Spike's & Jamie's Recipe Collection & a Whole Lot More!

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Recipes from Spike & Jamie

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Contents Disk 306

How to use these pages:  Below is a list of the recipes on this page.  You can either scroll down the page and look at all of the recipes, or look at the titles.  When you find one that seems interesting, use your web browsers FIND function to take you directly to that recipe (on my IE browser it's Edit/Find (on this page)   or Ctrl - F on your keyboard).






































































Makes: 8 sandwiches

1/4 pound bacon slices, coarsely chopped

1 ripe avocado

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons butter, softened

4 large slices whole-wheat bread

Lemon twist and parsley sprig, to garnish

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Peel avocado, taking care not to remove bright green flesh just inside the skin. Cut in half and remove seed. In a bowl, mash avocado, then stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Butter bread. Spread avocado mixture on buttered sides of two slices of bread. Scatter bacon over avocado. Cover with remaining bread slices, buttered sides down, and press together.

Cut off bread crusts. Cut each sandwich into four triangles. Arrange on a serving plate, garnished with a lemon twist and parsley sprig.


Makes 12 servings

This cake is like a supermoist fallen chocolate souffle with a delicately crisp crust. It puffs up a lot while it bakes and then falls as it cools -- so don't panic. Be sure to give it at least 20 minutes to cool before serving; if it's too warm, it will be tasty but much too difficult to cut. -- Caprial Pence and Melissa Carey

5 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup coffee liqueur

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

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar, for dusting

11/2 cups whipped cream (3/4 cup unwhipped)

Organic rose petals (optional garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch spring-form pan and wrap the outside with foil to prevent leaking; set aside.

Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment and whip on high speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until very thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Yes, it really takes that long; if you mix it for a shorter length of time, the cake will be only 1/4 inch tall.) Add the liqueur and mix well.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and beat until well-blended. (The batter may look "broken," or separated, at this point, but the chocolate will bind with the butter and fix that.) With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake moves as 1 mass when you gently jiggle the pan, about 30 minutes. (It's much better to under-bake this cake than to over-bake it; it will be a bit gooey, but I've never seen anyone turn up their nose at that.)

Let cool for 10 to 20 minutes, remove the outer ring of the pan and the foil, then let cool about 30 minutes longer before serving.

Serve at room temperature, topped with a dusting of powdered sugar and softly whipped cream. Garnish with rose petals, if desired.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results. -- From "Caprial's Desserts" by Caprial Pence and Melissa Carey


4 Cornish game hens

1/2 cup butter

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon rosemary

2 cloves garlic; pressed

Rub hens with butter. Combine other ingredients and use to baste hens. Bake

at 350 degrees for 1 hour, basting with lemon mixture every 10 minutes. If serving with rice, spoon remaining lemon mixture over rice.


8 Cornish hens

1 salt & pepper to taste

8 whole medium white onions

3/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup kitchen bouquet

1 jar (8-oz) orange marmalade

8 rings of pineapple

Clean and dry hens; season inside and out with salt and pepper; refrigerate

overnight. When ready to bake, insert a whole onion in cavity of each hen and place in open roasting pan rack. Place a pineapple ring under each hen, leaving a space between each hen. In small saucepan put butter, Kitchen Bouquet and orange marmalade. Heat together until butter has melted and mixture is blended. Spoon over hens and bake at 350 degrees until hens are tender, about 1-1/2 hours, basting often. If sauce cooks down before hens are done, add a little hot water to the pan to assure having some of the delicious sauce left to accompany the hens. If hens appear to be getting dry during the baking, place a piece of foil loosely over the pan to retard the browning. For entertaining, onions should be removed from the hens before serving, or keep the onions in.


Serves: 8

12 slices firm white bread

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened, plus extra for buttering baking dish

2 1/2 cups milk

5 large eggs

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 pound Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese, shredded

1/2 pound baked or boiled ham, diced

3 green onions, trimmed and sliced

Toast the bread and spread one side of each slice with butter. Cut the toast into 3/4-inch pieces. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place half of the toast pieces in the dish. Sprinkle these with half the cheese, ham and sliced onions. Repeat layering with the other half of the ingredients. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the casserole to moisten the toast. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Before serving, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake five to 10 minutes longer or until the top is lightly browned. Let the strata stand five minutes before serving.


4 rock Cornish game hens

1/4 cup canned beef consommé

1 butter

1 salt & pepper

1/4 cup light corn syrup

If thawed, may be stuffed with 1/4 c stuffing each. Season hens to taste with salt and pepper. Place breast side up on rack in shallow roasting pan and brush well with butter. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees about 45 minutes or until tender. During last 15 minutes of baking, baste several times with mixture of consommé and syrup.


Makes: 12 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

1/4 cup butter

1/8 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

Stir in the sugar and enough milk to mix to a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface, knead lightly and roll out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Brush with milk to glaze.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes; cool on a wire rack. Serve with butter or clotted cream and jam.


Makes 8 tacos

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef

1/2 cup canned tomato sauce

1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons vinegar, preferably cider vinegar

Ground black pepper

8 taco shells

Toppings: shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream, diced avocado, chopped onion, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, and hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and vinegar; bring to simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking up meat so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells.

Pass toppings separately. -- Adapted from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2002


Makes 4 servings (about 5 cups)


Red bell peppers will give the brightest color, but yellow or orange ones are just as delicious.

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and diced (2 lbs.)

1 medium Yukon Gold potato, diced (8 ounces)

1 small onion, roughly chopped (to yield 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

11/2 cups simmering chicken stock or broth, plus more as required

Sour cream or creme frache (for garnish)

4 small sprigs fresh dill

In a Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, potato, onion, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.

Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree in batches, or puree thoroughly with a hand immersion blender. Force the pulp through a coarse sieve or a food mill. Transfer to a saucepan and stir in the chicken stock, adding a bit more if you like a thinner soup. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve warm or cold, garnished with a dab of sour cream or creme frache and a sprig of dill. From Amy Albert, senior editor, Fine Cooking magazine


How to boil water


• Hot tips on wet way to cooking success

This is the first of 10 columns by Cat Cora, the chef and partner of Postino in Lafayette. They are being written with Nicholas Boer.

Boiling an ocean's worth of water has drowned out all recollection of when I put my first pot on the stove. I do, however, remember Mom sitting me on the counter as she set out to cook spaghetti -- my favorite dish, then and now.

She would have, what seemed to me, the biggest pot in the world -- steam rising and pasta swirling -- it was mesmerizing. Mom would nab a string of spaghetti with tongs, blow on it and hand it to me. And I would throw it against the wall to see if it would stick. This was my introduction to the fine points of boiling water.

Cooking from the hip --carefree and recipe free -- is something I do every day as a chef. I can cook from the hip because I understand the cooking basics. And nothing is more fundamental than boiling water.

I was taught as a young cook to put enough sea salt in my boiling water to make it "taste like the sea." So now I wait until my water is boiling, I add salt, and then taste it. I should feel like I'm right on the beach.

Cooks often ask me why I don't just salt the food instead of the water. If I did that, then the food's outsides would be salty and the insides would be sad and dull. By salting the water, the whole food gets seasoned, and the flavor stays in the food, not in the pot (the salty water keeps food's natural salts from leeching out).

I boil so much water every day, that I don't even think about the simple but necessary steps that get me there. There are things to consider: decisions that become unconscious once you're cooking from the hip. The first decision is pot size. If you've only got one, then, well, this is a no-brainer. If you're cooking pasta, however, size is important: Noodles need plenty of room to swim.

Crowding pasta into a small pot makes it impossible to cook the noodles al dente -- (all DEN-tay) -- meaning it has just the right tooth feel. The pasta will wade in slow-to-reheat water and turn gummy from the starchy liquid.

For a pound of pasta -- enough for four -- I start with at least 2 gallons of water, but the more the merrier. I like my water to come up just a few inches short of the pot's top (if, after adding pasta to my boiling water, it starts to foam and overflow, I quickly add a cup of cold water, and it calms right down).

As for the water itself, I don't always start with hot tap water. I sneak up on potatoes and beans, for instance -- putting them in the pot with cold water and then cranking up the heat. This would never work with pasta, but it cooks spuds and beans gently and evenly.

With our big pot of water, however, I am going to cook up a ridiculously easy pasta. This recipe is one of my father's favorites: A steamy bowl of spaghetti with aromatic olive oil, crushed chili flakes and parmesan cheese. It's so simple and so good.

I'm going to make an entire dish by only boiling water, but for most cooks -- here and around the world -- boiling water is just one method of many needed to get dinner on the table. We'll look at most of those methods in future weeks.

But for now, I have this huge pot on the stove and have my heat turned up to high. Getting gallons of water going is the first thing I do when I'm cooking pasta. While it's slowly coming to a boil, I start my cutting, grating and other pasta prep. But since this pasta is so easy, I just turn on the heat and go check my e-mail.

I come back and notice the water's surface is beginning to ripple, telling me that the water will soon be at a simmer -- the point where little air bubbles start breaking on the surface. Simmering is a good temperature for foods, such as artichokes, that take a long time to cook.

If I were poaching pears, I would have sugar and spice in the water, and simmering is how I would cook them. If I had wine and herbs in my simmering water, I could poach some chicken or fish fillets. In either case, I would never let the liquid come to a rolling boil-- where water gurgles like a whirlpool -- that would be too rough on delicate flesh.

If I'm not serving a poached food right away -- as with salmon steaks served as a cold salad -- I turn off the heat well before the fish is done and let it finish cooking by just sitting in the hot liquid, where it will absorb all the flavors from the herbs or spices. I even store it in the liquid in the refrigerator.

Letting food sit in the water, in which it has just boiled, is an easy way to make sure it's cooked through without being overcooked. Try boiling large eggs for five minutes and then turning the water off. When the water has cooled, the eggs will be hard-cooked, but they won't have any gray around the yolks. And when cooked in salty water, the eggs' shells come off easily.

After all this jabbering, I look at my pot and see it is indeed looking like a steamy Jacuzzi. So I pour in enough sea salt to make the water cozy enough for a shark and, using a big spoon, actually taste the water to make sure it has just the right bite. Now, if I had some vegetables to cook, my water would be ready for blanching -- when vegetables are given a short dip in boiling water. Blanching ripe tomatoes for just a few seconds, for instance, makes them easy to peel. And blanching is a great way to precook vegetables, such as carrots, asparagus and green beans. I just toss my trimmed beans into the boiling salted water and, with a skimmer, pull them out after just a couple of minutes.

I often blanch several kinds of vegetables separately -- cooking each slightly underdone -- and reheat them together later. With blanching, the color stays vivid, and I can easily control the timing of my vegetables with my main course.

Now that I've got this outrageous pot of boiling water, I toss in a pound of spaghetti (I like De Cecco; available at most supermarkets). I then stir the noodles with a super-long pair of tongs or a giant spoon. Since, of course, the water won't come back to a boil if I watch it, I keep myself occupied by making sure I have all my pasta ingredients and tools at the ready.

I put a colander in the sink for straining the pasta when it's done. In a big, not-too-cold serving bowl, I measure -- sort of -- a cup of extra-virgin olive oil, a cup of grated parmesan cheese and a big pinch of crushed red chili flakes. Then I give my pasta another stir and go check my e-mail again.

I don't linger too long, because I want my pasta to still have an al dente texture. That's what Mom and I were aiming for when I threw my noodle on the wall. So every once in a while, I pluck out a spaghetti strand and bite down. If my spaghetti is flabby, it's too late. Luckily, our spaghetti still has a touch of chew. But it will be mush in a minute. I need to move quickly.

This is the tricky part: straining a pot of steaming-hot water without getting a second-degree facial. I gather up two heavy towels and grab the pot by its handles (if there are no handles, turn off the heat and order pizza). I carefully bring the pot to the sink but stand to the side as much as possible (remember the facial). Then, letting the side of the pot lean on the front of the sink, I tip it over -- and run. Just kidding. I do find the steam-bath agony is lessened, however, if I strain smoothly and rapidly. I do it all in one or two pours.

An alternative to straining is to use a skimmer to fetch out the pasta. This works OK for penne or ravioli, but with squirmy noodles, it just takes too long.

I often cook big batches of pasta ahead at the restaurant. I'll strain the noodles when they are still a bit firm; toss them lightly with olive oil, and then spread them out on a sheet pan to cool. Later, when the dinner orders start flying in, I re-boil a bowl's worth at a time for just a minute or so. This is a good technique to try at home if you're serving guests and want to keep organized.

Cooling off the pasta by tossing it in oil and spreading it out on a sheet pan keeps it al dente. If I were to cool the noodles down by running cold tap water over them, they would swell up a bit, like a sponge.

For cooling blanched vegetables, it's best to "shock" them. This doesn't involve electricity; shocking means to plunge hot food into ice-cold water in order to bring all cooking to a halt.

I use this method for delicate vegetables, such as fava beans, peas and ripe tomatoes. I let them chill in the ice water for a minute or two, then I transfer them to a cloth-covered sheet pan. For more sturdy veggies, like green beans, I'll just spread them out hot on a cloth-covered sheet pan. Because they are still "cooking" I take them out of the pot a little sooner than if I were using an ice bath.

OK, back to our strained spaghetti before it cools and turns into a sticky meatball. I transfer the steaming noodles to my bowl with the olive oil, cheese and chili flakes. I add some salt and fresh cracked black pepper. I mix it well with a pair of tongs. Then -- the last thing I do before I serve any dish -- I taste the pasta to make sure it's perfect. With pasta, I just pick up a few strands with my fingers and slurp them down.

Somehow, a glass of Pinot Grigio has made its way into my other hand (for fiery sautéing, which we will try our hand at next time, no drinking will be allowed until after the food is on the table).

If I think my pasta needs more cheese, salt or anything else, I add it and toss the pasta again. Only when it's just right do I call this dish by its true name: Spaghetti Spiro (after Dad). But you can call it whatever you want. Just shoot from the hip.

Reach Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com.


Simmering: Water kept at a temperature where only small bubbles break the surface.

Poaching: To cook food in simmering water.

Rolling boil: A vigorous boil.

Blanching: To briefly cook -- from seconds to minutes -- in boiling water.

Shocking: To plunge blanched or boiled food in ice water.


Posted on Wed, May. 08, 2002



A braisin' act, boldly undertaken

TOMORROW I'm going to serve cheap leftovers. It'll be a fancy dinner party -- the first time I break out a tablecloth in my new house. Mom would approve. She was the queen of leftovers.

I started on these leftovers long ago. That's the beauty of braising. I knew I was going to be short on time ahead of the game, so I picked up some short ribs last week -- for braising. No need to study too hard for this one. Braising is just a combination of searing and simmering -- techniques we've pretty well covered.

Lamb shanks have been the No. 1 braising meat in restaurants for a long time. But recently, beef short ribs have one-upped the shank. So I'm going to show you the dish that is setting the new standard for braising.

I already marinated -- tossing the ribs in a salty brine before I went back East last week for my James Beard Foundation dinner. The day I returned, I patted the ribs dry and then, yesterday, had my roommate grill them off while I was at the restaurant (see Brine & Sear inside for detailed instructions).

Now it's Sunday and I'm going to braise -- letting the ribs burble away for a few hours while I watch "Swordfish" with my roomie on video. By the time the credits run, my ribs should be gooey-gorgeous. For my first housewarming party, I want comfort food. That's what I love about short ribs; they are hearty yet light enough for spring. And they're easy. I've got to work all day tomorrow, but I won't be stressed out come dinnertime. I'll open a bottle of wine, heat and serve.

Short ribs used to be thought of as a meat byproduct but now they're stars -- even in white-tablecloth restaurants. That's because cheaper cuts of meat such as short ribs and shanks have better flavor than filet mignon and lamb racks. And braising makes them fall-off-the-bone tender. Braising works magic. And short ribs don't take much money or work.

Since I've got to cook up these ribs tonight, I didn't want to go to a lot of trouble for Sunday night dinner. While I was picking up some braising veggies and baby carrots at Whole Foods, I bought some makings for an easy Greek salad: a slew of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese and baby spinach from the salad bar. I also bought a loaf of crusty bread and a ready-roasted chicken. Dinner tonight will be a snap.

But first, tomorrow. I get a big ol' roasting pan on the stove and pull out my grilled short ribs. I chop up my braising veggies -- a couple of carrots, four stalks of celery and one big fat onion -- into nice medium chunks. This is called a mirepoix, and I like using veggies that are peeled, cleaned and sweet enough to eat raw.

I turn the heat up high over both burners, pour in some olive oil, and add my mirepoix to the near-smoking oil. It sizzles big-time. I turn the heat down to medium and let the veggies caramelize, stirring them once in a while so they don't burn. I could cook it for just 10 minutes, but the more color the better. Thirty minutes is more like it. Besides, I've got bills to pay and plants to water. I'm just kind of puttering until I get a deep-dark caramelization going.

The veggies are nice and brown, almost sticky. This will make a rich braising liquid. I need some tomato product -- that's what chefs call anything tomato: paste, sauce, chopped-up tomatoes. Whatever.

I've got a couple of vine-ripened tomatoes that are kind of overripe. I cut out the stems, chop them up and add them to my cooked veggies. I turn up the heat and stir continuously until all the moisture is gone. Now I've got a big brown mess.

Time for wine. I've got a bunch of Lamborn Family Vineyard zinfandel left over from my James Beard dinner. It went great with the lamb chops, and it's perfect for short ribs. It has so much fruit.

I pour in enough vino to come up about halfway on the veggies and start scraping up that fond with a flat-edged wooden spoon. It takes a few minutes to get syrupy, so I give my girlfriend a call while I watch the mess turn purply -- sweet steam wetting my face.

I hang up, turn the oven to 250 degrees and turn off the burners. I toss in my short ribs and stir it all about so the meat is well coated with the goo.

I've got real veal stock that I took from the restaurant, but -- really -- tinned beef broth works fine as long as it's low-sodium. The meat and bones and caramelized veggies will give it loads of flavor.

I put in enough to come up about two-thirds the way on the fat short ribs, which I've spread out in a single layer. Then I break out two long sheets of aluminum foil and, using a kitchen towel to protect my hands from the still-hot pan, I crimp the foil tight around the lip. It's sealed along the edges and overlapped in the middle so the steam can escape, but slowly.

I crank the heat back up to high and, when the steam starts to rise, I carefully transfer the roasting pan to my hot oven.

Time for dinner and a movie. I shred some chicken meat and toss it together with my salad veggies, olive oil and lemon. I slice some bread and crack open a bottle of Honig sauvignon blanc.

Three hours later, dinner and "Swordfish" are done. Time to peek at the ribs. I undo a corner of the foil and carefully let all the steam escape. I stab a rib with a fork to see if it's pulling away from the bone. It's getting tender. It's fork tender. But not fall-off-the-bone tender. I cover it back up and push the ribs back in.

I get in my jammies, floss and brush. Now the ribs are gorgeous. Gooey and gorgeous. This will be a little challenging in my jammies, but I'm a chef. I'll keep it clean.

I pull out the pan and undo the foil. I carefully transfer my ribs to a cookie sheet and pour all the pan juices through a strainer that I've set in a sink over a plastic container and toss out the veggies.

I chill out while the ribs and stock cool down. I check my e-mails and surf around a bit. Forty-five minutes later -- it's time to put my goodies in the fridge and myself to bed.

I started "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" the day I bought the ribs and now I'm up to page 700 -- almost done. But my bedroom is filled with the aroma of long-simmering beef, and I just can't focus. I turn off the light and close my eyes, but my chef-brain has other ideas.

The next day, I pull out my stock and skim off the fat. I put my ribs in a big sauté pan and pour in enough stock to just cover them. I put the rest of the stock in a tall-sided saucepan. I turn both pans on high and let them come to a steady simmer. I turn off the ribs after a couple minutes, but I let the stock in the sauce pan reduce slowly for 30 minutes -- until it reaches that coat-the-back-of-a-spoon thickness. I use it this time to make some polenta, ready a green salad and peel and blanch my baby carrots.

My guests arrive. I reheat my ribs, simmering slowly until they are steaming hot. I add the blanched carrots to my rich jus, bring it to a simmer and check it for salt and pepper. I whisk in a chunk of cold butter. It's a little thick, so I hit it with a shot of Lamborn.

I toss the salad, put out four warm shallow soup bowls and put a pool of hot, creamy polenta in each. On go the gooey short ribs, topped with ladles of buttery jus. A couple of delicate sprigs of lemon thyme. The heat from the bowl brings forth the herb's sweet scent of spring.

Damn good leftovers.


Brining is a form of marinating that preserves as well as flavors. It's typically done before smoking meats. At Postino, we brine our short ribs then sear them on the grill. This adds a smoky flavor that is not too strong -- good for spring. You don't have to brine to braise. It just adds more flavor and lets you work ahead. The ribs sit for about 72 hours and, once brined, they will keep for a week or more before they need to be cooked.

For 10 pounds of short ribs (I like four-bone short ribs) I use about a gallon of brine. I combine equal amounts of brown sugar and kosher salt -- about a cup of each. I sprinkle in a few bay leaves, some juniper berries and whole peppercorns. Then I stir in enough water to make a gallon.

I layer my short ribs two-deep in a plastic container, cover them with the liquid brine, wrap it all tight and forget about them for two or three days. When I take them out and pat them dry with paper towels, they're ready to sear.

Most chefs sear their meats in a pan, but I like to grill short ribs for extra flavor. We won't cover grilling in detail until June, when the weather heats up, so don't feel shy about asking an accomplished griller to do this step for you. The short ribs can be grilled a day or two ahead.

Just sprinkle the ribs really lightly with salt and pepper (the brine has done a good job of seasoning already) and grill them on both sides over high heat. If the grill flames up, move the ribs to the side. A little flame is OK, but you don't want them tasting scorched. When they are well marked, take them off the grill and cool them down in the refrigerator. Now you're ready for braising.






2 Cornish hens

1/3 cup fresh parsley; finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pepper to taste

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup red currant jelly

1/2 cup brandy

Rinse hens in cold water and pat dry. Combine parsley, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup butter. Mix well. Stuff cavity of hens with parsley mixture and secure well. Place hens in a 9x9 pan breast side up. Rub hens with 1/4 cup butter. Bake for 30 minutes at 375ø. In a small saucepan, combine jelly and brandy. Cook over low heat until jelly melts. Pour over hens and cook an additional 30 minutes. Baste frequently. Yield: 2 servings.


2 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/3 pounds each

4 shallots sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon ground coriander

3 to 7 fresh hot red chilies, seeded; sliced

1/2 piece fresh ginger, sliced

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 salt to taste

2 tablespoon lime juice

2 cup coconut milk

2 stalks lemon grass or 1 slice lemon

Split open the game hens from the breast side and flatten them out into a butterfly shape. Discard loose skin and fat. Broil the hens for 3 minutes on each side. Process the shallots, garlic, coriander, chili, ginger, turmeric, salt, lime juice and 1/2 cup of the coconut milk to a smooth sauce. Marinate the hens in the sauce for 15 minutes. Put the hens in a large skillet and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes uncovered. Then add the remaining coconut milk and the lemon grass. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes, basting occasionally, until the hens are tender and almost all the liquid has evaporated. Serve warm. Serves 4.


Serves: 8

Butter for greasing baking dish

10 slices firm white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into cubes (5 cups)

3 cups broccoli florets and stems (about 2 medium stalks)

2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

5 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 pound bacon (4 to 6 slices)

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Alternate layers of broccoli, cheese and bread, ending with cheese. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and onion. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata, uncovered, for one hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and crumble. Serve the strata topped with the crumbled bacon.


from Lidia's Italian Kitchen

4 chicken breasts

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper (if desired)

1 large onion

2 cans diced tomatoes


2 cups chicken stock


fresh basil leaves

olive oil

vegetable oil

Salt chicken, and dredge it in flour. Sauté the onion in hot olive oil. Sauté the chicken in a mixture of vegetable oil and olive oil (olive oil burns faster than vegetable oil but tastes better). Add the onion to the chicken and keep the pan

warm. Sauté the peppers and mushrooms in olive oil. When they are done and slightly caramelized, add to the chicken. Add in the stock (bouillon in water will

work well). Puree the tomatoes in the food mill or the blender and add to the

chicken pan. Simmer about 1/2 hour.

Using instant polenta, follow the package directions and prepare enough for 4

people. While it is cooking, add in 2 bay leaves (be sure to take them out later).

After it is cooked, pour it out onto a wooden board or tray, where it will become

more stiff and will cool a bit. Remove the leaves now. Place small servings of

polenta onto a serving platter, and pile the chicken on top of it.

Thicken the liquid from the chicken pan (slightly, using cornstarch paste) and when it is thick, pour into a gravy boat and serve on the side with the platter.


Serves 4

1 21/4-pound chicken

5 garlic cloves

10-12 strands of saffron

2 medium onions, chopped

5 serrano chilies, chopped WEAR GLOVES

11/2 cups plain yogurt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 cloves

8 green cardamom pods

1 4-inch cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder


2 cups chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1. Boil the chicken in 3 cups water along with 2 of the garlic cloves for 3-4 minutes. Strain and discard water. Leave the chicken to cool, then rinse in lukewarm water (this removes the odor of the chicken). Cut up the chicken.

2. Pound the remaining garlic and let soak in 1/2 cup water to obtain a garlic infusion. Soak the saffron strands in 1/4 cup water, pressing with the back of a spoon to get an infusion. Purée the onions with the chilies. Whisk the yogurt separately and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a cooking pot and fry the onion purée until golden (about 12-15 minutes). Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric powder. Add the chicken, garlic infusion and yogurt and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes until the juices are absorbed.

4. Add the ginger powder and salt to taste and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the chicken is lightly browned. Add enough chicken stock to make the amount of gravy desired (this dish does not need a great deal).

5. Simmer for 40 minutes over a gentle heat. When the chicken is tender, sprinkle with the saffron infusion, pepper and fresh cilantro leaves.


Don't be chicken when you roast

Your reward: Tender bird, time to read

This is the fifth of 10 columns by Cat Cora, executive chef of Postino in Lafayette. They are being written with Nicholas Boer. Contra Costa Times

MOM HAD three crazy kids to contend with, so roasting was her friend. When we were up and she was tired, Mom roasted and read. She'd be cozy on the couch, glancing up from her book -- watching us go from fast-forward to slow motion. Soon we'd be helpless -- paralyzed by the intoxicating aroma of roasting goodness.

One night it might be a chicken, rubbed with a potion of herbs and lemon. The next, maybe a leg of lamb: sizzle turned to steam -- ruby lamb juices meeting hot roasting pan. The garlic aroma entered every pore. We didn't stand a chance.

Two weeks ago, I moved into a new house in Fairfield. I don't have any kids, but I feel as beat as Mom looked on that couch. I worked out this morning and have been running around like a madwoman ever since. I just got back from the hardware store with a plunger (just in case) and a new garbage can. The glamorous life of a chef, eh?

But that's it. This afternoon, I'm roasting, resting and reading. I want to check out the swimming pool in the complex and crack open Robert Wilson's "A Small Death in Lisbon." It's a really cool book.

I'm even going to do a little marinating, boiling, sautéing and deep frying for you. But I mean a little. This is going to be easy.

First thing I do is turn my oven to 425 degrees and put my heavy roasting pan inside. You may not want to get your oven going so early; I guess it's a waste of energy, since I won't be cooking for an hour or more. But it's a habit. The first thing I do at the restaurant is turn on my ovens. They stay on until the last dinner goes out. I feel exposed with a cold oven.

I brought home a whole 31/2-pound chicken for just my roommate and me. This is living. Mom used to make three meals for the five of us out of a chicken this size. That first night, I was lucky if I got a thigh. It was chicken salad the next night. We didn't have much, but Dad insisted on Kraft mayonnaise for the salad. That and Heinz ketchup. I remember Mom pouring cheap ketchup into the Heinz bottle to fool Dad.

Anyway, back to our chicken. I like to get my marinade ready before I start handling chicken. So I squeeze a couple of lemons into a glass pan; add about the same amount of olive oil; strip some thyme sprigs and chop it up -- putting in a big pinchful. I always take the time for fresh thyme. Dried thyme doesn't produce the paralyzing effect. I add several turns of black pepper. Marinating is all about flavor.

Now, if you want a step-by-step account of how I ready the chicken, see the Ready and Roasted sidebar. The short explanation is that I toss the chicken in the marinade and throw it in the refrigerator for an hour.

Back to business

When I get back from the pool, I'm no longer burned out, and I see my house hasn't burned down.

I turn two burners on to medium and bring out my chicken next to the stove. Then I pull out my hot, hot roasting pan from the oven and set it on the burners. Now I'm going to "sauté" in a roasting pan. I pour a little olive oil in the pan and add a pat of butter. It's hot. It starts to brown right away. Working quickly, I pick up my chicken in one hand, putting my fist right inside the body and sprinkle the whole darn thing with kosher salt. I use a lot; it tastes good and keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan.

I plop the chicken down on a breast and let it sizzle until golden, then I turn it on the other breast and do the same, moving it around a bit so the roasting pan doesn't develop real hot spots. I sear it all over as best I can, but there are parts of the chicken I just can't reach. I don't worry about it. Leaving the chicken breast side down, I throw the pan in the oven.

Some chefs like to truss (tie) up the legs nice and pretty with string and set the chicken on a rack -- roasting it without searing. But I'm a rebel. I like it this way. It's quick and crispy.

Now I've got 25 minutes to wait until I need to tend to the chicken so, after I wash my hands and the glass pan, I go test out my new couch. I know when 25 minutes are up because that's when the lemon and thyme potion really starts working its magic. I'm pulled back into the kitchen by the scent.

I turn the chicken over on its other breast and spoon some of the collected juices over it.

I close the oven door, grab "A Little Death in Lisbon" and head back to the pool, to escape the paralyzing perfume. This time I look at my watch.

After a chapter and 25 minutes later, I'm back in the kitchen, this time to stay.

I give my chicken another turn, onto its backbone. I spoon on some more juices and get to work on my side dishes.

I turn on my Fry Daddy. I'm going to make sautéed spinach and fried lemons. I was going to blanch my spinach first, but now I don't have the energy. I'll just sauté the spinach leaves in the roasting pan after my chicken is done.

Using a sharp, serrated knife, I cut off 6 thin lemon rounds and drop them in a bowl of buttermilk. If getting thin even rounds is too difficult, cut the lemon in half lengthwise first, and make a dozen half-circles.

I toss a little flour and salt together in a bowl and, when my oil is hot, coat my lemon slices in the seasoned flour and fry them until crisp. As soon as they come out, I sprinkle them with fine salt and keep them on a paper towel in a warm place.

By now, another 25 minutes have gone by (an hour and fifteen minutes roasting in all) and my chicken is done. I move the roasting pan back to the stove and transfer my chicken to a cutting board (set the cutting board on a big pan that will allow you to collect the juices). I move the chicken by sticking my tongs in the cavity and grabbing the other side with paper towels. I let the chicken rest -- a good time to open a bottle of wine. If I were to cut up the chicken now, all the juices would pour out. If I pour myself some wine and let the chicken sit, all the juices will go back into the meat.

There are drippings in my roasting pan, so I transfer them to a see-through cup. I turn my two burners on to medium-high and pour in enough wine to just cover the bottom. The acid in the wine helps break down the fond -- all that goodness stuck on the bottom of the roasting pan. I'm fond of fond. It has so much flavor. Don't throw it away.

I use a wooden spoon to scrape up the fond as the wine burbles away. I turn the heat down to medium, careful to not let the pan run dry anywhere. If it does run dry, I add a little water or those drippings I poured out -- if they are not too fatty (the fat in the drippings will rise to the top; you can spoon it off). I add a tablespoon of cold, cold butter to the simmering sauce, turn off the heat and stir the jus with my wooden spoon so that the butter and liquid turn into a smooth, lightly thickened sauce. I season the sauce with salt and pepper and transfer it to a microwaveable bowl.

The roasting pan is pretty clean but I wash it now, while it's hot. Much easier to clean a hot pan when I'm hungry than a cold one when I'm stuffed. Besides I want to use this pan for my spinach.

First, though, I'm going to carve up my chicken (see Ready and Roasted for a detailed play-by-play).

Half the chicken is for me, and half is for my roommate, who walks in the door just as I put my roasting pan on medium-hot burners. While the pan heats up, I mince up a big, fat clove of garlic.

I usually use a long flat-handled pan with slightly sloped sides for sautéing, but for raw spinach -- with all that bulk -- a big roasting pan works great. Even though pots and pans are made from metal, they are all from the same family tree.

Medium-high heat. A big splash of olive oil. I choose a corner or indentation in the pan and lift up on one of the handles so that the oil flows to that spot. I put my minced garlic in the oil and let it lightly toast -- golden, not dark. Then I add a bag of cleaned baby spinach and quickly toss it in the garlic-infused oil. The spinach wilts down in seconds. I add a second bag of spinach, a fat pinch of kosher salt and, since I'm feeling jazzy, a pinch of red chili flakes.

OK, we're about to eat. I mound the spinach on two oven-proof dinner plates and wash out my roasting pan while it's still hot. I place my two leg-thigh pieces down on the spinach with the drumsticks propped up. I rest the breasts over that and pop both plates into my still-hot oven.

While my chicken reheats for 5 minutes, I do a quick scrub-down of the kitchen and zap my pan juices in the microwave. I tell my roomie to break out the silverware and pour us each a big glass of my barrel-fermented chardonnay -- always nice with chicken. Out come the plates. I drizzle the sauce all over the spinach and around the plate; I garnish the chicken with my fried lemon slices, and I stick a sprig of thyme in there for flair.

We sit down to eat, make a toast to our roast and, even though I left the oven on, no one cries fowl.

Contact Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com.


• Fond: Traditionally it refers to stock, but in roasting it refers to the yummy particles that get stuck to the bottom of a pan. When you dissolve the fond, the liquid takes on the flavor of stock -- chicken, lamb, beef, whatever you cooked.

• Preheat: To turn an oven on ahead so that it is hot when you need it.

• Roasting pan: A rectangular, heavy pan with tall sides and handles on each end for lifting. The pan can be aluminum, copper or stainless steel.

• Deglaze: This is what you call the process of releasing fond from the pan. Deglazing is the base to all good pan sauces. It's done by adding liquid to a hot pan, to release the fond. Stock and cold butter is typically added after deglazing to produce a sauce.

• Caramelization: Often heard when talking about dessert-making, the savory meaning refers to the browning of food items. The natural sugars in food turn golden when enough heat is applied. Because caramelization develops complex sugars, it makes food more flavorful.


• To ready a chicken for roasting:

First I wash my hands -- something I do a lot of when I'm working with chicken. I get out a cutting board that will fit easily in my sink for washing, and I get a sharp knife. I unwrap my chicken in the sink, pull out the neck and gizzards. I'm not in the mood for messing with innards today, so I just toss the gizzards in the trash. But the neck I wrap up tightly in plastic and put it in the freezer. When I've got a bunch of them, I'll make chicken stock.

I give the bird a real quick hot-water rinse from the tap and pull off a big wad of paper towels. I pick up my chicken and pat it dry over the sink. The towels and plastic wrapper go in the garbage; the chicken goes on the cutting board.

I cut off any extra fat folds from the neck and butt; I cut off the tips of the wings. There are three joints to a wing; I just want to cut off the first two. You can use scissors if you want. The last cut I make -- just to make carving easier -- is to take out the wishbone. It's on the backside where the breasts come together. Feel around for it with your fingers and cut around it with the tip of a small knife. Cut all around it and then pry it out.

I put my chicken in my glass pan and rub the whole bird, up and down, in and out, with my marinade.

I wash my hands really well; put the pan with the chicken in the refrigerator and bring my cutting board to the sink; wash it well with soap and water; then wash my hands again. Rinse off, dry off, grab my book and hit the pool for an hour. The chicken is in the fridge, and I'm ready to rest.

• To carve a chicken after roasting:

After 15 minutes out of the oven, it's time to cut up my chicken. First I take off the leg and thighs in one piece. I pull a leg gently toward me, stretching out the skin that connects the thigh to the body. That's where I delicately cut with my knife, just barely slashing the skin while pulling the chicken leg. It comes off with almost no effort. There's one spot where the thigh attaches to the body that I sometimes have to wrestle with. But a little twist to the leg usually pops it right out of the joint.

I repeat this on the other side so I have two leg-thigh pieces. Now I take off each breast by running my knife along one side of the breast bone (the pointy part of the chicken), first cutting through the skin.

With my free hand I grasp the wing joint, gently tugging down while I make quick, short slashes alongside the breast bone with the tip of my very sharp knife. It almost falls right off. I repeat on the other side, so I've got four pieces of chicken in all.



Makes: 16 sandwiches

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 cooked, whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch dice

4 lettuce leaves, optional

8 slices multigrain bread

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add chicken. Toss with dressing.

Place lettuce leaves on four slices of bread. Divide chicken salad among four slices. Top with remaining bread; cut each sandwich into four pieces.


Makes about 36 cookies

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick; see note)

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Arrange oven rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 2 large ungreased cookie sheets.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt into mixing bowl and set aside.

With electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add both sugars, beating until dissolved. Beat in egg and vanilla just to incorporate. On slow speed, add dry ingredients, beating until flour is blended into dough, about 1 minute. Stir in chopped peanuts.

Form dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. With tines of fork, press down on each, making crisscross pattern and flattening cookies so they are about 13/4 inches round.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned around the edges, 9 to 11 minutes, no more. Halfway during baking, reverse baking sheet so that cookies brown evenly. When done, remove from oven and, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.


Makes: 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Gradually add enough of the cream to form a soft dough. Knead lightly on a floured board, handling the dough gently to retain the air needed for the scones to rise.

Roll out to a 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a sharp knife, or use a cookie cutter. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving a 1/2-inch space around each one. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.





Makes 16 servings

1/3 cup whipped cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon chopped green onions

1 8-ounce can crescent rolls

1 cup chopped cooked shrimp

Fresh dill weed, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, dill and ginger. Stir in green onions. Set aside. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 8 triangles. Cut each triangle in half to make 16 triangles. Place crescent triangles into muffin pans so the bottom of each muffin cup is covered and crescent corners are lying outside the cups. For each cup, spoon 1 teaspoon chopped shrimp into bottom. Top with 1/2 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture. Loosely fold dough corners into center; pinch corners together and twist to seal tightly. Lightly sprinkle tops with additional dill. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown.

-- From "Collected Herbal Favorites" by The Herb Bunch and McCormick


Makes: 6 crumpets

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup warm water

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose unsifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the yeast with the sugar, then add the water and let stand for about five minutes until foamy. Stir in the milk, egg and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the flour and salt. Mix until well blended, cover with a damp towel and let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in size (about 45 minutes).

With melted butter, brush the insides of four 3-inch flan rings (bottomless metal rings, or use thoroughly washed tuna cans with both ends removed). Also brush a heavy frying pan or griddle with butter.

Place the rings on the griddle over low heat. Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each. Cook for seven minutes, or until holes appear and the tops are dry. Then remove the rings and turn the crumpets to brown them lightly on the other side (about two minutes). Repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Crumpets are best served warm, but also can be cooled on a wire rack and toasted just before serving.


Makes: 24 sandwiches

8 ounces softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons half-and-half

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 unsliced loaf or 12 slices rye or whole-wheat bread

1 English (seedless) cucumber, cut into thin slices

24 fresh basil leaves

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and half-and-half until it is the consistency of soft butter. Stir in the chives.

If you are using an unsliced loaf of bread, slice 12 thin slices from it. With a 21/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out two rounds from each slice of bread. Spread the cheese mixture on the bread rounds, then top each with several slices of cucumber and a basil leaf. Serve the open-faced sandwiches immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Makes: 8 sandwiches

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

4 large slices or 8 small slices fruit or raisin bread

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup dates, finely chopped

1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Pinch ground cinnamon

Additional dates and walnuts, for garnish

Spread cream cheese onto all bread slices. On top of the cream cheese, spread honey over half the slices. Scatter dates and walnuts over the honey-coated slices and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cover with remaining bread slices, cheese sides down, and press together.

With a knife, remove crusts from bread. Cut large sandwiches into four squares or small ones in half. Arrange on serving plate, decorated with dates and walnuts.


Boiling, Part II: Overcome your fear of frying


This is the second of 10 columns by Cat Cora, executive chef of Postino in Lafayette. They are being written with Nicholas Boer. You can catch Cora on "Melting Pot" on the Food Network.

I was 8 years old when Mom brought home Fry Daddy. It was a cute thing -- a little over a foot tall with a thermometer sticking out. Before this baby came along, my brother and I were flat-out dangerous. Our love for French fries knew no safety bounds. We would get out a skillet, pour in the oil and turn up the heat. What happened next was always an event.

All I can say is, thank goodness Fry Daddy arrived before Mr. Smoke Detector did, or our tricks would have been discovered early on. I'm just surprised we never burned ourselves up -- or the house down.

Fry Daddy made our lives heaven. We could have our fries -- cooked, eaten and oil cooled -- by the time Mom walked in from work.

Chicken is the Southern standard, but out here on the coast I have better fish to fry: calamari; crab cakes; fried oysters; fish and chips. Hmmmm. Chips. Let's cook some chips (that's fries for you Yankees).

Don't be afraid. This won't be any tougher than our first class. Frying is a craft, but one that can be mastered by anyone with a hunger to learn. Deep-frying is just like boiling -- keeping in mind that oil can catch fire if it's near flame and gets too hot. Oil and vinegar don't mix, but hot oil and water really don't mix. Any liquid will make hot oil snap, splatter and pop -- ferociously. Don't do it.

The best potato for French fries is the big, ugly Kennebec. I buy mine at Berkeley Bowl, but russets will work fine if a trek to the market is out of the question. Like it is for me, now. It's even OK to use a good brand of supermarket spuds. Frozen foods and frying were made for each other. But careful: Once you make a batch from scratch, you may never go back.

We're gonna make fries because it's the most difficult thing to fry. That's because -- and this is critical unless you're using frozen -- French fries need to be cooked twice. Potatoes need to be blanched first; it's the same concept as blanching vegetables. It's just that the cooking is done in hot oil instead of boiling water. This is also called parcooking (cooking halfway), and it can be done way ahead. That's what restaurants do with their fries. Then crisping them up to order is a cinch.

I'm going to assume you have a Fry Daddy, Fry Baby or Fry Something, with a temperature control. I don't have one, so I'm going to do mine in a big pot on the stove with a cooking thermometer clipped to the side. If you want to try this method, have someone who has deep-fried before stand by (I'm sure they will come by for the fries). For one, it's dangerous to drop food in an open pot (fryer baskets can be gently lowered: much safer). And if you're deep-frying on the stove, you've got to stay alert! This is not the time to answer the phone or check e-mail. I have seen neglected oil burst into flames, even in professional kitchens. For all my teen friends out there, save those long chats on hot fashions until after your oil is off and has begun to cool down (besides, by then you'll have a nice plate of salty fries, making the gossip that much juicier).

OK. Enough talk. I fill my pot with oil two-thirds full, leaving plenty of space for the oil to bubble up. At the restaurant, I use a combination of peanut and canola oil. Peanut oil makes food taste great, but it'll kill ya eventually. Your choice.

Most foods -- whether we're talking calamari, artichoke bottoms or coconut shrimp -- fry best at 350 degrees. But since I'm blanching, I turn my fryer to 250.

On to my potatoes (all I have in the house are russets). With these, I'm going to make old-fashioned home fries -- wedges with the skin left on. There's no peeling, and they just plain taste better that way. Besides, eating the nutritious skin makes me feel less guilty for having downed 100 grams of fat.

I get a cutting board and make sure my knife is sharp. I fill a low pot with cold water and bring it by my side (cut or peeled potatoes need to stay in water to keep them from turning brown -- oxidizing). For home fries, I like medium-size russets, and that's what I have. I cut one in half -- then I cut each half in half, and then cut each quarter in half. That gives me eight nice big wedges.

If I had giant Kennebec potatoes, I would turn the spud into a rectangular block by squaring off all six sides (four lengths and the two ends) Then I would cut half-inch lengthwise slabs, stack them and cut them lengthwise again into half-inch-thick fries.

Either way, once cut to an even thickness, I transfer my fries to the water and move on to the next potato. This method would take much too long in a busy restaurant; they would use a french-fry cutter: a square grid of blades attached to a handle for pushing the potato through. This is built for speed and for obtaining a consistent size. Home versions can be found at most culinary stores.

Now that I've cut all six potatoes, I should let them soak for a time, maybe half an hour. I find they crisp up better that way. I could even leave them in water for a couple of hours, but any longer and they would start to lose too much starch and get mealy.

Most foods for frying can be done well ahead. If I were to bread fish sticks or crab cakes, I would get them ready a couple of hours ahead and let them firm up in the refrigerator. Other foods, such as tempura, need to be dipped in batter at the last moment.

Because I'm in a hurry, I drain my potatoes right away. I always dry them thoroughly on a towel before frying (remember the snap, splatter, pop). For blanching spuds, I can do a lot at once, but when hot-frying, I do small batches so that the oil doesn't cool and to keep everything from sticking together.

I check my thermometer and see it's reached 250 degrees. The oil has a dull sheen and is unsettled. I know that when I crank up the heat, the oil will eventually get still and start to shimmer. That's when I know, thermometer or not, that it's hot enough for anything from onion rings to Buffalo wings.

I carefully drop my potatoes into the 250-degree oil, not so high to make them splash and not so low that my hands are dangerously close. With your fry basket, this won't be a concern; just fill it up and lower it into the fryer. After I get them all in the oil, I dig up a couple of baking sheets, which I line with parchment paper (cut-up brown paper bags work fine).

When about five minutes have passed, I pull up some potatoes with a spider (a long-handled metal tool with a web at the end, perfect for scooping food from water or oil). I squeeze one big fry and see that it's soft . Now I know all my fries are cooked through. I bring my paper-lined sheet pans close to the pot and scoop the fries out in batches with my spider, letting as much oil drain down as possible. Then I spread the blanched fries out in a single layer to let them cool to room temperature. Now I can store them in the refrigerator, or just crank up the heat and move to stage two.

Now I'm ready for some fries, so I turn up the heat and bring my oil to 375 to 400 degrees. If I were frying something breaded, I wouldn't let the temperature go above 350, or the outside would turn dark before the inside was hot.

Breading can be done several ways, but it all involves getting your food moist so that the flour or crumbs stick to it. For a light coating, I'll soak foods, such as rock shrimp or vegetables, in buttermilk and then pat them in seasoned flour. Mixtures, such as crab, fish or rice cakes, need a heavier crust or they'll fall apart in the hot oil. So they would get a triple coating: first in flour, then beaten eggs, then bread crumbs. I love panko, Japanese bread crumbs, (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets) because they are super-light and crisp.

I see that my oil is starting to shimmer and that the temperature is about 380 degrees. I carefully pick up my fries by picking up the parchment paper and slide half of them into the oil. If all is well, and the oil isn't bubbling up too fiercely or rising close to the rim, I let the other half slide in.

I wait another second or two to make sure the oil is under control and then crank up the heat, because all that potato has lowered the oil's temperature a bit. But since you're using a fryer, it should fire back up automatically.

Now I just watch my fries as they begin to turn golden -- lowering the heat if the temperature starts to climb. After a minute or two, I give my fries a stir with my spider so they don't stick. After another minute, they are turning a beautiful color.

Now if I wanted to get fancy, as they do at Cèsar in Berkeley, I would add a handful of fresh herbs, such as basil, sage or rosemary, right before I pull my fries out. Fried herbs make great garnishes, and are a good way to practice deep-frying without a lot of oil. Just heat up an inch or so of oil in a heavy pot or cast-iron skillet, and wait until it shimmers. Then toss in your basil or sage leaves, listen to them crackle, and take them out after a few seconds and sprinkle on the salt. They hold well for hours, and you can just sprinkle them over your favorite dish.

Aside from color, there are two ways to tell when fried food is done: One is that the oil will stop bubbling. The other is that finished fried food tends to float. When you see your fries or onion rings start to collect on the surface, pull them out.

My fries are almost ready, so I put down a whole bunch of paper towels on my baking sheet, get out my spider and carefully start transferring. When I've got the last fry, I either drop in another batch or turn off the heat.

Right away, I sprinkle my fries with kosher salt (I always, always, season fried food while it's still hot). This way the seasoning sticks and melts onto the food.

Now I just break out the ketchup. But in the 21st century, that's no longer a simple question. Will it be red, pink, green or purple?

Reach Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com.


Sizing up your options with eggs A recipe calls for 5 extra-large eggs and you have large eggs. How many do you use? The correct egg size can be important in recipes with exacting measurement requirements, such as cakes and custards. At other times it doesn't matter . . . as with adding eggs to meatloaf or making French toast.

With cakes and custards, the proportions of ingredients must be right for the chemistry to happen in the oven. For the 5 extra-large eggs you would use 6 large. When eggs are listed as ingredients in FOODday (Portland, Oregonian newspaper item), as well as in most magazines and cookbooks, the recipe means large eggs. Eggs come in small, medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. The age and breed of the hen influence the size of an egg. As the hen ages, her eggs increase in size. The weight of the bird is another factor. When you open a carton of eggs, you'll notice a difference in the sizes of the eggs. Some are bigger because cartons are put together by total weight, not individual egg size. As long as the dozen fulfills the weight requirement, each egg most likely will be a different size. The total weight of a dozen small eggs is 18 ounces; medium, 21 ounces; large, 24 ounces; extra-large, 27 ounces; and jumbo, 30 ounces.

According to the May 2002 issue of Fine Cooking, an extra-large egg has 4 tablespoons of content (2 2/3 tablespoons white and 1 1/3 tablespoons yolk). A large egg has 3 1/4 tablespoons (2 1/4 tablespoons white and 1 rounded tablespoon yolk), and a medium egg has 3 tablespoons (2 tablespoons white and 1 tablespoon yolk). So if you have a recipe that calls for 1 large egg and you want to make only half the recipe, you would use 1 1/2 rounded tablespoons of lightly beaten egg.

Substituting egg sizes: Once you get past 3 eggs in a recipe, the size of the egg -- small, medium, large, extra-large or jumbo -- is significant.


Serves 4

11/2 ounces tamarind pulp

1 pound eggplant (12 baby eggplants if you can find them)

4 ounces (1 cup) fresh coconut, grated

2 whole dried red chilies (guajillo work best)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 tablespoons oil

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

8-10 curry leaves (or curry powder to taste)

2 onions, chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder


1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, to garnish

1. Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water for at least 30 minutes.

2. If using baby eggplant, make 2 incisions, like a cross, halfway up each eggplant. Cut off the stems. Soak in water with a pinch of salt for 15 minutes, to reduce the natural bitterness. If using large eggplant, peel if desired and cut into thick slices.

3. On a heated griddle toast the coconut for 5-6 minutes, then add the chiles and coriander seeds and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin and toast for 1 minute. Put into a small grinder and grind to a paste, adding a little water.

4. Heat the oil in a cooking pot and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the garlic, ginger and curry leaves, then the onions and turmeric. After 25 minutes add the spice paste and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, adding a little water if the spices stick.

5. Add 2 cups water, stir well, add salt to taste (about 11/4 teaspoons) and the eggplants and cover with the lid. After 15 minutes, add the tamarind water (after squeezing the tamarind and straining it). Cook until the eggplants are tender, then remove from the heat and sprinkle with cilantro leaves when serving.


Makes 4 servings

1 quart fresh strawberries, stemmed, rinsed and dried

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more if needed

1 cup regular or reduced-fat (not nonfat) sour cream

1/4 cup honey

4 fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Slice strawberries lengthwise and place in attractive serving bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and toss to coat. Taste and add additional sugar, if needed. Let rest in bowl 5 minutes.

In small bowl, whisk together sour cream and honey.

To serve, divide berries evenly among 4 wineglasses or serving bowls. Garnish each with dollop of honey cream and with 1 mint sprig.


Makes 14 to 16 servings

This is a special dessert -- something to share with company, after an uncomplicated dinner of grilled lamb and a Greek salad. The rich orange custard is layered between flaky phyllo, then drizzled with honey syrup. It's not difficult to make, but does take time. Make the syrup and filling the day before and refrigerate. Bring both to room temperature before you proceed with the recipe.


1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup honey

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves


4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup fine semolina flour

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick; see note)

1 tablespoon packed grated orange zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

5 eggs, beaten

1 1-pound package frozen phyllo pastry sheets (about 24 sheets), thawed

3/4 to 1 cup unsalted butter, melted (11/2 to 2 sticks; see note)

1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze

To make syrup: Combine water, 1 cup sugar, honey, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in a heavy, medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Increase heat to high and boil until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

To make pie: Combine milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk in semolina in a thin steady stream. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and is smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup butter; whisk until melted.

Remove from heat. Whisk in orange zest and vanilla. Cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Whisk in 5 beaten eggs. Can be made a day ahead.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Unfold entire package of stacked phyllo sheets on work surface. Cut phyllo stack into 13-by-9-inch rectangle. Cover phyllo stack with sheet of plastic wrap, then damp kitchen towel to prevent drying. Transfer 1 phyllo sheet to prepared baking dish. Brush phyllo sheet with some melted butter. Place second phyllo sheet atop first sheet in dish; brush with butter.

Repeat with 10 more phyllo sheets and butter. Spread custard evenly over stacked phyllo. Brush 1 phyllo sheet with butter, then place atop custard in dish, buttered side up; repeat buttering and stacking of remaining phyllo sheets. Brush egg glaze over phyllo. Cut 6 top phyllo layers into 21/2-inch-wide diamonds or squares.

Bake pie until phyllo is deep golden and custard is set, about 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately pour 1 cup syrup, 1/4 cup at a time, over top of pie, allowing syrup to soak in before adding more. Cool pie to room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Cut all the way through precut diamonds or squares. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.

Note: Defrost frozen packaged phyllo overnight in the refrigerator.

From Skorpios II restaurant, Lake Worth, Fla. as printed in Bon Appetit magazine


Green garlic's mildness good for mixing, munching

By Laurie Daniel, Special to the Mercury News

I know it's spring when I see new bunches of a scallion-like vegetable at the farmers market. But these aren't scallions, as you'll discover if you pick them up and sniff. They're bunches of green garlic, the immature, more delicate version of the stinking rose.

``It's a sure sign that spring has arrived,'' says David Kinch, chef at Sent Sovi in Saratoga, along with other harbingers of the season, such as fava beans, English peas and asparagus.

Like regular garlic, green garlic -- which is sometimes called spring garlic -- is planted in the fall, but it's harvested before the garlic bulb and individual cloves have a chance to form. Very early spring garlic closely resembles a scallion or spring onion, with a root end that's only slightly bulbous, tender green leaves and a very mild flavor. Later in the season, the bulb starts to get bigger, the leaves get a little tougher and the flavor gets stronger. And toward the end of the season, which begins in early or mid-April and lasts until early June, individual cloves develop.

Given its versatility, it's a shame green garlic isn't around longer. I scatter the green parts on focaccia before baking and add chopped green garlic to roasted potatoes. It takes the place of scallions in stir-fry dishes. It's the main ingredient in a flavorful pesto. And the flavor of the young garlic, especially the leaves, is mild enough to eat raw, so you can toss it in a salad.

That subtle flavor makes green garlic a popular ingredient in many restaurants during its short season. Donia Bijan of L'Amie Donia in Palo Alto uses it in risotto, soups, gnocchi and in a ravioli filling.

``It's got an amazing flavor,'' she says. ``It's subtle, but it makes its presence known.'' Bijan says she uses green garlic much as she would leeks. ``I've got a love affair with leeks, and it has a lot of leek quality.''

Because green garlic can get a little fibrous as the season wears on, Melissa Perello, chef at Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco, uses it mostly in purees and sauces. She makes a spring garlic sauce to accompany veal sweetbreads with potato gnocchi and braised baby leeks. The green garlic is sliced thin and cooked slowly in butter. Chicken stock is added, and the sauce is then pureed.

Perello particularly likes the color and flavor of the green parts. ``Sometimes, if the garlic is really bulby,'' she says, ``I cut it off because it's too garlicky.''

Kinch's preferred method is to braise it in butter, olive oil and vegetable stock, then use it as a garnish for roasted meat. ``It's really, really mellow,'' says Kinch, who plans to open a new restaurant, Manresa, in Los Gatos next month.

Green garlic is also popular in Chinese cooking -- hardly surprising, since garlic is native to Asia. The shoots are a handy and healthy ingredient in China during late winter and early spring, when green vegetables are scarce. In fact, the first place I remember seeing green garlic on a menu was at a San Jose restaurant serving Shanghainese cuisine. The accompanying recipe for stir-fried pork with green garlic is a rough approximation of that dish.

Green garlic isn't usually available at supermarkets, although stores with a lot of specialty produce may stock it. (Cosentino's usually has it during the season.) It's easiest to find at a farmers market. In many cases, farmers are selling the plants they've thinned from a field of ``regular'' garlic. But some farmers say that as green garlic's popularity has increased, they've planted garlic that was never destined to grow to maturity. At the farmers market, green garlic will usually cost $1-$2 a bunch.

Live Earth Farm in Watsonville sells organic green garlic at the Willow Glen farmers market on Saturdays and in Los Gatos on Sundays. Owner Tom Broz says it's easy to grow at home, even in a planter box. Depending on the season, he says, it can sometimes be harvested as early as February. And gardeners who do successive plantings can treat themselves to green garlic all summer.


Makes about 3/4 cup

About 3 stalks green garlic, roots and wilted parts trimmed and discarded, cut

into 2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)

3 tablespoons Italian parsley leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add green garlic and blanch for about 1 minute, less if leaves are extremely tender. Remove and place in a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain, blot dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, mix garlic, parsley and olive oil. Add pine nuts, salt and pepper. When fairly smooth (a little chunky is OK), add Parmesan. Refrigerate in a container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against surface to avoid discoloration.

To use, toss with pasta as you would basil pesto, put a dollop on grilled fish or mix a couple of tablespoons with an equal amount of Dijon mustard and a squeeze of lemon and use as a marinade for chicken breasts.


May 8, 2002 Posted: 06:40:11 AM PDT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fresh tomatoes cook quickly and well on the grill or under the broiler, and they also combine well with a wide range of other ingredients.

In the following recipe, they are served with sausages and peppers, all cooked on skewers, but not together. Because tomatoes grill more quickly than many other foods, it's a good idea to skewer them separately and, as the recipe suggests, allow less time for them to cook.

Another idea: Brush tomatoes with pesto, sprinkle with cheese and give them a quick grilling, to serve on hamburgers or as a side dish for grilled meats.


Makes: 4 servings

1 pound Italian sausage links, cut in 2-inch pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 8 pieces

1/3 cup prepared balsamic or Italian salad dressing

4 fully ripened fresh tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cut in wedges

Preheat grill or broiler. Thread sausage slices and pepper pieces onto skewers; brush with dressing and place skewers on a grill or broiler pan. Grill sausage and pepper until sausage is cooked through, about seven minutes on each side.

Thread tomato wedges lengthwise (through skin) onto skewers; brush with dressing and add to the grill or broiler pan; grill until tomatoes are hot and skin is lightly browned in spots, about four minutes on each side. Serve with buttered orzo or rice, if desired.


Makes: 4 servings

2 fully ripened fresh tomatoes (about 1 pound), thickly sliced

1/4 cup prepared pesto

2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella, or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat pan or broiler. Brush half of the pesto on both sides of tomato slices; arrange slices on grill or broiler pan. Grill until tomatoes are hot, about four minutes. Turn slices, brush both sides with remaining pesto; sprinkle with mozzarella. Grill until cheese melts.


Serves 6

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 pounds (about 3 large) russet potatoes, peeled and grated

1 small to medium onion, finely diced

3/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste

1 cup crème frai`che

1/2 cup half-and-half

3 large eggs

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup grated pepper Jack or sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1/4 pound)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Warm oil in a heavy, ovenproof 8- to 9-inch skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion, stir to coat with oil, sprinkle in at least 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and pat mixture down. Par-cook potatoes, scraping up and patting back down several times, until golden, somewhat sticky, crispy in spots, and reduced in volume by about half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Press potato mixture down around bottom and up edge of skillet to form a crust about 1 1/2 inches high. A spoon helps in shaping it evenly.

Whisk together crème frai`che, half-and-half, eggs, chives, dry mustard and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cheese into potato crust, then pour crème frai`che mixture over cheese. Dust with paprika. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned and a small thin knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let sit at least 10 minutes to firm a bit before slicing. Cut into wedges and serve.


2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

1 1/3 cups grated fresh coconut

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and baking powder. Using pastry blender, work in butter.

Add coconut and mix well. In separate bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and cream and add to flour mixture. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes.


Serves 6

4 ounces (1 cup) fresh coconut, grated

3 or 4 whole red guajillo chilies, dried (or cayenne or paprika to taste)

1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger

6 plump garlic cloves

1 tablespoon coriander powder

4 peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 4-inch cinnamon stick

6 cloves

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

3 tablespoons oil

2 large onions, chopped

2 1/4 pounds stewing lamb

3 medium tomatoes, chopped


1. Reserve half the coconut for grinding with spices; set aside. Put the remainder into a blender with 2 cups warm water. Blend until smooth, then strain and reserve the coconut milk.

2. Grind together the reserved chopped coconut, red chiles and the ginger, garlic and all the spices to make a smooth paste.

3. Heat the oil in a cooking pot and fry the onions until brown. Add the spice paste and fry for about 15 minutes over a low heat, stirring in 3 tablespoons water in the process.

4. Add the meat and sauté for 5 minutes over a moderate heat. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

5. Add 4 cups warm water and cook, covered, until the meat is done (about 50-60 minutes). Then add the coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes before serving.


Makes 6 servings Broth:

1 3-pound frying chicken, cut up

Water to cover chicken

4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices

4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Matzo balls:

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 packet matzo ball mix (see note)

To make broth: Put chicken, water, carrots, celery, pepper, bouillon cubes, salt and sugar in a stockpot. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes. Remove chicken.

If you want pieces of chicken in the soup, remove meat from skin and bones and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Put the chicken pieces back in the soup.

To make matzo balls: Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix gently with a fork. Do not whip. Add the packet of matzo ball mix and mix. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Moisten hands with water or oil and form 8 matzo balls about 1 inch in diameter. Add the matzo balls to the broth. Cover pot and cook for 15 minutes on low heat.

Note: There are 2 packets of mix in a 4.5-ounce box of Streit's Matzo Ball Mix. You can use the matzo ball mix of your choice.


(Steamed Dumplings)

Makes 60 dumplings

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups self-rising flour

2 cups cold water

2 pounds cooked roast beef, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil (optional)

1 tablespoon salt

1 large bunch green onions, chopped (about 11/2 cups)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon freshly grated, peeled ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (optional)

Vegetable oil

Hot chili sauce

Combine the flours and add the cold water a little at a time until the dough is of a kneadable consistency. The amount of water may vary.

Knead the dough for about 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes elastic, keeping the surface and hands well-floured. Let the dough to sit at room temperature while preparing the filling. (Tsering Dolma Choephel likes to let it sit 11/2 hours.)

Mix together roast beef, onion, sesame oil, salt, green onions, cilantro, ginger, garlic, cumin and soy sauce.

Roll the dough into long cylinders about 1 inch in diameter. Break off 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in your palms to make a smooth sphere, then press to flatten it into a small circle, using a floured rolling pin. Roll out each piece as thin as possible on a well-floured surface.

Rub or brush the bottom of a steamer rack lightly with vegetable oil so momos won't stick. Place rack in a large saucepan, add water to just below bottom of rack and place pan over medium-high heat.

Put a heaping teaspoon of the meat mixture on each round of dough and fold it in half (like a Cornish pasty); the dough stretches to accommodate more filling. Pinch the edges tightly.

When the water is boiling, put the momos in the steamer, making sure they don't touch one another.

Cover the steamer with a tight lid and steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Test the momos by opening the steamer and touching the dough lightly with a fingertip. When done, the dough will no longer be sticky. Serve with any kind of fiery hot chili sauce

-- From Tsering Dolma Choephel and the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association



Makes 9 rolls

1 16-ounce loaf frozen bread dough, thawed

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing pan

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Powdered sugar glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons nonfat milk

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

To make rolls: Thaw dough and allow to rise according to package directions.

Grease a 9-inch square pan using 1 teaspoon butter. Set aside.

Roll dough onto lightly floured surface into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with 1/4 cup melted butter. Sprinkle with brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon.

Roll dough starting on short side.

Cut crosswise into 9 slices.

Place slices in prepared pan. Cover rolls with clean cloth and let rise in warm place until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

To make glaze: In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, milk, butter and vanilla.

Frost while warm.

Sticky roll variation: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix together 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, 2 tablespoons cream or milk.

Place mixture in 9-inch square pan, covering the bottom evenly.

Place rolls on top and let rise until doubled. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn out upside down. Let cool.




From Lidia's Italian Kitchen - Makes 6 servings

Egg pasta ingredients

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

6 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Warm water as needed

Sauce ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound assorted mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, morels, shiitake), trimmed and sliced

4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

3/4 cups chicken stock or canned broth

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pasta instructions

To mix the dough by hand: On a marble or wooden surface pile the flour in a mound. Make a well in the center of the mound all the way to the work surface. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, salt and olive oil with a fork until blended. Add them to the well. Continue beating the egg mixture, gradually working the flour from the sides of the well into the egg mixture. As you work, the egg mixture will become thicker and the size of the well will expand. Continue beating until there is just a thin ring of flour around the egg mixture and the dough becomes too stiff to mix with a fork. If the dough becomes too thick to mix with a fork before almost all of the flour is incorporated, drizzle a tiny amount of the warm water over the egg mixture and continue mixing. It is possible you will not need any water at all.

Work the remaining flour into the dough with your hands, just until a rough, firm dough is formed. Rub your hands together to remove as much of the dough as possible and add that to the rest of the dough. Shape the dough into a rough ball and set it aside.

Sprinkle your hands liberally with flour, rubbing them together to remove any remaining scraps of dough from your skin. With a knife, loosen any dough and flour from the work surface. Pass these scrapings through a sieve and discard the scraps in the sieve. Make sure your hands are clean and flour them lightly.

To knead the dough:

Once you have formed a rough dough, it is ready to knead. Flour a marble or wooden surface. (For effective kneading by hand, the surface should be hip high; this will allow you to put your body weight into kneading motion.) Press the heel of one hand deep into the dough, keeping your fingers high. Then press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you- the dough will stretch and roll under your hand like a large shell. Turn the dough over, then press into the dough, first with the knuckles of one hand, then with the other- using the knuckles of each hand about ten times. You should use the knuckles of your forefingers especially during this process. Then repeat the stretching and "knuckling" process as described above, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking, until the dough is smooth and silky about 10-20 minutes. Roll the dough into a smooth ball.

Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least one hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature at least 1 hour before rolling and shaping.

For Pappardelle:

Cut the pasta sheets lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips. (The machine-rolled pasta sheets will be easier to work with if you first cut them in half crosswise to make two pieces each about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide.) Flour them lightly and stack 4 of the 1/2-inch strips, like a napoleon. Cut the stack crosswise into 5-inch lengths. You will have wide ribbons of pasta, each about 5 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Set the ribbons on a clean towel dusted with flour until ready to cook.

Sauce Instructions

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add half the mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, turning the mushrooms gently with a spatula, until lightly browned and all the water has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add butter, salt, freshly ground pepper and stock. Simmer for 5 minutes at high heat. Add parsley.

Add the remaining mushrooms in batches as the mushrooms in the pan wilt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well. Add the pappardelle to the mushroom sauce and toss gently, adding half the Parmigiano. Serve immediately, with the remaining Parmigiano passed separately.







Makes 3 to 4 main-course servings

2 duck legs

1 medium onion, chopped

11/2 cups dry red wine

1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

1 pound cut pasta, like penne

Grated pecorino Romano or parmesan

Trim visible fat from duck legs, then lay them, skin side down, in a 10-inch skillet. Turn heat to medium; when duck begins to sizzle, turn heat to low and cover. Cook undisturbed about an hour (check once to be sure legs aren't burning); the skin should be golden brown. Turn and cook until duck is very tender, at least 30 minutes.

Remove duck and set aside. Add onion to skillet and turn heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Add wine to skillet and raise heat to high; cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is saucy, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, shred duck from bone and add it to sauce as it cooks. A few minutes after adding tomatoes, cook pasta. When it is tender but not mushy, drain it and serve it with sauce, along with cheese.


Serves 2

3/4 pound pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (2 cups)

Remove fat from pork. Cut pork into 1-inch slices, and place between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Flatten with meat mallet or bottom of a heavy pan. Place flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip pork slices into flour, coating both sides.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high. Brown pork 1 minute; turn and brown second side for 1 minute. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork. Remove to a plate. Add garlic and tomatoes to skillet and cook 3 minutes. Spoon tomatoes over pork and serve. Makes 2 servings.



Makes 6 servings

11/2 pounds small red new potatoes

4 strips bacon

1 medium red onion, diced

6 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill weed

1 bunch watercress, washed and chopped

In a large pot, boil whole potatoes in salted water until tender but firm. Drain and cool. While potatoes are cooling, sauté bacon until crisp in a large frying pan. Remove bacon and set aside. Add onion to bacon drippings, cooking until soft, about 3 minutes. Add honey and vinegar to pan; stir to combine and bring to a boil. Blend cornstarch with water; stir into honey mixture. Cook until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Crumble bacon and stir bacon and dill into dressing. Cut cooled potatoes in half; leave skins on. In a large bowl, combine potatoes and watercress. Pour dressing over salad. Toss gently and serve immediately. -- From www.honey.com


Serves 8 or more


2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract


1/2 pound cream cheese, softened

3 ounces almond paste, crumbled

3 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup raspberry preserves (avoid particularly sugary varieties)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch spring-form pan.

Prepare cake batter, first combining flour, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl with pastry blender until softly crumbled. Scoop out 1 cup of flour-butter mixture and reserve. Add baking powder, baking soda and salt to rest of mixture. Then mix in sour cream, egg, egg yolk and almond extract. Spread batter in pan, smoothing as well as you can. (It will be sticky.)

Prepare filling, stirring cream cheese and almond paste together in another mixing bowl. Almond paste will stay a bit nubbly, but when otherwise well combined, mix in sugar and egg. Drop filling over batter by spoonfuls. It will cover much of the surface but isn't intended to cover all. Drop dollops of preserves over filling. Scatter reserved flour mixture over preserves and top with almonds.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until center feels lightly set and edges are golden brown. Cool at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around inside edge of pan and unlatch spring to remove pan's rim. Eat warm or at room temperature.


Makes 6 servings

1 pound chevre (goat cheese)

2 eggs (divided)

1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Salt and white pepper to taste

3 10-by-12-inch sheets fresh pasta (see note)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound pancetta cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick; see note)

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick; see note)

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1/2 cup minced fresh chives

In a medium bowl, stir together the chevre, 1 egg, bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cut the pasta sheets into 3-inch squares (each sheet should yield 12 squares). In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water.

Place 1 tablespoon goat cheese filling in the center of each pasta square. Brush the edges of the pasta squares with egg and fold into a triangle. Seal by pressing the edges with the tines of a fork.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the pancetta in the olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the pancetta is golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil.

To make the browned butter sauce, melt the unsalted and salted butters in a medium skillet over medium heat. Continue heating until the butter is a light golden brown (the butter will foam while it is browning). Be very careful not to burn the butter. Add the cream and continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is thickened.

Drop the ravioli into boiling water and cook until they float to the top of the water. Drain and divide among warm serving plates. Drizzle with browned butter sauce, crispy pancetta, cheese and minced parsley and chives. Serve at once.

Note: Sheets of fresh pasta are available at both Pastaworks locations and Justa Pasta, all in Portland.

Note: Use butter only for best flavor.


Serves: 8

10 slices rye bread, shredded

1 1/2 pounds cooked corned beef

2 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese

6 eggs

3 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Sprinkle the bread on the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Coarsely shred the corned beef and distribute evenly over the bread. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Beat together the eggs, milk and pepper. Pour over corned beef mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until bubbly and puffed. Cut into squares and serve hot.




Don't sweat it! Ain't it great to marinate?

DAD IS THE KING of marinating. He bathes beef brisket in acid and spice for six hours before a long smoke. It's simple but incredible. Dad knows just the right seasoning to bring men, women and children to tears. In Mississippi we would all sit outside with a huge smoker filled to the brim with a turkey, a couple of briskets and a leg of lamb. The aroma would waft for miles.

So when spring rolls in and the sweat starts rolling down I think of Dad and marinating. That hits me as hard as cold weather and soups. In Mississippi, marinating meant meat, but here in California, it says cool and refreshing. It says fish.

I want to talk about marinating now, because it's the starting point for so many cooking methods that we're going to deal with later on.

I'm writing this on the Friday before Easter, and I've got houseguests arriving in about an hour. I need to throw something together quick. I've got six people to feed and no time for Dad's six-hour marinating.

Nor do I have time to get into all the science behind marinating. Luckily, all you really need to know is that marinating adds flavor, improves texture or does both. A marinade can be dry, with just salt and spices; it can be oil and herbs; it can be sugar and salt, which cures and preserves; or it can contain acid -- such as citrus, vinegar or wine -- and act as a tenderizer. It's best to follow a few recipes for all these kinds of marinades and, once you get the hang of it, start playing around on your own.

I've got a big side of salmon here so I'm going to do several methods. Everybody likes salmon. You know how people talk about a guy's guy. Well salmon is a fish's fish. I'm going to make some gravlax for our Easter brunch. I'll cut salmon fillets for our dinner tonight and make two appetizers: salmon tartare and salmon ceviche. All these involve marinating the fish in different ways. You can buy a small amount of salmon for any of these methods but if you want to do them all, get a side of salmon and follow my instructions for cutting it up (see Cutting Up Salmon Four Ways).

• For my ceviche: I put 18 very thin slices of fresh salmon in a shallow plastic or ceramic pan, laying them in a single layer if possible. I don't like to marinate in metal. Acid tends to react with it and give food a metallic taste. I cover the fish with a mix of lemon and lime juice, a pinch of chile flakes, a little fresh tarragon, a twist of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. I put this back in the refrigerator for about an hour, turning the pieces over once. When it's ready, it will look pale and break apart easily -- as if it's cooked. Cooking without cooking -- what could be better in spring. When I'm ready to serve, I toast or grill off some thick slices of baguette and top each one with three of my marinated salmon slices. For a little added color and texture, I'll top each one with a mix of fresh herbs or watercress that I've tossed in a little olive oil and salt.

• For my tartare: I combine three parts minced fresh salmon with one part finely minced shallot and one part fresh minced dill. Then I add enough extra virgin olive oil to make it all shine and a big pinch of salt. You've got to use a lot of salt. Sometimes I add a roasted, skinned, seeded and minced red pepper, but I haven't got time for that today. This tartare takes about five minutes and is great on crisp potato pancakes, homemade potato chips (remember our frying lesson!) or on toast points.

• For my gravlax: I rub a boneless fillet of salmon with vodka. Then I bury it in 2 cups of salt and a cup of sugar (or enough to cover the fish well) that I've mixed with fresh dill and orange zest. Then I cover the fish with plastic and put something heavy, like a half gallon of milk, over it. Now it's just a waiting game -- two or three days. I turn the salmon around every 12 hours or so; I can tell when it's done because the flesh gets very firm. When it's ready I cut it really thin and eat it as I would smoked salmon. I'm going to serve it with bagels and cream cheese for my brunch.

• For my fillets: About an hour before I'm ready to cook, I toss my salmon fillets with olive oil, minced fresh thyme, a pinch of finely minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. I could grill or sauté this right away, but I like to let it sit for a while so that it develops a nice crust and flavor. That's really all there is to marinating. Of course you can do whatever you want: ginger and soy; lemon zest and oregano; ground coriander seed and lemon grass. It's spring, after all. You're supposed to frolic with your food.


I'm preparing salmon for tartare, ceviche, fillets and gravlax. I want enough for six people, so my side of salmon (a half of a whole salmon, removed from the bone) is about 6 pounds; I figure about a pound per person if I'm going to do all four preparations.

Now you always want fresh fish, but for tartare and ceviche it's really important that the salmon be bright orange with a real nice sheen to it. If you're in doubt, press on the flesh. It should have some resistance, like the meaty part of your palm below your thumb.

To take the skin off, I hold the tail end tightly with my left thumb and forefinger, and run my knife between the skin and the flesh, pulling the fish more than pushing my knife.

When I get the skin off, I trim off the thin, fatty sides. I mince all these scraps fine and put them aside in a bowl. This is perfect for tartare.

For my ceviche, I cut thin, almost horizontal slices off of the tail end, carefully placing my free hand on top of the fish above my knife. As I cut off pieces, I can see the sinews in the flesh. The sinewy tail is fine for ceviche, because the acid in my marinade will break down all the fibers. The tail of the fish is like the shoulder of a lamb. Not as tender as chops but very flavorful. I cut 18 thin, horizontal pieces -- three per person -- until I can see the eye of the fish. The eyes are the spiral patterns on either side of the blood meat (that brown strip that runs down the center of the fillet).

Most fish stores will take out the pin bones (these bones really are about the size of pins) for you, but here's how I do it: I run the back of my knife along the top of the fish (from the head end toward the tails to bring the pin bones up a little. Then I get out a little bowl of water and find my fish tweezers or needle nose pliers. I'll use kitchen tongs in a pinch Then I pull the sticky bones out -- in the direction they are pointed -- and drop them in the bowl of water. A little more than half way down is where the pin bones usually stop.

Now that I've got the pin bones out, I'm going to cut a 1-2-inch-thick piece off the head side of the salmon, which I mince fine and add to the rest of my tartare.

Then I'm going to cut off a 4-inch fillet from the tail side for gravlax. I set it aside.

Now I'm left with the beautiful belly piece. I split it down the middle along the blood line, which I trim off. Then I cut each half into three steaks. Now I've got six thick fillets for dinner; a 4-inch fillet for gravlax; a bowl of minced salmon for tartare; and 18 thin slices for ceviche. I'm ready to marinate.


You got to break eggs to sauté


GROWING UP, I had a nickname around my house -- Flipper. I used to flip everything I could get my hands on. I started with my hairbrush and moved on to flipping utensils at the dinner table. When I got to my knife, Dad shut me down.

So I became a closet flipper, throwing stuff in the air and catching it in the dark. I don't know if it was nervous habit or destiny; whatever it was, it prepared me for the sauté station.

Making an omelet requires a flipper's finesse. Chefs will often ask wannabe cooks to make up an omelet, and take note of how well they handle a pan and how well they work delicate eggs over high flame (we also do this because we like eating omelets). Chances are if you can make a good omelet quickly, you have what it takes to sauté in a restaurant -- to juggle 10 pans on a 12-burner stove. During busy dinner service, speed is paramount: Flip or flip out.

In my career I have seen omelets that were as hard and rubbery as a hairbrush. I've even made a few myself.

Before we start cooking our omelet, let's practice being a jerk. If you've flipped before, this should be easy -- it's all in the wrist. French chef Jacques Pepin says the best way to practice the jerk is with a cold pan and dry beans. The pan has to be a sauté pan -- a long flat-handled pan with slightly sloped sides -- but any cheap nonstick will do. The kind of beans are up to you.

I put about a half cup of white beans (the color matches my appliances) in the far lip of my pan and grasp the middle of the handle in with my palm up. With a quick back-and-forth jerking motion, the beans loop in the air back toward me and -- with luck -- back into the pan and not all over my granite countertops. By practicing the jerk in the privacy of my home, I won't look like a flippin' jerk when I'm at the restaurant.

Time to cook. I dump out the beans and put my nonstick pan on the lowest possible heat and head to the refrigerator -- the food laboratory. As a busy chef, I have a lot of stuff growing in there, so I throw away all the to-go boxes and get into the nitty-gritty. Let's see, I've got some scallions, some cheddar cheese with a little mold on it, which isn't bad for you; I'm still alive, and my mom used to let it get furry.

I've got some leftover ham, a pepper here, some onions. I could do a Spanish omelet. Or maybe I should go Greek with this wilting basil and that hunk of feta.

But I'm craving something simple. Easter is right around the corner. Let's do ham and eggs. No green eggs, though. I'm taking the mold off that cheese.

OK, my pan's on the heat. I put a plate in the oven and turn the heat on low. Nothing worse than hot eggs on a cold plate. Especially when making one omelet after another.

I get out another big plate for my mise en place and tackle my refrigerator.

I cut my ham into 1/4-inch slices, then 1/4-inch strips and, finally, 1/4-inch cubes. Just about the size of those white beans.

This cheese isn't too bad. I cut off everything that doesn't look like cheddar and grate the rest on the biggest hole of my box grater. I do a handful of cheese and put it on my plate next to the fistful of diced ham.

I like a three-egg omelet. If I were cooking for four, I would just whip up a dozen in a bowl and measure it out by eye as I made each omelet. But you might find it's easier to divide the eggs in advance in tea cups. But be careful: Don't mistake it for your morning coffee.

I usually add a little milk to my eggs for a fluffy omelet. But all I have is cream. Oh well; that'll work. I crack my three eggs into a bowl and pour in a little stream of cream, a pinch of salt and a turn of pepper. I whisk it with a fork really well until the eggs are a little foamy and an even pale yellow (the color of my kitchen walls).

I put my eggs and plate of ham and cheese on the counter next to my now-hot pan. (Heating my pan ahead has become a habit; when I'm working the sauté station, I always want to be one step ahead.) I get some cold butter and my kosher salt and pepper mill. A rubber spatula.

Now I'm ready to sauté our ham. I want to get it hot, sweet and sticky. I turn my already hot pan up to medium-high and add a tablespoon of butter. The pan is too hot for an omelet: The melting butter quickly starts to brown on the edges. Perfect for my ham. When the foaming butter takes on a nutty smell, I throw in my ham and listen for the sizzle. I know my pan is at the perfect temperature when I hear this sound. And it should keep sizzling. If it stops, it means my heat is too low or I've got too much food in the pan. For true sautéing, every piece of food should touch the bottom of the pan. Otherwise you're steaming, not sautéing.

I turn my heat to high and start the jerk and flip. But the pan stays on the heat; I flip quickly once every 15 seconds or so. The biggest mistake beginner flippers make is to hold their pan in the air. Flip, flip, flip. This is not cool. This is being a flippin' jerk. You need heat to cook.

I'm maxing out on high heat right now. The ham is sizzling, getting nice and brown. After a few more tosses, I let my hot ham slide out of the pan and onto the plate, not too close to the cheese.

Pans clean so easily when they're hot. In restaurants we rarely wash sauté pans. I just add a little kosher salt to the pan and wipe it out with a heavy cloth and it's good to go. If it's crusty, we might hit it with water first, but this will wear down your nonstick surface. If I wanted to do a really rustic country omelet, I wouldn't even wipe the pan out. I would just cook my eggs in the sizzling ham fat.

But we want an omelet with only a touch of color. Some people like no color on their eggs. It's up to you.

I turn my heat down to medium. I have a gas stove, so I can control the heat quickly. If you're cooking on electric, put the pan on the side for a minute and let the burner cool off. Getting the right heat for an omelet is crucial.

The butter will tell you if it's right. If it browns, the pan's too hot. If it doesn't sizzle right away, the pan's too cold. It just takes practice. Don't be afraid to wipe out your pan again and again until you get it heated just right.

I put a tablespoon of butter in my pan and it sizzles, foams up and settles down. When the bubbles get to be about the size of Champagne beads, in go my eggs.

The eggs start to set right away, forming a firm layer on the bottom of the pan. I pull up the egg from each side with my rubber spatula and let the raw egg on top trickle underneath. I keep this up until the top of the omelet is no longer runny. It's almost cooked; just a little glossy. It takes less than a minute.

Working quickly, I sprinkle my cheese on the omelet as if it were a pizza, then I top it with my ham. I season my omelet again with salt and pepper -- I always season twice -- but you can do the second seasoning at the table. The most important thing right now is to move quickly.

I flip the far edge of the omelet with my spatula as if I were folding a letter toward me. I grab my warm plate out of the oven with my left hand and, with my palm up, I grasp the pan handle in my right.

I shimmy the pan so the half-folded omelet slides to the far edge and then I form a wide V with plate and pan. Here's the fun part: I tilt the pan just enough so the omelet folds up and falls onto the plate in one smooth motion. Magic.

I have this bad habit: If somebody brings me a plate with a spot on it, I have to wipe it clean before I can eat. And buttery omelets always splatter a bit. So I wipe off my plate very carefully, and, to give my omelet a beautiful sheen, I rub a little pat of butter on the top.

I'm a garnish addict as well. Fruit works well with omelets: an orange slice or maybe a little salsa right on top. I forgot to get something out of the refrigerator in advance, but I remember a ripe cherry tomato rolling around by the orange juice. That'll work.

Reach Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com.


• Mise en place: A French term meaning everything in its place. It is extremely important with sautéing that everything is at your fingertips. Sautéing requires high heat; if you have to cut up some garlic while your cooking, all may be burned.

• Caramelize: When food turns golden, it is caramelizing. This takes long, slow heat or, as with sautéing, quick, high heat. Caramelizing develops food's flavor by bringing out the natural sugars in food.

• Seasoning: This refers to salt and pepper. Use Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Seasoning fish, chicken or meat before sautéing also helps develop a crust and forms a protective barrier between food and pan.

• Deglazing: The high heat of sautéing tends to leave caramelized bits of food on the bottom of the pan. This is especially true when sautéing fish or meat. By adding wine or stock to the pan, all that stuck flavor is released and, by adding a little very cold butter to the reducing liquid, can be turned into a sauce.

• Brown butter: Letting butter brown before sautéing adds flavor to foods and helps develop color. Adding a little butter to very hot olive oil and letting it brown helps achieve a good crust on meat and fish.


Makes 2 servings

1/4 cup lime juice (2 large limes)

4 razor clams

Buttermilk for dipping

Panko crumbs for breading

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle lime juice on clams, dip in buttermilk, dredge in panko. Refrigerate about 10 minutes to set breading. In a pan large enough to hold clams without them touching, heat oil and butter on medium-high until foaming stops. Salt and pepper clams to taste, and sauté until golden, about 1 minute on each side. Drain and serve with asparagus tips, rice pilaf, Oregon sauvignon blanc and a smile.


Makes: 2 servings

2 tablespoons flour

3 teaspoons ground sage

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 (6-ounce) roasted, boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup dry vermouth

1/4 cup water

Mix flour, sage and salt and pepper to taste. Roll chicken in mixture. Heat oil in nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook one minute.

Turn and cook one minute more. Remove to a plate and raise heat to high.

Add vermouth and 1/4 cup water; reduce for two to three minutes. Pour over chicken.


Makes 48 2-inch pieces


It's important to use the 171/2-by-121/2-inch jellyroll pan. A standard 101/2-by-151/2-inch jellyroll pan will be too small, unless you place some of the batter in a separate small pan. The recipe can also be made using two 9-by-13-inch pans.

11/2 cups butter, at room temperature (3 sticks; see note)

4 cups granulated sugar

8 eggs

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons; use large holes of grater)

1/3 cup grated orange zest (about 1 large navel orange; use large holes of grater)

1 10-ounce box dried currants, golden or dark raisins, or a combination of all three

(13/4 cups)

1 8-ounce can or one 7-ounce package almond paste, or one 121/2-ounce can

almond filling (see note)

Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 171/2-by-121/2-inch jellyroll pan.

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Sift flour with salt. Dust zest and currants with some of the flour mixture. Beat or stir remaining flour mixture into batter, which will be stiff. Add zest and currants; mix in by hand. Dollop half of batter into prepared pan. With rubber spatula, spread together into even layer.

Remove all of almond paste or filling from can (easier if you open both ends of can) or package. Dice paste, or dollop filling in very small amounts, distributing evenly over batter. Diced paste will melt together during baking; dollops of almond filling should be carefully spread together. Spoon remaining batter all over top and spread evenly.

Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. Watch closely; cake should be light golden brown. It will rise to top of pan. Cool in pan on rack. Dust top lightly with powdered sugar, if desired. Cut into small pieces. Store tightly to preserve moistness. This keeps well for 2 weeks. Freeze for longer storage.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.

Note: Almond paste is stiff; almond filling is more spreadable and works well.

-- From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , May 10, 1998


Makes: 16 sandwiches

1 English (seedless) cucumber, thinly sliced

6 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons drained bottled horseradish

Salt and pepper

16 slices cocktail bread

1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into 11/2-inch pieces

Stir together sour cream, horseradish, and salt and pepper. Divide bread into stacks and cut into 11/2-inch squares, discarding crusts. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon sour cream onto center of each bread square, then top with cucumber, then salmon.


Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon linden leaves and flowers

1 tablespoon chamomile

1 tablespoon fragrant rose petals

Gently crush the linden leaves and flowers, chamomile and rose petals to release their flavor. Put them into a tea ball and place in a teapot. Fill the teapot with boiling water and let the tea steep for five minutes. Remove the tea ball from the teapot. Serve immediately.


from Le Cirque's

Makes 8 servings


The vegetables flavor the rice while they all cook in the same pot. It's economy in cooking without any sacrifice.

3/4 pound asparagus

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 bunch green onions (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped

11/2 cups medium- or long-grain rice

3 cups chicken stock or broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup small green peas, fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 cups)

Cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches off the top of each asparagus stalk; you should have about 1 cup asparagus tips. Set the tips aside; reserve the remaining stalks for another use.

In a 2 1/2- to 3-quart pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the stock or broth and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and peas; it is not necessary to stir. Cover the pot and continue to cook for 8 minutes, until the rice is tender and all of the broth has been absorbed. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chives, mint and parsley; set aside.

When the rice is done, uncover, stir in 2 tablespoons of the mixed herbs and all of the spinach and stir until the vegetables and herbs are evenly distributed throughout the rice. Immediately transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of mixed herbs. Serve immediately.



Makes: 24 wedges

2 large pita bread rounds or 4

7- to 8-inch flour tortillas

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1-2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted

2-3 fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese with strawberry or pineapple

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1 tablespoon orange juice

Sliced fresh strawberries, for garnish

Cut each pita round or tortilla into six wedges. Cut pita wedges in half crosswise to make single layers.

Combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Arrange wedges in single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with margarine; sprinkle with sugar and spices.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Meantime, crush fresh strawberries with 1 tablespoon sugar until strawberries are in small pieces. Stir strawberries into cream cheese along with orange peel and orange juice. Spread onto crisps. Garnish with sliced strawberries, if desired.


Makes: 6 to 8 servings

4 cups water

4 tablespoons black or green tea

2 cinnamon sticks

2 slices fresh ginger root (1/4-inch thick)

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon coriander

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar or honey

Heat the water, tea leaves and spices in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the tea. Add the orange juice and lemon juice and return to low heat for two to three minutes. Sweeten with sugar or honey.


Makes 6 servings

This soup is simplicity itself. Fresh baby greens and spring onions are added to chicken broth along with fresh chives. The whole soup takes only moments to assemble. However, because the soup is so simple, the quality of the ingredients takes on special importance. Use a rich homemade broth or enrich a canned broth by cooking the broth with carrots, celery and onions to infuse it with additional flavor before using.

The baby greens can be from the garden or select from the mesclun mixes at the supermarket.

6 cups chicken stock or broth

3 green onions (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced

3 ounces baby spinach

3 ounces mixed baby greens

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

In a 3-quart pot over medium heat, heat the stock or broth until hot. Add the onions, spinach, greens, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just until the greens wilt, about 2 minutes. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper. Spoon the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.


Serves 4

3/4 pound pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil for cooking

4 to 5 stalks green garlic, including some of the green part, cut into 3-inch

sections, then cut lengthwise into shreds


2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Cut pork into thin slices, then cut each slice into matchstick-size pieces. (It sometimes helps if you partially freeze the pork first.) Combine cooking oil, rice wine or sherry, soy sauce and hot pepper flakes. Add pork and marinate for 30 minutes.

In a wok or large skillet over high heat, heat peanut oil. Remove pork from marinade with a slotted spoon; you don't want to add too much liquid to the pan. Discard marinade. Stir-fry pork for about 1 minute. Add green garlic and stir-fry about 2 minutes more. Combine sauce ingredients and add to pan. Cook another minute to reduce sauce slightly. Serve over cooked rice.








from Lidia's Italian Kitchen

4 fresh hard-ripe peaches

8 amaretti (cookies)

1/2 cup almonds

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp amaretto liqueur

1 lemon

2 tbsp water

1/2 cup sugar (in addition to the 1/4 cup above)

lemon zest

1 tbsp amaretto (in addition)


vanilla ice cream for serving

Place the amaretti, almonds, cocoa, 1/4 cup sugar, and pulse until it becomes

a fairly fine powder. Add the 2 tbsp amaretto and pulse until a paste is formed.

Zest the lemon, then cut it in half. Cut the peaches in half and remove the stones. Rub the cut surface of each peach (as you cut it) with the cut lemon.

Dip the cut surface into sugar (on a saucer).

Into a glass oven-proof dish with 2-inch sides, place the water, 1/2 cup sugar,

lemon zest and 1 tbsp amaretto.

Stuff the peaches with the paste and place the peaches, cut sides up, into the

oven dish. Heat the peaches in a 425 deg. oven, for 30 minutes. If the liquid in

the oven dish begins to disappear, add a small amount of water. When the peaches are softened and cooked through, remove from the oven (turn off the

oven), and set on a wood surface or a thickness of towels. Serve each person

with 2 peach halves and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Spoon some of the syrup

from the oven dish over each serving of peaches and ice cream.


Makes: 12 servings

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed, coarsely chopped

8 ounces cream cheese; reduced fat or fat free OK

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

1/4 teaspoon basil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend well, pausing frequently to scrape sides of bowl. Refrigerate at least four hours before serving.

Note: May substitute prepared sun-dried tomato pesto for sun-dried tomatoes.


May 8, 2002 Posted: 06:40:11 AM PDT


When you're looking for something light to serve and easy to eat, say for a special occasion like Mother's Day, finger sandwiches come in handy. Most are simple to prepare, and they make an elegant presentation. Plus, finger sand-wiches provide neat nibbles.

While traditional choices such as cucumber sandwiches remain popular, practically any kind of bread and filling, sweet or savory, will work. Just think small. Finger sandwiches generally should be just large enough for two bites. Cut them into shapes such as stars, crescents or flowers or into understated rectangular, triangular, round or square shapes.

When making finger sandwiches, keep in mind that good quality bread will improve the flavor and texture of sandwiches.

The bread should be sliced thinly and served without crusts. A thin coating of butter will keep the bread from getting soggy.

Here are some tips to help you make these tiny little wonders:

The bread

Don't limit your choice to white bread; nearly any type of bread can provide a foundation for finger sandwiches.

Here are just a few possibilities:

Small slices of rustic Italian loaves

Fresh-baked biscuits, plain or flavored with herbs or cheese

Pita bread or pita crisps



Homemade quick breads

Fruit breads such as pineapple, raisin or lemon

Any sturdy sandwich bread


Light rye bread


Dark Russian bread




The filling

The choices are virtually infinite. Consider the following plus the recipes listed:

Raspberry mustard: This filling is better after sitting for up to a week, so plan ahead if you want to serve it at a party.

In a 1-quart jar, combine 3/4 cup yellow mustard seed, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar and water. Let soak 48 hours, adding additional vinegar if needed to maintain enough liquid to cover the seeds.

Scrape the soaked seeds into a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons raspberry jam and 2 teaspoons salt. Process until the mustard turns from liquid and seeds to a creamy mixture flecked with seeds. This takes three to four minutes. Add vinegar and water as necessary to create a nice, creamy mustard.

Serve on herb biscuits with brie cheese.

Tuna with ginger dressing: Drain two (6-ounce) cans albacore tuna and combine with 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger, four scallions (white and green parts cut into 1/4-inch rounds), 1/2 medium cucumber (peeled and shredded) and four radishes (trimmed and shredded).

Apple Cheese Spread: Let 8 ounces cream cheese and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese reach room temperature. Combine cream cheese and cheddar cheese with 2 tablespoons brandy; beat until smooth. Add in one peeled and grated apple of choice and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Stir until thoroughly combined.


With their dainty shape and colorful palette, finger sandwiches don't take a lot of gussying up to make an appealing presentation.

Start with the sandwich itself. Choose a variety of breads -- light, dark, rustic, refined -- to give your presentation interest. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into shapes to match the theme of your party, such as flowers and butterflies for a spring bridal shower.

Garnish sandwiches with fresh herbs, herb blossoms, sliced green onion tops or shapes cut from vegetables using miniature cookie cutters.

Choose serving trays to complement the sandwich shapes and colors.


Serves 2-4

1 pound tri-tip beef, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes; reserve some fat

1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups cold water

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 tablespoons ground California chili pepper (not chili powder)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon beef base flavoring (similar to beef bouillon)

Flour tortillas

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1. In a large saucepan, render enough trimmed fat (or vegetable oil) to leave about 3 tablespoons of oil in pan. Add beef and onion powder.

2. Cook on low, covered, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to cook on low until liquid is gone and beef starts to lightly brown and breaks apart easily.

3. Add the flour and mix well with any oil remaining in the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes on low heat until the flour starts to brown.

4. Add cold water, garlic powder, chili pepper, cumin and beef base. Stir to mix well. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens.

5. Heat flour tortillas (steam, microwave or griddle) until easily rolled. Put a warmed tortilla on a plate. Add chunks of beef and cheddar cheese to taste, fold in sides, then roll up.

6. Cover burrito with remaining chili sauce from pan and serve with refried or whole pinto beans, Spanish rice, and chips and salsa. Can substitute New Mexico chili pepper for added heat.


Rice Paper


Shredded carrots

Bean sprouts (optional)


Fresh mint

Sliced black olives

Prepare and shred lettuce, carrots and cilantro. Combine all vegetables in large bowl with mint and bean sprouts. Set olives aside.

Soak rice paper for three or four minutes. Make sure that the rice paper is completely soaked.

Lay rice paper on flat surface. Lay a small amount of olives across the paper and a small handful of prepared vegetables and wrap carefully.



Sugar (granulated)



Raw, then roasted, ground peanuts

Ground chili paste (optional)

Adjust all ingredients to taste.





Makes: 8 servings

For the ice cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

5 large egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup maple syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature (11/2 cups)

1 1/4 cup sugar

Pulp of 1/2 vanilla bean

7 large eggs

1 cup walnut pieces, toasted, ground

To prepare ice cream: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream and milk almost to boiling point. In a bowl, whisk yolks and sugar to the ribbon stage. Add maple syrup. Temper the yolk mixture with some of the cream and milk. Finish whisking in remaining cream and milk. Place mixture in a double boiler over simmering water and stir constantly until it reaches 175 degrees or it coats the back of a spoon. Cool and strain. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to instructions. (The ice cream will be more velvety if the mixture is refrigerated overnight.)

To make the walnut cake: Line terrine molds or loaf pans with parchment and grease with butter and dust with flour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour and baking powder and set aside. Combine maple syrup and lemon juice and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla pulp. Add one egg at a time to the butter mixture until well blended. Add half of the flour mixture and beat to incorporate. Beat in half of maple syrup mixture. Repeat, beating in flour and then the maple syrup mixture. Scrape down the bowl.

Add ground walnuts; mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.



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