Friday, December 11, 2009

Julia's Cookie Swap 2009

I know the holiday vacation is just around the corner when I find myself in front of Julia's fireplace, laughing with my female colleagues at the annual "Ladies' Auxiliary" Cookie Swap.

Julia, who's been a guest blogger here, is a super woman. She's a top producer at work. Her kids are smart and nice. She manages to cook for her family every night. And she's kind enough to invite her co-workers over every year to share some good cheer at her lovely 18th century home.

She sends out an invitation with this type of picture to get us in the mood to put our aprons on:

Can you tell Julia teaches anthropology and about the cultures of LONG AGO?

Despite the lack of lipstick and perfect hair, we come from work with our cookies in boxes, Ziplock bags, aluminum containers, and trays. Some of us have our kids in tow. Others bring appetizers, like Ruth's mexi-dip (my favorite!) or Kelly's baked brie, to join the spiral ham and lentil-chestnut dip at Julia's dining room table.

While we gather in the living or dining room, the cookies hang out in the kitchen, a merry crew of balls, filled tarts, sharply cut shapes and gentle mounds. Studded with nuts or candies, flavored with chocolate or rum, the cookies are as diverse as the cooks who made them.

What a lovely tray of cookies we all can bring home, along with fond memories of our annual get togethers at Chez Julia's.

Cookie Swap 2009

Below are the cookies that my friends brought to the swap. I'll be posting the recipes over the next few days. Enjoy!

Ninette's Chocolate Almond Toffee Bark

Sheena's Scottish Shortbread

Elizabeth's Granny's Sugar Cookies

Kate's Ginger Cookies

Elaine's Buckeye Balls

Elaine's Cookies

Nancy's Fudge

Ruth's Florentine Cookies

Kelly's Pignoli Cookies

Julia's Christmas Raviolis (with Andes Thin Mints)

Tish's Peanut Butter Blossoms

Desiree's Pecan Tarts

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Go Hot or Go Home Beef Chili

Serendipity. This is what happened when Corey, a new faculty member, happened to mention his past experience starting a BBQ club at school, to Mike, a hardcore Q-er. Mike mentioned it to me, and we hatched the idea of doing a smaller test of the idea at school -- a chili cook off at Homecoming.

I talked to a few other fellow foodies, including Kate, whose Amish friendship bread gets a lot of hits on this site, and Julia who's been featured here several times. Before you knew it, we had a full-fledged cook off planned, including a logo, nicknames, and a lot of smack talk among the six contenders.

The good lookin' chili crew with aprons made with a logo designed by Julia, who has been a guest blogger here. Check out her post on galley cooking. Photo credit: Jeorge Yankura.

For my first cook off, I decided to use my new, favorite toy.

Can you guess?

The Big. Green. Egg.

The Big Green Egg
By cooking my regular multi-chile chili in the Big Green Egg, I added the flavor of mesquite smoke and the memory of many a campfire over which the old cowboys cooked their chili.

I won ... by a mere two votes, and the chilis were all within five votes of each other. Second place went to Corey, who created an intriguing sausage veggie chili with a little maple syrup to act as a counterpoint to the heat of chili powder.

All the chilis were excellent. Kate used TVP to make a vegetarian chili, so that most people didn't know it was meatless. Julia used Mexican cinnamon as her secret ingredient. Desiree created the best texture I've ever noted in chili by browning her meat cubes in flour, like beef stew. Mike, whose cooking mind works very similarly to my own, softened dried chili pods in hot water and then pureed them. He also made use of chilis from Penzey's Spices, of which I'm a big fan.

I like a chili that is deep and flavorful, with layered flavor components. It's taken me years to get my chili where it is now, and I'm sure it will keep evolving. That said, there are certain constants for me in chili:

1) Beef. Maybe I'll get to making other meat chilis, but beef is it for me. Sometimes I cube it. Sometimes I use ground beef. It depends how lazy I'm feeling. Cubed is more authentic but ground beef is definitely more convenient. My friend, Andy Pforzheimer who owns the Barcelona chain (this is a must-try restaurant if you haven't been there), has a friend who uses short ribs as his chili meat.

2) Smoky, deep, rich undertones. I use bacon, Guinness beer, beef broth, coffee, and semisweet chocolate to complement the dried chilis. Sometimes, I don't use all of these, depending on what I have in the pantry, but I believe these ingredients are why people ask for my chili recipe. If this were music, this chili is definitely in the bass section, no question.

3) Tomatoes and acidic components. If I use ingredients to bring out the smoky flavors of the chili, I firmly believe in the importance of the acidic to provide contrast. I know traditionalists don't use tomatoes, but I do, both diced and crushed, and depending on how the chili is going, I've been known to add Ortega's diced green chilies, Frank's red hot sauce, salsa, Trader Joe's salsa verde or even ketchup to brighten up the chili. Acid is what makes chili 3-dimensional and sassy.

4) A combination of fresh and dried chili peppers and spices. I'm still learning about chili peppers, so this is where it gets fun. I like a medium-spicy chili that has a slow, mellow heat and have been experimenting with different peppers to obtain that.

Before I talk about what I'm doing, I want to say that I believe you can make a perfectly decent chili with the 2-Alarm Chili packets or other packets they sell in the grocery store, if you add the bacon, Guinness beer and chocolate. However, I like to use a combination of dried and fresh chili peppers in my chili. If I use chili powder, I like to know that it's as fresh as it can be, which is why I buy Penzey's spices in small lots.

In this chili, my foundation is Penzey's regular chili powder, cumin, and oregano. To that, I add diced fresh chilis like poblano, jalapeno, and serrano peppers, which I saute with the onions and garlic. Fresh chilis add a fresh, grassy flavor to the chili, and they are also a little acidic.

I also like to add some chipotle in adobo. These are definitely smoky and rich, and a little goes a long way.

After that, I pick from a growing collection of dried chili peppers in my cabinet -- arbol (spicy, acidic), New Mexico (earthy), guajillo (fruity, piney), cascabel (nutty, tannic) -- and depending on what I'm doing, I'll either soak them in hot water or coffee, puree them, and add them to the chili, or I'll let them cook in the chili whole and pull them out. I always remove the seeds first, for both fresh and dried peppers, so that the chili is not too spicy for my family.

There are so many peppers that it's interesting to try them out and see what happens. I found a list of dried chili pepper descriptions at the Cook's Thesaurus if you want to get an idea of what's out there.

5) No beans. My husband doesn't eat carbs, so there are no beans in my chili. But if I did put beans, they'd be black beans or red pinto beans. I don't like kidney beans.

6) Thickener. I've never used flour, or the more traditional thickener of masa, in my chili, but after having Desiree's chili, I may have to change my mind. Using a starch to thicken the chili liquid creates a smooth, silky texture, and yet another taste sensation. If you can't find masa, I'm sure that taking two corn tortillas, soaking or simmering them in some chili liquor to soften, blending it in a blender, and then adding it back (some or all of it depending on how thick you want the chili), would do the job.

7) Season with salt at each stage and fry the spices.

Those are my thoughts on making a great chili. I should add my chili is never the same. I wrote down what I did today, which is the recipe below, but depending on my mood and what I have in my kitchen, my chili is always different. That said, it must be layered and flavorful, smoky and tangy, rich and memorable.

Chili with cubed beef instead of ground beef and with the addition of softened and pureed corn tortillas to thicken it up and get a silky texture.

Go Hot or Go Home Beef Chili
2 ½-3 lbs. ground beef or beef chuck hand cut into small 3/8"-1/2" chunks
7 slices of bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 medium onions or 1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves minced
2 tbs. cumin
1 tbs. oregano
4 tbs. chili powder (ideally one like Penzey’s which is ancho chile and new Mexican chile or you can grind your own in a coffee grinder)
Green chiles in small can (e.g, Ortega brand)
1/2 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (or more if you dare; you can freeze the rest of the can in spoonful-sized portions for future use)
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 poblano chilis, seeded and diced
1-2 serrano chili, seeded and diced
1 dried cascabel chilis (seeded) (optional)
1 dried guajillo pepper (optional)
1 cup coffee (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (put 1/2 a can first and see if it's enough)
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes (preferably Rotel)
1 11.2 fl. oz. bottle of Guinness beer
1 tsp beef concentrate or 1 cup beef broth
1 block of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (Baker’s chocolate comes in blocks)
1 can of kidney, red pinto, or black beans (optional)
1 corn tortilla (optional)

Before you start to cook, combine onions, poblano, jalapeno and serrano together. Also, mix the chili powder, cumin, and oregano together in a bowl. Puree the chipotle in adobo with a little water.

Render bacon until crisp in dutch oven; set bacon aside.

Brown meat cubes in bacon fat in batches, setting aside when browned. Salt and pepper meat to season. If using ground beef, brown meat in bacon fat and then drain. Salt and pepper to season. Set aside.

Add some vegetable oil to the dutch oven, and when hot, add onions, poblanos, jalapeno, and serrano peppers and cook until translucent(5 minutes); add garlic for a minute, being careful not to burn it.

Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano mixture to onions and fry for a couple minutes to release flavors.

Add beef to onions and spices. Mix together and cook for a few minutes.

Add the Guiness beer and pureed chipotle in adobo and bring to a simmer. Let cook for five minutes.

Add tomatoes, and beef concentrate or broth. If you have a cascabel chile, add it; if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Stir everything together.

Bring to a simmer and cook for one hour.

While the chili is simmering, simmer the guajillos in hot water or coffee to cover. When the guajillos are soft, puree in blender.

After one hour, add the piece of chocolate. Add guajillo mixture to taste (you want to taste; if your chili is too spicy for you already, then you don't want to add that much). Simmer another hour or until meat is softened. If you’re adding beans, add them 15 minutes before you finish cooking. Pull out cascabel chili before serving.

Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you feel it needs something to brighten it up, you can add a couple tablespoons of salsa and/or a squirt of ketchup. Serve alone, or with rice, nacho chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hot on the Hilltop 2009


First Annual Chili Cook Off

It's the first Hot on the Hilltop Homecoming Chili Cook Off, featuring six of our own faculty and staff!

The one crowned “Cast Iron Chef” will win the love and adoration of the Homecoming crowd and a gift to be given to the department of his or her choice.

Ninette “Go Hot or Go Home” Enrique
Ninette don’t play when it comes to chili. Sassy and hot-headed just like the cook, her 7-chile chili will tickle your tastebuds and blow your mind. (In to Win for MUSIC)

Julia “Red Hot” Gabriele
Despite her deep New England roots, Julia’s “Cowboy Cred” chili indicates her trail roots from a former life. She thinks chili should be like life: on the spicy side, enjoyed among friends, and best served outdoors on a brisk autumn day. (In to Win for the SENTINEL)

Corey “Hot Stuff” Gamill
While the youngest of the chili cook off’s contenders, Corey is the most veteran of cook off contributors, having already survived three contests. His chili is inspired by his love for Texas and all things Texan. Hook 'em Horns! (In to Win for MATH)

Mike “Mad Scientist” Mitchell
As our resident scientist, Mike is a master mixer of chili compounds as his special formula will leave you clamoring for more. His scientific methods combine vegetable, animal, and mineral - slow cooked to perfection. If you know beans about chili, you know Mike's chili has no beans! (In to Win for SCIENCE)

Kate "Fresh and Hot" Parker-Burgard
Kate offers the healthiest chili around. Vegetarian-friendly and highlighted with vegetables grown in her summer garden, this chili is filled with many different bold flavors all coming together into one delicious dish. (In to Win for COMMUNITY SERVICE)

Desiree “Maui Spice” Smock
If you think of pineapples and coconuts when you think of Hawaii, forget it! Hawaii native Desiree will bring you a taste of paradise in her Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy) chili. (In to Win for ART)

Who will be SLS’ FIRST CAST IRON CHEF? It's up to you!
Participate in the chili cook off blind tastings at the Hot on the Hilltop chili stand next to the upper entrance of the Athletic Center! Only $5 per tasting of 6 chilis.

The winner will be announced at halftime of the football game.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chocolate Chip Scones Para Mis Amigas Queridas

My friend and colleague Claudia Alvarez invited me, my kids, and a few of the ladies from the World Language Department, for a tea party at her new house, which is on the water.

Mirna Goldberger, who is also coming, said "Ninette will bring scones!"

She was kidding, but then again, she doesn't know whom she's dealing with.

Or, to the contrary, she knows exactly whom she's dealing with.

I've never made scones. The first time I ever heard of or had scones was many years ago at the parents' house of my friend James McGill. He and his wife were married at the house, and the next morning, they had a lovely buffet spread which included scones, clotted cream, and jams. I never forgot my first bite of those tender, buttery scones.

At James' wedding where I first had scones. Can you tell how long ago this was? Look at my shoulder pads! LOL. Answer: it was 1993.

Since then, I've had an assortment of things parading under the name of scones that were HORRIBLE. Flavorless, dry, and hard as a rock. Ew.

With some trepidation, I went about making this test batch of scones. Would these be a home run or a cratering disappointment?

These scones definitely took first place as the best I've ever had.

Gracias, Mirna!


1) The inspiration for this recipe came from Thibealt's Table.

2) In different recipes I looked at, the butter could be as much as 2 sticks of butter. I liked this recipe as it only used 6 tbs., which did the job.

3) Cold butter is key, because when those little pearls of butter melt in the oven, the steam they generate results in lovely pockets of air and thus tender scones. I grated frozen butter into the flour mixture and then stuck the bowl into the freezer as an extra precaution.

4) Liquids in scone recipes included whipping cream, heavy cream, buttermilk, milk, and sour cream. I decided to use a mixture of half and half and sour cream, and it worked out great.

5) After adding the liquid, the dough seemed so crumbly that it wouldn't hold together, but then a few quick kneads got it to hold together enough so I could shape it and cut it.

6) Scones can include any number of flavorings. I used chocolate chips, but fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, nuts, cheese, etc. are all game. The sky's the limit!

7) I think scones are best when they're freshly baked, although I'm sure they can be heated up later or eaten at room temperature.

8) This time around I grated frozen butter, and I thought it was a bit of a pain. Next time I will use my food processor.

Chocolate Chip Scones

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tbs. cold butter (frozen if you're going to grate it)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Extra cream and sugar (sugar in the raw or turbinado sugar preferred)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking, powder and salt together. Measure sour cream and half and half and put back in the fridge. Measure chocolate chips and put in the fridge too.

Grate frozen butter into the flour mixture and mix together (or you can cut the butter into smaller pieces and mix together with the pastry cutter until the flour resembles coarse meal). If butter is getting soft, stick the whole bowl in the fridge until it hardens up again. If using food processor, pulse the flour mixture and butter which you've cut into smaller pieces together until it resembles coarse meal).

Prepare the place you're going to knead and cut the dough into wedges by lightly flouring it. I usually use a Silpat silicone mat. Have a little extra flour on hand for your hands.

Mix the chocolate chips into the flour mixture and then add all the sour cream/half and half mixture, mixing with a fork as much as you can. If necessary, use your floured hand to press the dough together in the bowl and then dump it out onto your countertop, board, or Silpat. The mixture is pretty crumbly.

Knead the dough a few times until it just holds together and shape it into a circle. Flour your rolling pin and roll it until it's about 7 inches around. Cut in eight triangular pieces and put on your cookie sheet (I usually have a Silpat on my cookie sheets as the baked goods will not stick).

Brush the tops of the scones with a little half and half and top with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Becky's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Becky Decatur is a fellow parent at school and her husband Jim is our esteemed Assistant Head of the Upper School.

When she saw my chocolate chip muffin post, she was kind enough to send me a healthier version involving whole wheat flour, flaxseed, and pureed pumpkin.

If you like moist, dense muffins that taste of fall, give these a try.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


1 cup canned pumpkin (Unsweetened)
2 eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Add to the wet mixture a mixture of:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/4 ground flaxseed meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp/ salt
1/2 c. Hershey's mini chocolate chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending on size

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nat's Oysters Four Ways

On Saturday, my friend Fontella surprised me by making me Curry Chicken. On Sunday, my friend Nat, who is the Associate Director of College Counseling, dropped off a cooler full of oysters freshly pulled out of the bay by Nat's knowledgeable hands.

Is this a great weekend or what?

Giant bag of oysters on ice in cooler.

Coming au natural without the sophistication that cultured oysters bring, these oysters were gnarly things, reminiscent of the crusty ghost pirates in Pirates of Caribbean. Most were Super Bowl sized oysters, and some were even padded with other smaller oysters that were fused to their shells.

These XXL oysters found themselves over the white hot fire of my Big Green Egg, poached open to be consumed with melted butter, hot sauce, and lemon.

Oysters coaxed open by a live fire on the Big Green Egg.

Poached oysters with melted butter and hot sauce.

The smaller ones my husband pried open, and I served them plain, with cocktail sauce, and with a crunchy bread topping of toasted bread crumbs, garlic, shallots, scallions, and bacon.

Raw oysters with crunchy bacon and bread topping.

Raw oysters with cocktail sauce.

My favorites were the raw oysters, small, briny, and sweet, with cocktail sauce and lemon. The poached oysters were okay, but their large sizes were a little too much of a good thing. I shucked those oysters and plan to cut them up and put them in soup tomorrow.

Thank you, Nat, for fishing up some dinner on a beautiful Sunday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fontella's Curry Chicken

Today I was at school with my kids to welcome and give a tour to a group of prospective families who were considering our school. Fontella, a fellow parent and friend, was there too with her daughters, and she gave me a warm hug and freely shared her lovely smile.

Last year, Fontella brought a Jamaican curry chicken to one of the school's Multicultural family group get togethers. It was the best curry chicken I had eaten, because the chicken was the softest and silkiest I had ever tasted. It was addictive. After that night, I would fondly tease Fontella with a "Where is my curry chicken?"

Well today was no different. I went on and on about where was my curry chicken, hugged her goodbye, and went home.

A couple hours later, I got a call from Fontella. Surprise! She went home and actually made curry chicken, and she called me to come pick up some.

Don't you agree I have lovely friends?

This time she made a curry with Trinidadian curry powder, which she called a dark curry.

I asked her how she went about cooking curry, since I was taught how to make other curries -- Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Jamaican, Indian, and Guyanese -- from other friends.

Like my Jamaican friend Coleen, Fontella uses pre-mixed curry powders, bought from the local Caribbean store. There's Jamaican and Trinidadian curry powders, duck/goat curry powders, etc.

If Fontella is using chicken breasts, she slices it thin and dusts it with Goya adobo powder, cumin, onion powder, and salt and pepper, so that it can marinate in the spices.

She fries some garlic in oil and takes it out so it doesn't burn. After frying whole allspice berries in the oil until fragrant, she adds the curry powder, chicken, onions, and garlic and cooks them slowly for a few minutes, then adds a little water and cooks it at a low simmer, as Fontella says, "until it's done."

We figured out this was about 15 minutes.

Eat with rice for a lovely meal.

P.S. Fontella's handsome, young son reminds us to avoid those allspice berries -- they're for flavor, not for eating!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

One day my friend and colleague, Kate, gave me a Ziploc bag with a creamy looking mixture and a xeroxed copy of Amish Friendship Bread Cinnamon Loaf.

A quick glance and all I saw was "Mush the bag" and "NO METAL." Kate told me she had gotten her bag of yeast starter from another friend who got it from another friend and so on and so forth. Who knows how long this starter has been circulating, through whose hands it has passed, and how many mouths it has fed? It's kind of cool to think we are all connected.

Once you get your bag, you follow the instructions and ten days later, you make your own bread and four more bags of starter to keep or give to your friends. You can freeze the bags of starter to save for a later date. Just let the starter defrost and watch for the bubbles to start again before you proceed with the recipe.

It's important to leave the bag out at room temperature so that the yeast can do its work. If for some reason, something goes awry or you want to make the bread and have no friends who have given you a bag, I include the recipe for starting an original starter batch.
My daughter Lizzy loved this light, moist and sweet bread. Every time I went into the kitchen I noticed the loaf got magically smaller, until *poof*, it was gone.

Amish Friendship Bread Cinnamon Loaf Recipe (from the xeroxed piece of paper I received with the starter)

Do not use any type of metal spoon or bowl for mixing.
Do not refrigerate.
Batter will rise, bubble, and ferment ... burp as needed.

Day 1 - receive the starter and do nothing
Day 2 - Mush the bag.
Day 3 - Mush the bag.
Day 4 - Mush the bag.
Day 5 - Mush the bag.
Day 6 - Add to the bag 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk. Mush the bag.
Day 7 - Mush the bag.
Day 8 - Mush the bag.
Day 9 - Mush the bag.
Day 10 - Follow these instructions:

1. Pour the entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl.
2. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups milk. Stir.
3. Measure one cup batter into four 1-gallon Ziploc bags and give to friends along with a copy of the recipe.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
5. Add to the remaining batter:

3 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 large box instant vanilla pudding (or any flavor)
1/2 tsp. salt

6. Grease 2 large loaf pans
7. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with 1/2 of this mixture.
8. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top.
9. Bake 1 hour. Cool the bread until it loosens evenly from the pan (about 10 minutes). Serve warm or cold. YUMMY!

If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking every 10 days. The bread is very good and makes a great gift. Only the Amish know how to creat the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back. ENJOY!!


Here is an alternate bread recipe if you don't have instant pudding in the house, which I got from

Remaining batter in the bowl (step #5 above)
2/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Using a fork beat by hand until well blended. You can add 1 cup raisins and 1 cup nuts (optional).
Grease two loaf pans with butter, sprinkle with sugar instead of flour.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour (individual oven temperatures vary). Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans. Makes two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread.

Amish Friendship Bread StarterThis is the Amish Friendship Bread Starter Recipe that you’ll need to make the Amish Friendship Bread (above). It is very important to use plastic or wooden utensils and plastic or glass containers when making this. Do not use metal at all!


1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup warm milk (110°F)


1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.
2. In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.
3. Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.

For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions above for Amish Friendship Bread.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Galley Cooking on the Boat with Julia

Chef Julia in her sailboat galley kitchen

Julia Gabriele has been at the school for 18 years. She has lived through times of abundance and scarcity, and she has held almost every position at the school, including English teacher, Admissions Director, Marketing Director, Assistant Head of School, Upper School Division Head, and now Assistant Head of School for Finance & Operations.

She is also a great cook, organic vegetable gardener, and mother to two talented SLS students. She also knows how to cook in small spaces, since she lives on a sailboat during the summer.

Julia's sailboat galley kitchen equipped with a petite stove, oven, microwave, sink and countertop. You don't need a big kitchen and the fanciest equipment to turn out great food, as you'll see here.
Without further ado, here is guest blogger, Julia ...

I wasn’t sure if it was the waves gently tossed off the early fishing boats that woke me or the cries of the gulls signaling a new day. No matter, I thought as I curled deeper under my blankets in our boat’s v-berth. I began to think about the day that lay ahead.

Glancing out toward the departing fishing boats, I realized that not even the strong coffee I had just brewed would cut the fog that settled over the harbor. Resigned that this may be a day at the marina rather than at sea, I realized it might be the perfect opportunity for an adventure in the galley.

What to make? The damp chill coming off the fog seemed to whisper a warm and hearty stew. And given the setting, it seemed an accompanying seafood dish was a given.

Slowly the image emerged: a steaming bowl of Santa Fe Chowder chock full of vegetables in a spiced broth laced with lime juice, along with honey corn bread for dipping.

Santa Fe Chowder (vegan)

Joining the chowder would be Fiesta Shrimp marinated in garlic, fresh ground pepper, tequila and cilantro picked from my planter on the dock.

Tequila and Lime Marinated Fiesta Shrimp (sauted on the stovetop)

And for the non fish eaters, chicken skewers marinated in salsa and lime juice.

Salsa Chicken (Baked)

And for the kids, baked taquitos filled with Monterey Jack Cheese.

Chicken Taquitos (baked)

Who to share in this adventure but my good friend, Ninette, who loves food as much as I do. I made the call and left the message; bring the kids, wine, and your camera.

As the afternoon slipped into evening, the aroma of the baking corn bread brought the dock kids around begging for a taste. The allure of the corn bread mingled with the chowder attracted more wandering friends.

Jumbo Honey Corn Muffins

Ninette arrived with the perfect opportunity to celebrate - her mother-in-law Joyce's birthday. Laughter, stories, and dear friends proceeded to fill the boat.

Happy Birthday, Joyce!

The flavors blended as one taste led to another. And whether it was the gentle rain on the hatches or the lingering flavors that kept people mingling, it seemed like we couldn’t end the evening more perfectly.

Ninette did, however with a finale that outdid it all. A gorgeous galette with a perfect flaky crust and filled with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Rustic Berry Tart

Later that evening as I settled back into the v-berth drowsy and full, I found myself grateful for good food, great friends, and even occasionally, the fog that keeps us dock bound.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SuSu Chicken Marsala

One gloomy winter week in January 2009, my friend Su swept me away from school for a restorative lunch at her favorite Italian restaurant. In addition to the main entree of friend therapy, I had a veal and shrimp piccata and Su enjoyed veal marsala. I've made this chicken marsala in her honor. Thank you, Su.

To make this an easy weeknight meal, I used packaged sliced chicken. Of course, you can take chicken breast, slice it yourself, and pound it so it's even. I also used packaged sliced mushrooms. This will serve 3 people and of course you can double or triple the recipe.

3/4 to 1 lb. prepackaged sliced chicken
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/2 tbs. butter
2 slices bacon (or 2 oz. pancetta), finely chopped
1 8 oz. package sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. tomato paste (I use Amore paste in the tube)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Italian seasoning
1 cup sweet Marsala
1/2 cup chicken broth
Fresh chopped parsley
A tsp. of cornstarch mixed with a couple tsp. of water

Heat oven to 200 degrees.

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides in flour, shaking off excess flour.Heat saute pan over medium heat.

Add 1-2 tbs. of oil and cook chicken on both sides, 4-6 minutes per side depending on the thickness. If cooking in batches put chicken on a plate, covered loosely with tin foil, in the oven.Add a little oil and little butter in the skillet. Add bacon and cook for one minute. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until bacon is browned and mushrooms are cooked, around 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and a little italian seasoning. Add tomato paste and cook with mushrooms until the tomato starts caramelizing. Take out mushrooms and set aside.

Add marsala wine to skillet and simmer five minutes, letting it reduce and the alcohol burn off. Add back mushrooms and chicken broth, and cook until sauce is reduced, another five minutes. taste, add salt and pepper as needed, and add shot of lemon as needed. Add cornstarch slurry, and stir, letting it come to a simmer for final thickening and add parsley.Poor sauce over chicken and serve.

Coleen's Jamaican Curry Chicken

Coleen is one of my best friends in the whole world. She epitomizes the spirit of this food blog, as she's got a big heart, a bold personality and is beautiful both inside and out. Coleen came here from Jamaica when she was in her teens and has taught me to make some of the food from her homeland, including chicken curry.

2-3 lbs. skinless bone-in chicken (thighs and breast)
6 scallions
1 medium-large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, cut in pieces
Couple sprigs fresh thyme
Goya Adobo powder
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Curry powder
Chicken bouillon (or chicken broth)
1 scotch bonnet pepper

Cut chicken into smaller pieces with a cleaver.

Put chicken in a big bowl. Mix in cut onion, garlic, and scallions. Season as desired with adobo powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and thyme, mixing the seasonings throughout. Add a generous amount of curry powder, enough to coat each piece. If you have time, let marinate overnight or for a couple hours. If you don't have time, it's fine to cook the chicken right away.

Heat a 1/4 cup-1/2 cup of oil in dutch oven (a thin layer of oil on the bottom of the pot) over medium heat. Add chicken and lightly pan fry all pieces, turning and rotating pieces. Pieces shouldn't be browned per se, but the outside should be lightly cooked. Coleen calls it glazed. The pan will talk to you with a nice sizzling sound when the chicken is cooking properly. When the chicken is almost glazed, liquid will start accumulating on the bottom of the pan. That's when you know you're about done. Add water or chicken broth until almost covered. If you use water, add a piece of chicken bouillon Add the scotch bonnet pepper (optional).

Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes. Add potatoes 20 minutes into the process and cook until tender.

Completed curry with white rice.