Food is an integral part of my life and its no surprise that I came by this at a young age. I am Italian after all. I wish I could say I was born in Italy, and not Cleveland, which sounds more romantic. Still I do have strong ethnic roots that come to play whenever I am in the kitchen. Holidays especially bring it out in me. Our familyâ€™s Christmas Eve dinner comes to mind.
My dadâ€™s father is from Ascoli-Piceno in Marche on the Adriatic Coast. Growing up I assumed this was the birthplace of the tradition we celebrated my whole life, â€œThe Feast of the Seven Fishesâ€. As I got older I realized that it was a celebration that many Italians from all regions in Italy enjoyed, each with their own special nuance. Even the count differs–some areas celebrate nine fishes while others celebrate eleven. One thing is certain; the menu on this night is â€œmeatlessâ€ as it was the night prior to a holy day and it was considered a vigil.
At the Neroniâ€™s, Christmas Eve day started before daybreak with a trip to the west side market. From dried cod (Baccala) to fresh smelts-we kept the fishmonger busy selecting species that would marry well with our family recipes brought out year after year.
My alarm clock was in the form of Momâ€™s Marinara, scented with garlic and fennel, filling the house with its sweet tomato aroma. When I arrived in the kitchen, dad was at the sink measuring his ingredients for pizza while mom peeled garlic. This scene played out many times in my life, but on the morning of Christmas Eve, it meant the beginning of a long day of cooking.
As a boy I thought it was a huge menuâ€”as a chef, I think it is a huge menu! We began with fresh fennel, along side EVOO, Kosher salt and cracked pepper â€“ a way to stimulate the appetite. Then the fish courses were placed. First, a platter of large Steamed Prawns topped with horseradish sauce, followed by Pan-fried Smelts with aioli (garlic mayonnaise). Calamari, was stewed in a tomato sauce that would sometimes include crab or lobster, not usually both. The Baccala–Salted Cod, is my favorite now, not as a boy, and it was traditionally served with eggs and onions. If Clams were present, they were baked with oregano and breadcrumbs. Our final fish dish, Lake Perch, was simply baked with capers and lemon. Miraculously all these dishes made their way to the table at once, accompanied by spaghetti or some other pasta, a fresh green salad with an oil and mostly vinegar dressing that my dad loved and most of us got use to, stinky cheeses, a variety of olives, and of course, crusty Italian breads! Notice I have not describe the wines that accompanied these Fishes! No, indeed. Dad would serve what he called an â€œItalian high ball,â€ only one, and it would last the whole meal. It consisted of red table wine and gingerale. Dessert this day was never the focal point, but still an amazing array of our favorite cookies including biscotti, pizzelles, apricot fold-overs, thumb prints, rugelach, and pecan tassie. The sampler was available following dinner but as I recall there was a requisite that my sisters and I do the dishes before rewarding ourselves with cookies.
Today the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a little more extravagant to prepare than it was when we were kids. The varieties we served for holy days were very inexpensive, and at least then, were not given the gourmet status they are today. As they became more popular and mainstream in restaurants, they also became more expensive. This in mind, I do enjoy the challenge of creating the modern version of my familyâ€™s feast. As always, I stick to the local and seasonal products and usually have no trouble coming up with seven courses, especially when one dish has two or three species in it, like a Cioppino or a seafood salad. And for that matter why not a one pot feast containing all seven fishes? Now that is my idea of quick feastingâ€”one pot fish stew that I pair with crusty bread, and a nice Chianti, or a Sangiovese blend, such as Oregon produced Farmhouse Red by David Hill. Buon Natale!
Feast of the Seven Fishes in one Pot
As needed EVOO
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 shallots, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrots, diced,
1 bulb fennel, diced
1 cup red wine
2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked coriander
1 lb fresh or frozen calamari (squid), cut into small pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
1# rockfish, 2 inch chunks
1 # salmon, block cut 2×2 inch
1 # link cod, 2 inch chunks
1 # bay shrimp
1 # crab, picked and clean
1 bunch fresh basil, sliced just before adding
Add EVOO to bottom of preheated Dutch oven. Add first 5 ingredients and cook until vegetables are aromatic and still firm. Add tomatoes and wine, sea salt, oregano and coriander. Bring to simmer and add calamari; cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add potatoes and continue cooking an additional 30 minutes. Test the calamari for tenderness, and if not, continue cooking until it is. Hold warm until service.
At service: Add remaining seafood in the following order gently stirring after each addition:
Mussels and clamsâ€”cooked cover for 3-5 minutes,
Add rockfish, salmon, and link cod for 3 minutes,
Add bay shrimp and crab last. Replace lid and about a minute just to heat through.
Taste the broth and adjust seasoning with sea salt, coriander, and black pepper.
Dish up into large â€œpasta sizeâ€ bowls. Drizzle with your favorite EVOO and top with shredded basil. Serve with crusty bread and a great Chianti.
Serves 6-8 generous portions with leftovers.
Growing up in the Midwest brought with it a variety of cuisines. I think many people think one dimensional if you mention Chicago, Detroit or even Cleveland for its perceived lack luster food and concord style grapes that are relegated to jams and jellies and never wine. The truth is that these cities offer a melting pot of culture and great food. Growing up in Cleveland (Ohio) I often reminisce of the Friday morning drives to the market with my dad in his grand Cadillac (it always seemed grand to me) and the stops we made along the way. One such stop was the Lebanese bakery, about three miles from our destination and the best coffee and pita in the world! Well, you will have to take my word on that, but it is hard to beat the aroma and flavor of freshly baked pockets of dough hot out of wood fired ovens, slathered with sweet butter and served alongside dark roasted coffeeâ€¦.euphoric.
On the other hand it only got better as the day went on. Ice cold buttermilk from the dairy farmer, only hours old and artisan cheeses, cut to spec as you watched with anticipation. Charcuterie made old world style from Italy, Germany, Lithuania and Poland, all reeking of exotic aromatics from their points of origin.
Multitudes of fish from the great lakes cut and cleaned from tanks where moments earlier they swam without a care in the world.
All this fresh food made us appreciate the effort put forward by the craftsman and women who rose before dawn and slept little to deliver the fruits of their respective labors. I am confident that this is one reason I work as I do today. The other without question is due to my childhood where cooking was an integral part of the Neroni household. With a Jewish mother and Italian father, I often joke that there was a lot of good food and greater guilt! All kidding aside, being the youngest with four sisters, it was part of the daily routine to be in the kitchen with mom and dad preparing, playing, testing and eating new and old family recipes. One such recipe that I often recreate is Dadâ€™s Braciola.
Braciola (bra-chee-oh-la) is kind of an Italian pot roast. My dadâ€™s version used lesser, tougher cuts of meat like chuck or clod that were fanned out, stuffed and rolled jelly roll fashion. A favorite stuffing was sautÃ©ed escarole, pine nuts, garlic and golden raisins. After stuffing, the meat is usually tied with butcherâ€™s twine, seared for browning, and then slowly braised in a marinara sauce until the tomatoes and garlic fussed with the beef turning it tender and succulent. Fresh made pasta drizzled with olive oil from Galucciâ€™s downtown always accompanied my dadâ€™s Braciola! The recipe comes together pretty quickly and simple substitutions can be made if needed. One thing will be clear as your Braciola is cooking—garlic is good and you will want to have a lot of crusty bread so that none of it goes to waste. Enjoy!
My Dadâ€™s Braciola, as I remember it!
BRACIOLA (say, â€œbra-chee-OH-laâ€) A braised beef dish that is served with fresh made pasta! Here it is with Spaghetti squash instead of pasta
1 ea spaghetti squash
1 Â½# chuck roast*
1 head garlic, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 head escarole, chopped
2 TBS pine nuts, toasted
2 TBS currants
1 TBS dry oregano leaves
2 tsp dry thyme
4 oz bacon, minced, rendered (fat reserved), optional
2 quarts Marinara sauce
Squash method: wash and cut squash lengthwise; brush with EVOO and season with sea salt, pepper and coriander; wrap with foil and roast at 375ÂºF for approximately 45 minutes or until tender and squash-meat begins to pull away from the skin; remove and flake pulp into warm serving dish; toss with EVOO and adjust seasonings.
Braciola: fan out chuck and season with salt and pepper- reserve cold; heat 3 TBS EVOO in large sautÃ© pan; add garlic and onions and cook until aromatic; add escarole and cook to wilt; add nuts and currants and cook to incorporate; add herbs and bacon and remove from heat â€“ cool completely. Lay filling out over the fanned out chuck and roll/tie; meanwhile bring sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Heat large skillet with EVOO and sear meat on all sides; cover with sauce and simmer/braise for approximately 2 hours or until tender. Remove twine and cut into individual portions.
*You might ask your butcher to â€œfanâ€ out the beef so you can fill it when you get home. Or ask if heâ€™ll fill and tie it for you if you bring in the stuffing. You can also use flank steak or top round steak, which do not require fanning.
This time of year, more than any other time, Americans are overwhelmed with the task of making not only turkey – but a better, new and improved from last year bird that will rival all other competitors. In all fairness, Holiday time is the only time we cook a meal of this magnitude. And so, it should be daunting! Friends, family and in-laws gathering around the communal table having anticipated the holidayâ€™s culinary magic, puts pressure on even the most seasoned cooks. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit but it does seem to me there is a lot of energy spent this time of year on how to cook a better bird. So I offer this friendly discussion to help you in your decision making.
In most of my menu planning, I start by thinking about the big picture first. What flavors am I going forâ€”will it be spicy, herbaceous, or refreshing. This line of thinking helps me create the sides and condiments, and the center of the plate follows. But when working with turkey,that bird gets my full attention up front.
Thinking about last yearâ€™s bird, I just want to make this one tastier and juicier!â€”tastucier! So I am in competition with myself now. To save some time I need to decide which of the myriad of cooking methods available will give me the best shot at â€tastucier!â€ Quickly I narrow down my choices to brining the bird or oven roasting!
Brining the bird â€“ the purpose of brining is to tenderize meat proteins and add flavor. In the simplest sense, salt is dissolved in water and the meat submerged for a period of time, depending on weight. Sugar or sweeteners like honey or maple syrup may be added along with seasonings to make it more interesting. There are also recipes substituting water with other liquids such as fruit juice, wine or beer. But simply salted water will produce juicier meat. Brined items should be patted dry once finished and then cooked. But cooked how?
Oven-Roasting is a common method for cooking turkey. It is a technique of dry heat cooking at generally higher temperatures for more tender pieces of meat, utilizing small amounts or no fat/oil. This works best on small cuts of meat. Whole roasted turkey is often too large and results in becoming too dry! I think this is where the foil wrapping or â€œbaking a turkey in a bagâ€ probably started. In my experience it is the white meat that is dry from roasting, because by the time the dark meat is done, i.e. no longer raw and is safe to eat, the white goes beyond done. I have had pretty good roasting results when I flip the bird over on its breast for the first half of the cooking. This way all the juice flows into the breast making it less dryâ€”so the hypothesis goes. I think it is more because it takes longer to cook since the breast is buried below the roasting pan. So why not combine the best of both methods?
After brining the bird, simply place it breast down on the roasting rack, and roast uncovered at moderate heat until the bird is in its last hour, at which time you flip it right side up and turn up the heat to brown its chest! Results look great, the dark meat is fully cooked and if I do it right, the breast meat temps just below 165Â°F while the leg and thighs come in at 175Â°F—perfect! Adding fat, like olive oil goes a long way to keep the breast meat moist, so after turning it right side up, I also â€œbasteâ€ like crazy with EVOO!
This time of year most of us take the opportunity to reflect on the past years events and how the choices we have made have impacted our lives. For me it has been a year of great reward both personally and professionally.
Lenore and I continue to grow in our relationship, able to separate the day-to-day business from our home life. I can tell you that itâ€™s a lot easier when you have been together for 17+ years. Our poodles, Olivia and Taylor have taken to the beach like troopers, although supposedly water dogs, neither really like it and Taylor only goes in if her beloved tennis ball goes in first.
We continue to enjoy the bounties of the coast as well as the good fortune of the farming community of the Willamette. Our resources for local products grow each season and with the help of by chef bud, Will at the Wayfarer (Martin Hospitality â€“ part of the Surf Sand Resort) other farms have expressed interest in coastal deliveries. From a chefsâ€™ perspective Oregon is a culinary paradise.
Lenore and I cannot forget to give thanks to each and every guest who walks through our doors. Our success to date has been largely based upon our return customers and â€œword of mouthâ€. We are extremely proud and thankful for the support of our friends and alumni of EVOO. Thank you all â€“ Have a great Thanksgiving!
The signs of fall are with us again. Burning leaves, higher than usual tides, horizontal rain and apples fermenting on the ground in our back yard (unfortunately I cannot keep up with the clean up). All combined, they remind us that its time to break out the rain gear and put on a pot of soup.
Iâ€™m not sure whether itâ€™s the shorter days or high winds, but with this change in temperature I often revert back to childhood memories growing up in the Midwest (Cleveland, Ohio). I enjoyed the efforts of my Italian father and Jewish mother in the kitchen. Both my parents were good at preparing recipes from their roots and I often remember their playful banter about the proper way to make the sauce or how big the matzoah ball should be â€“ yes both in the same meal!
One specific treat that has a special place for in my heart is my mothersâ€™ potato pancakes. Food smells always made me quicken my step as I walked through the door after school and the scent of caramelizing onions with potatoes could never be ignored.
My mom, Phyllis â€“ loved to cook. She would often greet us with soups â€“ mushroom barley, chicken noodle, matzoah ball, borscht or kreplach (noodles stuffed with meat). She also loved to bake and her cinnamon swirl bread which was made with challah dough (egg bread base) was award winning form her kidâ€™s perspective.
Nothing was more fulfilling however than her potato pancakes. She would use matzoah meal instead of flour and smaltz (chicken fat) instead of vegetable oil. If we were lucky, she topped them with her homemade apple sauce and smoked whitefish. I am not sure how all this sounds to you, but it was a feast for us.
Today Lenore and I enjoy this recipe with a few twists and of course a crisp white wine. I must be feeling a little nostalgic since this is about to appear on my menus. Hopefully our guests will feel the same way I do â€“ of course today we smoke the fish in house â€“ not that I have much choiceâ€¦the closest deli is about 500 miles awayâ€¦.enjoy- ciao Bob!
4 large yukon gold potatoes
1 TBS sea salt
1 TBS matzoah meal
2 TBS grated onion
Â½ tsp baking powder
4 qts water
1 qt soy sauce
2 cups light brown sugar
Â½ cup sea salt
7# sable fish
Method: peel and grate potatoes; mix in remaining ingredients; place a large spoonful in 475F vegetable oil or smaltz; brown well and drain on paper towels.
Whitefish method: combine water, soy, sugar and salt; mix well to dissolve; cut fish into 6â€ pieces; place in brine for 70 minutes; remove when complete; rinse and pat dry; place on rack and refrigerate 24 hours to continue curing; smoke with desired wood chips until cooked through; remove and refrigerate 24 hours before using or freezing.
Chive crÃ¨me fraiche: 1 cup heavy cream, Â½ cup sour cream, 3 TBS minced chives â€“ Method: combine cream and sour cream into a bowl and blend well; cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours; finished product will become thick; refrigerate and fold in chives at service.
*Garnish with applesauce and micro greens.
New York New York!
As you may know I have just returned from NYC where I was cooking at the James Beard House in the trendy community of Greenwich Village, near SoHo. The Beard Foundation, as it is known by most foodies, was created in 1986 after the death of Oregon native James Beard. Julia Child encouraged his estate to create the foundation to celebrate the man who many remember as a teacher, journalist and gastronome.
To be asked to cook in this prestigious venue is for many chefs a milestone in their career. On this occasion it was John Newman of Newmanâ€™s 988 in Cannon Beach, who was asked to the Beard House for the third time, no less! I was part of Johnâ€™s team to assist and â€œschlepâ€ as needed. More than happy to oblige, I packed my knives, whites and checkbook and boarded a plane heading east. To be perfectly honest, I was so excited to go back to this culinary mecca that John didnâ€™t need to ask twice! â€œDeliâ€ was the first on my list, â€œMatzoah Brieâ€ to be exact. This concoction does not include “brie cheese,” but rather consists of matzoah crackers (Jewish unleavened bread) soaked in eggs and then scrambled with a little caramelized onion â€“ top it off with a potato pancake that only Arniesâ€™s on Broadway can make and voila â€“ breakfast is served. The meals that followed were as diverse as the cultures that surrounded them. From the dim sum off Canal Street to Italian near Chelsea Market my meals were quintessential NYC; that is to say, served as is, no excuses and no special requests! The highlight of my palette pleasing excursions was at the Alain Ducasse Restaurant in the Essex House on central park. Ducasse is well known in the industry as the only chef to be given multiple stars by Michelin in two locations, Monaco and Paris. His New York scene was phenomenal! From start to finish, every course was executed with finesse and precision often equated with a symphony performance. I could go through each course but that is for another time. Suffice it to say that if you ever find yourself in the Big Apple, and want the ultimate food and wine experience, just go for it!
Oh and for the record, John Newmanâ€™s dinner at the Beard House was stellar! Way to go John! And we all can experience his talents right here in CB!
Hi! Lenore here again, stealing a moment while Bob is too busy to write. Lots of people are asking about SPINACH!
â€œWhyâ€ spinach? How it is responsible for such a wide spread serious foodborne outbreak? Maybe you might remember the apple juice incident a few years back. Again â€œwhyâ€ apple? Both of these foods seem low on the foods that cause illness list. Fish, beef, chicken, sure, these are the food safety red-flag foods. What happens to fruits and veggies to make them dangerous, too? In both the current spinach and apple juice outbreak, the cause is contamination with E.coli, the same nasty bug that caused illness from raw or undercooked hamburger. In both cases, the organism was found to be inside the cells of the spinach and apple, rendering thorough washing ineffective.
The CDC has been good about finding and letting us know the source of the tainted spinach, and the fact that they have traced such a wide spread outbreak back to a few counties in CA is very good news. This means the systems are in place for doing such a trace and notification is fairly swift. I congratulate our main food purveyor, Food Services of America, for being the first to let us know. Their email notice was in my mailbox the morning it was reported in the news. Of course, those who have suffered in this outbreak may not think highly of the pace for notification, and I am sure the CDC strives to become speedier. This outbreak began August 1 and the product recalls began Sept 15. If we look from the perspective of the CDC and powers that be, we can understand why they donâ€™t want to label the source too quickly. Case in point, a few years ago the California strawberry was named in an outbreak from a parasite, and later, they discovered that it wasnâ€™t strawberry but red raspberry sauce on the strawberry dessert that caused the outbreak. The raspberries came from a country that didnâ€™t, at the time, use chlorinated water, and the chef didnâ€™t wash or cook the raspberries in making the sauce. Either potentially would mitigate such an outbreak.
Both the spinach and raspberry stories gives credence to my favorite mantraâ€”buy locally! Spinach from farms in Oregon and Washington as well as many other states are now exempt from the recall, according to the CDC this week. Hopefully people will continue to buy spinach. They say the California Strawberry farmers unfortunately never recovered the year of the red-raspberry outbreak; strawberry sales remained flat all season. I often wondered why the news doesnâ€™t mention that spinach may be cooked to 160, for 15 seconds, to ensure safety. When used in fillings such as our Florentine crepes, it is safe because the filling reaches well over 160 degrees.
I have talked allot about the â€œwhatâ€â€”but now a few stabs at the â€œhow.â€ The source of E.coli is from animal or human feces, so it is reasonable to think the contamination occurred in the field; not enough Port-a-potties in the fields to manage safe picking, I think. Improperly cured and prepared manure for fertilizing organically is another potential cause. And since most of the spinach had been prewashed, it certainly could have happened in the food packing plant, too. Whenever these outbreaks occur, it seems we never really get the lowdown on how it happens. Some form of human error is almost always a factor. Maybe by the time they narrow it down, it isnâ€™t much of a news story anymore. I used to find out because I attended health department workshops that covered all recent outbreaks. I miss going to those meetings. It helps me know how to play it safer in my own food handling, and what to emphasize in my classes. It is how the health departments come up with their rules of safe food handling.
In summary, for now we can know only that we should avoid CA spinach until otherwise given the all clear. Continue to buy from local sources and, if we donâ€™t know the source, we can cook it thoroughly to be safe. Oh, and continue to wash all greens, fruits and vegetables thoroughly whether cooking or eating raw.
Fresh Spinach Filling for Crepes (Florentine) For Florentine filling:
1 TBS shallots, minced
1 TBS garlic minced
4 bunches fresh spinach, cleaned, chopped
2 TB salted butter
2 oz. heavy cream, reduced by half
TT sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander
2 TBS Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp tarragon, chopped
Method Heat EVOO in sautÃ© pan; add shallots and garlic; sautÃ© until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add spinach and cook until itâ€™s tender. Add butter and cream and season with spices. Add Pernod and cook for 10 more seconds; adjust consistency with bread crumbs and finish with tarragon. Place into oven proof dish and finish cooking in 350 degree oven for about 20 min or until to 160 degrees F. Fill crepes.
Whole Wheat Crepes
Â½ cup whole wheat flour pastry flour
Â½ cup AP flour
Â¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
Â½ cup milk
2 tsp EVOO
Â½ c seltzer water or club soda Method Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate 30 min or overnight. At service, slowly whisk seltzer water or club soda into batter. Heat small nonstick skillet; lightly oil surface with cloth or paper towel dipped into oil, and ladle 2 TBS batter into skilletâ€”tilting and rotating the pan to spread the batter evenly over bottom. Cook until lightly brownedâ€”30 seconds. Using small spatula, lift the edge and flip the crepe over. Cook second side about 20 more seconds. Slide onto plate.
Hi! Lenore here, writing in Bob’s Blog. I know Bob as one of the most romantic men on the planet, but he probably wouldn’t think to write about this topic here. However, I have been anxious to share this with you since it happened a few weeks ago now. It all started when Tony called to make a reservation to bring his girlfriend, Honora to class, with a special request. (Oh a birthday, I thought, maybe a cake!) I said, Ã¬Sure!Ã® He explained that they love to cook and last time Honora was here she enjoyed the evening so much that he thought this is the perfect place to pop the question! Ahhh!of course, I was hooked! A couple weeks before the date, Tony called again with his plan—weÃll surprise her by presenting the ring as a course, on the plate, he said. Our staff would have to get the ring, figure out how to put it on the plate, switch plates during service, and make sure that plate is placed last! Tony requested this be done right away, the first course—because he was a little nervous and wanted to get it done to enjoy the rest of the evening! ( He must know she’ll say yes, I thought to myself. Finally the day was here. Linda and I practiced the hand off. Tony would arrive a little early, excuse himself to use the rest room, and when inside, place the ring in the locker marked, Ã¬Thyme,Ã® as in Ã¬thyme to do it!Ã® That went like clockwork! Linda had the velvet bag of goods in her apron pocket. The first course was on trackÃ³Bob gargling wine and setting the plates. Time to serve—Linda positions herself behind the post, out of guestÃs view. Rebecca and I begin to serve, orchestrating the starting points so that Honora would be last. I picked up the last two plates to serve, and at the post, I hand off one food plate and take the plate Linda had readyÃ³the ring sitting now on top of the velvet pouch! I hold it high—place TonyÃs plate first, and then, HonoraÃs. For a few seconds, she starred, hands over her mouth, so Tony picked up the ring, and started to explain his purpose for the charade! He said Honora has always known the way to his heart was threw his stomach, and itÃs their love of food and cooking that makes this moment so right; he bent down on one kneeÃ³the class gave a collective sigh of approval, and he popped the question! Honora, still a little stunned, teary eyed by now, and smiling, spoke for the first time, Ã¬YES,Ã® she said! Clapping, hooraying, and again, a collective, Ã¬Ahhhhh!Ã® He did it! A magic moment shared with 20 others in an intimate space around the stove! Hot, really sweet, and hot!
Soup and chowder sales always seem to pick up as the weather turns cooler on the coast. Anyone visiting the area can find a good array of seafood-based soups, stews and Cioppino. Lenore and I decided to introduce our smoked salmon chowder to the local scene with great success about four months ago and many people have asked for the recipe. The chowder recipe is here.
The key to any recipe is beginning with great ingredients and we begin our chowder with wild pacific salmon that we smoke in house.
Smoking isn’t really a big deal but many cooks are slightly intimidated. Let me walk you through our method:
Brine for Smoked Salmon
4 quarts water
1 quarts soy sauce
1 pounds light brown sugar (2 cups)
1/2 cups sea salt
6 pounds fresh wild king salmon
Combine water, soy, sugar and salt; mix well to dissolve; break down salmon and cut each side in half through the center segment. Cut each segment into smaller, manageable pieces about 4-6 ounce portions and place in brine for 70 minutes. Remove after 70 minutes and place on rack on sheet pan, and refrigerate unwrapped 2- 24 hours to continue curing.
To smoke: Prepare smoker pan (a foil disposable works here) using desired wood chips on bottom (about 1-2 cups only) and cookie rack over chips to raise fish above chips. Place salmon on rack. Place over gill or burner and turn to high heat. When chips begin to smoke, cover and start timer for 60 SECONDS, (one minute). Turn off heat and time for one additional minute.
Remove fish from pan and place into refrigerator uncovered for 2-24 hours before cooking or freezing. When ready to cook 4-6 ounce fillets, place onto sheet into 400 degree F preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. Fish is done when starts to part on sides when pinched, but remains together in center. Slightly “au point,” meaning to the point of just under. (About 138 F) Then some carry over cooking occurs to take it to the 140F required.
With the weather at the coast changing and the new varieties of vegetables showing up on my order guides, it is beginning to smell and look like fall. Since our move to the coast I have been enjoying the many seasons that transpire here. From a culinary perspective there are many more than four seasons. Last count I figured there were somewhere between ten and fourteen.
Most people donÃt realize it but if you take a moment and reflect about your own experiences at the local grocer, you have undoubtedly seen your favorite vegetables/fruit come and go to be replaced by other favorites. Imagine that change on a larger scale and you are tracking with our order guides.
The bottom line results in a great shopping cart of fruits and vegetables, not to mention seafood and meats, that makes for great menu planning. Enjoy the bounty!
Ciao – Bob
I think many of us can remember when Mateus Rose was hot; I think it was in the 70Ãs, and then there was the White Zinfandel craze that seems to be hanging on still. Because of great marketing by the early promoters of the white zins, like Sutter Home Winery, people believe that if it is blush, it must be sweet. Not so, and letÃs digress for a minute to talk about how the Ã¬blushÃ® gets into the wine.
First, white wine can be made from either red or white grapes, but only red wine can be made from red grapes. Color comes from the fermenting juice spending time on their skins. In the case of a blush wine, the juice spends much less time on the skins than the reds do, giving it the beautiful rosÃˆ color. Next residual sugar plays its role on sweetness. For a detailed description Ã± go to Wikipedia for the best definition IÃve seen in a while.
Not all White Zinfandel is sweet and hard to know the difference without tasting. In some cases the label can fill you in, and as I have said before–don’t hesitate to ask the wine merchants for their descriptions.
My point for this particular commentary is to entice you to try blush wines again if you are avoiding them because you think they are all sweet, and to try them for the first time, if you have never tried them before. And with summer right around the corner, a cool crisp pale blush can be a very refreshing choice. Blush wines are suitable for an aperitif or with dinner depending on your choice. I am recommending a few pairings below to get you started – enjoy! Ciao, Bob!
Chateau Lorane Gamay Noir Rose
Ã± 13.8% alcohol; dry, crisp, flavors of under ripe strawberry and touch of citrus; clean finish; great with shellfish, smoked salmon, creamy cheeses, and roasted pork.
Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot NoirÃ± 13.5% alcohol; light aroma of rose petals & strawberries, melon, with minerals undertones and citrus. Long finish and well balanced; great with oily fish such as salmon and tuna Ã± especially sushi style with wasabi and soy; creamy cheeses, cream sauces and poultry.
Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rose Ã± 12.5% alcohol; cheery blossoms and raspberry overtones; crisp, dry finish; great with ham, cured meats; hard yeasty cheeses; foie gras and other rich style foods.
After completing another class from our, Ã¬Tastes ofÃ–Ã® series, I am reminded how many culinary nuances exist from the cuisines making up the Mediterranean. This has been a departure for me since I have always enjoyed mixing up the flavors and pulling what I perceive as the most interesting from each region.
France is considered by most consumers as the birthplace of modern cooking. In truth it is the Italians who amongst chefs, are given credit for sparking the industry we love today. Let me digress a momentÃ–Caterina de Medici of Florence was wed to King Henry II of France in 1533, bringing along her chefs as well. After entertaining the nobility of France, Caterina would loan her chefs to the various Dukes and DuchessÃ so that they might reciprocate in style. The face of gastronomy was changed over time and took on a look of its own, utilizing local ingredients and techniques applicable with the French bounty.
This brings us back to Bistro cooking. Our research indicates that bistro style refers to an unpretentious, less formal and quicker dining experience. Quicker is meant in relative terms to the long Ã¬formalÃ® dinners that European meals have been noted for. For us the menu was reminiscent of meals Lenore and I had while in Paris. Our menu follows:
Chicken Liver Mousse Croustade with Aspic GelÃˆ
Spring Asapargus Spears with Sauce Bearnaise, French bread
Grilled Steak with Pommes Frites, Tossed Greens with Fines Herb
Mussels with Court Bouillion and Garlic Croustade
Lavender Creme Brulee with Orange Shortbread
I have included the mussels recipe for your enjoyment. Bon Appetit! Ã± ciao Bob
Mussels with Saffron Court Bouillion and Garlic Croustade
3 TBS EVOO
3 cloves garlic, paste
1 leek, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 small jicama, julienne
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 pinch saffron
â€¡ cup dry white wine
1 cup reduced fish stock
1 cup â€¡ & â€¡ cream
3# mussels, cleaned
Method: place oil in large preheated sautÃˆ pan; add garlic and leek; cook until aromatic; add carrot; cook until tender; add jicama, tomatoes, saffron, wine and stock; bring to a simmer; add cream; adjust seasonings; add mussels; cover and cook 3 Ã± 5 minutes or until opened; remove and serve immediately.
Croustade: 12 thick wedges artisan bread, as needed EVOO – Method: place sliced bread on sheet pan and brush with EVOO; season with sea salt, ground coriander and pepper; place in 400â€ F oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the bread is lightly toasted Ã± remove and serve with aioli.
Roasted Garlic Aioli: 4 cloves roasted garlic, 3 RT egg yolks, â€¡ cup EVOO, â€¡ cup grape seed oil, juice of 1 lemon, TT cayenne pepper Ã± Method: mash garlic into a paste; add yolks and whisk well; add oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly; add juice and season with sea salt, cayenne and coriander; reserve chilled.
Well it is 4:30 PM on Wednesday and we have just finished a couple of days of a coastal heat wave. Now I am certainly not complaining, however I have not felt like doing much cooking, even though today was cool enough to get back into it. I guess you wouldnÃt expect chili on a day like today, but maybe you should.
I have always been fascinated by the use of spices and herbs in cultures where temperatures exceed 100â€ F daily. WeÃve all experienced the layer of perspiration we get after eating something spicy Ã¬hot.Ã® This in a warmer climate helps to actually cool the body. Although, spicy does not have to mean, Ã¬hotÃ®. It should mean bold flavors that make your senses wake up and take notice. You can achieve this in a variety of ways. For instance, I have noticed by leaving salt, acid (lime, lemon or vinegar) or alcohol out of a hot spicy recipe, or lesser amounts of them, will keep these foods from destroying your taste buds with heat, while retaining the spice.
Salt, acid and alcohol are all conduits to heat and the lack of them keeps the heat from lingering in our mouth. Harissa, a Moroccan condiment made of cumin, cayenne and EVOO is a great example. Drizzled on lamb, your mouth explodes in the spice but a moment later (well maybe a few) the heat dissipates. Assuming you donÃt drink a beer or glass of wine along with it, your mouth feels cleansed and cool again. But then who ever heard of chili without beer–choice and consequences.
In our chili today, we have used enough salt for flavor, but we cooled the burn down with starch, in this case the beans. As with all our food, we try to mix up the flavors and layer them to make the food enjoyable from beginning to end. I recommend finishing for service with EVOO, ground coriander, sharp white cheddar, onions and a few sprigs of cilantro. Enjoy Ã± Ciao Bob!
Chili with Meat
3 cups dried red beans, soaked overnight
5# chuck eye roll, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 onion, diced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
3 jalapeÃ’os, cleaned, left halved
1 TBS cayenne
1 TBS chili powder
1 â€¡ TBS garlic powder
1 â€¡ TBS onion powder
2 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 TBS oregano
3 TBS cornmeal (if needed for thickening)
Method: Cook beans until tender; remove and chill. (Chilling happens quickly by placing foods in metal container like a stainless steel bowl or casserole, spreading into a shallow layer and chill while uncovered until the temperature drops to 41Æ’F. Then of course, consolidate and cover until needed.)
Sear chuck in a small amount of vegetable oil; sear in batches and remove; place vegetables in pan and sautÃˆ until aromatic and fond* is removed; add seasoning and cook 3 minutes; add tomatoes and bring to a boil; add seared meat and bring back to a simmer; cover and cook approximately 90 minutes or until tender; add beans and cornmeal to thicken if needed; cook an additional 30 minutes to blend flavors; adjust seasonings.
* Fond is the caramelized pieces from the searing meat on the bottom of the pan.
Running a cooking school on the coast, it is just a natural expectation that we do a fair amount of seafood. And we do. We look for ways to vary the preparation and accompaniments to get many versions of say “salmon,” for example. Well, here are my thoughts on one popular restaurant version of cooking fish, especially, salmon–“planking.”
The catch from the pacific and in the Northwest waters is unique due to the water temperature and currents. In addition, the fat content of many of the native species lends themselves to more aggressive preparations as well as condiments and even varying wine varietals.
Salmon, for example, go through a migratory cycle. Prior to taking the long journey back to their birthplace to spawn, they eat ravenously to build fat. This will enable them to make the long journey. They get much leaner as they get closer to their destination. The fat creates a unique flavor and lends itself much better to a variety of cooking techniques, including cooking on a plank.
Ã¬PlankingÃ® is a traditional Northwest-style of cooking fish, utilizing a variety of aromatic woods, usually cedar, alder or oak. These are untreated pieces of hard woods, cut into any shape that will support the size of the item to be grilled. We recommend soaking the planks for approximately 30 minutes or longer in water so that the wood absorbs it to inhibit burning while on the grill over direct flames. Water soaked wood will smoke rather than catch fire. We generally brush a little cooking oil such as EVOO on the wood before placing the fish on top and season with sea salt, ground coriander and other aromatics. Place the plank with fish directly on the preheated grill and cover. Check after 10 minutes. The fish should be opaque throughout before removing. As I said, because the wood is water soaked before cooking it generates a small amount of smoke that imparts a subtle but rich flavor, that with the fat from the fish, gives a great mouth feel. You can see why this might create a nice foundation for for introducing other flavors and interesting condiments such as salsaÃs, chutneyÃs, not to mention full bodied wines.
We have enjoyed other Ã¬plankedÃ® creations using dark meat chicken or turkey, lamb and pork. Always the key to success is working with foods that have a fatty background to support the smoke-flavor.
Now, when outdoor grilling is not available, we have also used the home oven. There are differences in preparation, but for most tastes there’s no difference in final outcome. For the oven, do not soak the wood. Ovens utilize radiant heat that surrounds the planked food and does not expose the wood to direct flames. Brush the wood as above, and in some cases, to improve handling if the fish, sear it on one side in a sautÃˆ pan on the stove top before planking. Searing tends keep the fish from sticking to the wood. Sear the side of the fish that you intend to place directly on the wood, which is typically the skin side or the side where the skin was removed. Bake at 500â€ F for approximately 7- 10 minutes, still looking for that opaque quality. Note doneness will depend on thickness of the cut.
A favorite at EVOO is to serve planked fish with a fresh fruit chutney (see recipe) paired with a good syrah, such as Dimmick-Price Reserve Syrah.
In short, “planking” is a great addition to any culinary repertoire. Because you are using untreated hard wood, you can wash, rinse, dry and reuse them many times. Enjoy Ã± Ciao Bob!
Pineapple Chutneyâ€¡ cup sugar
Âº cup cider vinegar
1 orange, seeded, chopped
1 orange, zested
1 lime, seeded, diced
â€¡ red onion, minced
Âº cup craisins
1 TB candied ginger
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
4 cups diced pineapple (1 each)
Method: combine sugar and vinegar; simmer 5 minutes; add orange, zest, lime, onion, craisins, candied ginger and garlic; simmer for 30 minutes; add ground ginger and pineapple; simmer for an additional 15 minutes; cool for service.
The tasting class that I wrote about last week has inspired a new series of classes we are calling PANTRY TASTINGS! We are often asked our opinion of a variety of ingredients such as chocolate, sea salts, olive oils, herbs and spices, artisan cheese, and even heirloom tomatoes. So we thought we could focus on one ingredient per session. You get an educational look, along with a very light repast. First up is Wine and Tapas tasting that we have done before; we have scheduled two on the weekend of FATHER’S DAY, both Sat and Sun at 11-12.
Another freshly inspired class we are adding in July and August takes the place of our former “Supper Club.” We are calling it Extreme Suppers, denoting the best of the best as well the most popular from our small plate’s repertoire. The idea comes from customers who are already picking their favorite small plate courses, keeping the portion about the same but adding a seasonal appetizer/salad and a small dessert. One glass of carefully paired wine comes with the meal, with additional wines available from our shelf. The class is shorter, starts earlier, and costs $45. Watch for these little gems on WED and THU nights, 5:45 to 7:15pm.
Two very important ingredients at EVOO are EVOO, of course, and SALT. Recently we conducted a very successful tasting of EVOO and sea salt. I initially wanted to conduct a formal tasting, like the pros would do, but for more practical reasons I decided to “taste” these ingredients on preparations you might use at home. In any event it made for a nice class and even a light lunch for those attending.
We tasted Sel Gris, Fleur de Sel, and Cyprus Black Salt. The olive oils tasted were Hacienda 1917, Arbequina and Arbosana from California Olive Ranch. We use olive oil and salt as individual ingredients like herbs and spices of the dish. They are treated with equal importance. So how does one choose from the 100’s available today?
TASTE as many as you can before buying. Many markets do EVOO tastings on Saturdays, and even kitchen shops now offer salt tastings. So take advantage of those opportunities–I do, and always learn something.
Next, go to some of our favorite websites and read about their particular characteristics. You will learn the nuances that make them special and different–and inspire you to use them. For salts, I buy from Saltworks in Washington State and their site is very informative. www.saltworks.us. For oils, our staple oils are California Olive Ranch and their site is http://www.californiaoliveranch.com/
Choosing salts or oils is similar to how I choose wines—go to the wine makers themselves and read what they are saying about their wines–in some cases such info is found on the label.
Considering salts for example, here are a few facts that help me decide which and how to use them. First of all it is all just sodium chloride. So make no mistake the differences are subtle. There are minerals in some salts that contribute to their flavor profiles, but the most distinguishing characteristic may not be taste, but rather the texture of these various salts. Texture in salt is attributed to the way the salt crystallized. The area or region from which it originates determines the crystallization much the same way snow flakes are formed.
Sel Gris and Fleur de Sel are sea salts, both harvested at the mouth of the La Geurande River in the South of France where the saline is thick. A Celtic style method using wooden rakes to stir the salt as it dries in the sun is used. When the pure white, top layer is formed, it is immediately collected. And since it is not always there, it is considered to be the best, and is aptly named, Fleur de Sel, “salt flower.” The bottom is the Sel Gris, “gray salt,” getting the gray color from the mud flats that it dries on–some minerals from the earth are included, giving another flavor dimension. The Cyprus Black salt we use is a Mediterranean style salt that is extracted by boiling, and the lava, “activated charcoal,” is added afterwards. Among other things, activated charcoal is used in Spas for purification. Ingested, it sort of collects the impurities which are then eliminated.
This is allot of information, but at the end of the day, hereÃs how I use these salts. I use Sel Gris in cooking applications where I need to know immediately if I have achieved the salt-profile required. Like for sauces, soups and general cooking. The Fleur de Sel is a finishing salt where a “burst” of salt – texture is desired. The Black Cyprus adds texture, color and a burst of flavor once the activated charcoal layer melts away. Perfect companion to fish!
Bottom-line advice—enjoy the process of playing with different salts until you find what YOU like! Ciao, Bob
There are many ways to entertain and celebrate, but brunch has to be one of the best. Best I think because menus are pretty simple and usually enjoyed by most. Even people who don’t eat eggs, will often eat them baked into a bread pudding or French toast, and even an egg strata–the universal brunch recipe. I love the fact that when entertaining with brunch, we can have a 4 hour party and still be cleaned up before the evening news. And this is especially important when Brunch is on a Sunday. At least that is true for Bob and me, as we seem to need some time to get ready for the work week.
We served brunch just this morning–celebrating Easter / Passover and Spring. Often we are asked how we decide what to serve. We start the same as we would for any meal–with what is in season. Of course, we mean nature’s season, but right now, Mother Nature’s spring is taking her sweet time to arrive in our little town and I cannot wait. There are certain foods that say spring better than others, and it’s ASPARAGUS for me. If I waited until local farms are harvesting asparagus before I have any–spring would not be the same for me. Bob brought it in for our brunch today from our California neighbors–just for me.
Though asparagus wasnÃt the centerpiece of our Brunch, the fact it was there made my day. It is not just my spring fetish. I remember a restaurant in WASH DC that would serve every diner a full pound of asparagus for about a week every spring, and people would stand in line for the experience. It is a great vegetable that is often associated with fine dining. Maybe it is because the plant, a member of the lily family, takes three years to mature before the spears are harvested. There is a big debate out there about which are best, the pencil thin or chubby stalks. We think the chubbies are most tender and delicious, but the main thing is whichever you like, consider getting them all about the same size so cooking is consistent.
While I am musing about spring, I cannot help think about my family in Seattle, who are probably all sitting around a decked out-for-spring-table in the living room of my cousinÃs house, the only room that could hold the table for 28! That is where our family has celebrated many EASTERS, and many memorable meals–mostly pot luck but always someone brings the requisite plate of fresh asparagus for Easter. I miss being there today, but I do enjoy remembering because it adds to my celebration of spring. Here is the menu item that we served with asparagus this Easter Day.
Dressed up Polenta with Asparagus & Oregon Pink Shrimp
1 â€¡ cups fine ground organic cornmeal
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock unsalted, vegetable stock may be substituted
2 oz Mascarpone cheese
4 oz heavy cream
1 TBS roasted garlic (see recipe)
TT sea salt, Pepper, Coriander
2 TBS EVOO or butter as needed to finish
1lb. washed and cut into 2 inch lengths
Seasoning-salt, pepper, coriander
EVOO for sautÃˆing
3 oz shrimp per person, peeled, and deveined
1 tsp minced garlic
â€¡ cup dry vermouth
Sun dried tomato relish, optional
Polenta: In 2 quart saucepan, bring water and stock to boil. Whisk in cornmeal, stirring quickly to prevent lumping. Lower heat and simmer stirring occasionally until the polenta is creamy about 20 min. Add the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream roasted garlic and seasonings. Just before serving add EVOO or butter.
Asparagus: Heat skillet; add EVOO; heat over medium-high. Add asparagus, season with salt, pepper and coriander. Cook about 3-5 minutes or until tender. Set aside off heat.
Shrimp: Heat skillet; add EVOO and heat over medium-high. Add shrimp and sautÃˆ for 3 minutes or until just pinkÃ³being careful not to overcook. Add garlic and sautÃˆ a few more seconds. Add vermouth. Set aside off heat.
At service, place polenta in bowl, top with asparagus, shrimp, and garnish with tomato relish. Serve.
One of the most satisfying experiences is watching someone learn something new, especially when
you are the teacher. Hi, Lenore here, writing in Bob’s stead.
We had “kidÃs in the kithen” classes this week and they made pasta. The children added water to
little piles of semolina flour right on the worktable that was adjusted for the average height
this day–about 4’2″ The goal: to make sand-pies “It feels just like the wet sand you make
sandcastles with,” I explained. That way they might relate the feelwe needed for the
dough. “Does it hold together when you squeeze it?” I said, and before I could get around the
table, the sand pies became dough. Dough in hand, they then worked in pairs, one feeding the
pasta to the machine, and one cranking the handle. Everyone practiced patience as they waited
their turn to crank the dough on the school’s only two pasta machines. Ã¬Look how long it is
getting!” each called out. And before long, carefully folded layers of well floured flattened
strips of dough were pushed to the center of the table. Next step, cut into the “fettuccini
noodles.” And this is the precise moment the little light bulbs went onÃ³it was the first time the children put together how the sand-pies became noodles. What an accomplishment!
Minutes later the boiling salty water was ready and noodles dropped. When dished up onto the
childrenÃs plates, some were still not quite sure that these very delicious cooked noodles were
the ones they had made, yet they so wanted to believe.
For the children in your lives, (including your inner child), here is the recipe for HOMEMADE
A little more than a cup of Semolina flour
A few pinches of Sea salt
Water, room temp, as needed
All Purpose flour to prevent stickage (Bob’s word, not mine)
Method: Pour semolina onto table (a bowl may be used). Add salt and blend with fingers. Add just a little water at a time until when squeezed, the dough holds itÃs shape. It is the texture of wet sand for molding into castles. Flatten dough into disk and rest 10 Ã± 30 min or longer in the
When rested, using the #1 on your pasta machine, run dough through. Fold into thirds and run it
through again on #1. Do it three times. This is the kneading process. Now gradually thin the
dough strip by putting it through the machine on #2, then #4, and #6. Make sure all the dough is
the same thickness so the noodles cook evenly. Take the elongated strip and flour it well; fold in half again and flour again. Do this folding and flouring each time until the dough is very small with
multi well-flouered layers.
Cut across the layers Âº- â€¡ inch thick Ã¬noodles.Ã® Separate the layers and leave floured noodles on a
cookie sheet until ready to drop into boiling salty water. For cooking: Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt to make it very saltyÃ³like sea water might taste. Use about Âº cup salt per gallon water. You should have 4-5 quarts water for every pound of pasta. Bring to full boil; drop noodles and cook until tender about 3-5 minutes.
Serve with EVOO, a little more sea salt, pepper and coriander.
Finally, I am finding a moment to write again. Lots of distractions this week, like a trip to the big city, Beaverton! Amazing how small our world is in our paradise. Our girls, the poodles, needed hair cuts and we decided to make it a family outing. It was a good day–complete with sunshine, meeting a friend over coffee, and a short play date with “Dude” (a big friendly chocolate lab) at the “off-leash” park. Simple, enjoyable and a breath of fresh air.
Speaking of which, letÃs get to today’s topic. This past weekend we had a visitor, a friend from our old neighborhood, Kurt, who just happens to be an excellent cook. He and I prepared a course for our TASTE of TUSCANY class. It never fails to remind me of how vast this cooking thing is and how much there is to learn. ItÃs fun just having the company of another passionate cook around. I always come away with something new and sometimes innovative. We started talking about being a little looser about cooking–less formal. Kurt described how he just loves to make stuff up as he goes. It gave us an idea that we want to put out there to see if it has interest.
You’ve no doubt heard of “open mike” at comedy and jazz clubs. Well, how about “open stove” at EVOO! Our stove is your stove–just shop the walk-in (thatÃs our refrigerator), and put together an “impromptu course” that is then tasted by the other participants. We could do this throughout the evening, for at least 3 courses, with each given a time limit for preparation. They would even choose a wine to go with, and each course is graded by the participants that night. The winner gets an EVOO apron for a souvenir and proof of title–winner of Ã¬EVOO Improv-open-stoveÃ® night. If you like the idea, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org; and if you donÃt like it tell me why not. Thanks in advance for your input.
I finally realized all the fuss about naming kids when Lenore and I attempted to name our establishment. Not having children, I often chuckled at the lengths parents would go to name their offspring. DonÃt get me wrong. I understand the importance of leaving a legacy, not to mention the nicknames that ruthless playmates might try to get away with.
Well, from the minute we thought of our concept, we decided that we could not go any further without a name. After all, a name defines you. It letÃs your customer know what you are about and helps you better know yourself. Our name was the work of several days, many lists, and many friends. When we were finished had looked hundreds of names.
We kept going back to a name we had picked for our Ã¬almostÃ® restaurant in Seattle. We had all but signed the dotted line when Lenore joined her girlfriends for a trip to TuscanyÃ³fifteen women together in a villa. Anyway, on that trip, they kept asking Lenore for details and she described the menu as anything olive oil based. This prompted a unanimous vote from the ladies for OlivaÃ³the Italian name for olives. The men joined up with the women for a second week in Tuscany and you can imagine my surprise when they announced that they named our restaurant! We arrived home from that trip eager to open Oliva, only to find the restaurant deal had gone south on us.
We moped around a few weeks, decided to build a second home in Cannon Beach with the restaurant savings, and got a poodle, named Olivia. So why bring that up here? Well, by the time the school came into the picture, we could no longer use Oliva or Olivia, and yet our desire for Mediterranean cuisine was still a driving force. We thought of every other ingredient we loved, but alas, kept returning to olive oil. Why not? We tested it on a few friends, and they loved EVOO!
There are a few ways to pronounce EVOO! Ã¬e-vueÃ® Ã¬ee-voeÃ® and Ã¬ee-vee-oh-oh.Ã® We liked the idea of saying the letters the best, but didnÃt like ending with Ã¬oh-oh.Ã® So we say just E-V-OH! Confusing because we still spell it EVOO! Well, we are happy with the decision but it sometimes confuses our guests. Here is one of those EVOO based recipes we enjoy so much. It is our lemon cupcake that replaces half of the butter with EVOO. The flavor is very EVOO. Enjoy. Ciao – Bob
LEMON EVOO CUPCAKES
1 Ã¦ c AP flour
1 â€¡ tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of â€¡ lemon or 1 TBS
4 eggs, RT
3 TBS milk, RT
2/3 cup EVOO
7 TBS Butter, melted
Preheat oven 350Æ’F. Grease cupcake pan or line with paper cups. Set aside.
Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Blend lemon zest and sugar by rubbing in zest with fingers to distribute oils in zest. Put into mixing bowl. Beat eggs into sugar and zest on medium until mixture is pale yellow. With mixer on lowest speed, add milk and flour mixture, lemon juice, melted butter, and EVOO; beat until blended.
Pour batter into prepared cupcake panÃ³to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tests done. Remove from pan to cool.
Suggested serving: Top with whipped cream garnished with fresh berries. Or top with 7-minute icing or Buttercream icing.
For the most part our classes are geared toward adults. When Spring Break comes along we need to reverse that. Because whole families come to town, adults with young children are not available for an evening dining class. So for us, it was logical to offer kidÃs cooking classes during Spring Break, which in Cannon Beach means about 4-5 weeks with so many school districts breaking different weeks. This way moms and dads get a few hours to themselves while we cook with their kids.
What to put on the menu is our biggest challenge. Do we offer only foods they love but are full of sugar? Or do we concentrate on the nutritionally dense foods? We pretty much think the menu will never please everyone anyway, so we apply the same philosophy we use with adults. Pick things in season, from local sources, starting with whole foods as much as possible. Include a variety of flavors, textures and temperatures, and agree that no food is a bad foodÃ³in moderation. That way we can always have something sweet, something fresh, uncooked, and lots that are full flavored and nutrient rich.
We believe in making most things from Ã¬scratchÃ® but not if the details are too many for the attention span and skill level. It is better to buy a quality canned pizza sauce, for example, than to start with raw tomatoes to make the sauce. This way the focus is on the pizza and not the sauce. Our goal is to help kids see a connection between enjoying foods theyÃve made themselves.
In tomorrow’s class, we are doing a new cake recipe that Lenore made up, and it has me a little concerned. The recipe has 15 ingredientsÃ³enough to discourage a seasoned cook. Lenore claims it has good repetitive learningsÃ³measuring wet and dry ingredients using teaspoons and cups. And despite the long list of ingredients it is a simple procedure. They make, bake and serve the cake in one pan. And no eggs, so they get to taste the batter! And itÃs a good one to remember for those times you really have a taste for something sweet, but nothing is in the refrigerator. This whole recipe can be made from your dry goods shelve. Cioa – Bob
HereÃs the recipe:
Gingerbread Spice Cake ( one pan method; no eggs)
1/2 c sugar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c AP unbleached flour
2 tsp cinnamon
â€¡ tsp allspice
Âº tsp ginger
Âº tsp clove
1 â€¡ tsp soda
1 â€¡ tsp baking powder
â€¡ tsp salt
Âº c oil, vegetable
1 tsp vanilla
â€¡ cup maple syrup or molasses
2 tsp. vinegar, apple
Ã¦ cup water
In ungreased 8x8x2 square pan, combine all the dry ingredients; the first ten (10) to the line. Blend until spice color is even throughout.
Make three (3) indentations (holes) in the flour-spice mixture in the pan.
Hole #1, put in vanilla & syrup in one
Hole #2, put in the oil
Hole #3, put in vinegar.
Pour the water over all. Using a fork stir until all the lumps are gone and dry ingredients are all moistened.
Bake the cake in 350Æ’F preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
Cool in pan on rack. Serve with or without whipped cream.
Around here, we really look forward to Sunday. It rarely feels like the day before a new work week. I like it because it is my day to be in the retail store, while Lenore teaches class.
Based upon the encouragement of people who took Omelets 101, we added Crepes 101, which is taught on alternating Sundays. Participants in these classes receive an interesting starter course and are then shown how to make the entree. Toady they are learning Crepes Florentine, with poached eggs and Hollandaise…ooh la la!
I always find it interesting how things from the past find their way back to our dining table. Crepes have been “hot” on-and-off for decades. I can say with fair confidence that Julia Child was probably first to bring them into vogue in this country, and as Lenore commented earlier today, the reason crepes fell out of favor was probably because of the tortilla! What we used to do with crepes we now do with tortillas.
There is something to be said for finishing a weekend of “beach time” with a hearty breakfast, especially if you make it yourself! And just for the romance of it, how about making the old classic, Crepes Suzette, flambÃˆ and all? The recipe is below.
1 â€¡ cup AP flour
1 tsp. sugar
Ã¦ tsp salt
1 â€¡ cup milk
2/3 cup sweet butter, melted
â€¡ cup cold water
The compound butter for sauce:
2 sticks butter, softened
3 TBS sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 2 oranges
1-2 TBS Cognac & Grand Marnier
Method: In blender, place flour, eggs, sugar, salt and half of the milk. Blend by pulsing a few times until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until resembles a thin syrup. Set into refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
To make Sauce: Blend butter, sugar, orange zest & juice in blender or mixing bowl. Roll into a log wrapped in parchment. Chill thoroughly or freeze.
To assemble the Suzettes: Melt 1 TBS /serving of the compound butter-sauce in a medium hot skillet. Using fork and spoon, turn crepes in sauce one at a time to coat, then fold into fourthsÃ³nice brown side showing. When all crepes are coated, pour 1-2 TBS of both cognac and Grand Marnier on top of the crepes. Carefully igniteÃ³keeping head back from flame. Serve on warm plates with some sauce. Repeat until all servings are made.
Ciao – Bob
S.O.D. is the tag we affectionately use to describe our Sous chef Of the Day! This program gives those who are thinking aobut changing cooking from their avocation to their vocation a chance to see if itÃs for them. SOD also suits those who just want to learn more than one of the interactive dining classes can provide, but most are quit accomplished cooks who really enjoy the process and want to learn.
We have been told tuition is way too low, but with the extra hands we get for the day, we benefit, too. By now we have had many S.O.D.Ãs. The first question we ask each of them is what they hope to get from the experience. Followed by the most important questionÃ³can you stand on your feet all day! We hope to emphasize tasks that suit their interests. They have all been unique, and we think of them often. Here are a couple that come to mind.
ItÃs hard to forget Jim. He also volunteers at the local American Legion Hall as a cook the first Sat of the month. It’s the OYSTER FEED–a great meal. We should know as Jim often drops in during our evening class on those evenings with a fresh batch of fried oysters! What a treat! It does cost us thoughÃ³we hand over a loaf of our daily bread, and the exchange seems to amuse the participants in our evening class with a spot of local color.
Erin is impossible to forget! What a character! Not at all shy but not at all sure if she has what it takes for the food industry. After two weeks in our kitchen, it was unanimous–she did, does, and is now working in the industry! She sent an email describing her new job in New Orleans at the famous The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. She is their new line cook and doing every thing from fillet mignon to lobster with total ease. HereÃs a quote from her email.
Ã¬I canÃt tell you how much my experience with you and Lenore has helped me. It has given me a confidence in my talent that I never would have hadÃ³I would never have been able to walk into a restaurant like this one, say I have no experience, but I have passion and the ability to learn.Ã®
As I recall that is exactly what Lenore told herÃ³sheÃs a natural; has talent, and sheÃs already tried food combinations that define her uniqueness and passion. Before she left, I told her there would always be a spot for her at EVOO.
We have a SOD today. His name is Peter, and a group of his friends are joining us this eveningÃ³for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll have the pleasure of working with another SOD. And so it goes. Cioa – Bob
WOW! 15 hours later and you have a one hour DVD….crazy. We finished shooting yesterday and both Lenore and I are exhausted. You kinda get used to the camera lighting and “pin drop” quiet after a while, but the endurance factor is huge. I have to admit that Lenore makes it all work for me.
As we started the shoot, Lenore was trying to figure out how she could be best utilized during filming. After the first take it was obvious……keep track at what I am saying wrong. 🙂 She kept great notes so when we broke in between “takes” she could comment on what might have been missing or what we should add in the next shot. It was brilliant! But you all know how I feel about my lovely wife and partner of 19++ years.
Day 2 was fun. We took some “B” footage in Manzanita at the whole foods store. You will get to see our poodles up close and personal…almost worth the price of the DVD. When all was “in the can” we took a big sigh and looked back at what we had completed. I am confident that both Rick and Chris (Enloe Media and Ballasiotes Marketing)have their work cut out for them…they have to squeeze it down to 60 minutes. I guess Lenore and I had the easy task after all.
Ciao – Bob
Today is our first day of the DVD production. Just when you want to look your best—cameras pointed at us, Lenore woke up before the alarmÃ³really early and is operating on less sleep than usual and having a bad hair day, as well. And I am feeling the early signs of an adolescent pimple breaking out on my nose. Today, of course, the sun is shining; with all of CB rejoicing, our camera man needs to rig a sun shade for the window to cut the glare!
One of the topics for BACK STAGE is breaking down of a whole fish, and salmon being the most popular in the great Northwest, we ordered one for the occasion. ItÃs a beauty! Little did we know in the planning stages for this that the price of Salmon would reach a per pound price of $11.50 “wholesale!” Right now and for the next few months, Salmon will be scarce, because about 700 miles of the Columbia River has been closed to commercial fishing. That’s not the worst of it. Here we are sitting on a whole fresh salmon; itÃs the beginning of the week with no classes until the weekend. Yes, I could freeze it, but fresh is best, even if I didnÃt just pay a bazillion dollars for it! I could have bought frozen troll caught salmon locally for less than half the price of fresh. Needless to say, turning this fresh stuff into frozen before I use any of it just seems wrong! I called a friend and local chef in town, explained my Ã¬taleÃ® or is it a fishy Ã¬tail?Ã® Anyway, I asked if he could use it. He can but cannot afford the price I paid, so we struck a deal somewhere in the middle. IÃd rather it be eaten fresh than have to freeze it!
And this is how this first day began.
P/S: As I am finishing this, the grease trap in the dish room has just backed up. For those who donÃt know what a grease trap isÃ–Ã–good for you! Nuff said.
We are partnering with Enloe Media & Ballasiotes Marketing Communications in Seattle to create a behind-the-scenes, BACK STAGE PASS to EVOO, featuring demonstrations, methods and how-to-doÃs from our live classes. The idea was inspired by several customers who said they wish they could see what goes on before they get here. They are interested in that pre-work call, Ã¬mise en place.Ã® You should make a DVD that fills in the blanks, they said. So, thanks to Rick Enloe, the producer, and Chris Ballasiotes, the technical guru, we begin production this Sunday, March 19, 2006. We are pretty jazzed!
In addition, there will be a few of what Rick calls Ã¬BÃ® shots, including scenes from our daily life in and about Cannon Beach. Some scenes with our dogs, so you can finally see more than their poodle heads peeking down from our library. And, weÃll include some shots shopping locally for products that we use. People ask all the time where do you find such great ingredients. We donÃt think our classes would inspire anyone to cook if we told you that only restaurants can get great ingredients. No, we actually find great local products. Even our seafood wholesaler, Pacific Seafood, purchases direct from local fisherman, and makes their catch available to everyone.
The DVD will be approximately one hour in length and be broken into chapters (topics) for ease of navigation and use. Following are the chapters we have planned. Not promising they will all be there but it seems these are the topics that seem to need more explanation than we do in class. After a brief introduction, including Sunday nightÃs class, the DVD will break down into the follow:
Home Curing and Preservation
We hope you enjoy watching BACK STAGE PASS to EVOO as much as we enjoy making it. WeÃll keep you posted on our progress. DonÃt hesitate to drop us a email with advice and comments. You can reach us both at email@example.com
Ciao, Lenore & Bob
Title: Happy Saint PatrickÃs Day!
Hi All: this is a Special DayÃ³its St PattyÃs Day and one of my favorite days in the year. First, because I think of my sister and brother-in-law whose wedding anniversary is today. Happy Anniversary, Cheryl and Tim Kearns! She married a lucky Irishman, a former police officerÃ³no stereotype there. We love you guys!
Today brings back great memories of Irish pub hopping in the Wash DC area and before that, Cleveland. It was a big deal back thereÃ³maybe a little more than here. Lenore and I used to start early to get a spot in line. The rest of the year these little pubs were sized right for their crowds, but St. PatrickÃs turnout for Ã¬greenÃ® beer guarantees a line out the door. Lenore and I always went for the food and ale, not the green beer, really. We like the corn beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes. And is it just me, or doesnÃt a Reuben sandwich and Guinness Ale taste exceptional good this time of year?
Our celebration at EVOO this year is simply the wearing of the green and playing the Irish tunes of Kathyrn Clair, a local prize. Kat does the vocals, fiddling and plays the guitar on her latest CD, Luna Sea Arts Sampler 2005. Check out her website: www.lunaseaarts.com.
TodayÃs Ã¬Fresh specialsÃ® at EVOO include green soup (A chunky spinach bisque) and fresh Reuben sandwiches made from local corn beef without nitrites and our housemade rye bread.
Fresh Spinach Bisque 2 TBS shallots, minced
1 TBS garlic minced
4 bunches fresh spinach, cleaned, chopped
2 TB salted butter
2 oz. heavy cream, reduced by half
8 oz whole milk, warmed
16 oz unsalted chicken broth/stock, heated
TT sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander
2 tsp tarragon, chopped
Method Heat EVOO in sautÃˆ pan; add shallots and garlic; sautÃˆ until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add spinach and cook until just tender. Add butter and cream and season with spices. Add Pernod and cook 30 seconds. This mixture should be thick at this point. Add warm milk and chicken broth to desired soup consistency. Puree mixture with hand held blender. You may strain at this point for a cream soup. Garnish with tarragon and serve.
Lenore and I have been together 20+ years now and at some point along the way we were able to articulate just what makes Ã¬usÃ® work. We have dubbed it the Ã¬satisfaction factor.Ã® Believe it or not this does have something to do with food, too.
But first, the satisfaction factor is at work every day in our relationship when each of us is feeling that our viewpoint, feelings, or otherwise personhood has been respected and given the satisfaction of being heard. Not that we always agree on things, not at all, but that we know each others true thoughts and feelings can be expressed without judgment or reprisal. ItÃs our recipe for a good relationship, if you will.
The phrase also applies nicely to what we believe is the true pleasure of cooking! It is not just eating a well prepared meal with foods hand picked from local farms and markets. What makes the satisfaction meter climb is when we do the cooking ourselves. We watch this happen over and over in our classes. People working to make a better omelet in Omelets 101 class, for example, donÃt make a better omelet at all—they make the BEST omelet they ever tasted!! We hear that all the timeÃ³what is at work here is the satisfaction of doing it themselves.
And finally we apply the Ã¬satisfaction factorÃ® to making sure every plate has enough variety to help our taste buds go the distanceÃ³to really get the full satisfaction from the plate. First, a smaller portion of high flavored foods is key. Second, layer flavors rather than mixing them, allowing each bite to be just a little different than the last, and finally, serve wine and foods at the temperature our taste buds can truly enjoyÃ³not too hot not too cold.
The best analogy is to describe our concept of Ã¬small platesÃ® is what we call the Ã¬chocolate experience.Ã® When you take a bite of really great chocolate, like from Belgium, you experience an incredible rush of luxurious rich chocolate in your mouth. Second bite maybe the same, but by the third or fourth you are beginning to loose the original sensation until you are just eating chocolate. So no matter what you are eating, the taste buds can only take so much. By putting a variety of flavors on the plate, you increase the duration of enjoyment. Serving food at a temperature that brings out the best of the food is also key since you only have a few bites until your taste bud experience fatigue.
White Bean Salad with Grilled Garlic marinated Ahi Tuna served with Minted Gremolata is an example of a small plate that has high flavors and enough variety to promote full satisfaction. At work here are the clean flavors of each component working side by side, getting an occasional hit from the high flavored Gremolata.
HereÃs the recipe. Enjoy! Ciao, Bob
White Bean Salad with Gremolata and Grilled Tuna
As needed EVOO
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 leek, minced
3 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups cannellini beans, cooked
1 orange, zested
1 TBS oregano, minced
sea salt, ground coriander and pepper
1 orange juiced
Method: heat oil in large sautÃˆ pan; add vegetables and cook until aromatic and soft; add beans, zest and oregano; toss to combine; adjust seasonings; remove and chill; add additional oil and juice of orange to flavor; refrigerate until, needed.
Minted gremolata: 2 lemons, Âº cup chopped parsley. 1/8 cup chopped mint, 4 cloves garlic paste, 2 anchovies-pasted- Method: zest lemons into a small bowl; stir in chopped herbs; fold in garlic and anchovies; adjust seasonings with sea salt, ground coriander and pepper; adjust consistency and additional flavor with EVOO.
Grilled tuna: 1# Ahi Tuna, 3 TB EVOO, â€¡ tsp ea sea salt, pepper and coriander, 2 lemons, peeled into long strips, 4 cloves garlic minced – Method: place tuna in a non reactive pan; combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to combine; gently toss with tuna and marinade for 4 Ã± 8 hours. At service, grill using high heat to seal in juices.
As another week comes to an end we can’t help but think of how much fun we are having. Maybe it is because the sun is out this afternoon, but I think it’s because we live at the beach. 🙂
This time next week we will be preparing for our DVD film shoot which is scheduled for release in early June. As the week progresses, I will post the outline we will be filming from. From all of us here in CB, have a great week and make it better by cooking!
Ciao! – Bob
One of the most frequently asked questions of guests attending one of our classes is how we come up with our menus. I thought I should take up a few lines and explain since that is what I am working on at this moment.
Menus are a funny thing! Without trying a lot of chefs have a daunting task to develop menus for their restaurants, considering the factors to keep in mind. For instance, will the ingredients be available when I need them? Will the price be stable enough to keep it on the menu? Will be able to maintain the quality ? Does my staff have the right skills?
Take, for example, salmon – anyone following the news probably knows that the run this year (meaning when salmon start their migratory journey from the ocean back to their place of birth for spawning) appears to be falling short of projections. This could result in 700 miles of coastal fishing being closed. WOW! Fewer salmon drives up costs. So what do chefs do?
We have choices and it usually comes down to simple economics. Is the cost that your guest will need to pay to make it worthwhile, acceptable? And, do I bring in filets or whole fish or something in between?
Overwhelmed yet? Well, I am probably a little ahead of myself. This all makes for great background – but menus at least for us, come together a little differently. Magazines, internet, cookbooks, television, etc. all have contributed to the inspiration for EVOO menu development. For me personally, I take time to see what is new in the trades and see what the consumer sees, Gourmet Magazine, Saveur and Cooks Illustrated seem to be three good resources for that. We have a fairly extensive culinary library which helps to round out my research when I am in development. Then comes the fresh sheets – these are quick blurbs from the farmers that let you know what is season, what may be coming into season and what is in limited supply. It all makes for a grab bag of choices that comes together when we start putting items down on paper.
Our general rule of thumb is, if it grows together (in season) than it usually tastes good together. Lenore is the best partner in the world to have. Besides being a talented educator, retailer and savvy business person, she also is a great culinarian with a wealth of technical application. She checks my menus for redundancy of food and cooking styles and makes sure that the items make sense. She challenges my thought processes and has me expain how the item should come together in front of the guests. She’s always saying, “What are the learnings?” Good stuff that translates into good menus, crossing my fingers. Well, I hope this was a little enlightening and it seems that I used more than a few lines, oops…ciao for now – Bob
Hello from the coast! I journeyed to Canby yesterday to attend the chef-farmer collaborative, put on by Ecotrust. The collaborative is a venture to bring chefs and farmers/growing community together in an effort to foster relationships, and of course buying/selling opportunities. Our summer produce (this past year) was greatly influenced through contacts made last year at this same event. Viridian Farms GaleÃs Blooming Acres and others provided an abundance of heirloom tomatoes that we processed in August. For those of you who have been here before, you already know that our menus are based upon availability of local farms and the education that we receive from these contacts helps us make buying/menu decisions for the future. Needless to say, this year was another successful event. We are looking into a variety of products to add to our list, including eggs, honey, goatÃs milk, wild rice seed, local duck and potentially sea berries. Sea Berries are native to both central Asia through western China and in European countries around the Baltic Sea. They are sour like fresh cranberries but because of their color and pectin, they have great dessert applications.The other advantage of these types of events is the networking of chefs and for us, potential guest instructors. Loads of fun! Until next time Ã± Ciao, Bob
Welcome to Bob’s blog! It has been a long time since I needed to think about technology in the work place. After 6+ years at MS, I gladly gave up my laptop and tech toys to move to the beach. Cooking is much more me and this blog is intended to be informational and fun. So let’s get at it. Thursdays are usually our ramp up day for the weekend. This week is no exception. On the menu will be:
Roasted Effingham Oysters (from BC) with Lemon Thyme-Garlic Aioli
Grilled Rosemary-Chive Steaks
Chicken Coq au Vin with Herbed Pappardelle
Warm Maple Banana Splits with Toasted Black Walnuts
Looking forward to the simplicity of these dishes while providing a variety of flavors to pair with wine. I have added a recipe from the deck for those enthusiasts wishing to try a small plate sample. Let me know what you think. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments Ã± Ciao!
Roasted Effingham Oysters with Lemon Thyme-Garlic Aioli<
¡ cup shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Âº cup salted butter
8 cups spinach leaves, chiffonade
1 tsp lemon zest
TT sea salt
TT ground pepper
24 local oysters, scrubbed
as needed vermouth
º cup provolone
aioli (see recipe on right)
â€¡ red bell pepper, finely diced
as needed rock salt
Method: sautÃˆ shallots and garlic in butter until vegetables are softened and aromatic; add spinach and cook until wilted; add zest and cook to reduce liquid-remove and chill; place shucked oyster on rock salt and spritz with vermouth; top with spinach mixture, aioli and provolone; broil to gratin cheese/sauce and garnish with bell pepper for service.
Lemon thyme-garlic aioli: 2 cloves garlic, dash sea salt and ground pepper, 3 egg yolks, 1 cup EVOO, 1 cup grape seed oil, juice of 1 lemon, TT cayenne pepper, â€¡ tsp lemon thyme Ã± Method: mash garlic into a paste; add yolks and whisk well; add oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly; add juice and seasonings; reserve chilled.