Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday Night Tacos

Everyone loves tacos; right?  So how about a healthy take on tacos that is so much more delicious than the typical ground beef and packaged seasoning mixture we've all made in a pinch.  My tacos are packed with spice, heat and loads of kale for texture and flavor that's extraordinary.

For my tacos you'll need:

1 lb. Ground Turkey
3 Tbl. Olive Oil
2 Onions Diced
3 Cloves Garlic Minced
15 oz. Tomato Puree
3 Tsp. Worcestershire
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
2 Tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Tbl.  Garlic Chili Sauce
1 Tsp. Cayenne
1 Tbl.  Salt
4 C. Cut and Cleaned Kale

Saute onions in olive oil, salt and worcestershire sauce until almost caramelized.  Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes.  Turn in turkey and cook thoroughly.  Add spices and chili sauce.  Cook for a few minutes for spices to release their flavor.   Add tomatoes and stir to combine.  Kale is added last and continue to turn gently until fully incorporated.  Kale will need about five minutes to soften.    Now you're ready to assemble. 

But first a little appetizer... one of the easiest treats that makes people go ga ga and I mean lip smacking oh my god these are so good are crispy tortilla chips.   Buy white corn tortillas and quarter.  Fill a saucepan with a quarter inch of vegetable oil.   Heat until a drop of water sizzles in the pan.  Add a single layer of the tortilla chips.  They will take about 30 seconds to crisp on one side.  Flip.  When they are golden remove from the pan and let rest on a paper towel covered plate.  Sprinkle generously with salt immediately.  This is key!   Serve with some easy fresh guacamole that I prepare by first cutting the avocadoes into large chunks and toss into a bowl.  Add salt and a minced garlic clove for a single avocado.  Mash with the back of a fork.  Squeeze in fresh lemon juice to taste.   And that's it.  Many variations depending on how you like your guacamole but I prefer to keep it simple and all about the avocadoes.  

While you and your guests are munching on chips and dip heat the corn tortillas over an open flame on both sides until browned.   Sprinkle with a generous amount of grated cheddar cheese.  Place under a broiler until melted.   Spoon turkey mixture over.   I cut up fresh tomatoes and tossed with lettuce, lemon juice and salt.  I added this last and presented my tacos open faced with a side of black beans.   And yes, I use canned black beans because they are easy and even easier to doctor up:  I add a whole chipotle pepper (mashed) to the beans, some salt and cheddar cheese.  Heat and they are smokin' good. 

Apologies for the extra bits on the plate but we weren't dining formally last night and I wasn't even sure I was going to blog about this new recipe until we all took our first bite and said, "wow, these are divine."  And they were.  So with a little preparation in the pantry (spices on hand) and a few key ingredients you wouldn't normally think of with tacos (kale and ground turkey) you'll have a new spin on an old favorite. My Mexican Granny would be proud. 

Adios amigos!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Open Door Policy

Open Door Policy

For several months, my business partner Lisa van Eyssen and our wonderful videographer, Shannon Bae, have been shooting footage and assembling webisodes of me in action while also trying to conceptualize what sets me apart as a private chef in a very crowded category of very talented people. 
Recently, Lisa, while shooting a quick cooking demonstration that we'll be posting soon, came up with an idea that does DEFINE me... She called it my open door policy to cooking and entertaining.  I have always been a more the merrier type cook for the simple reason that I believe people are at their most convivial surrounded around a table eating great food and imbibing in good wine.  My reputation as the go-to-cook really flourished in college and until this day, I cook a minimum of three nights a week/end when I'm not cooking for a client/gig. 
Case in point,  a client who has become a good friend, flew in to town to be a good friend to yet another friend who had been hopitalized.  After a few grueling days of not knowing the fate of his friend's prognosis my only thought was: he could use a good home cooked meal and a bottle of wine.  It was 4:30 on Friday afternoon, I'd had my own complicated week and yes, it would have been much easier to meet him at a restaurant where we could have gone over the grisly details ad nauseum and been waited on.   Instead, my friend joined me at my home, where candles were lit and yet another rerun of "Wedding Crashers" aired (that movie cheers me up even better than an icy martini) so we could chill and eat and find the silver lining in the latest trip to the hospital.  Both of us have spent way too much time losing loved ones in the last few years so we know the drill very well.
My point in sharing all of this is that's it's so much more civilized and easier than one would think to adopt an open door policy.  The irony is that my front door  actually is wide open when waiting for guests.  I live in Pacific Palisades, one of the safest areas on the Westside on the ridge of a canyon so the only unannounced guest I could encounter would be a wayward deer, raccoon or mountain lion that have made their presence known. 
After confirming our date, I ran to the market and by 5:30 was in my kitchen ready to assemble:  a hummus and chips, an avocado and cherry tomato salad, pasta with crispy sage and browned butter sauce, steamed broccoli with garlic olive oil and lemon and for the main course roasted salmon with tarragon and lemon.  Sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar and sugar spooned over Vanilla ice cream served as dessert.  I poured a gorgeous Sterling Cabernet as my friend doesn't drink white wine and the meal was ready to be served in under an hour. 
Having an open door policy does necessitate some short cuts.  Although I make the very best hummus, I buy Sabra when pushed for time.  Placed in a lovely bowl, fresh squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil makes it your own.  I serve with Eating Right Pita Chips.  Perfect.
This is one of my most favorite pasta dishes ever:  I melt an entire cube of butter and let it foam and brown over a medium heat.  I add an entire package of fresh sage that's been snipped to teeny bits.  The sage crackles and crsips immediately.  Prepare enough pasta for four people.  Toss the pasta directly into the butter when cooked turn on the heat, add generous amount of fresh pepper (no salt), parmesan and you're ready to serve.
A roasted salmon filet is easy and divine.  I set the oven at 400 degrees. Drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Fresh tarragon coats the filet.  Lemon slices make it presentable.  In the oven for fifteen minutes and you have an elegant and delicious entree
It's rare that we don't start or end a meal with a salad.  I'm in love with avocadoes and  find them to be perfectly partnered with the sweet and tart cherry tomato.  I tossed in a few baby bells for color and add nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic white in this instance so the color remains fresh and pretty. 
Dessert doesn't have to be fancy.  Every now and then I break down and buy Vanilla ice cream or gelato and top with fresh fruit.  Slice strawberries tossed with sugar and balsamic is heaven.  The tartness of the vinegar marries perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries and sugar.  Allow to sit for an hour for flavors to release and blend.