fbpx

The Cocktail, the Community Table, and Wilma Brown by Chef Kelly Sears

Boulder Colorado, a rented house, and a table that seats ten. Ages nineteen to seventy three, from Wisconsin, and Chicago, New Mexico, and California, we went to celebrate my half century but as with most things, on the way to the destination, the journey took us somewhere else. 

It started with the perfect cocktail, the welcome cocktail. It wasn’t just the ingredients; it was how they all came together.  A couple people juiced lemons, some measured the mixers, a few peeled mandarin oranges, and others took care of the nibbles; before you knew it we had been introduced, reacquainted, laughed a lot, caught up, and laughed some more.  

The rest of the trip was a collage of hiking, farmer’s markets, and campus tours, shopping, drinking and eating. But the real action took place at the table, the community table for ten.  If you’ve taken one of my classes, you know I always stress the importance of who’s around the table, not just what’s on the table and never was this more applicable.  We ordered in, we ate out but no matter what the location; the dish was always the same, shared plates.  The ingredients were many: empty nests and pending graduations, engagements and new careers, dark secrets and bright futures, new houses and big moves, late nights, morning coffee, and A LOT OF SHOES!

Somewhere along the way, we ten strong women gathered together and with our twenty sturdy legs, twenty outstretched arms, and ten big hearts we built a rainbow bridge so that my grandmother who had been stubbornly holding out for 94 finally decided that 93 years, 8 months, and a few extra days was enough and with all of us for support, she could proudly cross over to the other side.

That evening at dinner we raised our glasses to birthdays, friendship, life, and Wilma Brown.  If you’ve never taken this kind of trip, do so. If you’ve already done it, don’t stop. If you’re waiting for the right time, it’s now. The one thing I know for sure, time does not go backward.

Here’s our cocktail for your next toast:

Equal parts; Mandarin orange vodka, curacao, lemon juice, cranberry juice

Half that amount of simple syrup

Add mandarin orange segments to the glass and garnish with sparkly sanding sugar

Cooking in the Moment by Paul Lindemuth

I often take a long look at the shelves of cookbooks lining one wall of my office (at last count 600+ books and forever growing). So many titles, so many authors and so many topics. 

One book that always seems to catch my attention is “Cooking in the Moment”, by Chef Andrea Reusing. It is a beautifully written book that celebrates the joy of seasonal cooking, embracing the bounty, and as Andrea says “focusing on one meal at a time and taking one’s cues from nature”.

This inspiration has taken over in my cooking as well. As the Marcel’s chefs were presented with an array of the season’s bounty with our weekly CSA box, I learned more about that focus and watched the produce change from tender, tiny greens and sweet berries in early spring through a variety of tomatoes and summer corn to apples and root vegetables in September.

What I’ve shared with my students and brought home to my own kitchen is the vision to utilize the best of the season, eat and enjoy what is IN season and remember it fondly when it is not, rather than using produce that has been grown hundreds if not thousands of miles away and shipped to large supermarkets where you can find tasteless berries and starchy corn year round.

As we get ready for the approaching holidays and all the stick-to-the-ribs hearty fare of winter, we can already think about the first tastes of spring in the garden.
(Editor’s Note:  We are working on getting “Cooking in the Moment” in the store and will let you know when it’s available.)

 IMG_0234

 

 

 

 

Apple and Smoked Trout Salad with Horseradish Cream

1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed, leaves separated
1 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored and very thinly sliced on a mandolin
½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ pound boneless smoked trout filets, broken into pieces
watercress sprigs for garnish 

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, horseradish and vinegar. Add enough cream until the dressing is creamy and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Arrange the endive, apple, walnuts and trout on 4 serving plates.
  3. Drizzle the vinaigrette evenly over each portion and garnish with the watercress sprigs. Serve right away. 

Serves 2

 

 

 

For the Love of Ice Cream by Robin Nathan

ice-creamIce cream has always been my and my family’s favorite treat. When I was a kid in LA, we’d drive over to “31 Flavors” (it was just a local chain, back then) after dinner. I still remember each flavor my sister, brother, and parents ordered. For me, it was a toss up between Jamoca Almond Fudge (I have always loved coffee flavor!), Mint Chip, or if I was feeling competitive, Bubble Gum — my siblings and I would save and count up our bubblegum pieces to see who got the most!

These days, ice cream still tops my dessert list, as you know if you’ve ever had a class with me. Because there are so many really high quality ice creams commercially available, I prefer not making a flavor that I could buy. When I plan to make ice cream, it’s got to be something you can’t find anywhere else. Tiramisu, Goat Cheese, Blueberry-Lavender, Salted Caramel, Toasted Almond, these are the flavors I dream about as a grown up.  

For years, I used a Donvier ice cream maker.  Introduced in the mid 1980s, it was one of the first to use a quick freeze insert, and although it had to be hand-cranked, it produced fantastic, soft-serve ice cream in about 30 minutes.  I used that thing until it fell apart – just last year – and purchased a Cuisinart electric ice cream maker at Marcel’s.  I LOVE the Cuisinart!! It features the same quick freeze insert (I keep mine in the freezer at all times), but instead of hand cranking on and off for 30 minutes, you simply plug it in and it does all the work for you. Amazing! My only regret is that my old Donvier didn’t give out sooner!   

Here’s one of the simplest ice cream recipes there is – no custard involved – but the results will blow you away. Enjoy! 

Tiramisu Gelato

Makes about 1 ½ Quarts
2 C. Mascarpone cheese (usually 2 containers)
1 1/3 C. Half and half
¾ C. Sugar
¼ C. Very strong cold espresso coffee
1 T. Brandy
Pinch of salt
½ C. Unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine all the ingredients, except the cocoa powder in a blender and process until smooth.  Pour into a metal bowl set over a larger metal bowl of ice.  Stir occasionally for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is very cold. Scrape contents into your ice cream maker and process according to your manufacturer’s instructions. 

Spoon one third of the churned mixture into your storage container and sprinkle with a layer of the cocoa powder.  Cover with another third and a topping of cocoa powder. Create the last layer and top with remaining cocoa powder.  Cover and freeze until firm.

Temper slightly when ready to serve.

Recipe for a Great Team by Chef Kelly Sears

If you’ve spent any time at all in the Marcel’s kitchen, you’ve seen or met our hard working culinary assistants.  Over the three plus years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working side by side with all of them. We’ve shared some good food, hard work, and even better conversation.  I would say it’s been quite a success!

What you might not know about this group is that they are all volunteers.  Yes, that’s right, volunteers.  They set up your workstations, pour your wine, clean your cutting boards, empty your garbage bowls, answer your questions, smooth over anything that doesn’t go quite right and help ensure you are having a great time in the Marcel’s kitchen.   

I’ve worked, managed, and been managed for years.  In any environment you can sniff out the bag of coal from a mile away; the Debbie-downer, the energy-zapper, and I am so happy we are working in the exact opposite atmosphere.  I am extremely proud of the culinary team we have built together. Their teamwork is topnotch, first rate, above and beyond.  They sub for one another, encourage one another, they share stories, life experiences and life lessons. The positive energy is contagious and that’s something you just can’t teach people, they have to feel it and share it from within themselves. 

The culinary team started out as a team of twelve and has grown to a team of plus thirty.  Some have moved on to college, some moved away.  Some have moved on to the Marcel’s retail team, some have become our very important dishwashers; seven are from the original twelve.  They range in age from just-received-drivers -licenses to proud AARP card holding members.  They are mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts, teachers, and students, and just extraordinary people.  They are the eyes and the ears of what happens before, during, and after a cooking class.  They are all so very important. 

I share this with all of you because I want you to know how dear and important they are to me.  They are my base, my rock, my solid foundation that makes me feel so completely confident and at ease when I am not in the kitchen at Marcel’s.  I know with their names on the schedule, my worries are squelched and the guests are in confident hands.   

And in case you don’t know them by name, let me introduce the culinary team: Jo, Sam, Bonnie, Lois, Carlene, Lauren E., Maggie, Sandy, Monica, Dorothy, Alison, Denien, Kathy, Jenny, Molly, Maureen, Cathy, Joan, Amy, Jacqueline, Ginny, Debby, Kris R., Anne, Lauren S., Becky, Tana, Kris T., Tina, Jennifer, Alessandra, and Sharon.  Each and every day, I’m proud to work with all of you.

Never underestimate the power of collaboration.
Thanks to all of you.

 IMG_0414

Here’s a great recipe for your great team:

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Chocolate Chip Brownie Double Deckers 
(adapted from Mary Pat Watt, football mom and previous Marcel’s Culinary Assistant)

Brownie Layer

¾ c. unsalted butter melted
1 T. espresso powder
¾ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ c. sugar
½ t. salt
2 eggs
1½ t. vanilla
¾ c. flour 

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper so the paper extends beyond the sides
  • Spray below and on top the parchment with cooking spray
  • Whisk the espresso powder and the cocoa powder into the butter until smooth
  • Whisk in sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla
  • Stir in flour until blended
  • Spread evenly in prepared pan

 Chip Layer

 ¾ c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1½ c. flour
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
6 oz. Mexican chocolate, chopped 

  • Whisk brown sugar and butter until smooth; Cool and whisk in vanilla & egg
  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to butter mixture
  • Stir in chocolate
  • Drop over brownie batter layer and spread to cover
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick tests done

If It’s Summer, It Must Be Picnic Time

Yes, summer is here, finally! And, why not enjoy a picnic with family and friends?   Easy comfort foods, red gingham tablecloths, lemonade and sugar cookies, and, even an ant or two are so fun.  Perhaps, we feel as though we are going on a mini vacation.  Packing up the picnic basket, gathering chairs, quilts, candles, causes one to relax and enjoy the simplicity of it all.  

To be quite honest, though, I’m usually not enthused about partaking in picnics.  I’m sure it relates to hot, humid, buggy experiences of days past. I kept thinking to myself, “Do people really enjoy this type of al fresco dining?” And, the answer is “but, of course.”  But, hold on, I recently had one of those “ah-ah” moments when I found myself in the middle of planning a very elegant, pre-theatre picnic.   Such fun, for we kept enhancing the dinner by adding to the ambience with French china and linens, silver tableware, silver candelabra, and fresh flowers.  Ok, I finally get it!!

The menu must be delicious, and fun.  For serving pieces, I’ve been using the Weck canning jars. Besides, using these jars for putting up garden fruits and vegetables, they provide the perfect “vessel” for soups, salads, and desserts; thank you, Marcel’s for selling these gems.  They are perfect for individual servings of a dessert, such as the English, “posset”.  This is similar to a panna cotta, but, lighter and so good.

DSC_1097

POSSET….inspired by Laura Calder

1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice

Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes.  Pour into Weck jam jars or pretty glasses.  Put in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours till firm.  I like to serve with fresh berries on top of the posset.  

 

Mise en place by Chef Paul Lindemuth

Mise en place is a French phrase which means “putting in place”, as in setting up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients and components that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared.  The practice is also effective in home kitchens and is a mantra that I preach at the beginning of every class I teach.

Take time to first read through any recipe to familiarize yourself with ingredients, techniques and equipment.

Then, take stock of your ingredients to make certain that you have all the necessary components to complete the recipe. Gather those ingredients near your work area so they are close at hand, or better yet, take a few moments to measure ingredients so everything is ready to be used in the correct sequence.  You’ve seen the line up of small prep bowls that every teaching chef uses for classes.  Being able to reach for every item is a true time saver.  Conversely, there is nothing more counterproductive than having to stop your prep or cooking to search the pantry or refrigerator for a missing item…or worse yet… having to stop everything to get into the car for an emergency trip to the market!

Putting everything in place is going to make prep and cooking fun and efficient.  Make it a habit!

cucumber-soup

CHILLED CREAM OF CUCUMBER SOUP WITH DILL

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, peeled, trimmed and sliced
4 cucumbers, peeled, trimmed, seed removed, sliced
2 bay leaves
salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
fresh dill sprigs for garnish

In a large soup pot melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, cucumbers and bay leaves.  Stir to coat the vegetables with the butter and sauté for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook the vegetables until they are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Add the chicken broth.  Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Working in batches, puree the soup in the jar of a blender until very smooth.  Transfer each batch to a large bowl.
Stir in the cream and lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then stir in the dill.  Cover and chill the soup until very cold, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with the fresh dill sprigs.
Serves 6  to 8

Springtime in Texas

texas hill country mapWhat comes to mind when you think of Texas? Windy stretches of tumbleweed filled desert, the bustle of Houston or Dallas, maybe the beaches at Corpus Christi? How about rolling green hills, small lakes and winding rivers, wildflowers by the thousands, and some of the best food anywhere?  I just returned from a long weekend with a dear friend in the Texas Hill Country, and that is just what I experienced. 

This area, between Austin and San Antonio, was originally settled by Germans and Polish who came to run the lumber mills in the mid 19th century. Their culinary influence can still be seen, felt, and tasted today in little towns like Fredricksburg where restaurants still serve schnitzel and homemade sauerkraut.  These folks stayed on, owning many of the huge ranches that cover the area today, their culinary path twisting with the locals and the cowboys.  In the 1960s, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the planting of millions of bluebonnets throughout the Hill Country which bloom for miles every spring, making a beautiful place even lovelier. 

Texas Hill Country Borracho Beans
 “Borracho” means drunken in Spanish. These beans will be fabulous with barbequed or smoked meats at your next cook out.
10-12 Servings
borracho-beans (1)

2 pounds dry pinto beans
10 slices thick cut bacon
2 small white onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chile powder
2 t. paprika
1 t. ground cumin
4 roma tomatoes, diced
Big handful of chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 jalapenos, kept whole and pierced with a knife
12 oz. dark Mexican beer (such as Negro Modelo or XX)
1 ½ cups chicken broth

Place the pinto beans in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 2”.  Let soak overnight.  Drain the beans and set aside.

Cook half the bacon in a large stock pot.  Remove when crisp, reserve the drippings.  Add the onion to the drippings and sauté briefly.  Add the garlic and spices and cook 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, cilantro, and pierced jalapenos and stir to coat.  Return the beans to the pot with the beer and the broth.  The beans should be covered by the liquid at least 3” (add water if needed.)  Chop the remaining bacon into ½” pieces and add it to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook over moderate heat until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with additional chopped fresh cilantro and the crumbled cooked bacon.

Vanilla Paste; Beyond Dessert by Chef Jean True

As many of you know, one of my favorite food products I discovered at Marcel’s is Nielsen-Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste.  Did you know that vanilla is the most popular flavoring in the world?  For vanilla adds a sweet, but, not too sweet and a subtle, “velvety” flavor to many a recipe.  Especially the paste, for the seeds add even more vanilla flavor. But, where does it come from?  The bean or pod, as it is sometimes called, comes from the fruit of the Vanilla Orchid, grown in warm, humid climates. Do note that this plant was originated in Mexico and is now also grown in Madagascar, Indonesia, Tahiti, Uganda, India, Jamaica, Hawaii, China, and the Philippines. The largest producer of vanilla pods is Madagascar.

Another fun piece of history is that Queen Elizabeth I, inspired by her apothecary, Hugh Morgan, in 1602, suggested that vanilla should be used as a flavoring by itself and not just in combination with the cocoa bean for hot chocolate.  Thus, was born the flavor of vanilla as the primary flavor in the world.

Now, how to use this aromatic, delectable, yet mighty, vanilla. With its many components, it lends itself to balancing sweet and acidic ingredients.  I’m now adding 1or 2 teaspoons of the vanilla paste to marinara sauce, spicy stir fry shrimp, and, of course, pastries. I do recommend adding the vanilla paste to sugar and butter as you are creaming the two ingredients. When  preparing a savory dish, add it at the end of the cooking time.

Recently, I assisted Chef Karla Lawrence at a culinary conference in Chicago.  She is the chef/owner of the Artisan Kitchen, a great restaurant in Poducah, Kentucky.  Her creativity and passion for cooking inspired her most delicious salmon recipe.

IMG_0998

Vanilla Glazed Pan Seared Salmon

2 8oz salmon fillets
2 tbsp. grape seed oil
3-4 tbsp. vanilla bean paste
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pink peppercorns(if not pink, use  mixed peppercorns)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
While the skillet is preheating, rub the salmon fillets with salt and peppercorns.  Add 2 tbsp grape seed oil to the hot skillet.  Place the salmon in the skillet and pan sear them on both sides.  Remove from the heat and “smear on the paste” with a pastry brush.  Place the skillet with the salmon in the oven for 5-7 minutes to set the glaze.

The Spice of Life by Chef Jamie Bordoshuk

If variety is the spice of life, it’s spice that brings life to food.  And recently, I definitely got my fill. 

Like many of you, the end of March signals Spring Break trip for my family. We usually gravitate towards sun, sand and surf spots – Orlando, Maui, Puerto Rico.  This year, we decided to mix it up and go somewhere completely different – New York City.  We spent our week feasting on the lights, sounds, smells and flavors of Broadway and 42nd street in the heart of mid-town Manhattan.  The food was truly memorable in every way, from the traditional northern Italian family style enormous plates at Carmine’s on 44th Street to the exotic pates, cheeses and artisanal meat board at The Park in Chelsea.  Even the hot dogs and roasted almonds from the push cart vendors smelled and tasted delicious.

One of our best afternoon surprises was a visit to the storefront spice shop, La Boite, in Hell’s Kitchen on 11th Avenue.  Owned and operated by Lior Lev Sercarz, La Boite is a biscuit and spice shop that is only open 12 hours a week.  The intense aroma of the unique spice blends hits you the moment you walk though the door of this tiny, stark white shop.  Although I missed Lior by a mere 5 minutes, I did get to smell and sample the more than 40 wonderful spice blends that he has created.  And when Chef Paul Kahan was at Marcel’s last November, he said Lior’s spices were some of his favorites.

Enjoy this one-of-a-kind Bloody Mary recipe that includes La Boite’s special B-Marlene Spice Blend.

The best news?  La Boite spices are available right here at Marcel’s.

 spices 1

La Boite Bloody Marlene

A gin-based Bloody Mary is called a Red Snapper, but when you season it with gin botanicals such as juniper and substitute wasabi for horseradish, we think you should change the name!  ~ Lior Lev Sercarz.  

Ingredients

 4 oz. tomato juice
1 ½ oz. gin
¼ oz. Worcestershire sauce
¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. lime juice
½ t B-Marlene spice blend
1/2 t.  pickled wasabi
¼ t hot sauce

Directions:

Build in a mixing glass then fill with ice. 
Stir with ice, then fine strain into a chilled Collins glass
Garnish with a lime wedge

Working The Plate by Chef Paul Lindemuth

I have always told my cooking class students that you “eat with your eyes”.  The visuals of a beautifully composed plate provide the all-important first impression.  Often before the first aromas and certainly before the first tastes hit our senses, our eyes feast on the array of shapes, colors and textures placed before us. 

I’ve watched with pride as my culinary assistants carefully wipe clean the rim of every plate before putting it before our students as well as asking me how I wish the plate to be positioned (fish at 6 o’clock?).  

Food presentation goes beyond the arrangement of finished ingredients on a plate.  Every chef has an individual style of plating that is very personal and continually evolving…defined by the occasion, cuisine and often the plate itself. 

A geometric square plate is perfect to showcase the minimal presentation of a stripe of sauce with a trio of perfectly seared scallops placed on top.  

A carefully composed stack of tomatoes, avocados and chicken salad is a far more appealing presentation of Cobb salad than a spoonful randomly dolloped on the plate. 

Herbs make beautiful garnishes and using the same herbs for garnish as used in the food being presented helps tell the story of the flavors on the plate. 

Using a bowl, cup or glass for something other than its original intent is a wonderful way to infuse interest….such as a giant cold shrimp perched on the rim of a shot glass with a bit of cocktail sauce in the bottom. 

So whether you’re plating for two or a feast for family and friends, take the time to set the stage for the sensory experience of a wonderful meal.

IMG_0675

Wood-Roasted Salmon with Lemon Cream

2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup dry vermouth
2 cups heavy cream
freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemons
six 5 to 6 ounce salmon fillets, rinsed and patted dry
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
twelve thin lemon slices
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cedar roasting papers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine the shallots and vermouth.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by one half.  Add the cream and continue cooking until reduced by one half.

Remove the sauce from the heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth.  Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.  Cover and set aside. (The sauce may be prepared up to one day in advance, covered tightly and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Rub a light coating of olive oil on both sides of each salmon filet.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Remove the cedar roasting papers from the water and place them on a work surface.  Place one lemon slice in the center of a paper and place a thyme sprig on top.  Place a salmon filet on top and then put one slice on top of the salmon. Carefully wrap the paper over the fish and secure with bamboo picks or toothpicks. Place the wrapped salmon to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining salmon.

Roast until the salmon flakes and is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Check

Meanwhile, gently re-warm the sauce over low heat.

Transfer the salmon to heated serving plates and unwrap the cedar roasting paper. Serve with the lemon cream sauce on the side.

 Serves 6