Saturday, November 28, 2009

Play in the kitchen

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to observe some kids cooking classes for a story for Edible Ojai Magazine. One of the classes was taught by Chef Robin Goldstein, owner of Playing in the Kitchen. Truly gifted and at ease teaching in the kitchen, Robin is one of a kind. She truly believes in allowing students, both young and old, to get down and dirty and messy in order to learn the skills and joy involved in creating a meal. Interested? Check out her next class on holiday desserts:

Sunday December 6th @ 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Ojai Culinary School, Lavender Inn
210 East Matilija Street, Ojai

Enjoy a warm glass of Mulled Red Wine, a wonderful way to warm up while you make Polenta Cookies with Sweet Cranberries, Almond- Tea Pear Gratin with Earl Grey Tea, Italian Panetonne Bread Pudding and a fabulous S'More Brownie Torte with toasted Marshmallow topping. Class fee $55. Call the Lavender Inn to make a reservation (805-646-6635).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scaredy cat

I'm about to do something that I've been too scared to do for the past five years. No, it isn't some life threatening sport, its an endeavor that involves one of my biggest issues: yeast breads. My mother and my grandmother are both known for these delicious little pocket rolls they make, which grace the table with butter or salty Virginia ham at any and every family gathering.

Years ago, my mom bought me some gear and even walked me through the process. But, I was too afraid. It wasn't until recently, as I've been working through some of my issues with yeast, that I started to think about the rolls again. With Thanksgiving coming, I wanted to do some baking. And this seems like the perfect chance. Whats the worst that could happen? Burnt rolls...done that before. Anyway, I've mixed the dough, let it rise once, punched it down again, and now it is in the fridge to rise yet another time before being turned into rolls in the morning. Will let you know how it goes, and will hopefully have pictures too!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Tis the season for eating, drinking...and recycling?

Stop by the Ventura Farmers’ Market on Saturday the 14th (during the regular hours of 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon) to learn more about recycling in Ventura. An environmental Services Specialist from the City of Ventura, will be on hand to provide information on recycling and help educate the public on what is recyclable (like holiday cards and wrapping paper) and what is not. There will be interactive games for both children and adults, so check it out!

Sign up for a CAJUN & CREOLE THANKSGIVING Cooking class at Main Course California. It's on Friday, November 20th from 5PM -10PM. In this class, you'll learn the secrets of Cajun flavors and how to use them in delicious Thanksgiving dishes. The lipsmacking good menu includes:
  • Oyster Artichoke Soup with Pernod & Spinach
  • Mirleton Stuffed with Shrimp, Tomato & Cornbread Dressing
  • Boudin Blanc en Croute with Creole Mustard
  • John Folse's Aubergine Pie
  • Slow Roasted Duck with Louisiana Clementines & Louisiana Popcorn Dirty Rice Stuffing
  • Bruleed Upside Down Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Ice Cream
Check out Nancy Michali, owner of Ojai Culinary Studio, and her Make Your Own Thanksgiving Pie Class on Wednesday, November 25 at 9:30 am or 1:30 pm. Bring your own pie pan and face your pie crust fears as you make pies for family and friends to enjoy on Thanksgiving. Options include: My Mom's Apple Pie (with lattice crust); Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust (double crust); Southern Pecan Pie; Macaroon Pie (macadamia, pecan and coconut); Pear-Almond Tart; Pumpkin Maple Pie; Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Pecan Crust; Butterscotch Chiffon; and Pear-Cranberry Pie. Cost: $20/pie

Make a reservation for Paradise Pantry's wine dinner on Tuesday, December 8th from 6:30-9:00PM. It will feature wines from Eric Kent Winery. Their showstopping menu includes:
  • Baby Beet & Pear Salad over Market Greens topped with Fried Shallots & Crumbled Goat Cheese paired with a 2007 Chardonnay
  • Crab Cakes served in a Spicy Cauliflower Curry Sauce paired with a 2007 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
  • Herb Encrusted Salmon Served in a pool of Spicy Blackberry-peppercorn Sauce paired with a 2007 “Windsor Oaks”Pinot Noir

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Comfort in a casserole dish

Like most of us, I have a bookshelf that is overflowing with cookbooks - from Paula Deen to Rachael Ray to the Joy of Cooking. But, my first stop when I'm in search of comfort food or a new sure to please recipe, is either Cook and Lovett (the cookbook from my high school in Atlanta) or Loaves and Fishes (the cookbook from our Aunt and Uncle's church in South Carolina). I love these compilation cookbooks because the recipes are always so darn good. Sure, there are some jello mold or goulash recipes that I'll probably never try, but when it comes to desserts, casseroles, chicken dishes and crockpot recipes, these cookbooks are where its at. And, I love that I have a connection to the people who submitted them, whether its the little old lady that always greeted me when we went to church in South Carolina or the mother of the boy I sat next to in 9th grade science class.

This recipe for chicken enchiladas (from Loaves and Fishes, and submitted by our cousin Liz Rosinski) is a perfect example with its short list of ingredients, easy preparation, and a big wow factor. The filling comes together easily and is filled with a tang from the cream cheese and a zing from the chilies. While the drizzle of cream may seem excessive and you may be tempted to omit it, it helps all the flavors steam together and stay moist, while the cheese on top gets crispy. I serve these enchiladas with green salsa on the side.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

1 TBL butter
1 medium chopped onion
1 can drained green chilies
8 oz. softened cream cheese, cut up (light is okay)
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
flour tortillas
2-3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1/4 cup whipping cream

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and chilies. Saute 1 minute. Stir in cream cheese and chicken. Cook until cream cheese melts. Spoon some down center of tortilla and roll up. Place, seam side down, in lightly greased 13x9 casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese, drizzle with cream. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until cheese is melted and browned.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Must love mushrooms and be willing to embrace garlic

This was the recipe that introduced me to pre-baking my pizza crust to get it nice and crisp, so it holds a special place in my heart. Usually I just improvise my pizza on Friday nights, using whatever goodies, sauces and cheese I can find in the fridge. So, this one, since it actually involves following a recipe, is like more of a special occasion pizza - one for company or to perk up an otherwise boring Saturday night. This pizza - with its garlic infused everything, mounds of browned mushrooms, and FOUR cups of cheese rivals anything you'd get in your local gourmet pizzeria. It will fill your house with the scent of garlic on steroids and will shout to the neighborhood that you mean business in the kitchen.

Mushroom and Garlic Pizza
  • One bag TJ's pizza dough or one 14 ounce can Pillsbury pizza crust
  • 3 TBL extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems discarded
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces shredded swiss cheese (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozarella cheese (2 cups)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the pizza dough out to cover a large baking sheet, then brush with 2 TBL olive oil and sprinkle with the garlic. Bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the shitake and white mushrooms. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 TBL oil over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until golden, 8-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Sprinkle the baked dough with the swiss cheese, then the mushrooms, then the mozarella. Sprinkle a little more salt over the top and return pizza to oven. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Note: you can use any type of mushrooms. I sometimes use two bags of pre-sliced mushrooms (crimini or white) from Trader Joe's. Last time I made it I added some sautéed spinach, but its incredible just with the mushrooms.