Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thai Chili Lime Chicken-A Low Fat High Flavor Recipe

In an effort to eat more healthfully I am now doing a lot of Asian and Pacific rim cuisine in my kitchen. Thai Chili Chicken is one of my favorite recipes. It starts off with something called Chili-Tamarind Paste. This recipe makes a lot, so I recommend freezing it so that you have it around for whenever you need it. You can find the recipe for Chili-Tamarind pastes at the bottom of the page.


Chili-Lime Chicken with Peanuts

Sesame oil
1 large onion julienned
6 cloves of fresh garlic-crushed
dried red chilies (and small variety, I use Japanese chilies)
3 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch pieces)

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbs. Dark Soy sauce (regular soy sauce will work in a pinch)
2Tbs. Fish sauce
1 Tbs. Oyster sauce
1 Tbs. grated ginger (yes I use the stuff in the jar)
*2 Tbs. Chili Tamarind paste*
Juice of one lime (about 3Tbs.)

1 pound broccoli florets
Peanuts
Steamed Rice for serving
extra dried chilies, and lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan-or a wok-over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir-fry until they are translucent and turning a golden brown. Crush a few chilies (as per your personal heat-tolerance), in your hand and add along with the garlic to the pan. Give them a toss or two and add your chicken, cover the pan and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, just until the chicken is done.

Meanwhile in a bowl combine the next 7 ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over cooked chicken mixture, add the broccoli and toss it together until everything is well coated. Turn your heat all the way up and allow the most of the liquid to evaporate.

Spoon your stir-fry over a bed of rice (or noodles if you prefer), sprinkle peanuts over the plate and garnish with a few more chilies and lime wedges. Enjoy!



Chili Tamarind Paste
1/2-4/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 Onion-quartered
12-15 cloves of freshly peeled garlic
8-12 fresh red or green Thai Chilies
1/2 can of Tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
Puree everything in a food processor or blender until very, very smooth. Pour into a sauce pan and on Medium heat allow the mixture to cook down to a very thick paste that is slightly browned around the edges (try not to stir the mix too must to achieve browning). Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer until needed. It spoons out of the container frozen with the consistency of ice cream.

This is not the original recipe. I altered it quite a bit from the "authentic" version to make it more appealing to Western Taste Buds. You can look up several versions online, if you are a true purest.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Holiday Spiced Apple Cake with Rum Caramel

For me, Thanksgiving dinner preparations start with dessert. No one has room for it after eating mountains of mashed potatoes and turkey with gravy, but somehow everyone manages to find that little extra bit of room for the sweet stuff! Because I an in the middle of a long-distance move, I will not be able to cook dinner this year. I'm pretty bummed out about it, but I still may try to make this, my favorite Autumn dessert. It is so delicious, that I thought I'd better share it a couple of weeks early, so that you have time to get the ingredients together.


Holiday Spice Bundt Cake with Apple/Rum Carmel

cake

1 3/4 cups butter
1 vanilla bean-split lengthwise and scraped

2 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups slivered and toasted almonds

2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg (please grate your own if you are able)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice (again please grind your own if able)
3/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger (ok....even I use the stuff in the jar here)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 eggs
5 yolks
1 cup whole milk

In a sauce pan melt the butter. Add the vanilla bean and the scrapings. Cook over medium high heat-stirring often-until the butter foams up and then browns. Be very careful not to allow the butter to burn, you just want a light amber color.

Remove the bean from the butter, and pour the hot butter into a tempered glass dish. Place in the fridge for about an hour until the butter has set back up to nearly solid.

In the meantime...with the blade attachment in your food processor, pulse the flour and almonds until the almonds are finely ground. Add the next 8 ingredients, and pulse a few times to mix everything together.
(Preheat oven to 350F)
Once your browned butter mixture is solid, place into a stand mixer with the peddle attachment in place. Add the 3 sugars and turn the machine to the highest setting and whip the mixture until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Turn the machine off and scrape down the sides. Add the lemon zest and turn the machine to the middle setting. Add the eggs and the yolks ONE AT A TIME BEATING FOR 30-60 SECONDS AFTER EACH. If you have done this correctly you will have a very light, fluffy (almost icing-like) texture.

Turn the machine to low and add 1/2 the flour mix and all of the milk. Mix for 2 minutes and add the remaining flour. Mix one more minute.

Pour your cake batter into a very well oiled Bundt pan. Bake undisturbed for 65-70 minutes. Cake is done when a tooth pic is inserted into the deep part of the cake and comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 25 minutes, invert onto a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool completely before serving or storing WELL WRAPPED in the fridge for up to 6 days.

caramel

1 cup white sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup filtered or distilled water
1/4 cup fresh apple cider
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs. dark rum
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a HIGH WALLED sauce pan (you will thank me for this later).

Over medium high to high heat dissolve the sugar. Cook without stirring until the caramel turns a dark amber color (about 320F on a candy thermometer).

Remove from the heat, while standing a bit back from the pot, and add the remaining ingredients. The caramel with boil VIOLENTLY...this is normal and why you need a high walled pot.

Once the boiling has subsided, with a wire whisk, vigorously whip the caramel over low heat until any hard bits of sugar remaining are dissolved. Set aside and cool to room temperature before use.

Once the cake and the caramel are room temperature, you can pour the caramel over the Bundt cake and serve!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Korean Style Deviled Eggs

If you have been following me on Instagram or Facebook, then you would already know that I am currently fascinated with all foods Korean. I have loved Korean cuisine for a very long time, but it has always been sort of an exotic mystery of ingredients for me. Last week I finally bit the bullet and started thumbing through a few cook books, and trolling Youtube, and the internet at large for recipes and techniques.

I started with a recipe for Bulgogi (I'll publish that recipe at a later date). After dinner I had a lot of leftover Banchan; the little side dishes of veggies, pickles, and various savory things that make a Korean meal come together. One of the things I had leftover was a soybean paste dipping sauce: Ssamjang.

I have already found a few "Western" uses for it besides an accompaniment for Bulgogi. It is a yummy dip for crudité, a fabulous topping for grilled portabello mushroom caps, and this morning I used my leftover Ssamjang in place of the mayo in my deviled eggs. They came out so yummy, that I thought a "share" was in order. Yes, if you are not a Korean person this recipe will probably require a trip to your local Asian market, but I assure you this sauce is so worth the effort! Ssamjang is loaded with goodness, and has significantly less fat than mayo. ENJOY!!!

Korean Deviled Eggs
3 hardboiled eggs-cooled, peeled, split lengthwise
2 Tbs. soybean dipping sauce (Ssamjang-recipe below)
   Scoop the yolks from the eggs into a nonreative bowl. Mix in the Ssamjang, and beat with a fork    until you've reached your desired smoothness. Refill the eggs whites with the yolk mix and serve.

Ssamjang
1/4 Korean soybean paste (Doenjang)
2 Tbs. Korean red pepper paste (Gochujang)
1 garlic clove-crushed and finely minced
1 green onion very thinly sliced
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
   Mix everything together in a nonreactive bowl. Chill for a couple of hours before using to allow the flavors to come together. Stir and serve. Keeps in the fridge for up to one week.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thai-Style Chili Lime Chicken

In an effort to eat more healthfully I am now doing a lot of Asian and Pacific rim cuisine in my kitchen. Thai Chili Chicken is one of my favorite recipes. It starts off with something called Chili-Tamarind Paste. This recipe makes a lot, so I recommend freezing it so that you have it around for whenever you need it. You can find the recipe for Chili-Tamarind pastes at the bottom of the page.


Chili-Lime Chicken with Peanuts

Sesame oil
1 large onion julienned
6 cloves of fresh garlic-crushed
dried red chilies (and small variety, I use Japanese chilies)
3 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch pieces)

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbs. Dark Soy sauce (regular soy sauce will work in a pinch)
2Tbs. Fish sauce
1 Tbs. Oyster sauce
1 Tbs. grated ginger (yes I use the stuff in the jar)
*2 Tbs. Chili Tamarind paste*
Juice of one lime (about 3Tbs.)

1 pound broccoli florets
Peanuts
Steamed Rice for serving
extra dried chilies, and lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan-or a wok-over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir-fry until they are translucent and turning a golden brown. Crush a few chilies (as per your personal heat-tolerance), in your hand and add along with the garlic to the pan. Give them a toss or two and add your chicken, cover the pan and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, just until the chicken is done.

Meanwhile in a bowl combine the next 7 ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over cooked chicken mixture, add the broccoli and toss it together until everything is well coated. Turn your heat all the way up and allow the most of the liquid to evaporate.

Spoon your stir-fry over a bed of rice (or noodles if you prefer), sprinkle peanuts over the plate and garnish with a few more chilies and lime wedges. Watch it DISSAPEAR!!!!!




Chili Tamarind Paste
1/2-4/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 Onion-quartered
12-15 cloves of freshly peeled garlic
8-12 fresh red or green Thai Chilies
1/2 can of Tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
Puree everything in a food processor or blender until very, very smooth. Pour into a sauce pan and on Medium heat allow the mixture to cook down to a very thick paste that is slightly browned around the edges (try not to stir the mix too must to achieve browning). Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer until needed. It spoons out of the container frozen with the consistency of ice cream.

This is not the original recipe. I altered it quite a bit from the "authentic" version to make it more appealing to Western Taste Buds. You can look up several versions online, if you are a true purest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cucumber Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Today is very hot here in the Delta region of Northern California. We get lots and lots of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit from June through September, and on those days, salad is what's on my menu.

This year I am growing two varieties of tomaotes in my garden, and they are producing way more fruit than I have ever yeilded before. We've had salad caprese, tomato sandwiches, salsa crudo, pico de gallo, pasta primavera, gaspacho, tomato and basil soup (with delicious garlic croutons), etc..You'd think, by now, that we'd be tired of tomatoes, but no! These gems of yumminess only grow in my garden for a few months each year, so I just keep coming up with new ways to use them. 

Lately, I've also been getting a lot of produce from neighbors and friends. Someone just gave me a a bucket load of cuckes. I decided to make a wonderful salad that I am expecially fond of that also calls for tomatoes in vinaigrette form.





I tossed this dressing with some cucumber "noodles", fresh Parmesan Reggiano, and grated carrots for texture and sweetness. Here is the recipe:

Cucumber Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

for the dressing:
3 medium tomatoes-quartered
2-3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. Kosher(or table or sea) salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic-peeled
1/2 cup very good quality olive oil
4-5 basil leaves minced
Pepper to taste

Put the first 5 ingredients into a blender. Puree the hell out of it for about 3 minutes. With the machine running drizzle the oil through the chute. Once you have all the olive oil in the dressing, pour it into a medium bowl and add the basil, stir gently and allow to stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using. Taste adjust the salt and sugar-and add pepper.

For the salad:
1 cucumber (any kind)
1 small carrot peeled and grated
5 lettuce leaves
Parmesan Cheese-shaved
Using a wide veggie peeler slice your cuke into 'ribbons'. Arrange the lettuce on the bottom of a large dinner plate. gently toss the cukes, carrots, and cheese together and add a little dressing. Toss very gently and arrange on the lettuce leaves. Serve garnished with more cheese and carrots on top.

OTHER USES FOR TOMATO DRESSING
1. Dressing for pasta salad
2. drizzle over brochette
3. mix in a few capers and spoon over grilled seafood, chicken, or pork
4. marinade for poultry or pork
5. mix 1 Tbs into 1/4 cup mayo and use as tomato mayonnaise
The possibilities are endless!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Breakfast Nachos-a Lazy Sunday Morning THing!

Happy Sunday!


Every so often I just get a craving for this dish. I will admit it is not the prettiest presentation, but I guarentee it is so delicious that you won't mind the wonky look of it at all. It is basically scrambled eggs over tortilla, thus you can pretty much throw anything that you like in an omelet into this dish. Eggs (or eggbeaters), cheese, and tortilla chips, however,  are mandatory. This dish takes about 5 minutes worth of effort, and the results are 100 times worth those 5 minutes!

 Here is how you put this one together. OLE!!!

Breakfast Nachos


about 1/3 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
6 eggs-lightly beaten with 3/4 cup milk
2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (I use vintage cheddar)
Omelet stuffings (in no particular amounts)-onions, chives, tomatoes-fresh or sun dried, sausage, ham, bacon bits, green pepper, or fire roasted chilies (you get the idea), etc...

Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish . Preheat the over to 425F. In a large cast iron, or nonstick skillet, soft scramble your eggs.


 Place a generous layer of tortilla chips into your baking dish.

Add a little cheese. sprinkle the eggs over the cheese and top with your chosen omelet ingredients. Sprinkle on more cheese.


 

 

Bake at 425F for and 12-15 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with your favorite salsa, and picante sauce. El desayuno fiesta!!!!!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Half-Homemade Hearty Chicken Soup

I love soup. Even though it's summer, the evenings here in Northern California can be quite cool. Thus I do tend to make a good bit of soup, even in the summertime. This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for when I have leftover traditional chicken soup that is not quite enough to make a meal for the entire family. It is super easy and super satisfying! Happy eating!!!


1-2 quarts chicken soup (no noodles if you can)
1, 14oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 14oz. can white beans-drained (cannellini beans are best, but Canario, Great Northern, and Navy beans are okay too)
3 cloves fresh garlic-minced
1/4 cup each freshly chopped basil, oregano, and Italian parsley
1-1.5 cups of Pinot Grigio
Place everything in order into a large stock pot and gently stir to mix everything together. Over medium-high heat bring to a simmer. Allow everything to gently simmer for 30-40 minutes uncovered to reduce the stock a bit. Ladle into your nicest bowls and garnish with:
Parmesan Reggiano Cheese-freshly grated please!
Extra virgin olive Oil (first cold pressed)-just a light drizzle
Balsamic Vinegar-a few drops will do!
(If you want to get really fancy-add a package of fresh tortellini from the fridge section of your supermarket and simmer 3 minutes to cook them through,before serving.)


Eat, repeat, and be happy!!!
 
 
Half homemade Chicken Soup
4-6 quarts chicken broth-brand of your choosing
4 chicken breast fillets-chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
1 medium onion-diced to 1/4 inch
2 cups of finely chopped celery-leaves and all
2 cups baby carrots chopped to 1/2 inch rounds (you'll get 2-3 pieces per carrot)
3 Tbs. olive oil
1Tbs. dried thyme
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Place everything into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover. Allow to cook for 45-60 minutes. Cook your favorite noodles according to the package directions in a separate pot. Drain the pasta, place in bowls, ladle your soup over the pasta, and serve. YUM YUM!!!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Southern-Style Stick Buns

Sticky Buns

Hello Fellow Foodies!I haven't been around lately, or posted anything new in a long time. The truth is I was simply burnt out for a while and taking a hiatis from the cooking scene. I am now well rested and back to doing what I love most: Cooking great food! So, without further adieu I give you something new....

STICKY BUNS are one of my favirote naughty breakfast foods!!!!

Although it is a bit time consuming, and there is a LOT of steps to get to the final product, the end results are worth it.  These sticky buns are perfect for a special brunch, or when guests are over for an extended visit.

Have 3 stick of butter on the counter over night, before beginning.

First you need to make a sweet, Sally Lund, style dough. You need:

2/3 cup whole milk (I used skim without a problem)
5 Tbs. sugar
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast (one 1/4 oz. packet)
2 large eggs at room temp
2 3/4 cups All Purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 stick butter  (that you have left on the counter overnight) cut into 8 pieces
pan spray

Heat the milk in the microwave to 110-115F. Stir in 1 Tbs of the sugar and the yeast. Whisk gently to dissolve the yeast. Allow the milk mix to stand for 5 minutes until the yeast becomes frothy. Whisk in the eggs.
Combine the rest of the sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, or in the food processor with the blade attached. turn on the machine and add the liquid. Once you have a soft, sticky dough (you may need to add a little more milk), add the butter one piece at a time allowing the butter to fully disappear before adding the then next piece. This will take about 10 minutes (5 in the food processor).

Spray a large bowl with Pam. Scrape the dough into the bowl, and spray a little Pam over the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the fridge 2-24 hours.

Topping
1 3/4 cups chopped toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc...
1 stick of the butter you left on the counter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup honey (or 100% pure maple syrup-DON'T USE THE FAKE STUFF!!!!!)
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan. stir in the brown sugar, cream, salt, and honey. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 4 minutes until you have a thick syrupy caramel. Spray a 9inch cake pan with Pam. Pour one cup of the caramel into the oiled cake pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nuts into the caramel in the pan. set aside.

Filling
1 stick of the butter that you left out overnight
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup nutmeg
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Beat in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in your food processor, until you have a smooth, even, fluffy mixture.

On a lightly floured surface-roll out your sweet dough to a 12x16 rectangle. Evenly spread the filling onto the dough leaving about a one inch boarder on the long sides of the dough clean. Sprinkle the dough with 1/2 cup of nuts. Pour remaining nuts into the remaining caramel, and set it aside. Roll up your dough sheet starting from one long edge. You can get the step by step photos for this from the BA webpage at: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshows/2012/04/how-to-make-sticky-buns#slide=1 Once that is done, cut the dough into 9 round pieces. Place them in the caramel prepped pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, turn the pan 180 degrees, and bake at 350F for 25 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Pout the remaining caramel/nut mix over the buns, spread out a little to coat them evenly.

Allow to cool 10-30 minutes more and serve fresh from the pan!

Yes this one takes a good bit of time to prepare, but if you do make these, I guarentee you, you will be the most popular person in the house!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pulled Pork

This is, without a doubt my FAVORITE pork recipe EVER...And it on the menu tomorrow for the Hub's birthday party. Enjoy!


Chef Julie's Porkalicious BBQ

4 Lb. bone-in shoulder roast (you can use boneless if you prefer)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper

Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper together. Completely encrust the pork with the salt mix. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest 12-24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 275F (250F for convection). Remove the roast from the plastic wrap and place is a roasting pan.

Cook 7-8 hours, basting the pork with its own juices every 20 minutes after 4 hours time.

Allow the roast to rest for 30-45 minutes on the counter, remove the bone (it will pop right out with no resistance if the roast is cooked properly).

 Shred the meat with two forks and place in a bowl or on a serving platter.

You can reheat it in the oven or the microwave if you like. Serve with Cabbage slaw and barbecue sauces.

Mustard-based sauce

3/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbs. brown sugar (optional)
1 Tsp. hot sauce (I like Frank's Original)
        Mix, chill, and serve.

Vinegar-based sauce

1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs. ketchup
1 tsp. cayanne or red pepper flakes
1 tps. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. salt

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Empanadas

I went against the grain a little yesterday and made empanadas! If you live on the Mexican boarder you know exactly what they are, but for the sake of my fellow foodie friends who don't know: An empanada is a mini pie usually filled with savory ingredients and usually pan or deep fried. You can bake them too, but I think pan fried is the traditional way to go. They are a staple in South and Central America, where the shell is usually made from
MASA-or corn flour. Mine are made from all purpose flour for the sake of easiness.

 I have filled these lovely little pockets with every combination of ingredients I can think of. From simple taco meat to five spice spiked chocolate truffle mix. Any way you eat them they are gorgeous.

Below is a standard filling. But use your imagination. Go wild and try some of your own fillings. You will be rewarded time and time again with amazing yumminess!!!

My favorite thing about them is that they freeze very well. I like to make a large batch and cook a few now and freeze the rest for later. Here is the recipe and corresponding pictures.

Empanadas

DOUGH:
3 cups AP Flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher, or sea, salt
9oz. (18Tbs.) very cold butter
11Tbs. cold water
Place the first four ingredients into a food processor and pulse on and off until you have a pebbly sand consistency.


Add the water and pulse the machine on and off a few more time until the mix comes together.

Transfer the dough to a clean surface and gently knead for 20-30 seconds just until you form a ball. DO not overwork the dough or it will be tough and chewy. Flatten the dough into a thick disk and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes to rest and chill.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. cut into 2 1/2 inch circles with a cookie cutter or the rim of a rocks glass.

FILLING
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 Lb. ground beef, pork, lamb, goat, or chicken-or any combination thereof
1 Tbs. each smoked paprika, cumin, coriander
1tsp cayenne
2 tsp. salt

Over medium high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the oil. once the onions are cooked-about 5 minutes- add your ground meat of choice (I have used smoked tofu as well with some success). saute until the meat is cooked through. Drain off as much oil as you can. Add the spices and saute until fragrant. About 5 minutes more. Let the mix cool, and stuff your empanada dough with filling.

TO ASSEMBLE
Flatten out the dough a little bit more. Place it on a clean surface. Brush the entire disk with egg wash (1 egg and 2Tbs. water whisked together). Place 2 Tbs. of filling in the center of the dough disk.

Fold the dough over to form a pocket and crimp the edges together.
Bake the pocket at 400* for 12-15 minutes. Or you can pan fry them in a little corn oil for
3-4 minutes per side, or deep fry them for 3-5 minutes. Serve with sour cream, salsa and anything else you think would be yummy to dip them in!! Ole!!!

Caprese appetizer for parties

Last weekend I was entertaining guests for dinner. I didn't have a lot of time to get a starter together, so I thought about making a "Salad Caprese". The trouble was that I needed something that I could pass about and it be a finger food. So I took all the elements of the Caprese and recomposed them into a finger-food. Here is a photo:

What you need:
BEAUTIFUL Cherry Tomatoes
Buffalo Mozzarella
Whole Basil Leaves
2 Tbs. Vintage Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. (crushed to a pulp) garlic
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp. brown sugar
Fancy Martini or cocktail picks

Cut the tomatoes in half. Cut the Mozzarella into pieces small enough to fit tidily onto the tomato halves. Place the tomatoes, cut side down on a nice serving plate. Place one basil leaf atop the tomato, and one piece of cheese atop the basil leaf. Stick the martini picks through the stack.

In a container with a tightly fitting lid, shake the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and sugar vigorously to emulsify.

Using a pipette you can buy from any craft store ( I use Micheal's), suck up the dressing and dot about the tomato piles and the serving platter. Serve with pretty beverage napkins and/or little plates.

New England Clam Chowder

Even though I consider myself a Low Country chef by training, I am a Proud New Englander by birth and upbringing. One thing I have noticed about the 44 states that are not New England, they cannot do clam chowder.

Now please don't write to me about your Manhattan, or Chesapeake Bay chowders; I'm not talking about you or your amazing cuisine. I'm talking about all the mediocre chain restaurants (and a few very nice upscale places too) that absolutely butcher one of my favorite foods on Earth.

There has been a trend here in American to over-thicken creamy soups and turn them into a textural nightmares resembling pudding. It's disgusting, and it NEEDS TO STOP! Soup is supposed to be a liquid, not a semi-solid. No soup has suffered from this trend more than my beloved clam chowder. So I am here to tell you, dear readers, that clam chowder-while creamy-is definitely not "thick" like gravy.

The recipe below is the result of several recipes that I inherited from the ladies in my family back in Salem, MA. The first thing you will notice when you make this is that the broth, while satisfying, is not gloppy or super thick. The second thing you'll see is there there are tiny, glistening bits of melted butter floating on the surface of your chowder. This is how you know that you have done it the right way!

 I did take the shortcut of using canned clams instead of fresh ones, because I now live in eastern California and fresh clams are hard to come by. If you'd like to use fresh clams, I have included instructions for you at the bottom of the recipe. Otherwise, it is as close to authentic as I can get without mucking for the clams at low tide myself. Happy eating!

Julie's (Most Traditional) Clam Chowder
4 Tbs. salted butter or bacon fat (bacon fat is more traditional, but butter is more available these days)
1 cup medium diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery-optional, some recipes have it, some don't
1 Tbs. flour
3 cups clam juice
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 cups of 1/2 inch diced potato
2 cups canned chopped clams
2 cups cream
pepper and finely minced parsley to taste

In  a large stock pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add Onions and celery and sauté 5-7 minutes until the onions are fragrant and turning translucent DO NOT LET THEM BROWN!

 Add the flour and stir so that there are no lumps. Pour in the clam juice and add the bay leaf, thyme and  potatoes.

 Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and allow the potatoes to cook 10-12 minutes, until they are tender. Lastly, add the clams and cream. Simmer another 5 minutes.

 Season with pepper and parsley. Serve immediately.

We like ours in Hollowed out mini boules.




Steamed Clams-for anyone lucky enough to be near a source!
5 pounds hard shelled clams-scrubbed and ready for steaming
Steam in a large stock pot in 1 cup of water 10-15 minutes. Remove the clams from their shells, chop them coarsely, and strain the remaining liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of sand, and reserve for the soup. Follow the recipe as written using the fresh clams in place of the canned one, and 2 cups of clam juice and your remaining strained cooking liquid.
Even my picky kid loves this chowder!