Friday, September 28, 2012

Quiche of Fontal, Florence Fennel and Chinese Garlic Chives

A quiche with nice Italian flavors!

     The theme of an entree is always is always good to keep in mind when creating an entree.  For this quiche, three nice Italian flavors are married together to create a well balanced classic Italian flavor.  
     Even though Chinese garlic chives are not really part of Italian cuisine, they do fit nicely in this quiche recipe.  Chinese garlic chives are garlic top shoots and they are not true chives.  The garlic flavor is very mellow and gentle.  Chinese garlic chives do not overpower the other delicate flavors of this quiche.  The garlic chives actually accent the flavors of the florence fennel and fontal cheese.
     Florence fennel is often sold as anise bulb.  Both the bulb and shoots can be used for this recipe.  Florence fennel is a traditional Italian vegetable that has a very nice delicate anise flavor.  Florence fennel is often used in Italian tortas.  Some types of Italian tortas are similar to quiche.  Italian tortas with spinach and fennel are traditionally served during Easter and Christmas holidays.
     Fontal cheese is one of the great classic cheeses of the world.  Fontal is usually called fontina in most countries.  In Italy, the finer quality fontina cheese is usually referred to by its traditional name, fontal.  A very nice quality imported Italian fontal cheese was used to make this quiche.  Fontal melts easily and the flavor is perfect for a quiche.
     Free Standing Quiche Technique:
     Free standing quiche is not difficult to make.  A small pop-ring pan is all that is needed.  One important thing to keep in mind when shaping the pie crust in a pop-ring mold, is that when the ring is popped, it expands an becomes wider, so the ring can be removed.  The crust of the quiche cannot lay over the edge of the pop-ring, or it will be damaged when the ring is popped!  The crust has to be above the ring or contained within the ring, so it is not damaged by the expanding pop-ring when the ring it removed.  
     If the crust is over the ring, then the pop-ring must be removed by sliding the ring down past the base of the pop-ring pan, instead of raising the ring.  The quiche will have to be allowed to cool for a couple minutes and oven mitts must be worn when handling the pop ring and quiche.  A fancy roped crust like the one in the photographs is easily damaged, so care must be taken when handling the hot quiche.
     An easy method for dropping the ring down is to set the pop-ring molded quiche on top of a can that is smaller than the base of the pop-ring mold.  Gently pop the ring and drop it down, then the base of the pan and quiche can be moved together to the plate.  Use a spatula to slide the quiche off of the pop-ring mold base onto the plate.

     Pate Brisee Recipe:
     Place about 1 cup of flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of sugar.
     Rice the flour by adding a few drops of ice water at a time while stirring with a whisk.  (The flour should look like grains of rice.)
     Cut 1 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter into pea size pieces and drop them in a bowl of ice water.
     Gently add a few pieces of the chilled hard butter at a time to the riced flour.
     Work the dough lightly with your fingers and for a minimal period of time leaving exposed small pieces of butter.
     Chill the dough, till it becomes very firm.
     Roll the pate brisee into a thin sheet on a floured counter top.  (The sheet of pate brisee should show streaks of butter!  This is what will give the pate brisee a flakey crusty texture.)
     Refrigerate the sheet of pate brisee, till it becomes firm again.

     Quiche Pie Shell:
     Lightly brush a 5" pop-ring cake mold with melted unsalted butter.
     Cut 1 round shaped sheet of the pate brisee that is 10" wide.
     Drape the round sheet of pate brisee over the pop-ring pan and press it into place.
     Roll a rolling pin over the rim of the pop-ring pan to trim off the excess dough.
     Refrigerate dough lined pop-ring mold, till the roped crust is shaped.
     Optional Roped Crust:  
     Roll a 3"x14" strip of pate brisee.  Roll the dough, so it is a little bit thinner than the dough for the pie shell.
     Cut 3 thin strips that are 3/16"x14".
     Pinch the 3 strips together on one end.
     Twist the strips, so the look like a rope.
     Brush the top edge of the pate brisee in the pop-ring mold with egg wash.
     Set the roped pate brisee in place and trim it to length.
     Fill the pie shell with dried beans.
     Place the molded pie shell on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the crust just starts to turn a very light golden color.
     Set the pie shell aside to cool.
     Carefully remove the beans from the pie shell.

     Quiche of Fontal, Florence Fennel and Chinese Garlic Chives:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced florence fennel that is coarsely chopped.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Saute till the florence fennel starts to become tender.
     Set the florence fennel aside to cool.
     Place 2 eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 ounces of milk.
     Add 3 ounces of cream.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the ingredients till they are blended.
     Place the sauteed florence in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Chinese garlic chives that are cut into 3/8" lengths.
     Add 1/3 cup of grated fontal cheese.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the quiche filling in the par baked pie shell.  (Do not pack the filling in the shell!  Just leave it loose and fluffy.)
     Place the pop-ring mold and quiche on a baking pan.
     Pour the quiche batter into the pie shell, so is becomes full.
     Bake in a 375 degree oven, till the quiche rises and becomes fully cooked.  The top of the quiche should be lightly browned when it is finished baking.  A toothpick stuck in the quiche should pull out clean, when the quiche is fully cooked.
     Set the quiche aside to cool for 2 minutes.
     Note:  Follow the instructions at the top of this page for removing the pop-ring cake mold and placing the quiche on a plate.
     Garnish the quiche with 2 or 3 trimmed long Chinese garlic chive shoots.

     This quiche has a nice flavor combination that is quite appealing!  The roped crust adds a pretty touch.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mozzarella en Carrozza Sliders with Marinara

Fried mozzarella sliders!

     Gourmet sliders are still a popular food trend that is going strong.  Gourmet sliders of every kind are offered these days.  Sometimes it is hard to draw the line between what is a mini sandwich and what is a slider.  My own classic definition of a slider is a cooked mini burger that is made with any kind of ground meat on a mini burger roll of any type of bread.  By that standard, anything else is really a mini sandwich.  
     Because the world of modern sliders has included pork belly, Cajun blackened tuna, beef tenderloin medallions, prime rib, mousseline patties, veggie patties, crab cakes and even fried fish on the list of acceptable meats for sliders, the definition of a slider has become a little bit looser.  The only meat items that are not considered to be sliders these days are cold cut meats and mayonnaise based meat salads like tuna salad.  If it is a chilled meat item on a mini roll, then it falls into the mini sandwich category, instead of the slider category.          
     I recently posted an article about the 2012 San Gennaro Feast in Las Vegas.  Attending that event gave me a chance to catch up on new Italian American food trends.  I posted photographs of some nice tasting meatball sliders that I sampled that day.  When I was working in Italian restaurants, us cooks used to snack on a small dinner roll meatball sandwich when hungry.  We sometimes jokingly referred to the mini meatball sandwich as an Italian slider, but that was long before the modern slider craze came to be.  We never thought of marketing the dinner roll meatball snack sandwiches as sliders.  All I can say is, more power to the Italian chef that thought of marketing mini roll meatball sandwiches as sliders during the modern slider craze!  It was a good idea!
     While at the San Gennaro Feast, I saw a menu board offering for mozzarella sliders.  This was another good slider idea from an Italian chef!  During my first Italian apprenticeship, I cooked Mozzarella en Carrozza as an appetizer, so I knew how to make the featured ingredient for a mozzarella slider.  Marinara sauce was something I had on hand, because I made a few fresh pasta recipes over the weekend.  Mini hamburger rolls was an item that I lacked.  
     I have posted mini focaccia roll recipes for Italian style gourmet sliders in the past.  I have been wanting to post a recipe for the shiny looking hamburger rolls that have become popular in trendy restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.  Finally the age of the Kaiser Hamburger Roll has come to an end.  Shiny old fashioned burger rolls are now replacing the kaiser burger roll on menus.  I am sure that I was not the only burger fan that was tired of only having a choice of a kaiser roll when ordering a gourmet burger.  Shiny burger rolls really do look nice on a plate and they have a soft agreeable texture.  

     Shiny Hamburger and Slider Rolls Recipe:
     This recipe makes 3 large hamburger rolls for 6 to 8 ounce burger patties and 6 slider rolls!  
     You can scale the dough for any size burger roll that you want, but for extra large burger rolls, more yeast should be added to the recipe, so the center of the roll does not become too dense.  A 25% to 50% increase of the yeast proportion may be needed for rolls that are larger than 5" wide.    
     Bread flour is used in this recipe.  All purpose flour will not produce the same texture.  
     All measurements in this recipe are volume measurements and not weight measurements.
     This recipe requires no proofing of the dough!   The yeast is accelerated by the sugar during the activation time.
     This recipe is written for an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment! 
     Place 1 tablespoon of dry yeast or 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast in an electric mixer bowl.
     Add 1 cup of lukewarm water.  (115 degrees is good for this recipe)
     Just dissolve the yeast in the water! 
     Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Let the yeast activate, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
     Add 1 egg.
     Add 3 cups of sifted bread flour.  
     Let the flour float like an island!
     Place 1 teaspoon of sea salt on top of the island of floating flour.
     Place the mixer bowl on an electric mixer.
     Attach the dough hook.
     Turn the mixer on and use a medium low speed to start mixing.
     Scrap the bowl while the mixer is turned off occasionally.
     When the ingredients form a loose wet dough, start adding a little bit of bread flour at a time, till the dough just starts to gather on the hook and pull away from the mixing bowl.
     Add only enough flour to form a soft dough and not a firm dough!
     Bench the dough on a lightly floured countertop.
     This recipe works well for regular size hamburger rolls and slider rolls.  Cut the benched dough into portions.  (Golf ball size portions are slider bun portions.  Hamburger bun portions can range from tennis ball size to baseball size.)
     Roll each portion with one hand, on a flour dusted counter top, till a ball shape is formed.
     Place the tip of the index finger of your hand against the thumb to form a round hole shape.
     Use the thumb of the other hand to press each portion of dough through the hole formed by the thumb and index finger of the other hand.  Press the dough through the hole and stuff the dough into the smooth ball that is formed, so smooth dough ball expands like a balloon.
     When you get to the last bit of dough on each smooth ball, twist the dough ball to seal the dough ball shut.
     Place each dough ball with the sealed side facing down, on a parchment paper lined baking pan.  Space the larger rolls 3" apart and space the sliders rolls 2" apart.
     Resting and Egg Washing:
     Let the dough rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.  Do not proof the shaped dough portions over an oven or in a proofing box!
     After 10 minutes, gently brush each dough ball with plain egg wash.

     It takes just about the same amount of time to bake slider portions as it does to bake large hamburger roll portions.  The larger hamburger rolls do need an extra couple minutes of baking time.  
     Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  (Quickly check at 8 or 9 minutes.)
     When the burger and slider rolls are cooked to a light brown shiny color, then they are ready.
     Allow the rolls to cool and stale for 2 hours.
     The burger and slider rolls can be reheated in an oven for about 1 minute before being used.
     Handle the finished shiny burger rolls gently, because the shiny finish is easy to damage.

     Marinara Sauce Recipe: 
     The proportion of  olive oil in a marinara sauce is about 20%.  Olive oil is the key to cooking this classic tomato sauce.  Without enough olive oil, a marinara will turn out to be "flat" like stewed tomatoes.
     Only the best imported Italian tomatoes should be used to make marinara sauce!  Marinara sauce has evolved from being a quickly made tomato sauce that prevented scurvy on a seagoing Italian boat, to becoming a signature tomato sauce that features the very best tomatoes in the house.  The finest Italian restaurants that I worked in always featured San Marzano tomatoes from Italy in their marinara sauces.  
     Imported canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes are the very best and they do command a higher price.  San Marzano tomatoes are a special breed of plum tomatoes that originated in Peru.  
     There are also good imported Italian regular plum (Roma) tomato products that make good marinara sauces.  Always seek a bright red imported Italian tomato product that is packed in its own juices.  The juices should be bright red, rich and not watery.  It is best to choose imported Italian tomatoes for marinara that also say "Con Basilico" on the label.  Tomatoes that are packed with basil leaves are perfect for making marinara. 
     Place a 28 ounce can of imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes or Roma plum tomato filets that are packed in their own juices with basil leaves into a mixing bowl.  (The can label should read "Filetti di pomodoro con basilico."
     Crush and squeeze the tomatoes in their own juices by hand. 
     Set the tomatoes aside.
     Heat 7 ounces of olive oil in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 8 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Fry the garlic in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden brown color.
     Immediately add the tomatoes to the garlic and oil.
     Add 1 handful of whole fresh basil leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the sauce to a very gentle boil, while stirring often.  (Do not over heat this sauce!) 
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce.
     Stir the oil into the sauce once every five minutes.  The oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly so the olive combines with the tomatoes.
     Cook the marinara for almost 45 minutes, till the tomato juices have reduced and till the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very finely chopped Italian parsley.
     Remove the marinara sauce from the heat.  (Marinara is never kept warm on a stove top!  Marinara is made to order or reheated to order.)
    Place a 5 ounce portion of the marinara in a small sauce pot and reheat the sauce when the fried mozzarella is started.
     Mozzarella en Carrozza Recipe:
     If you do not cook at a quick pace, then chill or partially freeze the breaded mozzarella, before frying.  This will provide a few extra seconds, before the cheese becomes soft.  Regardless, it does take a good eye to see when the cheese is soft, partially melted and ready!  
     Cut a 3" to 3 1/2" ball of fresh mozzarella cheese into 3 thick slices.  (The slices should be about 3/8" thick.) 
     Dredge the cheese slices in flour. 
     Dip the the floured cheese slices in egg wash. 
     Dredge the egg washed cheese slices in bread crumbs that are seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and oregano.
     Heat some blended olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  (The oil should be about 1/2" deep in the pan and it should be 360 degrees.)
     Add the breaded sliced mozzarella to the hot oil. 
     Note:  Breaded mozzarella cheese fries very quickly!  Be ready to flip the mozzarella and be ready to remove it from the hot oil.  It only takes a few minutes to fry breaded mozzarella.  Do not fry for too much time, because the cheese will melt and leak out of the breading.
     Fry the breaded mozzarella, till it becomes golden brown on both sides.
     Remove the fried cheese from the oil.
     Drain the excess grease off onto a dry lint free pastry shop towel.

     Mozzarella en Carrozza Sliders with Marinara:
     Cut 3 warm shiny slider rolls in half.
     Place the bottoms of the slider rolls on a plate.
     Place the 3 mozzarella en carrozza on each slider roll bottom.
     Spoon a little bit of marinara on top of each mozzarella en carrozza.
     Lean the tops of the shiny slider rolls against the sliders.
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley sprigs.

    Gooey melted fried mozzarella and marinara gourmet sliders with shiny slider rolls!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ditali and Shrimp with Portobello, Chinese Garlic Chive Crème and Tomato Concassé

     A Nice Simple Ditali Pasta! 
     France and America seem to use cream for pasta sauces more than any other countries.  Since cream sauces for pasta do not have to adhere to traditional pasta sauce rules, there is plenty of room for creativity.  Cream has a way of carrying a featured flavor.  Cream can also become muddied up with too many flavors.  Simplicity is a good thing to keep in mind when creating a cream sauce for pasta.
     Garlic Crème is an standard sauce that is well liked.  For today's sauce, Chinese Garlic Chives were used in place of garlic.  Chinese Garlic Chives are not a hybrid of regular chives!  Chinese Garlic Chives are the green tops of a garlic plant or Chinese Leek Plant.  Chinese Leeks do not the common leek that can be found in French kitchens.  Chinese Leek Bulbs are just a little bigger than a large garlic clove.
     The Chinese Garlic Chive variety that I used for today's sauce came from the garlic plant.  Chinese garlic chives have a gentle mellow garlic flavor that is nice for flavoring a cream pasta sauce.  
     Portobello Mushrooms taste nice with Chinese garlic chives and they add rich flavor to the cream sauce.  The shrimp add a little bit of flavor to the sauce too.  Instead of simply adding tomato to the cream sauce, the tomato was prepared as a concasse, so a fresh bright flavor would lighten up this pasta entrée.               

     Ditali and Shrimp with Portobello, Chinese Garlic Chive Crème and Tomato Concassé:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     The simple cream reduction sauce can be made while the pasta cooks if the ingredients are prepared ahead of time!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of ditali pasta in boiling water, tills the pasta is al dente.  Start the sauce!
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 3 or 4 small portabella mushrooms that are cut into small wedges.
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to cook.
     Step 3:  Dredge 12 medium size peeled and deveined shrimp in flour.  (Remove the shrimp tails.)
     Add the floured shrimp to the pan.
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender and till the shrimp are a little bit more than halfway fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of cream.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of cracked black pepper.
     Add sea salt.
     Simmer and reduce the cream sauce, till it is a thin sauce consistency.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of garlic chives that are cut into 3/8" lengths.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium thin consistency.  (Add a splash of milk if the sauce becomes too thick.)
     Step 6:  *By now the ditali pasta should be al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  Place the pasta in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 plum tomato that is prepared as concassé over the pasta.  (Concassé Precision Cut = peeled, seeded, tomato filets that are diced.  Dice = 1/4" cube shape.)
     Garnish with a sprig of Italian Parsley.
     Garnish with Chinese Garlic Chive Flowers.  (optional)

     The flavor of this pasta entree is gentle and nice!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Layered Puree Salads with Smoked Salmon

A modern salad that has a nice French flavor!

     I put some effort into creating a unique puree salad combined flavor that did not taste like gazpacho.  My goal was to create a French flavor instead of a gazpacho flavor.  It seems like every top chef that makes a puree salad only achieves a gazpacho flavor.  To me, that is a limited thinking process for a French chef, especially since gazpacho originated in Andalusia.  It was important to create four salad purees that would go nicely with salmon and not taste like a gazpacho.  I did achieve the flavor goal!
     The layering of my puree salad was not perfectly even layers, because I had the old colored sand in a glass art in mind.  Layered sand colors in a glass was a popular art form many years ago.  A thin stick was run between the glass and the sand to create patterns.
     Each puree is not as simple as the recipe title makes them sound.  Each puree was created like pieces of a puzzle that were waiting to be combined to create a peak flavor.  
     The layers of puree salads from bottom to top were as follows:
     - Sunburst yellow tomato and white wine vinegar puree
     - Watercress, chevre, onion, Chinese yellow chive and mayonnaise
     - Roma plum tomato, sea salt, white pepper and virgin olive oil puree
     - Cucumber, dijon, cream puree
     - Thin sliced cold smoke cured salmon was floated on top
     - A garnish of ngò om (rice paddy herb) and Chinese yellow chive strips
     When the flavors were tasted individually or combined, there was no gazpacho flavor!  The flavors combined to create a nice meld and contrast of familiar French flavors with ingredients that are not commonly used in classic French cuisine.  Some of the ingredients have found there way into fusion cuisine, but only to be masked by too much soy sauce and miso paste from heavy handed fusion chefs.  
     The amount of dijon mustard in the top puree was critical.  Too much dijon mustard would add a negative flavor, so a delicate dijon mustard zest was the goal.  
     When all the layers are combined, this puree salad tastes like a watercress tomato salad flavored with delicate mild chives, a little bit of fresh goat cheese and a white wine vinegar dijon vinaegrette!  French! 
     Layered Puree Salads Guidelines:  
     Each puree must be the same consistency as the one above and below it.  Each puree should be light, but it should not be thin.  Each puree should barely be able to stand in a spoon and it should be a medium thin mousse consistency.  
     All the purees must be chilled to the same temperature.  
     None of the layers should have any excess liquid weeping out of the puree.  
     No starch or gelatin should be used to modify the texture of the puree!
     The cream or creme fraiche should be aerated by whisking.
     Mayonnaise is only necessary to buffer the strong flavor of the watercress puree.  (Without mayonnaise, a watercress puree aroma is like black pepper sprinkled on fermenting green grass!  Mayonnaise corrects the chlorophyl displacement.)
     No ingredients should be blanched and shocked for a fresh puree salad!
     Each puree must be passed trough a fine mesh strainer!
     Exact measurements are impossible for a puree salad.  Each vegetable can have a variable amount of liquid or water.
     For example:
     - The puree of the yellow tomato was much thicker than the Roma tomato puree, even though I removed the seeds and juice from the Roma tomato.
     - The yellow chive acted like a thickening agent in the watercress puree.  The Chevre goat cheese actually thinned the watercress puree.
     - Cream helps to thicken a puree if it is whisked and aerated.
     - Cucumber is very watery, so only a small amount was used to add a delicate summer vegetable flavor to the dijon creme puree.

     Now that you see the guidelines above, it should be easier to adjust the consistencies of each puree, so they will match each others consistency!  The flavors are fine and they should need no adjustment, unless one of the ingredients that you select has an unusually strong or weak flavor.  The measurements below should only be used as a guideline.  
     I used a Swiss electric blending wand to puree.  For larger batches use a food processor.  Keep in mind that both appliances produce heat from friction, so puree with short pulses.
     The recipes below will fill one 6 ounce to 8 ounce glass to the serving level.  About 5 or 6 ounces total is one portion.  Keep in mind that each puree should have a medium consistency.   

     Sunburst Yellow Tomato and White Wine Vinegar Puree:
     Place 8 to 10 sunburst yellow tomatoes in a tall mixing cup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add sea salt and 1 very tiny pinch of white pepper.
     Use a blending wand to puree the ingredients to a smooth medium consistency.
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a cup.
     Chill the puree till it is needed.

     Watercress, Chevre and Chinese Yellow Chive Puree:
     Chinese yellow chives are garlic chives that are shielded from light as they grow.  They have a nice light garlic flavor.
     Pluck the leaves off of 1 bunch of watercress and place them in a tall mixing cup.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of soft fresh chevre cheese.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced onion.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced Chinese yellow chives.
     Use a blending wand to puree the ingredients to a smooth paste consistency.
     Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.  (The amount of mayonnaise depends on the moisture content of the watercress.)
     Use a blending wand to puree the ingredients to a smooth medium consistency.
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a cup.
     Chill the puree till it is needed.

     Roma Tomato and Virgin Olive Oil Puree:
     Place 2 peeled and seeded small Roma plum tomatoes in a tall mixing cup.  Squeeze out any excess tomato juice!
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Use a blending wand to puree the ingredients to a smooth medium consistency.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil while pureeing.
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a cup.
     Chill the puree till it is needed.

     Cucumber Dijon Creme Puree:
     Place 1 tablespoon of peeled seeded cucumber in a tall mixing cup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Use a blending wand to puree the ingredients to a smooth consistency.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sour cream.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cream.
     Use a blending wand to puree and aerate the ingredients by using short pulses.  (The puree should be a smooth medium thin consistency and it will thicken after it is chilled.)
     Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a cup.
     Chill the puree till it is needed.

     Layered Puree Salads with Smoked Salmon:
     After each puree is chilled, the layering of the puree salads should be easy.  Either a small plastic squirt bottle or gently roll the puree off of a spoon to create each layer.  Try to keep the squirt bottle or spoon close to the layer of the puree, that the higher level of puree is being placed on, so no mixing occurs.
     Layer the purees in any order that you wish, bit the cucumber dijon creme layer should be on top, because it matches with the smoked salmon.
     After the salad purees are layered, float a thin layer of thin sliced smoked salmon on top.
     Garnish with Vietnamese rice paddy herb leaves.
     Garnish with a few short sections of Chinese yellow chive.

     This salad takes a little bit of time to make.  It can be chilled after it is assembled and later served to guests.  Guests are easily impressed with layered puree salads!  Layered puree salads are usually eaten with the tip of a spoon, so take your time enjoying this salad too. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

San Gennaro Feast - September 2012 at the Silverton Casino, Las Vegas!

     This Article was edited on 8-62014.  A slide show was added!

     The San Gennaro September Feast is currently taking place in Las Vegas.  Saint Gennaro was the patron saint of Naples, Italy.  Saint Gennaro was famous for protecting persecuted Christians and preventing them from being caught around the year 400AD.  Three time a year, the faithful go to the Naples Cathedral to witness the miracle of his blood liquifying in a sealed ampule.  The San Gennaro Feast days are celebrated in September and April each year.
     The San Gennaro Feast is a big event.  The San Gennaro Feast is taking place outdoors at the Silverton Casino.  The weather has cooled down and it is a perfect time for feasting on great Italian food outdoors.  In places like Little Italy in Philadelphia and New York, the feast goes on for days.  The same thing goes for Las Vegas.  The San Gennaro Feast in Las Vegas runs from September 11, through September 16 at the Silverton Casino.  The Silverton Casino is located at Blue Diamond Road and Dean Martin in Las Vegas, just off of I-15.
     There is so much Italian food to choose from at the Feast!  Any kind of Italian American food that you can think of is offered.  Many of the vendors at the San Gennaro Feast only sell their food at the San Gennaro feast and nowhere else!  That is how big and important this event is!
     Feasting is what the San Gennaro event is all about.  Do not even think about going to the San Gennaro feast, if you are on a diet!  The aroma of great Italian food fills the air for miles when the San Gennaro Feast is going on.  My tummy began growling as soon as I got off of the freeway.  I could not wait for the stoplight to change on the way to the parking garage at the Silverton.  I was craving Italian food big time!
     After paying the small entrance fee, I did not even walk 20 yards, before my eyes gazed at fresh Italian sausage and peppers roasting on a grill.  I stopped and stared!  I was is awe, because the aroma of he sausage and peppers was so good!  My first bite to eat during the San Genarro Feast was a sausage and pepper sandwich.  I stood there munching the sandwich down and I desperately tried not to look like some kind of an animal.  It was no use!  I ended up with sausage and pepper grease all over my hands and mouth!  Italians appreciate when somebody goes nuts over their food.  It is like one of the best compliments in the world!
     After taking a few photographs and seeing some of the sights, I chose to eat a couple of great looking meatball sliders.  We never called little meatball sandwiches by the name sliders back when I was cooking in Italian restaurants, but it is a good name for these small single meatball sandwiches.  The meatball sliders were the bomb!  They tasted great!
     I finished my meatball sliders and I walked not even ten feet, just to see one of the best looking pepperoni pizzas that I have ever seen!  I had a slice of pepperoni before I knew it and I was then in seventh heaven!  The pepperoni pizza was great too!
     I had to get ahold of myself and try to get a grip on the fact that I could not possibly sample every item at the San Gennaro Feast, or somebody would have to carry me out of there in a wheelbarrow!
     I decided to walk around and see the sights, instead of overindulging even more than I already had.  There were plenty of things to do and see.  Plenty of circus rides and plenty of shopping.  Petting zoos and mechanical bull rides were there for kids of all ages.  A main band stage was located in the central dining courtyard and there was plenty of comfortable seating.  Of course the stars on stage were popular Italian entertainers.  Everybody was having a good time!
     Italian beer and cocktails were available.  I chose one of my favorite beers.  An Italian Peroni Lager was nice after dining on some tasty Italian food.  After walking around the shooting galleries, circus rides and funhouses, I got thirsty again.  Fresh squeezed lemonade is an Italian tradition.  Two girls were making a great sales pitch for their lemonade to draw in customers, as I walked by.  I liked the sound of their sales pitch, so I turned around and bought a nice cold glass of fresh lemonade.  The lemonade was squeezed to order!  The lemonade was refreshing and it was a great way to end the day.
     On the way to the parking garage, I stopped in the Silverton Casino to test my luck at a poker machine.  I was feeling good and sitting down spelled relief, so I was in no hurry to burn up money.  I played some 50 cent poker and after just a few hands I hit four deuces with an ace kicker on a bonus poker machine.  Winning a little bit of cash was like getting a discount on the day.  That was an even nicer way to end a good day!
     After getting home, I felt so stuffed from dining on good Italian food, that I laid down to rest.  Before I knew it, I fell into one of those heavy sleep comas that people get after overindulging on Italian food.  Five hours later, I woke up and I was still full!  Wow!  I sure got a full belly at the San Genarro Feast, but that is what its all about!
     I highly recommend attending the San Gennaro Feast, while it is going on in Las Vegas!  This event runs through September 16th and by the looks of things, there will be no shortage of great Italian food.  When Italians cook food for a San Gennaro Feast, they cook big time!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Filet of Sole Saute with Asian Pear Salsa, Chateau Potato and Tomato Concasse Loroco

A nice light refreshing entree!

     It has been a while since I have featured a salsa on fish.  Exotic salsas and fish go together in a nice way.  I worked with an executive chef from the caribbean and many of his entrees were garnished with salsa.  The fish entrees with fruit salsa on his menu were particularly nice!
     Papaya salsa and mango salsa are traditional for fish or chicken in the caribbean.  Asian pear is usually only seen at major resorts in the caribbean.  Sub tropical resorts in Florida often incorporate asian pear into the local Floribbean style cuisine or they feature asian pear in fusion recipes.  
     I cooked professionally in Florida during the heyday of the Floribbean cuisine trend.  Every Floribbean special du jour entree that I created had a mixture of classic european, Florida cracker and caribbean ingredients, with the cooking techniques of those styles to match.  The refreshing nature of asian pear was addition for everything from from caramelized asian pear hollandaise glacage on broiled fish filets to flavoring a green peppercorn demi glace for a shark steak.  Asian pear also was nice as a refreshing salsa accompaniment for sauteed fish, just like this filet of sole recipe.
     Chateau potatoes require precision knife skills.  A chateau potato is basically a whole potato that is tourne cut.  It is an elegant potato presentation for refined entrees.  The method that I used to fully cook this chateau potato and keep it white colored after roasting is easy to understand.  What is difficult to picture is the texture inside of a chateau potato that is roasted white.  The inside of this style of chateau potato has the texture of a mashed potato!  
     The potato is first simmered at a low temperature, so the starch does not become overheated and the molecular structure of the starch stays intact and it remains very moist.  After roasting, the outside of the moist chateau potato becomes sealed like a skin and the moisture is trapped inside.  It becomes very hard to brown a potato that is cooked with this method, but that is not the goal.  The soft mashed potato consistency inside the chateau potato is the goal!  A word of caution, is that this style of chateau potato must be handled very gently.  My white roasted chateau potato in the pictures above recieved a slight amount of damage from a clumsy moment.  It does not take much force to damage this style of potato!
     Loroco is a flower bud that grows on vines in southern Mexico and Central America.  Loroco is very nutritious and is has a fresh green wheat, green alfalfa and barley kind of flavor, with hops in the mix.  Loroco actually has hints of a green grain beer flavor.  Beer and tomato juice are nice together, so tomato concasse and loroco prepared like a ragout was a natural tasty choice!         
     Asian Pear Salsa:  
     Asian pear salsa must be made quickly, before the pear has a chance to oxidize and rust.  This salsa will turn mushy after a few hours, so it is better to make this salsa shortly before it is served. 
     Place 1 diced peeled and seeded medium size asian pear into a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons diced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon diced roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped seeded green jalapeno.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped cilantro or Italian parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the asian pear salsa, till it is served.   

     Chateau Potato Roasted White:
     Turn 1 whole russet potato, so it had 7 equal size sides and it is wide in the middle and so the width tapers to pointed ends.  (Refer to the potato in the photographs above!)
     Place the potato in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with plenty of salted water.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Reduce temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the potato almost becomes tender.
     Place the potato on a wire roasting screen rack on a roasting pan.
     Brush the potato with blended olive oil.
     Season with sea salt
     Bake in a 350 oven, till the potato is fully cooked, very tender inside and roasted so it is white with no golden brown color.
     Keep the potato warm on a stove top.
     The tomato concasse loroco should be prepared while the potato is cooking!

     Tomato Concasse Loroco:
     Loroco can be purchased fresh only in its region of origin, because a certain type of beetle pest is a threat, if fresh loroco is exported.  Frozen loroco is available in Latin markets.  Frozen loroco is fine for this recipe.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 of a minced garlic clove.
     Saute the garlic till it turns a golden color.
     Add 1/3 cup of trimmed fresh or frozen loroco flower buds.
     Toss and stir the loroco with the garlic flavored olive oil. 
     Add enough light chicken broth to barely cover the loroco.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the loroco and allow the liquid to reduce, till only about 1/2 cup remains.
     Peel and seed one plum tomato.
     Trim off the tomato core, so only the tomato filets remain.
     Dice the tomato filets.
     Add the tomato concasse to the the loroco.
     Simmer and reduce, till the liquid is nearly evaporated.
     Keep the tomato concasse loroco warm on a stovetop. 

     Filet of Sole Saute:
     Choose 2 small whole sole filets that weigh a total of 6 to 8 ounces.
     Split the sole filets in half lengthwise along the bone line.
     Dredge the sole filets in flour.
     Dredge the sole filets in egg wash.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Note:  Allow the oil and butter to become hot, before adding an egg washed item of any kind!
     Knock the excess egg wash off of each piece of sole filet and place the sole filets in the hot butter and oil.
     Saute till each sole filet piece turns golden brown on both sides.  Only flip the sole filets once!
     Add 1 small squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer and reduce, till the liquid forma small amount of thin sauce.

     Filet of Sole Saute with Asian Pear Salsa, Chateau Potato and Tomato Concasse Loroco:
     Arrange the 4 sole file halves on a plate.
     Spoon the thin wine glace sauce from the saute pan over the fish.
     Gently place the white roasted chateau potato on the plate.
     Place a small mount of the tomato concasse loroco on the plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the asian pear salsa over the sole filet halves.
     Garnish the salsa with a sliced of lime.

     Welcome to the world of Floribbean and caribbean fine cuisine!  This is a nice light dinner entree that also is nice as a lunch special du jour.  The flavors are light and very refreshing!  Yum!  ...  Shawna