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Cauliflower Soup… Simple and Delicious

29 Jul

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that is frequently over looked. Not only can it be a bit intimidating to cook, it can also stir up memories of bitter, soggy, over cooked nightmares from your childhood. Well my friends, cauliflower is no longer the white villain of yesterday. It’s actually very delicate, sweet and tasty!

One of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower is to roast it. This is simpler than you might think:

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt 
Toss the cauliflower with the oil and salt and roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn the pieces and then cook for another 5 minutes. Serve as desired.

What can you do with this cauliflower once you have have it roasted? Well, eat it for 1 but I like to make soup. The cauliflower creates a delicate flavor that needs minimal enhancements. You can garnish the soup with toasted walnuts, pesto, sour cream, or even plumped raisins, but I like to keep it simple with olive oil, cracked pepper and a few snipped chives. The recipe is below.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 head of cauliflower prepared as directed above
2 cloves of garlic
3-4 cups prepared chicken stock
1/2-1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Puree all the ingredients in a Vitamix blender or in a food processor until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture into a saucepan and reheat to desired temperature. Garnish as desired and enjoy.

Try this recipe with grilled or smoked cauliflower as well. It will stay on the top of your go to list for awhile. It also freezes well and reheats like a dream. And, if you are feeling hot… try it chilled with a fresh herb garnish and drizzle of really good olive oil. Oh, and a perfectly chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc 🙂

Always thinking about the next meal

-Katie

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Sweet Corn Soup

23 Oct

So the other night Ryan and I went out to dinner at Seasons 52. On a seasonal basis, they have the most amazing corn soup. I have tried on countless attempt to duplicate said soup… but alas no dice. Well, until recently…

Sweet Corn Soup
1 1/2 small bags frozen corn
1 container Campbell’s White wine and herb chicken broth
3/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pot over medium heat saute the onion in the olive oil. Cook the onion for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are transparent. Season with salt and add in corn. Add in turmeric and cayenne pepper. Add in the broth and cook for 15 minutes or until the corn is fully defrosted and softened. Add in the honey and corn syrup and let the soup cook for another 5 minutes. Puree all of the ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. This may take a little while. You are looking for the soup to be velvety and smooth. Reheat as necessary. Finish the soup with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Garnish with blue cheese crumbles and chopped basil.

Enjoy this with grilled cheese or fresh bread.

Always thinking of the next meal-
Katie

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Corn Soup

23 Oct

Corn Soup

I know the lighting isn’t the best, but the flavor was amazing!

Confit… con? or fit?

2 Jun

Confit: [kohn-FEE, kon-FEE]

This specialty of Gascony, France, is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative. Confit  can be refrigerated up to 6 months. Confit d’oie and confit de canard are preserved goose and preserved duck, respectively.

© Copyright Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER’S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/entry?id=2028#ixzz1OA1VZ100

Confit, as defined above is reserved for slowly cooking poultry in their own fats for preservation reasons. But, lately, it seems as though you can “confit” anything. I’ve seen recipes for tomato confit, garlic confit, lemon confit and most recently, chickpea confit. Personally, I feel that confit is turning into one of those culinary terms like carpaccio. You see anything sliced paper thin is a carpaccio of “fill in the blank.” Granted anything salted and slowly cooked in fat sounds delicious to me, but is it really a confit?

It’s an interesting thought really. Why not just poach these items in oil. They certainly done have their own fat to bring to the party. But what’s the different between oil poaching and confit? Mostly, when you poach something in oil, you are removing the item from the cooking liquid whereas with a confit it is being stored in the fat. Still, doesn’t tomato confit sound so much more luxurious than tomato dip or even preserved tomatoes. And an oil poached tomato kinda sounds like a greasy mess.

Confit or not, I made my version of chickpea confit. The bottom line is that this is a dip or spread. It’s similar to hummus but with infinitely more flavor and texture. Plus it sounds so elegant for a dip. Here’s the recipe:Chickpea Confit

Chickpea Confit
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low for 45 mins-1 hour. Let the mixture cool slightly and mash with a fork. Serve chilled with fresh baguette or crackers.

So what is my final verdict on the proper nomenclature? Well, I think that whenever something sounds exotic and exciting it makes me want to eat it more. I’m still not convinced that radish carpaccio should be allowed… but the idea of elevating a simple vegetable to new heights by cooking as if it was as special as duck or goose, can only be a good thing.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette

6 Mar

Nothing says spring to me like strawberries and rhubarb. And, now that I’m living in Florida, I have the pleasure of getting local strawberries. I’m sure I’ve bored you all before with my rants on fresh local ingredients, but the simple truth is… the shorter the distance between you and your food, the better.

I was in the grocery store this afternoon and the sale was 3 pounds of local strawberries for $5. I wasn’t really shopping for fruit. In fact, I was there getting a toothbrush, but I couldn’t resist this deal. The rhubarb was cleaned and broken down and conveniently merchandised right next to the strawberries. It was kismet. Dessert was a must for tonight.

I love making galettes. They are rustic free form pies that are less stuffy and finicky than traditional pies. The technique is simple enough. Just make a simple pie dough and roll it out on a cookie sheet. Place your fruit in the center of the rolled out dough and then fold the edges in toward the center. Brush the outside with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. In this case I used pearl sugar. (The pearl sugar doesn’t melt so it gives the effect of salt on a soft pretzel.)

Here’s the full recipe. Make this soon, as rhubarb season is short and the frozen stuff just isn’t the same.

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

For filling:1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/2 pound rhubard, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar

For crust:
1 1/2 cup AP flour
6 T butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
2 T water

Start by making the crust. Combine the dry ingredients together and then cut the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. Add the the wet to the dry and kneed to combine. Once everything is incorporated, chill the dough for approx. 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Combine the fruit with the sugar and allow to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. When the dough is chilled, roll it out into a 14-16 inch circle. place all of the filling in the center of the dough leaving a 3 inch border around the sides. Then fold the edges in toward the center leaving a 2 inch hole. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the dough is GBD (golden brown and delicious.) Serve at room temp with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Guacamole, Tatziki and Salsa… oh my!

16 Jan

guacamole, tatziki, and salsaLiving in Florida has definitely made me love happy hour. I love a good discount and happy hour usually has them to spare. The problem, I also love good food. Most of the places that have the dynamite specials, usually fall flat on the food. My resolution? Happy hour at home.

I know it might not be as social, but the alcohol is cheaper than any bar special and I can have whatever appetizer I want to whip up. A few nights ago that was a trio of dips. I poured a glass of wine and checked out the fridge for what I could make.

Granted I have more ingredients in my fridge than most people, but you can be creative with just about anything. (I once made a dip from cream cheese, old bay and celery) I had just opened a jar of salsa so that was an easy decision. Don’t judge me, some jarred salsas are pretty good. I also had the makings of a pretty wicked avocado salsa or guacamole. Let me just say that salsa is Spanish for sauce. Guacamole doesn’t really fit into this category since its thickness is much denser than a sauce. Traditional guacamole (at least for me) is simple. Avocado, salt, and lime juice. But, seeing as thought I was feeling creative… I channeled my inner Mexican (also my friend Shaddai Barron’s recipe) and started cooking:

Avocado Salsa

1 large Florida avocado, small dice
1 large jalepeño, minced
a solid hand-full of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sour cream
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Serve with chips or veggies.

While I was feeling good about my dip/sauce, I wanted more. Ever excited by variety and never limited by cuisine I found the makings of tatziki sauce. Again this sauce is very simple to make. I wouldn’t have thought to have the 3 sauces together, but çe la vie. For the tatziki I mixed 1 5.5 once container of greek yogurt with 1/2 cup cucumbers cut into a small dice. I like the skins on for texture, but feel free to peel if you prefer. Add 2 tablespoons freshly minced dill, season with salt and pepper and viola! You can also add lemon juice to bring some acidity to the party, but you don’t have to.

So my happy hour turned out wonderful and the best part was that I didn’t have to drive home… I was already there

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Week 3… a nice change of pace

1 Nov

Week three in this culinary adventure turned out to be much better than expected. Surprisingly, there was a lot of support from the parents and there were more volunteers than ever before. I’m not sure if it was because it was the week of Halloween and the parents were already at the school for parties and such, or if they were generally interested in helping me. Either way I was grateful for they were there. I also met a woman named Jennifer who was happy to help cooking and serving… turns out she’s going to stay on to help me out so I can do more from scratch. I’m very excited!

The lunch menu for the week was uncomplicated. Classic cafeteria fare… or so I thought….

Monday- Meatballs: I did a simple turkey meatball with a bunch of fun dippers. I made hummus and a sweet and sour sauce to dip the meatballs and the veggies in. The kids went crazy for it. Any time you can play with your food it’s a good time. The kids loved the hummus. It’s a huge step in the right direction. Out with the ranch dressing and in with the homemade hummus!

Tuesday- Breakfast Burritos: I know that kids love breakfast for lunch, so why not Latin it up! I put all the spicy stuff on the side and the kids went wild. It was a little tricky for the little ones to eat, but they managed. It was a little tricky making scrambled eggs for 260 but I figured it out to successful results

Wednesday- Chicken Salad: So these kids LOVE chicken salad. Who knew? I was definitely in the weeds this day. I should have poached my chicken the day before, but I didn’t. With all the chicken cooking and cooling, time was getting away from me. The office sent down a few helpers and together we knocked it out of the park. The kids loved it and it was a much healthier alternative to chicken nuggets.

Thurday- Sloppy Joes: I had been warned by several staff members that sloppy joe day was a low number day. I was prepared. I didn’t over order and I knew that it would be a quick, clean service. Well, that’s what I thought. My numbers weren’t huge, but they were certainly not low. 225 was the final count. Not a bad day at all. The kids loved it. They even came back for seconds on the peas! It’s a breakthrough! They like the healthy options and want more. Hooray for staying the path and not reverting to corn as a vegetable.

It was a great week. Everyone liked the food and kept commenting. The volunteers were nicer and more appreciative. It was one of those weeks where you really feel like all the effort is worth. I’m not counting on another week as smooth as this for awhile, but I can hope that the rest of them will be this good.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Day one… Kitchen assessment

5 Oct

So today I started in my new position as executive chef at an elementary school. I was just in for paperwork and getting the lay of the land.

Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that things were in worse shape than I thought. The kitchen is in desperate need of a deep clean. It is shared with at least 5 other social groups. None of which seem to know how to clean. There was a light coating of stick grease over every surface. There were things that looked like they hadn’t been cleaned with actual cleaner or soap in years. Half of the kitchen had been claimed by the other various groups, leaving me with 3 or 4 drawers and cabinets to keep things in. There are 4 coolers and 2 freezers which is good. The dry storage area was sad at best. I took some time today to clean and organize the dry storage but it still needs work.

No one had ever created an inventory. I’ve inventoried the dry storage and I’m working on a standard inventory list. Everyone who is currently working in the kitchen seems to be content with the status quo. It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle.

The cooking areas are working, but are inconsistent. I was told by the current cook that sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Everyday is different and even though the ovens and stovetops are calibrated monthly, it doesn’t seem to matter.

There are so many things that need to happen that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m in the midst of a “to-do” list and a very long wish list of things that will make my life a lot easier.

I knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be easy. I guess I just wasn’t expecting what I found.

I’ll keep you all up to date on what’s going on. I’m still hopeful and feeling positive about what’s to come. Hopefully I can get things together without too much craziness.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Cooking… it’s elementary my dear

4 Oct

tuna meltsI think that kids are the hardest to cook for. They are mostly picky, finicky, and worst of all honest. If they don’t like what they are eating they make it very clear, with drama and sometimes tears. As a kid I was not picky. In fact, I loved everything. Yes, even brussels sprouts and lime beans. Tomorrow I starting my new position as executive chef at a elementary school. I’ll be cooking for 600 kids (K-8th grade), 75 teachers and faculty. This is no small feat. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Although I’m sure that the kids would love hot dogs and potato chips everyday, the menu will be far from the stereotype. As I am not the typical lunch lady (at least I don’t consider myself as such) the menu will be varied and colorful. I’m taking a cue from Jamie Oliver’s food revolution. The former kitchen lady chose to make frozen chimichangas and chicken strips. The old menu’s idea of vegetables was instant mashed potatoes and canned corn. (Just so we are clear, neither of them are vegetables.) My new menu will have fresh veggies everyday. Things like yogurt and fruit will be a staple. And lean meats will take over the nasty mystery meat burgers and frozen meatballs.

I do have hurdles. There is a lot of back stock. Before leaving, the woman before me made a huge order of canned soups, American cheese, frozen burgers and meatballs. I’ve also been told that the kitchen may not be up to health department standards. As far as I know there are wooden shelves in the food storage area and that the refrigerator is shared with any social group who needs to use the space. There are no locking storage areas to keep wandering hands out of the school’s kitchen’s tools. There are not enough tools for proper service. And, despite the school’s goal of going green, the holding pans are disposed of everyday.

My game plan is aggressive but professional. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing the kitchen for the first time. I’ll have a week to assess the immediate needs for change and to clean. (I’m sure that a hands and knees scrub will be necessary.) I’m not planning on changing everything, but it is pretty darn important that I at least get things up to code.

The menu changes will be rapid and exciting. I have to use up any food that was pre-ordered before I can order more. This is going to be challenging but important. The kids only pay $2.50 per lunch. Any profit that is made goes back into the school and trickled back into the kitchen. Eventually I’d love to have a salad bar for the kids, and I’ve applied for a grant through Whole Foods, but I have to keep my priorities in order.

The future menu includes mini tuna melts, BBQ chicken salad, Tomato Basil soup with grilled cheese and ultimate french bread pizza. I’m incorporating things like International day, where the recipes will be from all over the world and Celebrity chef day, where the recipe will be from Rachel Ray, Paula Deen or another “famous” person.

All in all I’m very excited. My posts will most likely reflect the experiences that come and I know the kiddies will let me know if they really like it or not.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Fresh Creamy Goat Cheese

24 Aug

There are certain ingredients that are so versatile that they are often overlooked. Goat cheese is just one of those ingredients. Since I’ve been working in the cheese shop, I’ve tried a lot of cheeses that I had never tried previously. But, this creamy fresh goat cheese is tops. You can use it anywhere that you would use cream cheese or ricotta cheese.

Goat cheese tends to get type casted as a salad topper, but it is so much more than that. This creamy version is great because it helps to break the stigma. Since it’s creamy, it spreads easily. It makes an easy appetizer out of toasted baguette and caramelized onions. You can use it as a filling base in ravioli or add it to roasted red peppers and puree.

Goat cheese can also serve as a base on pizza of my favorite, whipped. You read correctly, whipped. This works great with the creamy version of the goat cheese, but it can be done with the regular as well. Simply put 4 oz of your chosen goat cheese into your stand mixer and whip away. Let the cheese go in the mixer for 5-6 minutes or until the cheese is light and fluffy. I like to put my whipped cheese in a bowl and drizzle it with really high quality extra virgin olive oil and freshly crack black pepper. Serve along side cherry tomatoes and wheat crackers.

Still need more ideas. Well, try using your goaty goodness in an omlette.

Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Omelets
Serves 1

Hardware:
Rubber Spatula
8-inch non-stick sauté pan
Small mixing bowl
Balloon wisk

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 oz roasted red peppers
1/4 oz fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, separated
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small mixing bowl add the eggs and salt and pepper and wisk until the yolks and whites are thoroughly combined
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat and add in 1 tablespoon of the butter and swirl around the pan
  3. Add in the scrambled eggs
  4. Using a rubber spatula, push the eggs around the pan and swirl the pan until the eggs start to set
  5. Add in the goat cheese and the peppers in the center of the eggs
  6. Fold 1/3 of the eggs over the center
  7. Using your rubber spatula guide the folded edge onto a dinner plate
  8. Using the edge of the pan fold the remaining edge over the top

Rub the top of the omelet with the remaining teaspoon of butter and sprinkle the top with the chives

Next time you’re in your local cheese shop, ask for some Vermont Butter and Cheese. If you don’t think you’re a fan of goat cheese, give it another try. You’ll be surprised how added something else, mellows out the tangy and gamey flavor of the goat’s milk. If you really want to ease your way in, add some honey and cinnamon. The sweetness is a great compliment.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie