Culinary School Here I Come (11), Week 2

Chef Dean demonstrates how to make a Chicken Roulade.

I truly felt my age at the end of this week. Tuesday and Thursday are both early days. I’m in class by 7AM. Up at 4:55 and on the road by 6:45. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are a bit better. It all starts an hour later. What is killer is standing up for so long. My nice, high arches from dancing are now dropping down to flat, platypus feet. It was a busy week. We served 2 Rotary Club meetings and made the following: Chicken Roulade (see video), Pesto (see video), Caesar dressing, numerous soups, chicken and beef stock (don’t forget to roast the bones before you make the stock), pickled jalapenos, meat balls, chili (chile is the plant, chili is the stew, chilli is the powder), pasta primavera and ground beef and pork. I managed to get cut only twice. We were tested on our julienne, batonnet, brunoise and various different sizes of dice. We made roux, bouquet garni, mire poix and stay away from me and my mise en place! We peeled, chopped and sliced onions, garlic, shallots, parsley, tarragon, thyme, and last but certainly not least, carved mushrooms.  What a week and I’m looking forward to next week.

Chef Dean demonstrates how to make basic Pesto.

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Culinary School, Here I Come (10) Hooray, end of the week!

Yippee! I never thought that a Friday would be so special. In real estate sales, there is no such thing as a weekend. I’m off from school for 2 whole days.

Highlights of the week:

Today:  A actually deboned a whole chicken. Yes, I wasn’t very fast this first time, but it’s a manageable task and it looked pretty good. I wish I brought my camera. I look forward to deboning a turkey for Thanksgiving. Oh yeah, no finger cuts for me. We had 4 mishaps (including our chef).

Yesterday:  There is a lot of reading to do. I’m afraid to get behind so I’m trying my best to keep up. I submitted a couple of assignments that aren’t due until next week so I can get it off my plate.

Wednesday:  Showing clients houses after school is definitely going to be a bitch. I got home at 6 totally exhausted.

Tuesday:  Peeling an onion was a major epiphany. By doing it my old way, I wasted a lot.

Monday:  Getting over the first day.

All in all, it was a pretty easy week…I’ve been told. Looking forward to next week when we actually make broths, stocks, soups and sauces.

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Culinary School, Here I Come (9) First Day

The big day came and went and the world did not come crashing in. I have to admit there are a lot of very young students. Putting on my chef gear was pretty exciting. Went through the proper protocol of coming in through the side door (the culinary school is part of the student dining room so they are training us now that the back of the house does not enter through the front. Sound like back of the bus to me.) The day was spent getting to know the instructors, touring the facility and checking the other students out…my future competition. We played this “breaking the ice” game that proved to be a little more difficult. Everyone had a sticker placed on their back of some kind of food. We paired off and had to ask each other questions about what food we had. It’s harder than you think. I started with, “Am I an entree? Am I a protein? Am I red? Am I a soup? Am I Italian? I’ll tell you now that my word was Cioppino. Well, unfortunately all of the 18 year olds that I asked did not know what I was so I eventually had to partner with one of the instructors.  So I started asking him some questions. I got as far as asking if I was bouillabaisse. He said no but very close. I did find out that I was Italian but was stumped. I concentrated for a while and then got it. There were some easy ones like Teriyaki Chicken that this poor girl could not get. It was an exercise to get us to ask questions.  Anyway, looking forward to the rest of the week.

I believe we will have another day of orientation then we are into the kitchen.  Until then…

“Try not to become a person of success but a person of value.”  Albert Einstein

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Culinary School, Here I Come (8) It’s Orientation Day

So here I am at orientation. When I first walked in, there were only 3 people…all of which were about 17 years of age. As time went on, more and more people arrived the more comfortable I felt that there will be other older people. So far, it’s clearly a younger person thing. There seems to be more guys than girls but we will see when all is said and done. I’m sitting at a table with an older guy named Dean. He’s originally from Michigan but has been on Maui for a while. This is a change of career for him. He was a drywall plasterer and is planning to change careers. The check in line is pretty slow and unorganized. So people are trickling in here and there. Oh crap, I just found out that the uniforms that the class purchased from Out of the Blue has the culinary program logo embroidered on it. What am I going to do?  I bought mine online so I think I’ll have to get it done and pay extra. Such is life.

Yippee, there seems to be an older woman who just walked in. There’s a good chance I may not be the oldest person here.  That’s what I’m worried about.  Actually not worried, just freaking out a bit.

So, orientation began with a brief introduction of the staff.  What was expected of us and what we should expect of the program and some question time. We broke into our sections. The first semester core work is broken into 4 sections. My section is headed by Chef Dean Louie. He’s a bit of a talker but I think he likes me. Each of the groups went on a mini tour of the facility. I snapped these pics of the holy grail….the commercial and teaching kitchen. How exciting. I can’t wait to get myself going.

Isn’t this heaven!

Some of my peeps.

Later gorgeous, I’ll be seeing you in a few days.

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Culinary School, Here I Come (2)!

Okay, so where was I?

First, I’ve ordered my culinary school uniforms online. We had the option of going to a local restaurant supply store but their elastic pants were not what I considered fashion forward. Realize that there are not a lot of options on Maui so, I hit the internet. has some good prices and shipping wasn’t bad at all. I saved about $100 by getting my stuff online. How exciting it was when the package arrived yesterday. I quickly unpacked it and tried on my flat, zippered front traditional houndstooth chef “slacks”. It has been a while since I’ve worn slacks. I wear my jeans below my waist and my boardshorts here all hang pretty low, so when I tried the pants on, it was kinda disturbing to find the waistline just below my chest. It reminded me of bull fighting pants! The only other option is to wear it low with my crotch down to my knees. Not comfortable.

Oh yeah, getting back to some of my history. So I was a young kid in ’85 having just moved to Los Angeles to “make it” as a dancer, I didn’t know what to expect. I stayed close to UCLA for a few weeks then I found an apartment around the Wilshire & La Brea area just west of Koreatown. I made sure that I lived close to the dance studio that everyone went to at the the, Dupree Dance Academy. I pretty much lived there and I was in total heaven. After a month in LA, I heard about an audition. It was for a music video to the Jermaine Jackson son Perfect from the movie of the same name starring Jamie Lee Curtus and John Travolta (when he was skinny). So I bummed a ride out to the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in the valley for my first audition. I don’t remember much about the audition but we were all supposed to be in an aerobics class so I’m sure the choreography wasn’t too hard. I am proud to say that I ended up getting that gig. Not bad I thought. Getting my first gig from my first audition. I had arrived! Through the magic of Youtube, I am one of the young dancers in this clip.  Enjoy.

Perfect (The closest Thing to)  by Jermaine Jackson

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Culinary School, Here I come!

Holy crap.  What did I do?

I love that I can totally vent to you people who I don’t know. I recently had this wacky idea to register for Culinary School. There is one tiny little detail…I’m a full time real estate agent. So, come with me as I begin this journey into places that I’m not sure I’m prepared to go.

I just recently moved back to Maui after leaving in 1977. I lived on Oahu for 8 years, then Los Angeles for 25.  My move back to Maui was intended to be a “semi retirement” move. I wanted the most important question of the day to be “should I go to the beach before or after noon?” Well, that ain’t happening now.

I’ve registered at the world famous Maui Culinary School at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. Well maybe it’s not world famous, but it is highly regarded as one of the best programs in the University of Hawaii system. Now a little history about me.

I’m 51 going on 22. Was born and raised on Maui and graduated from Maui High School in 1977. My goal in life was to be a Certified Public Accountant. I shortly realized that my goals were quite short sighted, when I moved to the big city and discovered myself. Within a couple of years I was a Dance major at the University of Hawaii (via Accounting, Fashion Design and Theater). The decision to switch majors came one night after drinking a bottle of Rose wine. It was an upgrade from the Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill that we drank in high school. Anyway, after declaring my major I shortly realized “I don’t need a degree to be a dancer” so I was off to San Francisco to guest in a dance concert. For a Hawaii boy, winter in San Francisco was like Siberia. I returned to Oahu and co directed the only dance company in the state. To put things into perspective, the year was 1982. There was no Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, so not very many people were exposed to the art. After a 4 year stint with the company doing night club shows, I had choreographed, made costumes, taught classes and worked (you will notice that I’m very good at multi tasking, hence real estate and Culinary School), I declared that I was tired of giving and I needed to learn again. I boarded an airplane bound for Los Angeles to “make it”. I didn’t sing so New York wasn’t an option but hell I could fake a lot so TV and film were my options.

To be continued…..

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Australia, Photogaphy and Some Baking

Wowza, it has been a long time since my fingers have been tapping away for a TFoil blog. I think I was so burned out after graduation that I imploded. I tried to kick start the blogging again but I just couldn’t get it to stick. Can’t say that it’ll continue, at least on a regular basis of course. Blogging was put on hold, but life wasn’t. I dove back into the real estate market here and got busy with a few sales. Now that the holidays are approaching, things are slowing down a bit….enough to take some time to write.

Photography class – I enrolled in a beginning digital photography during the fall semester. I was kinda not impressed with the instructor. I started at a teeny bit of a disadvantage. I used my 5 year old Canon point and shoot, while everyone else had fancy DLSR camera. I held out for a few weeks but finally bit the bullet. I had a friend who was kind enough to loan me her Canon Rebel T3. Once I started taking photos on that camera, it was all over. I then took the plunge and bought one for my very own. I’m not going to bore you with tons of photos. I am going to show you a few that I really liked. By the way, I did manage to squeak out an A for the class.

IMG_3429Coco, one of my wiener dogs. This was for our pet assignment.

IMG_0810Using available light to photograph a sunset at Ulua Beach in Wailea.

P (68)I used a macro lens to get close up to the flower. As I was shooting, this honey bee landed and became the new subject of my shot.

Perfect example of foreground (fence), midground (corn) and background (sky)

IMG_0950I’ve been getting into clouds lately. I love the texture, shapes and tones.

Why did I not like the teacher? He never really taught us what to do. He told us what to do without explaining why and showing us how. I must admit I was pretty disappointed. I do know more now than before I took the class but I could have really learned a bunch more. Photography is pretty technical and I didn’t realize how much so.

Australia – Yes, I took a trip down under and stayed in the Surry Hills neighborhood in Sydney. It was their version of a bohemian area. I liked it because there were a bunch of things within walking distance. Bondi Beach really rivals some of the best beaches on Maui. I took this wild pic of a  swimming pool at the edge of the ocean. Check it out.

IMG_0598I love the action of the surf, the lines of the pool, the lane markers and the randomness of the swimmers. I would have love to swim here. IMG_0613I loved the varying textures of the foreground rock up against the ocean then the smooth background rocks.

You can’t go to Australia without a trip to the Sydney Opera House. I’ve taken some cool shots using available light and playing with light. What do you think?

IMG_0507Slow shutter speed. Should have had my tripod but didn’t know I’d be shooting this.


IMG_0509Large aperature setting, snap a shot, then move camera before shutter closes. Really interesting effect whenever there are lots of different kinds of lights. I love the ghostly image of the Opera House.

I must say that I look at things differently after this class. I’m constantly looking for how something could be a perfectly composed shot.

In terms of baking, I did manage to do a few things. I made some chocolate cream cheese cupcakes.

IMG_3405I made a wonderful flourless Dark Chocolate, Prune and Dried Cherry Cake. It was such an adult chocolate cake with smoky chocolate flavors. It wasn’t sweet at all. There was only 3 tablespoons of sugar in the whole cake.

IMG_0802I served the cake as one of the many desserts at my Christmas tree trimming party. I also made these Coconut macaroons.

IMG_0871My favorite hors d’oeuvre is the Mousse in Barquette. The flavor of the day was Butternut squash.

IMG_0880I served a buffet style dinner which didn’t look good enough to photograph. The food was good though.

A few interesting tidbits before I leave you. First, I have decided to go refined sugarless and gluten free. Call me crazy but why not do both cold turkey since they are both so intertwined. Also, I have enrolled to become a Master Gardener. I’ve been having so much fun in my garden that I wanted to learn more about it. It’s a 4 month course, then I have to give 50 hours of volunteer time before I can be called a Master Gardener. You can bet that future blogs will be about those two topics. Have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year! Here’s to the best 2013.

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I’ve Been a Busy Bee in the Kutchen…I Mean Kitchen

You name it, I baked it.  First up Pearkutchen. You ask, what is the Pearkutchen? It’s my version of a German cake called (more or less) Aprickuchen. Instead of apricots, I used bartlett pears. It’s a pear cake with an almond filling. Well, it’s actually not quite like a cake either. The base is a short crust, with an almond custard like filling then whatever kind of fruit is available is your topping. Quite easy to make and pretty tasty.

Apricot would have been a tad more colorful but it’s taste that counts! Did someone say Lemon Squares? Why yes, I made those too! I’ve been using a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. It’s pretty easy and always turns out well. I love using Meyer’s lemons for these so when a friend dropped off some Meyer’s Lemons, I knew what was going to come of it.

The crust has to be baked, then cooled slightly before the lemon curd can be poured in and finish baked. I tried to rush it once and poured the curd in while the crust was still hot and it was a soggy mess. Next on the list, Apple Cake. This one was tricky. It was a recipe that I used for the first time from The photo accompanying it showed it as a bundt style cake but based on the bake time in the recipe, it clearly wasn’t meant to be. The bake time was 25-30 minutes and I had to bake it for over an hour. It was an odd batter, more like cookie dough than a cake. Fresh apples were folded into it after mixing but since the dough was to stiff, I couldn’t get an even distribution of apples. It did taste good though. There was a caramel icing to go with it but I opted out.

I had been itching for a while to bake some bread so I tried my Italian Chocolate Bread again. The first time I made it, I didn’t use a bread pan and I didn’t like how it spread more than it rose, so in a pan it went.

I love bread and it is easy to make but whenever I make it, there is no moderation whatsoever. Next, it was Cream Cheese Chocolate Cupcakes. I had been eying this recipe for a while. I get a spice cataloge from Prenzy’s Spices. In it, there are a bunch of recipes from customers and employees. These muffins looked really good and I found the cake batter method interesting. It wasn’t your basic creaming method, It was like the muffin method. Fat, sugar get mixed for a little while, liquid added then all the dry ingredients get mixed in. Simple and to the point. They were really great. Cocoa powder was the only chocolate in the batter and chocolate chip in the cream cheese made this easy and inexpensive.

Did you know that there is such a thing as Kale Chips? I just heard about it and it’s wonderful. My garden is finally producing a bunch of Kale so a friend suggested this. Just remove the leaves from the stems, cup into pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and ground cumin. Bake in the oven at low heat (200 degrees) until crisp and you got it.

I can’t wait to show you some pictures from my garden. I actually have pumpkins, or at least that’s what the package said. They kinda don’t look like a pumpkin but whatever it is, it’s getting pretty huge. I also have several watermelon, butternut squash, fennel beginning to bulb and actual ears of corn on the stalk. Until next time…ciao!

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Bounty of the garden, Photography class and Sous Vide

Arugula is growing like weeds in my garden. Corn is about 3′ tall, pumpkin vines are starting to overtake my walking path, radish & beets are starting to sprout, no sign of shiso, fennel is a bit shy but I see a few, yellow and poblano peppers have sprouts and my herbs are exploding. What isn’t doing so well; kale is being eaten by something. I look for signs day and evening but nothing is on the plant. Whatever it is has a hearty appetite. I just ripped out my 2 zucchini plans. The zucchini would grow to about an inch then rot. When I tore one open, I noticed worms growing in it. They eventually killed the plant. My cantaloupe so far only has male flowers. I had a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes a few months ago but the flowers have just been falling off. Maybe the new location isn’t working. My beans shrivel before they reach 3″.

What I  thought was going to do well is not and things like arugula, that I thought needed a cooler client is growing wildly. I suppose this first crop is helping me weed out what I can and cannot plant. I do see little baby radish. I can’t wait for those!

I started my intro to digital photography class. Our first assignment was to photograph a building. We went to the King Kamehameha Clubhouse. The building was originally designed for Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller by Frank Lloyd Wright as their Connecticut home. They divorced before is was built. The plans were purchased by a couple in Texas, but never built as well. A businessman from Japan decided to build it as a clubhouse to a golf course. The modest original 7000 square feet was increased 10 times.

I love angles and lines so I was in heaven. My camera leaves little to be desired. I need to get a good DSLR but I’m undecided.

I love this shot. It’s of the grand skylight. From above, it looks like a space ship coming in for a landing on Maui.

I love the juxtaposition of the line, curve and shadow. This is kinda my favorite shot.

This was an interior shot of a privacy wall in the spa. Color, texture and curve.

A shot of the course, waterfall and clubhouse.

Our next class met at Kepaniwai park in the Iao Valley area. It was a pretty great day for me because as a child in the 3rd grade, I spent many a weekends here picnicking with friends.

There’s only one virgin in the house!


Japanese garden

Clapboard house


My problem is that we have to choose 6-8 photos to submit for each assignment and I took 65. Ugh! Not too bad…

Now, I finally busted out my immersion circulator and decided that I was going to sous vide a nice rack of lamb.

The bag said it was Frenched.  Well, not Frenched enough in my opinion so I spent some time trying to clean it up a bit more. I was able to use the scraps to make an amazing lamb broth that was reduced down with red wine into a lamb demi glace.

I also busted out my mortar and pestle to make my Rosemary, Garlic and Olive Oil marinade.

Since I haven’t purchased a vacuum sealer yet, I had to go the ghetto way and I used a ziplock bag. It actually worked out just ok. I’m glad I bought this version of the circulator. It’s very portable and can be used with any container. I thought it would lose some heat and water but the water loss was minimal and the controls kept the heat constant. If you are interested SideKIC on Amazon for about $165.

I ended up using a plate to keep the bag submerged. I’m glad I researched this purchase to death. I’d like to do a tender cut of fish next.

One of the downsides to sous vide cooking is that it doesn’t caramelize on its own so, you either have to char it before bagging or after. I chose to do it after. Enter, my handy blowtorch.

I planted a lime tree in my yard last simmer. I thought it was a regular lime plant but it turned out to be a Kaffir lime plant. Unfortunately, you cannot eat the fruit, but you can use the leaves in cooking. I winged a rice pilaf with onions, bay leaf, kaffir lime leaves and a touch of cumin. The flavor of the lime leaves was so unusual and added a lot of flavor. I’ll definitely use more of it.

I gotta say that these chops were perfectly done and so tender. I’ve never roasted a rack of lamb so I can’t really compare it but this will be on my top 10 dinners to serve. The rosemary & garlic gremolata added some additional kick. I’ll have to plant some mint in my garden. I’d have loved to introduce that in the gremolata.

By next week, I’m certain that my pumpkin vines will have taken over a substantial part of the garden. I’ll have more photos then.

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Farm to Feather to Table: The Start of my Garden

I must apologize for not blogging about what I had intended to blog about….my immersion circulator. I still have not purchased my blow torch. My usual neuroses are at play. I’m over analyzing and procrastinating on my purchase. I could either get a creme brulee torch online or get a more heavy duty torch with a propane cartridge. If I get that, do I spend the extra cash for a spark ignite or get a plain one and just use a match. So, sadly I will continue to put off the purchase because I will continue to put off the decision. Of course I cannot use my immersion circulator if I don’t have a blow torch to finish it off!

But, my garden is done and it’s a pretty fancy one with 4 raised beds and 4 flat beds all on a drip and spray irrigation system. Each bed has it’s own shut off valve so I won’t be watering a bed that I’m not planning to use. It took a little longer than expected and of course it cost a bunch more that I hoped for but I’m excited and that is all that matters.

This is what that space looked like before.

I have begun to plant. I purchased some tomato, zucchini and cantaloupe starters, as well as some established herbs. I have also purchased many packets of seeds, like corn, pumpkin, watermelon, beans and butternut squash. It’s so exciting to see plants sprout from seeds.

I must admit, my favorite bed is the corn, bean, butternut squash, orange heirloom tomato and pumpkin bed.

So, the principle in this bed is that the corn stalk will act as support for the French beans. Since both are vertical crops, I can grow butternut squash directly on the bed. In the foreground are pumpkin seedlings and cages for the tomatoes to grow up on. I can’t wait to see this one in full production.

I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an orange zucchini. I like the flowers. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of flowers to batter, fry and eat. I have a few shade canopies so lettuce is a perfect crop. I have some arugula and mesclun. I started both from seeds. Very easy!

I did buy the kale already growing. I couldn’t find any from seed.

I planted a green fig and brown fig tree awhile back as well as this starfruit. I have 3 fruit for this harvest.

I take for granted planting these things so late in the season. In Hawaii, we can grow pretty much anything at any time of year. I’m hoping that the pumpkins will be ready for Halloween…or at least Thanksgiving.

I’m certain I will have a bumper crop. Here are other crops that I’ve planted; fennel, Japanese eggplant, Roma tomato, watermelon, poblano pepper, yellow pepper, shiso, French breakfast radish, red beets, leeks, thyme, Italian & Thai basil, Italian parsley, chives, sage, sweet marjoram & Italian oregano. I hope I didn’t bite off more than I can chew.

I’m getting ready to thin out the corn rows and watermelon and I’m waiting to see what my fennel sprouts will look like. It’s pretty exciting to see things grow from the ground. I’m sure what I serve will be affected by what is ready to harvest. Now I have to figure a way to stop the ants. They’ve been marching around lately. Oh yea, and this guy…

He does not look too happy and I have mixed feelings about having him around. I have an above ground fish pond that I’m trying to keep him out of. I haven’t been too lucky with some of his relatives. I may try to keep him around to help me with my ant and other insect problem. If not, Toaducken will be on the menu!

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My Immersion Circulator Has Arrived!

Look at what the delivery man just dropped off.

I’m on the road to Sous Vide and the bus will leave this weekend. Should it be Beef Short Ribs, Duck Breast or a Rack of Lamb. Aw nuts, I forgot my blow torch. I can pick that up at Ace or Home Depot. This unveiling will definitely be documented.

I’ve been laying low these past few weeks. School was pretty intense so I decided to give my culinary career a break and go back to selling real estate. It has been a good decision as I listed and sold a house in 3 days with 2 offers. Kaching!!! I don’t want to depress you by doing the math as to how long I’d have to work as a cook to make the amount that I’ll be making from this sale. Maybe I should have done the culinary thing first before real estate but I never thought of going to culinary school 30 years ago. With that said, you have to be really devoted to the craft in order for it to “pencil out”. For me, I’m using my culinary prowess to impress friends and clients. On that note, I had a Homemade Pizza Party last weekend for some good friends who just so happen to be clients. I love when that happens.

The duck and Roxie stretching our dough.

Pizza dough is so easy to make and not that difficult to work with. Any recipe will do. I used a little bit of whole wheat in this batch. Maybe next time I’ll use some bread flour to see how that affects the texture.

Check out James’ crust on the right. We were all so very impressed.

The sauce options were basil pesto and red tomato sauce. I actually threw the sauce together pretty quickly (Saute minced garlic in olive oil, add tomato sauce, dried basil, oregano, salt and pepper). Quick and very tasty. I should have added some red pepper flakes for a little heat.

Before I get into the toppings, I have to let you know that I cold smoked some mozzarella, tomatoes and nectarines. The cheese was for the pizza, tomatoes and nectarines for the salad. The tomatoes picked up the most smoky flavor. I would probably smoke Roma tomato halved then roast them with garlic and olive oil. That would be killer. The nectarines were amazing. It picked up just the right amount of smokiness. I’d like to try a smoked nectarine pie sometime. Of course I don’t have a real cold smoker so I had to go ghetto.

So, for toppings, I offered green and red peppers, fresh basil, rosemary (wow, that was really good), olives, soy pepperoni (Roxie is vegetarian), roast pork and pineapple. We were very successful. They all tasted amazing and we had a blast making them. You should try it sometime.

Oh, did I mention that I’m going back to school in the fall? I was considering Neurosurgery but settled just for a digital photography class. I got the writing part of my blogs down, it’s just my photos that are lacking in quality. Hopefully that will be resolved in a few months. I assume I’ll be investing in a better camera and some lighting.

I sort of despise the Food Network.  I don’t think any of their programs are good anymore. It’s all competition and too much Guy Fieri. I do love the Food Network Magazine. They have a bunch of good recipes and some tips. Here are a few:

1.  The smaller the item, the higher the baking temperature. Mini cookies can be baked at 500 degrees for 3-5 minutes.

2. When chopping herbs and garlic, toss some garlic on the cutting board to prevent them from flying all over the place and from sticking to the side of the knife.

3.  For better tasting asparagus spears, peel the stems and roll them in equal parts of salt & sugar. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.

I’m sold, but not sold enough to subscribe. I never get through a whole magazine before another one arrives. I will wait until they come into my life.

I totally forgot to mention that I had a dinner party a few weeks ago. It was 6 courses:

Vichyssoise with Wheat Croutons, Fried Leeks and Green Onion Oil

Caprese & Roasted Beet Salad with Balsamic Reduction and Arugula with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.

Getting ready to steam my Seafood Lasagne on Banana Leaves in this wonderful bamboo steamer.

Crab and Seafood Lasagne with Coconut and Lemongrass Cream Sauce with Mushrooms.

Lemon Basil Sorbet. I never get tired serving this nor tasting it. It’s something that amazes every time you take a taste.

Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Snow Crab and Sauce Bernaise on Avocado Moussaline, Mushroom Couscous and Roasted Kabocha Squash.

Unfortunately I didn’t snap a photo of dessert. I will keep you in suspense!

I’m in a rut. I keep making the seafood lasagne and caprese over and over again. I need to expand a bit. If I post those dishes again, shoot me! Like I said before, it’s sous vide time.

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My Signature Dish(s) and Cherry Cake

As I have experimented with different dishes, I seem to keep returning to a couple. One is pretty simple but has a tinfoilduck twist on it.  Another one is a little more complicated but well worth the preparation time.

First, I take a basic Insalata Caprese but I twist it a bit. In this case, I’ve added a slice of roasted beet and grilled apricot. The key to a great Caprese is using reduced balsamic vinegar. Actually, the real key is using heirloom tomatoes. I have a plant out in my back yard that has the most amazing tasting tomatoes. They are better than any tomato I’ve had before. They are so sweet with very little acid. The combination of the sweet tomato, the creamy mozzarella and the tart vinegar is so complex yet simple. The fresh basil flavor cuts through and adds another layer of flavor that in unexplainable. The roasted beet adds an interesting texture and another sweet flavor a little different than the tomato. The apricot is quite interesting because it is more tart than it is sweet the the grilling mellows it out.

What I consider my signature dish is my Seafood Lasagne with Mushroom Cream Sauce. If you recall from my Culinary School Here I Come blogs, I’m a big fan of the Seafood Pate en Croute. Well, I’ve taken the idea of a seafood mousseline (scallops, shrimp & white fish) and layer it between fresh pasta sheets with bits of fresh crab. Instead of baking it, I steam it. The steaming process keeps the mousseline light and fluffy. While that is steaming, I saute shallots & garlic in olive oil, add some sliced shiitake and crimini mushrooms. I use either white wine if I have an open bottle or vermouth to deglaze, then add some cream, fresh thyme, s/p and simmer down till thickened. Lately, I’ve been using coconut milk and lemongrass to give it a slightly Pacific Rim influence.

You may not know what a mousseline is. It sounds kinda odd but it’s quite good. You take all the seafood, egg white, seasoning and cream then puree in a food processor so it’s kinda like a seafood paste. It then gets piped between the layers, steamed, then finished with crab meat and sauce. Simply amazing and a hit whenever I serve it.

Now on to the Cherry Cake. I’m a big fan of It’s a great site for recipes and videos. I was inspired by her latest video of Cherry Cake. If you don’t know, I live in Hawaii and cherries are not grown here. It just so happens to be cherry season so we get them flown in. As a result, they are pretty expensive and the quality can be spotty. That was one issue. Another was that the recipe called for almond meal, which I didn’t have. I did have almonds but no almond meal. I googled how to blanch almonds and seemed like I could do it myself and it wasn’t that difficult to do….wrong.

Before you can make almond meal, you have to blanch almonds. I checked out some youtube videos and one said that you could squeeze the nut out of the skin. Wrong! Each friggen nut had to be peeled. I say let the prisoners do this. I’m certain they wouldn’t be repeat offenders.

From these pristine almonds, come almond meal. You just throw it in a food processor and grind it down. Next comes the cherries. Some are halved and pitted and some are quartered and pitted.

350 grams of cherries

Halved and pitted cherries

To absorb some of the moisture, set the cherry army on paper towels

Mise en place

Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond extract on medium speed. In a separate bowl, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to egg & sugar mixture. Fold in the quartered cherries. I dusted the cherries first with flour so they don’t sink to the bottom.

Pour into a prepared 9″ springform pan and before you know it, you have a Cherry Cake!

I must say that the cake was very good but it actually tasted better a day after it sat in the fridge and all the flavors had a chance to mature. I’ll try it with apricots next and if I ever see another fresh fig again, I’ll try that too. I’ve planted 2 fig trees in my back yard but they don’t seem to be doing good. Not worth it though if I have to blanch, peel and grind my own almonds. That’s a deal breaker!

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Cookbooks and our fascination with collecting them.

In LA, I lived a couple of blocks away from a public library. I quickly discovered their last Saturday of the month book sale. Paperbacks were $.25, hard covers were $1. Till this day, it was the best source for cookbooks. The problem with collecting them is needing the space for them. I knew it was becoming a problem when I bought the book “Crock Cookery”. I had not used my crock pot in years, mostly because everything that you cook in a crock pot tends to taste the same. I tried a recipe and sure enough, it tasted like everything else I made.

I did score an amazing book called “Flavors from the Heartland” which to me was code word for trailer trash dining. And to that it didn’t disappoint. It clocks in at a whopping 751 pages (paperback so it cost me $.25). I’m going to randomly select 3 pages to prove to you my point. Page 228; Baked Pork Chops (1 can mushroom soup, catsup, Worcestershire sauce), Baked Pork Chops (brown sugar, ketchup-why is it spelled this way and not catsup), Baked Pork Chops (Onion, Celery, Sage – oh, an exotic ingredient, bread crumbs and 1 can mushroom soup-didn’t disappoint), Glorified Pork Chops (WTF? – condensed cream & tomato soup). Get my point! Page 407; Rich Duncan Hines Bars (yellow cake mix, egg, butter, powdered sugar & cream cheese), French Pastry Bars (Oooh la la! Flour, brown sugar, oleo – I kid you not, eggs, coconut, vanilla, flour brown sugar, chopped nuts. Frosted Creams (brown sugar, oleo – yes, again, eggs, coffee, baking soda, raisins, flour vanilla & cinnamon), I don’t get what the frosted creams name means because the recipe reads like it’s some kind of cake bar. Page 590; Champagne Salad (cream cheese, sugar, crushed pineapple, frozen strawberries, bananas, cool whip – no champagne in sight), Cherry Dump Salad (canned peaches, fruit cocktail, cool whip, cherry pie filling – my stomach is turning right now), Cherry Salad (cherry pie filling, crushed pineapple, whipped topping, nuts & Eagle Brand milk – what is that?). Other tasty treats include; Never Fail Fudge, Can Can Chicken, Do Dads, Bishop’s Pie in a Pan. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Hawaii that I’m not familiar with this stuff. Who knows, maybe Do Dads are quite popular…probably in the Heartland.

I must admit that I’ve taken a liking to a recipe in here and it has proved to be a success. I made it mostly before going to culinary school as they would frown on using boxed cake mix. Chocolate Covered Cherries Cake (chocolate cake mix, almond extract, eggs & cherry pie filling, all topped with melted chocolate chips. It’s da bomb!

Now we have odd books like the 99Cent only Stores Cookbook. One of the few things that I miss about not living on the mainland is the 99Cent Store (I also miss Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy and especially Ikea). You can do all of your shopping there. It’s a close out store so some of the fresh produce is sketchy. You can pick up Christmas ornaments, Fresh as Spring Douche and dog food all in one stop! I digress, I must admit that I do not remember how this one came into my life. I haven’t made anything from it and I scanned it for the first time today. This cookbook mentions all ingredients with the manufacturers name, hence the 99Cent Only Store Cookbook….items only from the store. Swamp Cabbage Salad with Spicy Dressing (California Girl hearts of palm, Banquet mayonnaise, Citrovita apple cider, Spice Supreme salt, Encore dried cherries Louisiana Select hot sauce). Will it not turn out if I use Best Foods mayonnaise instead of Banquet? And what exactly is swamp cabbage?

I also have a “Smart Cooking the Costco Way” and again I don’t recall how this cookbook came into my life. I don’t recall ever looking through this book either but I’m old and my memory fades at times. In reviewing the recipes, they seem to be pretty good. Not too simple but not too difficult. My issue is that the recipes are all over the place and not focused. I’m getting a headache reading  it. Lots of pics which is good and as usual, they are pushing the Costo products.

If you are a local, you must have a few of these local cookbooks. They are usually a compilation of employees of organizations or a selection of local favorites compiled. There are a few treasures and some real local favorites like Kalbi Ribs, Potato Mac Salad and my favorite….Ambrosia. There are so many versions of banana bread, it’s always difficult which one to choose from.

One of my favorites is a 2 volume set that I acquired (stole) from my mother many years ago. Meta Givens Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. I remember these from when I was a young kid trying to make candy without a thermometer. We all know that didn’t turn out! I checked the publish date, which turns out to be my birth year…1959. Volume 1 takes you from Appetizers to Fish, volume 2, Foreign Foods to Vegetables. If you want to know what “Foreign Food” is, think Muskrat Fricasee or Mrs. Dukes Baked Possum & Sweets. (I kid you not). I’ve only used this book for a Chicken Curry recipe that I adore!

I must say that my selection of cookbooks have improved ever since attending Culinary School. I can’t wait to delve into the world of Sauces; Classical & Contemporary by James Peterson. If my memory proves me correct (maybe a stretch), this book in its original publishing won a James Beard award in the 80’s. 600 pages of sauces means I better get started. Who needs the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Book (of which I have) when you can get The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. I checked this book out from our public library here and didn’t have time to make any of the recipes so I decided to purchase it. The thing about ice cream is that I don’t make it often and with a book that offers 500 recipes, it’ll take a while to get through them all. Finally, Cocolat; Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts. I bought the book because of the photographs and some unusual chocolate recipes. I did make the Tricolor Mousse, which turned out to be pretty good. The book also has some instructional information on chocolate decor.

The problem is that I keep ordering cookbooks and I don’t have time to make anything from them. Gotta stop! I’d bet that I’m not the only person guilty of that.

Speaking of cookbooks, I still have the original (circa 1973) cookbook to this Presto 6 quart pressure cooker. I like living on the edge so I’ve decided to keep this model that has been know to explode. The newer ones are for beginners. I equate this to driving a stick shift versus an automatic. Have you ever pressure cooked? It’s wonderful. Unlike a crock pot, a pressure cooker is quick and be a secret weapon in the kitchen. I’ve made baby back ribs, pot roast and some amazing black beans. It can be intimidating to use at first.

What kind of cookbooks are you hiding on your shelves? Please share!

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