Friday, June 24, 2016

Chilled Cucumber Dill Soup

     A Refreshing Chilled Soup For Summer!
     I used to make this soup at a Northern Italian restaurant several years ago.  This soup is not simply made by reducing cream and crème fraîche till it is thick enough to keep the cucumber in suspension.  Potato puree is used to give the soup some body.  Potato seems to also bring out more of the cucumber and dill weed flavor.

     Chilled Cucumber Dill Soup:
     This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.  (2 pportions)  
     Step 1:  Place 3 ounces of peeled russet potato in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with water.
     Boil over medium high heat till the potato is very soft.
     Step 2:  Remove the sauce pot from the heat.
     Drain the water off of the potato.  (Leave the potato in the sauce pot.)
     Mash the potato, till it is very smooth.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of cream.
     Add 1 tablespoon of onion puree.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Place the sauce pot over medium heat.
     Bring the soup base to a gentle boil, while whisking occasionally.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a thin cream consistency that can coat a spoon.  (The volume should be about 2 cups.)
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Cool the soup to room temperature and stir occasionally as it cools.
     Step 7:  Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped cucumber.
     Stir the soup.
     Step 8:  Chill the soup in a refrigerator to 41ºF.
     Chill 1 or 2 soup bowls too.
     Step 9:  Stir the soup.
     Ladle the soup into a chilled shallow soup bowl.
     Garnish with a dill sprig and a few thin bias slices of scallion.

    Chilled Cucumber Dill Soup is perfect after a hot day in the sun! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Filet of Chicken Sauté with Sun Dried Tomato and Lemon Curry Aioli

     A Mediterranean Style Lunch Entrée!
     Back in the 1980's and 1990's cafés offered light lunch entrées that usually featured chicken or easy to recognize seafood.  Health oriented consumers were interested in Mediterranean cuisine back in those days and many chefs catered to the demand.  It seemed like nearly every French café offered some kind of a token Mediterranean style chicken entrée as a lunch special du jour.  As one can imagine, some of Mediterranean style chicken lunch entrées were better than others.  Chefs that focused upon creating Mediterranean style chicken recipes that had bold peak flavors seemed to make more sales than others.
     Successful Mediterranean style chicken lunch entrée recipes of the past usually kept simplicity intact.  Garnishing the chicken with a unique combination of Mediterranean food items resulted in food that was not too challenging or too rich for casual café guests to enjoy.  Good chicken entrée recipe component strategies amounted to selecting classic Mediterranean healthy food items, a Mediterranean style food preparation or sauce that required some skill to make, then combining it all to create a memorable combination of flavors.              

     Lemon Curry Aioli:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (5 or 6 portions)  
     Just like when making mayonnaise, only add a few drops of olive oil at a time while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to emulsify, before drizzling a very thin stream of olive oil while whisking!  Otherwise, the oil will separate.  
     The amount of olive oil added will determine the color and consistency of an aioli.  Adding about 1/2 cup of olive oil will result in a pale yellow aioli that has the consistency of a thick Hollandaise Sauce.  Adding 1 cup of oil will result in a pale translucent white color aioli that is like a light mayonnaise.       
     Step 1:  Very finely mince or puree 8 cloves of garlic.  The garlic should look like a paste.
     Measure 1/2 cup of good quality olive oil and set it aside.    
     Step 2:  Place the garlic paste in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 yolk from a large egg.
     Add 1 drop of olive oil at a time, while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to bind and emulsify.
     Step 3:  Add a very thin stream of the remaining olive oil, while briskly whisking.  The aioli texture will be like a thick pale yellow mayonnaise sauce.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of yellow curry powder.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Chill the Lemon Curry Aioli in a refrigerator for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.

     Filet of Chicken Sauté with Sun Dried Tomato:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Whisk 1 egg in a mixing bowl and set it aside.  (egg wash)
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of bended olive oil.
     Step 3:  Lightly season a 6 ounce chicken breast filet with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the chicken filet in flour.
     Dredge the floured chicken filet in egg wash.
     Step 4:  Place the egg washed chicken filet in the hot oil in the pan.
     Sauté till the egg coating on the bottom half of the chicken starts to turn a golden color.
     Flip the chicken filet in the pan.
     Sauté till both sides are a golden color.
     Step 5:  Drain off the excess oil out of the pan.
     Return the pan to medium heat.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 3 oil packed sun dried tomato halves.  (Oil packed sun dried tomatoes do not need to be reconstituted ahead of time.  They have an intense fruity tomato flavor!)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of basil.
     Step 7:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and till the sauce reduces to a thin glace consistency and the chicken is fully cooked.  (Flip the chicken filet occasionally.)
     Keep the pan warm on a stove top.

     Filet of Chicken Sauté with Sun Dried Tomato and Lemon Curry Aioli:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     Step 1:  Remove the chicken filet from the pan and set and set it on a plate.
     Spoon a little bit of the reduced pan juices on the plate around the chicken.  (The juices are loaded with flavor!)
     Step 2:  Place a vegetable medley of your choice next to the chicken filet.
     Step 3:  Place about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Lemon Curry Aioli on top of the chicken filet.
     Place the sun dried tomato halves on top of the chicken filet and and aioli.

     This is a nice café style lunch entrée for summer!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Spaghetti Aromatici

     A Classic Light Pasta!
     Spaghetti Aromatici is a light pasta that has a very nice mixture of aromatic herbs.  Pastas like Spaghetti Aromatici are usually part of an Italian multi course formal dinner.
     The key herb in Spaghetti Aromatici is fresh mint.  The rest of the herbs are better if they are fresh, but dried herbs can be used too.  Spaghetti Aromatici is an olive oil sauce pasta.
     Spaghetti Aromatici:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Many pastas are a la minute.  This means that the sauce is made while the pasta cooks.  The goal is to finish preparing the sauce and pasta at the same time, so peak flavors and texture can be achieved.
     Spaghetti takes 8 to 10 minutes to be cooked al dente.  The sauce only takes 4 or 5 minutes to make.  It is best to start boiling the pasta, then wait for 2 to 3 minutes before starting the sauce!
     The herbs should be minced together ahead of time.  There is no specific mixture of Italian herbs, but mint is the dominant herb and the proportion of mint should be high. 
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of spaghetti pasta in boiling water over high heat.
     Cook the spaghetti till it is al dente.
     Step 2:  *Wait a couple minutes before starting the Aromatici Sauce!
     Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of minced oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of minced sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of minced thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced basil leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of minced rosemary.
     Add 1 pinch of minced marjoram.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced mint leaves.
     Step 4:  Stir herbs garlic and olive oil together.
     Allow the herbs to gently infuse with the olive oil and become aromatic.
     *If the pasta is not ready, then remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 5:  When the pasta is al dente, then it is ready.
     Drain the water off of the spaghetti pasta.
     Step 6:  Add the pasta to the Aromatici Sauce in the sauté pan.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 7:  Mound the Spaghetti Aromatici in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Pour any excess olive oil sauce over the pasta.
     Garnish with a mint sprig.
     The aroma of this pasta is very fragrant!  Spaghetti Aromatici is an authentic regional Italian pasta that few chefs make in modern times.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bahama Fish Chowder

     Caribbean Style Fish Chowder!
     I made Bahama Chowder in many Florida restaurants and customers liked this healthy soup so much that it sold out nearly every time.  In tropical heat and humidity, nobody likes to eat heavy cream soups.  A Caldeirada style broth soup is much more appealing on a hot day.
     Today's Bahama Fish Chowder is similar to Key West style Conch Chowder.  Bahama Fish Chowder has a light seafood and tomato broth that is the same as a Portuguese Caldeirada.  Any kind of tropical white fish can be used to make this chowder.  Grouper, Snapper, Redfish, Flounder and Pompano are good choices.  In restaurants, the fish scraps from cutting filet portions was to make this chowder.
     A few years ago when I made the recipe example for the photographs, the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Stream was contaminated by the worst oil spill in history.  Authorities say that the chemicals will linger in this body of water for at least another 50 years, so seeking another source of seafood is a good choice.
     Using Pacific Ocean fish or farm raised fish from sustainable fisheries is a good option.  Tilapia is in the snapper family of fish, so it is an alternative choice, but the baitfish used to feed Tilapiua causes sustainability issues.  Ling Cod was abundant a few years ago, so I used a filet to make the Bahama Fish Chowder in the photos.  Ling cod is not always in sustainable numbers, so it is best to check its sustainability rating before making a purchase.  
     One thing to keep in mind when cooking today's chowder, is to not stir the soup.  Stirring will break up the fish and the thin vegetable strips!    
     Bahama Fish Chowder:
     This recipe yields about 3 cups.   
     There are no tricky cooking techniques involved in this classic Caribbean recipe.  This is simple island style cooking!  
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped salt pork.  
     Add 1 minced garlic clove. 
     Add 1/3 cup of julienne sliced onion.  
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.  
     Step 2:  Add 3 cups of fumet (whitefish broth).  
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced potato.  
     Add 1/3 cup of peeled and seeded fresh plum tomato that is cut into wide strips.  
     Step 3:  Add 1 bay leaf.  
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.  
     Add 1 pinch of basil.  
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.  
     Add 10 torn large Italian Parsley leaves.  
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.  (to taste) 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.  
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (The salt pork adds a salty flavor, so less sea salt is needed.)
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat    
     Simmer the soup, till the potatoes start to become tender.  
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of celery that is cut into thin 4" long strips.  
     Add 1/4 cup of carrot that is cut into thin 4" long strips.  
     Add 1/4 cup of green bell pepper that is cut into thin 4" long strips.  
     Add 1 white part of a green onion that is thin julienne sliced.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add a 5 ounce filet of white fish that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     *Do not stir the soup after adding the fish! 
     Step 7:  Gently simmer the chowder till the vegetables are cooked tender.
     *Add some fish broth or water if the level of liquid drops below the ingredients.  The proportion of solid ingredients should be high in this chowder.   
     Step 8:  Remove the bay leaf.  
     Ladle the Bahama Fish Chowder into a shallow soup bowl.
     Try to expose some of the fish and julienne vegetables on the surface of the chowder.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.

     Bahama fish chowder is soothing after spending a day in the sun on the beach! 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mussel and Anchovy Salad with Cilantro Pomegranate Vinaigrette

     A Bold Tasting Mediterranean Style Salad!
     Trying to please the masses results in creating only middle of the road flavors.  Creating food that appeals to a niche market definitely has its benefits.  Designing a recipe for anchovy fans is something that few chefs do, yet the umami flavor trend has been going strong in recent years.  Anchovies are the epitome of umami flavor!
     Cheap canned anchovies taste very salty and they have a strong fishy flavor.  Cheap anchovies are what turns most people off.  There is a world of difference between cheap anchovies and premium quality anchovies.  Good imported anchovies from Italy have a mellow umami flavor that is not overly salty.  Premium anchovies are usually packed in glass jars with good olive oil.  It is important to keep in mind that the better the quality of the anchovies, the better today's salad will be!
     *This entire recipe yields 1 petite salad!

     Poached Mussels:
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of water in a sauce pot.
     Add sea salt and 5 black peppercorns.
     Add 1 crushed garlic clove.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 slice of lemon.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Add 4 cleaned large Blue Mussels.
     Boil the mussels till the shells open.
     Step 3:  Drain the liquid off of the mussels.
     Cool the mussels in ice water.
     Remove the mussels from the shells.
     Chill the mussels in a refrigerator till they are needed.

     Cilantro Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
     Pomegranate Vinegar was easy to find a few years ago.  If none is available, then flavor some white wine vinegar with a little bit of pomegranate syrup.   
     Step 1:  Place 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate Vinegar in a small bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and coarse ground black pepper.
     Let the ingredients stand for 5 minutes.
     Step 2:  Combine 2 tablespoons of pomace olive oil with 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Slowly add the olive oil mixture to the vinegar mixture while constantly stirring to make a loose vinaigrette.
     Set the vinaigrette aside for 10 minutes.
     Stir before serving.

     Mussel and Anchovy Salad with Cilantro Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
     Step 1:  Mound 1 1/2 cups of chopped romaine lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Place 8 thin plum tomato slices on the plate around the lettuce.
     Place 8 thin long triangle carrot slices between the tomato slices, so they point outward from center.
     Step 2:  Place the 4 chilled poached mussels on top of the salad.
     Drape 4 large pimiento strips vertically over the lettuce.
     Drape 4 anchovy filets vertically over the lettuce.
     Step 3:  Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Cilantro Pomegranate Vinaigrette over the salad and tomato carrot garnish.
     Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

     The combination of cilantro, lime and pomegranate in the vinaigrette add crisp bright accent to the rich umami flavor!