Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Watermelon Rind Pickled in Thai Spices

My kitchen is my laboratory and dream factory.  The question that runs through my mind while preparing, chopping, sorting, seasoning and at all times: What else can I do with that?

I absolutely love watermelon.  I add it to salads, in cold gazpacho, sliced with a drizzle of balsamic and juiced.  But, those rinds take up a lot of this fruit, right?  So, of course I'm always saving them for the answer to the question, what else can I do with that?
Pickling is a fun and easy go-to for so many vegetables and fruits.  That's what I decided to do with this batch.  Then the next step is deciding the seasoning.  Since Thai food is a delicate balance of all flavors (sweet, spicy, hot, sour, bitter), I gave it a try.
What a crunchy, spicy side dish to meat, sandwiches and cheese platters this created.  It goes into my "yeah, that works" kitchen file.  Hope you get the chance to try it, too.
Recipe: Watermelon Rind Pickled in Thai Spices - ShowFood Chef
4 cups Chopped Watermelon Rind (green and red removed)
1/4 cup salt
1 quart water

In a large bowl, stir the salt in the water to dissolve, then add the rind to this brine. Place another plate or bowl on top to hold the rinds submerged. Place in refrigerator for 8 hours or over-nite.

Drain, rinse the rinds well and drain again.

4 cups water
2 cups cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Thai spices (including paprika, turmeric, black pepper, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, cayenne and ginger)
Zest of one lime
1 tsp lime juice

In a large pot, bring these ingredients to a boil, then add the rinds. Simmer for 45 minutes until the rinds are translucent.
Pour rinds and liquid into prepared jars, close lids and refrigerate or use hot water bath method for 10 minutes for keeping pickles outside of the refrigerator for months.

ShowFood Chef~

Monday, June 8, 2015

Smokey Tea Poached Shrimp Salad

Appetizers are one of my favorite foods.  I'll admit it, I get bored easily, so having several smaller items to nosh on makes me a happy nibbler.  

When friends get together, I'm often asked to bring the appetizers.  It's a risky assignment because as much as I like making them, I'm notoriously late to events.  You really shouldn't be late when you have the FIRST course, right?  
Now that I think about it, maybe that's why they tell me to bring the appetizers - so I'll try harder to get there on time.  Hmmmm, what smart friends I have.

You can't go wrong with little crispy wonton pots of tea-poached shrimp salad.  It's just a fact.  It's a party-pleaser, and isn't that always a great feeling?

I have poached shrimp in wine for Drunken Grapes with Wine Poached Shrimp Appetizers. And I've poached shrimp in Jasmine Tea for Summer Rolls, so fresh and light.  

This time, I chose one of my favorite teas for infusion, smoking and for poaching foods: Lapsang Souchong.  The leaves of this tea are traditionally smoke-dried over a wood fire.  The tea leaves smell like campfire wood, which translates into a rustic, smokey flavor for shrimp, salmon or chicken.

This is the shrimp salad I use for little Tea Sandwiches, or a scoop on a bed of peppery arugula for luncheon, or these appetizers in Won Ton cups, cucumber cups or as a cracker spread.  
It's very versatile and warning...very addictive. You can make this one day ahead, store air-tight in the refrigerator and the flavors will be even better. 

Of course, you can also use the shrimp you have on hand from leftover grilling - hello, perfect way to create another leftover extend-over meal. :D

RECIPE: Smokey Tea Poached Shrimp Salad - showfoodchef

1lb. Shrimp (uncooked, in shell)
2 cups brewed Lapsang Souchong tea
6 oz. cream cheese (room temp)
6 Tbls. Mayo
3 Tbls. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbls. minced green onion
1 Tbls. minced white onion
1/2 Cup finely chopped celery
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
pinch salt/pepper

1) In a large skillet, poach shrimp in tea at 180f (just under a boil, just slight simmer around edges) for 6 minutes.  Drain, then chill shrimp.
2) Mix all other ingredients together well, in a bowl.
3) Peel and chop the shrimp, then add to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Season. Refrigerate to keep.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Honey Cinnamon Hot Milk Cake with Berries

Oh summer, what took ya so long?
Finally,the weather is turning warm, even in Chicago where I'm visiting right now. 
It's Memorial Weekend, I've been to three baseball games, and my fitbit steps are the only thing balancing all the food I've consumed.

Chicago is truly one of America's greatest cities.  I love their support of the arts, sciences, history and industry. 
It's a food-lover's dream and a night-life for all ages.  
The Purple Pig
My husband's whole family are avid White Sox fans. We were front and center, along with a sold out stadium, for Paul Konerko's ceremony that retired his number, 14 forever.  
In the heartland city of Chicago, I'm reminded of the true meaning behind Memorial Day, a time to honor those who died while in military service.  It has also become the marker for the beginning of summer (with Labor Day being the end.)  
If you have a picnic coming up this season, or need an easy potluck offering, or just a quick morning cake or dessert - this Honey Cinnamon Hot Milk Cake is the answer.  
This is a simple, moist and easy to "freeze for later" cake. It can be dressed up with butter cream, topped with berries or just sprinkled with powdered sugar before slicing it up and serving it up.  Having one of these on hand is a "super summer time saver".  Hope you'll love it.  Happy Summer!


Honey Cinnamon Hot Milk Cake with Berries - ShowFoodChef:
(butter and flour 8 or 9 inch cake pan, preheat oven 350F)

1 1/3 cup Flour
1 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup Whole Milk
4 Tbls (1/2 stick) Butter
2 Large Eggs
1/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Honey
1 tsp. Vanilla

1) In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Hold.
2) In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter until melted. Remove from heat and hold.
3) In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and honey for 5 full minutes.
4) Add the vanilla and milk-butter by pouring into the egg mixture while continuing to beat for 2 more minutes.
5) Fold, then stir the dry ingredients into the liquid.  The batter will be like pancake batter.
6) Pour into a buttered and floured 8 or 9 inch cake pan.  Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes, just til the center is done.  Do not overbake. Turn out to a cooling rack.  
7) Drizzle with honey if desired and arrange sliced berries on top.  Garnish with powdered sugar or whipped cream (optional.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Chicken by Chef (Your Name Here) - Simple Saturday

 This is one of my GO-TO chicken techniques and I proudly and quietly pass it on to my readers. Take it and run, let your "cook flag" fly, create all kinds of different tastes and combinations with no fear.  

Your imagination is the main ingredient with this recipe and it makes the most tender White Meat Chicken Breast you'll ever eat.

Here is the list of ingredients, so you can prepare, then read below for the step-by-step guide with pictures:

* 2 Boneless White Meat Chicken Breasts (or up to 4)
* Salt & Pepper for seasoning
* 2 Tablespoons of your chosen Flavor Paste, whatever you have on hand or want to use for your recipe (see below for examples.)
* 2 Tablespoons of your chosen Flavor Sauce (see below for examples.)
* 1 Teaspoon of Seasoning (see below for examples)

Here's the technique - it's really simple, just read through once so you can get the whole picture:

1) Place rectangle sheets of foil on a baking pan. Fold up each corner of the foil sheets to create little trays (I made two for the picture, but I've made as many as 4 on a large baking sheet*.)
2) Drizzle Olive oil into each foil tray, and place into the oven on 375F.  Let the oil heat up as the oven preheats (it's important to let the oil get hot in prep for the chicken.)

3) Once the oven is preheated and the oil is too, place a chicken breast on each foil tray (if you're using chicken with skin, place skin side down first onto the hot oil).

4) On each chicken add two items:

A) A flavoring paste (ie, whole grain mustard, ketchup, peanut butter, cream cheese, sour cream, almond butter,tomato paste, homemade jam- look into your refrigerator or pantry and create!
 B) A flavoring sauce that agrees with the paste you used  (ie, honey with the mustard, soy sauce with the ketchup for a barbecue flavor, lemon grass with the peanut butter for a Thai accent, Lemon juice with the cream cheese or sour cream for a hint of German or Belgium, Coconut milk with the almond butter, Balsamic vinegar with the jam, etc..
 (examples include: peanut butter, lemon grass with soy sauce- Garam Massala, lime, with yogurt- Homemade jam, balsamic with red pepper flakes.) 
5) Place the baking sheet into the oven for 8 minutes.
After 8 minutes, flip each piece of chicken over and maybe spoon some of the flavorings in the pan onto the chicken pieces.
6) Now, add 1 tsp of seasoning to enhance your recipe so far: ie. tarragon, chives, lemon grass, paprika, brown sugar, sesame seeds, capers, red pepper flakes, etc. Ask yourself which one would balance the flavors you've already created. Place back in the oven, continue to bake for another 8 minutes.
7) Open the oven, quickly turn each chicken breast over, mixing in the juices. Push it back into the oven, close the door and TURN THE OVEN OFF. Let it cook with the oven off for 8 more minutes.

Remove the pan and place the chicken breasts on a board to settle.
*Note about cooking times**
If you cook more than two chicken breasts at a time, add a minute more to each round of cooking.  So, if you cook 3 pieces of chicken make the cooking times 9,9 and 9 minutes.**

For a sauce or gravy: Mmmm~
While the cooked chicken rests, place the baking pan over the stove top on Medium and continue to cook each packet of sauce/gravy, stirring each one til thickened. If too dry, add a drizzle of wine or spirits, stock or for a creamy sauce add milk or half and half.  For a richer sauce, whisk in a Tablespoon of butter as the sauce is cooling. Try something different for each sauce.

It takes more time to tell you how to make this, then it takes to cook it; so I hope you'll try this style. 

My family LOVES this because it gives everyone a chance to play and to have different tastes. The flavors meld together well overnight, so it's very delicious chilled.

Serve one recipe for dinner tonight, save the other for a salad tomorrow or sandwiches for guests or low points nibbling.

PLUS** you can create several different global flavors in ONE PAN - ONE TIME COOKING. It makes pleasing picky eaters a breeze. It makes preparing a few meals at one time extremely fast and easy.
The ideas are limitless. But, Shhh, let's keep it between us and your closest friends, ok?
(Whole Grain Mustard, Honey and Tarragon)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

SBRISOLONA is an "EASY TO MAKE" Italian Crumble Cookie Tart

I'm really not kidding about the "easy to make" part.  The whole Sbrisolona Crumble Cookie Tart can be put together in a food processor in a few minutes, then pressed into a pan and baked. Done.
In years gone by, in it's original city of Mantua, Italy, this was known as a "Tart of Three Cups". 

It used 1 cup of Corn Meal, 1 cup of Wheat Flour and 1 cup of sugar.

The name comes from the Italian word, Sbriciolare  - to crumble.  Along the way it has been tweaked by many, including ShowFood Chef.  
The wonderful part of the Sbrisolona that has not been changed, even by the finest pastry chefs, is the crumbly nature and spirit of friendship.  This cookie tart is to be broken in pieces and shared by friends and family.  Sure, you can slice it- but why bother.  It's so fun to break off a piece and pass it along without ever having to stop your chatting.  Okay, maybe that last part was just about me.
Sbrisolona is perfect with tea or coffee in the morning, afternoon or even as a late night "under a book light with a glass of wine" snack.  Yeah, that last part was definitely about me.

Last note: As good as it taste fresh out of the oven, the flavors and texture are even better the next day. 

SBRISOLONA  (Crumbly) Italian Cookie Tart: Traditionally this is shared with friends who break pieces off to eat with tea or wine.
1+1/4 cup Flour
3/4 cup Corn Meal
1/2 c Sugar
1 tsp Orange Zest
1/2 c Butter (cold, cubed)
1/3 c Almonds (toasted)
1/3 c Walnuts (toasted)
1/3 c Dried Cheeries
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1 egg
1) In a food processor, add Flour, Corn meal, sugar and zest- pulse 10 times.
2) Add butter- pulse 10 times
3) Add almonds, walnuts and Cheeries - pulse about 5 times.
4) Add Almond extract and egg- pulse til combined and mixture holds together when squeezed in hand (add a Tbls of water if too dry)
5) Empty contents into a tart pan with removable bottom. Press evenly around the bottom and sides. (Garnish with a few whole almonds)
6) Bake in preheated 350f for 15 mins, then reduce to 300f for about 10-15 more mins.
Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Create Your Own Box Of Chocolates -

Sometimes the best way to say, 
“I Love You” is to just say it.
However, adding chocolate 
could help. 
You can create your own chocolates with a few steps that are so easy, even a toddler will enjoy making a family treat.
The choices of what you add to your chocolates can be unique and simple... 
...or as evolved and inventive as you prefer.   
In fact, why not make a party of the whole event?

Recipe: Choosy Chocolates
(makes about 12-15 chocolates, but the recipe can be increased as needed)

1 cup Chocolate pieces:
preferably a very good quality with high cacao and less sugar content.

One or Several choices according to your preference:
shredded coconut, dried fruit pieces, nuts, pretzel pieces, candied fruits, pine nuts, pepitas, salt crystals, flavored sugars, broken candy pieces, organic edible herbs and flowers, etc.

 1)   Gently melt the chocolate your favorite way: double boiler, microwave slowly, etc.

 2)   Spoon small dollops onto a parchment or silicon covered baking or cookie sheet pan. Use the spoon to create other shapes if you like, ie. a heart.

 3)   Sprinkle your toppings as desired, but leave mostly chocolate showing.
 4)  Allow to sit until cooled and hardened (if you have tempered your chocolate you can put them in the refrigerator for a few minutes to speed the process.)

If life is like a box of chocolates, why not create your own choices!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Simple Whole Roasted Branzino

Do you walk by the Seafood section of your grocery store with only a glance at the whole fish on display?  Is it because you're not sure what to do with a fish that feels like it's looking back at you?

Are you just a little bit intimidated by the idea of cooking it, or even what to ask for when it comes to fresh fish?  If so, this is a great beginner's recipe.  I'll tell you what to say, and then within a few simple steps you'll be serving WOW on a plate to your friends and family.  
If you have hooked, scaled and smoked your own catch - you may still enjoy a reminder of how "simple" can mean delicious.

Branzino - pronounced "Brahn-zee-no" is a seabass frequently caught along northern Italian shores in warmer weather. When caught or farmed in other areas, it's called European bass.  In Spain, it's called Lupina. 

It's Mediterranean and when cooked in that style with additions like capers, lemons, tomatoes and olives the flavors turn the simple into the exotic.

A whole roasting pan lined up with Branzini (plural in Italian for Branzino) can be very impressive, but it also makes a nice quiet dinner for two when you roast just one.

Recipe: Simple Whole Roasted Branzino

1 Whole Branzino (or Trout or Sea Bass)
Olive Oil
Citrus Slices
Riesling white wine - Wente makes a crisp, excellent Riesling.

1) Ask for Whole Branzino (or Trout or Sea Bass), then ask them to "Scale and Gut it." 

2) Unwrap it at home, rinse the fish and dry well.  

3) Season inside/outside with Salt, Pepper and Paprika.  Add a few slices of lemon to the inside of the fish.

4) Drizzle oil and add a few slices of citrus (lemons and limes, etc) onto a foil lined baking pan (use parchment if you’re adding tomatoes.)   

5) Put the pan into the oven, and THEN preheat to 450F.  When the oven is preheated, the citrus is roasted and the oil is hot, carefully place the fish on top of the citrus.
 6) Continue Roasting for about 15 minutes (less if the fish is small.) Drizzle White Wine over the fish; continue roasting for 8-10 more minutes.

7)  Remove the fish, place on a serving platter and garnish with the roasted citrus and any other Mediterranean goodies to nibble (ie, small tomatoes, olive, capers, basil leaves.)

8)  When serving, remove the skin and gently scrape the moist white fish fillet onto a plate.  Remove the main bone frame from the middle, then add the bottom fillet to another plate.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cauliflower-Crumb-Coated Chicken Rollatini


 Cauliflower-Crumb-Coated Chicken Rollatini
- ShowFoodChef

My daughter is often an inspiration to me and others. Her recent adventure into "clean eating" has me trying to be more creative with simple, clean meals. I love a personal chef challenge.

One of my catering clients is gluten free, so I added that to my voluntary challenge and voila - Cauliflower Crumb Coating. 

I love these as a salad topping, which I learned from other food-lovers.  And, right when I thought I couldn't love Cauliflower more- now it also stands in for bread crumbs. The added bonus; Cauliflower is also good fiber, cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory, packed with B vitamins and aids in digestion. Well, yeah!

To make a good rollatini, make sure to pound out the chicken to an even paillard.
 Layer your filling,leaving some edges clear for folding.

Secure the ends and flap with 3 toothpicks (to be taken out before eating.)
 We served this for dinner, but I have to say the chilled version for lunch the next day was a hit, too.
Recipe (showfoodchef):
Chicken Rollatini with Quinoa, Goat Cheese, & Kale in Cauliflower Crumbs

1 cup Cauliflower pieces

Pinch of Paprika, Salt & Pepper

¼ tsp fresh thyme leaves

4 chicken breast fillets (pounded between plastic wrap to 1/8” thickness)

1 Roasted Red Pepper cut in 4 slices

1 cup Cooked Quinoa

2 oz. Goat cheese

½ cup chopped Kale


1 egg white – whipped till foamy

Lightly oil an 8x8 Baking Dish and set aside.

1)   In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower, paprika, salt, pepper and thyme till crumbs.  Pour into a flat bowl and save.

2)   In a small bowl, stir together the quinoa, goat cheese, kale and seasoning.  Hold.

3)   On each flattened chicken breasts lay a red pepper piece, and then spread a small layer of the quinoa mixture. 

4)   Roll each chicken breast up, being careful to contain the filling.  Use 3 toothpicks; one to close each side and end flap.

5)   Dip each Rollatini in foamy egg white, then roll or press on the Cauliflower crumbs and set the chicken side by side in the prepared baking dish.

6)   Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-30 minutes.  Allow to sit for 5minutes, then serve whole or sliced.  This is also good chilled or room temp.