Llapingachos

Llapingachos con Salsa de Mani

From 2003 to 2004, I lived in Ecuador.  I spent the majority of that year teaching English as a Second Language in the coastal town of Manta, but my first month in the country I lived with a host family while I attended teacher training in Quito.

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Slow-Roasted Salmon with a Dill-Yogurt Sauce

Slow-Roasted Salmon with Cucumber-Dill Sauce

I stumbled on the inspiration for this dish a couple of weeks ago on the Eat Drink Garden blog by Valerie Rice.  I was in search of a good salmon recipe for a buffet dinner that could be made ahead, served cold or at room temperature, and that didn’t require poaching.    This recipe, originally credited to Suzanne Goin and published in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, was a winner on all counts.

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Peruvian Causa

Causa from Above

Last week, my little kitchen in Charlotte, NC took a trip to the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.   Aji amarillo, aceite de achiote, yuca, potatoes, and beef heart (yes, seriously) were just some of the ingredients I used to test recipes for a class I’m teaching this June at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.

The class, which will last a week, is a survey culinary course of South American cooking and after months of research, drooling over recipes, and innumerable adjustments to my course outline, I’m now deep into recipe-testing.  Cooking, jotting down notes on an achiote-stained pad of paper, and tasting, tasting, tasting are contributing to an expanding course packet and waistline.

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Easter Bread

Easter BreadThis time of year, I search for recipes that allow me to make use of dyed hard-boiled eggs.  Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved the tradition of dying eggs for Easter.  Plastic eggs, full of sugary sweets were never a disappointment to find (unless ants had found them first, of course), but my preference was always for the dyed hard-boiled eggs.  Damp with dew and heavy in your palm, they seemed like jeweled-tone assurance that spring was here.

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Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Tzatziki

Yogurt Marinated Chicken KebabsRecently, I demonstrated how to make this dish for a promotional shoot on cooking with herbs for a grocery store and was reminded of how good it is.  Best when prepared ahead, it’s a recipe seemingly made for these early spring days when you want to make the most of the day, but still end it with a fresh and satisfying meal.  The fact that you can do so much ahead also makes it a smart choice for company.

Rosemary Sprig
If you’ve never used yogurt as a marinade, you might find the concept strange, but it is the perfect remedy to the common complaint of dry chicken kebabs. The yogurt helps keep the meat moist even if it spends a little too much time on the grill.  The lemon juice adds brightness and the rosemary, with its characteristic aroma, roots the dish firmly in the Mediterranean.

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On TV: Deviled Eggs with Shrimp

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 2.06.01 PMEveryone should have a recipe for deviled eggs.  They are simple to make, always a crowd-pleaser, and ridiculously yummy.   While the recipe itself comes together quickly, it’s worth watching this demo to get answers to these pressing questions:

Is there a way to get a perfectly hard-boiled egg every time?  What do I need to do to make sure my eggs peel easily? And, why do I need to count my shrimp?

It’s riveting stuff, folks.  Happy cooking!

 

 

Parmesan Gougeres stuffed with Mushroom Duxelle

Parmesan Profiterole with Mushroom Duxelle and MornayI’m often asked what my culinary specialty is.  It’s a difficult question to answer.  My business, which offers in-home cooking classes and personal chef services for dinner and parties, requires me to accommodate many requests.  Some clients want nothing more than to learn how to make authentic Italian pasta while others want to learn how to fold the perfect shrimp dumpling.  Dinners and parties require similar flexibility.  Some clients want traditional Southern dishes while others want to recapture the tastes of a trip to the south of France or the Thai-inspired mussels they enjoyed at a restaurant in New York.  I love the freedom and creativity that catering to any and all requests brings to my work, but if I had to focus on one cuisine it would have to be French cooking.

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