Saturday, September 16, 2006

Spice Up Your Life!

As a young cook I was never one to follow recipes. The first cook book that I bought was an old worn out copy of Martin Yan's "The Joy Of Woking", I was seven at the time and got the book for a quarter at a garage sale. I enjoyed watching Chef Yan on TV cut up a chicken in 10 seconds and loved his goofy antics behind the stove. I got inspiration for a recipe of crispy glazed chicken in sesames. I read the recipe, but then changed it a bit. I added orange juice and red pepper flakes, now I made something else, something with my own twist. I had a chance to meet Chef Yan a few years ago, and I had him autograph my copy of "The Joy Of Woking". He was so touched that as a young child I was influenced by his cooking and now as a working cook I still admired his talents.

When I was a kid in my mother's kitchen I did not witness her opening books or pulling cards from a recipe caddy. She cooked from instinct and practice, and so I first learned from her. When I started working in kitchens as a prep cook, and while attending culinary school that all changed. Recipes were an integral part of my cooking experience in the kitchen. It took me a while to change to this. Now today some, 20 some odd years from the purchase of my first cook book, I am starting to create my own catalog of recipes. I have gained knowledge as a recipe writer from my jobs at Williams-Sonoma and as a private chef.

I have spent the last week working on new recipes for Hands on Gourmet's Fall/Winter 2006 menu rotation. Warm flatbreads, earthy spices, and seasonal produce will be given The Food Diva treatment. Get ready for flavor overload! As the weather gets cool I will be turning up the heat with spicy and bold flavors!
I find pleasure in creating something that is appealing to the eye, inviting to the senses and sensual on the palate. Rolling dough, roasting peppers, pulling cheese, toasting nuts, all of these activities make me giddy like a school girl fixing an afterschool snack. As a cooking instructor it is important to give my students a basic understanding of ingredients and culinary techniques. I don't want to bore them so I make all of my classes unique, interactive and together we create a memorable meal full of flavor and pizzaz!

For this season's recipes I sat and had a chat with Stephen, my boss and the Executive Chef of Hands On Gourmet, about incorporating seasonal items and bringing more ethnic cuisine to our clients. I love the smokiness of dried chiles and charred onions as well as the robust flavors of cinnamon, cumin, corriander, and saffron. Pair that with plump figs, juicy pears and dried apricots, earthy mushrooms, hearty grains, spicy chiles and winter root vegetables and we got the beggining of something spectacular! Along with Roger Feely, my fellow Sous Chef, we each created two menus to submit to Stephen. My task was to create a Mexican and Moroccan menu. And I tell you what, I think I did a kick ass job! However, I can't take all the credit. Most of the recipes for the Mexican menu are my mom's old classics. One Sunday afternoon we spent nearly an hour chatting about old family favorites. I can't wait for her to visit in the spring and help me teach a class. Two Latin Food Divas in the out!
I am working on the recipes that will go along with the menu this weekend.I am happy to share these new menus with you, and I will be posting recipes and pictures as soon as I start cookin'! In the meantime read on and start salivating. 'Til next time get in the kitchen, raid the cabinets and create something new! Happy Cooking! The Food Diva~


Bastilla~ Fragrant saffron chicken with ground almonds and ginger in crispy pastry bundles
dusted with cinnamon.

Fez FrittersA Moroccan twist on a Middle Eastern falafel with harissa yogurt sauce.

Assorted Flatbreads with Charmoulla and Apricot-Currant ChutneyBeef Tagine, Preserved Lemons and Olives served

with Marrakesh Market Couscous

Lemon-Ginger Cakes, Honey-Yogurt and Cherry-Pomegranate Preserves

Gorditas filled with Wild Mushrooms, Epazote and Melted Oaxacan Cheese. Served with a zesty

roasted Salsa Borracha

Crispy Zucchini-Potato Pancakes, Jicama-Cucumber Relish and Scallion Drizzle

Aztec Corn Flan with Avocado-Poblano Sauce and Radish-Orange Ensalada

Turkey in Pipian Sauce, Buttery Rice Pilaf and Harvest Vegetable Escabeche

Mayan Chocolate Cakes,Kahlua Cream and Sesame Brittle

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