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Posts Tagged ‘Food Network’

I’m baaa-aaack!

It’s been quite a while, I’m sorry. This summer just got away from us – and we didn’t even go to the beach this year! We have been so incredibly busy lately, and one of the downsides of being busy is a) I don’t cook and b) We don’t eat as healthy. I decided I’d had it, and started flipping through the latest issue of Food Network Magazine. It’s hard when it only comes every other month, but I read in this issue that it will be coming more often, yay!

The October issue (Vol. 2, Number 4) has more than 120 recipes in it, so I’m sure it will give me lots of ideas. One feature was “50 Easy Soups.” As the weather starts to cool down, I naturally crave something warm. Last week I tried Escarole & White Bean Soup. It was super easy. I’ve never tried escarole before, but it cooks similar to spinach and has a a slightly bitter flavor. The recipe suggested adding sausage, but I tried turkey kielbasa for a healthier kick. I was cooking late, so by the time it was ready I was too exhausted (and hungry) to get the Nikon to snap a photo. You’ll have to be content with this one from my phone instead!

  • 3 garlic cloves, choppe
  • Dash red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 head escarole, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 package turkey kielbasa, diced

Cook garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and turkey kielbasa in olive oil. Add chicken broth, escarole, and a parmesan rind (I didn’t have one); simmer 15 minutes. Add white beans, parmesan, and salt (be careful, only use a small amount or it will be too salty). Makes 4 servings.

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My mom bought me a subscription to the new Food Network Magazine for Christmas, and I absolutely love it! It’s full of hundreds of recipes, including many focused on quick weeknight dinners. Tonight’s meal wasn’t part of that bunch, but it was part of the “Comfort Food Made Light” list that I wanted to try. Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 tbs. EVOO
  • 1 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (90% lean)
  • 1 cup panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs) – I just used regular bread crumbs instead
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, bell peppers, garlic paste and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are almost soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the egg and fresh herbs in a large bowl. Add the turkey, panko, grated cheese, 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables; mix until just combined.

Gently press the mixture into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes in a small bowl; brush the mixture over the entire loaf. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 8.

This recipe has only 270 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving – that’s 300 fewer calories and 65% less fat than a serving of restaurant-style meatloaf. It even has 20 grams of protein!

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Michael Ruhlman’s book, The Soul of a Chef:  The Journey Toward Perfection is a fascinating look into three distinct aspects of cooking:  culinary school, owning a restaurant, and developing recipes. I was excited to learn Ruhlman is from my hometown, Cleveland, and that one of the restaurants he profiled in detail was Lola Bistro & Wine Bar, owned by Michael Symon, who currently stars on the Food Network on both the Iron Chef and Dinner: Impossible shows.

Ruhlman separates the book into three sections that give the reader a clear picture into what chefs may go through to realize their dreams. The first section, “Certified Master Chef Exam (Or the Objective Truth of Great Cooking)” follows the journey of Brian Polcyn, a chef attempting to pass the certified master chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America. The exam is an expensive and exhausting process whereby chefs from across the country strive toward winning the title of “certified master chef.” This is the equivalent of an expert in the field and can open a variety of doors for those that win. Ruhlman does an excellent job making the reader truly care about Polcyn and the other chefs he competes with.

In part two, “Lola,” Ruhlman follows the adventures of Michael Symon, executive chef and owner of Lola Bistro & Wine Bar in Cleveland, Ohio. The fun-filled atmosphere Symon creates in his kitchen and in the dining room of his restaurant is clearly portrayed, and Ruhlman’s descriptions would make anyone want to try the food at Lola. Symon’s unique approach to cooking and positive attitude is displayed in the way he interacts with his guests and the clear popularity of his restaurant.

“Journey Toward Perfection,” part three, made me want to visit Napa Valley as soon as possible. Thomas Keller, executive chef and owner of the famous French Laundry restaurant in California, describes how he makes his one-of-a-kind dishes that cause people to fly in from all over the world to experience his cooking. And he has no formal culinary training of any kind! I appreciated the humanity Ruhlman brought to Keller’s story, describing his struggle to buy the restaurant and maintain it in his first years of ownership. I also admired Keller’s approach to business, striving to use every part of the animals he uses in unique and flavorful dishes – including popular dishes he has never tried himself! In one chapter, Ruhlman asks Keller what he likes about one of his most popular dishes, “Pearls and Oysters” (an oyster on top of a bed of tapioca “pearls”). Keller replied, “I’ve never tasted it. You don’t have to put your hand in the fire to know it’s hot.”

Ruhlman elaborates on the purpose of his book at the end:

Keller, in his 25 years as a chef, I guessed, had fed one million people. Probably more. This was a good thing. He was a good, thoughtful cook. The work had provided him a livelihood. It had made him famous in food circles in his country and beyond. But more important than that, and this was everything, it was the good use of one life, and he knew it. No less so for Brian Polcyn and for Michael Symon. By the time they reached Keller’s age, they would likely have served a million people or more. Maybe they already had. They all were great chefs; they never forgot for a moment what the work was all about: to cook for people and to make them happy.

The best part of the book were the recipes at the end! A few I wanted to try are listed below. If you’re interested in the New York Times book review of The Soul of a Chef, check out Anthony Bourdain’s article here.

Corn Crepes (Michael Symon, Lola Bistro & Wine Bar)

  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 1 tsp. corn oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallion, chopped

Puree all ingredients in food processor till combined.

Pour a tsp. of oil into a small hot saute pan or crepe pan. Ladle in 2 oz. of batter. Cook till lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip crepe, continue cooking for about another minute; remove to a rack to cool. Repeat with rest of batter. (Michael serves with BBQ sauce and sour cream. Serves 4.)

Crab Tater Tots (Michael Symon, Lola Bistro & Wine Bar)

  • 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 3 yolks
  • 3 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. bread crumbs
  • 2 tbs. chives
  • 8 oz. lump crab meat
  • Oil for deep frying

Boil potatoes till tender through the center; drain, let moisture steam off; then rice, mash, or pss through a food mill. Work in the rest of the ingredients while potatoes are still hot. When the mixture has cooled, incorporate the crab. Form into spheres the size of golf balls. Deep fry (makes 18 tater tots; serves 6).

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The Next Food Network Star is one of my favorite new shows – I love how entertaining it is, and I’m really impressed with the challenges they give the contestants, even more so than Top Chef. Being on the Food Network, to me, is much more challenging than being an executive chef – not only do you have to cook good food, you have to be able to explain it to a camera effectively, quickly, and with personality.

This week the final four flew to Vegas to participate in a “throwdown,” Bobby Flay style. Lisa and Adam competed first, making Adam’s macaroni and cheese and Lisa’s cassoulet in 75 minutes. They each clearly owned their signature dishes, and failed to improve on the dish of their competitors. Paula Deen went so far as to say about Lisa’s mac and cheese, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” Next was Aaron vs. Kelsey. I really like Kelsey’s likeable personality and her performance in front of the camera, but I’m really not sure how much different she would be than any other star the Food Network already has. Aaron, on the other hand, is an excellent chef and brings a variety to the table (pun intended) that is refreshing and interesting – if only he was more personable on camera! He and Kelsey made Kelsey’s chicken parmesan and Aaron’s stuffed pork. Although Aaron nearly forgot to make Kelsey’s dish (remembering with only 20 minutes left), he clearly beat her on both counts.

When the four contestants went into the elimination round, it was fairly clear who the bottom two would be (Adam and Kelsey). When the eliminated contestant was announced as Kelsey, part of me was surprised. The judges constantly berate Adam for his lack of culinary prowess, but he always manages to sneak by because of his sense of humor and personality. It’s going to be interesting next week with the final three contestants (Lisa, Aaron, and Adam) compete against each other to move one step closer to having their own show on the Food Network. I’ve been pulling for Aaron for quite some time, but I would also be willing to tune into Adam’s show – I think if he has more time to think about his “culinary point of view” (classic NFNS catchphrase), he could be quite popular. I really struggle with liking Lisa – her dishes look incredible and she always wins for the great tastes she creates – but her “Stepford Wife” persona rubs me the wrong way. Something really has to change before I’d be interested in watching her show. She reminds me of Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) in terms of the types of food she cooks, but at least Ina is more down-to-earth and comfortable on camera.

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