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Volume 16   Number 18

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  THIS WEEK'S FEATURES AND RECIPES:

  >  Article: Poor Tahini, So Neglected

  >  Food Funnies: Items From the Food Periodic Table

       S E L E C T E D    R E C I P E S :

    * Macaroni Grill Marsala Chicken Ravioli
        
    * Guacamole
        
    * Carne Asada
        
    * Taco Casserole
        
    * Feta and Herb Stuffed Shells
        
    * Tostadas with Eggs, Black Beans, and Chorizo
        
    * Tuna and Artichoke Panini
        
    * Kahlua Flan

     Healthy Eating:

    Low Carb: Coconut Cream Pudding

    Diabetic: Fruit Baked Apples

    Low Fat: Cajun Chicken with Lemon Sauce

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  This Week's Cooking Tips

 * Biscuits will be crisp on the outside and flaky in the center if
   you roll the dough thin and fold it over once before cutting out
   biscuits. They'll also split open easily when you're ready to
   butter them.

 * To split a cake into layers, loop a length of waxed dental floss
   around the outside of the cake at the point you want the cut, then
   cross the ends and pull gently but firmly. The floss will cut right
   through the cake.

 * Most recipes calling for dried beans recommend soaking them
   overnight; lots of us don't have the time or inclination to think
   that far ahead. To speed up the process, place washed beans in a
   large covered bowl with water (they will absorb lots) and microwave
   until it comes to a full boil. Let sit in the micro for about 1
   hour and you have pre-soaked beans; then cook as desired. This
   works on almost all beans; they are ready to be cooked in your
   recipe, will be soft and cooked in about one hour. More Cooking Tips

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    This Week's Culinary Quiz (Answer at the bottom of page)

     What is the name of the flour made from chickpeas?

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    Quote of the Week:

     "You needn't tell me that a man who doesn't love oysters and
      asparagus and good wines has got a soul, or a stomach either.
      He's simply got the instinct for being unhappy."

      - Hector Hugh Munro

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    UPCOMING FOOD HOLIDAYS:

          May is: National Asparagus Month
                  National Barbecue Month
                  National Chocolate Custard Month
                  National Egg Month
                  National Hamburger Month
                  National Macaroon Day
                  National Salad Month
                  National Salsa Month
                  National Strawberry Month

            May 1 - National Chocolate Parfait Day
            May 2 - National Truffles Day
            May 3 - National Raspberry Popover Day 
            May 4 - National Candied Orange Peel Day
            May 5 - National Hoagie Day
            May 6 - National Crepe Suzette Day
            May 7 - National Roast Leg of Lamb Day
            May 8 - National Coconut Cream Pie Day

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   Personalized Chef Coats

    Kick it up a notch with a touch of class! Create a
    personalized and professional look in your kitchen.

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    Poor Tahini, So Neglected
     By MARK BITTMAN

  Tahini paste, which is ground sesame seeds, is a staple that many
 people have around but few actually use. That is a shame, because it
 is a transforming condiment, an inexpensive one that keeps nearly
 forever. (It is best stored in the refrigerator, like anything else
 containing oil that might become rancid.)

  Its under-use is undoubtedly partly because only those of us whose
 parents are of Middle Eastern or hippie extraction grew up with
 tahini. We just don't think to use it routinely, other than in
 hummus, even though a bit will improve almost any dish that is Middle
 Eastern or North African in origin or spirit.

  Furthermore, it can be tricky to use: though usually thinner and
 smoother than peanut butter, it often thickens alarmingly when
 combined with other ingredients, forming a thick paste that is
 difficult to stir.

  That brings me to the critical role of water in this salad, a simple
 combination of tomatoes and onions. If you first combine the tahini
 with the garlic and cumin - both kept to a minimum in the relatively
 subtle dressing - and then add the lemon juice and nothing more, you
 might give up (as did an untrusting friend who tested the recipe,
 tossing the dressing in the trash and starting over). Stir in a
 couple of tablespoons of hot water, however, and presto! You have a
 salad dressing. When combined with the onions and tomatoes, it thins
 even more and coats the vegetables perfectly.

  A couple of notes about technique, and about possibilities. If you
 like raw onions strong, you can skip soaking them; but this step,
 known as "killing" the onions, tames them nicely. And though I once
 would have seeded the tomatoes for this salad, it seems to me that
 their added flavor and juice belong in here; the results may not be
 elegant, but they taste better.

  Finally, I have made this salad with several additions. Cubes of
 stale, toasted or grilled bread turn it into something akin to
 panzanella, and I love it that way. Cooked chicken or shrimp is also
 good. In any case, you will probably have to make a little more
 dressing.
 
  Tomato and Onion Salad With Tahini Dressing
  ====================================
    1 medium red or white onion, peeled and diced
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 garlic clove, peeled and minced, or to taste
    1/3 cup tahini paste
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
    4 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
    1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

 1. Soak onion in salted cold water while preparing other ingredients,
    about 30 minutes. Whisk or blend together garlic, tahini and
    cumin, and add lemon juice; the mixture will become very thick.
    Thin with hot water, a tablespoon at a time, just so the mixture
    can be spooned. (It will thin further when tossed with tomatoes.)
    Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 2. Toss onion, tomatoes and parsley with dressing. Taste, adjust the
    seasonings and serve. Yield: 4 servings.

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   FOOD FUNNIES: Items From the Food Periodic Table

 8. Rh: Rhubarb - Purple element with no apparent use. Rhumored
    to be edible.

 7. Co: Coffee - Mixes well with Hf: Half & Half, Sg: Sugar, &
    Ir: Irish Whiskey

 6. V: Velveeta - Bland substance commonly associated with a
    mobile property.

 5. Ds: Diet soda - Lightweight element mistakenly believed to
    reduce density in other elements.

 4. Uuh: Unidentifiable - What elements turn into when refrigerated
    for more than 14 days.

 3. Li: Limburger - A radiolfactive substance with a half-life of
    about a day.

 2. Fr: Frankfurter - Tubular comestible, indigenous to fairs and
    stadiums, no recognizable nutritional value. Forms stable
    compounds with B: Bun, Md: Mustard, K: Ketchup, O: Onions,
    and S: Sauerkraut.

      ... and the #1 Item From the Food Periodic Table ...

 1. Pr: Produce - Unstable element which always eventually changes
    state from solid to liquid. 

      =+=-=+=-=+=-=+= Free Recipes and Cookbooks =+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=

  Macaroni Grill Marsala Chicken Ravioli
  ==============================
    24 chicken ravioli, thawed if frozen ravioli
    4 oz. butter flavored oil
    8 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms
    2 oz. smoked prosciutto, diced total
    4 oz. asparagus, bias sliced
    1 tespoon sea salt or to taste
    1 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
    24 oz. (3 cups) heavy (whipping) cream
    4 oz. Marsala cooking wine
    2 teaspoons julienne cut basil
    2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated total
    4 basil sprigs (for garnish)

  Make sure that your water is boiling hot and remember that ravioli is
 a pasta and should be prepared as such. Place ravioli in boiling water
 for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

  In a heated saute pan, add butter flavored oil, mushrooms, smoked
 prosciutto, asparagus, sea salt, black pepper and saute for about
 30 seconds, or until mushrooms are cooked through.

  Add marsala wine, heavy cream and julienne basil to the mushroom
 mixture and simmer for about 2 to 4 minutes.

  Remove ravioli from water and drain well. Add ravioli to saute pan
 and toss until coated. 

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  Guacamole
  =========
    3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
    1 lime, juiced
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1/2 medium onion, diced
    2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
    1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    1 clove garlic, minced

  In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss
 to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados
 have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and
 cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and
 garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room
 temperature for 1 hour and then serve. 

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  Carne Asada
  ===========
   1 - 20 ounce top sirloin steak 
   2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
   1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed 
   1/2 teaspoon salt 
   1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 
   1/4 cup orange juice 
   1 tablespoon lime juice 
   2 teaspoon cider vinegar 
   2 orange slices, 1/2" thick

  Place steak in a shallow glass baking dish. Rub with oil on each 
 side. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Sprinkle orange juice, 
 lime juice, and vinegar over the steak. Cover and refrigerate 
 overnight for best flavor or several hours, turning occasionally.

  To cook, bring meat to room temperature. Prepare and preheat charcoal 
 grill (or gas grill). Drain meat, reserving marinade. Place steak on 
 grill. Top with orange slices. Occasionally spoon reserved marinade 
 over steaks as they cook. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side, or until 
 medium-rare. Cook longer if desired. Remove orange slices to turn 
 steak. Replace orange slices on top of steak.

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  Taco Casserole
  ============
    1 lb. ground beef 
    1 (1 1/4 ounce) package taco seasoning
    2 cups corn chips, coarsely crushed or chopped
    1 (15 ounce) can refried beans 
    2 cups monterey jack cheese, divided (or mixed cheddar, jack etc.)
    1 cup salsa
    2 green onions, chopped 
    1 (2 1/3 ounce) can sliced black olives 
    1 tomato, chopped 

  Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning and cook according
 to package directions, adding proper amount of water. Put corn chips
 on bottom of an 8"x8" dish.

  Cook refried beans on stove until hot. Add 1 cup cheese and 1 cup
 salsa to beans. Stir until combined. Pour beans over corn chips in
 dish. Add beef to top of beans. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
 Sprinkle green onions and black olives over cheese. Bake at 375F
 until the cheese is sufficiently melted. Take out of oven and
 sprinkle chopped tomatoes on top. Wait 1-2 minutes and then serve. 

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  Feta and Herb Stuffed Shells
  ======================
  Sauce:
    1/4 cup olive oil 
    1 onion, chopped 
    2 garlic cloves, minced 
    1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper 
    2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, chopped in processor
      with juices 
    1 cup chopped fresh basil 

  Filling:
    2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese 
    14 ounces feta cheese, chopped 
    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil 
    2 fresh chive bunches, chopped 
    2 eggs 

    1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells 
    Fresh basil sprigs 

  For sauce: Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add
 onion and saute 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute until onion is
 tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and saute 30 seconds.
 Add tomatoes. Simmer until sauce is reduced to 5 cups, stirring
 occasionally, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
 Remove from heat and mix in basil.

  For filling: Combine ricotta, 1 1/3 cups feta, 1/2 cup chopped basil
 and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs. 

  Cook shells in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender
 but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse with cold water until cool.
 Drain thoroughly. 

  Preheat oven 350F. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over bottom of each of two
 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dishes. Fill 30 shells and divide
 between dishes. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining
 feta. Bake shells until heated through, about 30 minutes. Garnish
 with basil sprigs.

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  Tostadas with Eggs, Black Beans, and Chorizo
  ====================================
    12 ounces chorizo, casing removed 
    1 15 1/2- to 16-ounce can refried black beans 
    4 tablespoons olive oil 
    1 large onion, chopped 
    4 tostadas (purchased 5- to 6-inch-diameter crisp tortillas) 
    4 large eggs 
    1/2 cup drained purchased fresh tomato salsa 
    1 avocado, peeled, pitted, diced 
    1/2 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 2 ounces) 

  Preheat oven to 300F. Fry chorizo in medium skillet over medium-high
 heat until meat is cooked through and fat is rendered, about 10
 minutes. Drain off all fat from skillet. Add beans to chorizo and
 stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover
 to keep warm. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large nonstick skillet
 over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until onion is soft,
 about 4 minutes. Arrange tostadas on baking sheet. Spread 1/3 cup
 bean-chorizo mixture on each tostada. Top with onion. Place in oven
 to keep warm. 

  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over high heat.
 Drop in eggs 1 at a time. Fry over medium-high heat until whites are
 firm but yolks are still tender, about 1 minute per side. Using metal
 spatula, place 1 egg on each tostada; top with salsa, avocado, and
 cheese.

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  Tuna and Artichoke Panini
  ====================
    3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives 
    2 tablespoons olive oil 
    2 garlic cloves 
    1 teaspoon lemon zest 
    1/4 cup mayonnaise 
    2 (6-ounce) cans tuna in olive oil, drained 
    1 (12 oz.) jar marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
    1 (16-ounce) ciabatta bread, halved horizontally 
    1 tomato, diced 

  Puree the olives, oil, garlic, and zest in a food processor until
 smooth and spreadable. Blend in the mayonnaise. Toss the tuna,
 artichokes, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium bowl, keeping the
 tuna in small chunks.

  Hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread the olive
 puree over both cut sides of the bread. Spoon the tuna and artichoke
 mixture onto the bottom half of the bread. Sprinkle the tomatoes
 over. Cover with the bread top. Cut the sandwich crosswise into
 6 pieces and serve.

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  Kahlua Flan
  =========
    3/4 cup sugar 
    4 large eggs 
    1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
    1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 
    2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur (recommended: Kahlua) 
    Mexican chocolate shavings and cocoa powder, garnish 

  Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, cook the sugar over
 medium heat until it starts to melt. Lower the heat and cook until
 caramelized to a golden brown. (Do not stir or touch the sugar, but
 swirl the pan to melt evenly.) 

  Pour into a metal flan mold or 9-inch cake pan. Turn the dish and
 swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Let caramel cool and harden. 

  Place the dish in a larger roasting pan and add hot water to come
 halfway up the sides of the baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk the
 eggs. Add the condensed and evaporated milks and Kahlua and whisk
 well to blend. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until set and just
 firm in the center but still jiggles slightly, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
 Let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least
 2 hours. 

  To serve, run a thin sharp knife around the rim of the flan. Place
 a platter or large plate on top of the flan and gently flip over so
 the plate is on the bottom. Lift away the mold. Garnish with powdered
 cocoa and top with Mexican chocolate shavings. Cut into wedges and
 serve immediately.

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   This Week's Culinary Quiz Answer: Gram

  Gram flour is also known as besan. The flour is used to make
 pakoras, papdums and Burmese tofu in Indian cuisine. The chickpeas
 must be pre-cooked, then spread on a baking tray and baked for
 about 3 hours. Left overnight to cool, the peas can be grinded to
 a fine flour the next day.

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