Shopping the Salad Bar

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Here’s one of my best “shopping” tips:

Often when a recipe is calling for a small amount of a fresh ingredient, like a 1/4 cup of diced onions or celery, some sliced mushrooms, a couple of tablespoons of chickpeas, etc., and that’s all you’re going to need of that ingredient for the week…you can save some trouble, money, and wasted food, by buying just the exact amount you need from the salad bar!

A favorite “Salad Bar” Recipe…

(If your favorite store doesn’t have a salad bar, your local hospital cafeteria probably will. Don’t cringe, it’s likely to be cleaner and more sanitary than that salad bar at your favorite restaurant, lol.)

The higher “cost per pound” is mitigated by the small amounts you’re actually buying for your recipes and the fact that you’re not paying for any waste or trim.

Plus, someone else has prepped it for you!

Chef’s Tip: most salad bars stay stocked with the same ingredients all the time. Sneak a quick picture of yours, with your phone or tablet, and save it as a reference when planning your shopping.

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Beat the Heat with Summer Salads!

Okay, it’s summer…and it’s hot. 

I don’t like hot…I tend to lose my cherub-like demeanor when it’s hot. 😉 

This time of year, we (at the TeamPerk Clubhouse) tend to live on a lot of no-cook dishes and salads. This morning, I get to share some of my favorites on AM Northwest.

Strawberry VinegretteSimple Strawberry Vinaigrette

  • 1 C strawberries, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider, or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine the strawberries, honey, oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree* until very smooth, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately or store (refrigerated) up to 48 hours.

*For a “chunkier” dressing combine the chopped strawberries with the remaining ingredients and let it rest for an hour or so (do not puree.) This process is called “macerating” (marinating fruit with vinegar).

Summer Salads AMNW

Balance

An interesting dish has a balance of flavors and textures. If there’s a sweet (fruit – fresh or dried), add a salt like nuts, olives, anchovies, etc. Soft textures like tomatoes, or cheese, pair nicely with the crunch of celery, radishes, croutons, chopped apple…you get the idea.

This is one of the reasons I love this recipe, as it hits all the right notes:

  • Sweet: Strawberries & Honey
  • Savory/Fat: Olive Oil
  • Salty: Salt
  • Tangy: Vinegar

Chef’s Note: PLEASE don’t drown the beautiful flavors of your fresh, seasonal ingredients with a heavy, fatty sauce. Dressing should be used with a light hand to enhance the flavor of vegetables, not to cover them up.

Sometimes just a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with your tomatoes, cucumbers, and maybe a little feta, really hits the spot.

Here are a few more of my summer favorites:

shrimpacado

Shrimp-A-Cado Salad

I found the original recipe in my father’s copy of A Chef’s Companion, and substituted the prawns for crab (it was cheaper, and I love prawns!) Dad used to make the original recipe when he’d ticked Mom off, and was tryin’ to make good.

So, we had it… a LOT. 😉

 

downloadBow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
Serves 4

2 cup bow-tie pasta
2 cloves garlic
2 medium zucchini
1 medium shallot, or small yellow onion.
1 Tablespoon grape-seed oil
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp. Better Than Bullion chicken base
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Cook pasta in salted water, according to package instructions. Prepare zucchini sauce while pasta cooks.

Peel and mince garlic, dice the shallot (or onion).

Rinse and grate zucchini.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and minced garlic, with a dash of salt, and saute until the onion are translucent. Add zucchini, and cook until mixture softens and zucchini yields some liquid, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid, and mix in chicken base (with the liquid) to create broth.

Add 1-2 teaspoons of the broth at a time to zucchini mixture. Add drained pasta. Stir, coating pasta evenly with sauce. Add more broth as needed (I used the whole 1/2 cup).

Transfer pasta to large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

California Roll

Deconstructed California Roll Salad

First appearing in Los Angeles in the 1960s, the California Roll is a maki-zushi, a kind of sushi roll, usually made inside-out, containing cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado.

Though there are many variations of additional ingredients, these are the “mainstay” of the California roll.

As one of the most popular styles of sushi in the US market, the California Roll has been influential in sushi’s global popularityIchiro Mashita, a sushi chef, first substituted avocado for toro (fatty tuna) in hope that removing the raw fish would make it more palatable to Western customers, and realized the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for toro. He also made the roll “inside-out” (with the rice on the outside), because Americans didn’t like seeing and chewing the nori on the outside of the roll.

By the 1980s, the California Roll was the single most popular item in the sushi craze that was sweeping across the United States.

This recipe allows for the same flavors and textures of the traditional California roll, without requiring the skills or equipment necessary to create the more familiar rolled presentation, with Furikake seasoning replacing the traditional nori (seaweed sheets).

Furikake seasoning can be found in Asian grocery stores, or can be ordered from our Amazon.com store.

  • 1 batch sushi rice (recipe below), room temp.
  • 2 Tbsp. Furikaki seasoning
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 8 oz. imitation crab or lobster
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce for serving (opt)

Mise en Place

Prepare the rice (recipe below). Peel, seed, and cut cucumber into half-rounds. Break imitation crab into bite-sized portions. Peeled and pit the avocado, and slice 1/4-inch thick.

Prepare the Dish

Divide the cooled rice between two plates, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the Furikaki seasoning and 1/2 of the toasted sesame seeds. Top with crab, cucumber, and avocado, the sprinkle with remaining Furikaki seasoning and sesame seeds.

Serve immediately with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce (all optional).

Sushi Rice

  • 1 cup sushi or short grain rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt

Rinse rice in a mixing bowl 2 to 3 times, or until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 1 cup of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture.

Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

Makes 2 cups

Morrocan Carrot Salad.jpg

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Paprika and Cumin

I love Moroccan food, especially the numerous “small dishes” that lead up to the entree. The cold carrot salad is one of my favorites, and this is my favorite recipe for that dish

  • 1 lb. fresh carrots
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, partially crushed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Slice carrots into 1/2 inch thick rounds, and boil in salted water until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and immediately cover the carrots with cold water to stop further cooking. Once cold, drain again.

In a medium pot or skillet, gently sauté the garlic cloves in the olive oil for two or three minutes over low heat. Discard the garlic, and add the carrots, lemon juice, cilantro, mint, and spices.

Sauté over low heat for another two minutes, and remove from the heat.

Serve either warm or chilled (I prefer chilled).

Marinated-Asian-Cucumber-Salad

Asian Cucumber Salad

  • 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fine sugar
  • 2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and pour over the cucumber and onions.

Cover and refrigerate until cold. Stir in sesame seeds, and serve.

This can also be eaten at room temperature, but be sure to allow the cucumbers to marinate for at least 1 hour.


 

Cover in frameThe Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen

Something amazing has begun to happen in the last two decades, something that has never before happened in the history of cooking…instead of growing wider, the gap between the home cook and the professional chef has actually begun to narrow, and continues to narrow exponentially with each passing year.

The time when these specialized skills were limited to those who could afford the cost and time required for culinary school are quickly passing into history.

The time when the sole requirement to elevate your cooking skills to this level…passion…is emerging.

It’s an amazing time to become a Home Chef…and if you have that passion, I’ll show you how.

Welcome!

Chef Perry P. Perkins

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How to tell when Artichokes are done

How to know when artichokes are done

My Facebook friend Anna asks:

How long should you boil artichokes? Mine always seen to come out either under-done or mushy. How can you tell when they’re just right? Thanks Chef!

My response:

Hey Anna, thank YOU for the questions! Everyone at my house are total artichoke fiends, lol, so I cook tons of ’em!

While there are a lot of ways to prepare these beauties, boiling fresh artichokes is one of the original and classic methods, and how most restaurants still do it today.

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Make sure to pick ripe ones. California artichokes (buy American!) are available all year, but peak season is March through May and again in October. You want them to feel more like a softball than a baseball when you give ’em a squeeze. 

You can also hold the artichoke next to your ear, and squeeze its leaves with your fingers. If you hear a squeak, the artichoke is extremely fresh, and a good one to buy.

Artichokes should feel disproportionately heavy for their size. This indicates that they still have plenty of natural moisture and will be packed with flavor.

If you like what I’m posting, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, and get even more chef’s tips and recipes (and some that I don’t post here!)

Avoid any that have a lot of dark spots, dried/cracked leaves, or if the stem feels mushy or isn’t nice and green. Never store your artichokes in the fridge, or in a plastic bag, both will hasten spoilage. Some will disagree on the fridge thing, but my rule of thumb, after many years of professional cooking, is, if it ain’t refrigerated in the store, I don’t refrigerate it at home.

And I have to say it…my Dad, regardless of what restaurant he was working in, or how far in the weeds, always shouted, “You might’a choked Artie, but you ain’t gonna choke me!” whenever he dropped them in the pot. I do the same. Call it good mojo.

Anyway…

Here’s how I do it

    • Trim a quarter-inch off the end of the stem. You can chop off the top, or trim the individual leaves, as well, but I usually don’t go to the trouble.
    • Wash the artichoke just before cooking. Any earlier, and the excess moisture can increase spoilage.
    • In a pot large enough to hold all of the artichokes you’re planning to cook (you want them to have a little room, so don’t over-stuff the pot) bring salted water to a boil. You want enough water in there for the ‘chokes to float freely.

  • Cook on a high simmer, covered, for 30 minutes (medium-size) or 45 minutes for the really big ones.

If you like what I’m posting, please share! If you love what I’m posting, and want to help me feed the hungry, and teach at-risk and special needs kids to cook for themselves, please consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page!

How to tell when artichokes are done

How to know when they’re done: The “Artichoke Poke Test”

You can tell that they’re done when the point a sharp knife goes into the artichoke base with very little resistance.

If it feels like you’re poking a hot baked potato, you’re good to go.

I let my artichokes cool for 15 to 20 minutes (out of the water). When they’re still hot, but you can hold them in your palm for five seconds, you’re ready to eat!

Serve with lemon-butter, garlic-butter, or (like we do) with a big dollop of good old-fashioned Best Foods Mayo and black pepper. Dad liked them in the classic French style with hollandaise.

Artichokes with pepper mayo

Whatever you choose to dip them in…mmmmm….

Keep Cookin!

Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com


Frugal Fine Cooking Home Chef
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Recipes from “Frugal Fine Cooking ~ A Home Chef’s Guide.”

Dishes where simple technique takes precedent over price, recipes created from imagination, and served with love, are transformed into their finest selves.

Food that is ever so much more pleasant to the palate…and the pocketbook!

This is the first in the series of guidebooks delving deeper into specific cooking styles and ingredients  discussed in, “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen”

All of the HomeChef titles are available on Amazon* at: www.perryperkinsbooks.com

*Kindle Unlimited Members Read for Free!