Friday, June 26, 2015

Michael Mina at Kapalua Wine & Food Festival

I am just back from the 34th annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival which is the longest running food and wine festival of its kind not just in Maui, but in the country.  

It started out as a wine only event but morphed over the years. Today food is a big part of it with celebrity chefs, classes and tasting events. I got a chance to attend a lunch cooking demo class with Chef and restaurateur Michael Mina and was pleased to see RN74 Executive Chef Adam Sobel acting as right hand man. 

Michael Mina and Adam Sobel 
Here are some learnings from the event--

- Mina said the biggest mistake home cooks make is not tasting or not knowing what you’re tasting for. Following a recipe is not enough, you must taste. Ingredients are not consistent, they are different all the time and you need to adjust your recipes. 

- The four elements he considers most important? Acidity, spice, sweetness and richness, but not all dishes have all four. 

- When plating he said, put the pot down! You are going for control. If the pot is on the counter you will have more control of the spoon in your hand. 

Chilled Thai spicy lime vinaigrette with purple basil
- When it comes to cooking squid, he recommends that you cut squid then poach it for more tenderness than poaching whole. 

- When making a vinaigrette, he lets it sit for a day before using, so the flavors meld better. 

Tomato and cocoa powder dusted seared ahi with fried cauliflower, uni aioli and calabrian chiles.

- This dish had caponata an Italian vegetable dish that Mina said goes with everything--fish, chicken, seafood, etc. 

- When crusting fish or chicken, be sure to season on all sides before crusting, and season the crusting too.

Brioche banana custard brûlée
- For the French toast style dessert, the brioche was soaked a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour to allow the custard to fully hydrate the bread, then cooked in plenty of butter.

- Toasted flavors of caramel, nuts and brûlée banana complement the richness of the custard.

Thanks for the tips chef! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to the Outrigger Kapalua for hosting me at this wonderful event. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cauliflower with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Tahini Sauce Recipe

I love how sometimes seemingly random ingredients come together. This dish of roasted cauliflower and chorizo with fresh tomatoes and greens and tahini sauce was created based on what I had on hand. But it was really tasty and something I would make again.

A lot of times when I interview chefs and cookbook authors, I ask how they come up with recipes. I have to admit, I don't usually get very satisfying answers. But recently I met cookbook author Anna Jones. Her book, A Modern Way to Eat has a really cool graphic to explain how she puts together dishes. It goes something like this:

Hero Ingredient
How Shall I Cook it?
Supporting Role?
Add an Accent
Add a Flavor
Add an Herb
Add some Crunch
Season and Finish

Her formula has a lot of components and is designed to add layers of flavor and texture to a dish. Do you have a formula that you use or can you deconstruct a dish according to elements? It's a fun exercise and can lead to some interesting new combinations. My formula for this dish was was hero ingredient+salty+green+acid+creamy.

Cauliflower with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Tahini Sauce
Serves 2 - 4


1 Mexican chorizo sausage, about 1/3 cup sausage meat
3 cups cauliflower florets, any color you like (I used golden)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Greens (I used spinach but you could use anything you like)

Tahini sauce
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch granulated garlic


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large skillet crumble the chorizo and cook until beginning to brown. Add the cauliflower and the olive oil and continue to cook until the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Transfer the cauliflower and chorizo to a lined baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Roast until cauliflower begins to turn brown, about 40 minutes. Arrange the cauliflower and chorizo on a platter with the tomatoes and as much greens as you like.

Make the tahini sauce by stirring together the tahini, lemon juice and granulated garlic. Stir in enough water to make a thick creamy sauce, about 2 tablespoons. Season with salt and drizzle the sauce over the salad.


Disclaimer: This post includes an affiliate link. I was not paid to write this or any other post on Cooking with Amy

Friday, June 19, 2015

Unforgettable: Bold Flavors from a Renegade Life

I'm a big fan of Paula Wolfert. She has an amazing talent for a kind of culinary cultural anthropology, exploring various cuisines, digging in deep, learning and documenting recipes like nobody's business. I have relished my time with her, especially at her home in Sonoma and subsequently in a class. I love hearing her stories, getting her career advice, not to mention having her cook for me. So I couldn't be more excited to learn of the plan to document her extraordinary life, along with some of her most important recipes. Leading the charge is former Food & Wine editor and cookbook author, Emily Thelin. The top team also includes photographer Eric Wolfinger and my friend, Andrea Nguyen who is acting as project manager.

I was planning to run this interview with Andrea in hopes of encouraging you to support the project and help it to meet its goal. Fortunately the initial goal has been reached. Now it's time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and make this project even more special by lending your support to help reach the next milestone. Visit the kickstarter page to learn more. 

1. How did this project come about?
Andrea Nguyen: Last year, my friend Emily Thelin (formerly of Food & Wine) told me she wanted to write Paula’s biographical cookbook, and that Eric Wolfinger had offered to be the photographer. Eric had also suggested that they publish it themselves as an experimental project, true to Paula's renegade spirit. Emily told me she saw parallels between Paula's and my immersive approaches to our books. Given my experience writing and publishing four cookbooks, she asked if I would help.

2. Who is publishing the book? 
AN: We’re self-publishing Unforgettable. 

3. Why did you decide to go the kickstarter route?
AN:Crowdfunding this project allows us to do meaningful, small-batch cookbook publishing. It has its challenges but it hasn't been as hard as we thought. We're lucky to be pros in our respective areas and plucky enough to get this going. Knowing people like you is invaluable.

4. What is the process for the book? Are you cooking all the recipes with Paula? 

AN: Incredibly, we’ve met our minimum funding goal. If we’re lucky to reach our stretch goal of $80,000 we’ll be able to double the print run and comfortably cover costs. From now until July 11 when the campaign ends, it’s full tilt boogie to garner community backing for Unforgettable.

Paula wrote nine cookbooks and as you can imagine, can come up with a recipe off the top of her head. A group of folks familiar with Paula’s work will work through roughly 100 select recipes to find ones that are most suitable for the book. Vivid, doable, compelling recipes that speak to Paula’s life journey are what we’re aiming for.

Once we’ve got our short list, we’ll cook through many of them with Paula at her home. Those sessions will enable us to convey the connection between food and memory, the savors of life.

Right now, with the campaign just having been launched, we’re focused on making it super successful. With everybody’s support, we’ll cross the finish line with the ability to make a stellar publication.

5. Paula has greatly changed her own personal diet since her diagnosis, how many recipes will reflect this? 
AN: Many of them will but not all of them. It’s hard to pin point a number because making a book is a fluid process. We do want to incorporate recipes, ideas and techniques that speak to Paula’s current lifestyle. She has ironically been ahead of the curve for most of her life. This time, she has a few companions with her.

Thanks Andrea!

Now please do watch the video above if you haven't already, and head to the kickstarter page to support this project (yes, there are thank you gifts!)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Interview with Hugh Acheson

Chef Hugh Acheson | Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee
Chef Hugh Acheson released his third book, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits, last month, which I reviewed in a round up of Southern cookbooks recently. It's an exciting cookbook with truly creative combination of ingredients and a focus on using vegetables you might just find at a farmers market or in a CSA box. We got a chance to meet and talk while he was in San Francisco just last week. 

Where have you been eating in the Bay Area? Any standouts?
Octavia, La Taqueria, Deli Board. For coffee--Sightglass, Blue Bottle and Coffee Cultures. Up in Healdsburg--Healdsburg Shed, Scopa, Dry Creek Kitchen. Hana for sushi in Rohnert Park was phenomenal. I'm looking forward to checking out Souvla today. 

What kinds of restaurants appeal to you the most? 
I’m always looking for current and contemporary and "ethnic" food. When I travel it’s usually long days, so I don't want a three hour, 12 course meal, I find them exhausting, I don’t eat much, I like to try a lot of things.  I like a place with good wine, with good burgundy.

Your culinary influences are so diverse—French, Southern, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean—what is your process for creating a dish? 
I’m trying to pick up on nuances of flavor. It’s important that recipes are grounded in culinary logic. I try to make sure I’m putting together a puzzle that works, and in the case of  The Broad Fork, respecting the actual vegetable. I don’t like overwrought food—I prefer food to be light on the palate. I just want people to cook more. 

We went through a period 20 years ago of using ingredients and coming up with dishes like wasabi mashed potatoes. It showed a shallow knowledge of cultures. Now we’re cooking a lot more from scratch. Our understanding is much more relevant as ingredients are more accessable. Umami type flavors are more prevalent than ever before. Most of the recipes in the book are not complicated, I’m not having you stuff a chicken and age it in a tree for three months.  

For years the press has talked about “vegetables moving to the center of the plate.” It’s starting to happen in some San Francisco non-vegetarian restaurants. Will it happen with home cooking, in restaurants? At any of your restaurants?
We are moving towards it, protein prices have become exceptionally difficult and it’s hard to have quality and not charge $45 a plate. I don’t eat 6 ounces of protein anymore, 3-4 ounces is plenty. 

What role does pickling and preserving play in your cooking?
The Southern larder is all about pickling and preserving, as we get to the bottom of it and nerd out on it you can see the world’s pantry revolves around those things too. We’re nerds, we are learning whole new genres and saving the season's bounty. 

What are some good recipes for home cooks who are just getting started with pickling and preserving?
Americans get scared by fermentation but they eat and drink fermented food all the time. The fears are real, but there are smart common sense rules. I’d recommend making vinegar, but not just adding tarragon to white vinegar and hoping for the best. Or make sauerkraut. Or carrots with ginger or pickled peppers. Kimchi. Making these things is like science projects for my kids. 

You are one of the only chefs I know to advocate the use of a slow cooker and pressure cooker. How do you recommend using them?
You can make chicken stock in both! I think the slow cooker is just an evenly tempered cooker. You can slow cook lamb shanks over 8 hours.

Pressure cookers may not be the chefs favorite things, but they are used everyday in Asia and Mexico—anywhere with legume rich cuisine. Both are excellent at tenderizing. You can make corned beef in 55 minutes, of course that’s after brining for a week. The best beans ever are cooked in the pressure cooker. Once you get used ot it you can control it. They are pretty versatile machines. 

What’s next for you? More restaurants, cookbooks, TV? 
Not another book! My full time job is running 4 restaurants. We're opening a coffee shop, we’re very into coffee at the restaurant.

I do a lot of public speaking. I have a charitable organization. We are creating a family consumer science program for grades 6-8 to give kids life skills--so they can make a vinaigrette, roast a chicken, poach an egg. So they don’t run into the dilemma of how to feed a family of 4 on 8 dollars. We have a school district that is going to put it into place. 

I’m also working on a healthy fast food concept. It’s called Broad Fork and we’re trying to form the right alliances. Think large plates, based on the Southern meat and 3 formula.  You will make your own plate with protein and lots of salad elements. A cafetaria model kind of like Chipotle.

Is healthy fast food the wave of the future? 
In San Francisco you're going to have Locol—I think Patterson and Choi are on to something. Beefsteak in DC. There’s a big market for changes and disruptive markets. When we say fast food and fast casual, it’s how America eats.