Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Peach Salad with Strawberry Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

By: The Food Hunter

Last month I had a chance to spend some time in Baton Rouge with my "Foodie Fam." and one of our many food adventures led us to the Red Stick Spice Company. Being a family owned specialty shop Red Stick captures the delicious and unique flavors of the region by sourcing only the best local ingredients they can find. The store's collection includes everything from: spices, rubs, olive oils, various flavored balsamic vinegars and high quality loose tea.

During our visit we were able to sample a lovely salad which used a local pepper jelly as the base of its refreshing vinaigrette. It was the perfect combination of sweet and spicy that will definitely remind you of summer, way into the winter months.

Peach Salad with Strawberry Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette
(courtesy of Red Stick Spice)
4 cups baby greens
1 large peach, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup pecan pieces
Strawberry Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette--recipe below
Salt and Pepper

Gently toss the baby greens in the vinaigrette. Use just enough dressing to coat the leaves. There should not be dressing pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle the greens with a little salt and pepper. Garnish the salad with the peaches, feta and pecans. Enjoy!

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbl Champagne Pear White Balsamic
1/4 cup Strawberry Pepper Jelly

Combine the Champagne Pear White Balsamic with the Strawberry Pepper Jelly. Slowly drizzle in the Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil while whisking constantly. Refrigerate any unused portion of dressing and use within seven days.

Monday, September 15, 2014

T.Cooks Boasts A Fresh New Look & Menu

By: The Food Hunter

After being closed last summer for renovations, T.Cooks at the Royal Palms Hotel is back, this time boasting a Mediterranean inspired look designed by Bar Napkin Productions and a fresh new menu created by Chef Paul McCabe.

The interior of the main dining room has been updated to include: high back chairs, vaulted ceilings and iron chandeliers. There are two private dining rooms available for executive dining or parties of 12 or less and an outdoor patio perfect for creating a memorable event. Not to be over-looked is the new Mix Up Bar, a spacious & inviting lounge showcasing fresh cocktails in conjunction with Chef McCabe's seasonal dinner menu.

I chuckle when I tell people that we ate crab, octopus, lamb and antelope all in one meal....but it's true. For those wanting something a bit on the wild side there are a few options on the menu specifically for you. Rest assured there are also enough traditional items to please even the most finicky eater.

We started our meal with the grilled octopus, which was boldly and successfully paired with BBQ black eyed peas, crispy pork belly and cornbread croutons; a palate pleaser for the adventurous.

Up next was the tasty king crab appetizer, the delicate sweet flavored crab was plated with thinly sliced radish, battered avocado pieces and orange slices. Though I thought both appetizers were delicious the crab was my favorite of the two.

The antelope dish included meat from both the shoulder and the loin, accompanied by smoked potato croquettes, fresh peas, a small serving or risotto and a dollop of pure honeycomb.

The lamb was tender and full of flavor, it was served with an eggplant puree, green onions & faro.

To complement our entrées we ordered a side of the charred white corn which was soaking in melted Parmesan & topped with crispy onions. This was by far one of the most delicious corn dishes I've ever eaten. The best way I can describe it is as a creamy indulgence I would easily do again and again.

Our dessert was a simple chocolate tart served with a scoop of decadent house made chocolate covered pretzel ice cream. The only downside to the dessert was...I wanted more.

T.Cooks has a beautiful new look and a Chef with passion for food that shines through in every dish. But don't take my word for it....try it yourself.

5200 E Camelback Rd, 
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Cuisine Type: Mediterranean
Price Range: Entrees range from $29 for the mushroom Ravioli to $46 for the Dry Aged NY Strip
Atmosphere: Vibrant and colorful.

This meal was provided complimentary. However, all opinions and comments are my own.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Featured Mixologist Stephanie Teslar & The Baker's Dozen Cocktail

By: The Food Hunter

Stephanie Teslar, Head Bartender, Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails and LUSTRE Rooftop Garden Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Phoenix, got her start as a barback in her hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when she was just 17. Eventually graduating to the role of bartender at the upscale and old-fashioned steakhouse, she began mixing up classics cocktails.

She later moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. to attend Northern Arizona University and it was there that she discovered her interest in wine and studied to obtain her introductory sommelier and certified specialist of wine (CSW) certifications while working in several wine bars. She helped open and run Criollo Latin Kitchen, a tequila and mezcal bar where she fell in love with spirits and cocktails.

With this new interest in the creation of flavors, Teslar came to Phoenix to head up the cocktail program and bar at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails and LUSTRE Rooftop Garden at Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Phoenix in September 2012. She immediately began experimenting with flavor and accessibility in craft cocktails.

Teslar loves using bold, bright local citrus, herbs from local farmers markets and has recently found a love of developing her own cocktail ingredients in the kitchen, experimenting with flavors that pair well with Blue Hound’s menu. Her use of local ingredients are highlighted in components like a McClendon’s Select blood orange syrup, homemade berry gastrique and her in-house infused gin, which features local white sage, sorrel, creosote, verbena and juniper. While curating a stand-out cocktail menu at Blue Hound and LUSTRE, Teslar has created countless memorable recipes, like the Baker's Dozen.

Inspired by the classic southern dish, Bananas Foster, but with the addition of a nutty olorosso sherry is how the Baker's Dozen came about. Teslar says the flavors come together in a somewhat confectionary way, so she thought it would be fun to use a baking reference. Also, using Yamazaki 12 year brought about the “dozen”

What she likes about it is that because all the flavors are somewhat approachable, you get the experience of the wonderful olorosso sherry and banana liqueur thrown into a summery “fizz” of sorts with the soda and egg white. You can expect a surprisingly light, confectionary, complex summer sipper!

Baker’s Dozen
1 oz olorosso sherry
¾ oz yamazaki 12
¼ oz orgeat
½ oz banana liqueur
¾ lemon
Egg white

Mix ingredients together
Pour into a Collins glass
top with soda

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Executive Chef Schneider Shares Salsa Recipe & Tips

Guest Blogger: Executive Chef Deborah Schneider, SOL Mexican Cocina

What makes a great salsa: “A great salsa gets in your face with a bold balance of heat and sweetness, crunch and creaminess, salt and tartness. Since you use salsa to bring out the flavors of other foods, the salsa has to carry whatever you serve it on, so don't be afraid to go a little overboard when you season.”

Below are 5 tips to help you make delicious salsa every time and a recipe for Sol Cocina's famous Chipolte-Tomatillo Salsa. This is one of the table salsas served with every meal at SOL. It has a pleasant smoky-spicy combination from the roasted tomatillos and chipotle chiles. It’s a great dipping salsa for tostadas (SOL’s version of corn chips), or your favorite tortilla chip. Aside from a good dipping salsa, it’s suitable for adding to almost any dish. The charring process is an important step in this recipe; don’t be afraid to let the vegetables blacken in spots and start to melt.

5 Tips for Salsa Success
1) Use firm, ripe tomatoes. Farmers markets will have the best ones. Shop with your nose: they should smell great.

2) Don’t refrigerate tomatoes.

3) Always remove the seeds before making your salsa. Place the diced tomatoes in a colander to drain for a few minutes before combining with other ingredients.

4) Bring out the sweetness of ripe tomatoes by contrasting with spicy chiles, a good dose of salt and fresh-squeezed limes.

5) Add another textural and flavor element: diced red onion is classic but if onion isn’t your thing, try diced cucumbers, or even a bit of pineapple or mango.

Chipotle-Tomatillo Salsa
(recipe courtesy of SOL Cocina)
Makes about 3 cups

4 firm Roma tomatoes
5 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup canned chipotles in adobo (or more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 small white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough-chopped
1-cup water, or more as needed
Splash of blanco tequila (optional)

Heat a heavy cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat. Line it with a sheet of aluminum foil and set the tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic directly on the foil. Leave the vegetables until they are well charred on one side, then turn and char on the other sides or until the vegetables begin to soften. The garlic will be done first; remove from pan, cool and peel. When the tomatoes and tomatillos are done, remove from the pan.

Place roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic and the remaining ingredients, except the water, in a food processor. Pulse until the salsa consistency is smooth, with some texture. Add water to thin if necessary. Taste for salt and chipotles. The salsa should be highly seasoned and medium-spicy. For added flavor, add a dash or two of blanco tequila to salsa once blended.

***Looking for a different salsa recipe? Check out Phoenix***

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spicy Kale Chips

Guest Post By: Paulding & Company

Founded by mother-daughter duo Tracy and Terry, Paulding is a full catering kitchen based in San Francisco boasting vast opportunities for bonding and excitement. Teaching people to cook, and cook well, is where this business had it's beginnings. Today they host a variety of culinary based services, such as cooking class, group events, and private parties.

These days, kale is all the rage! Here is a delicious, yet healthy snack that has tons of flavor and not a lot of calories. These cheesy crunchy chips are a tasty alternative to potato chips and much better for you. Be sure to purchase ultra-fresh organic vegetables for this, to make it even healthier.

Spicy Kale Chips
2 ½ cups of raw cashews
1 large red bell pepper
2-3 red Fresno peppers
1-2 tsp lemon juice (to taste)
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
3 bunches curly kale

Soak the cashews in water for 3-4 hours. Combine with the stemmed and seeded peppers, lemon, salt and yeast in a blender. Puree. Taste the mixture, and if it needs it, add more salt or lemon.

Strip the stems from the kale leaves-you can do this easily by holding the end of the stem in one hand, and firmly running the other hand up the sides of it, dislodging the leaf. The tough part of the stem will come off, leaving the tenderer part intact.

In a large bowl, combine the Kale with the blended mixture, using your hands (evenly) as possible distribute the mixture. Lay the leaves onto a dehydrator racks, crowding them but not stacking them. Dehydrate at 105° F for 12-16 hours, until very crisp. Store in sealed zip bags. If you don’t get them dry enough they will soften in the bag.

If you don’t have a dehydrator they can be laid out on a rack or over a pan in the oven with the temperature set as low as possible. The time to dehydrate will be greatly reduced, probably to about an hour or even less.

The chips will be a tasty snack!