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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dining with the stars

Dining with the starsBY AMY JO EHMAN
You can dance with the stars, skate with the stars and even go into drug rehab with the stars. But the one reality show that would really grab my attention hasn’t hit the airwaves yet: Dining with the Stars.

Imagine sitting down to dinner with a celebrity guest, served a meal by a top chef, meeting the farmers who provided the ingredients and, with the cameras rolling, savouring the wonderful flavours of food produced and cooked close to home.

This culinary reality show is coming soon to television and computer screens across Saskatchewan. The 13-part series “Dining with the Stars” was created by the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) and, lucky me, I had a seat at the table!

The Local Scene – Take One

Dining with the Stars kicked off in October with a meal prepared by Chef Anthony McCarthy at the Saskatoon Club with celebrity guest Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison.

In keeping with the local and organic theme, McCarthy’s menu included wild rice soup, braised pork belly on a bed of mixed lentils, roast tomato salad and beef tenderloin with chanterelle mushrooms.

The 12th dinner was held at the Hotel Saskatchewan in January, where celebrity guest Gene Makowsky of the Saskatchewan Roughriders enjoyed a meal by Chef Milton Rebello that included smoked trout, beer braised beef with saskatoon berries and, for dessert, apple tarte and chocolate covered cherries.

In between, episodes of Dining with the Stars were taped in various restaurants in Regina, Saskatoon, Wolseley, Prince Albert and Birch Hills, where the creative menus ranged from bison ravioli to green pea cocoa cake.

The 13th and final dinner was extra special. The guests included chefs from the other dinners who sat down together at the Craik Eco-Centre for a meal prepared by one of their own, Chef Moe Mathieu, founding chef of Regina’s Willow on Wascana, who now teaches culinary skills at SIAST in Saskatoon.

Not wanting to duplicate the other menus, Mathieu and his team of culinary students did something completely unexpected — a raw meal. From the cold cauliflower and parsnip soup to the beef tartar to the sour cherry ice cream, it was almost entirely uncooked.

Dining with the Stars is proof that a) it’s possible to cook creative meals based almost entirely on local ingredients, b) with some pre-planning, it’s easy to eat locally through the winter months and c) Saskatchewan produces a range of great choices in all the food groups (except perhaps chocolate!)

A guest at the “raw” dinner, Nial Kuyek of APAS (Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan), thanked the chefs for promoting the bounty of Saskatchewan: “You are becoming part of the face of agriculture by demonstrating to people how good Saskatchewan food is. I thank you for your role in that.”

You’ll find a list of all the dinners, along with their celebrity guests, chefs and menus on the SOD website: (click Food Miles Campaign), where you’ll also find, as it’s confirmed, future air dates when Dining with the Stars can be seen on cable TV and online.

The Local Scene – Take Two
I was dining with the stars again last week when CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers came to my house for dinner.

She was in Saskatoon to record an episode for her program The Next Chapter featuring four award-winning writers from Saskatchewan: Allan Casey, Diane Warren (both winners of the Governor General’s Literary Award), Jo-Anne Episkenew and me (both winners of Saskatchewan Book Awards).

The program will air on CBC Radio on June 25 and 27. As for my local menu, it included this gluten-free quiche. You’ll find the full menu posted on my food blog:

Parmesan Crust Asparagus Quiche

Parmesan Crust Asparagus Quiche

1 lb asparagus

1 tbsp butter

1⁄2 small onion, chopped

1⁄2 red pepper, chopped

Small bunch of chives, chopped

5 goose eggs (or extra large chicken eggs)

1⁄2 cup half-and-half cream

Salt and pepper

4-5 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

12 pansy flowers

Snap off and discard the thick ends of the asparagus. Choose 12 spears and trim to 4 in. (10 cm). Grill or roast the 12 spears until partially cooked. Reserve these spears for the garnish. Chop all the remaining asparagus into 1⁄2 in. (1 cm) pieces and steam until partially cooked.

Melt the butter in a pan. Sauté the onion, red pepper and chopped asparagus. Toss in the chives. Meanwhile, use a fork to whip together the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Grease a pie plate with butter. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese, pressing it into the bottom and sides of the plate. Spoon the asparagus mixture over the parmesan cheese. Top with the grated cheddar. Pour on the eggs. Using a fork, press the cheese below the surface of the egg mixture.

Lay the 12 asparagus evenly on top of the quiche like the spokes of a wheel. Set a pansy between each spear. Bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes. The quiche is done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out dry.

Amy Jo Ehman is author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Today, we observe and pay tribute to those that have fallen and those still standing in bravery for our country. 

We Thank, Love, and Honor You. 

God Bless All.

-Food Pro

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mother Earth's Cafe a local dining institution

Mother Earth's Cafe a local dining institution

FORT WALTON BEACH — At a place like Mother Earth’s Café, where everybody knows everyone, word gets around fast.
Don’t ask me how they found out a sly reporter had snuck in to do a restaurant feature, but it didn’t take long for manager Sonia Daniels to make it over to said reporter’s table with items for review and a word of advice.
“I want a 10,” she whispered as she sashayed off to hug a customer, or check a table or ring somebody up.
“What’s that mean?” I whispered to my partner in restaurant review crime.”
“It means she wants you to give the restaurant a rating of 10 … dummy,” she whispered back.
“But we don’t do that …?” I stammered.
“Maybe you oughta start,” came the reply.
The food
It’s not hard to compliment the food at Mother Earth’s Café; it’s hard to know where to start the complimenting.
The restaurant, a Fort Walton Beach area landmark, serves a daily lunch special, and that’s what brings in the regulars.
Friday’s special was fried shrimp with hush puppies and two vegetable sides. Fresh seafood is served every Friday. It’s a tradition.
The shrimp was big and, as advertised, fresh, tasty and not too heavily battered. The portion was right for lunch and the hush puppies were uniquely awesome.
Mother Earth’s Café posts a monthly menu on its website, and looking down the list, I saw a lot of items I’d had on previous visits. You see, I am a regular in my other, non-stealthy restaurant writer, life.
The meat loaf is as good as you’ll find anywhere, and the hamburger steak, open-face roast beef and turkey and dressing are all worth stopping in to try.
I know people who mark their calendars for chicken and dumplin’ day, and I’d wait in line for the chicken-fried steak.
Oh, and let’s not forget the side items. Fresh vegetables or apple sauce are a good choice for your health and to compliment the fine dining. The veggies are those good country veggies, like lima beans and mashed ’taters, that, as Momma used to say, “stick to your ribs.”
Speaking of Momma, my dining partner mentioned, with no prodding, that the iced tea reminded her of tea her grandma used to make, “and I just loved her tea.”
Comfort food, you see.
But don’t go away thinkin’ that Mother Earth’s Café is just about the big, filling lunch. The restaurant’s salads are quite popular, too.
(Celebrity fellow restaurant writer special appearance alert.)
No less an expert than Linda Murchison, said she has the balsamic grilled chicken salad every time she goes to Mother Earth’s Café.
On those occasional healthier dining binges, I too have had a (taco) salad at Mother Earth’s Café, and will return for salad next time that binge thing happens.
Finally, we’ve reached the dessert phase, and please don’t miss out on the dessert phase.
The homemade banana pudding is the house specialty, but the Florida Sunshine tastes like a Creamsicle. I had a cherry cobbler under ice cream …
Like I said, don’t miss out on the dessert phase.
The atmosphere
Daniels said somebody once told her she needed a television in the restaurant. She told them flat no.
“I refuse to put TV’s in here because people need to get back to talking,” she said.
That’s the atmosphere. Mother Earth’s Café is a place where the semi-famous (Judge Thomas Remington, rich guy Cash Moore) mingle with the regular folk and everyone gets on just fine. Hugs are a frequent occurrence and everything is real … homey.
The service
The first thing Beverly, our server, said to us when we walked in was “Dears, did you need any menus?”
That question alone goes a long way toward defining the service, (friendly, efficient) and the atmosphere at Mother Earth’s Café.
A final taste
Mother Earth’s Café was opened in 1976 by Bettye Campbell, who introduced things called pita bread, fruit smoothies, alfalfa sprouts and avocado sandwiches to the area.
Linda Bell now owns the place. She’s carried on the Campbell tradition. We know this because Ms. Campbell still drops in to visit.
And now that we’ve discussed tradition, it’s time to break from it. We’ve rounded up the judges, refilled their iced teas and requested a verdict.
C’mon down and collect your prize Sonia Daniels, because today and today only we’re awarding numbers, and Mother Earth’s Café gets a well deserved … 10.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Future pro chefs work with Fieri

Future pro chefs work with Fieri

While Guy Fieri was cooking with "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" all-star chefs during his food show Wednesday night at the Midland Center for the Arts, aspiring young chefs also had their hands, and knives, in the show.
Six students from the culinary and hospitality management ProStart program at the Saginaw Career Complex were on stage before and during the show. ProStart is a two-year high school program put on by the National Restaurant Association for students interested in the culinary world.
"This is once in a lifetime opportunity," Jenna Zoromski said of being part of the food tour. "I think we're all really excited -- from the moment we found out about it."
Students were chopping vegetables, prepping garlic, getting spices and other things ready, and working with Fieri's assistants. Fieri also came and talked to the students before the show.
During the show, students fetched trays, ran dishes and were on spill patrol.
"Whatever they tell us to do, we just do it," Savannah McKinley said.
The students are all serious about entering the culinary field, and yes, they're all big Food Network fans.
"You turn on my TV and that's all that's ever on," said Kayla Nestell.
While working on the food show was a bit different than traditional jobs in the culinary field, their class work prepared students for what they had to do on the show.
Students were able to use and showcase kitchen safety, knife skills, sanitation and teamwork. Another important aspect is kitchen language.
Fieri uses students from the program at his shows. Prospective assistants were interviewed earlier this year for a spot on stage.
"He's a real supporter of the ProStart program," said Julie Ivan, instructor for the program, of Fieri.
Fieri hosted the national student ProStart Invitational.
"It's a really neat thing for us because they're into food; this is the rock and roll moment of food of a lifetime, and they get involved," Fieri said in a previous interview.
All the students are set on the world of food for their future careers.
"These are the kids that have the passion in their heart," said Shari Smith, instructor and owner of Shari's at the Williard Hilton. She's taken students to the restaurant for more hands-on experience. Students also participate in competitions at the state and national level.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

World Chefs: Fraser finds freedom in expiration eatery

World Chefs: Fraser finds freedom in expiration eatery

John Fraser, who owns the Michelin-star Dovetail restaurant in New York, has opened a creative restaurant that will last only nine months.
Since starting the restaurant, What Happens When, in January, Fraser and his partners have created a new art-inspired menu and ambience each month. In the latest "movement," they drew inspiration from American jazz and the flavors of New Orleans.
The 35-year-old California native spoke about his new cooking outlet, creativity and experimenting with a new concept.
Q: Is What Happens When a pop-up restaurant?
A: "No, I would discourage using that word, and I've done a few pop-up restaurants. It denotes a place that's not their own and cooks for a limited time like a week, and with a borrowed staff and borrowed ideas. This is really a restaurant. It just happens to have an end date."
Q: So it's a restaurant with an expiration date?
A: "We are going with the concept that every month it will change. Every month in the nine months, we are going to change the design and the food and the composition of the music. It's really more like a sort of circus than a restaurant."
Q: This is something you always wanted to do?
A: "As a creative person, I found myself at Dovetail working every single day and within the brand of Dovetail, there is only so much creativity we can express. So I wanted to open a different outlet for myself. And this way it also allows me to selfishly collaborate with other creative people and grow personally."
Q: Compare Dovetail and What Happens When.
A: "When you put them side by side, they are equally refined. They are equally well thought out. But one of them is riskier. There is a certain bucket list feeling and just have a good time with it, as opposed to Dovetail where we take a lot of time and care."
Q: Would you consider opening What Happens When at another location once its nine-month run is over?
A: "I don't know. It's really kind of fun to not have to think about what's next. The only thing we have to think about is next month. That's one of the things that make this exciting. You can just focus in on the moment."
Spinach and Artichoke Dip/Salad
For the artichokes
4 large globe artichokes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, cut into large dice
1 head garlic, peeled of outer papery skin, split in half
and crushed
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups white wine
juice of 6 lemons
For the cooking liquid; in a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and sprinkle with salt, stir until lightly caramelized and then add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook for 30 seconds longer and then add the white wine. Cook the white wine until reduced to 1/4 cup and add 8 cups of water, the juice of 1 lemon and season with salt. Simmer over medium heat while you trim the artichokes.
Prepare a water bath of the remaining juice of 5 lemons and 8 cups of water to keep the artichokes from discoloring.
Remove the outer leaves of the artichoke and discard until you reach light yellow colored leaves inside. Cut off the bottom of the stem and the top 3/4 of the artichoke leaves and discard. Using a paring knife, carefully trim down around the outside of the artichoke until all the tough green outside is removed and does not appear fibrous.
Dip the artichoke in lemon water as you go. Using a spoon, scoop down into the center of the choke and scrap out the fuzzy purple center of the choke. Keep the cleaned artichoke submerged in the lemon water until you finish cleaning the remaining chokes.
When all the artichokes are cleaned, place them in a pot and strain the cooking liquid over them; add any extra water necessary to keep them submerged. Turn the stove to medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Turn off the heat and let cool in the liquid.
For the dip
6 cooked artichokes
3 oz fresh basil, stems removed
1 lb washed spinach
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup canola oil
3 dashes tabasco sauce
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of salt. Also prepare a bath of 8 cups of water and 3 cups of ice to shock and cool the spinach. Add the basil to the pot and stir, cook for 1-1/2 minutes and then add the spinach and stir. Cook for an additional 20 seconds and then use a large slotted spoon to remove and place in the ice water.
When the spinach and basil is cool, remove from the ice water to a colander and press out the extra water with your hand. Then using a large clean dish towel, place the spinach/basil into the center and twist the sides over a sink to squeeze as much water out as possible.
Place the spinach on a cutting board and roughly chop into smaller pieces. Place into a mixing bowl.
Cut 4 artichokes into 1/4 inch size dice and also place in the bowl.
In a blender add the remaining 2 artichokes, egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the artichoke cooking liquid. Turn on the blender medium and drizzle in the olive oil and canola oil to form an emulsion, season with salt. Add as much or as little of this dressing to the spinach and chopped artichokes to make it creamy and stir together with a rubber spatula. Season with more salt and the tabasco as necessary.
For the cured onion
1 large vidala onion, peeled
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
zest of 1 lemon, using a microplane
zest of 1 orange, microplane
Method: With a sharp knife or mandolin, slice the onion into 1/8 inch thick rings and place in a mixing bowl. Mix the salt, sugar and both zests together and sprinkle over the onion, then toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To assemble
1/2 loaf sourdough bread
2 tablespoons butter
1 head frisee, trimmed, washed, and spun dry
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jamie Oliver `second-most successful chef in U.S.

Jamie Oliver `second-most successful chef in US`

By Gavin Wilson

Jamie Oliver is the second-most successful celebrity chef in the US, according to a new survey.
The Brit, said to be worth around $172 million USD [£106 million GBP], lost out to Wolfgang Puck in the survey by food industry website, The Daily Meal.
Researchers said of 35-year-old Oliver: 'Having finally lived down the lascivious-sounding moniker 'The Naked Chef' he has become as well-known for his charity and food activism as for his stripped-down, ingredient-focused cuisine.
'Although Oliver has over 20 restaurants in the UK, Dubai, and Australia, Americans are more familiar with his cooking shows and more recently his reality series about America's child obesity rates, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.”
It comes after his Food Revolution TV series was temporarily axed due to poor ratings.
The other chefs in the top 10 were Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Paula Deen, Nobu Matsuhisa, Guy Fieri, Daniel Boulud, Todd English and Bobby Flay.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Secrets of preserving fresh food

Uncannily simple: Food preservation for mere mortals

Not brave enough to try canning? No problem: Here's how to freeze, dry and 'root cellar' your food.

Here’s the thing about fresh, tasty, nutritious food: You’re going to want it to stay that way. Aside from keeping it tasty, you want to prevent it from spoiling and making you sick. Not to bore you with details, but the truth is that, for the most part, fresh foods start to lose their texture, nutrients, and flavor once they are harvested. Light, heat, moisture, and even their own enzymes start to break the food down. This means that you’re going to have to pay a little extra attention to storage, because a fresh berry, unlike a box of Pop-Tarts, won’t last until the next ice age. And speaking of ice, I am a big fan of easy storage methods like freezing, so don’t think you have to spend your autumn nights stooped over the stove putting up dilly beans. Make your mother-in-law do this.

There are lots of methods for preserving foods — curing, smoking, pickling — but for the average person these methods are too time consuming and involved, so I’m not including them here. (I’m also not including irradiation as a food preservation method, for obvious reasons.) You are also not going to find canning tips here, for the same reasons, plus the fact that canning spooks this home-ec flunker because of its potential for fatally poisoning your loved ones.
Before I move on to the basics of food storage, here are some sources of information, comfort, and inspiration when it comes to squirreling away fresh food.
Good books. My favorites are "Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, Preserving, and Drying What You Grow," published by Rodale Books, and "The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food: Easy Step-by-Step Instructions for Freezing, Drying and Canning" by Janet Chadwick.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation. Created by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service and the USDA, this organization has an easy-to use site that addresses most food preservation methods. You can watch slide shows and videos, sign up for a self-study course, order print publications, get seasonal tips, or just bone up on or troubleshoot your favorite preservation method.
Find an expert. Call your local cooperative extension office. They may be able to connect you with a master preserver, who, like a master gardener, volunteers in return for extensive education. Some extension offices staff seasonal food-preservation hotlines.
Enlist a friend. Many hands make fast work. Do you have a friend, an aunt, or a neighbor who makes a mean apricot jam? Ask him or her to show you how in return for dinner. You could also make it a potluck party and invite others. Be sure to thank your food-preserving friend by sending him or her home with some of the fruits of your collective labor. My personal advice: Find, and marry, a partner who enjoys food storage. My husband has the energy and inclinations of a caffeinated homesteader. Lucky me! But if your partner would rather watch the World Series, don’t fret. Thanks to modern conveniences such as blenders and freezers, food preservation has never been easier.
Share the harvest — and the gear. Don’t feel as if you need to run out and buy a bunch of appliances. My husband and I do the bulk of our storage with a food processor, a bag sealer, and a big freezer. Rather than buy a food dehydrator, I borrow one from a friend who in turn occasionally borrows stuff from me. Don’t have a food processor? Use your blender. Don’t know anyone with a food dehydrator? Use your oven or the good old-fashioned sun. Appliances are nifty and they save time; but they’re not worth the credit-card debt; they use a bunch of electricity; and, let’s face it, they’re one more thing to clean.
Friends call me Snow Miser! Okay, not really, but I love freezing stuff. In fact, I am so into freezing that I finally splurged for a big Energy Star–rated chest freezer. (Energy Star appliances meet the energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy.) This big white box allows me to feed my family easy-to-prepare meals without all the creepy additives of store-bought frozen foods. Here are some freezing tips I’ve learned along the way.
Keep your freezer about two-thirds full. Air needs to circulate around frozen foods. An under- or over-packed freezer doesn’t work as well. A nice trick: We keep plastic 2-gallon jugs of frozen water in our chest freezer. This not only helps keep our freezer fuller when supplies are running low, but, should the power go out in a thunderstorm, the jugs will help maintain the freezer’s temperature, which should be 0°F.
Freeze fresh foods quickly. Pick or choose fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness. If you’re not going to eat them in a day or two, preserve them in some way to make the most of their wonderful texture, flavors, and vitamins. To maximize flavor and all those nutrients, don’t let those fresh-picked berries molder on your counter. Get them into the freezer as soon as you can because the natural enzymes in produce will cause them to spoil.
To freeze veggies: Wash and chop them. Then blanch them (cook them al dente in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, tasting them for doneness — they should be  firm. Then drain and dunk them in a quick ice bath to stop them from cooking further. If you cook them too long they will be mushy!) After blanching, put your veggies into freezer bags or freezer-safe plastic containers. Leave room for expansion (about a half-inch of “head space” or “head room”). Blanched veggies will keep in the freezer for up to nine months. According to "Preserving Summer’s Bounty," veggies that you usually eat raw, such as lettuce, are least suited for the freezer. Don’t believe it? Go ahead and try freezing some salad.
To freeze fruit: Some fruits, such as apples, will discolor when sliced. To prevent this, soak chopped fruit in acidulated water (1⁄4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid per quart of water). Sugar, or even honey, is often added to fruit that will be frozen to help retain its pretty color and to improve its taste. You can sprinkle sugar on the fruit or, alternatively, freeze it in a simple syrup (mix equal parts sugar and water and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear).
Tip: We spread our berries out onto cookie sheets and put them in the freezer. After they’re frozen, we put them in vacuum sealer bags and then use them for smoothies, baked goods, and sauces. Fruit will keep in the freezer for up to a year. We find this method works especially well for blueberries and raspberries but not so well for strawberries, which tend to get mushy, so we prefer to purée them or cook them into compotes.
Frequently asked questions: “Can I freeze eggs?” (Not in their shells.) “How long will a steak keep in the freezer?” (Six to twelve months.) “How about frozen cookie dough?” (Two months — if you have the discipline to keep it that long!) For a list of what foods to refrigerate and freeze and how long they will keep, refer to theUSDA’s Cold Storage chart.
Keep track of what you freeze. My darling husband keeps an inventory of our frozen foods on a clipboard in our pantry. We also write the date and the contents on the front of each bag. This helps us adhere to the ole freezer rule of “First in, first out”: Use the oldest stuff first if you can. Over time, frozen items may lose nutrients and texture. When items get too old to use, toss ’em. And remember, the safest way to defrost foods is in the refrigerator or the microwave, not on the counter. Even if you keep a log or chart, dig through your freezer’s contents periodically to experience the proof of Lou’s Law of Frozen Foods: Because of fuzzy math skills, you will never have enough frozen pork chops for company, and you will always have too many boxes of the frozen toaster waffles that you bought in moments of weakness.
Use a vacuum bag sealer, which works with either fresh or cooked foods. You cut the plastic vacuum bags (which come in rolls) to size, depending on how much food you have to store. Then you seal the bag with a machine that also sucks out the excess air (while making a sound like an angry crocodile). You can store these polyethylene bags in the freezer.
Get strategic. If you want high-quality weeknight meals made with your sustainable ingredients, try a strategy employed by busy moms everywhere: Double or even triple your recipes and freeze a portion that can be thawed quickly after work. Also think about recipes that can do double duty. My husband’s salsa is a good example (see recipe here).
A final thought about preparing produce for freezing: If you’re going to go through all of the trouble to chop and blanch vegetables, or peel and chop fruit and coat it in syrup, why not just make your produce into your favorite dishes that can be thawed for dinner? Roast your favorite vegetables with olive oil and rosemary and freeze them. Make huge batches of pesto in your food processor and freeze it for weekday pasta nights. Make a quick sauce of your favorite seasonal fruit that can be used on ice cream or drizzled onto chocolate cake.
Besides freezing, the other preservation method I really like is drying (aka dehydration). It’s easy to do, and dried food is easy to store (and carry, if you’re camping). Plus, fewer nutrients are lost in drying than in canning.
You can dry food outside, but this requires — big shock — sunny, dry weather. If you live in New England, as I do, you’re pretty much out of luck. But even here in the moist Northeast I dry herbs by hanging them in little upsidedown bouquets clothespinned to twine strung up near a window in a south-facing storage room. When the herbs look crumbly, in about two weeks, I put them into tiny mason jars. When I lived in New Mexico, where arid is the rule of thumb, I bought ristras — strings of chiles — and let them air-dry anywhere: on my front porch or in my living room. Go ahead and experiment! (Euell Gibbons dried blueberries in his hot attic.)
You can also dry food in a conventional or convection oven if the oven temp can be turned down to 140°F (remember, you want to dry the food, not cook it). The bottom line: You can dry food in many ways. The section on drying in the aforementioned book "Preserving Summer’s Bounty" is excellent.
Be sure to store your dehydrated foods in labeled airtight containers. Most dried fruit or produce will keep for a couple of months at room temperature, but if you keep it cooler, say, in your unheated basement (typically about 52°F), it will keep much longer. According to "Preserving Summer’s Bounty," dried cherries and dates stored at 52°F can be kept for 36 to 48 months!
The good news about dehydrators is that they don’t take up much space and they can do the job more quickly than the sun or a conventional oven. Also, many dehydrators have trays that allow you to make fruit leather, which is great for camping trips and lunchbox snacks. Rehydrate dried fruit by just barely covering it with boiling water. Soak until water is absorbed, tasting for desired texture.
Thank God I don’t have a root cellar. Not only do I detest my dank cellar and the way it smells, but also I’m a bit lazy. I don’t relish the thought of wrapping my apples in paper or burying my carrots in sand or doing the other root-cellar-y things that industrious pioneer types do. So, if you’re lazy, averse to dampness, or lacking in the cellar department, consider the following slacker methods.
If you’re growing root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips) in the garden, you have the ultimate lazy person’s storage option. Such veggies can be left in the ground when the weather cools —just dig or pull them before the first freeze. (Keep the ground from freezing a bit longer by covering this area of the garden with straw.) Once root veggies have been harvested, brush them off (don’t wash them), cut off the stems if they have stems, and find a cool, dry, dark place if you can.
I like the refrigerator for small quantities of root vegetables. Some folks claim that potatoes become sweet in the fridge, but I don’t notice it when it comes to short-term storage. The downside of using the refrigerator is that you are likely to run out of room. Luckily, root vegetables are hardy. Try your unheated garage or tool shed, but keep an eye on the temperature and don’t let them freeze. Conversely, if potatoes start to sprout, temperatures are too warm. Other winter veggies that store well in the crisper compartment of your fridge? Celeriac and cabbage will keep for a month or two, maybe even longer.
A rule of thumb for spuds: Keep them in the dark (a big paper bag will do, but avoid plastic, which will encourage moisture and mold), and don’t let them sprout. Toss any green ones, which could make you sick.
Hard squash and apples can be stored at room temperature on your counter for several weeks.
Garlic, onions, and shallots are fine at room temp but keep best when hung in mesh bags or open-weave baskets. If you don’t have the room and do have a surplus, peel them, chop them, and freeze them. (And by all means, use your food processor!) Do you love garlic but find you’re short on space? Hang a garlic braid in your kitchen: It will ward off evil spirits and free up a little premium space on your countertop, which should be saved for precious, vine-ripened, in-season tomatoes. If I were Queen of the World, putting tomatoes in the fridge (which blunts their peak flavor and makes their texture go all wonky) would be punishable by . . . having to eat them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Highest-Paid Celebrity Chefs in US

Highest-Paid Celebrity Chefs in US
By Colman Andrews

How much money do chefs make? According to Nation's Restaurant News, the leading U.S. food-service trade magazine, the average annual salary for an executive chef at a stand-alone restaurant in 2010 was $71,063. All together, now: Do you think that's what Mario Batali takes home? Do you reckon that's how many bucks Guy Fieri pays taxes on each year? Yeah, sure.
The rules are different for celebrity chefs -- first of all, simply because they're celebrities and hence demand the big bucks, but also because, without exception, the most financially successful ones do lots of things at once. In fact -- spoiler alert -- very few of them ever actually cook in their own kitchens anymore. They're far too busy thinking up and launching new restaurants (and even, like Charlie Palmer, hotels), writing cookbooks, developing (or lending their names to) products of various kinds, and of course appearing on TV... The most successful chefs in America aren't just chefs -- they're entrepreneurs, they're brands. Sometimes they're virtually whole industries. Being Wolfgang PuckTom Colicchio, or José Andrés isn't just a job: It's a way of life.
With that in mind, we thought it would be fun -- and even maybe educational -- to try to figure how many clams some of our nation's most famous culinary celebrities actually rake in. How much, in other words, do these guys (and occasionally gals, like Paula Deen and Barbara Lynch) get paid?
In drawing up our list of chefs, we decided first of all that they must actually be chefs, in the sense of having run restaurant kitchens and built their careers from there. Sorry, Rachael. Tough luck, Alton. We've included a few citizens of other countries (Alain Ducasse and Jamie Oliver among them) because they have restaurants and/or TV shows in America, though the bulk of their businesses are elsewhere.
In order to obtain accurate, up-to-date income figures for these fabulous food folk, we bribed an IRS official and obtained copies of their personal tax returns.
Oh, all right, no we didn't. Step back from that ledge, Gordon Ramsay. Just take a deep breath, Bobby Flay.
In fact, our researchers consulted Experian (through LexisNexis), the Orbis International Financial Database, and BookScan. We considered net worth rankings and previous salary estimates from Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and several trade publications. We scoured the popular press for news stories and rumors. Then we called up savvy restaurant pros (not the kinds who'd make the list) and got their feedback, threw in a pinch of common sense, and calculated what we believe to be a reasonable approximation of each chef's personal income for 2010.
Though we're confident that we got relative scale right, we admit that the actual figures might be merely ballpark -- so, sorry kids, but no dollar amounts here. Suffice to say that the range extends from six figures to eight. Oh, and if you're on the list and think we've put you in the wrong position -- or if you're not on the list but think you should be -- you know where to send those tax returns that we couldn't get from the guy at the IRS.
Below, the 10 Most Successful Chefs in America.
#1 Wolfgang Puck
Though Puck, whose name is synonymous with "California Cuisine," has worked the celebrity angle hard, his endlessly creative takes on a multitude of cuisines, from pizza to Asian food, still earn him the respect of the food world. As enterprising as they come, Puck can boast 21 fine dining restaurants around the nation, numerous cookbooks, a TV career that has included appearances on Frasier, Las Vegas, and The Simpsons as well as a cooking-show Emmy, and lines of food products, cookware, and appliances (among them a coffeemaker and the coffee pods to go with it). He has even made forays into fast(ish) food with more than 50 Wolfgang Puck Express locations in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Just one of his enterprises, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, which oversees his casual dining restaurants and food products, is estimated to be worth over $400 million, and some estimates of the total annual income generated by his various concerns reach more than twice that.
#2 Jamie Oliver
Having finally lived down the lascivious-sounding moniker "The Naked Chef" (which in fact referred to his penchant for simplicity in food, not his uniform while cooking), Oliver has become as well-known for his charity and food activism as for his stripped-down, ingredient-focused cuisine. Although Oliver has over 20 restaurants in the U.K., Dubai, and Australia, Americans are more familiar with his cooking shows and more recently his reality series about America's child obesity rates, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. In 2011, he once again made theSunday Times 1,000 Richest Britons list, which listed his net worth at 106 million -- about $172 million.
#3 Alain Ducasse
His countryman Joel Robuchon may be more respected by most critics as a chef, but Ducasse, who can certainly hold his own in the cooking department, operates about 30 restaurants and three hotels spanning the globe, with a total annual revenue of more than $80 million. He has made missteps (his original New York City establishment, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, closed after six years), but in both 2005 and 2010 he achieved the unparalleled distinction of having three three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the same year. Filling out his bulging portfolio are a Parisian culinary school, a number of cookbooks, and a thriving consulting business.
#4 Joel Robuchon
"The Chef of the 20th Century," as he was dubbed by the Gault/Millau guide, is making an equally strong impression in the 21st century. As big in Asia as he is in the West, Robuchon has about 20 restaurants throughout the world and more Michelin stars (26) than any other chef. He's also the author of some 16 cookbooks and has done popular TV shows in Europe, though he hasn't yet tried the American television market.
#5 Paula Deen
#6 Nobu Matsuhisa
Nobu restaurants are getting to be like Starbucks; sometimes it seems like there's one on every corner. All right, that's an exaggeration, but Nobu Matsuhisa -- who virtually reinvented Japanese food for non-Japanese diners (his black cod with miso became one of the signal dishes of the 1990's in restaurants all over the country) -- does oversee, with varying degrees of personal involvement, almost 30 restaurants, three with Michelin stars, in locations ranging from Aspen to Athens, Dallas to Dubai (with three each in New York, London, and the Los Angeles area). Factor in his four cookbooks, his line of Nobu Original Dinnerware, and his premium sake and beer brands, and it's clear that he's a real contender.
#7 Guy Fieri
The winner of Season Two of The Next Food Network Star is a powerhouse, a celebrity whose "krew" calls him 'The Guid" (as in "guido"). The host of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and NBC's Minute to Win It has five restaurants, two New York Times bestsellers, estimated book sales of an estimated $1.5 million, lines of apparel and products, a hectic schedule of lucrative public appearances, bodyguards who flank him at public appearances, and a hairstyle as distinctive in its own way as Donald Trump's.
#8 Daniel Boulud
A French chef who doesn't own any restaurants in France, Boulud rose to prominence in New York City, where he runs eight establishments, including a newly opened epicerie, marking his first foray into retail (though he has long sold private-label wine, champagne, and smoked salmon). His Dinex Group also has restaurants in Miami, Palm Beach, London, Beijing, and Singapore, and his Feast and Fetes catering company is known as one of New York's best. 
#9 Todd English
The portraits on Todd English's web site look more like a would-be soap star's portfolio than documentation of a working chef, and English has had his share of problems lately -- among other things, he was deposed last month for reportedly failing to pay $80,000 rent on a SoHo loft, a waiter is said to have stolen $91,000 from one of his restaurants, and Boston magazine recently told him to take a hike -- but English oversees a roster of restaurants nationwide (the number seems to fluctuate frequently), and his Olive Group reported earnings of $53 million last year. Cookbooks, a popular TV show, and his own branded cookware and olive oil help fill the coffers.
#10 Bobby Flay
"Are you ready for a throwdown?" You'd better be if you're going to mess with the finances of this Iron Chef. He has six TV shows (at last count), five sit-down restaurants across the U.S. and one in the Bahamas, five burger joints, and nine cookbooks. With all the TV appearances, it's sometimes easy to forget that Flay built everything on his reputation for good cooking. The king of the Food Network was the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1993, just two years after opening his first restaurant, Mesa Grill on New York City's Fifth Avenue.