We know that garlic has been used by cooks since, at least, the time that history began to be written.  It gives our dishes such flavor; suchzing; such personality.Garlic can be used raw in pesto,sauteed in many a dish, roasted and used as a spread or accompaniment.The use of garlic, medicinally, is historically endorsed, as well.  Modern research confirms that garlic is a potent weapon in the battle against disease. “A 1999 study by S. Ankri and D. Mirelman shows that a compound within garlic called allicin is responsible for garlic’s antimicrobial, antiviral, and antiparasitic activity. It’s also been shown to combat drug-resistant strains of E. coli and could potentially battle some superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Allicin isn’t actually in garlic. A compound, alliin, and an enzyme, alliinase are part of the cells in a garlic clove. These two are kept separate, however, when those cell walls are ruptured, they meet and form the all-powerful and mighty allicin.”“A 2001 study by K. Song and J.A. Milner showed that heating, microwaving, or boiling crushed garlic destroyed all the alliinase enzyme activity within it. However, most dishes call for cooked garlic rather than raw.”

Since, there aren’t a lot of application of raw garlic, in ‘polite’ society, how do we get around this?

Studies have shown that cutting your garlic, at least ten minutes prior to cooking, allows the allicin to form.  Less will be destroyed by the cooking process.  An easy trick to improve health!  Garlic can easily be sliced, chopped, pressed or emulsified with a food processor.  I have a tiny little Cuisinart Mini-Prep Processor, that is fun to use.

Alas, many individuals seem to be sensitive to this ingredient. I have read a number of articles and posts regarding this.  If you fall into this category, when dining out, please be polite and patient explaining this need to your server.  So many people are simply afraid of potential bad breath and ‘abuse’ the word allergy.  This creates a nightmare for those with actual health consequences.  Take a look at my pages regarding dining out, for some suggestions.

PorkButtThere is little more appealing then a slice of fresh roasted Pork Butt/Shoulder, just out of the oven, steaming and dripping all over!

It is commonly braised and used for pulled pork and a variety of other options.  I love to simply roast them.  The fat within bastes throughout during the cooking process, adding moisture and remarkable flavor.

You can buy these with or without bones.  The bone-in has more flavor, but more challenging when it comes time to slice pretty pieces.  If you have a boneless one, be sure to open the flap created from removing the bones and season inside, as well.

I don’t generally brine a butt/shoulder.  (and YES, the name is interchangeable for this cut of meat)  You certainly can brine, if you have desire and the space.

Once seasoned, if cooking a boneless Pork Butt, you will want to tie it.  Otherwise, the top tends to lift up and become dry.

Pork is so very versatile.  It lends itself to a wide variety of different cuisines, so when it comes to seasoning, its wide open.  If you are cooking a big piece, you may want to keep the seasoning simple, so you can use it to prepare several diverse meals.  I get a kick out of my “Deja-Food” machinations.  The challenge is to prepare of meal, using ‘left-overs’ while utterly fooling the picky eaters at the table.

If you have the ability to handle a large quantity of Pork Butt, I would recommend going to one of the several Cash & Carry stores.  They are all over the Seattle area.  These stores are set up for restaurants and other food oriented retail operations, but they are licensed for non-commercial purchases, as well.  You will pay half the price per pound that you would spend at a grocery store.  You will ALSO have a package containing two full butts.  A ‘whole’ butt is from both sides of the pig, so two pieces. I generally cook one whole one, while cutting the other into two units that I freeze for another day.  You can cut the first smaller, as well.  You are in charge!

Enjoy!! Chef Celinda


Nic’s contribution…

ButternutFennel'Risotto'What should I call a dish made with minced butternut squash, fresh minced fennel and onion cooked slowly, while adding small increments of stock?  Kinda like risotto, but no rice!

This is one of those sneaky side dishes that will win the show every time.  The guests at the table, will all look at you and ask, “What is it?  Oh, it is soooo GOOD!”

The essence of the fennel mellows with the subtle sweet squash flavors.  Being the first time I played with this concept, I didn’t look to add more then salt for seasoning and a touch of sherry vinegar to balance the sweetness from both vegetables and the onion.

It would do well with hard cheeses, like Parmigianno.  Many of the warm spices would be good options, as well as your favorite chilies, cooked into the mixture from the beginning.  Fresh herbs can elevate in a large variety of directions.  Make your choices based on what you will be serving with this lovely side dish.

Enjoy!!  Chef Celinda

FennelTopPestoIt’s Green.  It’s Easy.  It has an immense FLAVOR.  It is also very versatile!

Try it tossed into pasta with Feta or Gorgonzola for a simple but amazing meal!

Try is as a condiment with roast chicken, fish or pork entree’s

Slather a thin layer on grilled bread and top with roasted Roma tomatoes and Pecorino Romano for a magnificent winter Bruschetta.

Envision a sandwich featuring thinly sliced roast chicken, Gouda, fresh apple and a thin slather of this magnificent pesto!

Fennel Top Pesto

Save the long, thin stems and frilly leaves from  your next fennel bulb.  Chop it roughly and place in a food processor with fresh garlic and roasted pine nuts.  Pulse a few times to mingle the ingredients and start breaking it down.  Add a little extra virgin olive oil and blend.  Add more oil, a little at a time until it is the desired consistency.  I did mention that this recipe is ridiculously easy?

Enjoy!!  Chef Celinda

pork loinLean, flavorful, pork loin is a wonderfully versatile protein to find lurking in your fridge.

Slice it super thin and layer with cheese, pickled peppers or onion jam on your favorite artisan bread,

Cube up a thicker slice and toss with roasted pears and pecans in a wilted baby kale salad dressed with warm bourbon and maple vinaigrette.

Maybe a quick taco appeals?  Julienne the pork and heat with caramelized onion and chipotle pepper.  Spoon into warm corn tortillas with layers of finely shredded napa cabbage and a quick shave of cotija.

How to Prepare Your Pork Loin

Being lean, you need to take extra measures to protect this lovely piece of meat.  Brining is ideal.  Use 1/4 cup of salt to 3 cups of water.  I like to add some honey, a bay leaf, peppercorn and acid in the form of a splash of organic cider vinegar or half of a lemon.  Cook to dissolve salt and honey.  Cool fully, then immerse the roast into the liquid and refrigerate.  Even a couple hours will make a huge difference.  For a larger roast, over night is ideal.  Remove from the brine at that time, or it will affect the overall texture of the meat.

To roast, merely make a rub of your favorite herbs and spices then smear them all over the roast.  If you did have time to brine, you will not need as much salt when roasting. Pop the meat into a 350 degree oven and roast until the thermometer reads 145 degrees.  It cooks fairly fast, so keep an eye on it.  Once out of the oven, please set it aside to rest.  The rest period allows the temperature to permeate consistently through out the meat.  The juices settle, so when you cut it, they don’t run out, resulting in a dry piece of pork.

Have fun creating your own recipes with this low cost ingredient!

Enjoy!!  Chef Celinda

walnuts-and-shellsLosing your marbles?  Laughing hysterically, at something not quite funny?  Maybe… Does it matter?  I decided, a long time ago, it didn’t matter in the least!

Embrace your ‘Nutty’ side and bring more NUTS into your culinary repertoire.  Walnuts, in particular, can be a wonderful addition, to both sweet and savory dishes.  They also bring Omega-3 fatty acid and a decent amount of protein to “the table”.

I find it relaxing to hand-shell nuts, like these.  Grab a handy nut cracker and start cracking those big shells!  You may find a certain sense of timeless contentment or…maybe you might want to use this task for a little stress relief, for those annoyances you may have internalized.  Yes, cooking can be quite therapeutic!

Whether smashing things brings you joy or you’d rather just slide into a bag and pull out some treasure, walnuts are easy to work with.  They add a wake up of bitterness, lovely texture and the element of surprise in many dishes.

You have probably seen them used in salads.  All of the elements discussed in the prior paragraph make them a great choice for this.

Walnuts are wonderful, as the primary, or as a secondary component in sauces.  Consider them when working with apples, beets, blue veined cheeses, carrots, eggplant, figs, grains, greens, mushrooms, pastas, pesto and winter squashes, to name just a handful of ideas to consider.

So, maybe you are nuts, but you’re a fabulous Cook!  Enjoy!! Chef Celinda

Coffee BeansYou wake up in the morning.  You’re foggy and a bit disoriented.  You reach for a jolt of BITTER, ie:  Drip Coffee, Espresso, French Press…  I could list more, but they all typically include sugar, an entirely different life changing ingredient we add to our daily chemistry.  Many Seattleites, would claim the consumption of coffee to be a near religious experience.

Today, I am going to discuss using the highly beloved coffee bean as a culinary ingredient.  Yeah, I know!  Life just moved to an even better place!

Whether using Dark roast, with it’s LOUD flavors or Lighter roast, that can be a bit more moderate, even quiet, in it’s expression, you have so many opportunities to create!

Maybe you have already risked it all, combining coffee with chocolate in your baking.  Those two tango sublimely outside your coffee cup!  How about using coffee in savory dishes?

Beef and Pork are great dishes to consider using fresh ground coffee, or espresso beans, as the primary component of a rub.  The big flavors of coffee is incredible paired up with warm spices, spicy peppers, smokey flavored ingredients.

I also like to use coffee in sauces and gravies; even soups and chili.  Have a project that is just not right; no pizzazz, no WOW?  Add some prepared coffee to the liquid you are reducing.  Be careful, it may feel like your kitchen had a little earthquake… Taste it now.  And???  All of sudden, that dish is yelling HELLO!!!  EAT ME!!

Don’t be Bitter!  Have FUN with your FOOD!  Chef Celinda

citrusDuring, seemingly endless, gray winter days, bringing a little sunshine into our meals is a true bonus.  Beautiful colors, bright flavors, reminiscent of sunny days past or future, give us hope.  That bitter tang from tiny morsels of zest, as it assaults each of our senses and bellows WAKE UP!!

Using the zest, the thin outer edge of the peel not the inner white pith, in recipes adds flavor, but no fat or sodium!  How many ingredients, with that level of WOW, can say the same thing?

The easiest way to make quick flavor adjustments to many dishes, is by keeping a microplane handy in the kitchen.  You can zest directly into the pan or do ahead and have it handy.  It smells sooooo good, coming off the plane in tiny ribbons, as the oils are released into the atmosphere.

If you are in need of a large quantity, you might want to use a grater with a larger surface.  I like to do this over a good size piece of waxed paper.  Less mess and more zest for use.

I particularly like the bitter aspects of citrus zests.  I use it frequently, in any dish that the primary fruit flavor would work with.  Watch Fearless Feast recipes for lots of great ideas!

Enjoy!  Chef Celinda

chocolateAlmost everyone loves Chocolate.  It is a favorite ‘bitter’ flavor option for many individuals.  Do you think they realize that the bitter aspect is what they love about it?  Possibly not!

Dark Chocolate is a wonderful ingredient to integrate into numerous savory dishes.  You may be familiar with it in Puebla Mole recipes.  It is an incredible ‘secret ingredient’ in chili and it makes a subtle component, when included in rubs for beef and pork dishes.

Chocolate is only grown in a narrow band of latitude around the globe.  Like good wine, it is available from single plantations.  If you get the opportunity, don’t pass up the chance to taste test a variety of chocolates.  You will find them to be amazingly different from one another.  Savor it on your palate.  Close your eyes and delve deeper into the flavor profile.  What do you taste?  The essence of the earth it was grown in?  Spice? Berries?  Coffee notes?  Approach chocolate tasting the same way you would seek to choose a wine.  I will warn you, once you have experienced this level of culinary ecstasy, it’s rather like flying first class…coach will never be adequate again.

You want to buy a product that is high in cocoa; 60% is sweet enough for most people’s eating pleasure, while 80% is best for cooking with.  The difference is the sugar content.  Once again, taste!  Be bold!  Think about those flavors, not the sugar.  What excites your taste buds?

Divine Organics Cacao Nibs

Another great treat to work with are cocoa nibs.  This is chocolate in its non-processed form.  No, it has no sugar, but it’s a more balanced bitter flavor then unsweetened, processed chocolate.  Try adding nibs to risotto that will accompany beef or pork!  You will want to add them at the end of preparation time.  They are wonderful sneaky ingredient to integrate into a dish.  Experiment!

Remember, dark chocolate is high in anti-oxidants, too!  Enjoy!

LambCCOrangeGremToo pretty?  Never!!  Grab me a fork!

Rack of Lamb with Orange Gremolata

Lamb Rack, frenched, typically eight bones
Rosemary, minced
Garlic, minced
Cara Cara Orange, zested and supremed into separate dishes
Salt and pepper
Italian flay leaf parsley, chopped
Shallot, minced
Pine nuts, toasted

Chef’s Secret:  The key to cooking lamb is patience.  To achieve the beautiful color in the picture, you need to allow it to rest.  If you don’t, when you cut it, all those lovely juices run free.

Cut the rack into portions, allowing three to four ribs per person when using small imported lamb.  If you are using American lamb, it is usually from larger animals, so you won’t need as many ribs per person.

Salt and pepper all surfaces.  Set it aside and allow to come to room temperature.  This creates more even cooking through out.

Mix the orange zest, rosemary and garlic.  Set aside.

Heat a cast iron skillet with a small amount of olive oil.  Place the lamb in it, meat side down.  Brown this.  When that is achieved, turn it over.  While the back side is cooking, rub the orange zest mixture all over the meat side of the rack.  Now, put the pan, with the lamb into a 400 degree oven. Cooking time will be determined by the size of the portions.  When the meat is no longer smushy, but beginning to be firm to the touch, pull the pan from the oven.  Transfer the racks, uncut, to a plate and set aside.

While they are resting for 10-15 minutes you can complete any side dishes and make the orange salad garnish.  To make this, combine the orange supremes with the parsley, shallot and pine nuts.

Once the lamb is fully rested, carefully cut between the rib bones to make chops.  They should be beautifully pink, warm all the way through and not losing their juices.  Plate them and top with the supreme salad.

Enjoy!!   Chef Celinda