Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Lemon Grass Skewered Shrimp

Serves 4

  1. 2 lemon grass skewers
  2. ½ pound large shrimp (make it easy and buy peeled)
  3. 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  4. 1 bunch chopped garlic
  5. ¼ cup oil
  6. zest from 1 lemon
  7. 2 tsp red chili flakes
  8. 2 cloves garlic minced


Mix together garlic, chili flakes, lemon zest, chopped cilantro and parsley, and shrimp. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the lemon grass into pieces a little larger than your shrimp, and skewer your shrimp. Either grill the shrimp or broil them in an oven with a little bit of oil. Top with additional parsley and squeeze a little lemon juice on top. Delicious!

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Lemons

Ingredient of the Day: Lemons

Every spring break, while it was still very cold in Oklahoma, my family would pack up our old Lincoln and head to Palm Springs for some fun in the sun. Bundled up in our wool sweaters, it was exciting to think about the bags packed to the brim in the trunk, filled with the swim suits and flips flops we would soon be wearing.

I remember that, upon arrival, we would inhale the incredible aroma of orange and lemon trees, itching to have a taste of the fruit. As we stumbled out of the car, legs still stiff from the drive, my grandmother would welcome us and take us immediately into the yard to look around.

One particular lemon tree always caught my attention. My grandmother was fond of lifting me up as a young girl and helping pull off a beautifully tart lemon the size of a soft ball on every visit. Once inside from the heat, we would slice into the lemon and watch the juices pour forth, dreaming up recipes.

To this day, I love lemons, and I use them in many of my dishes. Lemons can be used for meat tenderizing, garnishes, marinades and much, much more. No chef should go without!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ask Mary: Garlic Press

Dear Mary,
How do you use a garlic press? I received a heavy duty garlic press as a joke from a friend. I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to use it. I found a great recipe and read that it needed three cloves of garlic. (Is that three big bulbs, or is it the individual pieces?). I got out my press and realized that I had no clue what to do with it. I ended up just chopping it. 


Sometimes I forget that we have to start with the basics. First of all, it made me laugh to think that you used three heads (the bulb part) instead of three cloves (the individual pieces). I am sure you will keep the vampires away with that much garlic in your system.

Even though it looks difficult, pressing garlic is simple once you learn how to do it. To begin, you put a clove or two into the whole of the garlic press. Then, you use the flat end to push the garlic through the holes, by squeezing the handle. The result is perfectly pressed garlic.

Whatever you do, don’t worry! You will get the hang of it with a little practice.

Happy Cooking.

For answers to your most alarming kitchen questions please email me at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where to Find Great Produce: PSLA


One of the really great things about being a chef in LA is that you can find almost anything you need when you need it. I have been so lucky to come across people who love what they do, and are really good at it. A few years ago I met Ben Cruz through a mutual friend. Thrilled with his enthusiastic personality and killer charisma, I was further excited to find out that his family own a produce company in LA. What a perfect friend for a chef! I got his number - not knowing that I would need it almost immediately. 

I was asked the next week to cater an amazing wedding for 125 people - a roof top event in downtown LA. Since it was my first big event, I couldn't believe I said yes, and quickly grabbed the PSLA card. I was excited and clueless, and Ben calmed me down right away. He invited me down to check out their supplies.

As I pulled up to their downtown facilities, I knew that I had made the right choice. It was clean and efficient and there were walls and walls of beautiful, fresh produce. I was like a kid in a candy store.

A month or so later I went to go pick up my order. All of my produce stood in the giant cooler waiting for me to pick it up. I felt so relieved - one less thing to worry about, as I had the best of the best at my finger tips.

The event went beautifully, and the one thing that everyone commented on was how fresh and delicious all of the food was. I always say, “A chef is as strong as his or her weakest link," and thanks to PSLA the weak link wasn’t the produce! Since then, they have been an absolute asset to my culinary world.

Thanks Ben.

Happy Cooking.

Produce Services of Los Angeles

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I Cooked Today... Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

Serves 4

*You can make the sauce a day ahead of time


4 chicken breasts skin on and bone in
1 cup finely chopped parsley
2 lemons juiced
¼ cup dried oregano
1 tbsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ jalapeno finely chopped (deseed)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup vegetable oil
salt to taste


Heat your grill to a medium low heat. Salt and pepper the skin of your chicken, and brush with a little olive oil. Cook on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes and then increase the temperature of your grill (this will help prevent the skin from shrinking) to a medium high. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes and then rotate counter clockwise, and continue to cook for another 6 minutes and then flip. Let it cook for another 10 minutes.

Chimichurri Sauce:

In a large bowl mix all ingredients together and stir. (please remove any lemon seeds from lemon before squeezing - you will have a hard time trying to tell the difference between a seed and garlic).

Serve chicken and top with chimichurri sauce!

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Parsley

                    Curly Parsley (on left) and Flat or Italian Parsley (on right)

As a little girl, I remember running through my great grandmother's house right before a party. There were people everywhere, scurrying around trying to get ready. No one was paying attention to me in my patent leather shoes, especially since my head was barely tall enough to see over the tables. Nevertheless, I always managed to peer up high enough to check out the beautiful trays of food. There was, of course, the usual shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, and onion sandwiches. There was also the token garnish of curly parsley. I loved to sneak a piece to play with, and did so every time.

In the 1950s, parsley was traditionally photographed with lemons as a garnish. As a chef, though, I have learned that parsley, curly or Italian (also known as flat leaf) can be used for so much more than just garnish. I personally choose Italian parsley over the curly variety for looks and taste. Italian Parsley is so delicious in chimichurri sauce, and is a delightful add to soups and stews. Of course, it is beautiful when chopped very finely and added to almost any dish.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Monday

Happy Monday!

I am pleased to announce that all new Cooking with Mary Webisodes will be released starting Monday next week. We actually took the show on the road, and I can't wait for you to see where we go. It was a lot of fun filming the episodes. We even have a few really great guest appearances.

In the meantime Audrey K designs has been helping me out with great outfits so be sure to check out her website.

Happy Cooking.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ask Mary: Cooking Fears

Hi Mary,
What was your biggest fear when you first started cooking?
Best, Greg

When I was in culinary school, I was really afraid of cooking without looking at a recipe. I always felt that cooking had to be by the book, and that you had to follow every recipe exactly as it was written. I found that as I got more comfortable with cooking, recipes are really just ideas and guidelines. They help you to feel comfortable and help match up ingredients you might never think to combine on your own.

For instance, here’s a dish I love: Saffron Cupcakes with Almond Buttercream Icing. Sounds strange at first, right? But it’s actually delicious. Now, take this combination idea, that almonds and saffron blend well together, and try creating something entirely new, like saffron rice with toasted almonds. Yum! In cooking, you don’t have to always follow the rules.

Have fun,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Prepping Saffron

Saffron can be a challenge to cook with. Even experienced chefs avoid the delicate threads of the ingredient, having not quite figured out how to use them. But don’t let the fear of not knowing keep you away. All it takes is a simple step to make this complex ingredient palatable.

Simply heat saffron threads in a liquid (stock or water) before prepping anything. This will allow the saffron threads to dye and infuse flavor into your desired cooking liquid. Once all of the color has left the threads, you can add the remaining liquid to whatever it is that you are making and enjoy. Voilá!

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What I Made Today… Paella!

Paella literally means frying pan in Latin, and is a typical Spanish rice dish cooked in a pan.

1 yellow onion
1 cup small chopped carrots
¼ cup of Goya peas
4 garlic cloves
½ leek shredded
1 cup white rice (Whole Foods has a paella rice, but if you can not get it there white rice will work)
1 box chicken stock
2 tbsp Goya Adobo seasoning
4-5 saffron threads
10 oz white fish (I like halibut)
1 cup shrimp, 20-32 count
1 chicken breast
2 lemons
1 bunch parsley (for garnish)


Chop all ingredients to equal size. Chop chicken and fish into equal pieces, peel shrimp and butterfly. In a large deep sauté pan, heat up the oil and sauté the onions, carrots, leek and garlic. Cook until soft, glistening and very aromatic. Add rice, salt, pepper and spices. Heat chicken stock with saffron threads. Add chicken stock, chicken and cover. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Halfway through, throw in the fish. Chop parsley and sprinkle over the top, and squeeze lemon over it as well. Serve!

Ingredient of the Day: Saffron

I have this brilliant Swede that works with me. She is sweet and bubbly and loves to cook. We work very hard to bridge the gaps between her cooking and my cooking, and we learn a lot from each other. One of her favorite cooking ingredients is saffron. The Swedish are extremely fond of using saffron in their cooking. Specifically, they use loads of it in December during the festival of St. Lucia.

Saffron actually comes from the stamens of the Crocus Sativus. This delicate flower cannot be grown in most parts of the world, and the tiny amounts that can be harvested from this flower are so small that supply of saffron never quite meets demand. Therefore, prices for saffron will always be high.

Zeus was said to sleep on a bed of saffron, and for good reason. Saffron tastes special and delicious. The world’s most expensive spice, saffron should be used sparingly, as its flavor is extremely robust.
Check in all this weeks for Saffron, tips and recipes.

Happy Cooking!

Illustration of a crocus from Carolus Clusius, Rariorum plantarum historia, Antwerp, Plantin, 1601, p. 203.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Webisodes!

Webisodes coming soon! Also, starting May 12, tune in to watch as I backpack through Spain, France, Greece and Italy. I’ll give you tips on how to take on the European culinary world on a budget.

Happy Cooking!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ask Mary: Beet Sizes

Dear Mary, 
Are baby beets the same as big beets? 
Thanks, Paloma

Beets come in all colors and sizes, and their tastes vary slightly. My favorite flavor comes from the small yellow beets. Even my mom (who hates beets) will eat a tender baby beet. Their flavor tends to be much more delicate. I love the way they look and especially the way they taste. There are actually red and white striped beets as well. You can find these at certain farmers markets. In California, beets are offered on pretty much every menu. They make a fantastic appetizer, especially when served with goat cheese.

Give them a try!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beet Red! Beet Yellow!

Here is a fun fact!
You can actually use beet juice to dye things because the color is so strong and lasting. People have been doing this for hundreds of years.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Beet Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Beet and goat cheese fall salad


1 bag or box of mixed baby greens
1 bunch of beets
6 oz goat cheese chevre is a good choice
¼ cup toasted walnuts
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
½ tsp thyme or one sprig fresh thyme
½ cup canola oil
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

First cut off the top and the bottom of the beet, then place them into aluminum foil with a little salt, olive oil and water. Shut the package tightly.
Roast the beets in a 350-degree oven for an hour. They should be very soft to the touch. After they cool, use your fingers to gently remove the skin by peeling it. Then use a sharp knife and cut them into circles or wedges.
In a small bowl mix the balsamic vinegar with the Dijon mustard to create a thick base and then add the oil slowly while mixing to create an emulsion. Next season with a few thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the lettuce together with the beets, walnuts, salt and pepper and dressing. After you are finished have plated the salad top it with the goat cheese (the beets can dye the goat cheese it is tossed with it).  Garnish the salad with fresh cracked pepper.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Beets

When preparing beets, your mind can play tricks on you. Beets (unfortunately) turn everything red after they’ve been cooked. But never fret, this is not an episode of the Twilight Zone. Beets simply turn your cutting board, hands and clothing beet red. Accept that fact and move on! Because the delicious beet is worth the ruddy mess.

It is very easy to cook beets even though it seems difficult, and messy, at first. One easy way to go about it is to first cut off the top and the bottom of the beets, then place them into aluminum foil with a little salt, olive oil and water. Shut the package tightly, and roast in a 350 degree oven for anywhere from one to three hours. When you remove the beets, they should be very soft to the touch (and you should be able to feel this tenderness through the aluminum foil).

After the beets cool, you might want to put on some gloves. That’s when things get really messy. Happily, though, the tough outer skin will slip right off. It is one of those really cool cooking moments when you do it for the first time! Then you can simply chop the beets up, add them to your dish, and enjoy.

Happy cooking!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ask Mary: Broken Egg Emulsion

Can you fix an egg emulsion that has been broken?

Absolutely. It takes a little time and practice, but it can be done. For those of you who don’t know, a broken egg emulsion is where the egg mixture looks greasy because the oil has not been absorbed into the egg. It ends up looking like two separate ingredients instead of one, like vinegar mixed with oil. In order to correct a broken emulsion you need to create a new mixture of egg yolk and oil, mix it thoroughly, and then slowly add the broken mixture into the new mixture. You might have to add more lemon but it will end up tasting just as good.

Good Luck!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Glass is Good for Whipping!

When you are using a whisk and a metal bowl, you can sometimes turn whatever you are whipping (like cream, whipped cream, egg yolks or frosting) grey. To prevent this from happening, try using a glass bowl instead.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What I Cooked Today… Aioli!

Aioli – a fresher version of mayonnaise!


3 egg yolks
1 cup canola oil
1 lemon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste


In a large bowl place three egg yolks, and mix together with a whisk. Add the canola oil slowly – almost drop by drop – while whisking. If you do not do this slowly, you will not create an emulsion. You want it to be thick with no oily residue present. Lastly, add a little lemon and cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Mayonnaise

Ingredient of the Day: Mayonnaise

I once believed that mayonnaise and Crisco were the same thing, and I shunned it as such. Over the years, however, I’ve learned to appreciate mayonnaise as a versatile spread that is easily used on sandwiches, in dips and in sauces.

That being said, I was pretty grossed out this week when a friend of mine opened up some mayonnaise and dipped a cucumber slice into the jar. Now, as a child, I did watch my dad dip his broccoli into mayonnaise, but even the chameleon mayonnaise has its limits. If you must dip things into your mayonnaise, be sure to use a superior brand like Best Foods or Helmans. Anything else will result in compromised taste and quality.

As a thick condiment made from primarily vegetable oil and egg yolks, mayonnaise is typically whitish-yellow in color. It is a stable emulsion flavored with lemon juice, vinegar, salt and occasionally mustard. Nutritionally speaking, mayonnaise can be extremely high in calories, so choose a reduced-fat option whenever possible. Reduced-fat mayonnaise contains about 45 calories per serving and about four grams of fat.

Happy Cooking,