, butter and a creamy cheese (Havarti, Camembert, Pont l'Évêque… may even use something more familiar… Cheddar, Mozzarella, etc.)  Remove eggs from heat when scrambled.  Using a demi-spoon (just a small spoon), carefully (operative word – “carefully,” as shells will be very fragile), spoon the eggs into the hollow egg shell.  Top with Crème Fraiche, Caviar and gold leaf.  I used a candle votive, which was the perfect size, as a “stand” to mount the eggs.  Lasting touch was a sprinkle of edible glitter on the white plate.  I wish the photo on my blog did this presentation justice… but alas, it did not.  In person, the dish is stunning.  A hint of sparkle to accompany the small amount of eggs, bursting forth with rich flavor.

As I have mentioned before… white plates allow the food to be the focus.  Fine China with delicate patterns and dainty decorations can absolutely be appreciated in certain settings.  However, when the focus is on impressive food presentations, allow the white plate to be your blank canvas and the food to be your medium. 

Be creative.  You never know what you can create until you actually try. 

Love from Dallas, y’all,

(actually, Marshall, TX!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Super Foods... why not?

Curry Broccoli (with Quinoa and Almonds!), Drizzle of
Almond oil and Gold leaf 

Hi family and friends!

I was perusing an article from Whole Foods a few days ago, highlighting the “10 Best Foods for Flat Abs.”  In no particular order, the “super foods” include: almonds, eggs, soy beans, apples, berries, leafy greens, yogurt, veggie soup, salmon and quinoa.  So why not present to you several recipes that are quick to prepare, abundant in vitamins, and leave one satisfied and lavishly filled with energy.

"Super Foods" - Spinach and Kale Salad,
Strawberries, Blackberries, EVOO, Salmon
with a Light Almond Crust
Roasted almonds are a great addition to a plethora of dishes, as well as constituting as healthy snack when a boost of energy is desired.  I generally purchase slivered or whole almonds in bulk in order to save monetary/financially, as well as the precious commodity of time.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, then toss almonds in a bowl with salt, cayenne pepper and almond/walnut/extra-virgin olive oil.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and allow to roast until golden brown.  This will only take a few minutes.  During the cooking process, remove the almonds from the oven, rearrange almonds to ensure a more uniform roasting, place back in oven and allow to finish cooking (may have to repeat that process several times in order to prevent the almonds on the outside from cooking faster and burning).

In order to save calories, one can omit the oils all together and cook on the stove top.  Simply toss the nuts in a small amount of salt and cayenne pepper and roast the nuts in a heavy saute pan on the stove top over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. 

"Super Foods"
Vegetable Soup - with Turkey and Quinoa
By cooking in large quantities, one saves time by having a single cleanup.  Store roasted almonds in the freezer in a Tupperware container in order to maintain freshness and to prevent freezer burn.  In order to incorporate the “10 Best Foods” listed above, here are several ideas how to enjoy the benefits of almonds:
0% Greek Yogurt or Cottage Cheese with fresh berries, apples and slivered almonds
Top fresh leafy greens of romaine hearts, kale and spinach with almonds
Trail mix of dried soy beans, almonds, dark chocolate and granola
Almond butter with fresh apple slices (I strongly recommend Honey Crisp when they are in season, as well as Pink Lady Apples or Granny Smith)
Frozen yogurt – many small frozen yogurt stores are popping up around the nation – almonds are a great topper to the fat-free dessert
Top fresh whole-wheat pasta or whole wheat rice with almonds and fresh vegetables
Roll white fish/salmon/lean proteins in ground almonds, then bake in the oven – healthy option compared to bread crumbs
Additions to soups (to add with Quinoa and act as a thickening agent… recipe below)

"Super Foods" - Baked Sea Bass with Almond Crust,
Whole Wheat Couscous/Quinoa Blend,
Edamame and Pomegranate Seeds
In regards to Vegetable soup… a traditional vegetable soup is a hearty option for a warm, winter soup.  Two of my favorite vegetables include broccoli and cauliflower.  However, the problem with most vegetarians?  They do not consume an adequate amount of protein (necessary in promoting hair and nail growth, as well as overall health and performance).

So what is the goal?  To make a vegetable soup that is healthy, as well as abundant in protein.  The problem with most cream soups falls directly in the name… cream.  Broccoli soup sounds healthy… right?  But many vegetable soups contain a “roux” in order to thicken the vegetables into a palate-pleasing mixture.  (A “roux” is used as a thickening agent in a soup… equal parts butter and flour).  However, through the process of trial and error, I learned how to replace a traditional French roux with a quinoa/almond blend.  Ergo… out with the flour and butter, in with the protein and quinoa.  Love it.

"Super Foods" - Mahi Mahi with
Rainbow Chard,  Almonds,
Asparagus and Edamame
Curried Broccoli Soup   (may also substitute cauliflower or mix the two vegetables)

2 lbs of broccoli – chopped into the florets
2 c. Quinoa – cooked
¼ c. Roasted Almonds – ground into powder (use food processor)
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. Curry powder
2 tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. ground ginger

Bring a pot of salted hot water to a rolling boil.  Add broccoli and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).  In order to know when tender, slice the stalk of the florets with a knife.  If the knife glides through the stalk, then the broccoli is finished.  Drain the water, keeping 2 cups on reserve.  Using a hand-held emersion blender, begin to blend the broccoli, while adding vegetable stock (may use chicken stock if non-vegetarian… I prefer the taste of chicken stock).  Slowly incorporate the cooked Quinoa, as well as almond powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder, turmeric, and ginger while continuing to blend.  At this point, the consistency of the soup is determinant upon the individual making the soup.  If a thicker soup is desired, add more quinoa and ground almonds (these act as thickening agents).  If a more “brothy” soup is desired, add more stock.  Bring all ingredients to a boil, then allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt when desired consistency is obtained.
"Super Foods" - Baby Arugula, Quinoa, EVOO,
Roasted Almonds,Beets, Pomegranate Seeds,

In terms of presentation/toppings…
Fresh, steamed broccoli/cauliflower
Pepper Flakes
Whole Wheat pita chips/toasted whole wheat bread for croutons
Fat-Free cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Cooked salmon/shrimp
0% Plain Greek yogurt (this is one of my favorite options – allow the soup to be slightly creamier)
Roasted almonds/cashews/walnuts/pine nuts
Bacon (I know… it’s like panning for gold in soup… oh!  Speaking of…)
Gold leaf (got to)

Remember that our bodies use food as fuel.  You would not think of filling your most dependable car with the lowest-grade of gas… would you?  By incorporating fresh, organic fruit and vegetables into your daily diet, your body will perform at a more efficient and effective rate… heightened energy, clear skin, shining hair, amplified concentration and performance on the athletic field/business room.  I chose to create healthy dishes in order to teach others how to enjoy cooking, but also care for their bodies.  I encourage you to incorporate the list of ten “super foods” into your daily diet.  Does a body good.

All my love from Dallas, y’all,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dude Food...

Filet Mignon wrapped in Bacon and
topped with Shrimp.  Scallop Potatoes
and Asparagus
Photo by Jennifer Richards

Hey Family and Friends!

Steak.  I mean… correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m spot on.

There are two mistakes that the majority of people make when cooking steak… they overcook the cut (come on, it’s already dead… no need to kill it again), and they do not allow ample time for the meat to rest before serving.


Filet Mignon on Grill
One of my favorite cuts of meat is the filet mignon.  Although I do not consume red meat on a consistent basis (I prefer fish and poultry), from time-to-time, nothing is more satisfying than a tender filet.  When I was younger, I used to order my filet “well done.”  In reality, it was not “well done” at all… poorly done by actually consuming the overcooked meat.  The tender flavors and juices were annihilated when the fibers cook past the medium-rare stage.  I learned how to properly cook and consume proteins in Paris.  After dining on meat at a proper cooking temperature, I will never revert to my “well-done” ways again.  Believe me, I learned… and applied to future preparations. 

Cooking Chart for Meat - Approximate Time
So many life-lessons that can be taught in the kitchen and adapted to life.

So Macho Men, listen carefully and take notes.  Every cut of meat is different, every oven is different.  Every piece of meat is unique, fostering its own unique cooking time.  After years of experience, I use the “touch-method” to understand the degree of “doneness.”  As a beginner, I would strongly encourage investing in a cooking thermometer in order to make the entire process much less intimidating (you will know exactly when to remove the steak from the grill/oven). 

Medium-Rare Filet Mignon
Beginning with a quality product is essential.  I generally purchase my meat at Central Market or Whole Foods when in Dallas. When cooking a brilliant cut of meat, the more simple, the better.  Allow the star to shine.  A simple sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper on both sides.  Heat almond or walnut oil in a sauté pan until hot enough that steam begins to rise (this is called the “smoke point.”)  If the oil is not hot enough, then the meat will actually begin to boil, as opposed to searing.  When the smoke begins to barely rise, add a dab of butter and place the filet on the sauté pan.  Allow to cook for about 2 minutes (to obtain a nice searing).  Flip and repeat.  Then sear all sides on the meat.  When finished, transfer filet to an oven-proof pan.  Pour the excess oil and butter into the pan to cook with the steak.  Place in oven (about 400 degrees F) and allow to cook to degree of desired done-ness.  Turn filet over as cooking process progresses.  At this point, I used the “touch-method” to determine when to remove the filet from the oven.   However, a thermometer for “newbies” will alert when the filet is finished.  I recommend serving a medium-rare steak… warm through the middle with a hint of red (between 130 – 135 degrees F).  Here's the trick... remove the steak before reaching the desired degree of completion (about 5 degrees before finished).  Why?  The steak will continue to cook while resting (explained below) - as well as cook when flashed in the oven to re-heat before serving.  By the time the filet reaches the table... perfection.

Filet Mignon wrapped in Bacon and
topped with Shrimp.  Scallop Potatoes
and Asparagus
Photo by Jennifer Richards
Most important aspect of this process?   Allow the meat to rest at least ten minutes before serving.  Individuals often make the mistake of serving the meat immediately after removed from the heat.  If you think about it, it makes sense… serving immediately in order to allow the client to enjoy when warm.  However, the problem occurs when the consumer cuts into the meat… the coveted juices immediately flood onto the plate – losing the full-flavor of the steak.  In order to prevent the “liquid gold” from escaping, cover the steak with aluminum foil and place filet in a warm area.  Flip the steak after five minutes.  This allows the juices to seep deeper into the steak.  Rest for an additional five minutes (ten total).  Before serving, place filet in the oven for only a few minutes – until it is warm (about 1-2minutes). 

While attending Le Cordon Bleu in
Paris, France in 2007/2008
With Chef Frank Poupard
In order to cut additional calories, cooking the steak on a grill will eliminate the additional oils and butters.  Simply brush the grill with oil, then lay the steak down and allow to cook.  Again, the same process: top, bottom, and all sides.  I adore grilling any type of protein… the added flavor from the grill adds a complementary savory element to any cut of meat/fish.

While studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, my chefs would often become irritated whenever individuals would ask the question, “Chef, how long should I cook (insert featured item here) for?”  Quite honestly, every oven is different, every size and cut of meat is different, every cooking time will be different.  That can be intimidating for an inexperienced individual.  My chefs would always say, “C’est cuit quand c’est cuit…” meaning... “it’s cooked when it’s cooked.”  Ergo, as a chef, you must constantly be aware of what is being cooked.  All too often, people are simply not willing to extend the necessary patience needed to devote towards cooking.  Respecting the ingredients was ingrained into my mind when studying and working in the gorgeous City of Lights.  Attention to even the smallest of details is evident when consuming the final product.

A perfectly cooked steak knows no embellishments.

My precious puppy, Charis!
Ok… maybe a little gold leaf…

All my love from DALLAS, y’all!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mango Tango...

Fruit Plate with Mango that I made while working
at Hotel de Crillon in Paris, France

Hey family and friends!

Happy Easter!  Spring has indeed sprung and the vibrant colors of flowers and greenery inspire the brilliant pastels to be transferred onto dinner plates.  Known as the “king of fruits,” mangoes are bursting with pre-biotic dietary fiber, vitamins, and polyphenolic anti-oxidant compounds which offer protection against breast and colon cancers.  I have a dear friend, Amanda, who asked me what to do with the excess frozen mango which seemed to be encroaching upon “prime real estate” in her freezer.  Frozen mango added to any smoothie will brighten the flavor and add additional Vitamin-A to your diet.  But when asked about the additional frozen mangoes, my savory cold mango soup flashed into my mind.  The versatility of this dish provides more experimentation in the kitchen… additional sugar provides for a dessert and additional spice provides for an amuse bouche or appetizer.  Sweet or savory, you cannot go wrong:

Sweet or Savory Mango Soup
Add Gold Leaf to rims of
Chilled Mango Soup Shots
to add an added glamorous and
sophisticated touch
(Dinner party at Bradley Oaks Ranch 2010)
Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 Minutes (peel mangoes if fresh and not frozen)
                     10 Minutes Blend ingredients
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes – time to cool and marinade in the refrigerator

4-5 Ripe Mangoes – peeled, pitted and diced into large chunks – or 4 cups of frozen mango – thawed
1 c. Milk – Almond Milk
1 c. 0% Greek Yogurt – Vanilla
1 c. Unsweetened Coconut Milk
¼ c. Chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt to taste
3 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
3 Tbsp Rum
Slivered almonds

Purée mango in a food processor or blender, adding enough Almond Milk in order to allow the consistency to become smooth.  Add the remaining Almond milk, Vanilla yogurt, coconut milk, sugar, rum (yarrr!) and salt to taste.  It is important to taste the soup while in the process of making in order to ensure that the seasoning is correct.  Adjust as needed.

Transfer soup into a bowl and allow to rest in the refrigerator for a least one hour.

When serving, may drizzle top with honey or agave nectar, as well as top with a dollop of whipped cream.  Sprinkle with slivered almonds in order to provide for a crunchy bite when consumed and small slices of fresh mint.

Savory Chilled Mango Soup with Shrimp
(I also added Lentil Beans into the soup)
I ate this for breakfast a few days ago... weird
Savory Mango Soup
4-5 Ripe Mangoes – peeled, pitted and diced into large chunks – or 4 cups of frozen mango – thawed
1 c. Milk – Skim Milk
1 c. 0% Greek Yogurt – Plain
1 c. Unsweetened Coconut Milk
2 tsp. Mild Chili Pepper Powder
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
Slivered almonds
Sliced Jalapenos

Purée mango in a food processor or blender, adding enough skim milk in order to allow the consistency to become smooth.  Add the remaining skim milk, vanilla yogurt, plain yogurt, mild chili pepper powder, cayenne pepper and salt to taste.  It is important to taste the soup while in the process of making in order to ensure that the seasoning is correct.  Adjust as needed.

When serving, may add a dollop of Plain 0% Greek yogurt or sour cream.  Sprinkle with slivered almonds and sliced jalapenos as garnish.

One additional Savory Mango Soup:

Curried-Mango Shrimp Soup
Level: Medium
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Curry Mango Soup with Shrimp and Green Onion
(I already started to eat this before I remembered to
snap a photo... oops!) 
Total Time: 30 Minutes

1 Red Onion – fine dice
1 Stalk of Celery – sliced
2 Cloves of Garlic – smashed
½ Serrano Chile – fine mince
2 Tbsp. Curry Powder
1 tsp. thyme – cut fine (or use dried)
2 c. Vegetable Stock
1 14oz c. Unsweetened Coconut Milk
4 ripe Mangoes – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (or 3 cups frozen mango)
1 ½ lib Raw Shrimp – peeled and deveined
3 Green Onions – slice thin on bias (diagonal)
Salt to taste
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper

Heat EVOO in large soup pot on medium oil.  Add celery and onion – cook until translucent and soft – about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
Add garlic, Serrano chile, curry powder, cayenne pepper and thyme to incorporate into sautéed vegetables.
Add vegetable stock, coconut milk and mangoes.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low heat and allow to simmer for about five minutes.
Use an immersion blender (or blender) in order to puree the soup to a nice smooth  and shiny consistency. 
In a separate sauté pan, heat EVOO on high heat.  Season shrimp and curry powder, then cook about 45seconds – 1 minute on each side on sauté pan.  (Shrimp will be ready when pink in color (no longer translucent).  Add to soup.

When serving, ladle warm soup into white bowl and garnish with green onions.  May add a dollop of 0% Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream in order to provide a more creamy consistency.

And of course, gold leaf is in order to compliment the golden hues of the super-fruit soups.

Gold-metal worthy.

Got to.

All my love from DALLAS, y’all,

Friday, April 6, 2012

Shark Attack!

Friend... from afar.  Delicacy... from dinner table.

Hey Family and Friends!

Living in America, one fish that we generally do not consume is shark.  The most popular type of shark sold is Mako, a 12- to 14 foot aggressive and athletic little Chondrichthye found in tropical waters.  Mako is sold as a boneless steak, very similar in taste and texture as swordfish.  For those who do not enjoy fish due to its “fishy consistency” or smell, shark is a wonderful alternative since it is a more substantial and “thicker” fish.

Grilled Shark Steak - Close-up
(Notice the "flaking" pattern - this appears
when the Shark is cooked)
The easiest manner, and best in my opinion, to cook shark is on the grill.  The taste of fresh, beautiful charcoal marks on a plump steak cannot be fabricated in another manner other than the grill.  In order to cook shark properly, use the most basic seasonings and oils… salt, cayenne pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  That is it, folks.  Individuals often make the mistake of over-powering proteins with excessive and unnecessary amenities which actually deter from the star-of-the-show produce.  The best advice that I can give you when cooking?  Keep it simple and clean.  Use organic when given the option.  Take your time in preparation.  Cook with confidence and love.  Wow with presentation.  In the end, those around the table far outweigh the importance of any meal.  Should cooking celebrate artistic art on the plate, foster creativity and promote experimentation of powerful tastes?  Absolutely.  But to me, the best and most important aspects about the culinary arts is that cooking should be used to fuel your body with healthy foods and shared with family and friends.

But I digress… back to cooking Jaws.  Heat the grill on medium/high heat.  Sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt and small amount of cayenne pepper… remember, cayenne is a potent and powerful pepper!  Drizzle EVOO on the shark and place on grill for 5-6minutes on each side.  Shark will be finished when the flesh is flaky.  Mango salsa is a quick, simple accoutrement to accompany any type of protein and brighten the dish.  By cooking the shark in a simple manner, one can pair the protein with more sophisticated sides without deterring from the beauty of the basic filet. 

Mango Salsa
Mango Salsa

Level: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Marinate Time: At least 10 minutes in refrigerator
Total: 20 minutes

2 Ripe Mangos
½ Red Onion
1 Ripe Avocado
1 Bunch of Cilantro – leaves only – fine chop
¼-in of Fresh Ginger – peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 Medium Red Bell Pepper – seeds removed and diced

Peel and dice the mangos, onion and avocado.  Place in a bowl with the bell pepper, ginger and cilantro.  Squeeze lemon and lime juice over mixture.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes in order to marinate.  Serve with desired dish… fish, chicken, eggs, turkey, etc. 

Shark with Heirloom Tomatoes,
Edible Flower and Gold Paper.
When plating, simply top the shark with the mango salsa.  Refrain from placing the salsa only on top of the filet.  Rather, allow the some of the salsa to remain on top of the shark, but allow some to fall onto the plate.  Organized chaos.  Allow “imperfections” to shine into unique and gorgeous creations.

Marinate gorgeous heirloom tomatoes in EVOO, salt and cayenne and layer on a white plate.  Top with shark steak, edible flower and golf leaf.  Simple presentation.  Elegant.  Delicious.

Two other options for cooking shark?  Ceviche and Kebabs. 

Shark Ceviche
Cut Mako steaks into ½ inch cubes and toss with minced red onion, diced mango, diced red bell pepper, ginger, lemon and lime juices.  May also squeeze a small amount of orange juice into the mixture to add an additional level of citrus.  Allow to marinate for several hours, until the sharks turns opaque in color.  Although the shark was not cooked over heat, the citrus in the lemons and limes actually “cooks” the shark.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper appropriately.  If the idea of raw shark is a deterrent, simply cook the cubes of shark on the grill (or stove top), then combine with listed ingredients.  Before serving, add chopped cilantro and diced avocado to the recipe.

Shark Ceviche with Edible Flowers and Gold Leaf.
sb-style.  Got to.
I love to serve ceviche in Martini glasses with organic whole-wheat crackers as an additional “crunch.”

Shark Kabobs
Cut Mako shark into large cubes and drizzle with EVOO, salt and cayenne pepper.  If desired, one can marinate the shark at this point of the process.  One basic marinade includes olive oil, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.  Rather than marinating the shark, I would sprinkle with Herbs de Provence.  Slide the shark on skewers, alternating with sliced vegetables (options include: onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, etc.)  Grill the skewers for 7-10 minutes on med/high heat, or until the shark is cooked through (it will begin to “flake.”)

Kabobs pair nicely with whole wheat rice, quinoa or potatoes.  They can also be rolled into different flavored wraps: whole wheat, spinach, sun-dried tomato, Italian-herb, flour, corn, etc.  One can even remove the sticks and serve over fresh salad and romaine hearts.  The EVOO from the cooked shark/vegetables provides the dressing for the salad (discard the EVOO that was used to marinate the fish and vegetables, as this is now contaminated with uncooked fish).
Next time you’re in the ocean, you can be the one humming, “Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun…”

All my love from DALLAS, y’all,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Because it’s Art…

Camp of the Woods - Lake Pleasant, NY

Because it’s Art…

As a child, I was always enamored with arts and crafts.  We used to vacation at Camp-of-the-Woods at Lake Pleasant as a family adventure during the warm and balmy New York summers.  While a plethora of time was devoted to making sand castles on the beach and swimming in the sparkling lake, I was, more often than not, in the “Arts-and-Crafts” cabin.  I have always loved to create… formulating a plan in my mind, and executing with my hands (yes… I have awkwardly large hands… bring it).  One of my favorite aspects about cooking is the final presentation… food being the medium and plates being the blank canvas.  The best reward is then being able to share said meal with family and friends.
Portabella Mushrooms

Moderate in degree of level-of-difficulty, but fantastic recipe:

Portabella Mushroom Napoleon
Prep Time: 5 – 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 for puff pastry; 5-10 for mushrooms
Total Time: 35 Minutes

2 Large Portabella Mushrooms
Almond oil – May also use Walnut oil, EVOO, Butter
Salt - to taste
Cayenne Pepper - to taste
½ C. Cashews – roasted
1 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs
1 Tbsp. Water
Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Parmesan cheese
Micro Greens (may purchase at Whole Foods/Central Market – often an Organic reseller)

Careful when placing HOT Pyrex glass on
cool marble... it will implode.
Photo by: Jennifer Richards.  Error by sb.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Lightly sprinkle flour over your clean counter and unfold puff pastry.  As a time-saver, I use Pepperidge Farms Frozen Puff Pastry instead of rolling my own puff pastry from scratch (is there an incredible difference between hand-made puff pastry and store bought?  Absolutely.  But every moment matters when serving a large crowd within a limited amount of time.  For occasions that are truly special, yes… I will make the puff pastry by hand).
Cut the shapes and sizes that you desire with a knife, pizza cutter or cookie cutters.
Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place cut pastry on the parchment papers, then cover the puff pastry with a sheet of parchment paper.  Place another baking sheet on top of the pastries.  This prevents the pastry from rising during the cooking process.  Puff pastry was intended to rise; however, a flat pastry is desired for the recipe, as it is a layered finished product (easier to “stack” when flat surfaces are involved).  Cooking time depends on every stove.  Pastry will be finished when light golden brown (about 15-20 minutes).  When finished, allow to cool.

Portabella Mushrooms
My hands are larger than Chuck Norris... round-house kick?
Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel.  Do not use water to soak the mushrooms when cleaning; since mushrooms are extremely porous, they soak up water like a sponge.  Trim away any damaged spots or dirty stems, then cut Portabella mushrooms into bite sized pieces.  I know… being that my mouth is enormous, my pieces are usually cut large than normal.  It is what it is.
Pour almond oil into large sauté pan – enough to coat the bottom of the pan – high heat.
When the oil begins to smoke, add mushrooms, salt, cayenne and dried Italian herbs.  May add butter if desired.  Allow mushrooms to cook until tender (about 5 minutes), then remove from sauté pan.
In a small blender/emersion blender/food processor, chop cashews until the consistency is similar to sand.  Add about 1 Tbsp of water and continue to pulse until cashews form a smooth paste (may need to add more water).
In the process of plating
Photo by: Jennifer Richards.  Unmanicured nail fail by: sb
Combine the cooked mushrooms with the cashew paste in a bowl and stir until fully incorporated. 

Using the reduced balsamic vinegar, draw a unique design on the bottom of a white plate.  Place one layer of puff pastry on the plate and top with cashew/mushroom mixture.  Repeat the procedure with one more layer of puff pastry and cashew/mushroom mix.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and top with micro greens.

Bird's Eye View of Mushroom Napoleon
Photo by: Jennifer Richards.
In order to save time, as well as turn this into a more healthy option, omit the puff pastry and use whole wheat toast or crackers in order to build the layered Napoleon-look.  Gluten-free crackers are always an option if gluten is not permitted in your diet.  You may also forgo the bread route and pair the cashew/mushroom mixture with quinoa, brown rice or more vegetables (though not as presentable).  Adding a dollop of plain 0% Greek yogurt would allow the dish to be slightly more creamy and rich.  Just another option.

I often save this dish to serve as an appetizer… artistic presentation bursting with delicious tastes.

All my love from DALLAS, y’all,