Side dishes. Usually they are boring things thrown together to take up room on the plate. At restaurants they are usually things on the back-burner no one really cares about but added to the dinner to make you feel you are getting your monies worth. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of the culinary arts. This is truly unfortunate as many times the side dish can actually make the meal.
This side dish comes from one of the unsung culinary treasures of South America, the lovely nation of Columbia and has become very popular here in the great American Southwest. It is a simple dish to prepare and takes very little time. It is a perfect compliment to almost any type of entree. It is Creamy Coconut Rice and if any dish lives up to its title, it is this one!
Be careful with cooking times and rice. Not all short or long grain rices are the same, thus cooking times may vary. Ascertain your rice is cooked before you serve the dish (unless you’re part pigeon and like hard kernels of rice).
Ingredients needed to make Creamy Coconut Rice (serves 4):
- 6 cups coconut milk
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- In a medium saucepan bring the coconut milk to a boil and boil for 15 minutes (it will reduce to about 3 cups).
- Stir in the rice, sugar and salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit 15 minutes.
- Stir in the shredded coconut and serve.
True is the fact Summer is a time for some great grilled and barbecued food but it is also a time to appreciate some wonderful salads. On those hot and humid Summer evenings, instead of leaning over some hot embers, why don’t you chill out with a wonderful dinner salad and a glass of chilled white wine.
As with any salad, there really isn’t a recipe with amounts and time. There are a few special things you need to do to create this salad but it isn’t anything hard. When Dungeness crab is not in season, you can still prepare this salad using salmon or trout as both have the texture and taste to compliment the brie creme.
So forget about those boring salads consisting of lettuce thrown on a plate and covered with Hidden Valley sludge. Enjoy a salad loaded with flavors and with all the nutritional elements of a wonder dinner!
Ingredients needed to make Sierra Crab Salad with Brie Creme (serves 2):
- 1 Dungeness crab, cleaned and shelled with the meat set aside
- 8 spears asparagus
- spinach leaves, stems removed
- 2 ounces brie cheese, softened
- 1 Tbs. heavy cream
- 1 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- Pick over the crab meat to make sure there are no shells. Discard the shells.
- In a pan of boiling salt water, add the asparagus and cook 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus to a bowl of ice water and set aside.
- Mound some spinach leaves in the middle of each serving plate.
- In a small saute pan or skillet over low heat, add the brie cheese, heavy cream and mayonnaise and whisk until smooth.
- Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the crab meat. Let the crab sit in the brie creme a few minutes.
- Spoon some of the crab mixture atop the spinach and sprinkle some bacon over the crab.
- Place the slices of avocado on the plate and serve.
With the hot days of summer in full Hell-like mode, many people are getting out their barbecues and grills.The thoughts of steaks sizzling on the grill are making many salivate. The aroma of BBQ chicken will soon be enveloping the air from San Francisco to New York City. Coolers will be full of iced beverages. Beaches will be overloaded with streaks of sunscreen. Cars will be speeding down the interstates with drivers on cell phones, and kids screaming “I have to pee” will be the norm.
This summer while you’re enjoying the season, try something different. Try something creamy, rich and refreshing. This year my restaurants are presenting a brand new ice cream (we come up with a brand new ice cream for every season). It is a silky smooth adult version of mint ice cream made with peppermint schnapps and finely minced fresh mint. It is the perfect ending to any barbecue and a great way to beat the summer heat. As opposed to the mint ice creams you might be used to, this is totally natural (we never use food coloring) and is not a vanilla ice cream with fake peppermint flavoring. As a matter of fact, this ice cream contains no vanilla!
So, enjoy the upcoming summer by being refreshed with the smoothness of Peppermint Schnapps Ice Cream!
Ingredients needed to make Peppermint Schnapps Ice Cream (makes about 4 cups):
- 2 cups heavy cream, very cold
- 1 cup milk, very cold
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup peppermint schnapps
- 2 Tbs. finely minced mint
- Combine all the ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn 20 minutes.
- Spoon into serving bowls and top with a sprig or two of fresh mint (if you like your ice cream harder, freeze until ready to serve).
This salad was created due to my love of Southwestern cuisine. It incorporates my favorite textures, tastes, spices and ingredients. True it is not as simple as tossing some leaves on a plate but then again, I’m not a rabbit or a gerbil (save the Richard Gere jokes, please).
You can also make this a grilled salad by simply grilling the prawns and Portobello mushrooms before you construct the salad. If you do decide to make this salad on the grill, marinate the Portobello mushrooms in the olive oil mixture first so you get the full taste of what this salad is all about.
So take a walk on the salad wild side and enjoy the tastes of the Southwest with this healthy, downright delicious brand new salad - Southwest Sauteed Prawns and Portobello Salad!
Ingredients needed to make Sauteed Prawn and Portobello Salad (serves 2):
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1/2 pound prawns (or large shrimp), shelled
- 2 baby sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. Chinese chili oil
- 1 Portobello mushroom, thickly sliced and stem-end removed
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- raspberry vinegar for drizzling
- In a medium saute pan or skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the prawns and saute about 4 minutes per side. Remove the prawns from the pan and set aside.
- Into the pan add the onions, garlic, cumin and chili oil and saute 3 minutes.
- Add the mushroom slices and saute 4 minutes per side.
- Arrange the tomatoes around the perimeter of the serving plates.
- Remove the mushroom slices from the pan and arrange in the middle of the plate so they are framed by the tomatoes.
- Place the shrimp atop the mushrooms, lightly drizzle with raspberry vinegar and serve.
Some dishes simply defy definition and believe me, this is one! I can tell you this, if you like portobello mushrooms then this dish will literally send you over the edge! There may not be a more perfect dish than this when it comes to marrying tastes and textures and of course the fact it is also quite beautiful to look at doesn’t hurt either (the picture you see is exactly how we present it at the table).
This may look like a difficult dish to prepare. It isn’t! It is really nothing more that sauteing a few portobello mushrooms, scrambling an egg and slightly cooking a few slices of pancetta (an Italian style of bacon). Once you put the whole thing together, you have perfection!
I should point out that we don’t scramble eggs like most people. We scramble our eggs the French way (as I was taught at le Escoffier). Into the eggs we add some heavy cream and mayonnaise and then whisk them together (and in the case of this recipe, we’ve added some finely minced green onion). What this does to the egg, is make it light and moist. Believe me, once you scramble eggs this way you will never again want that slop they serve in most restaurants!
So get ready to experience the true ways of a gourmand. Get ready to take your mouth to a totally different dimension. Get ready to enter heaven with Portobello and Pancetta Egg Blossoms!
Ingredients needed to make Portobello and Pancetta Egg Blossoms (serves 2):
- 2 medium portobello mushrooms, stem end removed
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbs. heavy cream
- 1 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 1 green onion, finely minced
- 4 slices pancetta
- roasted red peppers in olive oil (found in the condiment section of markets)
- In a medium saute pan or skillet, melt 1 Tbs. butter into the olive oil over medium heat.
- Into the pan add the portobello mushrooms and saute a few minutes on each side. Remove the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
- Into the pan melt the remaining butter over medium heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, mayonnaise and green onions. Pour into the pan and scramble until cooked, yet still creamy.
- Place the mushrooms on serving plates. Mound the eggs into the crevice (where the stem was) of the mushrooms.
- Into the pan and still over medium heat, add the pancetta and slightly cook (only a few minutes).
- Layer the pancetta over the eggs, add some roasted red peppers and serve!
There are reasons so-called comfort foods bring you comfort. It might be that chicken noodle soup that your mom made you when you were sick. It might be those chocolate chip cookies at grandma’s. It might be the meatloaf you dreaded growing up but soon learn to master as an adult. Then there is macaroni and cheese, or as it has become known, mac and cheese — the fine dining choice of college students from Yale to Chico State.
When I refer to mac and cheese, I am not referring to that poison that comes in a box with a packet of orange chemicals with more salt than the lake in Utah. I am referring to actual pasta blended with cheese. Perhaps mac and cheese is a good starting point to hone your culinary skills but there must be a point of graduation and… this is it!
Nothing gourmet fancy here. No ingredients you can’t pronounce. No directions you can’t understand. Nothing you can’t find at your local market. What this mac and cheese makeover is, is something Chef’s do all the time - a re-creation to make something good even better! I have chosen Edam cheese and the reason is two-fold. First, I like it! Secondly, its smoothness and slight zing blends well with the heavy cream and it will not interfere with the julienned Italian dry salami we’re going to lace through our S’mac and cheese!
So, don’t give up the comfort of mac and cheese… just change your position with S’mac and Cheese!
Ingredients needed to make Southwest S’mac and Cheese (serves 2):
- 4 cups rigatoni pasta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1 tsp. dried marjoram, crumbled
- 2 cups finely grated Edam cheese
- Italian dry salami, thinly sliced and julienned
- In a medium pot of boiling salted water, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente (to the teeth - meaning it has a little chew to it).
- Drain the rigatoni and place back in the pot over low heat. Add the cream and stir it to coat the rigatoni.
- Stir in the hot sauce, marjoram and cheese until the cheese has melted into the cream and you have a smooth satiny sauce.
- Add the salami, stir to incorporate and then serve.
Okay, here is a little geography lesson. When one is talking (or writing) about the range of mountains in the American west, it is the Sierra, never the Sierra’s. It is only singular as there is only one range. Okay, geography lesson is now over. If you have not yet experienced the absolute beauty of the Sierra, you owe it to yourself to visit. I have traveled all over the world but I still don’t think there is a more beautiful sight than coming down highway 50 through the Sierra and getting that first glimpse of Lake Tahoe. If it doesn’t take your breath away, call the coroner because you have passed-away.
When I had my restaurant on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, my Sous Chef and I created many dishes as a culinary homage to this gorgeous area. Most of the dishes centered on the best damn trout in the world (found in both Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River) and a few were desserts. This dessert, Sierra Maple Cakes, were a favorite of our patrons. We always topped the cake with our famous homemade ice creams but everyone always commented on the texture. No one could ever figure out what we did to give the cake its original texture. Well, for the very first time, I will divulge that secret. We simply added toasted sesame seeds to the batter.
Ingredients needed to make Sierra Maple Cakes (makes 6 individual cakes):
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 Tbs. vanilla
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 and spray 6 mini-bundt cake pans with non-stick spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and nutmeg.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set the bowl aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and pale. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla until well combined.
- Stir in the flour mixture and the toasted sesame seeds.
- Add half of the egg whites and stir them into the batter.
- Add the other half of the egg whites and fold them into the batter.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Place the pans on a baking sheet and then place them into the oven and bake about 45 minutes or until done.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans 10 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool on a rack until ready to serve.
I just love the taste of properly roasted chicken. I love the seasoned and crisp skin. I love the moist meat. I love the ease of preparation. There is not really too much you can do to increase the taste and texture of properly roasted chicken other than maybe adding a true fresh flavor to it and in the case of this dish, that fresh flavor is a fresh cherry salsa!
In creating this dish, I wanted to make it very tongue-friendly. Though all the kitchen-testing was done by roasting the chicken, it can very well be adapted to the grill or the barbecue with ease since we are using chicken parts, specifically the thighs. I have chosen the thighs for this recipe for the simple fact they are the most flavorful part of the chicken and due to their flavor, the cherry salsa is a perfect match.
To make the cherry salsa at the restaurant we pit the cherries by hand (running a very sharp paring knife down the middle and splitting the cherry, then removing the pit). We then halve the halves (essentially quartering the cherry). We do it this way for both presentation purpose and ease of eating. At home you can use the dreaded cherry pitter but the chances are your cherries will end up mangled and will lose their shape. You can also use organic sour cherries, which you can find in cans when cherry season is not in progress.
Ingredients needed to make Roasted Chicken with Cherry Salsa (serves 4 as an entree):
The Chicken Marinade:
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 limes, the juice only
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat (chicken skin is not fat)
- Into a large shallow dish, whisk all the ingredients, except the chicken thighs, until well blended.
- Place the chicken thighs into the marinade, toss to coat, and let marinate 1 hour at room temperature.
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and place into a large saute pan or skillet.
- Place in the oven and roast 50 minutes.
- Remove the chicken to serving plates and top with some of the cherry salsa.
The Cherry Salsa:
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
- 1 lime, juice only
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and quartered
- salt and pepper to taste
- Into a large, non-aluminum bowl, combine all the ingredients and gently toss. Let the salsa rest at room temperature until ready to use (if making more than an hour before use, chill the salsa until ready to use).
If you are a fan of fried and/or teriyaki chicken, then this may be the only chicken you will ever want to prepare. This very special creation was prepared one night on a dare. During a broadcast to create a dish live on the air, I was asked to fuse a Japanese favorite with a Southwestern favorite. So, I took our Southwestern Fried Chicken and before frying it, marinated it in our recipe for teriyaki sauce.
The result is a wonderful fried chicken with a lovely teriyaki flavor. This is one of those dishes that anyone can make at home and you can use any parts of the chicken you prefer. I usually rely on the thighs as the taste is more rich than other parts of the bird.
Ingredients needed to make Fried Teriyaki Chicken (serves 2):
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1 cup very strong tea (4 tea bags for a cup)
- 2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 Tbs. chili oil
- 1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
- 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbs. garlic powder
- flour for dredging
- corn or vegetable oil for frying
- Remove any fat from the thighs (there is a difference between “fat” and “skin”).
- Into a large bowl, whisk all the remaining ingredients, except the oil and flour.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and let marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry.
- Dredge (coat) the chicken in flour. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes.
- Into a medium saute pan or skillet bring 2-inches of oil to 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer.
- Carefully place the chicken in the pan and fry 5 minutes per side.
- Lower the heat to low and cook the chicken 10 minutes per side with a top on the pan.
- Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil before serving.
Imagine, if you will, biting into nice chunks of sourdough bread laden with butter and the creamy essence of chocolate laced within a smooth and slightly sweet texture with gems of sour cherries exploding within your mouth. No, this isn’t a food lovers dream — this is the experience you will have when that first fork full of Chocolate Sourdough Bread Pudding parts your lips and enters your mouth!
There is no denying the fact this dessert is a dieters nightmare. If you are on Weight Watchers this probably will take up a decades worth of points. Oprah would say this dessert is the work of the devil — but you know what, we only go through this life once and dammit, I’m going through with a smile and a smacking of my lips!
If you do intend on making this dessert, do not be cheap when it comes to the chocolate! Use only a dark high quality chocolate with at least a 70% amount of cocoa.
Ingredients needed to make Southwestern Sourdough Bread Pudding with Chocolate and Sour Cherries:
- 1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into cubes
- 1 cup melted butter
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 cups milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 14 oz. can sour cherries, drained
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- Into a large bowl toss the cubed sourdough bread with the melted butter and let sit 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until pale (see picture in slideshow).
- In a medium saucepan bring the milk to a boil.
- Into the milk whisk in the vanilla and chocolate until the chocolate has melted.
- Pour the milk mixture over the bread and add the cherries. Stir to combine and let sit 5 minutes.
- Spoon the mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish.
- Place into the oven and bake 90 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.