Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Joy of Leftovers

Sometimes being a good cook is as simple as having really great ingredients on hand at all times. When friends stop by for a visit it's easy for me to whip up something extraordinary because I never throw away my leftovers until I absolutely have to. Leftovers make it easy for me to be creative and make something new on the fly.

For instance, if you make an amazing vegetable pasta dish the night before, leave the vegetables separate from the pasta. This will allow you to use the vegetables in another dish at a later time. Toss those yummy veggies into an omelet the next morning and viola! That amazing taste you'll experience comes from having all the flavors melt together and cooking them to perfection.

Here are some other ideas that might work for you:

Meaty Tomato Sauce – Thin the sauce with stock or water and top it with Parmesan and you have a hearty rustic tomato soup.

Any Starch (couscous, pasta, rice) – This is the perfect thing to stuff vegetables with. Toss the rice with sautéed garlic, onions and ground beef or chicken. Then add it to the vegetable of choice (peppers, tomatoes, squash) and enjoy your wonderful meal!

Leftover Pork Tenderloin – Add a little bbq sauce and a bun and you've got yourself a bbq pork sandwich. Anything you add to this dish will enhance the flavor of the pork and make the dish more dynamic.

Leftover Rind From Parmesan – I didn’t believe this at first, but this item is perfect for soups. Add it just before you simmer and it will become soft, making your soup rich and delicious.

Happy Cooking! Mary

What I Cooked Today... Halibut with Lemons and Leeks

  • 2 ea 8 oz pieces of halibut
  • 1 leek
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup white wine
  • S/P

  1. This is a terrific dish when you want something very flavorful and really healthy. I never use to like fish, and then I began cooking it for my clients, and I realized that I needed to like the things that I was sending them. This recipe came out of those ideas.
  2. To begin Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
  3. First you dry your fish off with a paper towel. Then salt and pepper it. (You can add dried parsley flakes to give it color)
  4. Clean your leek by cutting it in half-length wise and then rinse out the leaves but keeping it in tact. Cut it into thin slices (they should look like half circles. Set those aside. Slice the onions into thin strips and use a cheese grater or a zester to take the yellow part of the onion off, and reserve for cooking. In a sauté heat a little olive oil until it is very fluid (check cooking with Mary’s webisode 2b), add onions, leeks and lemon zest. Cook down on medium low until the onions become caramelized and then turn the flame off and add the white wine and halibut.
  5. Put in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
Happy Cooking! Mary

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Leek

I love me some leeks. This strange and unusual vegetable is really the secret weapon in all of my cooking. When you taste that soft supple flavor, nine times out of 10 it is a leek. Leeks are perfect for fish, chicken, and soup. You can shred them, dice them, use them as wraps, or cut them into circles!

Sweeter than onions, leeks resemble large scallions. They are extremely subtle in how they add flavor to a dish, making them truly versatile vegetables. Since they belong to the same family of foods as onions and garlic – the Alliaceae family – they also share some of the same health benefits. In addition to lowering bad cholesterol, and raising good cholesterol, leeks may even reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Leeks are considered the national emblem of Wales, but the vegetable actually dates back to early Roman times. These days, you can find them just about anywhere, though they are more prevalent during the fall, winter and early spring months. They are very perishable, so use them as soon as you purchase them. Even in the refrigerator, leeks stay fresh for only up to two days.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ask Mary: Caramelizing Onions

Dear Mary,
How do you caramelize an onion?
Thanks! Noah

After cutting onions for something like a yummy French onion soup, you’ll need to caramelize your onions. Caramelizing an onion is actually the process of slowly browning the onion all the way through to the center. This changes the flavor of the onion, making it more delicious and sweet – hence the term caramelizing.

Through trial and error, I have found that this takes a lot of time – more than you think to do it right. When done correctly, it should take about 25 to 30 minutes. Heat up your sauté pan with a little oil and throw the onions in. Then turn your heat to medium low and begin the caramelizing process. Stir frequently. You will find that on a higher hear, you will burn the edges and still have a raw onion inside, so be patient. Think of your onion as a piece of meat on a grill and take your time.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tale of Two Spatulas

One day while I was cooking a delicious Fajita dish with my girlfriend, who is extremely inexperienced in the kitchen, I needed a spatula to scrape the pan. My friend quickly placed a spatula in my hand – but not the kind I was thinking of. Instead, she handed me the kind you use to peel cookies off a sheet pan.

I looked at her like she was crazy and explained that I needed a spatula. Then we started to laugh, realizing that the item I wanted – and the item she handed me – were both called by the same name! Indeed, both spatula varieties are essential tools for the kitchen. No chef, experienced or not, should go without.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

What I Cooked Today… Chicken Fajitas

This a great idea for the upcoming Superbowl!
  1. Ingredients
  1. 1 pound of chicken
  2. 1 onion
  3. 1 red pepper
  4. 1 yellow pepper
  5. Southwest seasonings
  6. Tortillas
  7. Olive oil
  8. Salt pepper to taste
  9. Of course the rest, guacamole, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, etc.

  1. Instructions
  1. This is a great way to practice your knife skills. When cutting the onions and peppers you want to make nice and consistent slices so that they cook at the same rate. I like to make them on the thin side so that the onion is well cooked. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Season the chicken with southwest spices, salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan heat a little oil, and add onions first. Season with salt, cook for a few minutes and then throw in the peppers. Be sure to use a flat edged spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan (this will help prevent them from burning). Cook on medium to low heat for 20 minutes. Poor into a baking dish.
  3. Next use the same sauté pan and add a little more oil, put chicken into the pan, and brown on both sides (searing). Then place the chicken into the baking dish with the onions and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Slice and serve with delicious sides!

Happy Cooking! Mary

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Cipollini Onions

These small, flat onions can be expensive and hard to find, but they are definitely worth the extra effort. Served as both an appetizer or vegetable, the cipollini onion is slightly yellowish in color with a delicate, thin outer skin. Thanks to its incredibly sweet taste, the cipollini works extremely well caramelized.

For such a seemingly simple ingredient, the taste of the cipollini is incredibly delicate. I’ve found that the best way to use this fabulous onion is to braise it. For braising, it’s nice to experiment with vinegars, wines and stock. These liquids will seep through the skin and into the onion, adding tons of flavor.

When working with cipollini onions, you may find that during the peeling process, you may loose some of its delicious flesh. To avoid this situation, braise the onion with the peel on. After cooking it, the peel should fall off easily, leaving the inside intact, beautiful and golden. Braised cipollini are also wonderful when blended into a sauce for chicken, fish, lamb or pork.

Happy Cooking! Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Cooking with Mary: How to Cut Onions

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ask Mary: How to Hold a Knife

Dear Mary,
What is the best way to hold a knife to get the best results when prepping food?
Thanks, Darby

I didn’t realize there was a proper way to hold a knife until my first day of culinary school. Watching my instructor, I understood that the chefs on TV could chop their food without looking because they had learned a basic, vital culinary skill. Appropriately, the first six weeks of school were really and truly about becoming comfortable with the knife, and gaining a thorough understanding of a chef’s most important tool. At school I practiced five days a weeks for eight hours a day, chopping onions, carrots and celery. After, we mixed those vegetables together into what the French call a “mirepoix,” and used them for chicken, vegetable and beef stock. I’m not kidding – we made bucket loads.

At first, as we were learning, everyone was cautious. But as we got further into the course, everyone started to get a little cocky. One day, when we were working hard on our mirepoix stash, a guy started screaming. We all looked up, saw him holding a bloody finger, and watched as he fainted, taking the guy down next to him. The teachers told us to get back to work, called the ambulance, and proceeded to bandage up one student after another. After the first victim, it was like a chain reaction. Sometimes you just have those days!

Luckily, I avoided slicing my finger on that fateful day, however, I’m not entirely immune to finger slicing. Once I did a real number on my pointer while cutting an apple on a wet cutting board. But don’t let these tales scare you. Just remember that once you get comfortable with the knife, you still need to be extremely careful.

When it comes to using a knife, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work for you the first time, or even the second. Put your forefinger, pointer finger and thumb on either side of the blade – with the three remaining fingers wrapped around the base of the knife. This will give you the maximum amount of control that you’ll need. It may feel awkward at first, but the more you do it, the better you will get. For more tips on holding a knife, refer back to this week’s webisode.

Happy Cooking!
Best, Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Pork Tenderloin, Delicious!

pork tenderloin
1 cup white wine
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
5 garlic cloves
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp herbs of provence
1 tbsp salt


Mix all ingredients above except the pork tenderloin in a large plastic bag or mixing bowl. Rest the pork tenderloin, whole, in the mixture for about 2 to 3 hours. After, heat the grill to about medium heat for charcoal or to about 350 degrees for a gas grill. Salt and pepper both sides and put onto the grill. Cook each side for 8 minutes, but turn midway after four minutes. To turn, place the tenderloin down, let it cook for four minutes, turn ¼, and cook for another four minutes. Do the same after flipping – flip, cook for four minutes, turn ¼, and cook another four minutes. Serve with brown rice and brussel sprouts, any way you want them.

Enjoy! Mary

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Ingredient of the Day: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts were strangely my childhood favorite. While most children at age four were screaming for chicken nuggets or pizza, I was screaming for brussels sprouts. Even now, I still love the delicate flavor and tantalizing taste. And, of course, brussels sprouts are just so cute (loving Cabbage Patch Dolls as a girl has surely contributed to this adoration).

I was fascinated to know that these beautiful green vegetables actually grow on a very large stalk (2 to 4 feet in height!) and are not baby cabbages at all – but a breed of wild cabbage grown for its small size at maturity. Brussels sprouts are typically 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter, and grow like buds in a spiral. In addition to their adorable miniature cabbage appearance, brussels sprouts are also known for their high fiber content.

Growing up, I learned that there are many ways to cook these amazing greens – some even better than mom’s simple steaming technique. For instance, when I worked at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica, I learned that if you shave the sprouts into shreds on a mandoline – and sauté them with tiny carrots and a little white wine – they are a perfect addition to pork tenderloin. The AOC (another great Los Angeles restaurant) version is to add a touch of balsamic to the mix. That method makes them taste better than candy.

And then there is the traditional steaming way of preparing brussels sprouts. Cut them in half or in quarters, and them simply steam them, perhaps drizzling a little butter or olive oil on top before serving. Really, you can’t go wrong. Any way you slice it, the brussels sprout is a perfect side to almost any dish.

Happy Cooking!

Send your questions about food, cooking and life in the kitchen to:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Posts Coming Soon!

Starting the 14th of January I will have new posts everyday Monday through Friday! Check Back with us.
Happy Cooking! Mary