Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. The very thought of this holiday prompts us to scribble away our mental menu items: Turkey, candied yams, pumpkin pie. Wait! What if you blew your guests away with twists on conventional dishes? Perhaps pan roasted sweet potatoes, spiced with toasted coriander and cumin seeds and what if cheese cake was served as an appetizer instead of desert. Go on! Be creative! Here’s your chance to demonstrate that tradition can be embraced without walking down that beaten path, after all, you’re more likely to be remembered for taking a risk than being a sheep. Playing around with ideas, I thought it would be fun to make a cheese cake, to get saliva glands in full gear. Of course, I am not referring to a chocolate cheese cake on a graham cracker crust, but rather a habanero jelly swirl on a rosemary cracker crust. The heat and sweetness from the jelly, the creamy mélange of cheeses and the salty and earthy toned crust will peak your guests interest as they know that this is the start of a thanksgiving to remember. Ingredients 1 packet of rosemary crackers crushed (1 ½ cups crushed) 1 stick softened butter 3 tbsp of corn starch 1 tsp salt 5oz sour cream 16 oz cream cheese (2 reg sized packs) 5 oz blue cheese 2 eggs 2 tablespoons habanero jelly (or any other chili jelly) for filling Fresh cracked pepper 4 tablespoons habanero jelly to spread at the end Method Crust Preheat oven to 350 degrees Crush the crackers and butter and pack tightly against the base of a 9” spring form pan Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce temperature to 250 degrees Cheese filling Beat the salt, sour cream, cream cheese and corn starch, add the blue cheese and combine well Add the eggs one at a time, combining thoroughly after each addition Swirl in the habanero jelly and black pepper Pour over the cooled crust Bake for 1 hour Remove and cool completely, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 4 hours Spread with habanero jelly Pearls of Wisdom Do not overcook the cheese cake or it will lose its creaminess. Once the cheese cake is set from the sides and wobbly in the middle, it is cooked through. It will continue to stiffen as it cools. Ensure the cheese cake is completely cool before spreading the layer of habanero jelly Serving suggestions Serve as an appetizer or as a main course side
This month was electric in the Big Apple as New York City opened its doors to the New York Food and Wine Festival. The city became a “Tinsel Town” for food with streets and venues filled with well-known chefs talking to the media about new projects, personal philosophies and using their voice as a medium to achieve other goals that benefit society. My friend Lesley invited me to an event hosted by the Feast.com, an event which left most of the audience speechless and self-reflective. The guest known as the ‘Salvador Dali’ of gastronomy, a rebel with a cause and a scientist in the kitchen, could have been no other than the Spanish Chef Ferran Adria. The afternoon was not spent discussing his famous culinary nitrous oxide canisters, but rather people and their attitude towards food. For Adria, well being is clearly an objective. As he pointed out, over-eating and fad diets are just symptoms of a very unhealthy mindset and a physically ailing society. He also discussed his new book, The Family Meal, which was inspired by his quest to ensure that his staff was eating healthily, affordably and responsibly. When asked by a member of the audience what advice he would give to a culinary school graduate, he became very serious reminding them that this journey should not be about fame and fortune but rather the craft of being in the kitchen. In his recent visit to Peru, he was humbled by the modesty of chef extraordinaire ‘Gaston Acurio’, where almost every sentence spoken by the chef was prefaced by a ‘con permiso’ or ‘with your permission.’ Ferran spent a lot of time talking about Peru and how we are on the cusp of this lesser-known cuisine exploding onto the global stage. This is a truly integrated cuisine where it’s citizens, are either no longer able or even bother trying, to distinguish the cultural origins of what is on their plate be it Andean, Chinese, Japanese, African or European. Integration at this deep level is something that has yet to fully transpire in the West although in time it will inevitably come and with it, we will all become that little bit closer together as people. Today’s dish celebrates his championing of Peruvian cuisine and accelerating the recognition it deserves with: Lomo Saltado. Lomo Saltado is a Chinese influenced Peruvian dish of stir fried chili beef, served with fries. Ingredients 1lb sirloin, thinly sliced in to strips (jardinière cut) 2 cloves of crushed garlic 4 tbsp soy sauce 1 medium onions, sliced same thickness as beef 1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 beef steak tomatoes cut in to wedges 2 red chilis Salt and pepper Frying oil 1 ½ lbs of potatoes, sliced same thickness as beef 1 cups of basmati rice 2oz butter Method Wok Fried Sirloin 1) Heat oil in a large wok and sweat the garlic. Add the sirloin to the wok (do not over crowd the pan and cook in batches if necessary) and increase the heat. Season with salt. Allow the meat to nicely brown. Remove from pan 2) Heat more oil in the same pan and briefly sauté the onions. Remove from pan 3) Deglaze pan with vinegar and soy sauce and remove the ‘brown bits’ from the pan, add tomato wedges and cook briefly. Season with salt and pepper and add the onions and sirloin with slices of red chilli Fried Potatoes 1) Blanche the sliced potatoes in boiling water (boil until ½ cooked and remove) and air dry 2) When ready for service, heat oil in a fryer at to 350 degrees. Fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove when tender and golden brown and dry well on paper towels Boiled Rice 1) Heat butter in a saucepan and cook the rice until they become pearl like. Add 4 cups of water and salt to taste and cook covered on medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork once the rice is tender Serving Suggestions Toss the fries in to the lomo saltado coating the potatoes with the sauce and serve the lomo saltado on a hot plate with a side of white rice. Pearls of Wisdom Be careful not to overcrowd the pan to avoid steaming the beef.
For men, the 80’s was a period of buff and brawn. The 90’s dotcom guy was somewhat geeky and overall non-descript but there was a very important transition taking place paving the way and raising the bar for the Year 2000’s: Mr. Metrosexual. Mr. metrosexual takes pride in his appearance and it has no bearing on his sexuality, he is far less of a chauvinist, his beverage selection is broader than beer and he willingly cooks!!! These guys have it figured and are reaping the rewards in more ways than one. However some poor chaps are still ‘stuck in the 80’s. If you are one of them, today’s entry is here to propel you and bring you about 3 decades ahead from where you are used to operating. This dish is full proof, requires minimal time and effort and may even peak your interest in the kitchen. Your lesson 1 is about to begin and you will be making skirt steak with chimichurri. The combination of the full flavored skirt steak with the zesty and fragrant Chimichurri Sauce is enough to wake up anyone’s taste buds up. Ingredients Skirt Steak 1 ½ lb, skirt steak (sliced in a half along the width) 1 tsp of Malden Salt (the Pop Rock tasting salt) Fresh black pepper Chimichurri Sauce 1/2 cup olive oil ½ a freshly squeezed lime 1 large handful of fresh parsley 3 cloves garlic 1 peeled shallot 1 Jalapeno or serrano chili pepper 2 tbsp red wine vinegar Salt and pepper to taste Method 1. Throw all the Chimichurri ingredients in a blender and give it a couple of pulses. The sauce should be slightly chunky and textured. Taste and adjust seasoning 2. Get a large sized frying pan and heat on high. 3. Season only one side of the meat with salt and pepper 4. Add vegetable (1 tblsp) oil to the pan and lay the seasoned sized of the skirt steak facing down 5. Refrain from moving the meat around so that it can form a nice crust for four minutes each side 7. Blot off any excess grease and allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes so the juices can be reabsorbed. 8. Serve with your fabulous Chimichurri Sauce Serving Suggestions All this needs is a simple salad, but if you really have time on your hands, feel free to throw a couple of potatoes in the oven. Pearls of Wisdom Here are some guidelines for levels of skirt steak cooking: 1. 3 minutes each side for a rare steak 2. 4 minutes each side for medium rare 3. 6 minutes each side for well done Please keep all trigger ready hands placed firmly behind your back as the meat is browning to avoid temptations of moving it around the pan or your meat will not achieve that gourmet color!!
Since we are still at the turn of the New Year, many of you had sent me requests for tasty, healthy options, after all, one good choice leads to another. Such requests would often send me to a salad suggestion, however, our serial snow storms are in full swing and a salad feels like a flavorful frost bite in the mouth at best. One of my favorite meals on a cold day is ‘Secco’. This Peruvian curry is lighter than it’s counterparts and far more aromatic. For those of you belonging to the anti-cilantro community (www.ihatecilantro.com), I offer my sympathies and for those of you who enjoy this citrus overtoned herb, you are in for a healthy treat. This ethnic champion will stoke the fire in your belly and keep you warm and satisfied for the rest of the night. In addition to the ‘feel good factor’ brought on by this dish, there is also an element of history with the culmination of Native Indian, Spanish and African influences. This curry of chicken, cilantro, potatoes and peas is spicy, peppery and it’s broth like consistency adds a quality of cleanliness to the dish. This complete meal consisting of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins also comes with a fringe benefit of speed, ease and convenience. Ingredients 2lb chicken thighs on the bone (does not require slicing) 1 diced onion 1 head of a medium sized minced garlic 1 bunch of cilantro 1 cup of chicken stock 1 large carrot sliced in to discs 2 Serrano peppers or 1 Jalapeno 8 baby potatoes chopped in half 1 tablespoon of Aji Amarillo (available at any Latin specialty stores) or a splash of lemon juice Method 1) Sauté onions and garlic until translucent 2) Add the chicken and sauté for 7 minutes 3) In a blender, liquidize the cilantro and chicken stock and cook for a further 2 minutes 4) Add the Serrano peppers, potatoes, carrots 5) Once potatoes are soft, add the peas 6) Add the Aji Amarillo and season with salt and pepper Serving Suggestions This dish can absolutely be eaten on it’s own with just a simple salad of lime soaked red onions. However, if you are feeding an army of hungry people, serve with rice and butter beans. Pearls of Wisdom You do not need to add lots of water or stock to this stew. The cilantro has a fair amount of water content which comes out when heat is applied. The stock needs to just cover the chicken and vegetables. If you don’t have aji Amarillo, splash a little lemon juice in to the soup. Of course, this won’t replace the aji but it will add a little of the sourness that is in the sauce.
In another couple of weeks the weather will cool down and we will take the warm welcoming hand of high calorie comfort food to get us through the next 8 months. Today’s dish is a ceviche salad packed with intense flavors and is so gratifying that you will even crave it during those sluggish, waist-thickening (or wherever your problem areas reside) days ahead. Considered to be the national dish of Peru, ceviche is a dish of bite-sized pieces of fresh and firm white fish marinated in lime juice, slivers of red onions and chopped chilies. Have your taste buds woken up now? There is a real marriage of flavor from all the ingredients in this dish and the lime gives the fish a slightly sealed texture. Be bountiful in how you eat this dish and free yourself from all notions of guilt as this is a low-calorie dish. To make this a complete meal, we serve it with a boiled or roasted sweet potato to absorb the spicy lime juice ‘tiger’s milk’, a piece of grilled corn and some lettuce. Ingredients 2 lbs orange roughy/ sea bass/ flounder fillet 1 large red onion 3 Serrano chillies Juice of 16 limes Sea salt & cracked black pepper Method 1. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces 2. Finely slice 1 large red onion and the chillies 3. Squeeze the juice from the all the limes 4. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt 5. Allow the mixture to stand for approximately 10 minutes Serving Suggestions 1. To eat as an appetizer, serve ceviche on individual pieces of Boston lettuce 2. To eat as a main course, serve with boiled or roasted yams, lettuce and a piece of corn Pearls of Wisdom Use a firm white fish to avoid the fish breaking down. The lime juice cooks the fish and if you choose a flaky fish, it will disintegrate
Last summer, my brother got married to Alexandra. He made us wait for many years and finally the day came when he decided that he would be getting married. When he told me that he was proposing to his girlfriend it was a very emotional moment…still remember it. Since Alexandra came into the family, his life changed..and so did mine. She made the unfamiliar seem fun and accessible. Alexandra brought a new addition to their home…color…lots of color..an explosion of color. Before they met, my brothers apartment felt like you were watching a movie filmed in sepia..very little color but thankfully, Alexandra soon changed that. It now has the feeling of colonial exotica. Alexandra is part ‘Peruvian’ and so when they invite us for dinner, is it any surprise that I stop eating at about 12 noon in preparation for the debauchery I would later commit in the evening. It’s an evening of causa, ceviche and secco and then causa, ceviche, and secco all over again. Today’s dish is ‘causa’. Causa is a costal dish made up of spiced mashed potatoes layered with sea food and avocado and topped with lime soaked onions. The potatoes are mashed with a spicy golden yellow sauce called ‘aji amarillo’ (a spicy sauce made of yellow chili peppers). This dish is extremely adaptable and it is not uncommon to make it without sea food, some people use chicken and some people keep it vegetarian and add a layer of corn. Served chilled, this dish can be eaten as a ‘standalone’ or served as a side dish. This dish is very colorful and pretty and you definitely hear a few ‘wow’s!’ as you display the dish before your guests. Ingredients Mashed Potatoes 2 lbs Yukon potatoes 4-5 tbsp aji amarillo paste found at Latin grocery stores or specialty stores Salt to taste ¼ cup of Olive oil Juice of 1 lime Onion Relish 1 finely diced medium sized red onion Juice from 2 fresh limes Filling Can of corn or kernels of 4 ears of cooked corn or 16oz (usually 2 jars) high quality jars of tuna (in olive oil) 2 avocados ¼ cup of Mayonnaise (this is to mix with tuna) Method Mashed Potatoes 1. Boil the potato’s until soft from center 2. Drain, remove the skin and allow to cool 3. Combine the remaining ingredients for the mashed potatoes and mash using a ricer, grater or mixer. Remove all lumps. The potatoes should be stiff and have an almost dough-like consistency Onion Relish 1. Squeeze the juice of the fresh lime to cover the onions and leave to soak 2. As the onion soften and lime juice turns pink, drain the onions (usually after 10 minutes) Filling 1. Finely slice the avocados 2. In a mixing bowl toss the salt, pepper, mayo and tuna (discarding the oil) together or if you are layering the corn, keep it ready and at room temperature Layering 1. In an 8′ by 4′ glass dish, spread a 1 ½“ thick layer of the spicy mashed potatoes 2. Spread a layer of the sliced avocados 3. Spread another layer of the mashed potatoes 4. Spread a layer of your tuna or corn and sprinkle ½ the onion relish 5. Top with a final layer of potatoes 6. Garnish with the onion relish and if you have any olives at home, you can add them to the garnish 7. Chill for 1 hour and serve Serving Suggestions It will do nicely by itself thank you very much Pearls of Wisdom 1. Do not over boil the potatoes and drain well from the water to ensure they are nice and stiff when you mash them 2. There are no hard and fast rules on how you layer and the size of the dish you layer in. For presentation purposes in the photo above, I layered it on a chopping board and used a cookie cutter to pull them out