Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Friday, December 20, 2013


For those who have sworn off mashed potatoes because of the carbohydrates and fats, and for those who cannot eat wheat and so have said "au revoir" to pasta, then allow me to introduce you to your new best friend: polenta

Originally the name referred to crushed, ground grains and/or legumes. However, polenta is essentially boiled porridge made from cornmeal. Though basic in composition, the versatility far exceeds many other grains. Polenta may be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner:

* Use as a base for sauces, stews and thick soups, in place of a high-calorie roux

*Spoon steamed or sauteed vegetable over warm polenta and top with a light grating of cheese and herbs

*Top with your fresh, homemade pasta sauce, then add sauteed greens and protein (meats, cheese, lentils, fish)

*Serve in lieu of potatoes or rice with lunch or dinner: polenta with chicken sausage and mushrooms, polenta with beef goulash, sauteed shrimp/scallops with polenta and Manchego sauce

*Shape polenta like a pizza crust when baking and make polenta tart with tomatoes and goat cheese, pepperoni "pizza" with mozzarella cheese, white pizza with spinach and artichokes (possibilities are endless)

*Vegetarian dishes with polenta: BBQ tofu over polenta, polenta with wild mushrooms and artichokes, curry polenta with chick peas and roasted veggies

*Instead of bread in a breakfast casserole, replace with polenta

So many possibilities... so how do you cook this "much more than cornmeal mush" gluten-free food?

We live in a fast-paced, convenience-food age. While you may purchase polenta pre-made or "quick-cook," the following is a healthy, home-made version that you may make in large quantities.

Very basic polenta:

6 cups water or chicken/veggie stock
2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp garlic - mince
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, or EVOO, or 0% plain Greek yogurt

Bring the water/stock and garlic to a boil in a large, heavy-bottom pot (about 2 quart-size). Add the salt, then whisk in the polenta and stir - preventing clumps from forming. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender. While on low heat, the polenta should be "burping" about every two seconds. Stir frequently - every 10 minutes - to prevent the polenta from scorching the bottom of the pan. If the mixture become too thick, then simply add one tablespoon of water and whisk "avec énergique" (just stir like crazy!) This should not occur, but more of a "helpful hint" if anything goes awry.

After 25 minutes, turn off the heat. Add the butter, EVOO or 0% plain Greek yogurt, then stir until melted.

Spread in a 9 by 13 pan and allow to cool. You may cut into per-portioned pieces and store in the fridge at this point. If you use dairy when cooking, you may keep the polenta in an air-tight container for about 5 days. If no daily is used, then polenta will last about 7 days in an airtight container.

An idea for a composed meal? Polenta (cut into thin squares), with edamame puree, bell pepper coulis, fire-roasted tomatoes and fillet Mignon.

Pretty sophisticated for boiled porridge, if you ask me.

"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head and his heart, is an artist." - St. Francis of Assisi


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lamb Lollipops

Lamb Lollipops...

Before beginning the cooking process, organize your thoughts and create a game plan in your mind. First of all, decide the degree of 'doneness' that you desire when serving the lamb. My recommendation? Medium-rare. This allows the tender lamb to remain flavorful, retain its juices and be a palate-winner.

If you choose to serve your lamb lollipops medium-rare, you will cook them almost entirely on the stove. My recommendation is to cook double rib chops (2 ribs per piece of meat... each piece about 1/4 of a pound). When purchasing lamb, ask the butcher to cut double ribs and to french the bones (this eliminates the need to clean the bones when you return home... simply season and begin cooking).

1 pound lamb chops (cut into double rib chops)
1 garlic clove - minced
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary - minced
1 Tbsp Liquid smoke
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp EVOO, divided
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper - to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the garlic, rosemary, liquid smoke, Dijon mustard, pinch of cayenne pepper and 2 Tbsp EVOO.

Sprinkle both sides of the double rib chops with salt and pepper. Massage the seasonings with your hands in order to work the salt and pepper into the meat. Coat the lamb lollipops with the marinade, then allow to sit at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes. Why? If you place a cold, dense piece of meat in a hot pan, you risk drying out the exterior of the meat before you have allowed the inside to cook through. Now granted, some chefs will tell you to work with meat immediately from the refrigerator. Others insist on room temperature. Personally, I have found that cooking with meat at room temperature produces the best results. If you are working with single rib chops, and you want the result to be medium-rare, then allow the chops to marinate in the rub in the refrigerator. Do not allow the thin ribs to come to room temperature or the thin ribs will easily overcook when you sear them in the following step.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO in an oven-proof sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, sear the lamb chops on all sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). While the lamb is searing, do not touch the chops... simply allow them to form a beautiful crust and lock the juices inside of their meat. If you are working with single rib chops, then sear only on two sides (only about one minute per each side if you want the result to be rare or medium rare).

After searing all sides of the lamb, baste the lamb with the EVOO in the pan (simply spoon the EVOO over the lamb chops repeatedly). At this point, if you want your lamb chops rare, then your cooking process has reached completion. Remove the lollipops from the pan, cover with foil and allot to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving. If you prefer your chops to be slightly more cooked, place them in a 400°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Why is it essential to allow your meat to rest?

Let's face it... it has just been though baptism by fire. Literally. First of all, when you allow your meat to rest, then you are allowing it to retain the maximum amount of juices. Imagine the meat to represent a large bundle of straws. Each straw is filled with liquid, representing muscle fibers. During cooking, bundles of muscle cells in the meat contract, forcing out liquid from the spaces between them. As the meat cools, the cell bundles actually relax; thus, reabsorbing the liquid. Second, resting evens out the temperature and the 'doneness'.

Moral of the lesson?

Always allow your meat to rest at least 5-10 minutes before serving. Just trust me on this one.

Rather than serving the lamb with a heaping mound of potatoes and a side of an immediate food coma, try roasting vegetables to compliment the meat. Roasted fennel, onions and beets - tossed in EVOO and rosemary - enhance the sweetness of the lamb. A sophisticated touch of femininity in color and texture, if you will.

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination." - Thoreau


Monday, December 16, 2013

Boiling the Perfect Egg

Boiling the perfect egg.

This should not be a difficult task... right? Yet, if I were to challenge you at this current moment to make me a soft/medium/hard boiled egg... could you?

Be honest. You are allowed to think "no."

After reading this, you will be able to.


Before enlightening your mind with the proper cooking times, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when boiling eggs:

1) Egg Size: The larger the egg, the longer it will take to cook. For this article, I am referring to a large egg (not medium, not jumbo).

2) Temperature of egg pre-cook: An egg taken directly from the fridge will take longer to cook that at room temperature. However, logically - most individuals are not able to reach under a chicken, grab and egg, then immediately cook. Ergo, eggs have come directly from the refrigerator.

3) Egg to water ratio: The more water that you use, relative to the number of eggs, the longer the water will take to boil. I will typically use a sauce pot that comfortably houses the number of eggs that I am cooking (not too crowded and not too spaced out - otherwise they risk bumping into each other and breaking). I will cover the eggs with one inch of water)

4) Altitude: The boiling temperature of water falls as your altitude rises. If you live in the mountains, be sure to adjust accordingly.

Keeping in mind that outside variables will slightly adjust your egg cooking times, the following are general times that will ensure your properly boiled eggs:

How to Boil and Egg:
Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold tap water (until there is about 1 inch water above the eggs).
Place the pot of a high-heat until the water begins to boil.
Set a time for your desired 'doneness' (times listed below), turn off heat and cover with a lid.
Remove the boiled eggs from the water when they have finished cooking and place them in a bowl of cold ice water in order to halt the cooking process.
Carefully crack every part of the shells before fully peeling. Peeling under running water can also help the peeling process.

Important to keep in mind: the times start after the water has come to a boil and you have turned off the heat.

2 minutes: The white has not set and the yolk is raw
4 minutes: The white has fully set, but the yolk is thick and runny
6 minutes: The white has fully set and the yolk has begun to set, but is still slightly runny in the middle
8 minutes: The white has fully set and the yolk has set, but is tender
10 minutes: The white has fully set and the yolk has set
12 minutes: The white and yolk are both fully set

When working with eggs, the freshest are always the best; however, when hard-boiling eggs, older eggs are actually easier to peel. In order to determine the life of an egg, examine its behavior when placed in a pan of cold water:

Remains on its side on the bottom: 3-6 days old
Remains on the bottom, but the wider-end tilts up slightly: about 1 week old
Stands on its narrow end: 2-3 weeks old
Floats to the top? Well... you know that joke that beings:

"What do goldfish and eggs have in common?"

You get the idea, Nemo.

I will often boil a plethora of eggs, then immediately peel and place in my refrigerator. While egg yolks are full of cholesterol, egg whites are brilliant sources of pure-protein. The the occasional egg-yolk will not hard your heart:

Dress up a hard-boiled egg with:
Smoked salmon, guacamole, beet coulis, lentils, chive oil and micro-greens. I mean, that is one way to take an egg from boring to sophisticated.

"Beauty is the illumination of your soul" - John O'Donohue


Saturday, December 14, 2013



In order to keep your waist-line in check, heart happy and your mind functioning properly, finding healthy alternatives to incorporate into your daily diet is essential. Farro is a type of nutty wheat grain and is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice. It has a flavor similar to brown rice, and is easy to prepare, make ahead and even freeze.

This grain can be purchased in whole, semi-pearled, and pearled forms. The healthiest? Whole-grain. While it contains the most fiber, it does take longer to cook than semi-pearled or pearled farro and can be rougher on sensitive digestive systems. It also has an earthier, nuttier flavor. My recommendation? Try semi-pearled farror to begin. It cooks in about half the time as whole-grain farro (since the bran has been scored) allowing heat to reach the center more quickly. While it does have less nutrition than whole-grain farro, it also has a less "earthy" taste. For a palate introduction to the grain, this would be a "love at first sight" initiation.

To prepare:
1 cup farro
2 1/2 cups liquid (I often cook with chicken stock - you may also use different types of stock or even water)
1 pinch salt

Before cooking, rinse the farro with cool, running water, until the water runs clear. A fine-gap mesh colander works impeccably for this task.

Combine the liquid and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high until the water reaches a rolling boil. Carefully stir in the farro (careful not to burn your fingers!) Verify that the farro is completely submerged in the water and reduce heat to low or medium-low. Stir the farro to prevent sticking (to itself or the bottom the the pan). Place the cover on the pan and allow to cook.

In terms of cook time, there are three different consistencies to play with the texture of farro: chewy, tender or mushy.

Such high maintenance, right?

For a chewy texture, allow dry whole farro to cook for 30 minutes; semi-pearled or pearled farro cooks for 20 minutes.

For a tender texture, allow dry whole farro to cook for 40 minutes; semi-pearled or pearled farro cooks for 30 minutes.

For a mushy texture, allow dry whole farro to cook for 60 minutes. semi-pearled or pearled farro cooks for 35 - 45 minutes.

Because cooking time is not an exact science for farro, be sure to check on the consistency about every 5 - 7 minutes. Once cooked to the appropriate state, drain the excess water. The farro will absorb most of the water, but there may be some excess water on the bottom of the saucepan - depending on how long you cooked the farro.

Now what to prepare with farro? As stated before, healthy alternatives are essential to incorporate into your daily diet. However, I am not asking you to make drastic changes in one fell-swoop. Rather, try replacing rice with farro when enjoying a nice roast. Roasts are easy to throw into a crock-pot and allow to cook low and slow to hours. Some vegetables to accompany the roast will impart their sweet flavors into the meat while cooking (think carrots, onions, zucchini).

Just because you cook a meal in a crock-pot, does not mean that you need to slop it down on a plate... challenge yourself to create a work of art. For example, farro (cooked to a tender-texture), with a few slices of pot roast, carrots, onions, fiddle-head ferns, a touch of horse-radish-Greek yogurt, jus and micro-greens. Take a few minutes to allow that creativity inside of your soul to emerge.

You will thank me later.

"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul." - Elder Uchtdorf


Friday, December 13, 2013

Healthy Desserts

As a designer, the main goal is to give individuals the gift of confidence through beauty. At the end of the day, it is not about the clothes.

I was recently watching an episode of "What Not to Wear." Trust me, I rarely watch tv; however, I happened to stumble upon the episode in which a woman stated, "I think I am beautiful from the shoulders up."

It broke my heart.

Each of us a fearfully and wonderfully made. How we look should not make a difference in how we live.

Yet... it does.

A negative attitude and poor self-esteem shape our lives. Accepting a bullies remarks destroys our confidence. As strong as an individual can be, at the end of the day, words hurt. All too often, it is those who are miserable who strive to bring others down.

Not acceptable.


As stressed before, food is the catapult of our being. The fuel to our bodies. One mammoth problem in the US: obesity. Stemming from? Food.

The reason that I love to share my work as a chef? I strive to take the classically-trained French techniques that I learned in Paris, but put a healthy spin on the nourriture. And then make it beautiful.

A certain, je ne sais quoi, if you will.

Even desserts, for example. A dessert does not have to be a fat-laden, diet-destroyer. Mix fruits and yogurt, as well as cake, in order to enjoy a healthy, yet sweet fulfilling treat:

Peaches, Dried raspberries, Almond cake, Vanilla Greek yogurt, Mango and Raspberry coulis.

Instead of ice cream, opt for vanilla Greek yogurt. Instead of a heaping mound of cake, simply cut your slice in half and replace with berries/fruit. Sure, you may snub your nose at this recommendation; however, at the end of the day, your body will thank you. Sometimes it is having the motivation to make positive changes in our lives which ultimately make a world of difference.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” - Mae West


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Color Palate

Color palate.

I have always been an "old soul." On the rare days that I would not have swim/gymnastics/dance practice after school, I remember indulging in watching a guilty pleasure on PBS: Bob Ross.

Yep. Happy little clouds. Happy little trees. Happy little bushes.

Without even realizing it, this "Chuck Norris" of painting inspired me as a young child. I remember being mesmerized as I would watch him mix colors on his palette... to see one color transform literally before my adolescent eyes. This attention to color has been a pivotal spark when I create dishes.

Now granted, do most of us have time to plate a multi-course meal every single day? Absolutely not. Whether it is eating a sandwich on the metro, slurping soup in the car, knocking down a protein shake after hitting the gym or grazing on fruits and veggies throughout the day, food is generally treated as fuel in the majority of our lives. However, when you do have time to prepare a meal, I encourage you to take a few minutes and play with the presentation.

Happy little scallops. Happy little steak. Happy little potatoes.

Yep, I just went there.

How about happy little healthy scallop potatoes? Rather than lathering in heavy cream and cheese (good on occasion, but not every day diet), here is a healthier version:

Skinny Potato Gratin
5 medium peeled Yukon gold potatoes - sliced to about 1/8" thick
2 cups fat free milk
1 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
2 garlic cloves - smashed and minced
1 Tbsp herbs de Provence
1 tsp smokey paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray an 10 by 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a small sauce pan, bring the milk, garlic, herbs de Provence, smokey paprika, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and salt/pepper to a boil.

While the mixture is heating, peel and slice the Yukon potatoes (using a mandolin in order to achieve the thin slice... be careful with your fingers!) Arrange half of the potato slices in the baking dish; top with 1/2 cup cheese, then add the remaining potatoes. Once the milk mixture boils, carefully pour over the sliced potatoes. Top with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered until potatoes are tender (about 45 - 50 minutes). Be sure to rotate the potatoes while they are cooking, in order to ensure a balanced cooking throughout the pan.

Et puis, voila. As mentioned before, this is a healthier alternative. If enjoying in a fine-dining restaurant, you can be sure that heavy cream, full-fat cheese and butter would be the stars of the potato show. However, when consuming food on a daily routine, it is essential to nourish your body with healthy recipes.

"Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.” - Shakespeare

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

John Dory

John Dory.

Also known as St Pierre or Peter's Fish, this is a brilliant white fish to cook and attain a crispy, golden-brown crust. 

Do fish have feelings? No. However, their genetic make-up can drawl many parallels and well... exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, allegories, and I may even venture to say parables, to the human species.

John Dory skin : saute :: Human skin : truth in love

Bust out the highlighters, ladies and gentlemen... some SAT life-skills are about to go down.

Not quite, but a quick insight into one analogy.

When cooking fish skin, the quest is to attain a crispy, golden-brown crunch without overcooking the flesh. To begin, I will often use walnut or almond oil (I prefer the nutty-subtle flavor, but EVOO/butter are also commonly used). Allow the fat to heat on a medium-high heat. If the fish did not have skin, then cook on a high-heat. However, since the skin is present, we begin on a medium-heat. This will allow the skin to begin to cook enough to crisp, while the flesh does not overcook. Be sure to dry the fish skin with a paper towel, then season well with salt and pepper (I will add a touch of cayenne pepper too). Place the skin on the medium-high saute pan (non-stick if possible) and do not touch.

Metaphor incision. When placing the fish on the hot saute pan, it is imperative that you do not disturb the cooking process. Is it an intense, rigorous "baptism-by-fire?" You better believe it. However, if you attempt to move the fillet before it is ready to be flipped, you will end up causing more harm (and may even break the delicate fillet). All too often, the same can be said of our lives... sometimes we must venture into a trial/tribulation in order to be refined and end up stronger. It is during these times that we learn who we can trust, who truly has our backs, and who will be by our sides when the chips fall.

After a few minutes, the oils actually release the fish from the bottom of the pan, ensuring that it is time to be flipped in a safe manner. Since the John Dory fillets are thin, the majority of the cooking is accomplished on the skin-side. Pre-cooked, the skin of the John Dory is unpleasant; however, after the saute process, the "ugly-ducking" skin transforms into a gorgeous, stunning design and brilliant texture-contrast to the buttery skin. Using a fish-spatula, carefully flip the fish, then "kiss" the second side. By "kiss," I mean to flip the fish on the saute pan, while still on the heat. Then, you may turn the heat off, but keep the fish on the saute pan... the residual heat from the pan will continue to cook the fish gently, as opposed to too quickly. If cooked too quickly, the tendency to overcook is magnified. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice before serving (essential not to forget the citrus step!)

Rather than slathering the John Dory with tarter sauce, focus on simple accouterments to compliment the seafood: cilantro pesto, cilantro-infused Greek yogurt and roasted artichoke hearts/rutabaga.

Cilantro Pesto:
2 large garlic cloves - peel and mince fine
2 cups fresh cilantro - remove from stem
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbsp almond oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the garlic and cilantro in a food processor (fit with a metal blade) or Vitamix. With the processor running, slowly add the oils, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Not too difficult, eh?

Cilantro-infused Greek Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup 0% Fat Greek Yogurt (plain)
1 cup fresh cilantro - remove from stem
2 tsp garlic - mince fine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of smokey paprika and cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together all ingredients then chill (covered) for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry and develop together. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Rutabaga:
Peel the rutabaga and cut into small strips (the smaller the cut, the faster the cook). Combine the pieces of rutabaga and artichoke hearts in a medium bowl - toss with almond oil, herbs de Provence, Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, salt and pepper... the roast in a 400 degree oven until tender.

On a white plate, carefully drizzle the cilantro pesto and cilantro-infused Greek yogurt sauce on the plate. In the middle of the plate, add a few pieces of the roasted vegetables. Carefully place the seared John Dory (skin-side up) atop the veggie pile, then select a few more vegetables to place atop the brilliant fillet. Finish with a thin slice of lemon and sprigs of cilantro.

“To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist.” - Robert Schumann



Salsa is an incredibly versatile "condiment," in that it can be used in a multitude of dishes: 

1) Scooped in the traditional manner with tortilla chips, beer and a side of football, jerseys and grown, screaming men

2) Atop scrambled eggs and toast as a cure from the prior night football games and pandemonium associated with said games

3) A healthy alternative to calorie-laden salad dressings to add a spicy zip to your leafy greens

4) Dressed up to present a gourmet first course lobster/crab-poached delicacy

Designers take pieces of material and transfer the mundane into garments to enhance the natural beauty of individuals. Chefs have the same pleasure, but our medium is with food.

A fresh, homemade and healthy salsa that anyone can easily execute (so much better than from a can!)

5 medium Roma tomatoes - chop fine
1/2 medium red onion - fine dice
2 Garlic cloves - mince
1 medium red bell pepper - fine dice
2 jalapenos - seeded and minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro (best part!)
Chili/Cayenne pepper - pinch
Salt and pepper - to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours (in order to reach full flavor development and potency). Be creative when pairing the salsa with a plethora of possibilities!

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of juicing... not only for the numerous health benefits of the fresh fruits and vegetables, but the ability to create non-conventional sauces as well. Mustard greens, for example (excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese... highest level support for four conventional antioxidant nutrients... bonus). When consuming mustard greens, they have a natural flavor of... well, mustard.


I decided to juice the little green leaves and ended up with a brilliant forest green, mustardy-infused, juice. After reducing on the stove and adding a touch of horseradish, few teaspoons of heavy cream, sprinkle of lemon juice and salt/pepper, I was able to create a nice reduction of flavors.

The stars of the plate? Medium-boiled egg (9 minutes boiled), few slices of avocado, fresh crab claw and arugula/micro-green garnish.

Incredibly rich in taste, the complication of flavors compliment their counterparts. Rundown: the creamy omega-3 fats from the avocado balance any bitter remnants from the mustard-green reduction. The sweet crab claw balances the spice from the salsa. The boiled egg? Well, it just looks cute and adds a nice vibrant pop of yellow.

I mean, it is what it is.

All kidding aside, the egg also pairs brilliantly with the salsa, sauce and crab. The final touch of arugula/micro-greens provides a subtle, nutty-crunch of greens.

I bet you never thought salsa could clean up so well, eh?

See? Eating healthy can be delicious. And look stunning too.

"When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied." - Herophilus


Just for the Halibut

Just for the Halibut

One of my favorite aspects of halibut? It's uncanny ability to develop a perfectly golden crust when seared on a non-stick saute pan. Do I always cook fish on a non-stick? No. However, if given the choice, I will sear fish on a non-stick saute (simply because fish are much more delicate that other meats... a non-stick will aid in keeping the fragile fillets from breaking apart).

Pan-seared Halibut with Roasted Root Vegetables, Edamame puree and Truffle-Chives/Sprouts/Green onions


Allow to rest at room temperate ten minutes before cooking. Dry both sides with a paper towel, then heat a medium-non-stick saute pan to a medium heat. Add almond oil and bring to a high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, quickly season the top of the halibut with salt and smokey paprika, then place in saute pan. Do not touch the fillet once it is cooking... if you disturb the seafood before it is ready to be flipped, you will risk breaking the fish from it's tight fillet shape. Simply be aware of the fish as it is cooking... you will be able to see the transition from opaque to flaky-white skin. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the fillet. Remember, the larger and thicker the fillet, the longer the cook time. At this point, remove the pan from the heat, but baste the fish with the excess oil (simply tilt the pan and collect the oil in a spoon... then gently pour over the fish multiple times). Although the pan is no longer on the direct heat source, the fish is continuing to cook due to 1) the basting process and 2) the carry-over heat. This method of cooking fish allows you to use a high heat in the beginning in order to attain a brilliant sear, but then finish in a slower cooking manner. Rather than simply placing the fish in an oven (much more likely to overcook), you essentially are "babysitting" the entire cooking process. However, the results are well worth the added efforts.

Trust me.

A little additional attention to detail makes all of the difference in the world. It means that you truly are cooking with love. And that, my dear friends, is the merit of a true chef.

Keeping it simple, roasted root veggies and an edamame puree only enhance the golden-crusted halibut.

Edamame puree
Place 2 cups edamame in boiling water and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Drain, then place in Vitamix blender/robocoup. *Reserve about 1 Tbsp of the edamame beans to be combined with the roasted root vegetables later. While blending, slowly drizzle 2 Tbsp almond oil, 1 Tbsp heavy cream, 2 tsp dried oregano and juice of 1/2 lemon. Season with salt and pepper... consistency will be thin, yet able to keep its shape when spread on a plate.

Roasted Root Veggies
Rutabaga and Butternut squash were on sale when I went to the grocery store earlier; ergo, purchased and used. When I work with butternut squash, I always use gloves when peeling (as it will often leave a sticky-residue on your hands). Peel both butternut squash and rutabaga, then chop into small dices (the smaller the cut, the "tighter" the final presentation will look). In a medium bowl, toss the diced rutabaga and butternut squash with EVOO, salt, pepper, juice of 1/2 lemon and sprinkle of herbs de Provence. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper (will prevent from burning because the cuts are small and will cook quickly). Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes (again, the smaller the cut, the faster the root veggies will cook). Once tender with a knife, remove from the oven and toss a few of the prior-blanched edamame beans into the mixture.

Truffle-Chives/Sprouts/Green onions
Be aware when using truffle-oil... because of its potency, only a touch is necessary when dressing the garnish. Too much will overpower and trump the entire dish. And that would be a fail. Simply add a small hand full of chives/sprouts/green onions to a small bowl, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of truffle oil. The purpose is to lightly dress the greens, as well as give them a shiny-luster from the oil.

When plating, keep the plate "tight and clean." Spoon a dollop of the edamame puree in the middle of a white plate, then add a small pile of the roasted root veggie/edamame beans. Carefully place the halibut atop the vegetables, then top with the Truffle-Chives/Sprouts/Green onions. A light drizzle of truffle oil around the fillet is the final necessary touch. Remember, before serving, be sure to have a damp napkin to wipe away finger prints.

Taking the time to nurture, build flavors, create texture profiles and ultimately make it beautiful... that is cooking with love.

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart... one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” - Marvin J. Ashton


Saturday, December 7, 2013

You are what you eat… you sleep as you eat.

You are what you eat… you sleep as you eat.

As much as we do not want to admit it, our daily diets compose our essential beings… from how we act, react, energy level, focus, sleep, think, treat others…

You would never add low-grade gas to a high-performance luxury car, correct?

So why do the same to your own body?

Sure, it can be easy to say to yourself, “I will eat healthy. I will take care of myself.” But ultimately, what is holding us back? Ignorance to nutrition? Lackadaisical attitude to working out? Fear of change?

“A year from now you will wish you would have started today” - Karen Lamb

Why wait until the ball drops to welcome in 2014? Tomorrow is not promised. If given the opportunity to make positive changes in your life, swallow your pride and embrace the advice. It is not difficult… really.

Back to it: sleep. Insomnia is a miserable struggle that a plethora of individuals struggle with in life. Although the research is a bit spotty when it comes to which foods help or harm sleep, anecdotal evidence does suggest that certain items consumed right before bedtime are more likely to be "sleep promoters" while others may be "sleep stealers," says Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.

The following is a list of potential sleep promoters/stealers. Granted, no two people are alike and what affects one may or may not react another. However, you will never know the positive power of change unless you actually take action, take responsibility, stop playing a victim and make a change.



1) Cherries - one of a few natural foods to contain melatonin, the chemical that helps control our body's internal clock - drinking tart cherry juice resulted in small improvements in sleep duration and quality in adults who suffered from chronic insomnia

2) Milk - contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to the brain chemical serotonin. Although controversial, many believe that tryptophan and serotonin might make it easier to sleep.

3) Jasmine rice - ranks high on the glycemic index, meaning the body digests it slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream.

4) Fortified cereal - carbs in general are good for sleep. I am not advocating white bread and cake, but try a bowl of Kashi/shredded wheat/oatmeal, which contain "good" or complex carbs. Other complex carbs? Quinoa, barley, and buckwheat.

5) Bananas - help promote sleep because they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium; also, contain carbs which aid in sleep.

6) Turkey - like milk, turkey contains tryptophan, a chemical that can help trigger some zzz’s. Granted, the amount of turkey that one would need to consume to fall into a deep slumber would be excessive; however, a moderate amount may help to push in the general direction of “snooze land.”

7) Sweet potatoes are a sleeper's dream… not only do they provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates, they also contain that muscle-relaxant potassium.

8) Valerian tea - some people hold that valerian tea along with motherwort, chamomile, and catnip brews (none of which contain caffeine), will help make you drowsy.


1) Bacon Cheeseburger - fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach, which can spill up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Fatty foods can also loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, making it even easier for acid to get in all the wrong places.

2) Wine/Alcohol - it metabolizes quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times during the night. One study found that a glass of bourbon or vodka mixed with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time individuals spent awake during the night by 15 minutes. It also reduced nightly sleep time by 19 minutes and diminished quality of sleep significantly.

3) Coffee - contains caffeine, which is a central nervous stimulant. Translation: Drinking Java too close to bedtime will keep you tossing and turning at night. Granted, people differ in their sensitivity to caffeine and that is usually based on how much caffeine you are accustomed to consuming. If in doubt, drink your “Cup O Joe” in the morning hours.

4) Dark Chocolate - a Hershey's special-dark bar has 20 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as half an ounce of espresso. Chocolate also contains theobromine, another stimulant that can increase heart rate and sleeplessness.

5) Red Bull - an eight-ounce Red Bull energy drink contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine or equivalent to a one-ounce Starbucks espresso. Five-Hour Energy packs 200 milligrams of caffeine into just two ounces, which means you might as well be imbibing 16 ounces of regular coffee. In some individuals, caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off.

6) Soda - typical soda drinks like Pepsi and Coke contain citrus as well as sodium benzoate and other chemicals which can aggravate the gastrointestinal tract and promote acid reflux, not a recipe for a good night's sleep… caffeine too.

7) Indian Curry - spicy and high-fat are a recipe for a guaranteed sleep-wrecking evening. Spices can also cause heartburn.

8) Chicken or any type of protein - digestion is supposed to slow by about 50% while you're sleeping but if you eat a lot of protein, you digest even more slowly. Instead of focusing on sleeping, your body is focusing on digesting. Adding a carbohydrate to the protein can tip the balance back towards sleep.

Bet you just learned a thing or two.

Quick bedtime-snack that is easy, able to re-warm and sleep-motivator:

1 cup oats - ground into fine powder
1 cup Organic apple juice (unsweetened)
4 cups water
1 pinch salt
1 heaping Tablespoon cinnamon
1 handful of raisins (may use other dried fruit or eliminate)

Combine the first five ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Allow to simmer for about five minutes (oatmeal will thicken). Add raisins and stir to incorporate. May be consumed immediately, or stored in Tupperware. Brilliant for a mid-night snack, as the oatmeal is rich in whole-grain carbs, low in sugar and full of fiber. I also enjoy sprinkling oatmeal with different fruits (strawberries, bananas, blueberries), as well as hemp and flax seeds.

"If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse." - Jim Rohn


Crispy Salmon Skin

Poisson. Fish. Fisch. Pesce.

Fish is one of the most difficult items to cook simply because it can transform from a perfectly-seared fillet into an overcooked, chewy mouth of seafood in a matter of seconds. 

Point blank, cooking can be intimidating. Learning basic cooking techniques will instill a culinary-confidence within your soul that will inspire your creative-juices to flow. Practice makes perfect.

Crispy Salmon Skin.

Bring the fillet of salmon to room temperature, ten minutes before cooking. Why? If you place a cold piece of fish into a saute pan, you risk drying out the exterior of the seafood before given the change to cook through. Be sure to dry the skin of the salmon thoroughly.

Heat a large, non-stick saute pan to a medium heat. Add almond or walnut oil, then increase to a medium-high heat. Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper (I used smoked sea salt and cayenne pepper). Place the salmon, skin-side down, on the pan. Because the salmon will be served with the skin-intact, it is essential that the skin cooks and becomes crispy. If the heat is too high, then the skin will burn. Once you place the skin-side down, do not touch the fillet. Simply allow the fish to cook itself. As the fish cooks, you will notice that the skin will begin to turn from a light-pink until a more-vibrant orange color. Cook the salmon about 70% on the skin, then carefully flip and "kiss" the opposing-side (meaning, only about 1 minute on this second side). After the skin-side of the salmon is exposed, you may even turn the heat off completely and allow the carry-over heat to finish cooking the salmon fillet. Drizzle with a hint of lemon juice in order to enhance the fillet, then serve with the crispy-skin facing up.

Compliments to the dish? Keeping it simple, I cooked Israeli-couscous in chicken stock, then added sauteed carrots and peas. Finished with pea shoots a touch of beet coulis. Why beet coulis? One, the sweetness of the beet coulis is a brilliant addition to the smokey crunch of the salmon skin. Two, the color is gorgeous. Textures, flavors, colors, techniques... there is so much more to cooking that just cooking... it is all in the details.

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." - Pablo Picasso


Bourbon Cracker-Jack French Toast

One of my favorite aspects of being a chef? Creativity.

Setting: French toast requested. Unfamiliar kitchen. 

Open refrigerator: Eggs. Italian sesame seed bread. Syrup. Butter.

Open pantry: Sugar. Vanilla extract. Box of cracker jacks.


Let's make some magic, shall we?

Combine 4 eggs with 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp Madagascar vanilla bean paste. Whisk <<energéticamente>> ("energetically" en Française). Empty the crackerjack box into a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin (if you need to relieve yourself of some aggression, a fist is more than acceptable in crushing the crackerjacks). Be sure to remove the prize from the box... best part of crackerjacks!) Add the crushed crackerjacks to the batter, as well as 2 Tbsp bourbon. Dunk the slices of bread into the batter and allow to absorb for about 20 seconds.

On a medium hot sauté pan, melt a small tab of butter/butter spray. Add the batter-soaked bread and allow to cook gently. Flip after 2 minutes. The goal is to attain a crispy golden crust on the outside of the French toast, while maintaining a gooey and warm middle.

It is all in the details.

When plating, cut the pieces of French toast into three diagonal pieces. Stack and alternate seven thin slices of the bread, then carefully place a few pieces of arugula/fresh herbs to add more color (may also use berries if available). Drizzle with a touch of bourbon, syrup and sprinkle with the crumbled crackerjacks (will provide a necessary crunch). Enjoy with milk and orange juice!

"Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art." - Miguel Angel Ruiz


Sautéed garlic calamari with chickpea purée, candied walnuts and fresh parsley

Sautéed garlic calamari with chickpea purée, candied walnuts and fresh parsley. 

Many individuals are intimidated with calamari simply because it is not a common ingredient in the typical American diet. Ergo, let us learn how to sauté the seafood, with a basic recipe:

1 pound cleaned squid
2 teaspoons garlic - minced
1 medium shallot - chopped
1 Tablespoon rosemary - chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, pepper - to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper

Add EVOO to a medium hot sauté pan and sweat the shallots and garlic until tender (about 4 minutes). Stir constantly to prevent burning. While cooking, season the calamari with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and rosemary. Turn the sauté pan to high heat and continue to stir the shallot/garlic mixture to prevent burning. When the oil begins to smoke, add the seasoned calamari. Sautéed calamari is finished when it just turns firm and opaque in color (only about 1-2 minutes). Remove from the heat and squeeze the lemon over the cooked calamari.

Not as intimidating as you would think, eh?

To accompany the sautéed calamari, I paired a smokey chickpea puree (could also use hummus), as well as candied walnuts to provide a textured crunch.

Summer is not the only season for salads... shaved root vegetables and selected fruits provide fresh, light and healthy alternatives to brighten your daily diet. For example, in a large bowl, add shaved cauliflower (may use a variety of colors - green, white, yellow and purple), bell pepper (red, orange, yellow), fennel bulb, mango, grapefruit supremes and mâché leaves (may substitute arugula). Season lightly with smokey paprika, smoked sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper and a drizzle of lemon juice, EVOO, almond oil and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (the acid from the lemon juice, in conjuncture with the oils, will soften the root vegetables to a palatable texture when consumed).

Adding minimal key ingredients can transform one dish into a completely new entity. For example: the basic chickpea puree that I had paired with the calamari appetizer earlier? By adding a touch of horseradish and Dijon mustard to the puree, it suddenly becomes a more sophisticated enhancement to duck breast. The heat behind the horseradish will absorb into the crispy duck skin when consumed, creating a more rich and svelte overall dish. Simply sides will amplify the game meat: roasted peal onions, a few slices of avocado (provides a natural creamy note) and sprinkle of duck jus from the cooked protein. Refined, simple, yet multifarious in composition.

All in all, it gets the job done.

Last, but certainly not least: rosemary/honey/blue cheese-roasted figs with vanilla bean bourbon sabayon and crumbled candied almonds.

Yes, please.

In a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup of orange-blossom honey, 1/4 cup crumble blue cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary and 2 Tbsp bourbon. Add the figs and allow the honey to boil on the stove top. Once boiling, place the sauce pan in the oven and allow the figs to roast. Fully-cooked when figs are tender and juicy... fully absorbing the rich rosemary/honey/blue cheese/bourbon combination.

While the figs are roasting, prepare the vanilla bean bourbon sabayon. Sabayon is the French name for zabaglione... essentially a light, mousse-like Italian dessert that's made by whisking eggs, sugar and white wine over gently boiling water until the eggs thicken into a creamy sauce.

8 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp bourbon whiskey
1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla bean paste
4 cups heavy cream

Rather than making a traditional sabayon, I prefer using hard-alcohol in order to give the sauce a more aggressive, yet not overpowering, kick. Enter in bourbon, stage left.

The only trick about sabayon? Knowing when "enough is enough." As an artist (let's face it, chefs are artists... our medium is food and a white plate is our blank canvas), it can be a challenge to know "when to stop." Perfectionism haunts the lives of many artistic individuals. However, a sabayon not only teaches patience (I will not lie, it takes a decent amount of time to cook), but also discernment in knowing when enough time has lapsed. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Add the whiskey and vanilla, then place the stainless steel bowl over a hot water bath (the water bath should be simmering, but never boiling... otherwise the temperature will be too hot and immediately overcook the delicate eggs). Whisk constantly in order to slowly cook the egg yolks. The yolks should transform into a thick, pale yellow sauce... ribbon-like in consistency. If you cook the sauce for too long or the heat is too high, then the eggs will curdle and transform into scrambled eggs. Fret not if this occurs... try, try again. Practice makes perfect. Or at least pretty damn close to perfection as possible.

Chill the cooked sabayon base in the refrigerator for an hour. After the base has cooled, whip the heavy cream in a large bowl until it forms thick peaks. Gently fold the whipped-cream into the chilled sabayon base. Et puis, voila. Parfait.

When plating, spoon a generous amount of sabayon onto a white plate, then top with the roasted figs. A touch of crumbled candied almonds is the final necessary crunch to tickle the palate and transform the dish from sweet into sophisticated.

Work with finesse, plate with grace and cook with love.

“Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” - Jean-Luc Godard