Attending Culinary School

No, I am not taking classes at a culinary school.  I went to lunch at one today.  Our local college has a culinary program.  Once a week, they invite the community to come dine and taste the food the students have made (for a very reasonable cost of $11.95).  Todays menu was Italian and some of the items to choose from were osso bucco, risotto Milanese, puttanesca and more.

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You can see the chefs standing at their stations along the back wall in the picture above.

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This was the pastry station and a couple of the chefs waiting to prepare a wonderful caramelized peach dessert.

 

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If you have a culinary school in your area, check it out and see if they have a program like this.  It gives the students a chance to explain how their dishes were prepared and see what it is like to interact with customers.   We really enjoyed our experience.

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A Cooking Lesson From A Chef

Recently I attended a cooking class held at Season’s Restaurant at Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, NC.   Season’s is known for its use of fresh ingredients, many of which come directly from their on-site organic garden. By combining their passion for sustainability and amazing flavor, Season’s helps protect the environment and the economy by utilizing local food sources.

The concept of the cooking lesson is simple.  You watch and learn as the chefs prepare a meal and then after the lesson, you are seated in the dining room and served the same meal, prepared by the chef and staff.  The lesson I went to featured a crab stuffed salmon filet and petite raspberry swirl cheesecake.

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Executive chef. Michelle Bailey and Pastry Chef Steve Spence, taught the lessons.

 

Michelle, below made the Salmon with Crab Stuffing which consisted of Cajun-Spiced Crab, Sockeye Salmon, Roasted Georgia Corn Puree, Okra and Tomato Succotash, Roasted Red Pepper and Scallion Remoulade.

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Steve prepared  the Petite Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake which consisted of Local Blueberry and Lemon Compote, Crush Almonds, Summer Berry Coulis and Candied Lemon Chip.

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In the picture above Chef Steve is slicing the lemons in preparation for the Candied Lemon Chip

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Chef Michelle demonstrates how to cut a pocket in the salmon for the crab stuffing, in the picture above.

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The crab stuffed salmon, waiting to be seared, above.

 

The cheesecake in a silicone cupcake pan, waiting to be popped into the oven.

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It was all delicious!  I am going to try making this at home soon, and when I do I will post my pictures and include the recipe at that time.  Sign up to receive an email when I post so you don’t miss it!

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Roasted Yellow Pepper & Roasted Tomato Soup w/ Serrano Cream

I love this time of the year!  The farm stands  are overflowing with tomatoes, peppers, basil and more.  I have a tomato plant in my backyard and it seems like all the tomatoes are ripening at once.  So I gather several of them and popped them in the oven with some garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Once roasted, I put them in the fridge and headed to the farmers market to pick up some yellow pepper.  This was the result.

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So, the trick for pouring two soups into one bowl and keeping them separated?  For each serving ladle 1/2 cup of each soup into 2 glass measuring cups, pour  the soups simultaneously into a shallow soup bowl from opposite sides of the  bowl.  The soups have to be the same consistency.  It’s as simple as that!

The recipe is from March 1993 Gourmet magazine.  You can find it here at Epicuious.  I changed out the Serrano peppers for Jalapeno peppers.  I also sprinkled some basil on top.

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Pears In Marsala

This past weekend, we had our friends Penny and David over for dinner.  Penny has a blog called Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen.  She and David both are wonderful cooks and it is always fun to have them over, knowing they appreciate everything that goes into creating a meal.

 

While they nibbled on appetizers in our little kitchen lounge area (shown above), I made a Creamy Corn Risotto with Grilled Shrimp and Truffle Oil.  You can find that recipe on my site, here.

For dessert, I made Pears in Marsala.  It is one of the simplest desserts to make.  It is made in a slow cooker.  It is a very elegant dish, and you would never know it was made in a slow cooker.  The pears come out perfectly tender.  It comes from the book, “The Italian Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone.

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Here is the recipe

Pears in Marsala  ~ Serves  6

Time – 2-4 Hours

Ingredients

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup Marsala

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cinnamon stick

6 firm ripe pears, such as Bosc or Anjou

Preparation

In a slow cooker, stir together the sugar, Marsala, orange juice and cinnamon stick.  Place the pears upright in the cooker and spoon some of the liquid over them.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours, or until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife.

Uncover the pears and let the pears cool in the cooker, basting them from time to time.  When ready to serve, carefully transfer the pears to individual serving plates.  Discard the cinnamon stick.  Pour the sauce over the pears and serve with a slice of English Stilton Blue Cheese or creamy Mascarpone.

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Summer Seafood Stew With Fennel and Tomatoes

We are eating more fish and veggies these days, so when I came across this recipe from William-Sonoma I thought I would give it a try.  It is a light summer stew, that really is more like a soup than stew.  I adapted the recipe a little.  William-Sonoma called for cod or haddock, I had grouper, so that is what I used.  They also list 2 tablespoons of Pernod, an anise flavored liquor as an optional ingredient.  I didn’t have any in the house, and it was fine without it.  I also added some chopped San Marzano tomatoes to the recipe and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  To view the original recipe, you can find it on William-Sonoma Website.

 

The recipe in William-Sonoma catalog was featuring a new multi-cooker, and using that cooker their recipe calls for 2 and 1/2 hours cook time.  I cooked mine in a Dutch oven and total cooking time was only about 50 minutes.

Prep Time 20 Minutes ~ Cook Time 50 minutes ~ Serves 6

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved

1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups vegetable stock

1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes

1 can (14 oz) San Marzano tomatoes chopped

2 bay leaves

1 large fresh sprig of thyme

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds cod, haddock or grouper cut into 2 inch dice

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Crostini and aioli for serving

 

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium low heat.  Add onions and fennel and cook till tender over 6-8 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic and tomato paste, cook 2 minutes.  Add wine, cook stirring for 1 minute.  Add stock, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and potatoes.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the fish, cook for 5 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes more until shrimp is pink and fish is flaky.  Garnish with parsley and fennel fronds.  Serve with crostini and aioli.

Easy Aioli Recipe

4 tablespoons l mayonnaise

1 clove garlic minced

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

dash of Tabasco sauce

Mash minced garlic and salt to form a paste, add to mayonnaise along with olive oil, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce.  Wisk to blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice a baguette into 1/2 slices.  Drizzle with olive oil on both sides, place on cookie sheet and bake for 3-4 minutes, turn over slices and bake another couple of minutes until golden.  Serve the aioli along side the crostini.

 

Linking up with:

Savvy Southern Style – WOW

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Thinking About Italy

Back in 2008, I went to Italy for a few weeks.  It was such a wonderful trip and one of the things I enjoyed the most was sitting at a sidewalk café and having an espresso and biscotti.  I would love to go back to Italy someday, but in the meantime, I decided to make some biscotti and daydream.

 

Almond Biscotti

Yield:  About 3 Dozen

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cups sliced almonds, toasted

1 large egg white

 

Preparation

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.  Mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla and almond extract in large bowl.  Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended.  Mix in almonds.

Divide dough in half.  Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 13 inch long and 3 inch wide (approximately) log.  Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart.  Whisk egg while in small bowl until foamy and brush over top and sides of each dough log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes.  Cool logs completely on sheet on wire rack about 25 minutes.  Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer logs to cutting board, discard parchment paper.  Using a serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2 inch wide slices.  Arrange slices, cut side down on same backing sheet.  Return to oven.  Bake 12 minutes.  Turn biscotti over, bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to rack and cool.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Put on an Italian CD, sit back and enjoy with a latte!

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The Best Caprese Bruschetta Ever

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I am addicted to this appetizer!  It is so easy to make and tastes amazing.  You know this blog is all about fresh ingredients, and yes, I know it is not tomato season yet.  The only tomato I buy out of season are campari tomatoes.  Campari is a type of cocktail tomato, noted for its juiciness, high sugar level, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. Camparis are deep red and larger than a cherry tomato, but smaller and rounder than a plum tomato.

Do you see those tiny green leaves?  They are basil!  Recently while walking around my local plant nursery, I discovered this variety of basil.  It is called Boxwood Basil.

It tastes just like the regular basil, but no chopping required!

 

This appetizer can feed one to one hundred.  I am not going to give exact measurements,  the amount of each depends on how many you are making.

Caprese Bruschetta

Ingredients

Baguette

Olive Oil

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Campari Tomatoes

Basil

Fresh Cracked Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt

Preparation

Pre-heat broiler on high.  Slice the baguette on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices.  Brush the baguette slices on both sides with olive oil.  Place on cookie sheet and broil until golden, watching carefully not to burn it.  Turn slices over and broil until golden.  Remove from oven.  Slice mozzarella cheese into 1/4 inch slices and cut to fit on top of each baguette.  Place back under the broiler until cheese has melted.  Remove from oven.  Place two slices of campari tomatoes on each slice.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place back under broiler for 1-2 minutes, just to heat the tomato through.  Remove from oven, drizzle with additional olive oil and basil.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Crust-less Quiche

When I went to lunch the other day with my friend (see previous post), she ordered a quiche.  It looked delicious and I have been craving one ever since.  However, I have been trying to eat a few less carbs lately.  So I thought I would create a crust-less quiche.

I probably should be trying to eat less fat too, but one vice at a time, right?

This was so easy to make and I didn’t miss the crust at all.  Asparagus is in season, so I used it, along with onion.  You could substitute any vegetable and cheese in this quiche and it would still turn out wonderful.   You could add ham, mushrooms or bacon too.   I did lighten it up a little by replacing all cream for half cream and half 2% milk.

Crust-less Quiche ~ Serves 4

Active Time 15 minutes

Total Time 55-60 minutes

Ingredients

16 Thin Asparagus Spears, tough ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pie plate

1-1/2 tablespoons dried plain bread crumbs

2 cups Gruyere Cheese

4 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup 2% milk

Equipment – one 10 inch quiche dish or glass pie plate

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Butter quiche dish, then sprinkle all over with bread crumbs.

Cook onions and asparagus in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Spread in dish, then evenly sprinkle cheese on top.

Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pour over cheese. Bake until top is golden and custard is set in center, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting into wedges.

The farmer’s markets are starting to run again here in NC.  I am really looking forward to getting out and seeing what is coming in from the fields.  We are settling into our new home and I hope to have more time to create some seasonal dishes to share with you.

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Dining Out

Today, instead of giving you a recipe, I thought I would take you out to lunch!  A good friend of mine spends the winter in a warmer climate.  When she comes back in the spring it has become almost a tradition that we go out to lunch and then do a little antiquing.  My friend Penny is a wonderful cook and has a cooking blog called Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen.  One of our favorite restaurants to go to is Fig Bistro, set in the historic Biltmore Village in Asheville, NC.  Fig Bistro’s website describes their restaurant as follows:

“FIG bistro is an intimate neighborhood restaurant featuring casual interpretations of New American and French cuisine. Our menu features an array of seasonal dishes, along with daily chef’s specials inspired by the fresh local ingredients available here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The FIG staff is friendly, engaging, and knowledgeable and it is our sincere desire to offer you a genuine and memorable dining experience.”

Fig Bistro’s brochure goes on to say, “Fig’s commitment to quality and excellence is readily apparent in the seasonal masterpieces created by the fig culinary ream.  As staunch supporters of local, organic and sustainable agriculture, we are continually developing relationships with Western North Carolina farmers.  This insures that we have access to the freshest and finest and finest ingredients available.”

You know that is what my blog is all about.  Fresh, local, seasonal cooking.  I am fortunate to live in an area that many of the restaurants feel the same way.

After we received our lunches, as food bloggers, Penny and I both started taking pictures of our beautifully plated dishes.  One of Fig’s employees, Heather Masterson, affectionately know as the Den Mother, came over to make sure things were fine.  When we explained we were food bloggers and were going to feature Fig Bistro on our blogs, Heather spent some time with us, talking about the seasonal dishes.  It is obvious that Heather and all of the staff at Fig Bistro take pride in the restaurant.

So, what did we have for lunch?

My friend, Penny had a quiche and side salad.

 

I chose one of the day’s specials.  Seared scallops with baby ramps, radishes and baby pea shoots, served with a beurre blanc sauce and chopped chives.  Ramps, pea shoots and radishes…you can’t get more seasonal that that!

Both meals were delicious.  If you are ever in the Asheville area, I highly recommend you try Fig Bistro.  The food and the service is stellar.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Cream of Aspargus Soup

Yeah!  It is the first day of spring.  I love seeing the spring crops arrive at the farmers market.  Asparagus is one of my favorite spring vegetables.  Here is a lighter version of Cream of Asparagus Soup, using half-n-half instead of heavy cream.  It is light and refreshing, not heavy as some cream soups are.  By adding a potato to the soup, you still get that creamy consistancy without the added fat.

Cream of Asparagus Soup ~ Serves 4 ~Active Time 20 Minutes, Total Time 50 Minutes

2 pounds asparagus

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 russet potato, peeled and chopped

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

2-3 cups baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup half-n-half

Cut tips from 8 stalks of asparagus, 1-1/2 inches from the top and set aside.  Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces.

Melt butter in heavy 4 quart sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes.  Add the asparagus pieces (not the saved tips), salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the potatoes and chicken stock.  Bring to to a boil, reduce and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the asparagus is very tender.  Add spinach, stir until wilted, 2-3 minutes.

While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes then drain.

Bring soup to room temperature.  Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan.  Add half-n-half.  Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and heat for 5 minutes.  Ladle into 4 bowls and top with saved asparagus tips.  Drizzle with half-n-half if desired.

This also makes a great first course and will serve 8, if using small cups.  I used my espresso cups in the picture above.

Linking with:

The Comforts of Home – Tasty Tuesday

 

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