Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for June, 2007
My poor blog has been woefully ignored of late. On one hand I feel guilty, but my darling keeps reminding me it’s not quantity that’s important, it’s quality. I’ve had a lot of ideas for posts (some of which will eventually make it here), but my schedule has put writing on the back burner. Besides, I can’t say I’ve cooked anything of note lately (although I’ve tried several recipes from Heidi’s new book and hope to do a few more before posting). We’ve either gone out or I’ve thrown together the most simplest of meals: pizza (natch), baked tortillas with refried beans and salsa and whatever green veggie we have on hand, stir-fried veggies and chicken over pasta — you get the idea.
It all started a few weeks ago when the ServSafe book arrived in the mail. Although I have my Washington state food handler’s card (for which you need to sit through an hour-long class before taking the test), ServSafe — a much more comprehensive food safety training course — is required to re-certify through the U.S. Personal Chef Association. So instead of cooking and blogging I got to read about such nasties as clostridium perfringens, staphylococcus aureus, vibrio vulnificus and other food bacterium and toxins. We’re havin’ some fun now!
I’d be lying if I said I diligently studied. Basically it consisted of skimming the first seven or so chapters in the weeks leading up to the test, then cramming in the last 6 chapters in the 45 minutes I waited for the class to begin (to my credit, I took meticulous notes during the class portion). But it’s all common sense stuff: 1) Wash your hands, 2) Cook food to appropriate temperatures, 3) Wash your hands, 4) Make sure food spends minimal time in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees), and 5) Wash your hands. Because I had a client later that day I sped through the test (I’ve always been a speedy test taker). I’m happy to report I passed with flying colors (91% — woo hoo!).
Then, in addition to my regular client schedule, I had parties on June 9 and 16. The former was a buffet dinner for 25 (the hostess had been to another party I catered) and the latter was a 40-person graduation buffet for the son of one of my weekly clients. I now have the luxury of picking and choosing what parties I do. My regular schedule keeps the mortgage paid, so I don’t HAVE to give up my nights and weekends if I don’t want to (believe me, that hasn’t always been the case). But I knew both of these would be rather casual, and besides, we have a trip to France to pay for.
The final big project of the past two weeks was a presentation on “A Day in the Life” for the USPCA’s Philly conference in August. It didn’t need to be the final final (in fact, my actual presentation will look drastically different than what I sent in), but the organizers wanted some semblance to put into the conference notebooks for those who were attending other classes (I know what you’re thinking: who WOULDN’T want to partake in the wit and wisdom that is Ovens to Betsy?)
Anyhoo, this has all been a long and rambling way of saying I’ve been crazy-ass busy. (Oh, and did I happen to mention I’m also training for a marathon?)
I had it all planned: grill up some veggies, make a pot of red quinoa, place on a plate and take a beautiful picture. But reality has a funny way of intruding. We just couldn’t resist sneaking a bite (or five) as each vegetable came off the grill (fortunately we still had some left by the time the quinoa was ready, but by then the Kodak moment had passed).
Who-cares-if-they’re-piping-hot-I-want-them-NOW Grilled Veggies
Minced fresh oregano
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Whisk the marinade ingredients together. Trim the woody ends off the asparagus, remove the gills from the portobellos, sliced the zucchini lengthwise into 1/4″ slices and stem, de-seed and halve the bell peppers. Marinate the veggies for at least 20 minutes (and up to an hour). Preheat your grill to high. For easier turning, thread the asparagus onto a wire or bamboo skewer. Grill veggies until slightly charred (I remove the skins from the bell peppers before serving).
If you have any left, serve the veggies on top of quinoa or grain of choice.
Now that I have time to sit down and write this the weather has turned to gray and cold, but this weekend you could swear summer had arrived — 80+ degrees and cloudless skies. Perfect grilling weather!
I was thumbing through one of my cooking mags and saw an article on lamb kabobs. Although I didn’t use that recipe, my taste buds were certainly piqued. I was still feeling rather creaky from Saturday’s half marathon, so I decided to take it easy. My marinade was a simple combo of fresh oregano from our garden, a touch of lemon juice, salt, pepper, loads of minced garlic and some extra virgin olive oil. I let the lamb marinate for about an hour, but if you have the time, go ahead and keep it in longer. I then threaded the lamb onto skewers with pieces of red onion and grilled ‘em up.
I kept the side dishes easy as well. I tossed some orzo pasta with some of the fresh oregano, along with some red and yellow roasted bell peppers, toasted pine nuts and some shredded parmesan. My darling picked some lettuce from our front yard (it’s the sunniest place!), and I tossed it with garbanzo beans, red onion, tomatoes and a dijon vinaigrette.
Our tiki deck called out to us, so after dusting it off we sat down with our meal and some rosemary-infused gin & tonics. Now THIS is what I call good living!