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Roasted Kabocha Squash Fondue

Drool! Fragrant melted cheese served in a communal pot, or a traditional caquelon or fondue pot over a little réchaud brought to temperature with a candle or various other types of flame material. Small-bit-sized foods are consumed by dipping bread, assorted vegetables, and proteins dunked right into the warm, mouth-watering melted cheese using long-stemmed pronged forks. 

Fondu was created to promote a national dish in Switzerland. I think they nailed it. It became so popularized in North America in the 1960s the term “fondue” has now been coined for other dishes in which a portion of food is dipped into a communal pot of warm liquid kept hot. We have all heard of chocolate fondue, fondue au chocolate, in which pieces of fruit or pastry are plunged into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which elements of meat are cooked in hot oil or broth. 

Either way, you enjoy it, sweet desserts or savory choices are up to you. I’ve been on a savory Fondue craze this winter and just wanted to share with you.

You won’t even need a fondue pot to enjoy melted cheese. I used a winter squash, and at one point, I hollowed out a giant round loaf of walnut bread. Cut up and pre-roast some sweet baby potatoes and various veggies I knew my family would enjoy. I especially love to dunk roasted baby carrots and raw red bell pepper. The challenge is eyeballing how much of the fondu you’ll need to fill your squash or bread round and then trying not to eat all the ingredients during prep time. 

When it comes to the perfect serving portion — it’s another variable. I always prep about two to three pieces of each selection, equalling about a dozen bites per person—some on the side for those with larger appetites, like myself. Shhhhh! 

Take a quick peek at the recipes below. 

Enjoy! 

You’ll Need

1 whole kabocha squash or any winter squash of your choice, about 5-8 inches in diameter

3-6 cups of fondue to fill squash or bread round ( feed 6-8 pp)

1 large clove of peeled garlic- smashed 

Here’s How

Preheat your oven to 350’F degrees. Prepare your squash as you would for carving out a pumpkin for Halloween. Cut off a ‘lid’ and scoop out all the seeds and membranes. 

Gently rub the insides with a hefty knob of butter and a good sprinkling of salt. Smash the clove of garlic and rub it all over the interior. Drop the clove to the bottom of the squash leave it throughout the roasting process. Place the lid back onto the squash and sit the whole pumpkin on a sturdy baking tray. Foil the stem of you, think it will be at risk of burning.  

Bake until cooked through but still firm to a knife. About 30-60 minutes to depending on the size of your squash. I like to roast my squash until I can poke a sharp knife through the flesh and then add the fondu making sure it doesn’t fall about all soggy. Remember when choosing your squash’s size, the larger the squash, the thicker the walls, the dense the meat, and the longer the cooking time. Don’t forget you will roast an additional few minutes when the fondu is added.

 While the squash is roasting in the oven, prepare your fondu filling. 

For the Cheese Fondu

Use this recipe to yield about 3 cups of fondu and adjust accordingly to your bread or squash bowl size. I usually double the recipe for a sizeable sourdough round.

You’ll Need

1 cup Emmental, grated

1 cup Gruyère, grated

1 cup mature white Cheddar, grated

2 tablespoon of cornstarch

3/4 cup of crème fraîche or lite sour cream

1/4 cup tablespoons of dry white wine or splash of bourbon or sherry

1 shallot, cleaned, and cut in half 

2 garlic clove, smashed

pinch of nutmeg ( optional )

Here’s How

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the grated cheeses with the cornstarch until the cheese is completely coated. 

On the stovetop over medium-low heat, add all the fondu ingredients and slowly warm until melted, stirring occasionally.

The last 15 minutes of roasting, remove the squash from the oven. Remove the lid and set it aside for a serving garnish.  

Remove the garlic clove and discard. Carefully pour the melted fondu mixture into the baked cavity of the squash—place back into the oven and continue to baking for an additional 10-15 mins or until the fondue bubbling and slightly brown and the flesh of the squash appears to be baked and creamy. 

Place on a platter and surround the squash with various pieces of bread and veggies for dipping. Supply your guests with spoons so that they can scoop out chunks of soft, roasted pumpkin with the melted cheese after the dipping session. 

Suggestions for Dipping 

Crusty bread, cut into bite-sized pieces

Crunchy breadsticks 

Al dente roasted vegetables

Raw vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces

Roasted butternut squash cubes

Whole raw scallions

Crackers

Variations

Use any variety of squash or choose individual ones for each of your guests.

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Tired of Playing Fowl on Thanksgiving?

You will absolutly fall in love with this Umami stuffed butternut squash so much, it just might persuade you to reconsider poultry this holiday season! Not only is it vegetarian… it’s fancy! 

You’ll Need: 

1 cup fresh pecans, chopped

1- foot long butternut squash

1 Japanese eggplant about 8-10 inches in length

1 zucchini, about 10 inches in length

1 white onion, cleaned and roughly chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, divided

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomato packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 bunch fresh thyme, divided

8 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2 eggs

1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine and divided

1 teaspoon ground sage

Kosher salt and white pepper

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 325′ F Degrees. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400′ F Degrees. Drizzle the baking sheet with good quality olive oil.

While the oven is getting up to temperature, carefully cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the interior, leaving about a 1/2″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit the eggplant halves inside. Discard the stringy guts, reserving all the solid meat filling, and the seeds for roasting.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out and reserve the interior, leaving about a 1/4″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit delicious filling inside, which will go inside the butternut squash- follow me?

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out interior for the vegetable, leaving behind a fairly-wide mote down the center to fit the remaining filling.

Place squash halves cut side up, on a prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, be sure to pierce insides of squash and zucchini halves to release steam. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch marks inside of eggplant, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Season all with salt and pepper butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey then set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the garlic, shallot, onion, mushrooms, celery, squash, and eggplant filling. Working in batches, if needed, pulse the food processor until finely chopped but not to a paste. Add sundried tomatoes and pulse one final time.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetables from the processor, and a few thyme sprigs and the ground sage. Cook until the mixture begins to brown, and almost all the moisture evaporates- about 5-8 minutes. Taste, and adjust season with salt and pepper. 

Remove from the heat to a large bowl and allow the vegetable mixture to significantly cool. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Crack in the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, panko, a small handful of chopped parsley, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 

Using an ice cream or portion control scoop press about 3/4 cup vegetable mixture into each half of the butternut squash until the interior is fully coated using the back of the scoop or spoon press the combination into and up the sides making room for the eggplant to fit. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and then add the eggplant cut side up and repeat the filling process, including the pecans. Now add the zucchini and repeat to fill with vegetable mixture, continue the nesting process with each halve until you have filled the whole butternut squash with all the vegetable halves layered with stuffing- just like your famous lasagna.

Using kitchen twine. Slip under one squash half, then top with the second squash half, so that the cut sides face each other. Now press together and tightly tie the twine around squash to secure it for the oven. 

Brush the exterior of the stuffed butternut squash with melted butter and maple syrup then season again with salt and pepper. Wrap the squash tightly in aluminum foil and place it in the center of a low-sided baking dish to prevent it from rolling. 

Roast the squash until it is tender to the touch, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. 

Remove foil and let rest at least 10-20 minutes.

Remove twine and place it on a cutting board. Cut into 1″ thick disc with a serrated knife, transferring to serving plates as you go. Spoon warm herbed or salted butter over slices, garnish with more pecans and serve with warm maple syrup.

Happy holiday!

Featured

Cardamon, Honey Cake with Fresh Baked Pears

Perfect for Fall, this recipe calls for Bosc pears, try not to substitute- this varietal has firmer flesh than others, which helps hold its shape during baking. You will swoon over the combination of sweet, sticky cardamon spiked honey liberally soaked into this lovely cake.

You’ll need

For the cake:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Bosc pears, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline if possible

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the cardamom honey

3/4 cup local honey

Pinch of cardamom, plus more as needed

For the whipped cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved, or 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

2 tablespoons sugar

Here’s How

To make the cake, preheat an oven to 325°F degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of buttered parchment paper.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

Add the honey and beat until smooth, about an additional minute. Add the eggs and vanilla until combined, another 1 minute or so. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in 2 additions, beating until no streaks of flour remain and all lumps have disappeared.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a wet spatula. 

Fan the pear slices on top of the batter, overlapping them slightly and gently pushing them down so they sink slightly into the batter. Bake until the cake is deep golden brown and the pears are tender, 50 to 55 minutes depending on how your oven responds. Add chopped walnuts over the top of the cake during the last 10 minutes of baking time. Poke the center with a toothpick and if it pulls out clean your cake is ready to be removed from the oven.

Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, prepare the cardamom honey. 

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the honey and cardamom and heat, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Taste and add more cardamom, if desired. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

To make the whipped cream, in the clean bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the cream, vanilla, and sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes; do not overbeat. Keep chilled.

Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the pan gently onto the rack, lift off the pan and peel the parchment paper off the cake. Using a second wire rack, turn the cake right side up, so the baked pears are facing you. While the cake is still warm, place the rack with the cake on top of a plastic-wrapped lined baking sheet and pour the warmed cardamom honey evenly over the cake. 

Transfer the cake to a platter, cut it into slices and serve warm, spooning some of the whipped cream on top of each slice.

Pro Tip: A mandoline makes fast work of cutting the pears into thin, uniform slices.

Featured

Candy Cap Roasted Butternut Squash

The haunting maple flavor of Candy Cap Mushrooms makes this so much more than a great side dish. This wintery squash can also become the base of a magnificent butternut squash soup if you have leftovers.

You’ll Need:

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium-sized dice

1 cup dried candy cap mushrooms 

1/2 cup lukewarm water

Olive oil

4-6 tablespoons room temperature butter

2-3 tablespoons warm cream, chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon Madeira, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

!/4 teaspoon fresh ground sage, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon , or to taste

Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Maple syrup or honey for garnish (optional)

Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Here’s How: 

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F degrees.

Place the dried Candy Cap Mushrooms in lukewarm water. Soak for a minimum of 15 minutes. Remove the hydrated mushrooms from the liquid making sure to reserve the soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms into small fine dice. Set aside.

In a medium-sized sauté pan, add chopped mushrooms and butter. Sauté for 2 minutes on medium-high heat until mushrooms become almost dry. 

In an additional 1 quart saucepan, pour reserved Candy Cap soaking liquid into the sauté pan add the Madeira. Boil and reduce the volume to about a ¼ cup. Set aside.

Place squash cut side up in a small roasting pan. Season the flesh of the squash with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Spoon the Candy Cap and butter mixture into the cavity, and the rest of the squash surface.

Gently cover with a foil tent and bake for about 90 minutes. Remove the foil the last 15-20 minutes of roasting time.  

When the squash is toasted brown in spots, and tender when poked with a fork-tender, but still a bit firm to the touch it’s time to remove it from the oven.

Cool slighting and scoop the roasted meat of the squash with the mushrooms into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and cream and a pinch of cinnamon. Mash with a potato masher to the consistency of smashed potatoes or whip with a handheld mixer for a smoother texture. Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt and pepper. 

Place in a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey ( taste first, because Candy caps are sweet, and can overpower. )

Garnish with pumpkin seeds and grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve steaming hot.

Featured

Decadent Creamed Corn Casserole!

Trust me when I say– someone at your dinner table will ask you for this recipe! 

You’ll Need:

8-10 ears of fresh shucked corn off the cob, or 1 pound frozen white kernels and 1 pound frozen yellow kernels. Or, all yellow.

1/2 onion, peeled halved and studded with 3-4 cloves

1 large russet pototo peeled and cut in large 1/2 inch dice

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 pint unsweetened whipping cream

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup cane sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

2 Tablespoons very cold butter

2 Tablespoons flour

Chopped parsley for serving

Paprika for garnish

1/2 cup grated Parmesean cheese, divided

Fresh homemade crutons

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 350′ F Degrees. Generiously butter an 4 quart casserole dish, and dust with grated parmesean cheese. Set aside on a foil lined sheet pan.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine all the ingredients except for the butter and flour bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

In a small dish combine the flour and butter to form a paste. Mix into the corn mixture and continue to cook until thicken.

Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper and cayenne. Add additional sugar if your prefer your recipe a bit sweeter. Remove smashed garlic and studded onion. Discard.

Add diced potato and parmeseasn cheese and mix to combine,

Place in prepared casserol dish and cover. Bake for 10-20 minutes until flavors are incorporated and potatos are cooked.

Serve piping hot. Garnish with warm homemade crutons with a sprinkling of paprika and chopped parsley.

Makes approximately 8 to 10 servings

Variations:

Add chopped fresh pimento for a little kick.

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Roasted Pumpkin Salsa

Looking for something diffrent this Holiday Season? Try my recipe for roasted sugar pumpkin salsa! Pumpkin is not only the leading food this time of year! Pumpkins also have definite health benefits. If you want food to fill you up, but not fill you out… Pumpkin will be your new fav!

You’ll Need:

Good quality olive oil

1 small sugar pumpkin

1 organic heirloom tomato, de-seeded and cut small dice (optional) 

1/2 cup fresh white or yellow corn

1/2 red onion, julienne 

1 serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, fine dice

1 lime, zested and juiced

1/2 lemon juiced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Drizzle of maple syrup  

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Roasted and Salted pumpkin  for garnish 

 

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 350′ F Degrees. Carefully cut pumpkins open with a serrated knife. Remove pulp and seeds. Slice into 1/2 inch slices for easy skin removal, reserve seeds in salted water for roasting. 

On a baking sheet, lay pumpkins slices, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, flip, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered for about 15-20 minutes depending on size. Poke with a fork to check doneness. Be sure to undercook the pumpkin to hold their shape when diced. Cool quickly to prevent overcooking. When cool, remove skin and cut into dice.

In a small bowl- combine tomato, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lemon, lime zest and juice, cumin, and 1-1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Add cooled diced pumpkin. Toss to coat.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper add additional cumin and maple syrup to taste.

Serve with corn tortilla chips.

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Holiday Cheat Sheet- Just in case you’re wondering how much to Shop, Cook and Serve!

As a professional chef, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how much food do you need to feed each guest? So, I decided to build a mini cheat sheet for the upcoming holiday season! Hope this helps!

Every 2.4 pounds of food you donate creates a meal for someone else. 

Cocktails: If you are serving throughout a two-hour cocktail party or dinner with spirits and mixers – One 750 ml. bottle of spirits will serve 17 drinks. Plan on 3 drinks per person if you have a fun crowd!.

Finger food: On average, guests will eat about 3-4 appetizers each during the first hour and will eat about 3 appetizers each for each subsequent hour. Especially If consuming alcohol. My rule of thumb is to be prepared to serve : 3-4 pieces per person with alcohol and 2-3 without alcohol. 10-12 pieces will be equivalent to a full holiday meal replacement.

Main Protein: Turkey: 1 1/2 pounds per person.

Gravy: 1/2 cup per person.

Cranberry Compote: 1/4 cup per person.

Stuffing: 1 1/2 cups per person.

Side dishes: 1/2 cup per person for more than one side dish. If serving only one side dish plan on 1 1/2 cups per guest.

Potatoes or sweet potatoes: 5 to 6 ounces per person, which is about 1 large golden Yukon, or small russet potato, or half of a large sweet potato.

Salad: Plan for 1/2-1 cup of salad per person unless the majority of your guests are counting calories, then I would increase by 50%.

Bread: estimate 1 1/2 rolls per person 

Pie: One pie will feed eight guests if you are serving additional desserts. If not, plan on one pie serving six guests.

Whipped topping: 1/4 cup of cream (measured before ) whipping per guest.

After-dinner drinks: One drink per guest. Depending on who your friends are.

Wine: A typical wine bottle size is 750 ml that contains 25.4 fluid ounces. The glass size determines how many servings. For example, you’ll get approximately six servings per bottle using a 4-ounce wine glass compared to five servings using a 5-ounce glass.

Sparkling wine: I usually recommend 2 glasses of sparkling wine per guest. There are 6 full glasses of sparkling wine in a standard 750ml bottle.

Coffee or Hot Tea: About 1 1/2 cups per guest after a meal.

Happy Holiday

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Make Ahead- Chocolate Espresso Pot De Crème!

Perfect sweet little finish to a large festive feast, just in time for the holiday! And make ahead the day before so you don’t need to worry about making dessert the day of your event. Also, great little treat just to have hanging around the fridge. If you can save them from getting gobbled up. 

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

6 ounces good quality 60-70 % chocolate, finely chopped

6 ounces good quality 80% chocolate 80%, finely chopped, plus shavings for garnish

2 tablespoons sugar

1 – 4 inch cinnamon stick

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon good quality instant espresso powder

Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving

 

Here’s How:

In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk with the heavy cream, cinnamon stick, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce heat add the vanilla, espresso, and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks until creamy, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 1/2 – 1 cup of the hot milk, into egg yolks while whisking vigorously bringing the yolks close to the same temperature as the milk. This stage is called tempering. Once the cream is tempered into the egg yolks, transfer the tepid egg mixture to the saucepan with the remaining flavored cream. Begin cooking to form a thick custard.

Over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until it is slightly thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Immediately add the finely chopped chocolate and remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large glass measuring cup or bowl to help you pour into smaller serving vessels.

Pour the chocolate mixture into desired serving vessels and refrigerate until the pots de crème are chilled, for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve the pots de crème with unsweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings and an optional dusting of cocoa. Or simply… a candied coffee bean. I like to pair chocolate with Raspberries or Oranges. Candies Orange peel would be nice if you put a splash of Grand Mariner in the pudding. If you need to know when, just send me a message. Shhhhh! 

Makes approximately 8-10 servings depending on the size of your serving vessel.

Note: If eggs begin to curdle in the tempering stage, cool the cream before any further additions, and immediately run the mixture through a sieve before proceeding to the next step.

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Gingerbread Pancakes with Molasses Spiked Maple Syrup!

These pancakes that taste like you are eating gingerbread cookies for breakfast! So magicial and delicious! They’re light, soft, fluffy with a pleasant boldness. Nicely spiced without being overwhelming. If you’re sensitive to these bold flavors like I am, tone them down a bit by adding less than the recipe calls for, and spike the molasses to your taste!

You’ll Need: 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso ( optional)

Pinch salt, optional and to taste

1 -2 cups buttermilk the more liquid, the thinner the pancake

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons light, medium, or dark molasses ( avoid blackstrap )

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 recipe Molasses Maple Syrup ( see below ) 

Here’s How: 

In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients, and whisk to combine – make a well in the center, set aside.

In a large bowl, add the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined. The batter will be fairly thick; add more liquid if you prefer a thinner pancake.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray (or use melted butter if you prefer).

Using a 2 ounce ice cream scoop ( sprayed with cooking spray for easy release) , scoop batter onto warm, prepared skillet.

Cook for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes until bubbles form on the edges. Take a peek at the underside with a spatula, and when golden, flip.

Control heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more cooking oil to the skillet as needed, be sure to wipe any black residue with a paper towel as needed. The molasses will burn quickly, so be sure to control the temeratures.

Serve immediately, garnished with fresh winter fruit and drizzle with syrup!

Ginger Molasses Maple Syrup

You’ll Need: 

1 cup maple syrup

 2-3 tablespoons light, medium, or dark molasses, or to taste

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Here’s How:

Combine all syrup ingredients in a small bowl or serving pitcher and whisk until smooth. Warm syrup and drizzle over pancakes. 

To keep pancakes warm for up to an hour, transfer them to a lined baking sheet and place in a preheated 200’F Degree oven with a cup of hot water to keep warm and moist.

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Crispy Pan Fried Snapper with Strawberry Tomato Salsa

This recipe is interchangeable with any of your preferred fish proteins, including shellfish-like scallops! I occasionally add cubed granny smith apples if I’m roasting salmon steaks; the tartness of the apple cuts through some of the fat in the salmon for me. I also introduce lots of lime wedges when I pan-fry a crispy battered white fish—whatever method of cooking is your fav, be sure to top off with this tasty summertime salsa. Try the recipe below I made for red snapper; it’s delicious! 

You’ll Need:

4- 6 oz pieces firm Snapper

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 medium green apple, cored and diced (optional)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, torn right before use

2-3 tablespoons neutral-tasting extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon knob of butter, cold

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 limes, cut in wedges

Here’s How:

Cut and combine the berries, tomatoes, and apples if you use them into a small bowl, tear in the parsley, and add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle a little olive oil, add rice vinegar. Toss. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make three small slices into the skin side of each filet to prevent it from curling up while cooking. Salt and pepper the fish front and back. 

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and a knob of butter until melted. Add the fish filets skin side down and cook until the fish is crispy. Depending on the size of your filet, this should only take about 6-8 minutes. Gently flip the fish and cook until the flesh is opaque for an additional 2-3 minutes. 

Remove from the pan and tap tap on a paper towel to remove any excess cooking oil. 

Serve warm topped with strawberry salsa and lots of lime wedges! 

Makes about 4 servings

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Refreshing Lavender Lemonade with Butterfly Pea Flower

While all types of lavender are edible yet English and Provence varieties are widely for cuisine. If you use fresh garden buds, make sure they are free from pesticides. I’ve added organic dried butterfly pea flowers for the subtle violet color. The flower buds are steeped with sugar and hot water to make a rich blue-colored sugar syrup. The color-changing effect begins when the acidity from the lemon is introduced, the blue infusion becomes violet, and eventually, magenta as more lemon is introduced. If you can’t find Butterfly Pea Buds, try using organic Blue Spirulina powder.

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Butterfly-pea flower tea, commonly known as Blue Tea, is a caffine free herbal tea, or tisane, a beverage made from a decoction or infusion of the flower petals or even whole flower of the Clitoria ternatea plant and derived from a common plant to most South East Asian countries. 

Butterfly pea flower tea has been brewed for centuries but only recently been introduced to tea drinkers outside the indigenous area. Butterfly pea flower tea gains its distinctive tint from the deep blue color of the petals that have made the plant a popular dye for centuries. One aspect of the tea is that the liquid changes color based on the pH level of the substance added to it; for instance, adding lemon juice to the tea will turn it purple.

Clitoria flowers or blue tea flowers are used for their supposed medicinal properties in Ayurveda.

You’ll Need: 

About 20 sprigs of freshly picked and rinsed lavender bud flowers or 2 tablespoons of dried culinary lavender flowers

3 cups white, granulated sugar or Monk fruit

3 cups water

1 – 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-gallon ice-cold water

lots of ice

1/2 – 3/4 cup Organic Butterfly Pea buds 

Here’s How : 

In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. In the meantime, trim the lavender flowers from the stems and place them in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Add the sugar and gently rub the lavender buds into the sugar until fragrant and well distributed.

Pour the boiling water over the lavender sugar and stir with a spoon until the sugar has melted. Add Butterfly Pea Flower buds. Cover and infuse for a minimum of 60 minutes. 

Fine strain the lavender-infused syrup into a serving carafe or pitcher, reserving 1 cup to adjust sweetness later. Chill.

Stir in the lemon juice and the additional ice water. You will begin to see the acidity of the lemon react to the Butterfly Pea Flower, and the color will change from a beautiful blue to a lovely lavender. The more acid you infuse, the more you will see a profound change in color.

Taste and adjust with the reserved syrup. Add ice to the serving glasses.

Garnish with sliced lemon and long sprigs of lavender. 

Fun Variation: 

Fill service glasses with ice. Pour the cooled Butterfly Pea and Lavender sugar syrup into each glass, filling about halfway. Follow with a lemon and water mixture over the top, and watch the color change happen! Where the lemon meets the syrup, the color will change from blue to lavender or stir to combine the two colors until pink is achieved throughout!

Makes over a gallon

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Watermelon and Bergamot Orange Coolers

We can trace bergamot’s origins back to Southeast Asia. Currently, thsi sour citrus is grown in many parts of the world, today its prominence comes from the town of Bergamo in southern Italy. This citrus has a soothing scent, spicy taste, and broad range of uses. Research on bergamot oil has uncovered multiple benefits. I adore it so much and can’t get enough of it.

Make a pitcher of these refreshing coolers on mid-summer afternoon for a refreshing Mocktail! Later, turn up the heat by transforming this recipe into an informal cocktail by adding a shot of vodka, rum, or tequila!

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed and frozen

3-4 tablespoons fresh limes, zested and juiced

1/4-1/2 cup fresh begamot, zested and juiced, or 8 drops DoTerra, bergamot essential oil

3-4 cups sparkling water

2-3 tablespoons Simple Syrup, or to taste

Watermelon wedges for garnish

Lime wedges, bergamot, or mint leaves for garnish 

Monk fruit ( a natural sugar substitute) for rimming the glass (optional

Ice cubes 

Vodka, Rum or Tequila (optional)

Here’s How:

Wash and cube the melon. Place the cubes in your freezer for a minimum of one hour. 

In your standing blender, combine the citrus juice with the syrup and the iced melon cubes. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust syrups if you’d like it sweeter.

Assemble coolers by moistening the rims of the glassware by gliding a fruit wedge across the tops of the glasses, then dip the moistened rims into a dish of monk fruit, sugar, or salt if your feeling wild. 

Add the watermelon puree halfway. Top with sparkling water to fill. Stir in Vodka, Rum, or Tequila, and garnish with long straws, watermelon wedges, lime wheels, bergamot, or mint leaves!

Variations:

For a deeper flavor substitute 1 tablespoon of simple syrup for maple syrup.

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Homemade English Muffins

This recipe is so user friendly and satisfying. I like to use buttermilk for a pleasant, sour tang. The use of bread flour is for an incredible chewy bite. The dough will naturally be sticky, In essence, this is a good sign; the mixture contains optimal hydration, which will yield the traditional nooks and crannies that English muffins are known for. Be sure to split open with a fork to reveal your labor. This dough tastes best when you ferment the mixture overnight, but it is not necessary. Toast them on the stovetop then finish them in the oven. So easy to make, you will be amazed. 

You’ll Need:

5 cups unbleached bread flour

3 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/4 water, room temperature

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Cornmeal for dusting

Cooking oil

Special Equipment:

Cast Iron Skillet

Scale 

Here’s How:

In a small bowl, add the yeast to the water, stir. Set aside and allow the yeast to begin activation. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients—flour, sweetener, and salt. Fit with the dough hook and mix on low speed to combine. 

Add the activated yeast, all but 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and the butter. Mix on medium-low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still loose flour in the bowl, drizzle in some of the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Continue to knead for about 8-10 minutes until the dough looks soft, but still feels tacky and pliable. 

Dust your fingertips with flour, and remove the dough from the bowl and gently form it into a ball. Spray the bottom of your mixing bowl with cooking spray and place the dough back in the mixing bowl. Turn it once to oil, to prevent a crust from forming. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise 90 minutes in a quiet, warm location of your kitchen, or place in the refrigerator and allow the dough to ferment overnight for optimal flavor.

Prepare three sheet pans with non-stick liners and dust two with cornmeal. Set aside. 

Wipe the counter with a damp cloth and release the dough gently from the bowl. Flouring the work surface is not necessary. Divide the dough into equal pieces weighing about 3 ounces each. Gently shape the pieces into small rounds practicing special attention not to deflate.

Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pans dusted with cornmeal, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Mist them lightly with spray oil, sprinkle them loosely with cornmeal, and cover with a clean towel.

Set aside and proof the rounds at room temperature for an additional 90 minutes or until the pieces nearly double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F Degrees with the oven racks distributed evenly. 

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, drizzle the pan and a wide spatula with cooking oil. 

Uncover the muffin rounds, slide an oiled spatula under rounds, and gently transfer each one to the hot oiled pan, spacing them about an inch apart. Cook undisturbed for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely brown and both sides slightly deflate to the characteristic of an English Muffin. Carefully flip and continue to cook on the other side for 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the pan-cooked muffins back to the original sheet tray and immediately place them in the oven. It’s essential not to wait for the remaining rounds to cook; they will deflate further.

Bake in the oven for an additional 7-8 minutes to ensure that the center bakes through. Cool, and cut open with a fork to display the nooks and crannies.

Makes 16

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Chef Gigi’s Kabocha Spiced Rum Cake ! 

Looking for that perfect dessert this Winter? Kobocha is the Japanese word for squash. This  squash has a nutty, earthy flavor with a touch of sweetness. So delicious and versatile ! Kobocha squash can be used in sweet and savory applications.

This Spiced Rum Cake will be the perfect addition to your holiday! 

Kabocha Spiced Rum Cake

You’ll Need:

1 1/2 cups mashed kabocha squash

8 large medjool dates, pitted

3 Tablespoons quality dark rum

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup cane sugar or coconut sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons orange zest

2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon quality vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pecan Caramel Glaze or Powered Sugar topping ( recipes below)

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 350°F Degrees. Prepare a high sided baking sheet prepared with organic olive oil.

Carefully cut the squash in half with a sharp serrated knife, careful not to cut yourself. De-seed. Save the seeds for roasting.

Spritz the top halves of the cut squash with a quick spitz of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Place squash cut-side down onto the stainless steel baking sheet. Place in center rack of preheated warm oven and bake until golden brown and a knife runs easily through the flesh, depending on the size of your squash anyhwre from 30- 45 minutes. Remove from the oven set aside to cool.

While the kobocha squash is in the oven, prepare an 10 inch bundt cake pan generously with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside on top of a lined cookie sheet and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the pitted dates with 1 tablespoon of the rum. Fill with boiling water and soak the dates to reconstitute, about 15 minutes. Strain the water solution, discard and place dates in your food processor or blender. Process to a smooth paste.

While the dates are processing, whisk together in a small bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, all the spices including salt and the pepper. Set aside.

Remove cooled kobocha from its skin by scooping out the cooked flesh with a large spoon. Add the flesh straight to your food processor or blender with the dates and pulse process until completely smooth.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer–add the butter and sugar.Beat on high speed until butter is creamed and pale in color and sugar crystals begin to dissolve about 2-3 minutes.

Add purée and mix an additional minute. Add 1 egg at a time beating in between addition until smooth. Add buttermilk and orange juice, vanilla and the remaining rum. Beat well.

Add dry mixture working in two additions, beating until just combine with every addition. Scrape bowl. Stir in the orange zest.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Smack on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles and level out batter.

Place on the center rack of a preheated 350’F degree oven and bake 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick is placed in the center and comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling, make the pecan glaze or combine the powered sugar topping. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour before applying glaze.

Dust with a 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar spiked with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Or, pour on the pecan glaze. When pouring glaze make sure it has substantially cooled to a thick but pourable viscosity.

If the glaze is too warm it will run all the way off the cake.

Pecan Caramel Glaze

You’ll Need:

1 cup palm, or your favorote granulated sugar

½ cup whole cream, or your favorite nut milk

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Here’s How:

In a high-sided pan over medium heat melt the sugar.When the sugar melts and begins to turn golden around the edges, reduce the heat to low and begin to stir until all the sugar has completely melted.

Add the butter and cream carefully – the cream will bubble up fast and could boil over. Continue to cook,stirring on low heat until you have a smooth caramel sauce- this may take up to 10 minutes.

Once the glaze is completely sauce like and thick– add the pecans.

Remove from heat. Cool to a thick but pourable consistency.Pour over the top of the bundt cake.

Serves approximately 12 slices. Delicious warm with vanilla bean ice cream!

Be Happy ! 

Featured

Drunken Squash with Forbidden Black Rice and Dried Fruit! 

Black Rice also known as Forbidden Rice

Once Reserved Only for the Noble. 

The health benefits of black rice are so powerful, this ingredient earned its name. Highly prized by noblemen and once forbidden amongst the common in ancient China. 

Black rice, was first introduced to the United States just recently, in 1995. Today it’s gaining popularity. Forbidden black rice is delicious, and has an amazingly chewy bite. It can be purchased at natural grocery stores, specialty markets and through your favorite on-line store. 

You’ll Need:

2-4 golden acorn squash, small sugar pumpkins or your fav squash

2 cups black forbidden rice, thoroughly washed

1 pound ground sausage

3 1/2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to adjust seasoning 

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste 

1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 tablespoon good quality California olive oil, divided

1 cup celery, small dice

1 yellow onion, cleaned peeled and small diced

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried sage 

1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine 

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

1 red bellpepper cored and cut small dice

1/4 cup dried apricots, small dice

1 small green apple, cored & diced 

1/4 cup golden raisins 

1/4 cup pecans rough chopped

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 cup Grand Mariner or good quality brandy (optional) 

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped fine 

Squash seeds, roasted for garnish

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 375′ F degrees, prepare a high-sided cookie sheet with olive oil and set aside. 

In a small bowl, soak dried apricots and golden raisins in Grand Mariner. Set aside.

Wash and dry the squash and cut the stem to remove. Cut the squash in half horizontally. Careful not to cut yourself. Place the round squash on a folded kitchen towel, to prevent from rolling. With a serrated bread knife-using a sawing motion, cut through the firm flesh. 

On each halve- carefully cut a very straight silver dollar sized piece off the backs of each halve. This will ensure each piece will sit upright at service time. With a spoon, gently scrape interior to remove seeds. Set aside to roast. ( See my seed roasting recipe ) or discard.

Lightly coat the flesh of the squash with some of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg and ground clove.

Place flesh side down on the prepared baking sheet. Put into a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh is soft- but stable when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, while squash is roasting, prepare the remainder of the recipe by rinsing the black rice thoroughly in a sieve under cold running water. Shake rice until water begins to runs clear, removing much of its starch.

In a medium sized, 6-8 quart sauce pan with fitted lid- bring rice, chicken stock, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a roaring boil – uncovered, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover tightly. Continue to cook rice until tender and most of water has been absorbed, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand covered, about 10 minutes undisturbed. After rest period, reveal and fluff with a fork. Black rice is naturally chewy when done. Test for doneness. 

About 15 minutes before the squash and the rice are expected to finish cooking, begin to prepare the stuffing. In a large 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat add 1/2 teaspoon of oil add ground pork, season with salt and pepper and additional 1/4 teaspoon ground sage. Sauté until slightly brown. About 2 minutes. 

Add the diced celery and onion. Continue to sauté an additional 3-4 minutes until celery is cooked through, but still firm to the bite. Add fresh chopped herbs and small diced apples to the pan. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the from the pan away from any heat, strain liquid off dried fruit and add to the pan. Stir to combine. Return to heat and fold in the cooked rice, and pecans. Cook an additional 1 minute to combine flavors. Add a good pinch of chopped parsley reserving additional for garnish. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Place cooked squash skin side up in a baking dish. Generously spoon the rice stuffing into the cooked acorn squash so that they are piled high. Cover “tent like” with foil and return to the oven for 5-8 minutes or until heated through. If holding any longer in the oven, add a few tablespoons of chicken stock or water to keep moist. 

Remove from the oven, and finish with finely chopped flat leaf parsley- serve immediately! 

Variations

Remove pork sausage and replace with bacon or omit all together. 

If you want a sweeter flavor sprinkle acorn squash with a pinch of brown sugar or maple syrup and cinnamon before stuffing. 

Makes approximately 4-6 servings depending on size of squash.

Featured

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy!

So… what came first, Turkey or the Gravy? Everyone says you need turkey before the gravy, but that’s not really so- and really, who really cares. The point is you need the gravy first to make your life easier. Why? Because Thanksgiving can be an ordeal if you are short on the clock, unorganized, or really just don’t like to cook. 

Even if you love being in the kitchen, you will still need to prioritize your time. For most cooks, the gravy is the most delicate, time-sensitive – yet over-consuming portion of the Thanksgiving menu. Let’s face it- most home cooks are afraid of digging in with the whisk. I’m here to tell you gravy is… welp, gravy, and I am about to make your hectic-kitchen-life a bit more humble.

Here is my formula for the best tasting do-ahead gravy ever. 

Enjoy your guests this holiday season by taking some of the stress off your plate. It’s about being together anyway, isn’t it? Make the gravy a few days in advance, and don’t sweat the timely stuff ever again! Drink up, you have other things to worry about! 

You’ll Need: 

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 pound bone-in chicken wings

1 large unpeeled onion, root ball removed, cut in quarters

1 large carrot, peeled, cut in large chunks

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

A small handful of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and 2 large bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns

1 cup dry white wine

8-10 cups of low-sodium chicken broth for added poultry flavor ( you can add water instead)

4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire or fish sauce

Kosher salt, and ground white pepper

Special Equipment :

Cheesecloth 

Here’s How: 

Combine the fresh herbs and peppercorns into a delicate little bouquet and tie up tightly in the cheesecloth. Set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a large high sided saucepan over medium-high heat. Salt chicken wings and gently place flat side down into the hot oil. Cook wings, occasionally turning until golden brown, about 10–12 minutes. 

Add the onion, carrot, with the celery and cook until everything in the pan is deeply browned, 14–16 minutes. 

Pour in the wine to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Add stock and herbs then return to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and slow simmer, occasionally stirring, until liquid is reduced by a third, 35–40 additional minutes.

Remove herb packet and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. You should have about 4 cups. If you don’t, add sufficient stock or water to get you there.

Discard any solids. Keep stock warm while you make your roux.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, continually whisking until roux is golden brown about 4 minutes. It will be clumpy like porage at this stage, don’t worry. Start making the gravy by whisking gently and continuously pouring the hot stock into the roux mixture. Be sure to incorporate each addition of liquid thoroughly, making it lump-free before adding any additional fluid. Some cooks use both hands, stirring while pouring, while others turn this into a team-building event. 

Once you have a soup-like consistency, add the remaining stock, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk often, until gravy is thickened, and reduced to about 3 cups. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon; this will take about 8–10 minutes. 

Conclude by adjusting the seasoning with Worcestershire or fish sauce, taste, and season with salt and white pepper if needed.

Cool, and store in an air-tight glass container. This beautiful Thanksgiving poultry gravy will hold in the cooler for at least 4-5 days. 

Reheat and adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Use a few tablespoons of turkey pan drippings to awaken the poultry flavor. 

Enjoy your guests.

Featured

Green Beans with Brown Buttered Walnuts and Caramelized Shallots

I love to cook green beans, especially Haricots Verts, pronounced { herəkō ˈver } they are delicious and so tender. They are the French variety typically slimmer and longer than the common green bean we see here in America. You can use any fresh green bean for this recipe. 

You’ll Need:

1- 2 pounds fresh haricots verts, root ends trimmed

4-6 ounces unsalted butter or 3-4 teaspoons good quality olive oil

4-6 gloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

6-8  large shallots, cleaned and sliced thin

1/4-1/2 cup good quality chicken, vegetable stock, or white wine 

Salt and fresh ground pepper 

2 springs fresh thyme

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice 

1 cup browned buttered walnuts, see recipe below 

1 orange zested 

Here’s How

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath. Drain. Pat dry.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until they are browning and nicely caramelized about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook an additional minute. 

Add the haricots verts and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until just heated through and crisp-tender.

Deglaze the pan very quickly with the chicken stock, add the fresh thyme and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice toss. Add toasted walnuts and toss.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper one last time, top with orange zest. Serve warm.

Approximately 4-6 serving


Variations: Add cooked bacon bits, panchetta, lemon zest, almonds or a splash of cream 

 

Browned Butter Walnuts


You’ll Need

1 – pound halved fresh walnuts

1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a large sauté over medium heat melt the butter. Add the sliced almonds and sauté storing constantly until golden and fragrant. About 3- 5 minutes toss in the sugar lst minute toss till melted and remove from heat to a sigle layered sheet pan to cool. 

The walnuts will brown fast in the butter so be sure to remove them from the hot pan and cool quickly, or you will risk over browning.

Dust with salt and pepper while warm. 

Featured

Meet The Delicata Squash

The oblong shaped Delicata – pronounced dehl-ih-CAH-tah- is a fall delicacy. This succulent squash has a beautiful pale yellow skin with green striped markings and often ranges in size from 5 to 9 inches in length to 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Unlike most summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Delicata Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. The mysteriously delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of a balanced dating life of a vibrant sweet potato and a sexy butternut squash.

These seasonal beautiful baes and can be roasted or steamed. Combined with butter and fresh herbs, Delicata Squash is good source of vitamins A and C.

Choose squash that have a hard, deep-colored rinds of course-free of blemishes or moldy spots.Tender skin indicates immaturity or poor quality. The hard skin protects the flesh and allows it to store longer than summer squash and keeps the magic inside safe!

Delicata Squash should be stored in a cool, preferably dark, well-ventilated area for up to one month. Wrap cut pieces in plastic and refrigerate up to one business week.

Can be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). Pierce whole squash in several places, and bake halved squash hollow side up. Personally, I wash and slice in onion ring sized peices using a round cookie cutter I will remove the seeds and soak them in garlic salted water for an hour – roast the seeds separately. I then proceeded to generously oil a stainless steel sheetpan and rub the squash discs in the oil w a sprinkle of salt and palm sugar- I then blast roast on high heat 425’F for good Caramelization. I flip them halfway through the cooking process re-season- reduce oven to 325’F Degrees and continue roasting until pierced throughout gently with a fork. Remove from the oven and drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

You can also cut in half toast flesh side down and scoop cooked flesh into a bowl mash with butter, honey or maple syrup, a wee bit of cream, some pumpkin pie spices, non dairy nut milk to make the best mashed Delacata you’ve ever tasted!

Garnish with toasted seeds!

Featured

Grilled Steak Tacos with Serrano-Blueberry Salsa

You might think that the beauty of a taco recipe is that you rarely need one. A taco can start with virtually anything delicious, tucked into a warm tortilla, topped with your typical fillings, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a well-chosen salsa. But it can be delightful to have a lavish taco with some unusually paired elements for that celebratory Taco Tuesday, or just a little something different. 

You’ll Need

1-2-pound flank steak, or your favorite cut of beef

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder 

12 small corn tortillas, lightly toasted on the grill

12 slices of mild Havarti cheese 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

Red Pickled onions (recipe below

Blueberry Serrano Sauce (recipe below

1 bunch parsley, chopped fine

1 bunch scallions, sliced

2-4 white or red radishes, chopped small dice

Queso Fresco, or your favotite Mexican Farmers Cheese, crumbled

2 limes, washed and cut into wedges

Microgreens for garnish

Here’s How: 

Remove the steak from the cooler and allow it to come close to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fire up the outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and cracked black pepper on both sides, then set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dry spices and mix them thoroughly. Rub the spice mixture into the salt and peppered beef on both sides.

Clean and oil the grill. Place the beef across the hot grates and do not move the first 4-5 minutes to achieve a deeply caramelized sear. 

Turn over and continue the grilling process until the desired internal temperature. Rest for about 8-10 minutes before slicing.

While the steak is resting, reduce the heat on the grill and place the tortillas on indirect heat. Spritz with a bit of water and add cheese. Close the grill lid until cheese melts and tortillas are steamed warmed. Set aside keep covered to keep warm and pliable.

Slice the beef, assemble the tacos by placing the meat directly on the melted cheese tortilla, slather the Serrano-blueberry sauce, add toppings of pickled red onions, chopped parsley, sliced radish, and your favorite micro-greens or cilantro to finish.

Chef Gigi's Fire Blueberry and Serrano Chili Sauce
Chef Gigi’s Fire Blueberry and Serrano Chili Sauce

For the Spicey Blueberry-Serano Sauce

You’ll Need:

1 Serrano chili, cleaned and sliced into small dice

3 cups of fresh blueberries, room temperature

1 small yellow onion, large dice

2 cloves fresh garlic, cleaned 

1/2 lemon, zested and juiced 

1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon neutral-tasting oil 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Water as needed

Here’s How: 

In a small, high-sided saucepan, heat the oil on low heat. Add the onions and saute until brown and caramelized. About 4- 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until blueberries become soft about 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching, and slowly reduce to a thicker syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat and slightly cool.

Place the blueberry mixture into a standing blender or the bowl of your food processor and blend until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. Remove and run through a fine sieve. Place sauce into an airtight container and pop into the fridge! For more fire, leave the seeds in the Serrano chili. For even more excitement, replace the Serrano Chili with a Habanero.

For the Pickled Onions 

You’ll Need:

2 large red onions, sliced paper-thin

2 cups apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar 

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

10-12 peppercorns 

2-4 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 quart-sized Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid for packing

Here’s How:

Add the sliced onions, peppercorns, and garlic to a glass mason jar, and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and heat, stirring just until the salt and sugar dissolve about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the garlic clove and peppercorns. Gently pour the brine over the onions and allow the liquid to cool. Seal with a tight-fitting lid, and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes before eating. The onions may be stored chilled for up 4 weeks.

How to Assemble the Tacos

To assemble a Taco, spread a tablespoon or more of the Blueberry sauce onto the center of each tortilla, lay one or two pieces of the juicy grilled steak on top of the sauce, top scallions, pickled onions diced radish, and crumbled cheese or your favorite toppings. Fold over to make a taco.

Serve with lime wedges to squeeze directly on the taco filling.

Featured

A Box of Books

A Chef’s Virtual Toolbox.

My latest book, Food Fight for Parents of Picky Eaters (Koehler Press, late 2018 ) is a hands-on guide to understanding and reprogramming how families battle picky eating. It’s loaded with proven tactics to help parents take mealtimes back.

As founder of a professional culinary school for children, author I have coached thousands of children and adults in how to cook (and eat!) better.

Based on over 35 years of professional experience, Food Fight targets picky eaters with the science of flavor and taste mechanisms, teaching parents how to transform nutrient-dense meals into something delicious for their children’s unique and developing palates. 

In addition to behavioral tips and solutions, the book features over 60 innovative and practical recipes, including naturally colored Green Eggs and Ham, smashed-fruit filled Purple Tie-Dye Unicorn Muffins, umami-rich Dinosaur-as Teriyaki Drumettes, and hassle-free Homemade Soft-Serve Ice Cream.

While it’s easy to see picky eating as a phase, moderate-to-severe picky eating often coincides with serious issues like depression and anxiety that may later require intervention. I expose the habits that inadvertently reinforce picky eating and helps parents navigate the challenging landscape by showing them the science behind flavor and awakening them to the culinary magic of umami. Gigi also talk about what kids who are athletes need in their diets.

Some of My Tips you will see Sprinkled Throughout the Book:


If a child develops a preference for a certain flavor at an early age, odds are she will stick to foods with similar flavor profiles.

Our taste buds disappear as we get older. Children have thousands of
additional taste buds, so flavor sensations, especially bitter flavors, can be extremely overwhelming.

Hiding or disguising vegetables in children’s favorite meals has negative consequences, with children later rejecting the food they once enjoyed and becoming suspicious of all home cooked meals.

Bribing backfires in the long run, as it teaches #children to create lists of negative and positive foods, where #healthy #foods are only viewed!

Featured

10 Minutes to Creamy! Chocolate Avocado Mousse! 

Chocolate Mousse has never been healthier or faster! When choosing Avocados, use Haas variety- they tend to have a rich, smooth finish. Make sure to avoid any granulated sweeteners for a creamy mouthfeel.

 

You’ll Need: 

4-5 ripe avocados

3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or optional liquid sweetener. ( do not use granulated sweeteners) 

3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Small pinch of Himalayan or your favorite salt

4-5 tablespoons cow or nut milk

Fresh berries for garnish 

Cocoa for dusting 

 

Here’s How:

Split the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a spoon, scoop out the meat and place it in the bowl of your food processor. Add the remaining ingredients, and pulse until smooth—about 1 minute. 

Taste and adjust sweetness. Add additional milk to adjust consistency. 

Place mixture into serving bowls or glassware, and chill until ready to serve. Top with fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of cocoa. 

Makes Approximately 4 servings  

Eat it all up! 

Featured

Flatbread Made Three ways. Grilled, Baked or on the Stove Top

I love making fresh Flatbread, from Fry Bread, Naan, and Pitas. The list goes on. Just about every country has a type of prized flatbread recipe. 

I can’t decide if I like it made better in my cast iron pan on the stovetop, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or my outdoor grill, which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless of how you make it — the key to making delicious flatbreads is keeping the dough wet, soft, and spongy throughout the mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with a damp and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have beautiful results.

You’ll Need

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid-acting dry yeast

1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray

Here’s How

Place the yeast into the work bowl of your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will resemble wet like a slurry, and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough. Your baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.

Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, combine at low speed until ingredients mix well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.

If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed a 1/4 cup.

Start to time your kneading about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed until the dough springs back to the touch, and is very soft.

Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.

Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and give it a light coating of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume—approximately 2 hours.

After the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and place it onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1-inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into eight pieces.

Form each piece into a smaller round ball, carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, tearing down and tucking under to form a ball. 

Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic-lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little meal, gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round discs 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6-inch disc.

Rest an additional 5- 8 minutes. Then continue to your preferred method of baking.

 

On the Stove:

Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.

Lay flattened discs into a hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up, and the bottom is browning well about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry; they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook two an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate, causing the center to be hallowed enough to fill as pitas.

 

In the Oven: 

Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven, and the gravel to 500 F. Degrees Place two bread discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Observe; they will bake quickly.

When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots, and they are soft inside and out.

 

On the Grill: 

When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.

Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few veils of mist of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.

I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherit a mild smokey flavor. 

Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki and goes well with any Eastern Indian dishes.

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30 Minute Creamy Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons!


You’ll Need:


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces 

1-2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1/2 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley leaves 

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 (28 oz ) cans good quality peeled and chopped organic tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock) 

1/2 cup heavy cream, plain Greek yogurt or your favorite nut milk

10-12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

Grilled cheese cut into croutons 

For the grilled cheese

8 slices of your favorite bread, crusts removed 

8-12 Tablespoons softened butter 

8 slices of sharp Tillimock cheddar cheese for grilled cheese 

Here’s How
:
In a heavy bottomed 6-8 quart stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. 

Add the onions and carrots. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until onions are beginning to turn golden brown and caramelized. 

Add the garlic, oregano and fresh chopped parsley and cook an additional 1 -2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 -15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil to last minute of cook time. 

While soup is cooking make grilled cheese sammies. Cut into croutons, set aside. 

Using an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender to puree soup. 

Return to heat add cream. Re-adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Do it boil after adding cream. 

Serve piping hot garnished with grilled cheese croutons. 

Traditional Vanilla Bean Pot De Crème

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Doesn’t come anymore traditional than this! Time consuming, but if you have the time to spare- you will learn why this recipe is a classic ! Deliciously rich, creamy and elegant.

 

You’ll Need

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon

1- vanilla bean, split and beans scraped into milk

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

Unsweetened whipped cream for serving.

Here’s How

In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk with the heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the pinch of salt.

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream, and drop in the empty pod.

Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Set aside, and allow the vanilla to steep in the cream for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until thick and creamy, about 1 minute.

Re-heat the cream just until warm, and slowly whisk 1/2 – 1 cup of the hot milk, into egg yolks while whisking vigorously. This is called “Tempering” – By slowly adding in some of warm cream it brings the eggs up to temp and hopefully prevents curdling the eggs.

Now, you can bring the egg yolks close to the same temperature as the milk. Begin cooking over low to moderate heat to form the custard, make sure to whisk constantly, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large glass measuring cup or bowl to help you pour into smaller serving vessels or molds if needed.

Preheat the oven to 300’F Degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Bring a teapot filled with water to a boil.

Place the individual serving molds in a large high-sided casserole baking dish. Place the baking dish onto a sheet pan lined with a non slip silicon baking sheet or parchment paper. This will provide double the insulation so the custards can cook evenly and slowly and non slip surface when you remove it from the oven.

Place the sheet pan with the vessel containing the molds on the center rack in the pre heated oven.

Gently stir the custard, remove any film that might have formed along with the the vanilla pod and discard.

Carefully fill each mold with the custard mixture while in the oven.

Once the molds are filled with the custard- carefully pour the hot water from the teapot around the molds. ( try not to splash) Bring the water level up halfway – two-thirds up the sides of the molds.

Bake for 30 to 55 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the molds. To test for doneness, reach into the oven and using a tea towel to protect your hand, gently shake one of the molds. The custard should be set, but will still jiggle slightly, like gelatin.

With tongs carefully remove the molds one at a time onto a tea towel and then onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Wait for the water in the oven to cool before removing the sheet pan for safety.

Serve the pots de crème with lightly sweetened whipped cream and white chocolate shavings or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Makes approximately 8-10 servings depending on the size of your molds.

Note: If eggs begin to curdle in tempering stage immediately cool cream before and further additions and immediately run the mixture through a sieve before proceeding to the next step.

Turkey Pho Gà! A play on a classic. Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup.

The morning after. Feeling abundant due to the over indulgence of the holiday and looking for something different to do with your leftover Turkey? Make something light and delicious– a spin on the classic Vietnamese chicken noodle soup! 

The trick to delicious Pho gà is to add a little of each garnish as you eat your way through the bowl, not to dump them in all at once. You will want the herbs to maintain their fragrance, and the bean sprouts to stay crunchy in the soup — good Pho gà is all about aroma and texture. If you add too much – too soon, you’ll end up with wilted, over cooked herbs and limp soft sprouts– which will totally defeat the whole purpose behind the classic dish. 

The other trick to this dish is really good quality stock! Don’t skimp. People painstakingly skim the stock while cooking the chicken for Pho Ga –just to gain a clean clear broth. 

In Hanoi, you’ll find everyone enjoying delicious Pho – anytime of day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner! Pho to Vietnamese is the equivalent of Bugers to Americans– But better!

Ingredients:

1 pound cooked turkey, about 4 cups, shredded

6 whole scallions

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeked and crushed

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 quarts good quality chicken stock

Fish sauce, for seasoning

1 (16-ounce) package dried rice vermicelli, cooked according to manufactures directions

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped 

Garnishes 

1 bunch Thai basil sprigs
4 cups Mung bean sprouts

4 Limes, cut into wedges

4 Jalapeño chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings

Method:

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot on high heat combine the scallions ginger, stock, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 35 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add additional fish sauce to season. Add turkey, turn off heat and set aside. (Do not serve the cooked scallions and ginger from this pot)

Prepare the soups garnish and arrange the basil, mung sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeño slices on a serving platter.

Divide the prepared rice noodles evenly among warmed soup bowls. Top each bowl with about 1/2-3/4 cup of the shredded turkey, then divide the chopped scallions and chopped cilantro evenly among the bowls. 

Ladle the hot stock over the top, dividing it evenly. Serve immediately, accompanied with the platter of garnishes.

Leftovers? Make Mash Potato Bombs!  

Baked or fried these are a fun way to use up any left-over mash potatoes… or, a good excuse to make more!

You’ll Need:

Filling:

3 cups chilled mashed potatoes

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup bacon, chopped small dice

1 bunch chives, chopped

Pepper to taste

Breading Station:

1 cup flour or GF flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs or GF breadcrumbs

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fine

Xtra virgin coconut oil, Ghee or Organic Canola Oil for pan frying

Here’s How: 

Preheat the oven to 425°F degrees, unless pan frying.

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the leftover mashed potatoes with the eggs, cheese, chives and bacon bits. Mix to combine, cover and set aside in the refrigerator.

Prepare 3 breading stations. One bowl of flour, one bowl of beaten eggs and one bowl of panko bread crumbs mixed with the Parmesan cheese.

Dust your hands with flour and use an 1/2 ounce portion control scoop to measure the balls. Or a Tablespoon.

Pat them gently to form them into balls and roll them in the palm of your hands to get them perfectly round.

Immediately dust them with flour again and set aside. Repeat until you have 24 flour-dusted balls.

Drop a ball into the egg mixture and use a spoon to turn the potato ball over until fully coated.

Lift the potato ball out of the egg mixture with a fork. Drain off any excess. Immediately drop the potato ball into the panko and cheese mixture and use another spoon to dredge it fully.

Pat in any excess bread crumbs that might be falling off the ball.

Set aside on a parchment lined cookie sheet and repeat with remaining balls.

Fry in batches in hot oil over medium high heat until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Or, bake at 400’F degrees for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with my homemade ketchup! 

 

 

Yum! Makes approximately 2 dozen potato bombs!

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