The other day I was sitting with a friend during her own food photo shoot for a international critically acclaimed newspaper, and she reminisced about the first food she tasted of mine over a decade ago. It was cheesecake which she loved. It got me to thinking I haven’t made one in a while. While I love to bake , I’m not a frantic baker as Certain Someone and I prefer the savory side . But every now and then I knock a dessert out of the park he loves, like my trifles or puddings. It’s no wonder he enjoyed this creation too. If you have some boxes of Girl Scout Samoas, obligatorily procured a few month ago from co-workers, some macadamias in the freezer, and cream cheese and eggs, this recipe is for you. Rather than use cream or sour cream in this cake I decided to add coconut to the theme by using Cream of Coconut, which is thicker and sweeter than coconut milk. Continue reading “Coconut Macadamia Girl Scout Samoas Cheesecake”
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and holiday planning is in overdrive. I was commissioned by Pillsbury to come up with some food ideas for the classic Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I remember loving these as child. They are a great medium as short cut if you are really not baking inclined.
The past few weeks have been insanely crazy. I have catered three successful events, held down the day job, cleared and cleaned out my old condo for visitors. In addition to all of this I signed on the become Midwest Savvy Gourmets for Verizon and culminated the week with a long-awaited reservation to Charlie Trotters. So where shall I begin? Lets start with the cool XYBOARD from Verizon I was given to test for the next six months. It’s pretty sweet. 4G speeds , loaded with apps, cool sleek , but tough exterior. Verizon selected a tight group of bloggers from the Midwest and other parts of the country. They want to see how we use the tablet for the kitchen and blogs. I need all the help I can get in keeping my catering affairs and blog ideas together. I’m having a ball playing with it and even Certain Someone got a little jealous and petulant when he saw it.
On Friday as I paid the taxi cab driver to take me to the Hard Rock Hotel to meet the group. I did a double take as I noticed Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen fame on the corner. I looked at her and she looked at me and I said ” Jaden…?” She remembered me from earlier interactions on the blogosphere. It was the equivalent of meeting a rock star in the food blog world. I appreciated her openness and honesty as she talked from the heart in how to maximize your blog, and turn into a viable brand and business. She also stressed most importantly to “Measure success in units of happiness not revenue.” I also got to meet the cool Jessi Olsen of Cakespy, another longtime fave, who is also participating in the program.
Speaking of Measuring success in units of happiness and not revenue… This is a perfect segue into my visit to Charlie Trotters. Late last year it was announced that the famed Charlie Trotter, who was and still is a ground breaker in American Cuisine was closing his doors to his famed Lincoln Park Restaurant. Many of today’s hottest chefs have paid their dues under Trotter. As with all things sometimes the pioneers get forgotten or taken for granted.I have heard the question many times is Charlie Trotter still relevant is the food scene?I think those that think he’s not are too jaded. Many of the hot new modern chefs can owe their success to him directly or indirectly. Charlie Trotter knows he has nothing to prove and is closing his famed door in August to pursue other things like studying Philosophy. That’s a well-rounded healthy man who knows when to move on and change it up. I’m lucky to have a generous Certain Someone in my life who knew the importance of visiting this institution. We dined with another couple and had a grand time.While the final bill with the bottles of wine ,could have easily flown us to Europe, it was worth it. I loved the formality of the restaurant with the suited servers who attended to your every need. I even glimpsed Chef in the kitchen getting ready to greet another lucky girl who was blindfolded and being lead to his chefs table for a birthday surprise.Its a nice change from the grungy hipster edgy vibes you find elsewhere. The food was beautifully presented and a work of art. Small in portions, yet carefully crafted. That style of cooking is very hard to replicate and takes years of dedication passion and a cultivated eye and palate.
I tried to recreate a recipe I have from one of his cookbooks Workin’ More Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotters. Soft Shelled Crab with Curried Tomato Sauce and Cumin Vinaigrette. This is my second crab post I realize, but this is the last month of the soft shell crab season. They are now available year round in frozen form as well. My favorite aspect of the recipe was the pine nut flour coating. This will be my go to breading for frying. It’s amazing. So many aspects of this recipe can be adapted to others.
Many years ago I would have been a bit intimidated to cook out this book. A revisit, and I find it approachable and inspiring. Whether Charlie Trotters doors are closed or not, the true Master Chef and Artist will continue to inspire , teach and influence.
- For the Sauce
- 1 shallot
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoon minced lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ½ cup water
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- For the Soft Shelled Crabs
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cups toasted pine nuts , grounded
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1½ grape seed oil or vegetable oil
- 4 cleaned soft shelled crabs
- For the Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds , toasted and ground
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped
- 4 leaves Belgian endive , julienned
- ½ Granny Smith Apple
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- In a saucepan with the olive oil, saute the shallots , lemon grass, garlic and ginger on low medium heat until they become translucent. This will take 5 minutes approx.
- Add tomatoes, curry, cilantro , vinegar, and water. Simmer for 15 minutes until tomatoes break down and ingredients are combined.
- In a spice grinder ground the toasted pine nuts. Add flour, salt and peppers.
- Dredge the crabs in the pine nut flour mixture.
- Fry for three minutes on each side until golden.
- Carefully cut each fried crab in half with kitchen shears.
- Adjust seasoning if necessary with salt and pepper to taste.
- Whisk the ground cumin and vinegar.
- Slowly add the olive oil to form an emulsion.
- Gently simmer the vinaigrette until hot in a sauce pan.
- Add the julienned apples, endive , pinenuts, and cilantro.
- Plate by adding tomato curry sauce and vinaigrette to plate.
- Place crabs atop the sauce.
- Add more vinaigrette on top of the crabs.
Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.
The other day I was in Stanley’s and saw a nice punnet of kumquat’s staring at me. Do you look at some foods and think back to your first taste, which may or may not have been pleasant? That’s how I felt with kumquat’s. I wanted to love the cute miniature citrus fruit , but a distant memory of just eating one raw off someones little tree, as child always held me back. Well I’m a big girl now, 43 years of age, to be exact and it was time to acquaint myself with Kumquats again. Surely if I cooked them down to a confit , almost candy like, they will go down well? And yes they did. Talk about a burst of sunshine and citrus finished with a hint of bourbon and cinnamon. The kumquats picked me up and tickled my tongue, as I ate it on hot buttered bread and black coffee. Preserved kumquat’s are better than orange marmalade in my opinion.The flavor more pronounced, as it’s really all concentrated in the peel.
Certain Someone is not a big jam , preserve type. He loves his charcuterie, black coffee , good bread and butter on lazy weekend mornings. So while I made a small batch, I wanted more applications for my confit. I had small sheets of commercial puff pastry in my freezer and nuts in the cupboard.
I took my kitchen shears and cut up a small amount of the candid kumquats to smaller pieces, as the confit was made from kumquat halves. I spread them over the defrosted puff pastry, added a mixture of pistachios and raw sugar which had been blended to a coarse crumb, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I then carefully rolled them up on either end, to meet in the middle. The rolls were sliced and dipped in more of the pistachio sugar crumb and baked on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375 degrees until golden. Careful not to burn the bottoms as the sugars from the confit and sugar crumb will caramelize. Remove from oven and let cook. You will have a nice tea or coffee time snack.
- 1 lb of kumquats, washed, halved, and seeded.
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of Bourbon
- * apple core
- Halve and seed the kumquats.
- Place in a heavy bottomed pot with apple core.
- Add sugar.
- Slowly bring up the temp and stir and mash the fruit into the sugar until it starts to liquify slight. You don't want to burn the sugar or cook to fast.
- Stir in cinnamon.
- Cook on med heat until all the ingredients start to liquify and boil.
- Reduce heat until the boil is more like a simmer. Stir periodically and cook for several minutes until the fruit becomes more transparent and candied. This may take about 10 minutes more or less.
- The longer the cook time, the more candied the fruit. You want to make sure its spreadable and not to thick.
- Turn off the heat.
- Remove apple core.
- Stir in the Bourbon . The confit will sizzle a bit with the addition of the liquor.
- Place in clean jars.
- Let cool and cover
- Keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Finally a moment to reconnect with me, my home, and blog. The past few weeks have been crazy busy , but in a good way. I have so much to tell you. First I got a job! Yeah. Is it the sort of job I was seeking or used to? Not necessarily, but its in my field of expertise ( retail cosmetics management), and company I have long admired and respected. I had to take a pay cut, but its the sort of company you start from the bottom and that’s OK with me as I actually snagged a management position. And great benefits ! This is why we work. The first week I hit the ball out of the park and the powers that be are impressed with my knowledge and history. So for now it works for me and I am grateful. I think there are so many people who refuse to take a step back or settle in this ecomony, but I dont want to sit at home whining and broke waiting for handouts from Certain Someone (he’s been awesome and very supportive by the way, but a girl has to have her own stash and means). I have met many like myself or even not that were making over six figures andf suddenly having to fall into service jobs or retail after being laid off. You do it with your head held high and joy and gratitude.
I also have been juggling Coco Cooks Catering , and have to date produced two successful events. I love it when people love my food and services. I have been studying and working part time in the industry towards this for years to learn the ropes and it is actually into fruition. I know the level of hard painful work involved and have no illusions of instant payoff and glamour. I do it because I love it. Word of mouth and reputation is huge and that’s how it all started thanks to French Foodie Mom and her social set. You never know and must be ready when opportunity comes knocking. After the first event everyone said I should I should focus on this and get my business affairs in order. Thanks to my generous aunt, I got the small start up moneies needed to be totally official and meet all requirements. with insurance, licenses, etc. It’s a lot of work and detail, but worth it. Can I give up the day job yet? No. But that day will be coming. Here is a great article in the New York times addressing that very issue. Read it if you want to take a leap into entrepreneurship. I think this is the wisest way to start and I realize it means burning the candle at both ends. But the payoff will be worth it.
My latest client wanted a whole Cape Cod Surf and Turf Theme . She had very definitive views of what she wanted food wise and her decor which was lovely. Naturally I knew I had to add Lobster Rolls to my menu proposal as well. They were the hit of the party! I remember those fantastic lobster rolls I had in Boston a few years ago. There are two camps for making Lobster Rolls. The simple rich decadent tossed in butter method or the Celery and Mayo way.
Here is a simple recipe to celebrate the last few days of summer. My recipe in my head is for 200 mini Lobster rolls , but I will pare it down to give you an idea of proportions. The key to a great Lobster Roll, which will have people bursting into your kitchen demanding more, like the the party guests, is a heavily buttered toasted bun. I also used a mixture of Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream cut into the mayonnaise to add extra flavor, and reduce an overly mayonnaise, fatty taste. A little secret a chef taught me along the way.
Here was the final menu for the event. The top hits being the Lobster Rolls, Beef Tenderloin Crostinis with choice of Horseradish Aioli or Red Pepper Aioli, and the Herb Stuffed Cremini Mushrooms topped with Tallegio. Oh and Shrimp and Deviled eggs with Wasabi! It was all so good.
Traditional Deviled Eggs and Wasabi Deviled Eggs
Old Bay Marinated Shrimp on Skewers
Herb Stuffed Cremini Mushrooms topped with Tallegio Chesse
Beef Tenderloin Crostini with Red Pepper Aioli or Horse Radish Aioli
Cheese and Relish Platter with Coco’s Picklings Giardiniera
Warm Spiced Mixed Nuts ( Pistachios, Pecans,Cashews, Almonds)
- Lobster Claw and Knuckle Meat ( wholly cooked frozen and defrosted)
- Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream
- Celery finely minced
- Celery Seeds
- Celery Salt
- Melted Butter
- Mini Croissants (cut in half) or a split Hot dog Bun type of bread for an Entree
- Remove the lobster meat from the shells and place in bowl.
- Depending on quantities needed , take 1 part mayonnaise to ⅓ part cream fraiche or sour cream. You don't want to much of this and you want the lobster salad to hold and not be soupy.
- Add minced celery( again depending on quantity and taste)
- Add a pinch of celery salt and celery seeds to taste to build up to taste.
- Mix thoroughly and chill until ready to use.
- In a separate pot melt the amount of butter needed to dip and toast the quantity of bread you are using.
- If you serving these as appetizers cut the mini croissants in half and split lengthwise.
- In a grill pan or skillet pour in some butter to soak the bread in.
- Place the buns split open to absorb the butter and lightly toast on each side. Set aside until ready to fill.
Off to do another proposal for a client on this rare day off. Life is good. Enjoy it and embrace it.