Sweet, Sour, Salty & Sustainable

sustainability

Photo by Scott Clark

When you’re planning your holiday spread, you probably think about your budget, inventive flavor combinations, and maybe even what will look extra pretty next to your roast. But do you think about what’s in season? (Here’s a hint: If green beans are on your winter menu, the answer is no.)

Not to get up on a soapbox here (I’m more comfortable on top of a vegetable crate, thank you very much), but cooking with seasonal fare isn’t just tastier, healthier, and more affordable. It’s also so much better for the earth! I don’t know about you, but I think eating consciously—and sustainably—is a responsible (and delicious) gift we can all give to ourselves, and to the environment, this year. So who’s with me?

Need some inspiration for your shopping cart? Here’s a short list of 10 of my favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables to cook with this time of year:

  • Brussells Sprouts
  • Buttercup Squash
  • Clementines
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips

And here’s an oldie but a goodie: carrot fennel orange soup. This recipe incorporates some of the best flavors of the season. It’s rich, warm, silky, and (you guessed it) sustainable.

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Carrot Fennel Orange Soup

Serves 6

2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed, and bulb thinly sliced (reserve fronds for garnish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt to taste
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 orange, juiced and zested
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Method:

Heat a 6 qt. stock pot on medium high and add oil. Sautee fennel, carrots, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove soup from the heat and add orange juice, orange zest, yogurt, and season with S & P to taste. Puree soup with an immersion blender until silky smooth! Reheat if necessary and serve warm. Garnish with fennel frond.

Perfect Potato Latkes

latkes

Photos by Brian Tropiano

I’m not Jewish, but that’s never kept me from having a major crush on Hanukkah. Eight days of feasting, gifting, and all-out celebrating? It’s no wonder I get a bad case of holiday envy every December (and sometimes in November. Remember when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided last year?). But I’ve got a remedy for that: potato latkes.

Seriously people, who doesn’t love latkes?  No one. And these are pretty special. They’re made with crosnes—a tiny root vegetable that’s only in season during the winter months—which adds a wonderful earthiness to the potatoes. Then we go ahead and add caviar to the mix (taramosalata works, too). So, yeah. They’re amazing and lovely, and I promise you’ll never get tired of them. Even if you eat them eight days in a row.

latkes

 Potato Latkes

yield: Makes 12 to 16 latkes or 30 bite sized pieces

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound potatoes
  • 1/2 pound crosnes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil
  • termousalata or caviar
  • 1 apple, julienned
  • chive for garnish or micro chive if you can get it

 

Preparation

Peel potatoes and crosnes if needed and coarsely grate by machine or hand , transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

Spread grated potatoes and crosnes and shallots on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels or a wire rack to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Serve hot!

To serve, garnish with taramosalata or caviar, julienne apple, and chive.

A TOP Gift Guide

You’ve made your list, and even checked it twice, but you’re still stumped when it comes to the pal who loves to steam, sauté, and stir things up in the kitchen. Friend, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got something for every culinary enthusiast on your list, and they’re all TOP-tested and approved!

chef gift guide

1. Utensils Under the Tree

Poinsettias are festive and all, but a nice bouquet of utensils is so much more practical. My ultimate bundle would include a thin wire whisk (like this one by Kuhn Rikon), a silicon spatula, and some nice wooden spoons. Tie ‘em up with a bow, and voila! You’re done.

 2. Cool Cook Books

I always love to see what other chefs are mixing up in their own kitchens, and let’s face it, whether you love to cook or not, cook books are so much fun to look at (can you say food porn?). This Thug Kitchen official cookbook is definitely on my Christmas list this year.

3. Nifty Knives

For home cooks, a good knife is a game changer. And for the pros, a nice new addition to the collection is a no-brainer. It’s something we all use—a lot. I’ve got several favorites, including this black-handled 9″ Victronix chef’s knife (which I bought when that was all I could afford–but it’s still one of my favorites), a Shun Santoku, and a 12″ Masahiro.

4. Essential Oils

A high-end olive oil or oil and vinegar set (like this one from Williams Sonoma) would be a welcome addition to any cook’s kitchen. Want to make it an extra special gift? Pair it with a bottle of wine, baguette, and nice block of cheese, and you’re good to go!

 5. Quality Cutting Board

I don’t know any chef who wouldn’t love a high-quality cutting board, like this reversible walnut one by John Boos & Co. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

6.  A Perfect Platter

An all-season platter (like this one by Tracy Porter) is both pretty and practical. It’s the perfect kitchen accessory, and an easy one-and-done gift .

 7. The Gift of Time

Ask any chef you know what they’d really love, and my bet is that most of them will say, “A day off!” Gift your favorite chef with a glorious meal out (check out some of my favorite spots here), or better yet, let Taste of Pace handle the holiday spread this year (click here for catering options).

 

Celebrate Good Times

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With Thanksgiving now behind us (did you make sue to eat some greens?), the season of celebration is officially at hand. And celebrating is one of the things I do best. So whether I’m catering a holiday party, a wedding, or even a corporate event, I make sure that the food is fresh, tasty, and totally festive.

I recently teamed up with GATHER Events, Cocktail Academy, and a whole crew of industry pros for this fabulous Green Wedding Shoes bachelorette party inspiration shoot. Here’s the scene: You want a non-traditional bachelorette party, but you don’t want to skimp on the glam (or the booze). You also want some one-on-one party time with your gal pals before the big day, but a night at the bar just seems passé. GATHER Events came up with the perfect solution: craft cocktail lessons and luxurious party food at L.A.’s Apartment A. Genius!

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From GATHER: “We envisioned a refreshing departure from the typical bachelorette party bar scene. A crowd-free night out with your best girlfriends AND your own private bartender…what could be better?!” I’d definitely drink to that. But for this shoot, I also prepared some of my favorite grown-up (and glammed-up) dishes. Here’s a peek at the menu:

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chicken liver mousse, bay leaf port reduction, pink peppercorns

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citrus rosemary olive oil polenta cake

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latkes with creme fraiche and caviar

What’s your next special event? Taste of Pace can up the flavor factor and also take some pressure off so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your guests. Click here for more information on our special event catering options. The holidays are officially here!

photography: Brian Tropiano // planning + design: GATHER Events // venue: Apartment A Los Angeles, California // florals: Primary Petals // drinks: Cocktail Academy // rentals (place settings, glassware, pillows, throws, rugs): Borrowed Blu // paper goods: Prim & Pixie

The Perfect Thanksgiving Salad

We all need inspiration for Thanksgiving Day salads. The focus is always on the bird, the bird, the bird. And the stuffing.  And the gravy. And the potatoes. Whoa, there! Don’t forget your greens!

In addition to lightening your overloaded dinner plate, a nice seasonal salad will also provide some much-needed crunch. Not to mention the fact that it packs a nutrient-loaded punch and may just be the one guilt-free dish you’ll see on the table all day.

You know I love my root vegetables, and the radishes in this dish, sliced paper thin, make such a beautiful garnish. And the torn croutons? Yeah, delicious. That’s my idea of a lovely Thanksgiving salad. Now who’s ready to dig in?

thanksgiving salad

Photo by Brian Tropiano

bitter greens, radishes, torn croutons, creamy lemon anchovy vinaigrette
serves 12

Ingredients:
1 lb baby bitter greens
6 radishes, sliced paper thin
3 cups ciabatta, cubed

Dressing:
2 egg yolk
2 cloves garlic, minced into paste
2 tbsp. lemon juice
4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear ciabatta into bite size pieces. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake until crunchy.

In a medium sized bowl combine the egg yolk, garlic paste, lemon juice, anchovy filet. Whisk in olive oil in a very thin stream. Season with salt to taste.

Toss greens with dressing. Garnish with radishes and croutons.