Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

September 30, 2010

Chicken Empanadas & Guacamole

This is Paula Deen's empanada recipe. I chose it for my class because it uses prepared refrigerated pie dough (easily purchased at most grocery stores). You can make your own pie dough (or various empanada doughs), and also make different fillings. This filling is pretty simple to prepare, and can be made ahead of time. Unbaked empanadas can be frozen and baked at a later date.

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken (see preparation below; make a day ahead, or at least 1 hour ahead)
8 ounces jalapeno jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts

Remove 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs from their package; rinse in cool water, and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Heat a large frying pan and add the chicken. Cook the first side on medium heat, until the chicken is brown on the bottom and starts to cook around the sides. Flip the chicken, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until the chicken feels firm at the thickest part (about 4-5 more minutes). Remove the chicken from the pan and allow to cool on a plate. If using the next day, store the cooled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed.

Preheat oven to 400'. Lightly grease a baking sheet (or line with foil).

In a large bowl, combine the chicken and next 7 ingredients. Unroll 1 pie crust onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter (or a glass). Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining pie crusts, making 12 to 15 circles total. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Lightly brush the edges of crust with water (if you don't have a brush, use your finger). Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month). Arrange empanadas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

If you have one, use a molcajete. Otherwise, use knives to chop the garlic & onion, and a fork to mash the avocado.

2 large avocados, peeled and seeded
2 cloves of garlic, mashed or finely chopped
3 tablespoons onion, finely diced
1/2 a lime
salt & pepper
cumin (about 1/4 teaspoon)
diced tomato (about 1/2 of a tomato)

Combine the avocado, garlic and onion in a bowl. Mash the avocado, but leave it somewhat chunky. Stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper, and cumin to taste. Top with diced tomato and serve. Refrigerate leftover guacamole in a tightly sealed container. A layer of plastic wrap pushed down onto the guac will help keep it from getting brown. Store up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Vegetarian Chili & Jalapeno Cornbread

This chili recipe is easily altered, depending on what you have around. Make more, make less (if you can), or change the types of beans and vegetables. The cornbread is a variation on a recipe I found on a cornmeal package. I prefer finely ground cornmeal for a really soft bread. The cheese helps make it moist and extra delicious.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 2/3 cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers (about 2 medium)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1 16-ounce can tomato sauce

Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Grated Monterey Jack cheese (or whatever you prefer)
Chopped green onions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. Mix in beans, 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, and tomato sauce. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle chili into bowls. Add toppings if you wish. Serve with cornbread (recipe below).

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cornmeal (fine grind, like Arrowhead Mills brand)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons honey or sugar
2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
2-4 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400’F.

Grease a 9x13" pan with oil or butter.

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.
Combine eggs, milk, oil/butter (melted), honey/sugar in a separate bowl. Beat well.
Combine all ingredients, until just moistened. Stir in the jalapenos and most of the cheese (leave a little aside to top the batter before baking).
Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.
Sprinkle remaining cheese over batter, and bake approximately 20 minutes, until edges are golden and center is set (springs back to the touch).
Cool bread in pan(s) at least 10 minutes before serving. Wrap leftover bread (once cool) in plastic and store at room temperature up to 3 days.

March 30, 2010

Lost in Chocolate Weekend

Chocolate in San Francisco may sound like old hat, but the double-dipped weekend of the International Chocolate Salon and Chocolate Cookie-Themed SF Food Wars proved to be anything but.

Reasons for attending a luxury chocolate trade show are as vast as the offerings to be found there. Vendors hope to increase product awareness, while event goers from seasoned food critics to wide-eyed children basically want to taste something yummy. Walking toward Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion I imagined a ride down the creamy river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, mug in hand, paddle cast aside.

Spotting celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and Orson Restaurant, made the day for at least one young pastry chef. Hilda Casey of Beaux Gateaux and Confections by Kay Dillon gasped as Falkner walked up to their table. “She is the sexiest chef out there.” Perhaps this sighting brought luck to the first-time event goers. Kay’s beautiful handmade chocolates won an award for Best Gift Set.

Amidst the sea of chocolate were several well known Bay Area companies. The popular, Kika’s Treats, of San Francisco, won prizes across the board. Bridge Brands, also of San Francisco, sponsored the next day’s SF Food Wars Chocolate Cookie Competition by donating 2 pounds of dark chocolate for each competitor to use in their entry.

Day 2: Of Course You Realize, This is Food Wars…

Having paced myself the day before, I was now ready to eat and judge 20 different chocolate cookies at SF Food Wars. Unlike the Chocolate Salon, where you can pick and choose your samples, a participant of SFFW must try all 20 samples to truly vote democratically.

Maybe it was the sugar. Maybe it was the house music pumping away in a dark club on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it was the stream of chocolate that tied it all together. But after sampling 20 chocolate sugar bombs within about 15 minutes in that environment, I was ready to jump ship. SFFW is a good time with a good cause (proceeds benefit the SF Food Bank), but I look forward to future events with more diverse themes, the next being brunch.

Eating food and writing about it is a tough job…
Wait, no it isn’t.

‘til next time…