Monday, May 14, 2012
Hummus has literally six ingredients: chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt and pepper. So it should be no brainer to make it. Neverless I could never archive that ultra smooth, melt-in-your-mouth consistency I was looking for. So here are a few tips that will bring your hummus to next level:
1. Never use canned chickpeas. Canned peas are cooked under high pressure in the cans that have BPA lining.
2. Soak dry chickpeas overnight in the water with a tablespoon of baking soda. It will tenderize them. Do not add any salt.
3. Rinse the chickpeas, add fresh water, bring to boil and then cook on low heat until they are very tender. Salt and other seasonings will counteract with the softening effect so add the salt toward the end of cooking.
4. Chickpeas have tough skins that will remain chewy and leathery even after long cooking. So it is very important to remove them. After the peas are very soft, drain the them and cover with cold water. Rub the peas together with your hands. It will help to loosen up the outer skins. Skins will float and can be easily removed with the slotted spoon.
5. Even though it is much faster to make hummus using just a food processor, the first step should be a food mill. It will make your hummus silkier because it will help to remove any remaining skins.
6. Finally, place the chickpea puree and all the remaining ingredients except the garlic in the food processor. Fresh garlic should be added right or at most 24 hours before the serving.
These small steps might make your hummus making process a bit longer but I guarantee you - it worth it! Bon Appetit!
Friday, November 04, 2011
First Time for Everything
Last week my friend Tammi brought me some duck eggs. I am not usually a “food virgin”, but duck eggs were admittedly a first for me. I was very excited and a little intimidated too.
On the outside they looked like very large chicken eggs. Upon cracking the egg, I noticed that they had a thicker shell. And it’s that tough, thick shell gives the duck egg a great benefit – a longer shelf life. The egg yolk was larger and the white less watery in comparison to that of a chicken egg.
It was the middle of the day so I decided to have breakfast for lunch and made a sunny side up duck egg. It took a bit longer to cook than a chicken egg due to the larger yolk. I loved the richness (yes that means more fat too) and deep golden color of the yolk, but the white turned out a bit dry. I thought that mixing the white and the yolk together would deliver a better result. So then I decided to make a frittata. It turned out so buttery and bold!
|I truly fell in love with the duck eggs when I used them in my baking. My cake rose much higher (due to high protein content), was moist with an amazing golden color and had a delightful velvety texture. The remaining of my dozen of eggs was used on pan cakes, cookies and a pound cake. The result was consistently delicious, maybe even too good – all the cakes and cookies were devoured as soon as I put them on the table!|
So now I can say that I am no longer a duck egg virgin. And who knows what kind of eggs the future will bring to my table... ostrich? Bring it on!
Friday, October 21, 2011
Breakfast Before Bed
There is an old Russian saying, “Eat breakfast by yourself, share your lunch with a friend and give your dinner to your enemy.” It shows you that even long ago people realized the importance of the first meal of the day – breakfast. One thing that I have to mention is that generally dinner time in Russia and in Europe is much later then here in the United States, usually around 8 or 9 pm.
I’m not saying that you should give up dinner, but stuffing yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey isn’t wise either. If you’re eating dinner in the late evening think about all the work your organs have to do while you’re supposedly resting. And if you’re skipping breakfast, you’re depriving your body of the fuel it needs to keep you going. Remember it just did all that work to process your dinner.
I am a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I also understand that mornings can be hectic and we don’t always have the time to make a balanced and nutritious meal. But with a little planning before bed, you can start the day with a healthy breakfast. Then come morning, all you have to is warm it up on the stove (just add a splash of milk of your choice) or (less preferable) in the microwave.
Making breakfast in advance might seem like too much work especially if you just made dinner, but, if you are constantly skipping breakfast or grabbing some nutrient empty alternative, by the time you get to work, your blood sugar drops so low that you are looking for an emergency sugar fix, like doughnuts or other over-processed, chemical leavened option. And a few months later you find yourself wondering why your weight is going up even though you are “skipping” meals!
Steel cut oatmeal has low glycemic index and is very filling, making it a perfect breakfast choice. Autumn is great inspiration for this creamy, rich and satisfying dish. Roasted pumpkin, apples and raisins give the same old oatmeal a delicious makeover! It’s also a great way to enjoy fall's abundance of winter squashes. And this dish is vegan, nut free, gluten free, dairy free, soy and egg free.
So grab a few moments to yourself in the morning and eat your oatmeal.
Baked Oatmeal with Pumpkin, Raisins and Apple
2 cups steel cut oatmeal
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash, roasted and pureed or use canned or frozen
1 cup raisins
2 apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup dry shredded coconut
Soak steel cut oats in 6 cups of water for about 4 hours. Drain and rinse the oats, then place in a large bowl and add all the remaining ingredients, except dried coconut. Mix well, until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into an oven safe dish and sprinkle with coconut.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.
You can easily incorporate your own favorite fruits like pears or other dried fruits like cranberries. Adjust this recipe for every season by using whatever fruit is in season. This would be wonderful come late summer with peaches and pecans.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Don't underestimate a good dip!
This silky and rich vegetable hummus could be used as a spread, a dip, or used as a topping for your pizza or chicken. White bean and kale hummus was one of our bestsellers at the farmers market.
White Bean and Kale Hummus
Yields: 4 cups
2 cups white beans
1 large bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp cold pressed olive oil
1 tsp chipotle pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Soak the beans overnight, then cook until very tender. Blanch the kale in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool kale in an ice bath and then set until almost dry. Mix all the ingredients together and puree in a food processor until smooth. It might take a few batches, depending on the size of your food processor.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Saturday, October 08, 2011
Green Tomato BLT Soup
The tomato season is officially over but when I checked out my mother-in-law's tomato plants, I still found a lot of unripe ones. Judging according past few weeks, it didn't look like the weather was going to be favorable for that poor green tomatoes that missed their ripening time. It would be such a pity to let them freeze or rotten on the vine. So I had to take an action. I picked all of them up and made a delicious Green Tomato BLT Soup.
Not even no one notice the tomatoes were not ripe, its actually brought an amazing freshness and beautiful bright green color to the dish.
Green Tomato BLT Soup
Yields: 6 people
4 oz nitrate free smoked bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoon minced garlic
½ jalapeno, seeded, minced
½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds
8 medium green or red tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons or to taste Chile Spot's Fatalii Fantasii Sauce hot sauce (special ingredient used at Culinary Cook-Off)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Micro Greens (garnish) & Baguette (optional)
Cook bacon in large heavy pot until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of bacon, place on paper towel lined plate and reserve.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the onions to the rendered bacon. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno and coriander and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil then turn the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf. Add lime juice, hot sauce and cilantro. Transfer hot soup to a food processor, blender or use immersion blender and puree until almost smooth but still leave some texture. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve in soup bowls, garnish with micro greens, reserved bacon bits and grilled baguette.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Rainy Day Dish on the (almost) Empty Fridge
Monday was one of those days that I couldn't wait to be over: soggy, rainy and cold. And it’s just the beginning of October! The weather didn’t help my mood considering that I could feel the onset of my first cold of the season. My mind was as cloudy as the sky and in my head I was singing my own adaptation of Johnny Nash's song “I Can See Clearly Now” but my version was “I can't see clear now when rain is on!”
After dropping my eldest daughter Tessa at preschool and taking my yoga class, I only have one hour to run my errands. A trip to the grocery store was overdue and my tiny wine shelf was empty as well. So after a moment to decide which was more urgent, I headed out to Wine and Spirit!
The night before I was thinking about making chili, but now a day later and approaching 5 o’clock, I realized I never soaked beans. And I already admitted that restocking my wine bar won out over the grocery store. Ironically, just last week I was teaching a class about the importance of timing and mise en place (a French phrase defined as "everything in place", as in set up). So I had to cancel my chili plans. Ordering pizza delivery was very tempting but instead I made myself open the fridge and look for another, more nourishing option. Luckily, I still had ground beef, fresh spinach, carrots, onions and some leftover shiitake mushrooms in my fridge, brown rice in the pantry and an hour before dinner time.
My kids were full of energy and very eager to help. I gave each of them a peeler and a carrot. An hour later and a kitchen floor covered with carrot peels, we got a pretty satisfying dinner dish… with a glass of wine too!
Brown Rice and Beef Ragout with Spinach
1 cup brown rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
12 oz spinach (You could also use frozen spinach)
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chipotle to taste
Cook the rice according the cooking instructions.
In large pan, heat the olive oil and the ground beef and cook until all the liquid is evaporated and the beef is nicely browned. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the onions and cook for another for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots and mushrooms and cook until the carrots are soft, 7-8 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until the spinach is just wilted. If using frozen spinach, reheat to package directions and be sure to wring out excess water.
Mix in with the cooked rice. Season to taste.
BTW, your kids will clean their plates if they participate in the cooking process! Tessa was so proud of herself and while finishing her second plate, she proudly announced, “We made a great dinner, Mommy!”
Saturday, October 01, 2011
My Mama's Honey Cake
A few weeks ago I competed in West Chester Recreation’s Chef Cook-Off that was held during the Restaurant Festival. I love this kind of event! Adrenaline is pumping, knives are chopping faster than a food processor and, chefs get a chance to meet and learn something new from each other. It was a such pleasure to meet and compete beside fellow local chefs Jon Amann, of Amani’s Restaurant, John Brandt-Lee of Avalon and Avalon Pasta Bistro and Scott Straughen of Straughen Catering.
Photo courtesy of Allison Benford
|The rules were very straight forward: we were given $125 each to create a three course menu of an appetizer, entrée and dessert and each dish had to be prepared in 30 minutes for a panel of judges to critique. Each course had to use a predetermined item from a local producer. The appetizer had to feature hot sauce from Downingtown based Chile Spot, sheep’s milk cheese from Highland Farm Dairy was to be used for the entree and raw honey from Chester County for the dessert. The ‘L’ in LOST Gourmet is for local so I was thrilled to highlight these local products in my menu!|
With competition on my mind, I headed to the Phoenixville Farmers Market for fresh produce, eggs and meat. My ideas for the appetizer and entrée came easily but I had trouble with the dessert. Well, to be accurate, the trouble wasn't with the dessert itself; I had trouble with the 30 minute time constraint! At the market I grabbed a few amazing tart apples from North Star Orchard. I knew I had to work with hone, and apples are such a heavenly match. Honey Baked Apples seemed to be a natural choice but I wanted to be more creative. It was a competition after all! By the end of the day I was mentally exhausted from testing recipes and my timing and I still had no clue what I was going to make for dessert the next day. And, usually, when I am tired, my mind goes some place safe, back to my roots, to Russia, to home, to my mom, our family dinners.... and then the miracle happened. I knew exactly what I was going to make – my mama's honey cake!
I was nervous to whether my cake would cook in time (remember 30 minutes to prep and fully plate) and ultimately I was pretty happy with the way all my dishes came out. After an hour and a half of a whirlwind of cooking and three rounds of judging, first place went to returning champion Jon Amann of Amani’s. I placed second but what was even more important is that I had an amazing time and I learned a new lesson: when you are lost and have a hard time making decision, go back to where you are from, to your roots. And everything will become clear.
My Mama's Honey Cake
serves: 4-6 people
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp baking soda
3 oz butter, cut into small cubes
2/3 cups sugar
1 cup flour
|Preheat oven to 325°. Place oiled parchment paper on the bottom of an 8 x 6 baking pan. In a small saucepan, mix the honey and baking soda over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture turns a dark golden color. Remove from the heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until melted. Add the eggs, mix well. Then slowly add the flour. The batter should be thick but a pourable consistency. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 20 minutes or until baked through. Let it cool to room temperature before cutting. Cut in half horizontally (to make it two layers). Pour half of the honey crème anglaise (recipe below) on the bottom half. Place the top on and pour the remaining crème over. Top with rosemary apples (recipe below).||
Photo courtesy of Allison Benford
Honey Crème Anglaise
2 cups half and half
½ vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
10 tbsp honey
6 large egg yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean (even better)
Bring half and half, vanilla bean and 6 tablespoons honey to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk the yolks and remaining honey until blended. While whisking, slowly pour in some of the hot honey vanilla mixture. Do this slowly so you don’t cook the eggs. Slowly pour in all of the honey vanilla mixture. Put this mixture in the saucepan over medium heat and constantly stir with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and strain the custard. Cool over an ice bath.
4 tart apples, like Granny Smith
½ cup sugar
juice of 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Peel and chop the apples. In a heavy pot combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice and rosemary. Let mixture sit for a few minutes to release the juices. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl or cup, mix cornstarch with water until the cornstarch is dissolved. While still cooking the apples, pour the cornstarch mixture over the apples, gently stirring to bring to boil. Remove from the heat and cool.
Double the batch of apples and serve some with this cake and save some for a dinner side with pork or mix with yogurt for an easy light dessert or breakfast.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Recently I came to the realization that most of my friends, clients, and neighbors have more cooking gadgets than me, even though cooking is what I do for living! In the kitchens of my friends I have seen tools that I never even knew existed from egg choppers and avocado scoopers to strawberry hullers and olive pitters! I, on the other hand, go by a “less is more” philosophy. Sure, I have a great set of knives, a food processor, a mixer and good cookware, pretty basic stuff. To me, a nice sharp knife will do most of the cutting and carving tricks. But the one thing I really love is a slow cooker. I know, I know, all my restaurant pals are probably pointing the fingers at me but it is a really nice and very useful appliance. I am not just a chef, but I am also a wife and mom of two toddlers, two and three years old. So my days are usually pretty crazy!
So my slow cooker becomes my sous chef. In the morning (and usually before my kids are awake) I brown all my meats and vegetables. There are a lot of recipes that do not require this step but I think that the caramelization brings a lot of bold deep flavors into the final dish. Place the meat and veggies into the slow cooker, add some stock and/or wine, set the time for 8-10 hours and then the magic happens. By the time my family gatherers together at the table, the dinner is hot and ready! Oh, and that smell! Nothing smells better at the end of a long and busy day then the aroma of slow braised brisket, so succulent and tender, it falls apart when you try to lift it with your fork. I wouldn't be able to resist this dish on a hot summer day but on a rainy dreary day, I can't get enough of it!
So of all the gadgets and gizmos, let your slow cooker earn its keep in your cupboard.
Slow Cooked Brisket
Serves: 4-6 people
1 grass fed brisket, 3-4 lbs.
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup onions, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
2/3 cup celery, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup flour
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken or beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Heat oil over medium-high in large skillet. Sear the brisket on both sides until brown, 8-10 minutes and place in the slow cooker.
Sauté the vegetables and seasonings in the skillet for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, cook 2 minutes, and then stir in the flour.
Deglaze the skillet with wine, scraping up the brown bits of goodness from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil and pour over the brisket. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set it on low for 8 hours.
Serve over brown rice or mashed potatoes.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Chicken & Collard Greens Lettuce Boat with Creamy Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 small bunch Charlestown Farm Collard Greens
4 leaves Romain lettuce
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Creamy Mustard Dressing
1/2 cup Seven Stars Farms yogurt
3 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
chipotle pepper to taste
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In the large pan heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add chicken to pan and sauté 7 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan. Add remaining oil to the same pan and cook onion and mushroom over medium heat for 4-5 min add collard greens saute 1 more minute.
To serve place one lettuce leaf on each plate. Divide the chicken tenders and place on top of each leaf. Top with the vegetable mixture. Drizzle with creamy mustard dressing.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Healthy Food Can be Gourmet
As a teenager I learned that Russian soil was very deficient in Iodine which is an essential trace element. An enlarged goiter on my neck wasn't on my "must have" list so I researched foods looking for the highest concentration of Iodine. Sadly I found out it was seaweed. To say at least, I didn't enjoy it. And to be totally honest I hated it. It looked like brown muddy desiccated grass with unpleasant metallic aftertaste. I ate it and kept eating it once a week, not because I became accustom to its taste or started liking it, but because I thought it was healthiest thing I could do in my circumstance.
Because of that unpleasant but healthy experience, my goal in life, as a Chef, is to create nutrient dense meals that are delicious. Here is my recipe for another Super Food: Kale. Just like cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli it's a member of Brassiaco family that are well known as a cancer fighting vegetables. The phytonutrients in kale also help to neutralize potentially cancerous substances. Kale is loaded with beta-carotene, an important nutrient for good vision, vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and helps to fight the cold, as well as in iron, manganese, calcium and potassium.
This raw Kale salad is a great example of how a healthy nutritious food can taste fabulous.
|Super Food Kale Salad Yields: 4 servings 1 lemon, juiced 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 bunch kale, stalks removed, leaves thinly sliced 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/3 cup dried currants 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste|
In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice and mustard. While whisking add olive oil in a slow stream.
Place the Kale in the large bowl. Pour the dressing over the Kale. Add Parmesan, currants and pine nuts. Toss, serve and enjoy a super food salad that tastes out of this world.
Information about Iodine
Iodine is an essential trace element, deficiencies in it can cause mental redardation. The USA and Canada makes Iodized salt avaiable nationwide but unfortunately in Russia and other countries less then 35% of the households have access to Iodized salt. For more information on Iodine Deficiency please see iccidd