Search

chefpliska

Traditional Culinary and Pastry Arts

 

crawfish-college

Crawfish, Crawdads or Mudbugs, no matter what you call them they are delicious! Hailing from streams and ponds these freshwater crustaceans are synonymous with the American regional cuisine of Louisiana. Immortalized in the lyrics of the song “Jambayala on the Bayou” recorded by Hank Williams in 1952, crawfish are used for dishes such as Crawfish étouffée, Crawfish Boil, Crawfish Dressing, Crawfish Beignets and Crawfish pie, as in the song.

However, long before that, they were cherished in France most notably for the Sauce Nantua. A famous story relating to crawfish is about Chicken Marengo which is said to have been Napoleon’s favorite dish. Chicken Marengo was created by his personal chef Dunand after the victory in June 1800 against the Austrians in Marengo, Italy. According to legend, the chef was having a hard time finding ingredients because the food supply wagons were lost after the battle. He had to search the local area for food and one of the items that he was able to collect from a farm was crawfish. Dunand combined the crawfish with chicken, tomatoes, and other ingredients and served it garnished with fried eggs and called it Chicken Marengo.

live-crawfish-2

Crawfish grow wild in streams and are farm-raised in ponds.  When purchased live they need to be cleaned well by letting them sit in a sink of cool water where the water is changed frequently for at least an hour. Agitate the water between changing it so that enough oxygen is available for the crawfish to breathe. When the water is clear after many changes the crawfish are clean and ready to cook. The two ways that I cook crawfish is by sauteeing or cooking them in a court bouillon.

  • In the saute method,  I start with a hot pan and a little olive oil, then I quickly saute the shallots and finely chopped mirepoix. In the next step, I add the crawfish and then flambe them with brandy and cover them briefly until they are cooked.
  • In the court bouillon method, which is the typical way to cook large batches of 25 pounds or more, I boil them in a well-seasoned court bouillon made with mirepoix, wine, herbs and spices, lemon and water.
  • After they are cooked in either method I briefly shock them in ice water to stop the carryover cooking and to chill them.
  • The final step is to remove the meat from the tails.

crawfish-cleaned

This is done in three steps:

  1. First, twist off the tails from the heads (reserving the heads to make crawfish stock or crawfish butter).
  2. Then peel off the outer shell from the tail meat leaving the tail shell intact.
  3. Lastly,  pinch the middle of the tail shell and draw out the intestinal tract and remove the tail shell. If it doesn’t come out then pull it out of the cleaned meat from the top (do not wash off the yellow colored “fat” that is attached to the tail meat this adds a lot flavor to any preparation). The tail meat is now ready to be used in any preparation such as the one in the next photo.

After I cooked the crawfish used in this post I prepared this dish as a tasting for the line cooks. It goes well served over rice, pasta or with croustades as an appetizer. To make it I sauteed fine diced onion, celery and bell peppers (known as the trinity in Creole/Cajun cooking) with garlic and some creole spice in olive oil. Then I added a little of the court bouillon that I cooked the crawfish in followed by some chopped tomatoes. After it reduced to thick consistency I added a small amount of cream and then tossed in the tails and finished it with a splash of sherry.

img_1212-1

Another way to serve crawfish tails is as a garnish for sauteed salmon with a classic French sauce known as  Nantua sauce, named for the city and a lake in eastern France. The classic Nantua sauce is normally served with a dish of fish dumplings made from pike, called Quenelles de Brochet Nantua. To prepare the classic sauce a base sauce of Bechamel is cooked with a small amount of tomato and then finished with a crawfish butter. My version of Nantua sauce starts with a white wine reduction with shallots, thyme, tarragon and a little tomato paste. I then add heavy cream and reduce to a nappe consistency before emulsifying with cold crawfish butter.

To make crawfish butter I begin by roasting the heads to dry them out and then crush them up. After that, I weigh the heads and then melt an equal amount butter to which I  add the crushed roasted heads. The next step is to clarify the butter by simmering over low heat. The butter is ready to be strained when it is clear and orange colored. When it is ready I strain it and then chill the clarified butter until it is solid. To finish the sauce, I whisked small pieces of the solid butter into the reduced cream sauce, which creates a butter sauce emulsion that has a rich crawfish flavor.

To prepare the Salmon Mignons Nantua I stem some shiitake mushrooms and then cut them into halves and quarters.  I then cut and peel some white and green asparagus tips. Then I cut thin slices of salmon and sprinkle them with chopped herbs (basil, tarragon, and parsley).

fullsizerender-8

In the next step, I rolled up the cut salmon and wrapped them with thin bands of foil that were lightly sprayed with oil so that they would hold their shape when I cooked them. Then I gathered a small amount of the cooked tails to garnish the dish when plating.

fullsizerender-10

To cook the dish I first sear the salmon in a hot pan with olive oil.  Then I flip them over and bake them in the oven for few minutes to cook the pinwheels all the way through. After they are cooked I remove them from the pan and hold them warm while I drain off any excess oil.  I then add chopped shallots, the asparagus (which I blanched while the salmon was cooking) and the mushrooms. I then add the crawfish tails and a small amount of brandy and then flambee it.

To plate up the two portions I  remove the foil bands from the salmon and garnish the plates with the asparagus, shitake mushrooms and crawfish tails, finishing the presentation with the Nantua sauce that I previously prepared. Very tasty!

And with that, as they say in the big easy, Laissez les bon temps rouller!

salmon-mignons-2

 

 

more-cover-hi-res

It is often said that the act of kneading bread is very therapeutic and calming. That being said, making a good loaf takes more than good dexterity skills. The interaction between yeast, flour, and water at its most basic level is a complex reaction that creates the flavor, texture, and density of any given loaf. In Michael Kalanty’s latest book,

In Michael Kalanty’s latest book, How to Bake More Bread, he thoroughly explains the method of using “wild yeast.” Those strains of microorganisms that are found naturally in flours, grains, vegetables and the skins of fruits.

Michael Kalanty’s technique, as outlined in his book, is to build the starter or mother by capturing the elusive yeast cells. To do this, first soak raisins in water for three days, then mix them with flour and honey. Feed and maintain this starter or mother, as it is called, for seven more days by adding a small amount of flour each day.  This process produces a wild yeast culture the base for the famous flavorful bread known as sourdough. Sourdough bread is a type of bread made all over the world and a specialty of San Francisco where Kalanty resides and teaches.

I met Michael Kalanty in my travels as a chef/author and sampled some of his wonderful breads at a seminar that he taught at the American Culinary Federation National Convention in Kansas City.

Bake More Bread is the sequel to his award winning book, How to Bake Bread, it features the following:

  • Three chapters to explain the trio of steps to create a wild yeast culture
  • Master formula known as Pain au Levain for use with wild yeast cultures
  • Step by step photos of how to form and bake bread
  • Recipes and methods for three styles of breads “Modern Breads, Classic Breads and Porridge Breads”
  • Innovative flavor wheel for bread
  • 290 pages in soft cover book

Michael Kalanty’s books are written for the professional baker, the serious baking aficionado and the baking student alike or for those of us who want to learn more about the science of baking with yeast. He gives an excellent treatise on the study of how to use specialty flours and ancient grains. I highly recommend this book and am confident that it will quickly become a reference book for many a home library.

 

 

seafood
Some of my favorite ways to present seafood are: (from top to bottom) Classic Shrimp Cocktail, Thai style Salmon Sates, Olive Oil poached Tuna with White Beans, Sea Bass and Ahi Tuna Sashimi with white Soy and Sesame Oil, Baked Scallops wrapped with Grava Lox on Saffron Tomato Buerre Blanc, Grilled Shrimp with Cucumber and Yogurt, Fried Soft Shell Crab and Royal Red Rock Shrimp in Country Mustard Cream Sauce, Spanish Style Seafood Paella.

Gotta love Seafood! Served hot or chilled seafood with its vast array of types and preparations never fails to impress. Farm raised or wild and sustainable… flat fish, round  fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, the seemingly endless variety takes special care and treatment to serve it at its best. Here are some tips for purchasing, storing, cooking and presenting the fruits of the sea!

  • Before buying seafood do some research on where it comes from to see how it was harvested and/or raised. One popular site is Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Food Watch
  • Buy the freshest seafood you can find and remember that fresh fish does not smell at all
  • If not cooked immediately fish should be stored on ice or marinated as soon as you bring it home
  • Shell fish (mollusks) should be closed and are alive when purchased so make sure not to cover tightly so they won’t suffocate
  • The best way to clean mollusks is to scrub them with kosher salt and a little cold water. Do this in bowl by rubbing them together briskly with the salt to clean them well and rinsing until the water is clear
  • Don’t overcook seafood. Its protein make-up is different from meat and can dry out and become tough if overcooked
  • Always trim off the dark blood line of fish; this is where toxins can build up in the fish
  • Some fish skin can be eaten and some should be trimmed off, depends on the species

If you like seafood chowder check out my recipe for Fish Market Chowder on my recipe page. It calls for using fish stock, also known as fumet. Fish stock should be made with white fish bones, if possible. The best ones are flounder, turbot, or sole. It should be cooked for a short time (30 minutes with 15 minutes off the stove to let it settle ) and be skimmed well. I make mine with onions, parsley, bay leaves, pepper corns and dry white wine. The poaching liquid  from seafood can be used to replace fish stock if needed in a pinch. That is if it is made properly.

The processes, techniques and recipes are endless since there are so many types of fish and seafood that come from our oceans. Classic recipes and preparations are found in every major cuisine worldwide. If you love to cook and haven’t had much experience with seafood I encourage you to learn to cook seafood and you will soon find out how great fish can be!

sea-bass-plated-with-clams
Pan fried Bronzini with Little Neck Clams and Gnocchi Parisienne in a Tomato Fennel Sauce with Squash and Egg Plant.
Halibut
Alaskan Halibut Filet comes from a large flat fish that lives on the bottom of the ocean in the same family of fin fish as Sole, Flounder, and Turbot.
_IGP0004
Seafood Napoleon is layered with crisp Puff Pastry. First layer is sautéed Scallops and Spinach and the second layer is Shrimp on Puree of Gold Potatoes. Three sauces are Brandy Shrimp Cream Sauce, roasted Tomato Coulis and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction.

cover-image

As a working Executive Chef I am often asked advice on culinary schools. If you or someone in your family are considering a career as a chef and are planning to start your training by going to a culinary school then “Welcome to Culinary School” by Daniel Traster is a good book to get you started. It came to my attention when Daniel Traster interviewed me for inclusion in the book along with many other chefs and culinary instructors. The advice given by all of these chefs and educators is a very valuable feature of the book for anyone entering the culinary field. The contents and other features of the book are:

  • Divided into three parts – Learning to Succeed in College, Maximizing Your Marketability, Your Graduating: Now What?
  • Second Edition published
  • 300 pages with useful appendix with professional culinary associations, and job descriptions
  • Many interviews with advice from Chefs, Educators, Managers and Students

Daniel Traster should be proud of his latest edition; it will help many students on their journey into the field of culinary and pastry arts. It is published by Pearson and is available at Amazon.com.

 

240812_beautraspb_bw_0001
Raspberry tart made with a sweet sugar crust coated with dark chocolate and filled with pastry cream. Image by  Robert Watson.

Wondering what dessert to make this year for your Christmas dinner? How about a tart. Easy to prepare, tarts can be served in many different ways, both warm or cold. They can be prepared with a few ingredients such as this classic French apple tart or with more elaborate ingredients such as a warm plum hazelnut tart. See my recipes page for the full recipe for the apple tart.

The warm plum hazelnut tart was featured in the National Culinary Review in my article “Tantalizing Tarts” in the September issue of the National Culinary Review, the official magazine of the American Culinary Federation. In the article I included recipes and advice for creating signature tarts from some of the nation’s top pastry chefs and pastry authors along with a brief history of some timeless classic tarts like Tart Tatin and Backwell tart.

tantalizingtarts0816septncr_highres-1

pastry dough06230090
French Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce and Cream Anglaise. Image by Robert Watson.
20140711_chefpliskauclub_0063e
Warm Plum Tart in a Linzer Crust- Image by Madeline Beyer

Pecans are yet another favorite filling for tarts and pies and when combined with chocolate and bourbon in the filling and covered with a rich chocolate ganache in sweet sugar crust (Pate Sucree) they never fail to please.

20140611_cafe115_0026e
Chocolate bourbon pecan tart simply plated. Image by Madeline Bayer.

Lemon tarts are also a classic tart which can be covered with a decadent Swiss or Italian meringue for yet another impressive dessert. In this photo I garnished the tart with caramel and sugar coated dried lemon slices and white chocolate plaques that have been colored green by the use of a chocolate transfer sheet.

DSC_3071
Lemon Meringue Tart

In conclusion, my last tart for this post takes me back to the first image shown at the top and is always a great flavor combination: raspberry and vanilla pastry cream. Although raspberries are out of season they are readily available all year long and are the decadent berry that reminds of us of warmer times in mid summer. Note the thin chocolate coating that I brushed onto the crust after it was baked before I filled it with pastry cream. This helps to keep the crust from becoming soggy and also lends another, ever so slight, flavor profile to the finished tart.

With these ideas I hope you make a nice tart for your friends and family this holiday season and make it a tradition for years to come. Happy holidays!

 

 

 

img_1074-1

Bring on the meat!  This post is for the serious meat lover, it features a lamb saddle that is stuffed with a beef tenderloin and a ground meat stuffing made with veal and pork. I served this for a private banquet made up of a group of gourmets who enjoy exquisite dining experiences. After the dinner was over the group asked for me to come out into the dining room where they gave me an enthusiastic round of applause. If you prepare this dish you too will receive this type of response; however only the serious home cook or professional chef should attempt this preparation. It is a complicated procedure using expensive cuts. When done it is truly a carnivore’s dream.

Begin with a lamb saddle. Certified American lamb is what I used for this dinner.

img_1061

This primal cut of bone-in lamb is cut from the carcass between the rack and hind legs, which includes the strip loin and the tenderloin. The first step is to break it down into the usable parts by de-boning the meat by cutting through the inside of the saddle. Basically flip it over and first remove the two rib bones, then the tenderloin and finally the back bone, leaving the strip loins intact. The finished piece should be boneless and in one large square piece. Next trim any excess fat from the skirt (flap below the strip loin) and then use a meat hammer to pound out the skirt on both sides of the loin. Lastly trim the the tenderloins and place them next to the strip loins inside of the saddle and cut up the bones with a large cleaver; then roast them. These bones will be used to make the lamb Bordalaise Sauce. For more on lamb recipes and techniques for cooking go to the American Lamb Board website

img_1063

The next step is to prepare a stuffing (called a force meat in culinary jargon). To be more specific, this type of force meat is known as straight force meat. It is made from one part lean veal, half a part of fatty pork and half a part of pork back fat, all marinated in brandy, thyme, tarragon, shallots and ground black pepper. Once marinated (preferably over night) the chilled meat is passed through a ice cold meat grinder two times and then pureed in a food processor with salt and a small amount of egg white.

The next step is to fabricate (technical term for cutting or butchering meat into usable portions) a beef tenderloin by removing the fat, chain meat and silver skin. The clean tenderloin is then seasoned with salt and pepper  and seared off in a hot pan. It is then chilled and cut to the length of the lamb saddle.

img_1064

Once the force meat and tenderloin are ready the next step is to is season the saddle with salt and pepper and then cover  it with a thin layer of force meat. The tenderloin is then in-layed in the center of the saddle; then rolled up tightly and wrapped with caul fat ( the stomach fat from pork). Lastly, it is tied up with butchers twine (the culinary term for this is known as trussing) as in the photo below.

img_1066

The boneless stuffed saddle is then seared off in a hot pan and placed onto a roasting rack and roasted in a 350 F degree oven to an internal temperature in the middle of the beef tenderloin to 115 to 120 F.

img_1068

After the roast is cooked make sure to let it rest for at least 20 minutes and then remove all of the butchers twine.

img_1070-1

Slice the saddle and serve! For this dinner I served it on a bed of sliced roasted Fingerling potatoes with an array of seasonal vegetables and morel mushrooms on a carrot puree with lamb Bordalaise sauce.

Enjoy!

 

 

FullSizeRender (002)
Classic Spanish Paella garnished with sea food, charred tomatoes, and grilled scallions makes a great summer meal

Prepared with rice, peppers, onions, tomatoes and saffron, Paella is meal for those who enjoy spicy flavorful food and originally comes from southern Spain. This once humble dish reputed to have been the meal made by vineyard workers over an open fire is often served with spicy cured chorizo sausage and seafood. Authentic Paella is made from a special strain of medium grain rice called Bomba rice or Calasparra rice from Murcia Spain. In this recipe I use Arborio rice since it is easier to find.

Paella which is traditionally made in a special pie shaped shallow pan called a Paella pan can also be prepared in a large pot and then garnished with cooked sea food and served as a plated dish. Two of the special seasonings that create the best Paella are smoked paprika known as Pimenton and the stigmas of the Crocus flower more commonly known as Saffron. The dried cured salami style of Chorizo sausage is used to give the finished rice dish its complex flavor profile. Lastly, as in all rice dishes, the quality of the broth is important. The best, of course, is made with stock prepared from scratch; however there are some good quality bases or canned broths available as well.

A taste for life- specializing in Spanish food products.

DSC_2474
Deconstructed Paella prepared with a croquette made with Paella rice garnished with spot Prawns, and Rabbit Sausage on pea puree and tomato coulis, finished with fried sage and slow cooked tomato confit.

The most famous authentic Paella comes from Valencia; however, it is said that Paella originally came from La Albufera Spain. Paella in its traditional form cooked  and  served in the traditional Paella pans yields an impressive presentation.

Many chefs like to create new ways of presenting traditional dishes and in that context I offer an idea for deconstructed style of Paella. At the National American Culinary Federation Convention held in Las Vegas a couple of years ago I prepared this dish at a presentation simultaneous and  in unison with Chef Gui Alinat. Chef Alinat prepared his version of the original dish at the other end of the stage. In my deconstructed version I prepared the paella by making a pan fried croquette out of it; then I topped it with a rabbit sausage and presented it with Shrimp, and pea puree on a light tomato sauce, garnished with fried sage and slow cooked tomato confit. This version represents all of the flavors served in an artful manner.

This deconstructed style of Paella is most likely too complicated to prepare at home. The base recipe outlined below can easily be prepared and served in presentation like that shown in the photo in the opening image of this post.

DSC_2482
An alternate plating style of de-constructed  paella using the base recipe for paella made into breaded fried croquette

Sea Food Paella
By Chef Daniel Pliska CEC AAC
Yield 5 pounds or 10 portions
Ingredients:

1 1/4 lbs                                   Dry cured Chorizo (Volipi) small diced
12 ounces                                Shell fish, chopped (Shrimp, clams, mussels or scallops)
2 tablespoons                          Olive oil for browning the seafood
3/4 cup                                    Onions fine diced
1 cup                                       Red bell peppers fine diced
¼ cup                                      Fennel fine diced
1/2 cup                                    Celery fine diced
1 Tablespoon                           Garlic minced
3 cups                                      Arborio, Bomba or other short grain rice
2 cups                                      Tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped fine
1 1/4 quarts                             Shrimp, Crab, or Chicken stock
¼ cup                                      Tomato paste
2 tablespoons                          Smoked or Spanish paprika
3 each                                      Bay leaves
¼ teaspoon                              Chili flakes
1/4 tsp                                     Saffron steeped in 1/4 cup white wine
Garnish with:
1/2 cup                                    Parsley chopped
1/4 cup                                    Basil chopped
As needed                               Cooked -Jumbo Shrimp, Steamed Clams, Scallops, Mussels,       Lobster tail (or combination of sea food)

  1. In a heavy bottom braising pan brown the Chorizo in olive oil,
  2. Remove from the pan and add the onion, peppers, fennel, celery, garlic, paprika and chili flakes. When the vegetables are tender add the rice and brown,
  3. Add the stock, saffron and wine essence, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaves,
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer stir in the chopped sea food and cover,
  5. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes in a 350F oven until all of the liquid has been absorbed,
  6. Remove from the oven fluff with cork and remove bay leaves,
  7. Garnish with the parsley, and basil and serve with cooked sea food or cool and reheat to order with cooked sea seafood.
FullSizeRender (8)
Buffet presentation  of Paella for a large group of people is garnished with grilled peppers, onions, calamari, shrimp, scallops, clams and spicy sausage

 

Beef Sante Fe Sandwich

Served hot or cold, sandwiches are the most popular food served for lunch in the United States. In restaurants they make up a large portion of the menu and are the main item served at delis and other fast casual concept restaurants. Normally served as an a la carte plated item, sandwiches can also be served from a buffet under a heat lamp when hot or on a platter or tray when served cold. There are many variations of the classic sandwich with two slices of bread filled with meat. There are some basic tips that everyone should follow to ensure that this style of  sandwich is the best it can be. They are:

  • The meat must be shaved thin; this is the New York Deli secret. Three ounces of meat shaved thin makes the sandwich look much bigger and also yields a much more tender mouth feel than three ounces of thicker cut slices of meat.
  • The ratio of filling to bread must be a least equal to if not more than the amount of bread used, this makes the sandwich moist, tasty and memorable.
  • Spreads like mayonaise, mustard, butter or creamed cheese, must be very flavorful so as to be able to cut thorough the somewhat bland flavor of the bread and enhance the flavor of the meat inside
  • Bread must be fresh and of the best quality available
  • If using roast beef as in the Sante Fe Sandwich the beef must be roasted medium rare, seasoned well and trimmed of any excess fat. I like to use top sirloin as my go to cut for roast beef.
  • When using lettuce and tomato make sure the tomato is ripe. Use two thick slices along with a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. The lettuce can vary from Boston leaves, shredded Iceberg to Romaine as well as  others.

Sandwiches are so popular and varied that it would take a volume of books to cover all of the different types that are being served and made today. For this post I offer two of my favorite sandwiches that can be served commercially or at home. They are the Roast Beef Sante Fe Sandwich and the Salmon Club Sandwich. The images were taken by Madeline Stanley  at the University Club of MU. I hope you enjoy these two sandwiches as much as I do preparing and eating them.

Santé Fe Grilled Beef Sandwich
Yield 16 sandwiches

Roasted Garlic Chipotle Mayonnaise

3 tablespoons      Chopped Chipotle peppers, re-hydrated and seeded prior to chopping
18 cloves              Roasted garlic, mashed
1/2 cups               Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons      Chopped parsley
To taste                Salt and pepper

Cabbage Jicama Slaw

2 quarts                Julienne cabbage
1 cup                    Julienne jicama
1 cup                    Julienne carrots
1/4 cup                 Chopped cilantro
1/8 cup                 Lime Juice
3/8 cup                 Vegetable oil

3 pounds              Thin sliced roast beef
32 slices               Monterey Jack
32 pieces              Sourdough bread
Olive oil for sauteing the beef and grilling the bread

Method:

  1. In a food processor blend the seeded chopped peppers, garlic, mayonnaise, salt and pepper together
  2. Toss the cabbage, jicama, carrots, cilantro, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper together in a bowl
  3. Spread 2 sides of bread with mayo and top with a slice of cheese on both pieces of bread. Continue this step and the next steps to make 16 sandwiches
  4. Top one side with a thick layer of the cabbage jicama slaw
  5. Sauté the beef, then sandwich it between the bread, slaw and cheese
  6. Brush the outside of the sandwiches with olive oil and grill or pan fry on both sides
  7. Cut in half and serve.

Note: Chipotle peppers are smoked Jalapeno peppers that are then dried.  Jicama is a yam like tuber that can be eaten raw or cooked and is used in Latin American cuisine.

Information on Chipotle peppers

Information on Jicama

 

salmon club 1

Club sandwiches are not as popular today as they were a few years ago. The standard club sandwich that was featured on many menus in the past was made with sliced turkey and Swiss cheese on one layer and a BLT on the other layer. What made it a “Club Sandwich” was the fact that three slices of bread bread were used in this classic type of sandwich. In this version, I use grilled or sauteed salmon with slices of avocado on one layer and the classic BLT on the other side. Instead of plain mayonnaise I use a caper lemon herb mayonnaise made with chopped capers, basil and tarragon. Alfalfa sprouts can be substituted for the Boston lettuce as well.

Sandwiches served with soup, salad, chips or fries will always be a main lunch food item. When created with imagination and adherence to using the best quality ingredients the sandwich can be elevated to an even higher level. Think Dagwood versus Bologna and American Cheese on White bread.

Every year when the lazy hot days of summer are upon us we search for ways to make meals that are lighter and help to cool us down in the heat. In many cultures closer to the Equator spicy hot foods are used to help cool us by making our bodies perspire more. In this country we also like to fire up the BBQ to grill and smoke foods then offer them with chilled salads and fresh fruits.

In this post I offer ideas for salads that go great as a side dish for your outside grilling or as accompaniment for a sandwich or soup. Two of my favorite composed salads are: Greek orzo with grapes and feta, and poached pear, sweet potato, and parsnip salad. I developed these recipes to use in my club’s kitchen and have adapted them to a smaller version which can be made at home. These two photos were taken by Madeline Bayer. To close this post I include an alternative method for presenting a tossed green salad on a platter instead of the normal way of serving it in a bowl.

20140611_Café115_0079e

Orzo is a Greek pasta and can be purchased as plain or as  tri colored which is the type used in the photo. It is tossed with split seedless grapes, feta cheese and fresh herbs in a light lemon olive oil dressing. It goes great with grilled lamb kabobs, chicken  or fish.

Greek Orzo Salad

Yield 18 servings – approximately 12 cups

Ingredients:

2 quarts                      Orzo, cooked
2 cups                         Seedless grapes, split
1 cup                           Feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing:
¼ cup                         Lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons           Lemon zest, grated
1 cup                          Mayonnaise
½ cup                         Olive oil
½ cup                         Fresh basil, chopped
½ cup                         Fresh mint, chopped
To taste                      Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, mayonnaise, and slowly add the oil while whisking.
  2. Add the basil, mint, salt and pepper.
  3. Toss with the orzo, grapes, and feta cheese. Reserve some grapes and feta to garnish the top.
  4. Chill until served.

 

20140611_Café115_0078e

This salad can be served in the summer or fall as a tasty side dish to chicken or pork (smoked, grilled, or roasted). The poached pears are lightly grilled and then tossed with roasted parsnips (a root vegetable somewhat like a white carrot), roasted sweet potatoes, celery and golden raisins in a light dressing. To minimize the heat in the kitchen roast the vegetables early in the morning before the heat of the day is at its height.

Pear, Sweet Potato, Parsnip Salad

Yield: 18 servings – Approximately 12 cups

1 quart                        Sweet potatoes, roasted, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups                         Parsnips, roasted, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups                         Pears, poached, grilled, diced (¾ x ¾)
2 cups                         Celery, peeled, diced ½”x ½”
1 cup                           Golden Raisins
Dressing
½ cup                           Honey
½ cup                           White balsamic
½ cup                           Parsley
1 ½ cup                        Vegetable oil
¼ cup                           Tarragon
1 ½ teaspoons             Cumin powder
To taste                        Salt and pepper

Prepare the dressing by whisking the honey and white balsamic vinegar with the herbs and cumin.

  1. Whisk in the oil in a slow stream to make a vinaigrette
  2. Toss with the vegetables, pears and raisons then chill and serve.

 

Lastly I offer this idea for a green salad. Instead of tossing the ingredients in a bowl, as is the typical procedure, lay out the greens with the condiments on a tray. This creates a more eye appealing presentation. In this example I used summer greens, radishes, thin sliced cucumbers that I rolled up, lightly blanched asparagus, watercress, and some thin mandolin sliced baby carrots that I rolled up as well. To finish the tray I placed some accents of micro greens and then drizzled the tray with white balsamic vinegar and Spanish olive oil.

spring salad platter

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑