When it comes to giving excellent tips and advice in the kitchen, Ivan, my Executive Sous Chef, always has the answer. With springtime upon us, read what he has to say about cooking with the season’s vegetables.
We recently catered an event where vegetables were the star ingredient of our menu. Here at CuisineStyle, it’s important that our food not only taste delicious, but looks gorgeous as well. Here’s my tip for keeping your vegetables bright, beautiful, and irresistible.
When preparing vegetables for a meal or a dinner party, you can get a head start by “blanching” and “shocking” the vegetables. This works for carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, asparagus, and even baby potatoes. To blanch vegetables, drop them into boiling, salted water and cook the vegetables three quarters of the way done. Remove the vegetables from the boiling water and drop them in a salted ice bath. This stops or “shocks” the cooking process and allows you to simply reheat the vegetables right before your meal. They can easily be finished on the grill, roasted in the oven, sautéed, or dropped back into boiling water to finish cooking. Keep cooking and have fun!
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As a Chef and cooking instructor, I’ve learned that most students dread the “daunting” task of handling and cooking seafood. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same baffled, often horrified expression on their faces when I set a whole salmon on the kitchen counter in front of them.
First, one big, collective gasp. Then one student will say, “How do I know what looks good?” Another- “I can’t tell if it’s fresh or not. I think fish is supposed to smell fishy!” Or – “ I just can’t cook seafood!” I say, “YES YOU CAN!” Trust me, cooking seafood couldn’t be easier.
Here are my professional tips for selecting and cooking seafood:
Seafood is one of the most perishable and expensive items in your market. It’s best to have a reliable market with a trust worthy fish monger. Always inquire about freshness and what’s in season. This will ensure the best quality, and you’ll learn a good deal about what you’re taking home for dinner. For whole fish, look for red gills, clear eyes, and shiny scales. If you’re purchasing filets or smaller cuts of fish, look for firm flesh and a bright color. Ask to smell the fish before purchasing. If it has a strong fishy smell, skip it. Fresh fish will smell like the ocean. Storing your fish correctly ensures that it stays as fresh as possible. Always store the fish in the refrigerator, and my recommendation is to place it, wrapped, on a bed of ice. If you choose to freeze your fish, use it within three months. The quality will deteriorate the longer it’s frozen.
For cooking fish, it only takes a few minutes to cook perfectly. My rule of thumb is, whether you roast, saute, broil, steam or grill your fish, watch for seafood when it comes to what the French refer to as the “milky point.” That’s when the proteins begin to appear as little white dots on the sides and possibly to the top of the fish. At that point, it’s cooked two thirds of the way through. Take the fish off the heat source. It will finish “cooking”, by virtue of its residual heat, and your fish will be cooked perfectly every time.
I’m inspired just writing about this. Let’s all cook fish for dinner this week!
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I recently posted about creating a menu for an Iron Chef cooking challenge on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CuisineStyle). At the time it was top secret, but now that we’ve had the event, I can spill the beans! The secret ingredients were beef and winter root vegetables. Each team was given a different cut of beef and we created a display of root vegetables such as beets, celery root, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, fennel and potatoes. The challenge for each team was to create an entrée and side dish using their cut of beef – ground beef, tri-tip, london broil, or flank steak – with their selection of root vegetables. I judged the competition and I had a hard time picking the winner! Each team’s creations received points on flavor, creativity, appearance, and presentation. All the dishes were delicious and each team did an amazing job.
The winning team concocted a salad of shaved fennel on a bed of grilled eggplant, a grilled garlic crusted tri-tip for the entrée, puree of celery root and parsnips, and even, some lovely bittersweet chocolate ganache truffles, dusted in cocoa powder. How yummy does that sound?!
It was such a fabulous event! I can’t wait for our next Iron Chef cooking party challenge. Check out some of the photos from the event. What a fantastic night of cooking and creating!
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