Meatless Monday Recipes: Pumpkin Soup courtesy of inSHAPE

The pumpkin is a beloved, if not difficult, ingredient in hearty autumn dishes. A large squash that is equally satisfying in both savory and sweet dishes, the pumpkin deserves a spot on everyone’s table! This tasty soup is surprisingly easy to prepare and tastes great. Coupled with a green salad, your Monday dinner will become an event to celebrate.

Continue reading “Meatless Monday Recipes: Pumpkin Soup courtesy of inSHAPE”

Learning to cook… with ChefSteps

I need to learn to cook.

Ok. Yes, I do know how to cook, but that isn’t what I meant. I need to learn to cook well. Like, restaurant well. Given my propensity for wanting to eat restaurant quality food on a regular basis, I need to learn to cook fast lest my bank account decide to find a more doting benefactor (“Always take, take, take. Why don’t you GIVE!!”).

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Why it matters to me: An interview with Marc Orfaly of The Beehive in Boston

For so many these days its all about the limelight. Its about getting paid, getting respect, and being superstars. Easily forgotten is the idea that the culinary industry is first and foremost a service industry; an outpouring of familial hospitality extended to strangers, with food as the focal point.

Many who make the choice to do this, day in and day out, do so out of the respect they have for the food, and a desire to carry on what others who influenced them had done before. Having the opportunity to speak with Chef Marc Orfaly of The Beehive in Boston was a reminder that there are people who cook for the right reasons.

During our conversation we talked about some of Marc’s early experiences in the food industry, his suggestion to those interested in getting in to the culinary industry, and his personal food memory.

Continue reading “Why it matters to me: An interview with Marc Orfaly of The Beehive in Boston”

Meatless Monday Recipes: Vegetable Pot Pie courtesy of inSHAPE

This Meatless Monday recipe is a savory but sweet pot pie full of hearty vegetables and rich with a creamy and tangy sauce. Baked using a crust made from both regular flour and graham flour, the crunchy taste of homemade sweetness makes this a dish for the whole family!

This Meatless Monday recipe is a savory but sweet pot pie full of hearty vegetables and rich with a creamy and tangy sauce. Baked using a crust made from both regular flour and graham flour, the crunchy taste of homemade sweetness makes this a dish for the whole family!

Continue reading “Meatless Monday Recipes: Vegetable Pot Pie courtesy of inSHAPE”

Meatless Monday Recipes: Vegetarian Enchiladas with Squash and Mole courtesy of inSHAPE

Enchiladas are a hearty favorite in many homes. They can be made with almost any type of meat, but for Meatless Monday, why not give this colorful veggie version a try. We've also crafted a tangy mole enchilada sauce that will knock your socks off!

Enchiladas are a hearty favorite in many homes. They can be made with almost any type of meat, but for Meatless Monday, why not give this colorful veggie version a try. We’ve also crafted a tangy mole enchilada sauce that will knock your socks off!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt
  • 4 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1 small acorn or kabochi squash, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, cubed
  • 2 cups of black beans, tender
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, we used part skim
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cilantro, chopped
  • 8-10 corn tortillas

Preparation:

Make the mole sauce the day before. The flavors will only get better. Mix the chili powder, cayenne, cocoa, cumin, oregano and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Skin and chop onion, then drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute or large sauce pan. Over high heat, sauté half of the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add water to deglaze pan and reduce heat to low. After about 5 minutes, add tomato sauce and adjust seasoning to taste. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, then allow to cool. After about an hour of cooling, puree by using hand mixer or food processor. Set aside or place in the fridge in a covered container until final prep stages.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray small baking dish with cooking spray. Pour about 3/4 cup of mole sauce into bottom of dish and set aside. In a skillet, drizzle canola oil and sauté the rest of the onion over high heat. After 3-4 minutes, add squash. Brown for about 4-5 minutes then remove from heat and immediately transfer to a room temperature mixing bowl (you want the squash to stop cooking). Add ricotta, black beans, red pepper, and most of the cilantro (you can use the rest for garnish when serving). Stir gently but thoroughly – and voila – you have your enchilada innards.

The last step is messy, but is worth it. Using the same skillet as before, heat a little more canola oil, and lightly saute corn tortillas, one at a time. After each, dry/cool on paper towels. On a prep plate, pour a little mole sauce, then set first corn tortilla on plate. Flip it over, making sure that both sides are lightly coated. Add bean/squash mix in center, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, then fold over in thirds and place seam down into dish. Continue with the rest of the enchiladas. Pour the remainder of the mole sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes covered, then set broiler on, remove lid, and broil for another 4-5 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve with chopped cilantro.

Find out more about inSHAPE Fitness. Be sure to check them out at www.inshape-fitness.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Meatless Monday Recipes: Mexican Pie courtesy of inSHAPE

Savory pies tickle the tummy with hearty and satisfying flavors, and in the winter, they warm us with the comfort factor. This recipe has no meat of course, but you’d never miss it. Meatless Monday proves once again to push creativity in the kitchen and is so great for the environment.

Pie crust can be a tricky proposition from scratch, but you can easily cut a few corners by sneaking a frozen organic crust into your shopping cart and using pre-made enchilada or mole sauce for a base. We used a little of our mole sauce from the popular Black Bean and Winter Squash Enchiladas as the base for our filling. We threw together a little cucumber and avocado whip for a cool topping.

Mexican Pie
Mexican Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup enchilada or mole sauce (see note above)
  • 1 cup black beans, tender
  • 1 cup cut corn
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 3 egg whites
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 cup monterey jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1/2 avocado
  • lime juice

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare mise en place (chop your veggies and clean your work space like any good chef or cook does). Over medium heat in a skillet, drizzle olive oil and saute onions, red pepper, and garlic for 3-5 minutes, until onions are clear. Remove from heat, add sauce/base, black beans, corn, and herbs (save about a tsp of cilantro for later). Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Whip egg whites to soft peaks, add lime zest. Pour veggie bean base into egg whites with jack cheese. Blend gently, until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes uncovered or until cheese on top is bubbling and brown. In the meantime, put cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and about a tsp of lime juice in a food processor and whip to desired consistency. We chose light but still a little chunky.

Cool for 15 minutes before serving with a dollop of the whip. Beer helps put out those flames!

Find out more about inSHAPE Fitness. Be sure to check them out at www.inshape-fitness.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolates by Pam Williams and Jim Eber

Over the passed few weeks, my world has been slightly off kilter thanks to the singular word that any lover of food dreads: diet. A necessary evil, obviously, but every time I make the effort, I’m reminded of where my food allegiances lie. While I am an über fan of the savory, when the chips are down, the easiest fix I can find that will keep me out of the clock tower is a simple square of chocolate. No more. No less.

Chocolate can be found everywhere these days. For a quarter, you can get a handful of the candy-coated variety. A little more will get you a full bar. But, does checkout-line chocolate tell the whole story? Think of the work that goes in to chocolate from start to finish, or as Pam Williams and Jim Eber refer to it in their book Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolates, “gene-to-bonbon”. It’s easy to forget the hours of time, effort and money that goes in to producing chocolate regardless of its final form. A few months back I had a chance to speak with writer Jim Eber about where the idea for Raising the Bar came from, what the approach to writing it was, and some of the stories that really hammered home the need for more education on what the making of chocolate really involves.

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate by Pam Williams and Jim Eber
Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate by Pam Williams and Jim Eber

Foodie Journal: Tell me a little bit about where the idea for Raising the Bar came from.
Jim Eber: The idea was purely Pam’s, who has been in some form of the chocolate business for more than two decades. She has a school, Ecole Chocolat, in which she does classes for people who want to get involved in chocolate making and manufacture at any kind of level. Whether it’s a chocolatier, or whether it is someone who wants to go back to the very beginning, literally go down to the bean and go down to Ecuador, or go down to places in Latin America and see what it is like.

The school celebrated its 10th anniversary in January. Pam thought about all kinds of things that she wanted to do, and she realized that the single biggest thing she could do for herself and the industry that she loves would be to write something that would explain to people what the future of fine chocolate might be.

She could have done a party. She could have done any kind of huge blowout thing. She could have done a big PR campaign but what she’d rather do is put a stake in the ground for flavor because that’s where her future is tied to and those are the people that she loves. She started thinking about this at then end of 2010, beginning of 2011, and I came on board with her in June of 2011 to be her writer. She’s the guiding light and she tasked me with putting this together.

FJ: The title of the first chapter was my absolute favorite, “Twenty Pounds of Cocaine.” That sure is a pretty easy way to catch a readers attention right away!
JE: It’s funny because that’s exactly it. This is written for people who love chocolate, and either need or want to know more, or are in this business and want to help people understand what they do. At the very beginning I was thinking, “How do I get people to read about the genetics of chocolate?” when even people in this business, their eyes start to glaze over when you start talking about it. So “Twenty Pounds of Cocaine” was just the way to point to that.

FJ: It’s a really cool idea, starting at such a base level. How did you approach the interactions with the different people that do this for a living?
JE: That’s a good question. We played with a lot of possibilities. As craft chocolate and manufacture has taken off, the expression “bean-to-bar” has become fairly common right now. Pam and I realized that bean-to-bar is a perfectly logical progression. You start with a bean, you end with a bar, even if the bar is meant for consumers or meant for chefs or chocolatiers to melt down and start doing their own craft.

When we were thinking about that, we said, “Wait, all that’s missing is the very beginning and the very end,” so we decided that gene-to-bonbon … or in Belgium it’s praline, or what we would call in the United States, chocolates. We decided gene-to-bonbon was the way to approach it and we tried coming at it in different ways, like by working our way back. Get back to the center, to the gene, but we said, “You know what? It starts on the ground.” That’s where the deepest lack of awareness is for people who are eating chocolate.

Many people don’t even think of it as a food, let alone something that starts out growing on a tree. We decided to start with the genetics. That was a big challenge because also, it’s the least yummy. You can’t taste the gene. That’s how we decided to approach it, and the real challenge was, “How do we keep people’s interest in the first quarter of the book if we move linearly from there?”

FJ: You mentioned how many different people that you had the opportunity to interview and talk to in writing the book. Is there a particular story from the book that you working on?
JE: Can I pick two?
FJ: Yes, absolutely!
JE: I think they cover the two extremes of what we really want to say. For all the problems that are going in the world of chocolate, for all the things that threaten flavor, the single most important thing to help keep the world of fine flavor growing, and the growth of appreciation and making it like the appreciation of wine or craft beer, is education. It’s the education of the consumer to help them appreciate the differences, and not to denigrate candy. It is simply essential that people understand where chocolate comes from. To that end, there’s one hurdle that people think is education, but it’s not, and it actually comes from a story you see in the first 20, 30 pages of the book. The first story about education has to do with the farmers.

When Brett Beach went to sample that tree in Madagascar, when that “Twenty Pounds of Cocaine” story, when he was taking it out there … we’re talking about farmers in Madagascar. We’re talking about a culture that is not literate. There is not a high literacy rate, and there is not a particularly high standard of living. We are talking about people who, nice as they can be, they’re just not an industrialized nation by any way.

Understanding what genetics are isn’t going to necessarily click, considering that Brett, himself, barely could articulate it in English, let alone Malagasy. When Brett told the farmer what they were looking for, the farmer walked right up to a tree and marked it. That tree was pure ancient Criollo. That tree was right on. It was something that was thought to not exist. They knew that it could, but it was thought not to. It was rediscovered that day. It was thought to be extinct, but he farmer knew exactly what it was.

Education for farmers is about helping them take that knowledge and get the best price they possibly can for their chocolate, helping them with systems that will improve their lives and be a win-win-win for everyone. It only works if you connect it to the second story, which is at the end of part two.

That was a story that Art Pollard told me. Art is Amano Chocolate; he’s out of Utah, has been open for five years, and is a part of the boom of craft manufacturers in the United States. He produces dynamite chocolate, by everyone’s accounts. He has been a mentor to some of the younger people in the business. He tells a story at the in a section at near the end of the book called, “’Cheap Chocolate’ should be an oxymoron.”

There’s no better emphasis than that, than Art Pollard talking about being at a food show with his chocolate early on in his work. A guy came up to him at a hotdog cart and said, “I really liked your chocolate, man. I’d like to buy some. How much is it?” He talked about the wholesale price was for his chocolate to go in there was $15 a pound. This guy said, “Oh my God. I won’t pay more than three.” Art looked at him and said, “I can’t even buy beans for three dollars a pound.” A bean is nothing. Have you tasted an unroasted cacao bean, Reuben?
FJ: Yeah, once. Not something to make regular practice of! Like unsweetened cocoa powder. Very bitter.
JE: Exactly. That’s not chocolate. It’s a bean. There are ten steps before it’s a chocolate bar. Yet this person wouldn’t pay more than three dollars. That story just indicated to me like, “Really? Really? Three dollars a pound is what you’ll pay for that chocolate?” Given the amount of labor and given what goes in to it? So, helping really educate, at both ends of the spectrum is really important, and something I think the stories in this book can do. There is great chocolate being made, and that needs to be appreciated. Once that appreciation starts to develop, then people will see that quality is worth paying more money for. At every level.

You can find out more about Pam Williams and Jim Eber, as well as additional information about Raising the Bar on the Ecole Chocolat website.

A preview of the Rosa Mexicano “Flavors of Mexico” series – Desayuno, a Mexican Breakfast

This past weekend I had the opportunity to preview Rosa Mexicano‘s “Flavors of Mexico” series. The first in the series, Desayuno, or “Mexican Breakfast”, is being served from February 23rd to March 10th at all Rosa Mexicano locations, including their Boston outpost, located at 155 Seaport Boulevard.

With my wife, and a couple of other friends in tow, we made our way over to Rosa Mexicano on a brisk Sunday morning. Mind you, ‘brisk’ in mid-Februrary, especially by the water, equals 30 to 40 MPH wind gusts, but the various dishes we tried did an excellent job of warming us back up!

We started our brunch off with a glass of passionfruit aqua fresca, which lived up to its name and really was quite refreshing. The beverage winner for me, though, was the Chilled Horchata de Coco, a beverage made from coconut infused rice milk and cinnamon. The grown-up version, the Horchata Especial, was phenomenal with the addition of añejo tequila, coffee liquor, and espresso.

From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)
From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)

We had the opportunity to try four dishes from the Desayuno menu: Torrejas de Miel Rellenas, a stuffed french toast consisting of cinnamon-cascabel chile-crusted brioche filled with a mascarpone cheese, and caramelized plantains; Nopales con Huevo, a soft egg scramble with cactus paddle; Machacado con Huevo, a scrambled egg dish with dried shredded beef, jalapeños, tomato, and onion; and Mexico City Chilaquiles, a traditional dish served with a seared, house-glazed ham, scrambled eggs, and a smoky chile sauce. Everything was delicious, but the stand out to me (and my fellow diners) was the Mexico City Chilaquiles. Known as a pick-me-up, the dish brought a warming smokiness in the form of a creamy chile sauce. This dish alone would be sufficient enough reason to make a return trip to Rosa Mexicano! The other highlight was the stuffed french toast, declared by one of my table mates as possibly being “the best french toast I ever had”.

Mexico City Chilaquiles
Mexico City Chilaquiles – The highlight of the morning

During our meal, we spoke about how difficult it can be for restaurants that want to be authentic, and be true to the flavors they’re representing as part of their identity. That’s something the team at Rosa Mexicano are clearly aiming to do with their “Flavors of Mexico” series, having sent a team of chefs to various parts of Mexico to find the necessary inspiration. In my opinion, they did not disappoint. Having made a recent visit to Mexico, and dining at a few local spots in the area, I feel that Rosa Mexicano hit the mark, producing authentic Mexican.  I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to Rosa Mexicano to have another go at their Desayuna menu.

You can see the Rosa Mexicano Desayuno menu on their website, along with a full list of the “Flavors of Mexico” series events. As a point of full disclosure, the dishes served from the Desayuno menu were complimentary, but all opinions expressed herein are my own, and I stand by them. A special thanks to Carolyn Marrans, and Chef Perez!

Meatless Monday Recipes: Spinach Lasagna courtesy of inSHAPE

Lasagna is such a treat for a family meal. Creating this meat-free lasagna is pain free, and can be prepared on any work day. This tomato-free version includes a mixed blend of ricotta cheese, and whipped white beans with herbs. Along with spinach, it’s a total health meal! Just don’t eat it all in one sitting.

Spinach Lasagna
Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 6 lasagna sheets (boil free from Delverde pasta is our preference)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 6 cups fresh spinach or 3 cups frozen spinach
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup soft cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tso thyme
  • 1 egg
  • salt and papper to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and either spray a deep baking dish with non stick spray or lightly coat it with olive oil. Our Delverde lasagna noodles suggest a soak in warm water for a few moments before the preparation.

In a skillet over high heat, drizzle about 2 tbsp EVOO then saute garlic, celery, and onions for 4-6 minutes, until onions are almost clear. Set aside. Steam spinach if using fresh, drain and set aside. If using frozen, ensure that veggie is thawed and totally drained.

Whip beans, parsley in a mixing bowl, and once completely pummeled, add ricotta, herbs, egg, salt and pepper. Blend completely. Prep noodles as directed.

Spread sauteed onions and celery in the bottom of the pan, then set up a later of pasta, followed by a layer of spinach. Evenly dollop the cheese and bean mixture, then sprinkle mozzarella. Repeat two more times, ending with a heavier layer of mozzarella at the end. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered, or until cheese is bubbly. For some ovens, you might need to turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes.

Find out more about inSHAPE Fitness. Be sure to check them out at www.inshape-fitness.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Offal good: Checking in with Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto in San Francisco

“Offal, huh? Must taste like it sounds.” Ba-dum-dum.

It’s a sentiment I’ve heard more than once, and quite possibly one I myself expressed multiple times many years back. Heart. Tongue. Brain. Kidney. The “nasty bits”, many wouldn’t consider sniffing at. How can it possibly be any good? I can tell you from personal experience, though, that when these cuts are handled by the hands of a capable chef, they can be good. “Offal” good.

One such chef is Chris Cosentino, of Incanto in San Francisco. Having built a brand around offal, Cosentino is part of a movement of chefs that see the importance (and common sense) of utilizing every part of an animal. Waste not, want not! I had the opportunity to check in with Chef Cosentino, touching on where his love of food came from, the importance of passing on cooking knowledge, and writing his first cookbook.

Chris Cosentino
Chris Cosentino

Foodie Journal: Did you always love to cook?
Chris Cosentino: Yes, I grew up around great cooks.  My great grandmother, Rosalie Cosentino, was from Naples, Italy and my grandmother, Helen Easton, was an amazing English cook.  Some of my most cherished childhood moments are with both of them in the kitchen, making great food memories and learning from them.

FJ: Where did you end up getting your start in the business?
CC: My true beginning in the food business was at a ripe age of 15 as a dishwasher at IHOP.  It amazed me to watch the 2 cooks make so much food with such perfect timing and execution.  Ever since that first job I have craved knowledge of food and been passionate about cooking.

FJ: It seems like offal has really become much more common place in restaurants these days. Why did you decide to gravitate towards offal, and nose to tail cooking in general?
CC: When I started cooking offal 10 years ago it wasn’t very common.  Now, it is great to see it featured on so many menus in the country.

FJ: Do you have a favorite piece of offal that you enjoy working with?
CC: Each cut of offal is so unique that I couldn’t pick just one.  It would be like picking your favorite child.

FJ: I saw a web short from Breville where you’re out on the town with Chef Jamie Bissonnette in Boston, and you both touch on the importance of teaching others to cook. Can you just speak a little about why teaching others to cook really is so important?
CC: Sharing with peers is extremely important because technique and product sharing can help change the way people work to improve the quality of food.  If we don’t share our knowledge of cooking, we don’t see progression for the next generation.  Like the many great chefs who came before us, it is our responsibility to make sure each generation is growing and making the food world better for everyone.

FJ: In line with teaching people, you just published your first cookbook last year. What was the experience of getting that out there like? Ready to get started on your next one?
CC: It was a huge challenge.  I was always a poor student so writing a book was a big personal achievement.  I was always told that you should never write like you speak when I was in school and now everyone tells me to write so they can hear my voice!  I learned so much from this first experience and I can’t wait to make my next cookbook even better.

FJ: The final question for you: Do you have a specific food memory from your life that you’d like to share?
CC: I feel so fortunate to have so many great taste memories in my life.  At the age of 12 years old I ate a raw clam on the half shell alongside my grandfather, Thurston Easton, for the first time.  I had never had an uncooked clam so when he busted open the clam, drizzled on some lemon, and told me to chew it, it was a total game changer.  It was crunchy with a huge explosion of brininess but it was also so delicate.  I was immediately hooked and ate a dozen.  To this day, I will always love them and think of my grandfather.

Chris Cosentino is chef/partner at Incanto, located at 1550 Church Street, in San Francisco. He released his first cookbook, “Beginnings: My Way To Start a Meal” in 2012.