Yesterday I and two friends had the pleasure of attending a Sicilian Cooking Class at the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA. The class was held in connection with a special exhibition ‘Art and Invention between Greece and Rome’ which is currently on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu. The Exhibition will remain on display through August 19, 2013. The class was taught by Maite Gomez-Rejon who has not only Art Degrees but also a Diploma from the French Cooking School in New York City. Maite combines Art History with the food from the specific eras.
The day started with a talk about Sicilian Food and some of its origins and the ancient works from which the information was culled. After the talk there was a tour and discussion of the exhibit and then a walk through the Herb Garden where we picked herbs for the meal we were to prepare.
The menu for the Day consisted of Sicilian Salad, Olive and Date Tapenade, Eggplant with Anchovies and Capers, Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon and Pasta with Sardines and Fennel. Dessert was Cannoli with Almonds and Honey.
According to the information gleaned from the ancient books food must be fresh, locally grown and be prepared simply, so as not to cover up the natural tastes.
The Salad was quite delightful. It consisted of Greens, Pomegranate Seeds, Blood Oranges and a Dressing made from Blackberries, Balsamic and Red Wine Vinegars and Olive Oil.
The Tapenade was unusual in that it contained Dates which made a nice contrast to the Olives.
The Anchovies gave a nice bite to the Eggplant which was prepared with Parsley, Garlic and Olive Oil.
The Poached Shrimp was a very simple, yet delicious dish.
I and my friends had the pleasure of making the actual pasta dough, rolling it and cutting it. As we made it someone else picked it up and cooked it. (Fresh Pasta only needs a minute or two of cooking). Another group made the sauce that the pasta was added to.
Dessert again was the Cannoli which was made with Ricotta Cheese, Mascarpone, Honey, Almonds and Cinnamon. Even though the attendees were give the recipe for the shells, we did not make them. We used ready-made shells which can be purchased at Italian Delis. If you have ever made Cannoli Shells you will know what a pain in the neck they are to make, although it is kind of fun. To make Cannoli Shells, you need to have the forms which are metal tubes that the dough is wrapped around and then fried. The purchased ones taste almost as good and certainly do save lots of time and frustration.
All in all the day was fun and educational and the people that attended were very nice and easy to work with. I would definitely recommend any future cooking classes that are held at the Getty to anyone who may be interested. These classes are held on a quarterly basis in connection with a current exhibit.
Summer is finally here and the weather is getting warmer and warmer and our food needs to be cooler and cooler. During the hot days of summer appetites tend to wane. What better way to eat healthy and delicious food than to create summer salads. Produce is at its best and seafood goes well with many types of produce, so let’s make Seafood Salads for dinner, lunch or whatever! Tonight’s Salad was a King Crab Salad. Even though I used King Crab Legs, Dungeness Crab or Snow Crab can be substituted. Shrimp can even take the place of Crab or if you are lucky enough to live in Maine, try Lobster right out of the ocean!
My salad tonight consisted of Baby Golden Beets from the Farmer’s Market along with Persian Cucumbers, Red Bell Pepper and fresh Tomatoes from the Garden.
The Crab was cooked when I purchased it so all I had to do was remove it from the shell. King Crab has thick, spiny shells and does take a little effort to be removed. The best way to do this is to use your kitchen shears and cut right down the length of the leg. If you have the Claws, this will take a Crab Cracker or a Nut Cracker to get the meat out. Once you have the meat out of the crab, you may want to rinse if off with cold water and then blot is dry with paper towels or clean dish towels. Check through the meat to make sure there are no pieces of shell or cartilage in it. Put the Crab aside, (In the refrigerator is best) while you prepare the Vegetables for your Salad.
Scrub the Beets with a Potato Brush to remove clinging soil and then place in a saucepan; cover them with Cold Water and add a teaspoon or so of Salt. Place the lid on the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, shut off the heat and let the beets stand in the hot water, with the lid covering the pan. While you are preparing the rest of the Salad, the Beets will continue to cook – they don’t have to be cooked all the way – a little texture adds to the taste appeal. Save the cooking liquid to use in soup or as the liquid for cooking other foods. You will notice that there is a lot of color in the water and this color contains some of the Water Soluble Vitamins that leached out during the cooking process.
I julienned the Beets with the 6 x 6 blade or French Fry Blade in my Food Processor. You can also do this by hand or with a large holed grater.
Wash, dry and slice any other Vegetables that you intend to use in the Salad. I used Persian Cucumbers. The skin on Persian Cucumbers is mild so that they do not have to peeled. However, they do have to washed and dried. Cut off the tops and discard and then slice them whichever way you prefer. I sliced them down the middle and then half into 1/4″ slices. (Since Persian Cucumbers are small, I usually allow one per person however, one half per person would do too.
I also used diced Red Bell Pepper and a little bit of Cilantro.
Included with the Vegetables was a tiny Pasta I bought for soups. This helped to add body to the salad and of course extended it somewhat. After the Pasta was cooked and rinsed to remove the excess starch, I dried it in a clean dish towel before adding it to the salad. One cup of dried Pasta was more than enough for the two of us.
Once all your Vegetables are prepped combine them with the Crab and then toss with the Dressing. If you are using Pasta add it at this time also. The dressing was Thousand Island mixed with a little aged Balsamic Vinegar.
Freshly quartered Tomatoes that were just picked from the garden that morning were added as a garnish. (Note: tomatoes are sweeter if picked in the morning than later in the day – at night the starch is converted to sugar and during the day through photosynthesis the sugar is converted back to starch, therefore giving you a sweeter product if picked I the morning.)
Tapioca is the starch of the Cassava Plant or Manioc as it is called in certain parts of the world. Portuguese Explorers became familiar with it through contact with the natives of Brazil. The most familiar of Tapioca is the pearl. Other forms are sticks and powder. For those of you who like the Bobba drinks which are popular in many Asian Countries and more recently in the US, the pearls used in Bobba are just large Tapioca Pearls which do need to be cooked before using.
I recently found powdered Tapioca which can be used in place of Cornstarch as a thickener. If you like the texture of Tapioca Pudding but don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking it, this is the way to go. April 28th is ‘National Tapioca Day’ and therefore is a great time to try out this amazing starch. I love the texture that it imparts to pudding. Almost reminds of ‘Gummy Bears’. It is chewy, yet it is not. Try my recipe and see for yourself. /deserts/chocolate-tapioca-pudding/
June 3rd is ‘National Egg Day’, so what better time than to celebrate the Chicken which we should we revere, because without those eggs, there would be so many things lacking from our diets.
What we would ever do without Eggs? We eat them for breakfast, sometimes lunch and even dinner! We bake with them, we cook with them and they provide us with complete protein as well as Vitamin A and Lecithin.
The most commonly eaten eggs are Chicken Eggs, but there are also Duck Eggs (popular in Asian Cuisine) which are larger and richer tasting than Chicke Eggs. There are also Quail Eggs which are very small and are poopular in Gourmet Cooking and Sushi Restaurants. At the opposite extreme there are Ostrich Eggs which are so hugh that one would probably feed a whole family or more. Of course, unless you have an Ostrick farm, the eggs would be somewhat difficult to get hold of.
Listed below are some of popular uses for eggs, most of which will probably be familiar to you. Just don’t take eggs for granted; think about all the things that they do for our cuisine!
Scrambled – add a little milk or cream and whisk with a fork to incorporate a lot of air and cook in a hot pan with melted butter. Great for breakfst. Add some chopped Scallions, bacon bits or ham pieces or whatever your fancy and voila, you have a dish that is healthy, full of protein and satisfying!
Omelets – the variety of omelets are endless, There is the classic French, the Western Denver, Italian Frittata or even a Dessert Omelet.
Soft – Soft-cooked Eggs make a good breakfast but they are not really my favorite. However, because they are cooked without the use of butter, they are often used by people on soft diets or those who are tryng to lose weight.
Hard -Cooked- ‘cooked’ not boiled are wonderful for salads, sandwiches, creamed dishes, etc. The best way to hard cook an egg is to put it (them) in a pot of cold salted water. Bring it to a boil over high heat and immediately shut the heat off. Allow the pot to remain on the burner (lid on) for 12-15 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. The Eggs will be perfectly cooked. Over-cooking Eggs will result in a hard and green yolk that will have a sulfurus taste. Ever smell an over-cooked hard -cooked egg? Not to pleasant!
Deviled – made with hard-cooked – the yolk is removed form the white halves and mixed with your favorite ingredients – start with mayo, mustard, chopped Spinach and Bacon, then stuff them back into the shells.
Salad -another use for Hard -Cooked Eggs.
Poached – used for Eggs Benedict which is that French Egg dish which is sinfully good; that is because the Eggs and ham and muffins are covered with Hollandaise Sauce which is made with more Eggs and Butter. Yummy, but laden with Cholesterol!
Listed below are some of the baked goods you cannot make without Eggs!
Popovers – Pate Choux which is the basis of Cream Puffs, Éclairs and Beignets require Eggs for the leavening process. The Eggs are beaten into the product and it is this beating that incorporates air. The protein in the eggs hold in the air. When the product is baked (or fried) the air escapes but leaves behind a pocket which can then be filled with your favorite custard, pudding, fruit or ice cream. The Cream Puffs below are filled with Lemon Curd which requires Egg Yolks to be made.
Bread – Not all bread requires eggs, but the ones with eggs are certainly tasty and delicious. These include brioche, and Challah (Egg Bread).
Cakes – a cake would not be a cake without eggs. It would be hard tack!
Angel Food Cake
Custard, Soufflé and Mousse.
Shown above are just a few of the uses for Eggs. Eggs are essential to our Cuisine and it would be difficult to get along without them, although if one had to, one could.