Summer chili; a fast, delicious one-pot meal!

Just a quick entry for a quick dinner! In this season of delicious bounty, a summer chili featuring ground turkey, fire roasted tomatoes and fresh corn. It cooks up quickly and got a great review from the family, even the 10 year old who doesn’t like chili! This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from my fellow personal chef Coco Jacobs in San Francisco. Give it at try and enjoy!

Summer Chili with Turkey, Black Beans and Corn

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 pound ground turkey breast
One 4-ounce can green chili peppers — drained and chopped
One 15½-ounce can black beans — drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
Freshly ground pepper
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup corn kernels — from 2-3 ears of corn
2-4 Tablespoons masa corn flour (optional)-available with Hispanic foods
Garnishes: shredded jack or cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips

In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and Poblano pepper and cook until it is soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the cooked onion to a plate and set aside. Return the pot to the stove.
In the same pot over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the ground turkey and cook, using a spatula to break up the meat until it loses its raw look, 8 to 10 minutes. If the pan seems dry, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Add the cooked onion and pepper, chopped chili peppers, black beans, chopped tomatoes, corn kernels, seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine well, and then the chicken broth. After the chili starts bubbling, reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, 20 to 25 minutes. Thicken with masa if desired by sprinkling it on a tablespoon at a time and stirring it in.

Garnish with shredded cheese, sliced green onions and sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips if desired. DSC00684


The CIA; a cooks’s tour of the campus.

As I am sorting pictures and thinking about the weekend, one of the first things that struck me was the sheer thrill of being at the legendary Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. As a personal chef, I have been largely self taught, and coming late to my business in cooking, I missed the boat on attending a real program like the ones here. (Maybe after my kids are gone I’ll accomplish that dream!) And like many, I love to watch good cooking shows (those are few and far between these days), and to watch a chef in action is akin to my husband watching a great quarterback in the Superbowl. My friend and fellow personal chef, JoEllen Hockenbrough from Newport, RI, decided that a trip to the CIA for a real food lover is like a sports nut visiting the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH or the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. By the way, I have been to both of these places but neither was as exciting as my visit to the CIA!

This place is like “hallowed ground” in more ways than one. The campus used to be a Jesuit seminary purchased in 1970 by the school to expand their programs. It is a gorgeous place with incredible gardens and views of the Hudson River. These students are so lucky to be learning in such a beautiful place!

Roth Hall

Roth Hall

This is the main hall, Roth hall. It houses bakeries, classrooms, kitchens, the Craig Claiborne Gift Shop (can you believe I never got in there?!?!), the famed Escoffier restaurant and a banquet facility that is in what was once the church for the priests. We ate lunch there both days and it was a really beautiful setting. Interesting to see so much of the original church, including stained glass windows of our Lord and different saints looking down at us while we ate. With the vaulted ceilings and the beautiful old architecture it was an impressive experience (I’ll talk about the incredible food later!)

Inside Roth Hall.  The banquet hall in side the old church.

Inside Roth Hall. The banquet hall in side the old church.

cupola Next door to Roth hall in Shunsuke Takaki School of Baking and Pastry was Chef Richard Coppedge’s bakery that was cleaned and prepped to be a safe gluten-free kitchen for his students to bake and prep in all weekend. Seeing all the student busy like bees in the bakeries and restaurants over the weekend was really fun. These kids (and a few older students too!) are committed to learning and creating the best food possible. Everything was picture perfect and no detail was left unnoticed. Very inspiring! bakery 1bakery
Just down the walkway was the Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine, home of the Ristorante Caterina De’ Medici. Beautiful garden out front and there were tents and events happening here both days. colaviita
Wouldn’t you love to have a party there? It’s beautiful!!
And this is the Conrad Hilton Library which is where I spent most of my time at the CIA inside the Danny Kaye Theater Kitchen where the presenters cooked and taught all weekend. library
The Danny Kaye Theater

The Danny Kaye Theater

This is just a quick tour of the beautiful campus where I spent the weekend. It was an incredible place that set the stage for the incredible meals we ate, the incredible chefs I met and worked with and the incredible amount of information I learned about gluten-free baking and cooking for my family and clients. If you’d like to see more of the CIA’s Hyde Park Campus, please visit their website to take their virtual tour!

My Culinary Adventures at the CIA! The Gala Dinner

Many of my friends an family know that I was invited to be an assistant chef this weekend at the Fourth Annual Gluten Free Summit. It was exciting on so many levels to be included in this event and I must thank my friend and fellow chef, Marcy Kaminski for recommending me to the organizer Mrs. Suzanne Bowland.
I have been quite busy helping to execute behind the scenes of this well oiled production, and it has been a great venue for me to learn more about gluten free cooking and baking, and to taste some really incredible food.
I have so many pictures and so many thoughts about the CIA, about the talented young chefs that I am watching, about the incredible food that we have been tasting, about the chefs and presenters who are experimenting and combining flours to make great mixes that make baked goods just plain delicious, that it is overwhelming to think where to begin to blog….
BUT, having just returned from one of the most delicious and elegant dinners I have had in a long time, I thought I’d begin there! Pictures included…warning please do not drool on your screens people. It’ll be hard, but not good for the hardware!

First let me say that the CIA campus here in Hyde Park is truly beautiful, and they have four restaurants and the Apple Pie Bakery that are open to the public. These are top notch restaurants run by the school and serviced by the young chefs in training. Today’s dinner was wonderful to watch as the waitstaff attended to our every need, poured wine for every course, timed the serving of each plate to each guest at the table in complete synchronicity. These young people are learning every aspect of working in a restaurant, no detail is too small. It is quite impressive. I have every intention of bringing my husband back here for a getaway!
Now…on to dinner!
This menu (and the menus for our lunches) were planned and executed entirely by the student chefs at the CIA. Because this is the Gluten Free Summit, the menus were of course completely gluten free. They were very thoughtful in their selections and their final results were, for the most part, wonderful. Dinner tonight was spectacular!
We began by a trio of Amuse Buche which included a Lardo Fritter ( a fritter topped with a very thin slice of pork fat) dusted with sugar and cayenne, a Chilled Pea and Mint Soup Shooter with Sweet Chili Juice and Mint Foam, and a Grilled Fig with Hand-Made Mozzarella with Rhubarb Preserve and Lemon Powder .

A trio of Amuse Buche

A trio of Amuse Buche

I didn’t care for the fritter as it was a bit heavy and the chefs used a bean flour that left an aftertaste that I didn’t care for. The soup shooter was refreshing and tasty, it had some nice heat from the cayenne in the chili juice. I could have done without the mint foam on the top. On a plate it can be interesting, in a shooter, it was just a bit odd for me, too light for the texture of the vegetable puree coming through when you drank it. The fig was tiny, and by far my favorite thing on the plate. It was sweet and juicy and the cheese was creamy and delicious. The rhubarb preserve was tart and jammy, a great contrast to the sweetness of the fig. There was a gentleman at the next table who didn’t eat his fig (gasp!) and I really had to restrain myself from asking to finish his!
With this course, we were served a crisp, dry Prosecco (Bortolomiol, “Prior” Brut, Italy, NV). A wonderful pairing!

As the chefs were in the kitchen plating the salad course, we had a bit of excitement when the fire alarm went off. We had to leave the restaurant and wait while the firetrucks came. The poor chefs were frustrated, particularly as nothing had burned, there was no smoke, no heat, nothing! DSC00581DSC00584DSC00586
After about 10 minutes, the firefighters confirmed that there was no fire, we were allowed to return to our dinner and begin our salad course.
Salad was a Preserved Lemon Caesar Salad with Boston Lettuce Wedge, Silver Anchovy and Garlic Crostini. DSC00590 The Caesar Dressing was light and flavorful and the wedge of butter lettuce was crisp and cool. The plate was adorned with a smudge of roasted garlic, silver slivers of anchovy, and tart preserved lemons. The Gluten Free croutons were a bit soft instead of crunchy, and I thought the anchovies could have been slivered even thinner, but it was a lovely interpretation of the classic.
The soup course was a Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Fried Oysters.

Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Gluten Free Fried Oysters!

Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Gluten Free Fried Oysters!

The garlic infused broth with the thyme was delicious, though I didn’t care for the shaved garlic in the bottom of the bowl which I just left behind. The oysters were deliciously crispy and tender, and perfect to dip in the garlicky broth. It was wonderful, gluten free or not! The wine served with our soup was a dry, fruity Chablis (Chablis Premier Cru, Domaine Laroche, France 2006). Perfect!
The next course was a Roasted Quail that was stuffed with Quinoa, Fennel Sausage, served with Corn-Milk Succotash and Sage Demi Glace. The quail was nicely crisped and very moist and the stuffing was really savory, flavorful and had great texture that included small diced fresh water chestnuts which are sweet and crispy, very unlike their canned counterparts! The sausage was very spicy and made the stuffing really memorable. The plate on the whole was really perfect. It was a great, if not a bit creepy due to the tiny-ness of the bird! LOL
My quail, no bigger than a baseball!

My quail, no bigger than a baseball!

Under the bird was a fresh succotash, no lima beans thankfully because I HATE lima beans, but diced summer squash and zucchini, cherry tomatoes and a creamy corn sauce mixed in. It was very tasty and a nice departure from the typicaly succotash! Our wine with the entree was a full bodied Tempranillo (Tempranillo, Coronas, Catalunya, Spain 2005). It was the first time I’d had a Tempranillo and it was very oaky and dry which went nicely with the richness of the bird.
And finally a sweet ending. The pastry chefs asked some fellow students who have Celiac disease what they missed most while living the gluten free lifestyle and then thoughtfully recreated their long lost favorite desserts.
Sweet Treats!

Sweet Treats!

From left to right were: a frozen Peanut Butter Truffle, “Doughnuts and Coffee Rhythm Change,” and Apple Pie Improv. The truffle was frozen and very hard to break into at first, but once it was broken into, the filling was smooth and creamy and the chocolate was dark and luscious. It was a treat! In the deconstructed apple pie the apple “balls” were roasted and soft, and the apple sauce was cooked until it was thick like apple butter, but much more delicately spiced and the cream mellowed the spice nicely. The crumbles of crust were not my favorite as they were hard and difficult to chew, not crispy and flaky. It was a good attempt that fell a bit short. The doughnut dish was really inventive and tasty! In the demitasse cup was a warm cinnamon flavored cream, similar to the spice of a fried cake donut with cinnamon and sugar. The “doughnut” was more like a small cake as it wasn’t fried, but it was flavored with espresso to be the coffee inspiration for the dish. Dunking the little coffee doughnut into the “doughnut cream” was creative and really tasty! The dessert course was accompanied by a sparkling rose dessert wine (Brachetto D’Acqui, Rosa Regale, Piedmonte, Italy 2007) which was deliciously sweet and bright, but unfortunately not finished because if you can believe it or not we had another FIRE ALARM! Who would have thought our beautiful dinner would be interrupted twice? But everyone took it in good humor and evacuated again. Many folks were smart enough to take their give aways from Pamela’s or Bob’s Red Mill with them and leave at that time. My fellow personal chef compadre, JoEllen Hockenbrough, decided we could leave too, but ran back into the building to grab our menus for our memorable meal. One of the young chefs (the beverage coordinator it turns out) chased us in as we entered to tell us we had to leave, and was flattered that we had risked life and limb to retrieve our menus!
It was a memorable end to a memorable evening!

My new favorite pastry recipe!

Last week I made an apple pie and posted on Facebook about the new pastry recipe I used from America’s Test Kitchen that uses vodka. After many questions and funny comments (my cousin Jen was loving the idea of vodka ala mode) I decided to use the new recipe again and share my thoughts here.

I love America’s Test Kitchen (and Cook’s Illustrated magazine from ATK as well). They work a recipe from all angles testing theories, using science and making “the best” version of a given recipe. I like the recipes because they are written for the home cook and the results can be replicated fairly easily…well most of the time.

Let me start by saying that making pie is not my favorite thing to do. It’s fussy, messy and sometimes aggravating when your pastry doesn’t cooperate or the filling doesn’t set properly. Practice makes perfect as we all know, and I have been making pies for over 20 years. I am no slouch in the pastry department, but still in all, I’d rather create a cake or a batch of cookies than a pie….and yet…..there is nothing quite like a great pie is there?

Fruit pies are the way to serve summer on a plate. The pure essence of a fruit cooked down to jammy perfection inside a flaky, buttery crust, there is just nothing like it! So while pie making isn’t my favorite hobby, it is something I do often enough because I LOVE pie!

My traditional pie crust from Betty Crocker is Crisco, flour, salt, sugar and water. I usually mix butter and Crisco to get the buttery flavor, make sure everything is cold… yada yada…. I have cut pastry using a pastry blender, using my fingers and using my Cuisinart.

I remember seeing Jacques Pepin demonstrating a rustic tart on his show one time and there were large chunks of butter in his dough which he said was desirable. I’ve tried that too with limited success.

What I want you to understand is that in 20 + years, I have made many different pie crust recipes with differing success and then last week I was watching America’s Test Kitchen and had an epiphany about pastry dough! Vodka!

The recipe has several steps that are different than the typical crust, but each step really adds to the ease of rolling the crust and to the flaky results in the end.

The first step is to combine most of the dry ingredients in the food processor, add chilled butter and Crisco and really cut the fat into the flour until it seems almost over-processed. DSC00484 and then sprinkle over the final cup of flour and pulse it a few times to get the familiar crumbly texture.DSC00486 and then for the liquid you add 1/4 cup of chilled water and 1/4 cup of chilled Vodka.
Why vodka you ask? Well so did I and here is the explanation from the America’s Test Kitchen website:
“We’ve recently found a secret ingredient for foolproof pie dough: vodka. How can high-test alcohol make pie dough flaky? Eighty-proof vodka consists of 60 percent water and 40 percent ethanol. While gluten forms readily in water, it does not form in ethanol. Thus, the recipe for foolproof pie dough, which contains 4 tablespoons each of cold water and vodka, gets the benefits of 8 tablespoons of liquid (supple, easy-to-roll dough) but actually has the equivalent of about 6 1/2 tablespoons of water—an amount that limits gluten formation and ensures tenderness. As for the alcohol? It vaporizes in the oven.”
Make sense?

When it’s time to roll this dough, it’s almost like a short crust, or cookie doughish. DSC00490 You need to use copious flour to roll it out, and I like to flip it after it’s been rolled a bit to ensure it doesn’t stick, but it is a breeze to roll out. (I like my silicone rolling mat from Pampered Chef, but if you roll on your counter, have at it… just use enough flour!) DSC00492DSC00496 The dough is a bit tender so when you put it in the pie pan, make sure you “drape” it in by lifting the edges and allowing it to settle into the pan vs. trying to push down in the bottom of the pan to make it fit which will inevitably tear the dough!
Then just fill and top with another crust. This was the only thing I found a bit challenging as the crusts didn’t want to pinch together. A bit of water on the edge made it easier.

ATK recommends using a lattice crust for juicy fruit pies to encourage evaporation of liquid and proper thickening, but I used a small cookie cutter instead. Worked just fine. I put the top crust on, then used the cookie cutter to pop out the shapes. DSC00504

Another trick that I really like from ATK is to preheat the oven to 500º, yes 500º folks, with a cookie sheet on the bottom rack in the oven getting screaming hot. Put the pie on said cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes and then turn down the temp. to finish the baking. The bottom crusts on my pies have been so crisp and they hold up even the next day (if there is any left over!).

And here, my friends is the PERFECT crust on my cherry pie. DSC00509Note the flaky crust and the beautiful filling! The blueberry one…well it was one of those frustrating fillings that ended up a bit soupy.. tasty, but not picture perfect (even after following ATK recipe that included a grated apple and precooking some of the berries) ..oh well, must need to practice more! Let’s see…apple pie season is here, and then there is pumpkin….

Here is the recipe for “Foolproof Pie Crust” from ATK website:

Foolproof Pie Dough
from the Episode: The Best Blueberry Pie

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

For one 9-inch Double-Crust Pie
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Here is the link to America’s Test Kitchens website. Some of their recipes are for members only and there is a nominal charge for a year membership, but this recipe is free, you just need to set up an account and sign in.

Canning, pickling and preserving!

I remember being a kid and having to help my mom with canning every summer and fall. Peaches, pears, beans, corn, sometimes pickles, and tomatoes..oh the tomatoes! We’d be hot and sweaty (no central air in those days!) and standing for hours peeling and slicing, boiling and filling, processing and cleaning up! It seemed like it went on for days and days, but I appreciated the reward of the effort, especially in the winter, or when mom made sauce with those tomatoes.

When I got married, I still did tomatoes and occasionally pickles, but once the kids were born I gave it up due to lack of time, energy and sleep! I even gave away loads of canning jars because I was just so done with canning my own stuff! Sure I did strawberry jam each summer, but that was it. No more. Then last year it happened, I saw peaches at the public market and knew I had to save some to eat in January, and then tomatoes and peppers became salsa and before you knew it, I was back into canning and preserving my own food.

Part of the joy of canning and preserving is knowing that you have the best and freshest ingredients, picked hours before you buy it at the public market or farmer’s market. Part of the joy, if you are a recipe junkie like me, is finding recipes to try. Part of the joy is seeing all the beautiful colors in the jars, like jewels in the pantry just waiting for you. And of course, part of the joy is having a taste of summer in the dregs of our long Rochester winters.

Earlier this summer I made strawberry jam. (I always have to hide a half dozen jars as my son would eat it with a spoon!) I also made raspberry jam and a new strawberry/balsamic jam that I monkeyed with by adding some cayenne to (it’s great with goat cheese!). This week began the canning in earnest!

A trip to the Rochester Public Market on Tuesday yielded some beautiful pickling cucumbers. My kids and husband like dill sandwich slices so that is what I started with on Thursday. These were 1-day pickles, brined, rinsed, packed and soaking in pickling juice. DSC00479
Friday found me elbow deep in tomatoes! I don’t can tomatoes for sauce anymore because I can find delicious organic Muir Glen tomatoes for sauces and stews and it’s a lot less work, BUT when I can get fresh Poblano peppers and Vidalia onions, I love to make salsa. I did it for the first time last year and the kids loved when I made cheese quesedillas for lunch and sent in a cup of homemade salsa. It was a quick and easy lunch and the salsa is so much better than anything you can buy in the store. I make it very mild and then add jalepenos when I open a jar for my husband and his friends. DSC00480
Today brought another trip to the market (Can I say I love to go to the Rochester Public Market on Saturday! So many things to see and buy!) and today’s trip scored me peaches, more pickling cukes, blueberries and apples. The cukes are going to wait until Monday to make delicious icicle pickles that an old neighbor shared the recipe for. I haven’t made them in years but they are sweet and crisp and yummy, it’s a taste memory that is making me crave them! They need to soak in salted water for a week and I will be away next weekend so the first change of the brine will be on Monday when I get home. But the peaches were my project for today!
Peaches are one of my least favorite things to can but one of my favorite things to have in the pantry. The whole soaking to peel the skin, the slicing and syrup making to fill the jars. It’s a lot of steps and mess, and I only got 5 quart jars out of a half a bushel of peaches. BUT they are so delicious, much better than any canned product you can buy, so they will be a real treat this winter. DSC00481
It’s been a busy week but very rewarding to see my jeweled jars filling up my counter before being moved to the pantry. (I like to look at them for a few days to enjoy the fruits of my labor… no pun intended.)
It’s been a busy week! DSC00477

And I’m not done yet…. more peaches on Tuesday…. I just found a recipe for peach and habenero pepper jelly! And of course the icicle pickles, and if I can find figs, maybe some fig jam or fig pickles like my friend Tami made..check our her blog!