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Asparagus Means Spring!

The name “asparagus” is derived from the Greek word for “sprout” or “shoot” and has been cultivated since Egyptian times.  The two types are green and white.  White asparagus is the same plant but it is kept covered with dirt to prevent the sunlight from turning it green.

I prefer to use the larger spears and find them to actually be tenderer than the thin ones. The larger spears are from younger, more vigorous plants.

Asparagus has a bad reputation regarding wine pairing, but I believe that it goes very well with fruity, un-oaked styles of wine such as St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc.  The following recipe combines fresh spring asparagus with the classic Sauvignon Blanc pairing of goat cheese to produce a dish that really makes the wine sing.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

ASPARAGUS & GOAT CHEESE CUSTARD

Serve with St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc

1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1/4″ pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped

1/2 cup leeks – white part only, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc

1 cup cream

10 oz. soft goat cheese

4 eggs, large

Salt & white pepper to taste

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat the oil over a low flame in a large frying pan and sauté the leeks and garlic until soft.  Add the asparagus then season with salt & pepper to taste.  Add the wine and simmer, covered, until the asparagus is tender.  Add a little water if the pan dries out.  Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree.

Heat the cream to a simmer in a saucepan and add the goat cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted.

Place the cream & goat cheese mixture, asparagus, and the eggs into the blender. Blend until smooth.

Spray 8 – four-ounce ramekins with the nonstick spray and fill about 3/4 full with the asparagus mixture.  Place the ramekins in a large baking dish and fill with enough hot water to come about half way up the ramekins.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the custard is no longer liquid

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8

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The Care & Feeding of Knives

Here are some knife care suggestions to help extend the sharpness of your knives:

Invest in a set of high quality knives. With proper care they will last a lifetime.  I suggest these three knives at the minimum – an eight inch chef’s knife – a pairing knife, and a bread knife.

Wash & dry your knives by hand. Dishwashers expose them to harsh detergents and they can bang around and damage the edges.

Store knives in a knife block or magnetic knife bar whenever possible, or at a least store them away from other utensils that can damage their sharp edges.

Always use a wood or polyethylene cutting board. These materials create less resistance to the blade’s edge than boards made from materials like ceramic or plastic.

Do not use a regular “steel”. If you do not have a fine grit ceramic steel  it is best to not use anything. Improper use can actually dull your knives.

NEVER check the sharpness of your knives with your tongue! (Offered tongue-in-cheek – pun intentional)

Have your knives sharpened by Ron regularly – at least twice a year, or more often if you cook a lot. The only purpose of a knife is to cut.  If your knives are dull they are not serving their purpose.

I am now offering knife sharpening by mail at a highly competive price with a turnaround time that is often  faster than using a local company.  Please visit my website for more information : www.razors-edge.net

 

 

 

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Never a Dull Moment!

It’s been a while since I have posted anything on my blog, but I’m back now!

During my cooking career I often sharpened my own knives. This came about because I really had a difficult time leaving my knives with a sharpening service or waiting (sometimes forever) for the local sharpening guy to come by the restaurant. Often I was disappointed with the results and dismayed at the price.  My investment in the “tools of the trade” is pretty substantial, and to have my chef’s knife come back looking like a boning knife was very disconcerting! (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little.) Many local sharpening services and knife shops use grinders to sharpen knives.  While this method is very fast, unless the operator is very skilled, these grinders remove a great deal of metal and your knives get smaller and smaller!

I’m spending less time in the kitchen these days and more time sharpening knives. I’m enjoying this so much that I have started a mobile knife sharpening and mail order business. All sharpening is accomplished by hand using a method that insures a precise bevel (angle) across the entire blade. This is critical for uniform sharpness and a long lasting edge. Hand sharpening is not nearly as fast as machine work but the results are spectacular.

Knives don’t all of a sudden get struck dull.  It’s a gradual process that we don’t really notice until we have our knives professionally sharpened.  When we do, it’s truly amazing how much easier, more efficient, and safer our kitchen chores are.

I  will continue to post articles on knives, as well as on food, wine, and original recipes.

Please click here for more information about my knife sharpening service:  ChefSharp Knives

Thanks!

Ron

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STOP! DON’T TOSS THAT WINE

If you have ever poured out the last few ounces of a wine that was just a little too old to drink, this article is for you.

Sometimes a bottle of wine is opened and not finished.  Either it’s forgotten for a few days or for some other reason it becomes a little to old to drink.  Usually what happens to it is it becomes oxidized – giving it off flavors. These flavors disappear when the wine is simmered for a while.

If this is the case with a white wine, you can still put it to good use.  A splash of white wine in the pan after sautéing chicken or fish will help deglaze the pan and add a nice bit of acidity to a pan sauce – just make sure that the alcohol is evaporated before you drizzle it over the finished product.  If you are not going to be cooking for a while I would recommend putting the left over wine in a plastic container and freezing it until needed.

Small amounts of red wine can be frozen and added to until you have about a bottles worth or more.  At that point I like to prepare a sort of red wine essence which can be used to provide great color and flavor in stews, braises and also to deglaze sautéed pork and beef preparations.

I’m not talking about wine that is flawed from the start by being “corked” or from other obvious maladies.  Wines that fit that description should be discarded.

RED WINE ESSENCE

Place at least a 4 cups  of red wine into a non-reactive pot with 1 large peeled, finely chopped carrot,  1 stalk of finely chopped celery, 1 medium, peeled & chopped onion and a couple sprigs of thyme.  Slowly bring to a boil, turn down the heat &  simmer until it is reduced by half.  Strain off the wine and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

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New Years is the Perfect time to Clean Out Your Spice Rack

If you are like most people, your spice rack or cabinet probably contains dried herbs and spices that have long since lost their freshness.  It can be a painful process to toss out almost full containers of costly spices, but the flavor of your culinary creations will really suffer if you do not.   Look at your herbs and spices and notice if the color has faded, or if the aroma has diminished after crushing a little in your hand.  These are signs that it is time to replace them.

The best way that I have found to maintain freshness is to follow a schedule of replacement.  Since most products do not have clearly marked expiration dates on them, I write the month and year of purchase on the container.  Herbs should be discarded and replaced after one year. Ground spices within two years, and whole spices within 3 years.

Herbs & spices should be stored away from heat, light and moisture.  I know it is convenient to have your rack next to, or over, the stove but that is about the worst place for it. Other poor choices are near the sink or dishwasher.  A nice cool, dark cabinet is ideal.

You can really improve the flavor of your dishes by taking a few minutes once a year to go through your spice rack and throw out the old herbs and spices.

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The World is Your Oyster


Pair with Champagne,  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Muscadet

Oysters have been enjoyed by people for centuries. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans served them with wine and praised them for their aphrodisiac powers and they have often been associated with love.  They were so valued by Roman emperors that they paid for them by their weight in gold.

Make sure that the oysters you buy are very fresh and discard any that are open.  Store oysters, in an open container, in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days maximum.  Discard any that have cracked shells or do not close.  I like the smaller varieties like Kumamoto or Malpeque to serve raw.

My favorite way to serve oysters is au natural (the oysters, not me).  Wash the oysters well and insert an oyster knife at the hinge.  Apply a little pressure and pop the shell open.  Serve with one of the sauce recipes below or just a squeeze of lemon. Barbequed oysters are also delicious.  Just toss them on a heated BBQ grill with the flat side up.  In about 5 minutes they will pop open.  Using an oven mitt or a towel you can pry the shell open the rest of the way and top with your favorite BBQ sauce, Tabasco or lemon juice.

Classic Mignonette Sauce

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup white or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Oysters with Cucumber & Pickled Ginger Salsa

1 cup English cucumber – peeled and finely diced

5 tablespoons pickled ginger – finely chopped

¼ cup red onion – finely chopped

¼ cup cilantro leaves – finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least one hour.

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Holiday Entertaining Tips

The holidays are rapidly approaching and we have some ideas to make entertaining less stressful and more fun.

One of the most difficult questions to answer is how much food and wine will I need for my party?  Here are some guidelines to help you plan.

Hors d’oeuvres before dinner – plan on 6 -8 pieces per person. Make 2 -3 of each item and also serve easy to prepare items such as nuts, olives and assorted cheeses.

Figure 8 – 10 pieces per person per hour if hors d’oeuvres are the dinner.

Food Quantities for a buffet or sit down meal

Poultry, meat or fish 6 – 8 ounces per person

Pasta – 1 pound for 8 -10 people

Vegetables – 3 ounces per person

Salads – one handful per person

Wine – Figure on 1/2  bottle of  wine per person and make sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand.

Keep in mind that it is much better to have too much food and wine than it is to run out mid party.

Try to create a new tradition this year.  How about taking the family wine tasting?  Winter is a great time to learn more about wine, and wineries are usually less crowded.  Many states now have wine making regions of their own to visit if you do not live near the Napa Valley,

Happy Holidays

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