Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicken Tamales Wrapped in Banana Leafs

Banana Leaf Tamales Ready to Steam

Chicken Tamale with Plenty of Avocado Salsa

My Daughter and I recently made a big batch of tamales for a friends dinner party which gave me the idea to do a few extra for myself, I decided to use banana leafs as a wrapper instead of the more traditional corn husks. The filling I chose was a slow braise of chicken legs, onions and a spicy red chili sauce, after a few hours the falling apart chicken was shredded and set aside. I made the masa dough and added freshly cut corn to boost the taste and give it a crunchy texture. At this point its just assembling and steaming the tamales for about an hour. One helpful hint when working with fresh or frozen banana leafs is that they can be a little stiff and can crack so hold them over a gas fire for a few seconds, this will soften them and make them easy to fold. I love avocados in everything so I made spicy cilantro spiked salsa with them for serving.
Note: Frozen Banana leafs can often be found in Latin or Asian markets

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weeknight Dinner with Only Five Ingredients

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast

The last thing anyone wants to do is spend a lot of time making dinner during the few short hours between coming home from work and going to bed. Fast and simple comes first but the food does not have to taste like it. I made a simple Prosciutto wrapped chicken breast served with oven roasted fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms and wilted spinach. It only took about 30-45 min from start to finish.

2 seven ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 thin slices prosciutto ham
1 handful fingerling potatoes, cut thin length wise
1 handful assorted small mushrooms
1 handful washed fresh spinach
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt/pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F and two small saute pans.
2. In one pan add a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
3. Wrap two slices of prosciutto completely around each breast.
4. Place in pan with the hot oil, after about one minute, flip chicken over and place pan in oven.
5. In the second pan add a splash of extra virgin olive oil, when hot and the potatoes and mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven.
6. After about 15 minutes remove potatoes from oven and add the spinach, toss till the spinach is wilted, then place a mound of the mixture on two preheated plates.
7. Remove chicken from oven and place a breast on top of each plate, pour any pan drippings over each chicken.


The Prosciutto is salty enough that the chicken should not need any additional seasoning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Event Industry Party

Heirloom Tomato Terrine "Greek Style"

Moroccan Chicken Roulade, Israeli Cous Cous, Saffron Chutney

I did a few small plates for a event in San Francisco this week. I chose two regions of the Mediterranean, from the northern shores a Greek inspired tomato salad made with fresh heirloom tomatoes, shaved feta cheese, marinated cucumber and olive tapenade. the second dish from the southern sea was a Moroccan spiced and marinated rolled chicken breast with a salad of Israeli cous cous and preserved lemon. I was happy with the food and the people at the event enjoyed it as well. Another day in the life of a cook.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Squid in the News and for Dinner

The big news story in Southern California right now are the giant Humboldt squid swimming off the coast of San Diego. Normally these large aggressive squid are found a lot further down on the coast of Mexico and deep in the Sea of Cortez. For what ever reason they are now here for awhile. With the squid on my mind, I knew I had to cook some this week, but the much smaller ones from the Monterey region. With a quick trip to my favorite San Francisco Asian market, I had everything I needed to prepare them. It only took a few minutes to clean the squid and prep the rest of the ingredients, then about an hour of a gentle simmer. Dinner is now ready with slices of bread for all the good juices.

1 pound fresh squid, cleaned
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 large Roma tomato, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup white wine (and one or two for yourself)
Pinch red chili flakes
Pinch saffron (optional)
Dash extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt/Pepper to taste


1. Saute the onion, garlic and tomato in olive oil for a few minutes.

2. Add the Squid and the rest of the ingredients.

3. Cover and simmer slowly for one hour.

4. Remove bay leaf and check seasoning.

Yield = 2-3 Serve with slices of crusty rustic bread

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wasabi, The Real Truth

Fresh Japanese Wasabi

Most everyone loves to eat sushi and that spicy nose clearing condiment known as wasabi that is made into a dipping sauce when mixed with soy sauce. The problem is that all these years we have been eating fake wasabi that is really just plain horseradish dyed green to look like the real thing, yes its true, just look at the ingredient list on the label. The real and rare wasabi is a green knobby horseradish type root grown mostly in Japan, Recently there has been a successfully grown crop from the cold and damp coastal region of Oregon. Since Wasabi is grown only in small quantities and is just is not enough to feed all the world sushi lovers, the fake stuff will still be dominet. The real wasabi is a lot milder and has less of the hot pungent flavor. In San Francisco there is a very well stocked Japanese market* where it is avaiable, Also at $100.00 a pound it is not a everyday condiment, but if you find yourself at a good sushi bar, ask for it. They will sometimes have some on hand for the customers in the know.

*Nijiya Japanese Market, 1737 Post Street, San Francisco, Ca 415.563.1901

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Squash

Stuffed Summer Pattypan Squash

Its the middle of Summer here in California and tomatoes, corn and squash are in full production, the farmers markets are filled with all the amazing summer vegetables. There are two categories, Summer and Winter. Summer squash are generally thin skinned with a high water content, ideal for quick cooking, another great thing about Summer squash is the flowers which are great stuffed and fried. I saw these nice green and yellow Pattypan Squash and had the idea of stuffing them like my mom did when I was a kid. Its really too hot today to eat these warm, so they are to be served drenched in extra virgin olive oil at room temperature with a quickly made tomato sauce.

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

5 medium patty pan squash
1 strip smoked bacon, fine diced (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup good quality bread crumbs
1 whole egg
1 T parsley, chopped
1 T onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the tops off of the squash and scoop out the center flesh of the squash with a melon baller.

2. In a bowl, mix the chopped squash pulp with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Stuff the squash with the mixture, preheat oven to 400F.

4. Place squash in pan and drizzle olive oil over, roast for 8-10 minutes till golden.

Note: Serve plain or with tomato sauce.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Twist on the 4th of July

Chicken Tamale with Corn Salsa and Queso Fresco

Grilled Corn & Cherry Tomato Salsa

Spicy Guacamole

When you think of an American holiday, maybe hot dogs and apple pie come to mind, but its always a little different at my house. Today Tamales are on the menu, this was inspired after discovering and shopping at a well stocked Mexican supermarket in the area. I started with chicken thighs that were slowly braised in a red chili sauce until the meat fell off the bone, next I made a green tomatillo salsa, grilled corn and cherry tomato salsa and a spicy guacamole. I also bought a slice of Mexican Queso Fresco which I crumbled, it is almost like Feta cheese but less salty. The most important component to make is Masa, which is the same dough used in making corn tortillas, it can be found sometimes already made or a "just add water" powder. Now with all the component's done it was easy to assemble the tamales. A spoonful of soft masa dough is placed in the center of a water softened corn husk, a spoon of shredded chicken is placed on top then its folded like a small square package, next into a steamer for about an hour and its dinner time dinner time. I also made a vegetarian version using black beans and grilled corn. Dinner was good and now its time for the fireworks.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Provencal Fish Stew

I had all the ingredients to make a fish soup, so that's all the inspiration I needed. I used Sea bass, fennel, onion, tomato, saffron, garlic and black olives. I would have liked to use mussels and maybe a grilled bread slice to go with it.

8 oz. Sea bass, diced
1 Fennel Bulb , diced
1/2 Onion, diced
3 clove Garlic, chopped fine
1 Roma Tomato, diced
2 Cups Water or Fish Stock
Kosher Salt/ Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Parsley, Chopped
Black Olive paste as desired
1 Pinch Saffron

1. Saute all vegetables in extra virgin olive olive oil.
2. Add diced fish, saffron and broth, bring to simmer and cook till fish is done.
3. Ladle into preheated bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and olive paste.

Yield = 4

Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli

I made a simple fresh ravioli tonight using a herb pasta dough and a filling of garlic sauteed spinach with ricotta cheese. I added fresh chopped parsley to the pasta dough while mixing which gave it bright green flecks of herbs on the thinly rolled out sheets, next small tablespoons mounds of the spinach-ricotta filling were placed along the sheets of dough every few inches, then the dough was folded over and sealed, pushing out any air bubbles. The next step is to cut out the ravioli and either cook them right away or freeze for another time. The best thing about using fresh pasta is that they cook very fast and you will not have to wait too long before eating them. I served them with a simple sauce of ripe cherry tomatoes, herbs, black olives, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.