Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coconut Mango Prawns

We've already had several requests for the Coconut Mango Prawns recipe we served at Dutcher Crossing Winery last weekend.  Here it is:

Mango Chili Sauce
2 cups Frozen Mangos
3 cups Sweet Chili Sauce (often found in Asian or Vietnamese shops)
Puree Togehther, that's all there is to the sauce.  Simple but very good.

Coconut Panko
1 cup Shredded Coconut
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp Cumin
Mix together well

Coconut Prawns
3 lbs Large Prawns (21/25 per pound)
Clean prawns, all but tails of shell removed (slit the back to remove black vein)
Then split approximately 2/3rds thru to butterly the meat
Toss in Corn Stach
Dip in Egg Wash
Toss in Coconut Panko Crusting
Shrimp can be made and frozen ahead - cooking time might be longer if still frozen

Deep fry in canola oil at 350 degress for 5 to 6 minutes
Serve on cilantro leaves
Drizzle with mango chili sauce


Monday, April 19, 2010

Join the Dark Side

Many years ago I started my culinary trail in baking. My plan was to be a pastry chef, that lead me to Europe (Commis de Patisserie in Innsbruck Austria), and after cooking school to be the Pastry Chef at the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club. I have always said that pastry work is a great background for catering; baking takes a lot of planning and steps for each dessert, much like putting together an event.

Every so often my interests veer towards baking again. Recently my husband took up an interest in cocoa powder, specifically Dutch Cocoa. A couple of years ago he was making a cake for my birthday (oddly he claims he can’t cook, but can make a really good cake from scratch). By accident he bought a box of Hersey’s Special Dark Cocoa to use. He figured dark chocolate had always been my favorite, so went ahead and used it, not realizing Dutch and Dark are not the same thing. The cake he made was out of this world, with the deepest darkest chocolate and butter cream that I could imagine (I couldn’t even finish a piece - don’t worry it did not go to waste). Why was this cocoa so different?

We bought another can of the cocoa several months later and it just didn’t have the same kick to it. We started with reading that can verses the old can and saw that the original was Dutch Processed Cocoa (or Dutched Cocoa) and the new can was only 50% Dutched Cocoa and 50% Natural Cocoa (Hersey changed their recipe, for which I will never forgive them). So what is Dutched Cocoa? There the research begins.

Cocoa beans have some natural acidity; this is largely the source of the bitterness in chocolate. In the 1800’s the Dutching process was developed (by the Dutch) to neutralize the acidity by soaking the beans in an alkaline solution prior to processing. The result is cocoa that is neutral rather than acidic, which allows more of the flavors to be perceived (making it taste more chocolaty). The color is also darker, and the powder is also more soluble yielding a smoother texture.

There can be different degrees of Dutching, which are easy to tell by the color. I purchased a sampling of cocoas with Dutch, Double Dutch, and Black Cocoa. My husband thinks the Dutcher the better; for me it depends on the use.

In baking it’s easy to substitute in Dutch Cocoa for Natural Cocoa, just omit the baking soda. The soda reacts with the acids in the cocoa, so has nothing to do when dutch is used.

You will have to go through a specialty food supplier to get Dutched cocoa, but it’s well worth it. I highly recommend King Arthur Flour - they have a great web site and a killer catalog. One year for Christmas this where I bought the hubby that cocoa sampler I mentioned earlier - we are still enjoying it!

This next weekend we are at Dutcher Crossing for Dry Creek Valley’s Passport Wine Tasting. We will be making the most incredible Double Dutched Chocolate Brownies to pair with their port- don’t miss it.

Double Dutched Chocolate Brownies
   1 cup unsalted butter
   2¼ cups sugar
   1¼ cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa
   1 teaspoon salt
   1 teaspoon baking powder
   1 tablespoon vanilla extract
   4 large eggs
   1½ cups all-purpose flour
   2 cups chocolate chips

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder
Add melted butter, eggs and vanilla – stir well
Finish with flour and chocolate chips – stir till combined
Pour and smooth into a parchment lined quarter sheet pan
Bake 15 to 20 minutes @ 350 degree (till glossy and firm)


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Butter and Eggs, What a Perfect Easter Brunch! (The Petaluma Post)

Here's my column from the Petaluma Post for this month.  It's a little dated for Easter, but perfect for the upcoming Butter & Eggs Day parade.

The sun is shining, the hills are green, the cows and the chickens are starting to enjoy the fresh grasses of Spring. The perfect time to celebrate with a home town favorite parade; the Butter & Eggs Day parade will be April 24th.  To help celebrate here are a couple of my favorite brunch recipes for your parade day breakfast or your Easter brunch.

When planning your Easter brunch, if little ones are involved, there will have to be fun activities even before you get your coffee.  So have a nibble prepared; my sour cream coffee cake recipe is fool proof. Every year at Christmas time I make them as a youth project with the Rainbow Girls.  If you can imagine a kitchen full of 11 to 19 year old girls making 200 coffee cakes!  They sell them for a service project - they freeze well too.

Coffee Cake
1¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Lightly mix the dry ingredient together. Mix all the wet ingredients together. Then stir into the dry ingredients; mix till just combined. Place in a Bundt pan or a Loaf pan, then top with streusel and bake until an inserted skewer comes out clean - this will vary with pan size, but is about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. It also makes a great hostess gift or pot luck item. Feel free to add any favorites, like blue berries (frozen are fine), chocolate chips, lemon zest and poppy seeds.

⅔ cup flour
⅓ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
6 Tbs butter - cold

Place all ingredients in food processer and process till crumbly.

I have had this recipe for years, actually translated from German from my time in Innsbruck Austria. We always keep it in house for a quick topping. From apple pies to coffee cakes. Make a batch and keep it in the freezer.

Our Roasted Pepper Frittata recipe holds and heats up well. We recently did it for a 600 person hot breakfast event. How do you get hot food out to 600 people when all of the guest are going to be seated at the same time and the meeting starts immediately? I found myself asking that question too. As often with catering, you try looking a things from a different direction. The frittata had to be hot, but not the rest of the food, so we plated the pumpkin bread and the fruit and put out the plates, and then 15 minutes before guests we added the Frittata to the plate. The potatoes help to hold the temperature and make it very filling. It was a great hit.

Roasted Pepper Frittata
Yield: 1 9x13 pan, serves 12-15
1½ lbs chopped cooked potatoes (if you are busy and working frozen Obrien potatoes from the supermarket work just fine)
8 oz grated cheese (be creative, any cheese will work, I love the organic white cheddar from Spring Hill Farms)
2 oz baby spinach leaves (for color and texture)
¼ cup diced roasted peppers (canned is okay)
1½ tsp salt
½t pepper
12 eggs

Spray the baking pan with Pam. In a separate bowl crack the eggs and whisk till broken. Fold in all the ingredients, and mix gently until combined. Pour into the baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until firm.

To reheat: place in 225 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. It is also great served cold for a light lunch.

Both of these recipes are great dishes that you can make in advance and add to. Purchase a spiral cut ham or breakfast sausages and a gallon of orange juice, have some one bring a fruit salad. I have always entertained, the family gatherings are always at my house with friends and family. It has taken me years to realize that it is not the menu that people enjoy as much as the company. Make a simple meal perfect and enjoy the day.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gin is Back! (not that it ever really left)

The classic cocktail is making its way back into American culture, Speak Easys are popping up- one will be opening up in Santa Rosa this year, and we are beginning to experiment with different types of alcohol, and looking to formerly passe (is that passe-passe?) beverages for inspiration.

Gin, which has been relegated to Martinis and your classic Gin and Tonic (add a lime and it's a Gin Ricky), is getting a lot more play.  Many of the bartenders enjoy the complexity of its flavor to accent their creations.  I've recently joined them.  The herbal accents work really well to highlight other ingredients.

My Dad has always been a gin drinker- Bombay Sapphire is his favorite.  I'm new to gin, never really liked it, or at least thought I didn't.  The first time I ordered a gin cocktail he was a bit surprised.

My current favorite is Gin and Grapefruit juice.  It makes the grapefruit juice sweet at the same time the bitterness blends well.  I had a great blackberry cocktail last year and I am waiting for season to try to duplicate it.

The next time you are out, take a look at the bar menu and try something new. You just might like it!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Root Vegetables - There is so much to love (The Petaluma Post)

In case you missed the paper, here's my March column from The Petaluma Post...

Rutabagas, parsnips and carrots oh my. The last of the winter crops are still around, so let’s take the time to enjoy them while we can. Although they have never been the most beautiful items from the garden or the most fashionable on the menu, they have been a staple. But with the current back to basics trend they are being elevated to new levels.

These vegetables are high in starch and can be fibrous. Two of the best cooking methods are roasting and soup. When shopping for your root vegetables make sure to watch for medium size roots (too large can be fibrous and too small under developed), make sure they are heavy for their size (they have been stored correctly and not dehydrated). They will hold quite well in your refrigerator, 2 to 3 weeks in the crisper drawer, but make sure that you take them out of their bags and allow to rest loose.

Carrots are making a huge come back with the organic farmers, you can find them in a great array of colors from yellow to red and classic orange. The heirloom varieties are best at a small to medium size for great flavor. Parsnips are actually white carrots with a similar sweet flavor but a bit heartier in texture.

Turnips are a round white root often with purple shoulders; they are much wetter and crisper than the others, both the root and greens are often eaten, and have a great peppery flavor. Try cutting them up like carrots sticks. Rutabagas also known as yellow turnips are actually a cross between a turnip and a cabbage and a bit meatier with a sweeter flavor.

Roasted Root Vegetables (serves 6 to 8)
1 lb each Carrots, Turnips, Rutabagas, Parsnips
1 Red Onion
1 Fennel Bulb
¼ cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Peel all of the root vegetables and cut into similar size pieces (I enjoy carrot stick size as they pile nicely on the plate). Peel the red onion and cut into wedges. Clean the fennel and cut into wedges. Place all in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil (this can be done several hours in advance). Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake till tender. I like a higher heat 400 to 425 degrees for a bit of color around the edges for 25 to 30 minutes. They should be fork tender.

Yam vs Sweet Potato, which is which? To really confuse things we rarely ever see a true yam in the US, they are a tropical tuber; sweeter than sweet potatoes and often with red or purple flesh, but can be white, with a brown or black skin. For our purposes let’s stick to our local definition.

In the US yams and sweet potatoes but are both actually varieties of sweet potato, but are widely different in color and texture. What we call “sweet potatoes” are usually a lighter colored flesh with a thin light colored skin. The “yam” is the darker red skin with a vibrant orange flesh (full of beta carotene). Both skins are completely edible.

Recently at home I did a sweet potato / yam tasting. Purchasing one of each of similar size, washed and pricked the skin with a fork and placed in the oven to bake just like a russet potato. They took a bit longer than a potato (about 1 hour), then split them open and served with butter, salt and pepper. The sweet potato was lighter and fluffier, obviously a higher starch potato, where the yam was sweeter and denser. Yams (orange flesh / dark skin) are best for things like casseroles and hash. Sweet potatoes (white flesh / light skin) are better for baking, mashing or making fries.

I used the remainder of the yam to make a quick hash to have with breakfast the next day.

Yam Hash (serves 2 to 3)
1 baked Yam, peeled and chopped into 1” square
½ Yellow Onion, diced
2 Tbl Butter
Salt and pepper

Sauté the onion in butter, when tender add in the chopped yam, sauté gently until the yam browns, being careful to watch since the high sugar content will burn.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes (serves 4 to 6)
4 lbs of Sweet Potatoes
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

You can also add a dash of cinnamon or 1 to 2 tablespoons of Honey or Maple syrup. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into quarters, place in a pot and cover with 3” to 4“ of water. Boil till fork tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain completely. Mash by hand or with a mixer. This reheats very well and is great for potlucks.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Streusel (correction)

In this months Post my streusel recipe contained 2/3 and 1/3 symbols, but in the paper they came out as ASCII code (that's computer stuff, or so Jim tells me).  So, if &#8532 cups of flour doesn't make sense to you, try this one... :)

2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
6 Tbs butter - cold

Place all ingredients in food processer and process till crumbly.

I have had this recipe for years, actually translated from German from my time in Innsbruck Austria. We always keep it in house for a quick topping. From apple pies to coffee cakes. Make a batch and keep it in the freezer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Smoked Fresh Ham

For Easter we did a brunch for 170 at the Petaluma Golf and Country Club.  I got in some beautiful fresh hams. These were the steamship cut, that comes raw (as opposed to cured and smoked) with the leg bones in it.  It's impressive looking.

I took each ham and rubbed it with brown sugar and salt – just enough to season it and then smoked them over hickory for 10 hours. Wow! the place smelled great when I arrived at 5 am.  From there I made a glaze of brown sugar, cloves and honey. Baked them for 2 hours till the internal temperature reached 185.

They were incredible. A bit of a twist on your traditional Easter ham. But I plan to see them again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring is the trend for 2010

As Spring rolls in, so do the weddings and special events for the year. I’ve been spending much of my time in meetings discussing menus and ideas. This is the time of year I get to see what the food trends will be for the upcoming year.

It’s my hope (as much as anyone) that the worst of the financial crunch is behind us, and I’m seeing that in the party plans, the menus, and the sheer number of events. One trend that I see changing this year is comfort food. When everything was in an economic upheaval we turned to comfort foods, things that make you feel warm and safe. Last year was all about comfort food; traditional foods, simple and often heavy (in a good way). But, as we are feeling safer we are coming out of our cocoons and breathing a breath of fresh air, which shows in the menus.

This year is about fresh, light foods. Not avant-garde, but menus that let the food do the talking. Natural, organic and creative are the watch words more than ever in the past. I love it.

I am often asked what my “food style” is. My answer is very simple – good food done well. I believe in using great products from local vendors whenever possible, and letting them shine. Keep preparations creative but simple. Add a creative pairing or unexpected flavor to something that is familiar. Things that don’t need to be fussed over, with healthy choices having a strong point.

As the rain is falling I look out the window to remember the great sunny days that we’ve had recently and look forward to a great summer.