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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Roasted Curried Cauliflower and Steamed Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

I never said I was a chef, but I love to cook. Sometimes I'll go all out to the depth of my knowledge and experience about food which at the end of the day, isn't a lot! You don't need to do that though to make some really good meals in your own kitchen.

A friend convinced me to do blog posts such as these for those that either don't know how, or are afraid to ruin even a simple meal in the kitchen. Besides information on restaurants and other food-related matters, I hope sharing simple meals such as this shows some readers it is easy to make some really good food with a minimal amount of effort and experience.

I have been getting into roasted vegetables lately. The vegetable du jour is cauliflower.

Cut it into florets, and go heavy on the salt and pepper.

I'd say 2-3 teaspoonfuls of both, maybe more. Just make sure after spicing and mixing your florets look like this.

You really must use freshly ground pepper. Once you start using it, there is no going back!

Then you want to give these a good coating of olive oil, probably 1/3 to 1/2 cup per head of cauliflower.

Remember, you are roasting these vegetables and want the oil to cook them for you. I am not endorsing this brand of oil, I have just been picking what has been on clearance at the grocery store and looked halfway decent.

You can stop with the seasonings right here, the caramelized sugars in the cauliflower after they are roasted are great on their own.

I, though, wanted to make it even better and decided to give them a nice coating of curry powder before they went in the oven.

I can't tell you how much to use, but just make sure your cauliflower florets are really well coated. For those in Southwest Florida, A to Z Discount Beverage/Spice of India has just about the best selection of Indian foods in this area.

After spicing, your florets should look like this.

Now save yourself a huge headache (cleanup) and line an old cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place your cauliflower on it.

I like to orient my vegetables in one direction, it helps me to remember which way to turn them when the time comes. Place these in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, turn then over and do it again.

While your vegetables are roasting, make your mussels.

Here is the Recipe.

Here for the most part are the ingredients.

The original recipe calls for dried chorizo, but you can use links as I did, about 6 oz. total. If you do that, you need to pre cook them and drain the fat. Don't forget to remove the plastic casings!

I did all of this in an ancient 12 quart Revere ware stock pot that I inherited from a family member.

Cook the dried or cooked chorizo on medium heat in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 4 minutes until the sausage begins to brown. Add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic and one teaspoonful of ground fennel seeds and cook for about a minute. Add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes and 3/4 cup of white wine, season with a bit of freshly ground pepper, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon and cook until reduced by about one half volume. Add 4-5 pounds of fresh mussels (I obtained them from a national retailer whose name starts with "Co") cover and cook until the mussels open, about 6-8 minutes. The shell fish will contribute a lot of, and very delicious liquid to the broth at the bottom of the pot when the mussels are cooked.

By this time, the roasted cauliflower should be done and look like this, perfectly roasted and delicious!

Plate out your mussels, make sure to have some of that delicious tomato/white wine/chorizo broth on board and of course, a baguette to mop up all that fantastic sauce.

As you eat these, don't forget to discard any mussels that did not open, they are NOT good eating.

This is a perfect dish for all you girls and boys for that matter that love mussels!

It's a wrap for another post from the kitchen of Southwest Florida Forks.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lunch at Dolce and Salato

Dolce And Salato (sweet and salty in Italian)

is a restaurant in Naples, FL that serves Italian Cuisine. I had not eaten there for almost 3 years. Remembering how good it was, I was happy when my dining companion (DC) that day decided to meet me for lunch.

Dolce and Salato has a very pleasant indoor dining area

with some of the nicest Parquet flooring of any restaurant in the area.

The restaurant also has a lovely outdoor dining area,

which is where DC and i decided to have lunch.

After being brought some really good Focaccia bread, some with olive spread,

DC and I split a starter of beef Carpaccio.

Our dish was served with mixed greens, shaved Grana Padano cheese, and Truffle Oil. This was absolutely delicious, and one of the best plates of carpaccio I have ever had.

I love goat cheese and beets, it's just something about that combination, so i ordered the baby spinach salad.

Baby spinach was circled by rounds of beets topped with dollops of Chevre cheese and topped with walnuts and Balsamic Glaze. This is a very light dish and just right for me that day.

DC had the tuna sandwich as a salad.

Tuna, capers, tomatoes, red onions celery carrots, olives, fresh basil and topped with balsamic glaze. DC really seemed to enjoy the salad.

On the way out of the restaurant from settling the bill I looked over at one of the counters and realized why the restaurant is named as it is, for it's sweet and salty snacks.

This is a very pleasant place to have lunch with very good food and good service. I think DC would second me on that. I will definitely be back for a return visit, and it will not be 3 years until the next one!

That's that for another post on forks.

Dolce and Salato
300 5th. Avenue S.
Naples, FL 34102

Friday, September 25, 2015

The September Meeting of the Southwest Florida Chefs of the American Culinary Federation

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is a professional organization of chefs, cooks, food industry professionals, food enthusiasts and a food blogger or two.  They have about 200 chapters and almost 20,000 members. They offer training, accreditation, scholarship and certification to foster professional growth in the culinary arts.

The Southwest Florida Chefs of the ACF is the Lee County, FL chapter and hold monthly meetings most months.

This month, the meeting was held at Crown Colony Golf and Country Club in Fort Myers, FL.

This chapter monthly meetings always start with a dinner and then have an educational component. The educational component that day was fruit carving and plate garnishes.

Attendees were served appetizers which were a selection of meats

 and cheeses

 and lined up

for an Asian-themed meal of Asian style short ribs,

seasoned with soy, ginger, cinnamon, anise, 5 spice powder and topped with noodles and peppers,

sesame/soy pork tenderloin

which was soy-marinated pork tenderloin with sesame oil and pineapple salsa,

pacific rim shrimp,

prepared with fried wanton skins, jicama slaw, green onion and pepper jelly,

stir fried vegetables,

and ginger and lemon grass jasmine rice Croquettes.

As attendees sat to enjoy all this good food

the president of the chapter, Scott Boyd, gave a few announcements to the group and acknowledged Crown Colony Executive Chef Jeff Caponi for hosting the meeting.

The educational component of the meeting began, and was on fruit carving and plate garnishing.

Executive Chef Robert Saalfeld and Sous Chef Matt Thivierge from Naples Lakes Country Club brought their culinary carving tools

and demonstrated a number of displays. These ranged from the simple, such as a beet decorated pineapple top

or a simply carved melon rind

to things more ornate,

which really seemed to get everyone's attention.

Practically, this was explained as a way to put fruit to good use that may not be able to be served while bringing a dining experience to another level.

Chef Dave Rashty from the Pink Shell Resort (sorry about the photo quality)

gave a demo on Tomato Water gelatin, which can then be cut into all kinds of shapes to use as plate garnishes. We were also given a handout with recipes for garnishes and references sources such as Le Repertoire De La Cuisine. Very cool.

Executive Chef Scott Boyd of Magnolia Landing Country Club and Chapter President demonstrated a couple of very simple garnishes one could use.

The first was partially peeling back the husk of a Tomatillo, sticking a fork into the fruit and immersing this briefly in a fryer.

The second was getting thin slices of plantin

and making parallel, longitudinal slices through them not quite end to end and putting them in a fryer with this end result.

Only a chef could think of this! Simple but with the right dish, very effective.

Chef James Frazier from Florida Gulf Coast University Resort And Hospitality Management Program brought a spiral vegetable slicer and Mandolin to demonstrate a few garnishes.

 Some ribbons of carrots and daikon were made

and used as a very simple garnish to elevate (literally) your dish to a new level.

Prepared with the mandolin; herbed potato window panes were on the left, which are thin slices of potato pancaked together with herbs in the middle and fried, fried shoestring potatoes, Gaufrette, or waffle cut potatoes in addition to deep fried basil leaves,

 which all make great garnishes,

 even for these simple potato Quenelles.

Chef Jack Elias from the Commercial Foods And Culinary Arts Program at Cape Coral Technical College gave a demo primarily on garnishing with sauces. 

He got his demonstration started off though showing us how to make a pastry bag out of a piece of parchment paper.

First the square piece of paper must be cut into triangles,

rolled into a funnel

and folded as to stay together.

He made it look so easy but i knew it wasn't!

The sauce portion was pretty amazing. A little bit of this,

and that,

a bit of blending,

and voila!

Some different initial patterns and a little more blending,

and there you go.

Another example,

how much fun is that!

At the end of the meeting some of the members were recognized for their contributions to the evening's meeting.

This was a very fun, interesting and informative meeting of the Southwest Florida Chefs of the ACF and I look forward to attending more.

The Southwest Florida Chapter of the ACF
Chef Scott Boyd, President