Garden Bounty by Julie Szimon

I love vegetable gardening!  Well, let me rephrase that.  I love to get organic plants or seeds and plant them in my garden with organic soil, water them, weed them and see what happens.  I don’t know what the PH level of my soil is.  I don’t use any chemicals to make things grow bigger.  I just plant. 

Growing up in the city, we never had a garden.  We lived in a two-flat on the north side of Chicago.  We did have an apple tree in the back yard that took up most of the space.  Each year I was allowed to climb up the tree and pick the apples on top that no one could reach.  Those apples were then cooked down by my grandmother and made into applesauce.  She would can the applesauce in mason jars so we could enjoy it all winter long. 

When we moved to the suburbs I started a small 4’x8’ vegetable garden.  As time went on, my vegetable garden grew to a 25’x35’ enclosed area with 8 raised beds and an open space for berry bushes.  Each Spring I plan out what worked well last year and I try to add something new.  I love to see how the new plants grow and what culinary creations I can come up with when they are ready for harvest. 

I like to plant peppers and the garden always produces an abundance of them.  Some sweet ones and some hot ones.  I have used them in salsas and salads and I have even pickled them.  Last year I decided to make hot pepper jelly with them.  It was so good!  I made several batches and canned it for myself and gave some as gifts.  My favorite way to enjoy the jelly is on toasted bread or crackers along with some goat cheese.  It’s sweet and hot and delicious! It also came in handy over the winter months when friends dropped in for a glass of holiday cheer. 

This year the peppers are looking good, so another batch of hot pepper jelly will be coming.  The recipe I use is great just the way it is but don’t be afraid to be creative with the pepper mixture.  I added some red peppers for color, cracked black pepper, fresh thyme and some dried lemon peel.

Hot Pepper Jelly
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Ingredients
  1. 12 oz. of jalapeno (or variety of) peppers
  2. 2 cups cider vinegar, divided
  3. 6 cups of sugar
  4. 2 - 3 oz. pouches of liquid pectin
  5. 5 - 8 oz. half pint glass-preserving jars with lids and bands
Instructions
  1. Prepare/sanitize glass jars, lids and bands per manufacturers directions.
  2. Puree peppers in a food processor with 1 cup of cider vinegar until smooth. Do not strain puree.
  3. Combine puree with remaining 1 cup of cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add liquid pectin and continue to boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  4. Ladle hot pepper jelly into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rim. Secure lid and band. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when pressed in the center.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

For The Love Of Caramel by Paul Lindemuth

One of my favorite cookbooks is “My Last Supper” by Melanie Dunea. It is a journal where 50 great chefs were asked “if you were to die tomorrow, what would you want for your last meal on earth?’ Each chef shared their personal thoughts and requests.

I’ve often been asked a similar question when I’m teaching: “what is your favorite food or flavor?” I know the answer, hands down, to either of these questions:  Caramel.

There is something seductive about caramel and the flavor descriptors are pretty diverse:  buttery, nutty, smoky, toasted, butterscotch, burnt.

I love the chemistry part of working with caramel which begins with melting pure cane sugar and slowly controlling the temperature to turn the sugar from crystal clear to pale amber to deep golden brown. Each stage yields different flavors: pale amber is light and mild, deep amber is rich and complex. Taking the caramel beyond this point to dark caramel yields a more bitter flavor due to increased oxidation (my favorite). Additionally, heating beyond this point (which happens very quickly) will turn the caramel into a black, smoking, bitter mess as the sugar breaks down into pure carbon.

I spent the 4th of July holiday toying with this chemistry while roasting marshmallows to create S’mores. I started with that initial golden-brown crust on the marshmallows, took it one step further to dark brown (actually peeling that layer off to taste it and then putting the remainder back over the fire and tasting again). Then I let a couple of marshmallows actually catch fire and get totally charred…. not so tasty. It sure was fun playing with melted and burnt sugar!

When you peel back the layers of chemistry and technique of caramel, you can easily create some pretty amazing flavors. Patiently working with one cup of granulated sugar, ¼ cup of water to dissolve the sugar and adding 1 cup of heavy cream to the hot caramel will yield my favorite thing to eat:  perfect caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Apple Tartlets
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. ¼ cup cold water
  3. 1 cup heavy cream
  4. ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  5. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  6. 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick wedges
  7. ¼ cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
  8. ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  9. 2 tablespoons Calvados or apple brandy
  10. 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  11. 1 package frozen puff pastry thawed
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and the water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, brush down any sugar particles that cling to the side of the pan. Continue to boil until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber color, being careful not to let it get too dark and burn.
  2. Place the saucepan in the bottom of the sink. Carefully pour the cream into the melted sugar. The sugar will bubble violently and give off steam. Return the saucepan to low heat and stir until the caramel is dissolved and smooth. Add the sea salt and set the caramel aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples and toss to evenly coat them with the butter. Sauté the apples until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue cooking until the sugar melts and the apples are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Add the nutmeg, Calvados or apple brandy and lemon juice. Toss gently to combine. Set the apples aside. (The apples may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance, loosely covered and held at room temperature.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Gently unfold one sheet of the thawed puff pastry. Cut the pastry into 4 rounds. Transfer the pastry rounds to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a smaller round cutter make a shallow indentation into each puff pastry round, being careful to not cut all the way through the pastry. Using a fork, evenly prick the center of each pastry inside the inner circle.
  7. Divide half of the apples into the center of the pastry rounds. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and apples.
  8. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into thin slices and scatter the butter evenly over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the tartlets. Bake the tartlets until the pastry is puffed and brown and the apples are soft, about 15 to 18 minutes.
  9. Remove the tartlets from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to plates. Spoon some of the caramel sauce over each tartlet and serve.
  10. Serves 8
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Food As A Gift by Deb Forkins

After lamenting my less than stellar rhubarb harvest last year, a dear friend brought me over this homemade rhubarb treasure.  She is a fabulous cook, and the pie was delicious….but it was the big D on that pie that was the most delish!  Edible friendship!

One Sunday, I came home from working at Marcel’s to dinner in the oven.  Marc had made his specialty quiche, adding zucchini to my half.  Again, the best part of that dinner was my name on my half of the quiche in zucchini peel.  Edible love.

Sharing the gift of food is a universal gesture of love and friendship, compassion and kindness.  A meal to a family struggling with challenges, chicken soup to a sick friend, cookies to your new neighbor…food has always been a way that we reach out to one another, to connect.  We all know this.  The food itself may or may not be a fabulous culinary creation, but the gesture speaks volumes.

In her cookbook, Food Gift Love, author and chef Maggie Battista shares some tips to make you the quintessential food gifter:

  • Know your recipient. (always best to play to the audience.)
  • Master a signature food gift so you can make it quickly and have the ingredients in your head.
  • Embrace imperfection. (my favorite tip!)
  • Put a label on it. (ingredients and date created)
  • Summer and fall are the best time to make gifts when fruits and vegetables are plentiful and it’s a less hectic time of the year.
  • Reuse old jars, cups and boxes that can be cleaned and repurposed.

At risk of sounding corny, “what the world needs now is love.”  And edible love is just the best. 

(Check out Chef Kelly Sears’ “Pickling and Preserving Workshop” on Sunday, August 27th to learn the tricks of canning and preserving in anticipation of Christmas 2017 Food Gift Giving!)

Smears and Dips, Slathers and Spreads; Ode to the Condiment by Kelly Sears

I confess, I have a condiment problem.  At any given time, our refrigerator looks more like an apothecary than a cooling unit, filled mostly with big jars, little jars, half-filled jars, and jars chock full. There are smears and dips, slathers and spreads all just begging for the star protein or vegetable to give it life and make it shine.

 

We all have our favorites.  Bright, spicy, smooth, silky, or chunky, condiments are the pop, the surprise, the little something extra that elevates ordinary to extraordinary.  Condiments work because they help us achieve balance.  When making any dish, we strive for balance to make that dish a success.  Balance comes from the ying and yang of tastes like bitter vs. sweet (dark chocolate brownies) or sour vs. salty (sour cream onion dip with chips).  Richness, temperature, and texture also play a part in keeping the palate scale level.  Yet balance can’t always be achieved by one component alone; enter the condiment!

 

Let’s start easy.  Ketchup and mustard are two of America’s most popular condiments so let’s examine why they work.  Vinegar give both their tang, both are bitter and acidic with sugar, salt and spices in the blend.  Usually served with burgers, brats, sausages or other grilled meats, the richness of the meat gets relief from the acidity (so you don’t feel like you are eating a stick of butter straight up!).  The meat is usually hot, the condiments cold; ketchup and mustard are smooth while the meats have some tooth.  Thus without even knowing it, balance is achieved just by eating a burger with the works.

 

Now let’s take another step up, relish, pickles, mayonnaise, and barbeque sauce. Again, these work just like ketchup and mustard to even out the flavors of the base component.  Fatty ribs love barbeque sauce, creamy mayonnaise and blt’s are great friends, and what perfect Chicago dog isn’t topped with a pickle or relish.  Starting to make sense?

 

Okay, we’re on a roll, so let’s not stop there.  A condiment doesn’t have to be just a store-bought accompaniment to food; a condiment can also couple as a solid component to a dish.  A condiment can be a dip, drizzle or dollop over a vegetable, a slice of meat, or on grilled toast to add sparkle and spice to the final dish.

 

I feel you starting to apply the brakes – work zone ahead!  I know its summer and the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time in the kitchen. So don’t!  Make a stop at the butcher and pick up some proteins for the week, visit your favorite farmers market for fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re almost there. We can whittle the kitchen time down to about an hour for two of my favorite condiments. Each one can be made and stored in the refrigerator for at least a week and each has multiple uses depending on your main course selection and meal time constraints.

 

Pepperonata plays nice with chicken, beef, and pork; it’s delicious added to Italian sausage, both on a bun or on a plate.  It can be a stand-alone side dish (although the true definition of a condiment is that it isn’t eaten by itself. Sssh, I won’t tell) or I like to serve it on grilled toast with a smear of ricotta or burrata.

 

The green goddess, although technically a dressing, qualifies as a smear, a dollop or a slather. It wears so many hats. This creamy green goodness is the perfect match for summer’s first bacon, lettuce and tomato; add a slice of avocado and a hard-boiled egg for an extra dose of flavor. Green goddess skips happily along when drizzled over garden fresh (or someone else’s garden!) lettuce, dolloped on cold shrimp, slathered on a roast beef sandwich, or served as a dip for roasted or raw farmer’s market fresh vegetables. A great way to utilize those fresh herbs in your garden, green goddess will make your taste buds happy.

 

The simplest definition of a condiment is that “it imparts flavor onto another food.” Beyond that, it gets subjective.  Make your own rules, combine your own flavors, find your own balance and enjoy a dip, a drizzle, a smear or a dollop of your favorite condiment.

Pepperonata (Caramelized Onions & Peppers) & Green Goddess Dressing
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Ingredients
  1. Pepperonata
  2. 2 large onions, julienne
  3. 3 large red peppers, julienne
  4. 3 large yellow peppers, julienne
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
  8. 5 basil leaves, chiffonade
  9. 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  11. Green Goddess Dressing
  12. 1 ½ cup mayonnaise
  13. ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  14. 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  15. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  16. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  17. 1 garlic clove, rough chop
  18. 1 anchovy filet
  19. Buttermilk for thinning (or regular milk works fine too but I like the tang buttermilk brings to the dish)
Instructions
  1. Pepperonata
  2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onion, oregano, red pepper flakes, and peppers until lightly golden; this should take about 20-25 minutes, longer if you want them super caramelized and sweet. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in basil, parsley, and thyme.
  3. Green Goddess Dressing
  4. Blend mayonnaise and all other ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender. Thin with buttermilk. The consistency should work for your intended purpose. This will vary per application, thicker for a smear or a dollop, thinner for a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust and enjoy!
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Oven, No Problem by Julie Busteed

Somehow it seems to happen that whenever we have out of town guests, something breaks, or clogs, or freezes. Think plumbers on Christmas Eve, or a dozen guests enjoying the warmth of the fireplace – because the power has gone out. This visit was no different, the day before company arrived our ovens decided to quit working. Not a total disaster since the stovetop still functioned, but I needed to alter my menus none the less.   

It has been several years since we’ve owned a grill and we’ve been planning to get one. As luck would have it, we were gifted a Kamado Joe! Yes, they were those kind of out of town guests, and yes, they probably figured it was their best shot at eating a home cooked meal. 

To be clear, the Kamado Joe is to “grill” as Ferrari is to a riding mower. This thing is on another level. The heat is enclosed entirely in a thick, ceramic shell, making common recipes that say “Bring the temperature to 700 degrees.” My ovens don’t go to 700 degrees…even when they’re working. The delivery crew shows up to assemble the unit dressed like they were going to a wedding… Which they were.  (Thanks Jill and Bob…)  And, like Ferrari, most of the Kamado Joes are red. Think of Marcel’s as the showroom, with free delivery and setup. 

I’ve had to skip over “grill” recipes for many years, and now here was my chance to dive back in. So far, we’ve seared steaks, grilled shrimp, warmed bread, grilled romaine and even baked banana bread. The surprising one was grilling salmon.  I had adapted this salmon recipe for the oven and it had proven quite tasty, but now I was actually able to grill it and wow, what a difference!

 

Asian Grilled Salmon
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Ingredients
  1. 1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)
  2. 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons good soy sauce
  4. 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions
  1. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.
  3. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  4. Grilling with high heat is a little like learning a new language. There’s a bit of a transition, but once you have the basics, a lot of exciting culinary adventures become available. And the flavors that will appear are astounding. Plus, it’s a great option to have when your appliances go on the fritz.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

A Repertoire by Amy Patterson

A peek inside of a recipe collection is revealing. Each recipe a star, a collection that inks out a distinct constellation over time – a personal roadmap of traditions, travels, relationships and memories.
 
My file after 20 years in my own kitchen is scattered amidst pages of heavily annotated cookbooks, dog-eared pages of Fine Cooking, vintage cards in my grandma’s ornate script and a healthy pinch of recipes gathered online. Of the thousands of recipes that could be unearthed in my home, there are a handful that reappear time and again – a motley mix that is a representation of my family’s tastes and sensibilities.  Years of experimentation have mined out our shining stars: an endlessly adaptable loaf of peasant bread, a dead-simple before school pancake recipe, an aromatic chipotle and cumin burger…  
 
Eggplant Dip is my favored appetizer for a party. Every time I whip this up, I am reminded of my Aunt Lois, who clipped this from the Chicago Tribune in the early 90’s. Or if there is a chill in the air, I’ll appear with a retro batch of Hanky Pankies ready to slide into the oven – a dish that could only be reproduced by someone time traveling from an early 80’s avocado-green kitchen in Minnesota. It invariably requires a dash to the supermarket in a clandestine search of Velveeta. (Not an ingredient that Daniel sources at Marché…)
 
Nothing makes me happier than sipping a glass of wine, tending a dish braising on the stovetop and daydreaming of the French countryside. Thus a Sunday dinner chez nous is likely Beef Bourguignon with mashed potatoes or a velvety celery root purée (a relatively recent addition to our repertoire).  Another (Italian) candidate would be a long-simmered Bolognese with fresh ribbons of fettuccine helped along by my daughter Lily.
 
A frenzied weekday often culminates with Salsa Chicken. Chicken thighs, 2 bottles of salsa – one red, one green. Gloriously simple and requested often; so little effort for a tasty taco. The award for most requested weeknight dinner is tied between my “signature” Sausage Pasta or Lily’s favorite – Korean Bulgogi Steak with Coconut Jasmine Rice.
 
Almond Cake from my battered and beloved copy of Cooking for Mr. Latte is my go-to dessert. This most delicious of cakes can be topped with seasonally appropriate fruit that improves with a leisurely nap on the countertop. If it is up to Gage, he will request Kahlua Vodka Cake, a nice slice of boozy and boxed Americana from my old colleague’s mother out East.
 
Open my fridge in the summer and you will find a pitcher or two of my Gazpacho – a vibrant melange of fresh vegetables lightly tempered by the addition of country bread and fruity olive oil. This never fails to transport me back to Southern Spain and is perfect for al fresco entertaining on the patio. As we are heading into summer, this is the recipe from my collection that I would love to share with you below.
 
Next week, we are moving to Idaho. As I pack up our home, I am paying extra care to my cookbooks and recipes. I’ve found several snippets from Marcel’s and I know that many of these recipes will slip into my time-honed repertoire and forever remind me of my connection with this magical and delicious little place.  These are the things that I will hold onto.
 
Editor’s Note: All of us at Marcel’s and Marché are going to miss Amy and her charming family in our midst.  Amy has been with us since the doors opened and her passion for food and eye for the creative have contributed so much. A bientôt, Patterson family!
 
Gazpacho
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups day-old country bread, torn into pieces
  2. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  3. pinch of cumin (or more to taste)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  5. 3 pounds ripe in-season tomatoes
  6. 1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
  7. 1 red pepper, chopped
  8. 2 tablespoons red onion
  9. 1/4 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
  10. 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  11. 1/4 pound ham (or pancetta), cubed
  12. 1 thick slice of country-style bread, little cubes for croutons
Instructions
  1. Place the bread in a bowl, add cold water to cover, and let soak for 5-10 minutes. Drain the bread and squeeze out excess liquid.
  2. Place garlic, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them to a paste.
  3. Place the tomatoes (lightly sprinkled with kosher salt), cucumber, red pepper, red onion, soaked bread and cumin/garlic/salt paste in a large bowl. Toss to mix and massage everything together. Let stand for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Add to blender (it may need to be in 2 batches) along with olive oil. Purée until smooth.
  5. Transfer soup to a large bowl and season with sherry vinegar and salt to taste.
  6. Refrigerate the gazpacho, covered, until chilled. At least 2 hours.
  7. Heat a small skillet to medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and cubed ham and fry until crisp. Remove to bowl leaving olive oil behind. Add cubed bread and fry until browned. (No need for oil with pancetta)
  8. Garnish soup with cubes of ham, croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

The Deep Blue Sea by Cherise Slattery

I woke up at 4 am. My bed was rocking back and forth. Images of the movie The Perfect Storm came to mind. I was sure my life was over! Too scared to open the balcony doors, and too dark to see anything anyway, I imagined the 30 foot swells that were going to tip us over as I fitfully fell back to sleep. I awoke the next morning to sun peeking through the blinds, and ventured a look outside. With the boat still rocking, imagine my surprise to see tiny, 3 foot waves of the most beautiful blue you could imagine. Yes, I survived my first Caribbean cruise.

When I mentioned I was taking my first cruise, everyone said “You won’t even feel the boat moving, and the food is fantastic.” Well, they were half right!

The food on our ship was abundant. I wandered through the offerings before choosing my meal every day.   There was fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, carving meats, salads, cheeses, breads, pastries, plus prepared foods. You have a taste for Italian food, check. You want Mexican, check. Asian, Caribbean, German, American, check, check, check and check.  In addition to that, you could go to one of the restaurants on board, sit down, and order off a menu that changed every night. Besides being perfectly prepared, the food was displayed beautifully, with fruit and vegetable carvings at every turn. Even with all these choices, I found myself being drawn to Souvlaki almost every day for lunch. I currently have an obsession for Tzatziki sauce!   Please enjoy my version of Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki
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Chicken Souvlaki
  1. 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. salt and pepper
Tzatziki
  1. 1 small cucumber, peeled and grated
  2. 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  3. 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
To serve
  1. pita
  2. tomatoes, thinly sliced
  3. red onions, thinly sliced
Chicken Souvlaki
  1. Combine all ingredients, marinate in refrigerator for two hours, occasionally stirring.
  2. Thread chicken onto skewers, discard marinade. Grill chicken over medium heat until cooked through and slightly charred.
Tzatziki
  1. Grate the cucumber and drain through a fine mesh sieve. Combine all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve
  1. Wrap chicken and sauce in a pita with thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

3 Things in the Kitchen to Teach Your Kid Before Going to College by Lynn Dugan

My oldest daughter Becca (on right) and her friends started cooking together in high school and have made many delicious treats in our kitchen!

Do you have a high school senior? If so, are you going through a mental inventory of what he/she needs to know before going off to college? I’ve been wondering myself if my own senior son has the laundry skills, checkbook balancing know-how, and the motivation to clean a dirty bathroom before he goes off to college at the end of the summer. There is so much to learn in so little time! While all of that is swirling in my head, what I can feel good about is that he is equipped in the kitchen with basic skills. Here are three things in the kitchen to teach your own child before going off to college:

Basic knife skills and safety
Make sure the chef’s knife you are using is sharp and is being held with fingers wrapped around the knife’s handle and the index finger and thumb gripping the knife’s base. Practice first by cutting some fruits and vegetables. Discuss a few pointers while enjoying the process: cutting downward and away from your body, always using a cutting board and never cutting on metal surfaces, Formica counter tops, stoves or in your hand. Remember, too, that knives should be hand washed and never thrown into a dishwashing sink amongst other dishes.

Food safety
This lesson is a very important topic for a cook of any level. Cutting boards used for raw meat should never be shared with produce (or anything else) before they are washed and sanitized. Pay attention to ‘use by’ dates on packaged foods. Know proper cooking temperatures (cooking poultry to 165 degrees and ground meat to 160 degrees). When thawing frozen food, it should always be done in the refrigerator overnight (instead of on the kitchen counter), and perishables should be refrigerated as soon as possible when brought home from the grocery store or when used in a recipe. Practice regular hand washing and keep work surfaces clean before and after food prep.

Stove Top Skills
Basic instructions go a long way when navigating a stove top. This new know-how should include how to turn on each burner, how to match burner size with pot size, and when to use the different low, medium and high heat settings. Together, you can start with boiling water on high heat for pasta or rice and then turn down the heat for the remainder of the cook time. Basic pan frying or sautéing skills are also helpful as a quick method for cooking protein and vegetables. For example, diced chicken cooked in a skillet can be added to the pasta or rice made in the steaming/boiling lesson (add marinara sauce or pesto and some shredded cheese for an easy meal). Try sautéing vegetables in a little olive oil like the sliced zucchini and onion you may have cut in the knife skills lesson. It makes a delicious side dish. Below is a super easy recipe you can use to further develop stove top skills!

Most importantly, enjoy this time in the kitchen with your child. It will be time well spent!

Cheesy Beef and Tomato Noodle Skillet
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound lean ground beef
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 1 clove garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 14 ounces water
  6. 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  7. 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  8. 1 medium sliced zucchini, cut ½ inch thick
  9. 1 cup uncooked egg noodles
  10. 1 can (14 ounces) fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  11. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a 10-inch skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Remove beef with a slotted spoon; pour off drippings. Season with salt and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add water, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper, zucchini and egg noodles. Push pasta into liquid. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet and heat through. Sprinkle dish with cheese and serve.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

And So This Is 60… by Dana Williams

Monday, April 3rd. I turned 60 years old. 21,900 days. That’s a lotta days.

People often laugh (okay, at me) when I tell them that I usually wake up with a song in my head but it’s true. It will stay in my head most of the day. Sometimes I’ll add it to our Spotify list at Marcel’s, often having it deleted by one of my beloved coworkers as soon as I turn my back. Seriously, who doesn’t love “One Less Bell To Answer” by The 5th Dimension? Anyway, the last few weeks before the big day,  I was consistently waking up to John Lennon’s “And So This Is Christmas” only it had morphed into “And So This Is 60.” It became a sort of mantra of accomplishments and disappointments, changing at any given moment, all sung to myself to that comforting tune.

The second half of my 59th year was pretty momentous on a very personal level. On Wednesday, October 26th, I decided that enough was enough and that entering my 60’s at 200+ pounds was probably a really bad idea. Major change was needed. With the guidance and support of a wonderful doctor, my husband and sons and one coworker (Hi, Anne), I quietly made the life adjustments needed. My days (mostly, just in case anyone reading this has seen the celebratory birthday pics!)  have consisted of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein. BOOM! That’s it. I stayed on the QT until people started to notice – it took about 30 pounds or so – and then I became an open book. One of the things that I find interesting is the assumption that for someone who loves food and cooking as much as I do, this must be a miserable journey! Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, loving to cook has made this process far less painless than one would think. You just need to get creative.


One small piece of equipment that I invested in is a traditional two-tiered  bamboo steamer that we carry at Marcel’s. It offers endless variations using fresh veggies, fish and chicken. I line the baskets with fresh kale, cabbage or Swiss chard, pile loads of vegetables in the top basket and nestle my protein in the bottom basket. I place the steamer in my wok to which I’ve added two inches of broth and twenty to thirty minutes later a complete meal is ready. I’ll add a side of grains or potatoes for my family and everyone’s happy!

So, here I am – 50 pounds down with 15 – 20 to go. I’ve never felt better. I walk two to five miles daily. My darling husband gave me my first new bike in 40 years for my birthday. “And So This Is 60.”  Bring it.

Weekend in Santa Fe by Robin Nathan

I’m a Western girl at heart. Any chance I get, that’s the direction I head, and I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Santa Fe, one of my favorite cities in the American west.

I met a couple longtime girlfriends there (I can’t say “old girlfriends” anymore, since we’re now actually OLD), and we ate and shopped (but mostly ate) our way through the town. If you’re unfamiliar with northern New Mexico and it’s cuisine, there are three ingredients which really define it: Hatch chilies, both green and red, and both HOT; piñon nuts, AKA pine nuts; and blue corn.

As a heat-freak, I love the fire-y Hatch chilies in everything from salsas and enchiladas to pizza and burger toppings. Locals string the red chilies together in the early fall to form ristras, allowing the chilies to dry and provide a ready supply all year. As for piñon nuts, I’ve been munching on them all my life — living on the west coast and spending time in the southwest provided easy access. One of my girlfriends on the trip, a native Midwesterner, was surprised to learn the nuts are actually harvested from pine cones. But not just any old pine tree’s cones will do – they must be from a piñon pine, the short, scrubby looking pine tree that prefers the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico and Arizona.

What’s Left of my Pancake…

Blue corn, however, is perhaps the most exotic of the cuisine’s native ingredients. Originally cultivated by the Hopi tribe of New Mexico and Arizona, blue corn is ground into a powder for use in tortillas and native breads. In the hands of white folks, it’s found it’s way into muffins, pancakes, and even pizza crust. Blue corn provides 20% more protein than white or yellow corn, and has a sweeter, nuttier flavor. Sunday morning found me and my friends feasting on delicious and lightly crunchy blue corn and piñon pancakes at the Plaza Restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in Santa Fe, and as depicted in the name, right on the main plaza, across from the Native American artisan market. You don’t have to travel to Santa Fe to pick up some blue corn meal – look for Bob’s Red Mill at your local specialty store! Get your hands on some and try these pancakes some weekend morning soon!

Blue Corn and Piñon Pancakes with Piñon Butter
Print
For Pancakes
  1. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 ½ cups blue corn meal
  3. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  4. 3 tablespoons sugar
  5. Salt to taste
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 ½ cups milk
  8. ½ cup buttermilk
  9. ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  10. ½ C. Piñon pine nuts
  11. Additional melted butter for griddle
For Butter
  1. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  2. 1 tablespoon honey
  3. 3 tablespoons piñon pine nuts
  4. Salt to taste
  5. Confectioner’s sugar or maple syrup for serving
Make the Butter
  1. Using a small spatula, combine the butter, honey and piñon nuts in a small bowl and season to taste with salt. Set aside at room temperature. (Refrigerate if making more than an hour in advance, bring to room temperature before using.)
Make the Pancakes
  1. Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Combine the eggs, milks and melted, cooled butter in a smaller bowl or large glass measuring cup. Whisk to blend, then pour into dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated, the batter should still be a bit lumpy.
  2. Preheat a griddle to moderate heat (350 if it has a thermostat.) Lightly butter the griddle and ladle the batter onto the griddle to form the pancakes. Sprinkle with a few of the pine nuts and cook until the underside is golden, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and cook the other side. Transfer to a platter and hold in a warm oven until all the batter has been used.
  3. To serve, pile onto plates and dollop with the soft piñon nut butter. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle lightly with maple syrup and enjoy.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/