Recipes: Summer Slaws

It is getting towards the end of the summer and if you are like me (and some of my clients) you are starting to look for something a little different in your salads, rather then the same old tomato, mozzarella and basil salad you've been served all summer long.

Why not try incorporating some slaws into the mix? Slaws can bring a variety of texture, sweet and savory excitement into your daily summer salad routine.

Papaya Slaw (serves 1): (Pictured Above)
  • 1/2 c. Pink Papaya, diced
  • 2 c. sliced cabbage
  • 1/4 c. slivered green onions (or 1/8 c. brunoise vidalia onions as pictured)
  • 3 T. picked cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 2 T. canola oil
  1. Combine lime juice, canola oil and salt and pepper.
  2. Gently toss together remaining ingredients and drizzle dressing over slaw, gently tossing until slaw is coated and enjoy!

Jerk Chicken Slaw (serves 1):
  • 1 small, skinnless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 T. fresh picked thyme leaves
  • 1 t. cayenne
  • 1 chopped sage leave (about 1 inch in length)
  • 2 t. grated nutmeg
  • 2 t. grated cinnamon stick
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 and 1/2 c. real OJ
  • 3 T. sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c. julienned jicama
  • 1/4 c. julienned red pepper
  • 1/4 c. julienned carrots
  • 3 T. of minced cilantro
  1. Combine chicken, thyme, cayenne, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, 1/2 of lime juice and 1/2 c. of the OJ in a non-reactive metal bowl and marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Add remaining OJ to a pot and bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce to a medium simmer to reduce the OJ by at least 3/4 and OJ becomes a syrup-ie consistancy, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, when oven is hot, remove chicken from marinate and place in oven safe, sided baking dish to bake for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Remove chicken from oven and cool completely.
  5. Place chicken on cutting board and using 2 dinner forks, scrape at chicken breast, shredding chicken completely, in small pieces and set aside.
  6. Combine OJ reduction, remaining lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper, set aside.
  7. Combine green onion, jicama, red pepper and carrots, sprinkle in chicken and gently fold with spatula to combine.
  8. Drizzle OJ mixture over salad and gently stir and fold salad until salad is coated, then serve and enjoy!
Simple Slaw: (serves 1)
  • 1 c. sliced green cabbage
  • 1/2 c. chopped pineapple
  • 1 T. toasted sesame seed oil
  1. Combine green cabbage and pineapple in a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle sesame seed oil over and gently fold slaw with spatula until coated, serve and enjoy!


Recipe: "Organized" Baby Arugula & Prosciutto Salad

Looking to do something different with a salad? Perhaps have a salad as a finger food appetizer?

To purpose behind organizing a dish can have many intentions. Maybe organizing the dish brings a little order to the chaois of ingredients? Or it just looks better on the plate. Sometimes the purpose of the organization is to make the dish recipent enjoy the dish in a certain manner (enjoying certain ingredients together in one bite), so the 'intentioned' flavor is showcased.

No matter what the chefs intentions, here is a little step by step to make Organized Baby Arugula & Prosciutto Salad and Dijon Vinaigrette.

Click here for step by step pictures and instructions for Organized Baby Arugula & Proscuitto Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette.


"Wild" Deer in DC?

Next time you are driving through NW DC, you might want to watch out for deer. Yes, I saw a doe today, with her two babies, running across the street about 40 feet in from my car. As you see from the smeered picture - I wasn't the only driver that was caught by surprise. And this isn't the first time I have seen deer around here.

A few months ago, I was leaving another clients home and all of a sudden a deer ran in front of my car. Since I grew up near the forest in eastern washington state, at first this wasn't a surprise...and then...I think...and realize this is strange - since I was just a few blocks from the Rock Creek Park in NW...now I am confused. And wondering if now would be a good time to dial that number to report suspicious activity I am always seeing on the I-495 signs.

I quickly take some photos (the one with the single doe, standing) and emailed it to my client to say "I saw deer on your street!?". They told me that they are always around - and even eat the grass in their backyard....

I didn't know their were any 'wild' animals left in DC.

Being Rachael Ray in VA: Dine & Dish #4

This is my first entry into Dine & Dish and I figure what a better way to join the fun in the food blogsphere than to enter a contest to be a wanna-be Rachael Ray for a day, by doing my own $40 a day episode in the DC Metro area.

As you may know, I am a relatively new food blogger, so I just came across this contest on Saturday! So I got focused on my own backyar, NoVA - and I was sure that I could hit three of my favorite (and completely different) restaurants: The Royal Restaurant, The Italian Store and 2941 Restaurant, therefore having a very filling and very fabulous 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) on $40 or less.


Mother & Child Reunion

Scrolling through Allrecipes.com, looking for some pseudo-south beach dishes for a client. Lauri Ann Randolph, a best selling author of low-carb cookbooks has a descriptive and what I find to be a graphic recipe listed: Mother & Child Reunion - (Chicken & Egg Salad).

This can't be as bad as I think it is initially right? No mega-low-carb book seller has a publicist that bad...

With further [Google] research, I learn that Lauri Ann Randolph may just be sending a shout-out to Paul Simon. His first solo single in 1972 was called "Mother & Child Reunion". A song apparently inspired after a meal he enjoyed at the 456 Restaurant in Chinatown, NYC. The dish Mother & Child Reunion containing chicken and eggs.

Urban Myth? Perhaps. But at one time I thought Lauri Ann Randolph was just another non-chef, getting some $$ off the low-carb craze. I think I'll think of her now as a "low-carb" outlet artist, inspired by Paul Simon, who in turn was inspired by the 456.

Tip: Extending your Cheese Knowledge

Some people are wine buffs - I would be a cheese buff. I can't get enough of the stuff, be it blue, bloomy, brown or basically all butter fat, I am a fan of them all.

A cheese course is pretty standard with most of my dinner parties. When choosing cheeses, people often want to stay with what they know, some cheddars, perhaps a herb crusted goat cheese or maybe out on a limb with a brie. There are so many cheeses out there that people don't fully take advantage of.

With my weekly clients, I try to 'fold in' a new cheese into their daily meals - like substituting an american blue with a castelmagno (Origin: Piedmont Italy; mix of cow and sheep or goat, but mostly cow's milk; mild, slightly tart and intensely nutty) or instead of the typical soft ash goat cheese, try the garrotxa (Origin: Catalonia, Spain; goat's milk, semi soft, natural rind; creamy, herby-probably from the herbs the goats ate-nutty and slightly acidic -just like goat cheese- in flavor). I've listed a recipe for each below that you may want to try.

So next time you are wandering into Whole Foods Clareton/Arlington or Balducci's Alexandria Old Town (these two locations are my favorites for cheese selection in Northern Virginia area)find your favorite cheddar, then look around at its "family" for cheeses with similar descriptions, you are sure to find something new that you really like and can add to your repertoire. At these two grocery store locations, the cheese staff is very helpful and generally more knowledgeable than most other grocery store locations (even wine/cheese shops) that I visit.

But if they aren't answering the questions you are asking - ask to see their Cheese for Dummies book. Both locations have one - and in a matter of seconds they can hand you the book to browse over for your favorite cheeses and its family members. Balducci's Old Town will even special order cheese for you at no additional charge. It'll take about a week, but they'll even call you when the cheese arrives, so you get the first nub off it!


Restaurant Review: Villa Mahana (Bora Bora)

Name: Villa Mahana
Chef: Damien Reinaldi
Location: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Cuisine: French Influenced Italian-Polynesian Fusion
Stars: 4/5
Review: June 2005

Villa Mahana is a small restaurant (converted from a small home) just outside the city of Vaitape on the main island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It is run by a friendly Italian immigrant chef, Damien Reinaldi and the menu reflects his French and Italian training, tradition and also the local polynesian produce and spices. Chef Reinaldi is extremely friendly and cooks alone and you can see him work on each dish through what once was probably a hallway to the kitchen from the living room (now our dining room). Villa Mahana is relatively new and is one of only two fine dining restaurants available for patrons in all of Bora Bora Top Dive).

Décor: The restaurant is small and romantic, containing only 5-6 tables in the main dining room with a 2 very private tables, 1 outside just up a patio and another on the second floor of the home, near the restroom. The converted home is a mansion in Bora Bora housing standards and it reflects French Polynesian flaire, such as flower print linens and sand filled floors.

Menu: The menu was a la carte and a pre-fix. Not wanting to initially pigeon hole myself into a set menu, I looked over the a la carte. After realizing that I was going to definetly order at least 4 things off the a la carte, I figured I might as well save a buck or two and just take the price fix menu, which contained 3 of my 4 selections. We asked the chef for advice and he agreeded and was willing to switch a side on my main course, so I didn't miss out on a side I wanted to try. Additions or subsitutions are hard to get on pre-fix menus - which many of you know I am sure-unless of course you know the chef.

First Course: Seafood Salad & Caviar
Second Course: Foie Gras in Sweet Spice Crust
Third Course: King Rock Lobster Exotical Flavor
Main Course: For me, Smoked Mahi Mahi with Spiced Banana Crust (a top my subsituted truffled gnocchi) and my husband had Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Red Wine Vanila Sauce & the Truffled Gnocchi as well. Both Dishes Pictured Here.
Dessert: Warm and Creamy Chocolate Cake with Tiare Flower Ice Cream

The food was fabulous, perfectly seasoned, happy portions and beautifully served. The real star of the meal was the second course, the Foie Gras in Sweet Spice Crust.

Highlight Experience: My husband and I had had our salad, and well, nothing to exciting, just fish, greens, etc., etc - then each of us received a plate with the lump, 3-4 oz (after cooking weight) spice crusted (which I think was a combination of cardamom, coriander, cumin, tumeric and cayenne - possibly paprika? in possibly a flour based crust?) foie gra was set before each us. The foie layed a top a dollop of buttery, rich, truffled risotto, oozing with truffle oil. This foie was amazing, the spice cutting into the rich flavor of the foie, the crust adding the perfect sear to combine the soft, pillow of inner medium to medium foie (the perfect temp to serve it!) This is possibly the best foie I have ever enjoyed, topping any foie at the Inn at Little Washington or Maestro. I cannot comment on this enough the originality and cooking demonstration that this dish exemplified by the chef. And writing this makes me want to head to Dean & Delucas right now, pick up some foie and try and make it today - just to satisfy the urge - even though I know it probably won't be as good.

We literally shouted out to the chef our bravos (we had the earliest dinner seating, so there was no one else in the restaurant yet, but us, the chef and the waitress) and the chef came out with excitment and said he would bring us another "taste" to enjoy. We were gleeful! What restaurant gives you a special taste - of foie no less - and you aren't a supermodel or famous food writer?!? And his "taste" arrived...two full servings of foie, piled on eachother, atop more truffled risotto on a plate for my husband and I to share (Pictured Here). That evening I figure we ate about $30 in foie gras (at cost iff foie was $30/1 lb: typical US-Mid Atlantic Wholesale Prices - but in Bora Bora everything is generally has a 40-50% mark-up - so probably it was more like $60/lb.).

The rest of our meal was fabulous, definetly comparable in food quality with other high star/ratings restaurants. My smoked mahi mahi was interesting, with a spiced (similar to the foie spices I think) banana puree crust. The chocolate cakes were predictable, but perfectly cooked so that the first 1/4 inch was only cooked, so that as you immediately broke into the crust, the flow of 'chocolate lava' came all over the plate.

Things to think about:

  • If you are a Michelin addict - Michelin would probably rate this a 1 star, because of the decor and area. But I would still highly reccomend Villa Mahana, because for many dinners, whole cubes or crushed ice-doesn't really make or break a restaurant for them.
  • You ought to email the chef about week or two before you head to Bora Bora to make reservations, as there are only a few tables.
  • If you visit the website, the english version isn't finished, so I would recommend going through the menu in the other languages provided, which are finished pages.
  • Pricing is comparable with what you would pay eating at the 'nice restaurant' in your Bora Bora resort. A la carte for 3 courses was around $70/person US Dollars (6k FPF); Our 5 course fix-price was $115/person US Dollars (10.5 K FPF).



I thought I would answer a few questions/comments I have received from readers....

Q: What is a Personal Chef?

A: Personal Chef: (definition) Similar to a private chef, but instead of cooking solely for 1 family as staff, on a salary, they cook for numerous clients on a part-time basis, usually compensated on a per meal basis.

Q: What kind of personal chef are you?

A: I am a personal chef, I cook for up to 3 clients/day, in their homes, personalizing, preparing and packaging their daily meals for their to heat at their leisure. I shop for their meals, right before I head to their house to prepare them. My favorite and most visited grocery stores are Balducci's, Whole Foods Market and Mom's: My Organic Market. I prepare only 'fresh meals', meaning nothing I make is intended to be frozen - clients usually enjoy the meal sometime in the next few days after I have prepared them. I provide fine-dining meal services, meaning that the types of dishes I prepare for my clients are (equal to or better than) the majority of 'fine dining classified' establishments in the DC metro area. I like to let people know that if you are looking for frozen casseroles, my personal chef service is not the service for you. Sometimes for clients or special occasions, I will do private cooking classes, seated formal course dinners and pro-bono work.

Q (kinda): I need recipes that I can prep a day or so ahead of eating them.

A: Unless I say otherwise (meaning I cook it for myself or it is a picture/description of a restauant dish) all the pictures, recipes and cooking comments are from my daily personal chef escapades - meaning dishes that are prepared ahead of time - for my clients to heat and enjoy up to 4 days after I prepare it. Some weeks I can make up to 80 dishes (not including sauces, salads, sides, etc.) and so what I post is a small portion of what I am doing. If there is a specific question about how a particular dish can be prepped ahead of time - I'd be happy to help out at shanna/at/finediningsolutions.com.

DC Restaurant Week

Twice a year (summer & winter) the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) showcases 'Restaurant Week' - a collection of their members showcase a week-long (8/1-7) discount ($20.05 for lunch; $30.05 for dinner) on 3-course meals. The RAMW represents the DC Metro area, but DC restaurants mostly participate. Some restaurants create special selections for restaurant week that diners can only choose from, others put their entire menu up for the week and with only a surchange on spendy items.I have been both a restaurant patron and a line cook during several restaurant weeks and have noted several observations. Some you may like, some may not. Some you may want to know, some you may not.


Summer Braising?

Okay, braising is technically 'out of season', but don't you still love it?

I ordered braised veal cheeks at Vidalia last week and they were wonderful! Does this mean that I am wrong? I don't believe so. There are several ways to enjoy a great braised dish and just 'mixing up' the traditional braising ingredients (mirepoix, herbs, liquid) can make any braising dish summer appropriate.

But first, lets make braising clear. When I meet with new clients - and chat with them about the cooking methods they would like me to employ in their dishes, as I go through a list...saute...broil..roast...braise...most people stop me and say "Whats the difference between braising and roasting? I think I like/hate them both?".

  • Roasting: cooking food by surrounding it with dry, heated air. Roasting and baking are esstentially the same, but roasting usually referrs to meats and baking is usually applied to well, baking things, like cookies. Roasting takes place in an oven, be it convection or whatever and the food is literally 'dried out' in the cooking process.
  • Braising: In a way, it is roasting a meat, but placing the item in a large, sided pot and covering the roasting item with (up to) a 1/3 of liquid. It is a combination of 'drying out' the food with roasting/baking and 'moistening' the food with a liquid. Braising can be done stovetop or in the oven.
But since we are comparing/contrasting braising and roasting - how is braising any different from other similar cooking methods, like stewing? Or for the serious foodies poeleing?
  • Stewing: Involves the braising technique, but mostly smaller meat pieces, be them tough (beef chuck) or tender (beef tenderloin), therefore a shorter cooking time. Although the pieces to be stewed may not always be seared or sauteed first, but can also be blanched (veal blanquette). And unlike braising, the meat is covered completely with liquid.
  • Poeleing: Involves the braising technique, but usually refers to cuts of meat that are tender and not to fatty (tenderloins, duck breasts) not the usually braised items (short ribs, veal cheeks). The cooking process is a much quicker one, since these items are so tender, therefore limiting the amount of braising liquid and most likely using a 'true' cooks fat (bacon grease, duck fat, butter).
Orange Ginger Beef Short Ribs with Apricots
  • 2 T. Butter
  • Mirepoix (with about 50% carrots)
  • B.G.
  • 2 T. Butter
  • 1 c. Seasoned Flour
  • 4 Beef Short Ribs, extra fat trimmed
  • 4 c. OJ
  • 1 - 3-4 inch knob of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 4 c. Veal Stock
  • Muscat or other very sweet white wine
  • Butter
  • Apricots (1/4 c. julienned dried apricots/person or 1/2 fresh apricot poached in 3:1 simple syrup)
  1. In a pot large enough to hold the short ribs and cover them completely with liquid, saute mirepoix in butter until golden brown and remove.
  2. Dust short ribs in flour and saute, getting the outside as brown as possible without burning.
  3. Add mirepoix, B.G., OJ, bring to boil, simmer, cover pot with foil and reduce OJ by half. *Short ribs should be covered mostly with liquid. (20 min)
  4. Add knobs of ginger and 1/2 of beef stock, cover and continue to simmer. (30 minutes)
  5. Add remaining beef stock, cover and continue to simmer, until short ribs are tender and can easily be flaked away from bone. (up to 40 minutes)
  6. Remove short ribs and set aside. Run braising liquid through sieve to remove B.G., ginger, mirepoix. Then run braising liquid through chinois and return liquid to stove to reduce. You want to reduce the liquid down to sauce consistency (Chefs term) where the syrup is thick, like you would expect sauce to be.
  7. At the same time julienne dried apricots or poach fresh slices of apricot in simple syrup.
  8. Once braising liquid is thick, run sauce through chinois with cheesecloth in it. Emulsify (whisk in at low temperature until completely mixed) in 1/2 T. butter/person.
To Serve: Warm short ribs in oven (if need be) and place short ribs on serving platter/plates, spoon over sauce and garnish with slivered apricots.

Be an Individualist: Personal Desserts

The next time you are having a dinner party or getting friends and/or family together why not make personalized desserts? Everyone loves having their own dessert, you control the portion size (and the amount of leftovers) and there is less cooking time involved because smaller items cook faster. All you need is a small cake pan (can be purchased from Sur La Table for less than $5/cake pan) or bake a cake in a normal 9x13 and using a 3-4 inch ring mold - cut out circle pieces for serving.


Recipe: Deconstructed Gazpacho

Deconstruction: A term used to describe a particular way of serving a dish. Rather the combing each ingredient to create the 'traditional' dish - each ingredient is served individually as a whole.

Get it? Let's apply it...

Example: Gazpacho vs. Deconstructed 'Gazpacho'

Gazpacho is an extremely popular dish. It is usually composed of onions, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, spices and/or vinegars and of course tomatoes...and it almost always (99%) blended completely or 80% of it is blended and the remaining 20% is diced and stirred into the soup.

Deconstructed 'Gazpacho' is one of my most popular salad recipes, people seem to love 'eating' a gazpacho salad, instead of slurping it up I guess!

Deconstructed 'Gazpacho' Salad (serves 1):
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 c. spanish onion
  • 1/4 c. cucumber
  • 1/8 c. yellow pepper
  • 1/8 c. green pepper
  • 1 c. tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. chiffonade of basil
  • 3 T. chopped italian leave parsley
  • 1 T. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 T. Spicy V-8 Tomato Juice
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  1. Bruinoise garlic, onion, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and combine.
  2. Chop parsley and chiffonade basil and fold into veggies.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, salt and pepper, whisk. Then add V-8 (and tasbasco if you like it spicier!) and whisk in extra virgin olive.
  4. Gently toss salad with vinaigrette and enjoy. Some people like to just eat the salad as if, some people like to toss it with some spinach, mache or mixed greens.


Tip: No Mess Papaya

Ever been confronted with a large papaya in the grocery store and your first thought is "I wish I could buy it" followed by "Papayas sure make a mess" in the kitchen?

Here are some easy tips on to break it down (chef speak for cutting it up so that you can use it for cooking) a papaya without dropping a single papaya seed on your cutting board and getting all the yummy green or pink-orange goodness out of the fruit.


Recipe and Discussion: Raita or Tsatsiki?

So today I was strolling through the isles of Balducci's with my grocery list/mise en place for my morning client. I rolled across cucumber, sour cream, yogurt, cilantro...and immediately remembered 'raita' as one of the garnishes I was making.....An hour later I am at my clients and am prepping for their dishes and am going through my mise en place list again and I notice at the top of my 'what I thought was raita' list was actually tsatsiki sauce? So the ingredients are so similar, I started to ponder what where the regional differences between these?

  • Raita: -An indian or hindu side dish, usually composed of yogurt (cows milk), chopped cucumbers and spices. (Princeton); Historical or cultural notes-Usually yogurt based, with chopped cucumbers, it can also include other dried fruits (currants) or veggies (onions) and almost also has other cooling effects (mint/cilantro) to help as a 'cooler' on the palate when enjoyed with hot indian curries.
  • Tsatsiki: def-An greek or turkish appetizer, sauce or dip, usually composed of yogurt (sheep or goats milk) with pureed and strained or finely diced cucumber, lots of garlic and mint (Princeton); Historical or cultural-A whole head of garlic is often used for a serving of 4, it can also include dill, mint, black olives and a few tablespoons of olive oil and/or vinegar is added for flavor. It is often enjoyed with pita bread. Its enjoyed mostly as a thick dip, but is a key component of a gyro or a drizzling sauce for kebobs.
  • You could even go as far as comparing these to....djadjik (Iraq) or Cacik (Armenian)....The comparisons are endless, like the cucumber or mint, but the differences depend on many factors. For instance the historical usage of goats in greek culture as the main stay in using goats yogurt in traditional tsatsiki. Or perhaps even the intensity of the climate in Armenian or even Iraq gives this sauce or soup as extra plus, because it acts as a cooling aid during the hot days. So what did I end up making? Well, tsatsiki...with a little twist of cacik and raita.

Recipe: Tsatsiki

(serves 1 as side dish or 2-3 as garnish or accompaning sauce):

  • 1/4 c. spanish onion, brunoise
  • 1 peeled, deseeded and diced European cucumber
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. cow's milk plain yogurt
  • 3 T. chopped cilantro
  • 1 T. freshlty ground and toasted cumin
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • zest from 1/2 lime

Just combine ingredients and enjoy!