Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Power of Spinach

The queen of France, Catherine de'Medici, adored spinach so much she insisted it be served with every meal. Even today, dishes made with spinach are referred to as "Florentine" as Catherine was from Florence, Italy. Originating in ancient Persia, spinach was an item used in trade, eventually making its way to China and across Europe.

But it was a sailor who put spinach on the American radar—Popeye the Sailor, to be precise. Remember those disproportionate forearms, anchor tattoos, and his corn cob pipe? He gulped spinach into popularity. The spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas went so far as to erect a statue to recognize Popeye’s positive influence on the spinach industry.

Thanks to Popeye, spinach has a reputation of being the anabolic steroid of vegetables. That’s a bit unrealistic, but spinach does contain great nutritional value. Especially when eaten fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled, spinach is full of antioxidants, iron, and Vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Looking for a way to add some panache to a meal? Just add spinach. This leafy green has been capturing the appetites of many for centuries. Nutritional and delicious, spinach is an ingredient found in dishes for every meal. Omelets at breakfast, salad at lunch, and in pasta at dinner. Of course it's never a bad idea to enjoy a spinach snack like Popeye.

Spinach and Red-Pepper Calzones


1 1/2 tablespoons of cornmeal

1 large onion, halved and sliced lengthwise

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

5 ounces baby spinach (8 packed cups)

4 bottled roasted red-peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)

12 oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 3 Tbsp)

1 pound Roseli pizza dough, thawed if frozen

1/2 pound smoked mozzarella, cut into 16 pieces


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F with the rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle cornmeal on a large baking sheet.

Cook onion with 1/4 tsp salt in 2 Tbsp of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in red peppers, olives, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then cut into quarters. Roll out 1 quarter into an 8-inch square (keep remaining pieces covered) and arrange with corner nearest you. Put one-fourth of filling on lower half, leaving a 1-inch border, and top with 4 pieces of cheese. Fold dough over to enclose filling. Seal edges. Beginning in 1 corner, stretch sealed edge outward, pinching and rolling dough up over edge to resemble a rope, working your way around. Transfer to baking sheet. Make 3 more calzones in same manner. Cut 3 steam vents in top of each and brush with remaining olive oil.

Bake until golden-brown, 13-15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Top Chef Trends for 2010: Nonalcoholic Beverages

The National Restaurant Association asked more than 1800 Chefs what they felt were going to be the most trendy items going into 2010. Here is a snapshot of their results.

1 Specialty iced tea (e.g. Thai-style, Southern/ sweet, flavored)
2 Organic coffee
3 Agua fresca
4 Green tea
5 Flavored/enhanced water

For a complete list of the survey go to the National Restaurant Association Website at

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Indonesian Beef Curry with Coconut Rice

This sounds really good Shawn, I think I'm making this Sunday night for the family!
Recipe Provided By:
Shawn P. Menard
Culinary Specialist US Foodservice San Francisco

Optimax Cooking Spray
1 ½ pounds beef shoulder, Julienne
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 ¼ cups water
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 cup light coconut milk
¼ teaspoon salt

To prepare curry, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Place half of the beef in skillet; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Remove the beef from pan. Keep warm. Repeat process with the remaining beef.

Lower heat to medium; add oil to pan. Add shallots, ginger, garlic, and chiles; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in coriander and next 6 ingredients (through cinnamon); cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return beef to pan. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until beef is tender. Uncover and cook 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Discard cinnamon stick; stir in juice.

To prepare rice, bring 1 1/4 cups water and remaining ingredients to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Place 2/3 cup rice onto each of 6 plates; top each serving with 1/2 cup curry.

Serves 6

Friday, May 21, 2010

Top Chef Trends for 2010: Culinary Themes

The National Restaurant Association asked more than 1800 Chefs what they felt were going to be the most trendy items going into 2010. Here is a snapshot of their results.

1 Sustainability
2 Farm/estate-branded ingredients
3 Gluten-free/food allergy conscious
4 Nutrition/health
5 Simplicity/back to basics

For a complete list of the survey go to the National Restaurant Association Website at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

T&A Cafe Salinas

I'm sitting at Tanimura and Antle's T&A Cafe having a breakfast burrito listening to a couple truck drivers who were both Marines swap service stories. Great stories about advanced water training for the one guy that had previously never had any water experience. This guy is a natural entertainer, sitting here with his guitar strumming Cheeseburger in Paradise for the breakfast crowd while he decribes saving a drowning soldier.

Don and Cheryl Ferch are husband and wife as well as co-owners of Contemporary Catering . They have been creating extraordinary events for their clients since 1988 and are proud of their family owned business that is based in the kitchen at T&A Cafe. Their motto is "Let Contemporary Catering Turn Your Dreams Into Reality!"

Don began his career while attending Los Angeles Trade Tech College in 1977. Following his graduation he was awarded a three-year apprenticeship at the Disneyland Hotel. In seven years with the hotel he was promoted from apprentice to Executive Sous Chef, responsible for all restaurants and banquet operations.

His career has offered him many opportunities. Starting with a move to Santa Barbara as executive chef of the historic El Paseo Restaurant. Relocating to Monterey County as Executive Chef at, the Highlands Inn. Where he received acclaim from Travel holiday, Gourmet magazine, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times and was honored as Chef of one of the top 100 Restaurants in Northern California. Don was the founding Chef and organizer of the MASTERS OF FOOD & WINE held annually at the Highlands Inn.While building his business, in 1988, he was voted Chef of the Year by the Monterey Bay American Culinary Federation. He also was a member of the faculty at Cabrillo College in Aptos teaching advanced culinary arts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top Chef Trends for 2010: Preparation Methods

The National Restaurant Association asked more than 1800 Chefs what they felt were going to be the most trendy items going into 2010. Here is a snapshot of their results.

1 Liquid nitrogen chilling/ freezing
2 Braising
3 Sous vide
4 Smoking
5 Oil-poaching/confit

For a complete list of the survey go to the National Restaurant Association Website at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Strewberries or Strawberries

Sometimes a berry can be berry confusing. The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits grown in the world, is just one of those berries. So let's set the record straight.

A strawberry, first bred in Brittany, France in 1740, is not a berry at all. One of the criteria for being so named a “berry” is to carry seeds within its flesh. We can all see strawberries skip this step, carrying their seeds on the outside, and not within at all.

And how about this, “what does straw have to do with a berry”?

Some sources credit the name "strawberry" to the technique of spreading straw over a plot, providing shade and a structure for the plant to grow, while others note it was first known as the "strewberry" due to the way the berry grows, "strewn" across the ground.

Not to be lost among its peers, the strawberry can be grown anywhere. From climates in Florida to Texas, Wisconsin to California, strawberries just require good sunlight and water, making it one of the easiest plants to grow whether in a backyard garden, a cultivated field or as simple as a potted plant.

Strawberries are one of the most versatile fruits. Fresh or preserved, frozen or dried, any meal, any course can be made more delicious with its sweet and fragrant addition. A light, but sweet salad can set up any meal for success. Or end on a sweet note with a scrumptious, strawberry dessert like Strawberries and Cream, famously devoured at The Championships of Wimbledon.

Here are 2 quick and delicious Cross Valley Farm strawberry ideas with your customers this week

Almond Strawberry Salad


3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar


In a large bowl combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds. Combine the vinegar, apple cider vinegar, honey and sugar in a small bowl; stir well. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Strawberries and Cream


1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup white sugar
2 cups sour cream


Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl; mash until the strawberries are completely crushed and the sugar is incorporated. Add the sour cream to the strawberries and stir until the mixture is pink in color. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Top Chef Trends for 2010: Misc Food Items and Ingredients

The National Restaurant Association asked more than 1800 Chefs what they felt were going to be the most trendy items going into 2010. Here is a snapshot of their results.

1 Artisanal cheeses
2 Black garlic
3 Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth)
4 Flatbreads (e.g. naan, papadum, lavash, pita, tortilla)
5 Flower syrup/essence

For a complete list of the survey go to the National Restaurant Association Website at