Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Column

Visit, entertainment tab, click Local Food- to read this week's food column.

This week's food column: No Fuss New Year's Night Recipes and Techniques.

You may also read prior food columns, from weeks before, at the Redlands Daily Facts site.

Happy New Year!

Chef Lee

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simple but flavorful soup with seasonal ingredients!

Pears Au Jous and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large)
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
5 pounds butternut squash (2 large)
1 1/2 pounds pears (or sub with green apples of any variety)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
2 cups good apple cider or juice
Warm the butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
Peel the squash, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Peel and cut the squash into chunks. Peel, quarter, and core the pears/apples. Cut into chunks.
Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Process the soup through a food mill fitted with a large blade, or puree it coarsely in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the apple cider or juice and enough water to make the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Check the salt and pepper and serve hot.

Easy Winter Recipe with my favorite ingredient: Sweet Potatoes !

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

A gift from the early colonists from Native American cooks was the boiled down sap of the rock maple or sugar maple. Though maple syrup is produced widely in the eastern U.S., as well as the Midwest, we primarily associate maple syrup with New England. This recipe could not be easier or more delightful to prepare, using my favorite ingredient- sweet potatoes.

5lbs dark orange fleshed sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 yellow onion, diced
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup, good quality
2/3-3/4 cup milk, warmed
½ cup pecans, toasted, rough chop
kosher or sea salt to taste

Preheat oven 350F. Pierce each potato several times with fork and place in a baking pan. Bake potatoes until tender when squeezed or pierced, approximately 1 ½ hours. Set potatoes aside until cook enough to handle.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté onion in with 2 tbsp olive oil. Sautee until onion is translucent, don’t brown or overcook. Combine the butter and maple syrup. Stir to melt the butter and bring to a boil. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl, discard skins. Use a potato masher, ricer or food mill to mash the potatoes. Stir the butter mixture into the potatoes. Add the milk and blend well. Season to taste with salt. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a sauce pan and heat over medium heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Alternatively, make ahead one day in advance by covering and refrigerating after cooking. Bring to room temperature 2 hours before serving and reheat on stovetop.

Three Brother's Farm Creme Brulee

This is a tried and true winning recipe. Be sure to purchase your eggs from a local farmer's market, you can find Redlands Three Brother's Eggs at either Saturday morning farmer's market.

Three Brother's Farm Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
8 large eggs
½ cup sugar
extra sugar for caramelized topping

Preheat oven to 275F.
Begin by heating heavy cream on stovetop until simmering, hot but not boiling. Watch cream closely to avoid scorching the milk. Separate the eggs from yolks in two separate bowls. Add the sugar to egg yolks and whisk until smooth. The kitchen-aid stand up mixture, with a whisk attachment, works well for this step.

Pour about 1/3 of hot cream into bowl with yolks, whisk very gently. Be sure to add hot cream slowly to yolks, this is temper the yolks so they don’t over cook. Slowly pour the remaining cream and whisk the mixture gently again while being careful not to create many air bubbles. Strain the mixture. Add vanilla extract. Pour into individual ramekins, place ramekins in water bath. Use a casserole dish or roasting pan to create water bath. Pour boiling water in roasting pan to reach about halfway on the sides of each ramekin.

Place ramekins in water bath in preheated oven, bake for approximately ½ hour. When crème brulee is done, each should jiggle a bit like jello. Allow to cool for several hours, store uncovered in refrigerator after cooled.

As the final step, just before serving, spread an even layer of sugar over the top of each crème brulee. Use torch to brown sugar.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Addition to prior post RE local farming list

Most importantly:

For tomorrow's cooking class, I purchased today:

Locally-soured, cage-free chicken eggs: Three Brother's Farm, Redlands
Butternut Squash: Three Brother's Farm, Redlands
Pomegranate: Three Brother's Farm, Redlands

Love and support YOUR local farmer !!

Chef Lee

New Local Source for Free Range Chicken !

For the best, locally-sourced free-range chicken:

Love it !!!

Love Our Local Farmers.... again and again !

Just returned from picking up a special order of produce and other fresh foods from our wonderful, local farmers.

Mostly, for tomorrow evening's cooking class... but also for myself... after I surveyed the beautiful goods.

Today's pickup of locally grown ingredients:

Blushing Gold Apples: T & D/Powell's Farm, Redlands
Garnet Sweet Potatoes: T & D/Powell's Farm, Redlands
Maui Sweet Onions: T & D/Powell's Farm, Redlands
Butternut Squash: Three Sister's Farm, Redlands
Scallions: Three Sisters Farm, Redlands
Purple Onions: Three Sister's Farm: Redlands
Purple Potatoes: Jacinto Farms, Mentone
Japanese Eggplant, Jacinto Farms, Mentone
White Sweet Potatoes, Jacinto Farms, Mentone
Cage-Free Chicken: New Frontier Family Farm, Chino
Variety of Flavorful Preserves: Sunnyside Local Farm, Redlands
Winter Squash: Sunnyside Local Farm, Redlands

We are so fortunate to have the wonderful foods provided by our local farming community! Learn to love our locally grown foods... and farmers !

Chef Lee

Friday, December 9, 2011

Soups 101

On a cold winter day there’s nothing more soothing than a pot of soup simmering on the stove. I’ve spent the recent cooler evenings at home with a warm cup of soup beside a roaring fire. To me, this welcomed environment best symbolizes the beginning of Winter.

Making soup usually begins with sautéing aromatic vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, with other seasonings in butter oil to create a flavorful base. Most soup recipes call to add a small amount of liquid such as stock, water or wine to the pot. This step recaptures the flavor developed from sautéing. You might also add a thickening agent such as roux, and allow it to cook for a few minutes before the remaining liquids are added.

The process for making a soup is essentially the same as the steps for making a sauce. The difference is that soups are less concentrated in flavor and can be eaten as a food in themselves whereas a sauce is used to accent a finished dish.

Most soups are simmered gently over low heat, requiring little attention other than occasionally stirring to ensure all ingredients are evenly combined.

Cooking Tips For Making A Good Soup

• Slice or chop vegetables uniformly to ensure even cooking.
• Soup should be cooked at a slow simmer to distribute flavors. Stir it often with a wooden or silicon spoon.
• Leafy herbs, such as thyme, parsley, bay leaf may be tied with a string inside a cheese cloth then removed before serving.
• Add your seasonings in small quantities. They will intensify as the soup cooks, and you can always add more seasoning later.
• Cook tougher meats in stock to ensure a more tender texture, then add other ingredients.
• Salt is the most basic ingredient, yet adding of salt must be carefully timed. Take care not to over salt. Some salt substitutes can be a squeeze of lemon or some good quality balsamic vinegar to brighten the flavor of any soup, without the sodium.
• If you are not serving your soup immediately, let it cool before storing it in the refrigerator. Cool your soup to room temperature first, then transfer to refrigerator or freezer. Most soups can freeze exceptionally well.

Garnishing Soups

Croutons add a nice crunchy texture to soups and are perfect to accompany any flavorful soup. Restaurants use day old baguettes and other breads as croutons for soups or salads. At home, take day old breads, remove crusts and cut into ¼ in cubes. Place cubes in mixing bowl, coat with olive oil Arrange cubes on a baking sheet, sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place in preheated 300F oven. Bake until golden brown, usually 15-20minutes. Cool crotons to room temperature and serve. Croutons may also be stored in airtight container to use later.

There are a variety of nuts to use in a soup to accentuate the flavor. I love toasted hazelnuts in butternut squash soup, for example. Pecans, almonds, or walnuts are also fantastic in soups. To garnish with nuts, sprinkle a small amount decoratively over soup just before serving.

A drizzle of good olive oil or herb flavored oil always add an elegant finish to a soup. Drizzle a small circle of oil, in the middle of the soup, and garnish the center with a pinch of fresh herb with a chiffonade cut.

Finely cut, raw vegetables are another great garnish for soups. Float them on top, cut into a small dice or cut into jullineen sticks, like straws in a bowl, for a more dramatic presentation.

If nothing else, you can always garnish only with a neatly cut fresh herb, in a contrasting color to the soup.

Soup Recipes !

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1-2lbslb Butternut Squash, peeled, medium dice in uniform shapes and sizes.
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
1/4 tsp/1ml Cinnamon
1/8 tsp/0.5ml Cardamom, ground
2 tbsp/30ml Brown Sugar
2 tbsp/30ml Lemon Juice
2 oz/60g Melted Butter
1-2 cups chicken broth (or substitute with vegetable stock)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place diced squash in mixing bowl, coat evenly with drizzled olive oil and approx half of melted butter. Coat squash with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom evenly. After diced squash is evenly coated, place squash on baking sheet.
2. Drizzle lemon juice, olive oil and remaining melted butter over the top of squash.
3. Bake uncovered in 350 F oven until tender, approx 50 minutes.

Squash should be brightly colored and slightly crisp, and show little moisture loss when done. Note: To cook roasted butternut squash without making a soup, stop at this step and serve warm. To continue and make roasted butternut soup, continue with the following steps: After squash pieces have cooled, add drizzle of good quality olive oil with 1-2 cups stock. Add stock slowly as mixing in blender or use a stick blender to mix in stock pot on counter or stove top. Adding ½ to 1 cup of cream is optional, depending upon flavor and consistency preference. It isn’t necessary to use all of the stock or cream, depending upon desired consistency. Serve warm and garnish with bread crumbs and drizzle of good quality olive oil. Alternatively, garnish with dollop of cream and freshly chopped herbs.

Green Apple and Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from

2 (1 pound) sweet potatoes, quartered
1 large tart apple, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 bay leaf
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream
1 (5 ounce) lemon, zested and juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Place the sweet potatoes and apple on a greased baking sheet, and roast for about 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender. Cool, and peel sweet potatoes.
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bay leaf, and carrot; sauté until tender. Remove the bay leaf, and discard. Pour in the chicken broth, and add the sweet potato and apple. Puree in batches using a regular blender, or if possible use an immersible blender to puree while in the pot.
Return to the soup pot, and stir in the cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Heat through, but do not boil. Ladle into serving bowls, and garnish with crumbled cheese.

Two Great Soups...

With the cold weather lately.... try these to keep warm! If entertaining, serve in coffee mugs.


2 large chicken breasts boiled, organic boneless skinless if possible
14 tsp. chicken soup base (or to taste)
14 cups water
1 stick real salted butter
1 cup sliced carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1 small onion
1 package wide egg noodles
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large stock pot, melt butter. Add celery, carrots, and onions. Sauté until onions are clear, do not brown. Add water and soup base. Add chicken and bring to a boil until carrots are tender. Add egg noodles salt and pepper. (Chicken broth can be used but soup base is much cheaper and has a better flavor in this soup).

Black Bean Soup

Freezes and ages well. The black-bean soup you are about to make freezes well, so you can make the whole recipe, even if there are only two of you. It also survives in the refrigerator for a week and gets better every time you reheat it.
Serve the soup with the best crusty bread you can find, preferably whole wheat, and if you want to enrich the meal, spread the bread with some fresh goat cheese.

8 to 12 oz. coarsely chopped onion, available at many salad bars
2 ribs celery, diced
2 tsp. minced garlic in oil
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 (16 oz.) cans black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
5 c. water
2 c. chopped and canned tomatoes
1 lg. green pepper, coarsely chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 to 1 Jalapenos, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro per serving
Saute the onion, celery and garlic in hot olive oil in a nonstick skillet until the onion begins to soften and brown.
Combine the beans with the water, tomatoes, green pepper, scallions, Jalapeno, cumin, oregano, bay leaf and black pepper in a large pot. Cover, and bring to a boil. When the onion mixture is cooked, add it to the beans, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

Puree 4 cups of the soup mixture in a blender or food processor; return to the pot, and continue to heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve, remove the bay leaf, and spoon the soup into large bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Personal Favorite Entertaining Recipes !

Melon, Mozarella and Prosciutto Skewers

20 cantelope or honeydew cubes, 1 inch pieces, about 2-3 cups
20 thin slices of proscuitto, about ½ lb
20 fresh mozzarella cheese balls, about one 8 oz tub
200 wooden skewers, 4 inch or longer
Fresh ground pepper

Thread 1 melon cube wrapped in half a proscuitto slice, and then one mozzarella ball wrapped in half proscuitto slice in alternating order onto wooden skewers. Sprinkle each with fresh ground pepper

Roasted Butternut Squash with Ricotta and Sage Crostini
After a friend shared this recipe with me, I prepared it for a Redlands Conservancy event and it was an immediate hit. Since then, I’ve prepared this recipe for clients hosting private dinners in their home. Everyone loves this recipe. As always, I experminted and substituted burrata cheese instead of the Richotta. Burrata is one of my favorite cheeses and using it in this recipe really adds an extra richness. Try this one for Fall parties, any audience is guraenteed to enjoy this one.
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2" cubes (about 4 cups)
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) light brown sugar
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 fresh sage leaves
¾-1 Cup fresh burrata cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
12 3/8"-thick baguette slices, toasted
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, dash at a time- to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss squash, 2 tablespoons oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until squash is golden and tender, 25-30 minutes. Let cool on sheet.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add sage; cook until edges begin to curl and turn dark green, 1-2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer to paper towels to drain. Mix ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Butternut squash, sage leaves, and ricotta can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill squash. Store sage airtight at room temperature. Cover and chill ricotta mixture. Bring squash to room temperature before serving.
Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on each baguette slice. Top each with a few squash cubes. Drizzle crostini with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top crostini with 2 fried sage leaves each.

Spicy Eggplant Dip with Parmesan Toasts

For this recipe, I like to use eggplant from the Saturday market at the Grove School, or eggplant from Washington Produce in Redlands. I recommend Pepperidge Farm prepared puff pastry from the grocery store.

You can make this dip one or two days in advance to allow the flavors to develop. It will also give you more time to prepare other food or concentrate on other details. Be sure to bring the dip to room temperature before serving.

½ cup plus 3 tbsp olive oil, keep more aside for brushing
2 eggplants, about 12 oz each, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, thin slice
1 large yellow onion, chopped
¼ tsp red chili flakes
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 tbs fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
juice of one lemon
1 baguette, sliced ¼ in thick
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a deep sauté pan over medium heat, warm ¼ cup of the olive oil until warm. Add half the eggplant and sauté stirring occasionally until lightly golden and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and repeat with ¼ cup of the olive oil and the remaining eggplant. Transfer to platter.

Warm 1 tbs of the olive oil in the pan. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring often, until golden, about 1 minute. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the chili flakes and cumin until blended and return the eggplant to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is very tender and almost mushy, 6-8 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Brush the sides lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until golden and crisp, but not burned, about 15-18minutes. Let toasts cool to room temperature and store in airtight containers until ready to serve.

Let the eggplant stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve the parmesan toasts alongside.

Sweet Potato, Corn and Edamame Hash

This dish is a seasonal crowd pleaser and a fantastic addition to a holiday brunch. If you have leftover ham, throw it in this recipe! To serve as a brunch item, serve over fresh bed of arugula and top with a poached egg.

1 sweet onion, diced- rough chop (we used maui onions, but yellow onion will work)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 (or 4 small) large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 in cubes
8-10 oz of diced smoked ham
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 12 oz package uncooked frozen shelled edamame
1 12 oz package frozen whole kernel corn
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Saute ham and onion in hot oil in a skillet over medium heat-high heat. (I prefer to use a large cast iron skillet but a standard non-stick skillet will work). Sautee for approx 6-8 minutes or until onion is tender and ham is lightly browned. Stir in cubed sweet potatoes, and saute for additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee for 1 minute max. Stir in edamame and remaining three ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally 10-12 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper.

Smokey Deviled Eggs

Every party needs a plate of deviled eggs. This recipe makes for a traditional flavor base but with a slight twist. Be sure to garnish with paprika for a colorful presentation.

10 eggs
7 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1 tsp champagne vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs in a large sauce pan of cold, salted water over high heat. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for exactly 9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the water and place under cold running water until cool to the touch. Gently crack the shells and peel the eggs under the running water.

Halve the eggs. Scoop the yolks into a food processor and process until smooth. Cut a thin slice from the underside of each white, so they will sit flat on a plate. Arrange on plate and set aside. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, cayenne, and curry powder to the yolks., Process briefly until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spoon the yolk mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the mixture into the egg whites. Garnish with paprika and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.