Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chile Ancho Rellenos de Picadillo de Pollo

On our recent trip to Mexico our friend, Bill Pecha, made a wonderful Oaxacan chicken dish with tomatoes, olives, raisins and almonds. The flavor was outstanding! It reminded me of a Moroccan tagine, layers of sweet and savory within a rich, creamy sauce. Vince and I loved it.

I should say that the reason we went to Mexico in the first place was to do a site inspection for our upcoming culinary tours! I'm so excited about this opportunity. We've put together a really cool package for a week-long stay with meals, tours and classes. It's going to be so much fun. Check out when you can.

I had picked up a bunch of dried chiles at a mercado during our trip. I'm planning on teaching a cooking class on chiles during the culinary tour. There are so many different ones to try. I think it's a common misconception that all chiles are fiery hot but they aren't (especially if you removed the seeds and ribs/veins). Ancho chiles are good example of that. They have a rich, almost chocolaty sweetness.

After trying Bill's Oaxacan chicken dish I was reminded of a recipe that I'd been meaning to try. It's called Chiles Ancho Rellenos de Picadillo de Pollo which means ancho chiles stuffed with minced chicken. The original recipe was quite lengthy but it only took me about an hour to complete. Use your food processor, if you have one, for all the chopping. That really speeds the process. Anyway, without further adieu, here's the recipe:

Adapted from Savoring Mexico, Mariyn Tausend

1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 lbs Roma tomatoes
1/4tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
1/2 cup Castelvetrano or Manzanilla olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, firmly packed
1/4 cup finely chopped italian parsley, firmly packed

8 large ancho chiles
4 oz piloncillo, grated or 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups Mexican crema or sour cream
1/4 cup finely diced white onion
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup firmly packed cilantro, finely chopped

Core and quarter tomatoes. Place in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

In saucepan on medium, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute, add tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves and simmer for 15 minutes. Add raisins and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add chicken, stirring constantly for 4 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the olives, almonds and capers. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in cilantro and parsley*. Check seasoning for additional salt, if needed.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To prepare the chiles, leaving stem on, make lengthwise slit in each chile and remove seeds. (You can start the incision with a knife and use kitchen shears to complete the slit.) Put 4 cups of water in saucepan and add Piloncillo, cinnamon, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chiles, cover, remove from heat, and soak for 15 minutes. Transfer chiles to paper towels to dry.

Carefully stuff the chiles with the picadillo and place in baking dish. Cover and bake for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

While chiles are baking, in saucepan on medium-low, heat crema, onion and salt until warm but not boiling. Strain and add cilantro and keep warm. When ready to serve, pour sauce over the chiles.

*Note: The stuffing can be made in advance, adding the herbs when ready to stuff the chiles

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peppercorn Seared Ahi Tuna with Brandied Brown Sauce

Lately, I've been doing a few photos and recipes for the Seattle Fish Company. Jon Daniels, the new owner, is a great guy and very active in the business. I just shot an image of Peppercorn Seared Ahi Tuna that should be appearing in their next newsletter, but it you follow my blog you get it here first!

This is an adaptation of a recipe from the Chart House. I love this combination and I think that you could serve it to a certified meat-eater and they'd love it too. It's a great combination of spice from the peppercorns, sweetness from the caramelized onions and richness from the sauce. I think it's just fancy enough to serve as a special holiday dinner and just easy enough to serve any night of the week.

Hope you like it too!

Pepper Seared Ahi with Brandied Brown Sauce
Serves 4

1 cup caramelized onions, recipe below
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
4 6- to 7-ounce ahi tuna steaks (each about 1 inch thick)
2 tbsp coarsely cracked black pepper
1 tbsp oil

Prepare caramelized onions and keep warm.

Place the shallots and brandy in a small sauce pan back over medium heat. Simmer until the brandy is almost gone. Be sure to keep stirring so the shallots don’t burn.

Once the brandy is almost completely cooked off, add the stock. Reduce the stock by at least half and more if you want the sauce thicker.

Add the butter and whisk until melted and the sauce has a velvety shine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the tuna.

Sprinkle tuna steaks on both sides with salt, then sprinkle with coarsely cracked black pepper, pressing gently to adhere. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add tuna steaks and sear until brown outside and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side.

Divide warm caramelized onions among 4 plates. Using tongs, place tuna steaks on the onions and spoon sauce over each.

Caramelized Onions
Makes about 1 cup

4 tbsp butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan frequently, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Salmon Wellington with Dungeness Crab

I've been so busy lately, that I haven't had a moment to write, let alone cook for pleasure. Vince and I recently returned from a trip to Manzanillo, Mexico. We're in the midst of our latest venture - Culinary Tours in Mexico - but more about that later.

I swear to you I just blinked and the holidays are here. I am sure you've been as busy as I have, probably busier so when it comes to holiday entertaining it has to be simple. Well, this recipe for Salmon Wellington fills the bill. It's simple yet elegant and people will think you spent hours in the kitchen. Just go with it, you deserve a little praise...

Salmon Wellington with Dungeness Crab
Recipe and photo by Chef Erin Coopey,
(Serves 4-6)

1 2-3 lb King Salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed
2 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted according to package instructions
1 lb frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz Dungeness Crab Meat, rinsed and picked through for any remaining shells
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp minced shallots
3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
Remove excess moisture from the spinach by wrapping it in cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel, and squeezing.

Combine the crab, mayonnaise, shallots, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix together and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat the parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray. place one rectangle of puff pastry out on it. Place the salmon fillet in the center of the puff pastry and top with the spinach. Spread the crab mixture over the top of the spinach evenly.

Paint the puff pastry around the circumference of the salmon fillet with the beaten eggs. Top with the remaining piece of puff pastry and trim the excess dough from the package. Paint the top piece of puff pastry with the beaten eggs and crimp the edges of the top and bottom pieces of puff pastry to seal the salmon within.

Cut decorative vents in the puff pastry approximately every 2-3 inches down the length of the package. You can use a cookie cutter to cut decorative pieces of puff pastry to place on top of your salmon Wellington prior to cooking if desired. Be sure to brush with egg wash prior to cooking. (See my little puff pastry salmon cut-out below.)

Place in pre heated oven for 30-35 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown. Remove and allow to stand before attempting to slice for serving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Easy Entertainment Appetizers

On Wednesday, I got an email asking if I'd like to do a segment on New Day NW...the next day!  I thought, what the heck and went for it.  Less than 24 hours later I was on KING 5 with Margaret Larson.  It was really fun and exciting.

The show aired immediately but they've posted my segment online.  Here's the link below.  If you have a Facebook account, I would totally appreciate you hitting the "recommend" or "like" button so I could get a little PR from it.

Hope you like it.  Thanks so much for checking it out.


Olives Marinated in Orange and Thyme-infused Olive Oil
Serves 4

1 orange
1 lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt

Zest the orange and the lemon and place in a bowl along with the juice of the orange.

Using the flat side of your knife, crush the garlic cloves and combine with the zest and orange juice. Next, add the olive oil, sherry vinegar, thyme, salt, and olives to the juice and zest and mix well. An easy way to do this is to combine the olives and dressing in a plastic bag or container with a lid and simply shake.

Allow the mixture to marinate at least 12 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Crab Stuffed Shrimp with Sherry Cream Sauce

A few weeks ago I catered a birthday party with a menu that included mini crabcakes.  After I initially offered the selection I started searching for crab cake recipes and panicked. I thought I would put myself out of business with the cost of crab!

Here's the issue. When you are a caterer, you never want to run out of food. The host expected 50 people.  The party took place over the dinner hour so people would be eating heavily, so I figured I'd make at least 4 crab cakes per person.  I wanted to serve a quality crab cake that was more crab than cake, so based on the assumption that each crab cake would weigh 3/4 ounce and I'd be making about 240 of them, I thought I'd need around 11 pounds of crab $16 per pound (dear God). 

I happened to go into my restaurant supply store on a customer appreciation day. One of the featured vendors was offering crab meat for a great price, one day only, so I bought a case - 12 pounds in all. Yea bargain!

However, all of this happened before I decided on a final recipe. It turns out that I had over estimated the size of the cakes slightly and ended up using about 4 1/2 pounds instead of 11!  So, now I have 7 pound of canned crab meat in my refrigerator.  Time to get creative!

So how about some crab recipes, you ask?  Okay - here you go!

Crab Stuffed Shrimp with Sherry Cream Sauce
Serves 4

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp finely minced onions
2 tbsp finely minced celery
1/4 cup finely minced red bell peppers
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lb lump crab, picked over for shells, etc.
1 egg
2 tsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
2 tbsp mayonnaise
24 large or jumbo shrimp, peeled except for the tails and butterflied
Sherry Cream Sauce, recipe below
thinly sliced green onions, optional

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with canola oil spray.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic powder, Old Bay Seasoning, salt and black pepper.  Sweat until onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add crab meat and stir gently to combine.

Whisk egg in a large bowl.  Stir in crab mixture, arrowroot and mayonnaise.

Shape mixture into 20 balls - using about 2 tbsp for each ball. (A small ice cream scooper/or cookie dish-out works well for this.) Press one ball into each shrimp (as pictured above) and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until shrimp is pink and stuffing is slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Drizzle with Sherry Cream Sauce and sprinkle with sliced green onions, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Sherry Cream Sauce
Makes approximately 3/4 cup

1 tbsp minced shallots
1/2 dry sherry
1 cup heavy cream
salt to taste

Place minced shallots and dry sherry in a small sauce pan over high heat.  Simmer until sherry is almost completely gone.  Add heavy cream and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer until the cream thickens and reduces by about 1/3.  Be careful not to let it boil over.  Add salt to taste and serve over Crab Stuffed Shrimp.
Next up - Crab Dip! : )

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

End of Summer Salad with Corn, Tomatoes and Black Beans

As summer comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to create a simple salad with some of the ripest ingredients still available in the market. We're just at the tail end of sweet corn season so if your market doesn't have any fresh corn you can substitute frozen corn kernels. However, tomatoes are still at their peak! Grab a pint of sweet cherry tomatoes, snack on half, and save the other half for this zesty, colorful salad.

Until next year, dear Summer, we'll miss you!

End of Summer Salad with Corn, Tomato and Black Beans

2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cumin seed
1/4 garlic powder
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
6 ears corn, husked and cleaned or 1 16-oz bag of frozen corn niblets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 14-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)

In a small bowl, combine lime juice, vinegar, sugar, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Whisk together the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

If using fresh corn, place the corn in a large pot with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes, until kernels are tender but crisp. Drain, cool slightly, and use a knife to scrape kernels from the cobs. If using frozen corn, allow to thaw for 1 hour in a colander.

In a large bowl, mix the corn kernels, cherry tomatoes, black beans, red bell pepper, green onions, cilantro, and the jalapeno, if you are using it. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Chill 15 minutes before serving.

Did you try any new salads this summer? What was your favorite?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Proofing verb: To sit in a warm place for several hours. (i.e. the dough is proofing before it is baked.)

I just got back from vacationing in my parent's cabin in Northern Arizona and I've spent the last couple days proofing. It's not because I got into too much gluten and my gut is fermenting. I think I have a case of post vacation depression, as my friend Kristi put it.  I have two classes scheduled this week but I'm having a hard time getting motivated.

It's amazing how I can wile away the hours avoiding what I know I need to get done. I spent this morning on an astrological website determining that my true soul mate is Alexander Skarsgard, of True Blood fame. (Sorry, Vince.  It appears that I have a real love match thing going with, there is only the issue of meeting him, wooing him away from the hundreds of young, nubile beauties that doubtless follow him everywhere AND convincing him that he should fall for a middle-aged cougar - me! More fodder for work avoidance to be sure.)

If I was a baker, I'd toss out a recipe for Swedish Braided Bread or perhaps a Red Velvet Cake, in honor of AS. It would really bring the whole proofing reference home but alas I am brain dead and not feeling particularly motivated. 

I must refocus my efforts on Tapas and Moroccan foods!  So, here's a quicky tapa for anyone who feels more like sitting sitting in a warm place than cooking.

Fried Almonds with Rosemary
Adapted from “My Kitchen in Spain” by Janet Mendel

2 cups marcona almonds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
sea salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.

Add the almonds and rosemary. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and toasted, approximately 1 – 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy with a cold glass of dry sherry or white wine!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries - Even Better Without The Pits!

A few weeks ago I was preparing to teach a class that included a fruit dessert. I selected cherries because they are in season and one of my favorite fruits. The problem was that I had 5 pound of cherries to pit. I am not a gadget junkie so I didn't have a cherry pitter but I really thought I'd be fine with a paring knife. However, after three hours of slicing, picking, scratching, and popping cherry pits out by hand, I succumb to the notion that there might be (must be) a better way.

I've heard many people malign cherry and olive pitter for not working so I was wary about spending the money on a subpar tool. However, I remembered seeing a news profile a few months ago about the man to founded OXO tools. I was impressed with the ingenuity that goes into OXO product development. I own a number of OXO tools like peelers, salad spinners, measuring cups, etc. I love the "good grips" handles and the ergonomic nature of the designs. I assumed that OXO made a cherry pitter and expected that it would be a good one.

I wasn't let down! I purchased an OXO Cherry/Olive Pitter and, boy, is it slick! (I don't know whether people use the word slick, but I do!) I used it to power through 2 pounds of cherries yesterday in about 10 minutes. Miraculous! Okay, maybe not a miracle but really super cool. You simply place a cherry (or olive) stem side up in holder and squeeze. Out pops the pit and a small plug of fruit about the size of a small pencil eraser. The design includes a splatter shield so you don't get juice all over. It's comfortable to hold, easy to use and works - really works - the way it should.

So I recommend picking up an OXO Cherry/Olive Pitter and making dessert. One of my favorites is Cherries Jubilee. I adapted the recipe below from a 1949 Cookbook called "With a Jug of Wine," that my friend, Whitney, gave me a couple years ago.  It was written by Morrison Wood, a columnist for the Chicago Daily Tribune. Good ole, Morris, has a conversational style and gracious ease that would have him competing with the best of the food bloggers today. He starts his introduction this way, "I might as well be brazen right from the start. I think this is a damn good cook book." He's right. Enjoy the Cherries Jubilee! And thank Morris for the inspiration.

Cherries Jubilee
Serves 4
1 lb pitted sweet cherries
¼ cup sugar (optional)
5 oz brandy
3 oz triple sec or cointreau
3 oz kirsch (cherry brandy)
Vanilla Ice Cream

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the cherries, sugar, 3 oz of brandy, the triple sec and kirsch. Allow to soak a couple hours. Then pour the mixture into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce becomes somewhat syrupy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, scoop out 4 bowls of vanilla ice cream.

Remove the pan of the heat and add the last 2 oz of brandy. Return the pan to the stove, warm the mixture for a minute or so and then light the sauce on fire with a long kitchen match or stick lighter. (Be careful as you light the cherries, the flame can surprise you but I promise it will burn away quickly. If you are nervous, you can remove the pan from the heat for an extra step in safety as you light the cherries.)

If you like a little drama, you can ladle the cherries over the ice cream while they are still flaming. This is especially impressive in a darkened room. However, you can simply wait for the flames to subside before pouring the cherry sauce over the ice cream. Incidentally all of the alcohol evaporates and/or is burned off while cooking so it's suitable for all ages. Not to mention that it's cherry-liscous!!!

What's your favorite cherry dessert? Do you own any OXO tools or products?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rising From The Ashes

You know, I've debated for a couple years now about whether or not to include personal stories on this blog.  Initially, I thought it should be about the food - just informational - because really, do you care about my story?

Lately, I've been listening to the Tobolowsky Files by character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. I've been so engaged and enchanted by the stories of his life. I guess the personal stuff is really the difference. So, I've decided that maybe that's all part of it. The personal stuff is what draws us to one another.  With that in mind, I am going to tell you the story of a grilling class gone wrong, very wrong.

I teach series of classes at - lots of interesting things like Spanish Tapas, Moroccan Tagines, and a grilling class called Grill Like A Pro.

I love to grill.  Vince, my husband, and I used to grill about 4 nights a week when we lived in California.  A little less when we lived in Arizona because who wants to stand in front of a blasting grill, under a blistering sun, on a white hot concrete slab but that's another story. In any case, I'm not a grill virgin.  So, when Eliza, one of the owners of Chefshop, and I talked about a grilling class, I thought cool! I got this!

I chose a few different recipes I liked that featured different grilling methods like brining, indirect grilling, grilling a whole salmon, and fruit on the grill. I really try to be hyper organized.  I have lists. Lists of ingredients I need to buy and prep. Lists of equipment I'll use.  Notes on the margins of my recipes so I remember to highlight certain tips. I practice all the recipes, test them on friends. I even set alarms on my cell phone to keep myself on track and on time. If I'd been a boy, I'd surely been a boyscout.  I just like to be prepared.  I'm not rigid mind you, I just like to have an "outline" to work from.

So, I'd done all this for the Grill Like a Pro class.  I was ready, but as I put everything together early in the day I had an uneasy sense. I usually grill on a gas grill.  When I proposed the class, I anticipated using my own grill but we'd run into some transportation issues so I agreed to use the battered old Weber from the Chefshop warehouse.

I planned to doing an indirect grilling demonstration with a whole butterflied chicken thinking the indirect grilling thing would be more forgiving on charcoal.  In addition, I planned to grill a whole salmon.  Whole salmon is great - okay, maybe a bit intimidating but really manageable in the right circumstance.  The "right" circumstance being the qualifier.  It's ideal to grill a large item like a whole salmon using indirect heat.  That means that the heat source, charcoal or gas, surrounds the item instead of coming up under it.  Anyway, I was planning to demonstrate the process on a griddle-sized Coleman camp grill.  Doable, yes. The "right" circumstance, questionable.

Let's get back to the chicken for a moment. We'd lite the Weber using a chimney and mesquite coals. When we dumped the coals out on the grill base, I felt there weren't enough so we shook on more.  After about 30 minutes of introduction and demonstration, I brought the class over to the grill to show them how to move the coals for indirect grilling.  I threw an aluminum pie pan into the center to collect drippings and got ready to flop the chicken onto the grill.  I should mention that although the coals we very hot, I thought I'd be safe pushing them out to the edges of the grill.

After coating the chicken with rice bran oil, I placed it in the center of the grill, added a couple bricks wrapped in foil, and took the class back to the outdoor kitchen where the demonstration was centered. Moments, perhaps seconds, later I was prompted to address the flames engulfing the chicken behind me. By the time I reached the chicken it was covered in soot.  It had the look of a ravaged, firefighter - flesh smeared with dust and ash.  Of course, as the Pro in the Grill Like a Pro class I had to play it off as though all was good.  All was not good, but this was only the beginning.

I pushed on, explaining that the coals were too hot and that we'd put the chicken back on shortly.  In the meantime, I made an herb sauce, demonstrated a technique for peeling the skin off tomatoes and created a rub for lamb.  I hoped that my rhythm was back on track and returned the chicken to the grill.  Still too hot but I had little choice but to press on to try to stay on time line.

Next I prepared the salmon. I demonstrated how to squeegee it with a knife to remove moisture, seasoned and stuffed it with citrus and herbs, talked about positioning in on the grill and about how long it would take to grill a fish that size.

My Coleman camp grill wasn't ideal but I'd done a whole fish on it before so I felt prepared.  I placed the salmon on the preheated grill and reduced the heat to low. I explained that the salmon would cook faster if  covered but since the camp grill doesn't have a cover, I folded some heavy aluminum foil over it.  Unfortunately, we had a good bit of wind in the parking lot so my foil just wouldn't stay in place.  As I battled the floated foil, I started to question the heat source itself. It, of course, had blown out.

So there I stood in full "Julia Child-Mode" - I swear if blood had been spurting from my thumb, it couldn't have been any worse. I was mortified. Questions? I said. Anyone have questions about grilling.

Well, long story short, everything cooked eventually - even the charred chicken turned out well, a testament to the wonders of brining. I've taught the class a couple times since then to far greater success but I wanted to share my fallibility and resilience with you.  You too can rise from the ashes - especially if you brine first.

Grilled Chicken Under a Brick
This is a traditional Tuscan method known as Pollo al Mattone—bricks weigh down the butterflied chicken, resulting in even, quick cooking and crispy skin (you'll need two bricks for this recipe; wrap them in foil). If you don't have bricks, a cast-iron skillet will do the trick.
Serves 4 to 6

1 whole 3- to 4-pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, split, backbone removed
3 qts water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp Morton's Kosher Salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
rice bran oil or grape seed oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garlic Herb Sauce, recipe on next page

The day before you plan to grill:
Rinse the chicken and set aside. In a large bowl or nonreactive pot, dissolve the salt and sugar in water. Submerge the chicken in the brine. If the chicken tends to bob above the surface, set a plate on top to weight it down. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine, discard the brine, quickly rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Place chicken on a platter in the refrigerator and allow to air-dry overnight.

The day of:
Prepare Garlic Herb Sauce.

Prepare the grill: To grill by the Indirect Method on a charcoal grill, arrange hot coals evenly on either side of the charcoal grate. Place a drip pan in the center of the charcoal grate between the coals. Place the cooking grate over the coals and place the food on the cooking grate, centered over the drip pan or empty space.

To grill by the Indirect Method on a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on High. Then adjust the burners on each side of the grill to medium temperature and turn off the burner(s) directly below where the chicken will rest.

Liberally brush chicken with rice bran oil and season lightly with freshly ground pepper. Place chicken, skin side down, on grill. Place foil-wrapped bricks or cast-iron skillet atop chicken (if using bricks, position 1 brick over top half of chicken and 1 brick over bottom half). Cover and grill until skin is crispy and brown, about 15 minutes. Remove bricks or skillet. Using tongs or 2 large spatulas, turn chicken. Replace bricks or skillet and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes longer. Let chicken rest 10 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with Garlic Herb Sauce.

Garlic Herb Sauce
12 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh Italian parsley sprig tops
1/3 cup Katz Late Harvest Viognier Honey Vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 cup Etruria Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cook 8 garlic cloves in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain garlic. Place in a food processor and cool. Add remaining 4 garlic cloves and next 6 ingredients. With machine running, gradually add oil, blending until thick sauce forms. Season with salt. (Note: Can be made 2 days ahead.) Transfer to bowl; cover and chill.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Girl and Her Grill: Grilled Vegetable Tips and Techniques

Here are a few pointers to make grilling vegetables a snap every time!
One of the most important things to remember to do is make sure you cut your vegetables approximately the same thickness so that they cook evenly.
Grill veggies over medium heat and be sure turn them often to avoid overcooking/burning. Never leave vegetables unattended unlike meat which can be somewhat forgiving vegetables are very time and heat sensitive.
Brush or drizzle oil on vegetables for added flavor and to help vegetables from sticking but DO NOT oil the grill itself because that can lead to flare up and charred vegetables.
The grill surface should be CLEAN to avoid sticking (prior to heating).

Secure thick slices of onion (at least 3/4" thick) with tooth picks to ensure they don't fall apart on the grill.
Parboil small, waxy potatoes or thick slices of sweet potatoes (at least 1" thick) until just tender. Let them cool to room temperature before you grill them.
When grilling large mushrooms like Portobello, remove the stem and start by grilling them stem-side up. This allow the natural juices to collect and the natural flavors of the mushroom are enhanced.
For grilling smaller pieces of vegetables, try using foil packets or a grilling basket so the veggies don't fall through the grate. If you make foil packs, be sure to use heavy duty aluminum foil so they will stands up to the heat of the grill.
If you are grilling kebobs, soak your wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before you skewer your vegetables and start grilling. This will keep your skewers from burning away while you are cooking.
I like to toss grilled vegetables with flavored butters like garlic butter or Burger Nirvana Butter for a delicious finish!
You should also try basting grilled sweet potatoes with a little rum butter just before you serve them. To make Rum Butter, simple combine 2 tbsp butter, 6 tbsp light brown sugar, 2 tbsp rum, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until melted and then brush or drizzle over grilled sweet potatoes. I swear they'll be the hit of the party.
Happy Grilling!
What is your favorite vegetable on the grill? Do you have any tricks or tips your could share?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Girl and Her Grill

Well there's no escaping it, even in rainy Seattle, we're officially in grilling season. Here are a few of my favorite tips and recipes to kick things off!

Grilled Spring Onions with Garlic Aioli

A new grilled veggie idea!
Grilled Spring Onions - My husband is a professed onion hater but even he loves these tasty, caramelized bites. Start by cutting about 1/2 inch off the root ends of a bunch of green onions. Next lay the onions on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to thoroughly coat the onions and then sprinkle them with a little salt. Grill over medium heat until the whites soften and the greens begin to get grill marks, about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with garlic aioli (1 cup mayo, 1/2 tsp crushed garlic, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 2 tsp lemon juice blended together) or your favorite ranch dip. So yummy as an appetizer or alongside a steak!

A sweet treat!
Mock Cobbler - This is a simple one but so delicious! Mix 3 cups of your favorite berries or stone fruit with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon. Spoon 3/4 cup of fruit each onto 4 squares of heavy duty aluminum foil and fold together like a hobo's pouch (make sure the foil is sealed so there are no leaks) and toss on a medium high grill for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully open the pouches and pour the contents over ice cream or short bread! The fruit will be jammy and intensely flavorful.

Just say no to dried out meat!
I love to grill skinless chicken breast and pork tenderloins but if you aren't careful you can end up with an ultra-dry piece of leather. That's because both item are very lean. To combat this, I brine them. A few hours before you barbeque combine 8 cups of water with 1 cup of kosher salt and 1 cup sugar in a large Tupperware container. Stir to combine and then add 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or pork tenderloins. Brine in the refrigerator for a couple hours and you are ready to grill! You'll be amazed how juicy the result is!

Get your family to eat more veggies!
Luscious Lettuce Wraps - Combine 3 cloves of garlic, the pulp of a large lemon, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a food processor to make a paste. Scrape into a gallon size zip-lock bag. Add 2 lbs of lamb or chicken cut into 1/2" x 3" strips.  Toss to coat the meat. Grill a few vegetables like zucchini strips, red onion slices and strips of bell pepper. When  the veggies are done, grill the meat for 5 to 10 minutes turning once over high heat.  Serve the veggies and meat buffet-style with leaves of butter lettuce.  Then let your family build their own lettuce wraps!  I like mine with a little yogurt dressing and some cilantro.

Happy Grilling!
What's your favorite grilling recipe?  Any tips you'd like to share?

Friday, June 3, 2011

The End of The Trend?

I just read an article by Greg Morabito on regarding 10 NYC Dining Trends that are officially dead. His list included:

10) Old Time Decor - restaurants decorated with dark wood, eclectic antiques and taxidermy animals
9) Growlers - take-home jugs of beer that you refill at your local brewery
8) Discount Fine Dining - nice restaurants trying to fill slow hours with specials
7) Speakeasies - "secret" bars and restaurants
6) Tiki Bars - featuring kitschy rum drinks and puu-puu platters
5) Asian Sandwiches - like Vietnamese Banh Mi
4) Gastropubs - pub grub with an upscale twist
3) Tiny Menus - featuring only a handful of appetizers and entrees
2) Pies are the new cupcakes - you get the idea...
1) American Comfort Food - like mom made, only better

As I read the list, I must admit that a few items caught me by surprise but, I'm in Seattle, a totally different food scene. I don't see much Old Time Decor in the restaurants here outside of the standard steakhouses, so I could agree that that is passé. On the other hand, one of the first "welcome to Seattle" gifts we received was a Growler. I didn't really use it and don't see that many but then again, I'm not much of a beer drinker. Maybe it's still hot?

Discount fine dining, I don't know about the rest of the country but that's still here. There are plenty of great restaurants featuring small plates, pre-fixe meals and specials. With the recent news about the economy, I don't see that trend going away any time soon.

Tiki Bars and Speakeasies never really popped up en masse. However we do have quite a few Gastropubs. I think they fit the personality of this city. Good quality food, creative but still recognizable, and a beer or a glass of wine on the side - yeah, that still works. Honestly, I feel that way about American Comfort Food, too. I'm not ready to say good-bye to that. I really think it's an American standard, the heartland will never be tired of mac-n-cheese or pot roast. Am I right?

Asian sandwiches, well, perhaps it's our proximity to Asia on the West Coast but they are still pretty popular around here. I often see menus that include Banh Mi or some other Asian-inspired sandwich like Marination Mobile's Aloha Sliders.

Marination Mobile's Aloha Sliders

 Tiny menus, I have to agree with that one. I've seen a number of places try that and fail. I think the tiny menu is tough. You've got diverse tastes, food allergies and cravings to deal with. It's tough to please everyone with just a few choices.

Pies as the new cupcake, well, we have a few pie shops but they've never rivaled the popularity of cupcake bakeries. Part of the charm of cupcakes is their portability. You can eat them anywhere and you don't need a utensil. That's hard to beat even with the tastiest pie.

So, I wondered what the rest of the country might be like. Are they just drafting on the tailwind of New York? Have you experienced these trends in your part of the country? Have they run their course or are they just taking off? What's hot and what's not where you live?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mango Musings: From Selection to Salsa

My local grocery store has tons of mangos on sale and I also received an enormous, ripe beauty in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box this week - so it must be Mango season!
I just love a succulent, juicy mango whether it's sliced "hedgehog-style" with lime juice and a touch of chili powder or diced in a fruit salad with strawberry. I recently had the most delightful martini of mango sorbet and vodka and highly recommend that combination as well.

My grocer has been stocking two types of mangos lately. The Common Mango and the pale yellow, sugary-sweet Champagne Mango. I prefer the Common Mango and its fleshy, peach-like, texture. It's sweet, without setting my teeth on edge.

If you're stumped as how to select a ripe mango, here are a few tips. Try sniffing the stem end for a fragrant fruity odor, or squeeze very gently, if its ripe the flesh with be firm yet yielding feel under your fingers. If you've purchased a under ripe mango have no fear, placing the fruit in a paper bag on your counter overnight usually does the trick.

Mango peel is considered inedible so you should remove it. You can either peel it like a banana or, use a knife to slice around the large central seed, as you would an avocado. Twist the fruit gently to divide it into two halves, and remove the seed. Sometimes the seed lifts right out but if it doesn't, you can coax it out with your knife. At this point, you can spoon the fruit directly into your mouth or - if you feel like sharing - slice or cube it.

Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa

For years I've been making a mango salsa that is absolutely to die for (if I do say so). It has splashy colors, bright citrus notes, and just a hint of heat to balance the sweetness of the mango. It's perfect for simple grilled chicken or fish. I wanted to share it with you just in time to kick off grilling season.

Mango Salsa
Serves 4
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp red onion, minced
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Toss to mix. Season with salt to taste.
Serve on grilled chicken, pork, or shrimp.
Don't you just love food that's pretty and easy to make? Me too!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Praise of the Percolator

Alright, I live in Seattle - admittedly the most coffee-obsessed city in America, possibly the world - so perhaps I've become a little coffee-conscious since I moved here. Coffee isn't just coffee to me anymore. That's good. I am not complaining. I've become refined in my tastes.

I've tried all the trendy and classic coffee drinks from frappu-whats-its to espresso. I've mastered coffee-house lingo. I've spent way too much money on expensive coffee beans. I've got a French press, and a drip coffee maker. I've tinkered with my daily java, adding chunks of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. I like cream more than sugar. I prefer a dark-roasted (not burnt) full-bodied coffee with hints of sweetness and cocoa, that's not too acidic. Seriously, I never thought this much about coffee before and by Seattle standards I am an amateur. But I thought I had it pretty well figured out...until a recently trip to Arizona to visit my parents.

Let me give you a little back story. My dad has been a coffee drinker all his life. He took it black, probably harkening back to his days in the army. I remember the agonizing, lingering over coffee at restaurants. (Agonizing for a child, so we're talkin' 10 or 15 minutes here.) My dad would order coffee and my brother and I would groan because we were done eating and wanted to go. We'd even take turns gulping swigs of bitter blackness from his cup just to speed the process.

Although he was a diner-coffee drinker, my dad always seemed to be on a quest for "a good cup of coffee." He'd try different blends and ask what restaurants were serving. He'd complain about weak coffee, grouse about bitterness. Out of exasperation, he even turned to tea for a while.

When he recently told me that he'd figured out the key to the "good cup of coffee" I was naturally intrigued. So here it is. Are you ready for it? A percolator. Doesn't that conjure up visions of 1950's housewives? Let's just say I was skeptical - until my last visit.  

He pulled out the percolator on my first morning at home, brewed up a pot, and I was sold! The coffee was full-bodied, with a satisfying mouth-feel. Really, I mean it. It didn't taste like coffee-flavored water. It was richer, more rounded. I just couldn't get over it. (Don't you just hate when your dad it right?)

I just don't understand why drip coffee makers have become the norm? Maybe it's the perception that drip coffee makers take less time? That may have been the case 30 years ago, but modern percolators brew coffee as quickly as drip machines - approximately, one cup per minute. Plus, a percolator uses half the coffee grounds to make the same amount of coffee that a drip maker does. And, the percolator is greener because it doesn't use filters.

Quick, economical, environmentally-friendly, and really good coffee. What's not to love?! So, I've traded in my expensive drip machine for a quirky looking, relic of a by-gone era. Join me at my next coffee klatch, won't you?

How do you take your coffee? Have you figured out the perfect blend? Do you love your coffee maker? Tell me your story!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shrimp Veracruz = A 'Vera' Delicious Cinco de Mayo

I’ve just returned from a visit to Arizona so my taster is up for Mexican food. With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to share one of my favorite Mexican dishes – Shrimp Veracruz.

Veracruz, located on the gulf coast, is one of Mexico’s oldest and largest port cities. Hernán Cortés established it as the first Spanish colony nearly five hundred years ago. Known for abundant seafood and a rich culinary history, Veracruz is a melting pot with influences from Spain to the Caribbean.

Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Snapper Veracruz), a signature dish of the area, demonstrates these influences with its blend of local fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, chili peppers) and Spanish ingredients (olive oil, garlic and olives). I’ve substituted shrimp for the traditional red snapper, but this sauce is so vibrant that you could serve it with chicken or without the shrimp as a vegetarian dish.

Shrimp Veracruz is a gorgeous dish filled with color and texture, and you want to know the best part? You can make in no time at all! The whole thing takes about 20 minutes. So, ask a friend to have a margarita ready for you because you’ll be ready to celebrate Pronto! Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Camarones a la Veracruzana (Shrimp Veracruz)

2 tbsp olive oil 
1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips 
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips 
1 medium white onion, cut in half and sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
1 clove garlic, crushed 
2 (14.5-oz) cans stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives 
1/4 green jalapeño pepper sauce or green taco sauce 
1/2 tsp Mexican Oregano
2 tbsp lime juice 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
3 cups cooked white rice 
cilantro sprigs for garnish 

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat; add bell peppers and onion and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes with their liquid, olives, green sauce, lime juice, salt and bring to a boil. Add shrimp, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until shrimp is pink, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chopped cilantro. Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dirty Talk - Pesticides and Produce

Recently World News with Diane Sawyer did a report on the effects of pesticides in children under the age of 7. Children exposed to common pesticides, even in the womb, showed a dramatic reduction in IQ. It’s reports like these that scream, “Wake Up!”

We are always looking for some single answer to troubling medical conditions like cancer, autism, autoimmune diseases, and more. I don’t think you can single out one culprit. We’re poisoning ourselves at every turn from our GMO foods of declining nutrition, to the pesticides that make everything pretty and bug free, to the cleaning products in our homes, to the chemicals in our household furniture and décor…not to mention loading processed food with transfats, sugars, dyes, preservatives and stabilizers! It’s simply crazy. And we wonder why our children get sick?

Well, that turned into quite a rant, didn’t it? The point is that we need to eliminate as many potential toxins from our environment/bodies/homes as we can. One way to reduce toxins is by eating organically.

Listen, I know that buying organic products can be expensive. I can’t afford to buy organics exclusively but, I encourage you to purchase what you can afford. Also, spend your money wisely by concentrating on foods that are most harmful. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of produce that contains the highest percentage of pollutants/pesticides called the “Dirty Dozen.

  • If you can only purchase a few organic fruits and vegetables, focus on buying organic versions of the produce listed on the “Dirty Dozen.
  • If you can’t afford organics, or your grocer doesn't carry them, stick to purchasing foods on the “Clean 15” list. The produce on the “Clean 15” list is lowest in pesticides according to EWG tests.

The owner of a produce distribution company once told me that he washed EVERY fruit and vegetable that he ate. Even if you don’t believe that pesticides are an issue, imagine how many people have touched your food before it gets to your table. Rinsing can remove some pesticides but you really should wash all your produce thoroughly. You can use special pesticide removing cleaners or mild soap and water. Peeling your produce can remove pesticides but you lose some nutrition in the process so, you are better off washing.

‘Dirty Dozen'
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale/Collard greens
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (imported)

'Clean 15'
1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangoes
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potato
15. Honeydew melon

The Environmental Working Group has a complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at its website. You can also download a pdf or iphone app of the guide.

How do you feel about organic vs. conventional foods? What percentage of the food you purchase is organic? Are there organic items that you are more likely to look for?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Double The Pleasure, Double The Fun - Peppermint vs Spearmint

Okay, so I totally ripped off the tag line from a famous mint chewing gum - well, sort of. I changed it a smidge because it's trademarked but, it seemed like a fitting tag line to use when discussing peppermint vs. spearmint. So, what's the difference? Well, here's a little overview.

Peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint. It's also been called American mint , lamb mint (or lammint). It was native to Europe and brought to America by the colonists. The leaves are 1 to 2 inches long and have a toothy edge. Peppermint is used in tea and for flavoring ice cream, candy, gum, toothpaste.


Spearmint, also a native of Europe, is referred to as common mint, garden mint, Our Lady's mint, and sage of Bethlehem. The leaves are long, spear-shaped and attach to the stalk of the plant vs. stems. Spearmint is most commonly used in teas, mint juleps, mojitos, candy, and gum.

Although they both come from the mentha family, peppermint contains more menthol so it may seem stronger. Spearmint is sometimes described as greener or sweeter while peppermint has a candy cane flavor.

I don't think you can go wrong with either one, it's basically a personal choice according to what you are going to use it for or which plant you like the looks of best.

These perennial herbs thrive in moist, part-sun to shady locations, and expand quickly by underground rhizomes or runners (these are sneaky little shoots that pop up in seemingly random places). I planted some mint in a container full of various herbs thinking, novice gardener that I am, that I could control the stuff with pruning. Wrong! I learned quickly that there is no use struggling with it, because it WILL to take over. So, I suggest if you plant it, give it its own pot and don't plant it in your open garden.

Mint is best used fresh and should be stored only briefly, in plastic bags or in the refrigerator. Here are some ideas for using fresh mint:
  • Crush mint leaves and fold them in whipped cream for an excellent topping on chocolate desserts.
  • Combine freshly-minced mint leaves with watermelon and feta cheese for a delicious summer salad.
  • Steep mint leaves in boiling water for refreshing tea that also soothes indigestion, stomachache and, may improve your memory.
  • Make Mint Water. Twist or bruise 1 cup of peppermint, spearmint, or other mint. Place in a clean half-gallon container. fill with fresh, cool water. Chill in refrigerator. Strain and serve on ice. 
  • Make mint-infused rum for the perfect Mojito. Take a bunch fresh mint. Put it in a plastic baggie with a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and smash it up a little. Then, stuff the mint into a bottle of white rum and wait a few days. To make your Mojito, combine two ounces of infused rum, one ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice and one teaspoon of sugar and shake vigorously. Pour over ice and top with two ounces of sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge and enjoy!
What is your favorite mint - peppermint or spearmint? What do you make with fresh mint?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just for the Halibut!

Alaskan Halibut season officially opened on March 12! High quality fresh Halibut is now starting to fill the pipeline and catch volumes have been normal despite the weather. That's good news for northwest Halibut lovers. 

I love the clean, meaty flavor of Halibut and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is with a touch of Spicy Tomato Chutney. Good Tomato Chutney can be difficult to find on the shelves of your local market. Fortunately, it's easy to make and can be stored in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.  It's also really tasty on eggs, with curries, on roasted chicken or lamb and with panisse (chickpea fries) or polenta cakes.

If you live in the Seattle area, stop by the Seattle Fish Company
Thursday, March 31, 2011
5pm and 7pm
to sample my Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Tomato Chutney! 
If not, here's the recipe so you can try it at home.

Pan-Seared Halibut with Spicy Tomato Chutney

4 tbsp of sunflower oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chiles, whole
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
2 lbs Roma tomatoes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 6 to 8 ounces halibut fillets
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Core and seed the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Next, add all of the seeds, the chiles, chili powder and coriander to the oil. Cook one or two minutes until the seeds start to pop.

Add the vinegar and sugar stirring until dissolved. Stir in the tomatoes, the remaining spices, ginger and garlic, reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

After an hour, the tomato skins should be separating from the tomatoes and floating freely in the chutney. Use a pair of tongs to pull out the skins. Continue cooking until the is thick and syrupy but still chunky, approximately 1/2 hour. Remove the 2 whole chiles and discard. Salt to taste.

Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the fish. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the halibut and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the halibut to plates, spoon the tomato chutney on top and serve.

Note: The chutney can be made several days ahead of time and warmed just before service. Leftover chutney can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.