Monday, January 30, 2006

Butternut Squash and Grannysmith Apple Soup

This sweet rich winter soup is naturally creamy and easy to make. It always impresses friends. I made it for clients the other night, and they were glad I made extra for them to enjoy the next days! It's naturally creamy, so you can leave out the added cream if you like, but a small swirl is a nice garnish, and adds color contrast to the finished soup.

6 servings

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups yellow onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 medium butternut squash, about 3 pounds
2 grannysmith apples, peeled cored and chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple juice
salt and pepper, to taste
cream, if desired, to finish
1 grannysmith apple, unpeeled, for garnish

Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot or dutch oven. Add the onions, turmeric and white pepper and cook over low heat until the onions are translucent. While the onions cook, peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and chop the flesh. When onions are tender, add the chicken stock, the squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain about 1/2 the cooking liquid, reserving. Using a hand held blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the apple juice and stir until the soup is the consistency you like. If necessary, add some more of the reserved cooking liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper, heating through on low heat. Add a small drizzle of cream, if desired, and drag a skewer through it to form a design. For garnish, cut a thin disc off the apple, then slice as thinly as possible into half moon shapes. Spread out 3 slices to form a fan and place in center of each bowl just before service.

Words, words, words

I learned about this cool site from Harlan over at Somethink to Chew On. It's a company called snapshirts, which will create a "word cloud" of frequently used words on any website. Kind of like tags, in that the more frequently appearing words show up larger. If you ever wanted to read my blog in one fell swoop, here you go:

Kind of cool, only I think it would be cooler if the words were not alphabetized, giving it a more random feel.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chef Mark Quoted in the New York Times

Today's Long Island Edition of the New York Times has a wonderful article about Personal Chef Services. The article features several members of the NY Metro Chapter of the USPCA, and as President of the chapter, I am quoted in the article:

(Click on the image to read the article in full size, and expand your viewer window to maximum)

Mark Tafoya, the President of the Metro Chapter of the United States Personal Chef Association, said the trend was "surprisingly middle class" -- chefs charge $350 to $450 including the groceries.

"People have the best of intentions", Mr. Tafoya said. "On Saturday they go shopping and fill the fridge with produce and meats, and they have every intention of cooking all their meals, but life gets busy." Instead of cooking what they bought, he says, they end up ordering for delivery or going out to eat. "They get home and that food they bought on Saturday has gone bad and they end up throwing it out," Mr Tafoya said. "It actually ends up being more expensive than hiring a personal chef."

The article talks about several home meal replacement solutions, but it features personal chefs as the most customized and, of course, personal of the options available to busy people.

Weekend Dog Blogging #19

Stiva's Back!

I finally have my doggie back home. Many thanks to "Grandma" for taking care of Stiva for the past 3 months. He loved it in New Mexico, but there's no place like home, and Stiva wasted no time marking the building up again so everyone would know who's place this is! it's a rainy day here in NYC, so we won't get to go to the dog run and play with Stiva's friends.

I have a bunch of great photos from Stiva's stay in New Mexico, including some great ones of him canoodling with my Mom's cat. I'll get those posted for a future WDB roundup once I get them scanned.

For bunches of doggie photos, head on over to Sweet Nicks Place for the Weekend Dog Blogging roundup.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Podcast #21: Interview with John Moore of the USPCA

#21: Interview with John Moore, Executive Director of the US Personal Chef Association. We speak about the state of the industry, the public's trust in Personal Chefs, Creativity and the Personal Chef, and the Personal Chef Code of ethics

Kitchen Quick Tip: Keeping your Range clean

Featured Website:

Theme Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Chocolate: Food of the Gods

My latest ReMARKable Palate article has been published at The Gilded Fork. This month, our indulgence is chocolate, and in the article I explore the origins of this food of the gods from ancient Mesoamerica. Why do we find chocolate so intriguing, and is it REALLY an aphrodisiac?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chef Mark is now a Certified Personal Chef!

I just got my certificate in the mail, so it's official! I have achieved the designation of Certified Personal Chef, a title awarded to Personal Chefs who have been in the industry for some time and achieved a level of experience and education.

From the official USPCA website:

"The designation of Certified Personal Chef (CPC) is the industry’s highest mark of excellence, indicating a recognized endorsement of demonstrated expertise. Personal Chefs honored as CPC’s have earned this designation through education, experience and professionalism. Clients can be assured the Personal Chefs with a CPC designation represent the upper tier within their profession and are committed to excellence.

The CPC designation is the only certification for Personal Chefs listed in the Federal Governments employee certification database. Created to enhance the industry and recognize those who are truly outstanding in their profession, The United States Personal Chef Association constantly monitors, evaluates and regulates the CPC program to preserve the integrity and uphold the highest of standards associated with this honor."

I'm excited to be able to serve my customers further with the added endorsement of the industry.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New Mexico Green Chile

If you can find Hatch Green chiles, this dish will be authentic. They can now be found off season in canned form from the Hatch Chile Co in Deming, NM

1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin
12 New Mexican Hatch Chiles, roasted, seeded and chopped (or 1 28 oz. can )
2 cups water or broth

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic and saute until softened. Add all the remaining ingredients at once, and bring to a low boil., then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. This green chile can be pureed for smoother texture. I like to use an immersion blender and puree half of it, leaving come chunks of chile and onion in the sauce. In New Mexico, it's usually enjoyed quite chunky.

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Mexican Posole

I shared this recipe in yesterday's Podcast #20. This is a classic of New Mexican winter cooking. When I think of home, I think of posole. A bowl of this hominy-like stew with rich red chile and pork is my idea of heaven.

1 (3 pound) Pork Loin (or Pork Shoulder), cubed
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups dried posole
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons Oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 (4 ounce) cans of green chiles, chopped

Brown the pork cubes with salt and pepper, oregano and garlic and drain any excess fat. Rinse the posole well with cool water. Place it in a large stewpot with the pork cubes and cover with 2 quarts of water or enough to completely cover. Simmer at least 1 hour or until the posole kernels burst.

Add the onions and other seasonings, and simmer covered for several hours, adding water as necessary. The longer it simmers, the better it gets. During the last hour of cooking add the green chiles.

It's even better if you can make it a day ahead, then cool and refrigerate it, and reheat it for serving.

Serves 8-10

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Podcast #20: Michelin Stars and Comfort Food

#20: Michelin Stars and Comfort Food

The high price of a Michelin Star: Is it worth it?

New Mexican Winter comfort food
Recipe: New Mexican Posole

Featured Website: Somethink to Chew On

Theme Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Coffee with Lamb? Heck yeah!

We have been extra busy (and more than a little buzzed) over at The Gilded Fork this past week, as we developed some unorthodox recipes using everyone's favorite caffeinated beans. Head on over and check out the recipes I contributed to the effort:

Coffee Spiced lamb with Minted Coffee Sauce

Aromatic Spiced Coffee Rub for Meat

And just wait until next week, when we unveil our Food of the Gods Chocolate indulgences!

When oil and water won't mix

I found this excellent article on Emulsions - When Opposites Attract, with tips and tricks from chef Mark Vogel about how to make your dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades and homemade aiolis stay together. it's marriage counseling for your fridge!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Broiled Salmon with Tomato and Blood Orange Sauce

I spoke about this recipe on my Podcast #19. The original recipe used swordfish, which is on the short list of fish that women should AVOID during pregnancy because of potentially high levels of mercury. So I replaced the swordfish with salmon (as long as you are not using salmon caught in the Great Lakes, salmon should be low in mercury).

4 servings

4 6-8 oz. salmon filets
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 blood oranges, supremed and diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
finely diced red onion, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the sauce: Combine the vinegar, orange juice, and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and reduce until you have a syrupy sauce, about 1/5 cup. pour off a little of this sauce to coat the fish.

To the remaining sauce, add the diced blood oranges, tomatoes and red onion. cool.

Preheat a broiler, or heat the oven to 400°F. Brush the salmon with the reserved orange vinegar sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Broil a few inches from the heat until the salmon is cooked through and the sauce begins to caramelize. Allow the fish to rest for a couple of minutes, and serve covered with the blood orange sauce. Can be served with an herbed couscous and a slic of blod orange in a twist as garnish.

A Reader Question about Chicken

A reader (Harlan over at Somethink to Chew On) wrote a comment about the Sauteed Chicken over Wilted Spinach with Kumquat Sauce recipe I posted recently:

"Hi Mark. I just made this dish this evening -- fantastic! Thank you very much for posting it! One question about cooking chicken breasts... I've been getting this Murray's organic chicken breasts from the local butcher, and they're huge! Like, almost the size of turkey breasts! They're close to 2" thick, and they take something like 12 minutes to cook through in a saute pan. Needless to say, after 12 minutes, the chicken gets a bit overdone. Would you suggest pounding the chicken breasts flatter? Or should I try to find another source for chicken? None of my cookbooks suggest pounding chicken breasts, so I'm not sure if it's a bad idea or not... Thanks!"

Thanks for the comment, Harlan. If you look closely at the photo I posted, I actually pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness and cut them in half, because it seems that chicken is coming in gargantuan portions lately (more on that later).

I do think it helps to make the chicken more tender if you pound it out to an even thickness, about 1/4 inch. You can put it between two layers of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or the bottom of a small heavy bottomed pan. I also sometimes dredge them very lightly in flour before pan sauteeing them, as well. This helps to seal in the juices a little better. I usually start with a really smoking hot pan and turn them once they start to sweat a little on the upper side. Once I've turned them, I just let them finish up for a couple of minutes. I know that chicken must be cooked through, but in our zeal to avoid salmonella, sometimes we cook it too much and dry it out. A few minutes on each side should be sufficient.

I know what you mean about these gigantic chicken breasts we're getting lately. It makes me worried about the hormones that must be going into these animals. But as you point out, even the organic and supposedly hormone free chicken breasts are huge! It has to do with our American obsession with white meat, and the growers are breeding birds that are more heavy on the white meat than dark. Check out this great post on the subject by the always erudite Kate at Accidental Hedonist.

I'd be interested to hear more comments from readers on this topic.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Grading of USDA Beef

Did you ever wonder what all the different classifications of beef mean when you peruse the buther's case at the Grocery store?

Well, in an effort to help us all out, Michael Chu over at Cooking For Engineers has plucked this excellent guide to USDA Beef Classifications from his archives. Thanks, Michael!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Food Blog Awards

The Gilded Fork (listed under it's former name of Gastronomic Meditations) has been nominated for a 2005 Food Blog Award for Best Non-Blogging Food Site. The awards are sponsored by Kate from The Accidental Hedonist (itself perhaps the best food blog on the internet)

Polls will only be open until January 18, so please hurry on over and vote for the GF/GM as best non-blogging food site!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Podcast #19: Fish and Pregnancy

#19: Fish and Pregnancy
Which fish is safe to eat, and in what amounts?

Recipe: Broiled Salmon with Tomato and Blood Orange Relish

Quick Tip: Removing pin bones from salmon

Music: "Aim", Katy Stephan.

Featured Website:

Theme Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Let us know where you are!

I just started a group map at for readers and listeners of the ReMARKable Palate Podcast! Just go to to enter your location. I know that we have listeners from as far away as Wales, Brittany, and Singapore. Here's your chance to let it be known that you have a remarkable palate!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Straight Talk about Fish and Pregnancy

By now, most people are aware that there are concerns about dangerous levels of mercury in some fish, and the risks these fish pose to normal fetal development in pregnant woman. The FDA has issued warnings about 4 particular species of fish which can pose a significant risk of damage to the fetus: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel and Tilefish.

However, concerns remain about other fish and how much it's safe to eat during pregnancy. Some women cut out fish entirely during pregnancy, but this can be less than optimal, as the nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids in particular are very important, both for the fetus and for the mother's health. Here are a few articles about the issue:

From Is Tuna Safe During Pregnancy?
Too much tuna and other fish may harm your nervous system. Find out how much fish is safe for you and baby.

From WebMD: Mercury in Fish No Problem in Pregnancy

Kids OK if Moms Eat Big Fish, but not Shark or Whale Meat

And from the Seafood Consumer Center: Straight Talk About Eating Fish During Pregnancy
By Joyce A. Nettleton, DSc, RD

Despite some difference of opinion about which fish are OK and which to avoid, most seem to agree that the following fish are safe to eat in moderation:

salmon (except from the Great Lakes)
farmed trout
flounder and sole
farmed catfish, tilapia
crab, shrimp, scallops

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Decadent Coffee Drinks and Desserts

This month's Main Ingredient over at The Gilded Fork is coffee. Check out the dossier we have compiled about the history, cultivation, and uses of coffee. You may be surprised to learn, as I was, of the many interesting coffee facts we have compiled.

I provided a few recipes for Decadent Coffee Drinks, as well as a luscious Coffee Zabaglione, suitable for serving with ice-cream or on its own after a meal.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Podcast #18: New Year, New Focus

#18: New Year, New Focus

Bon Appetit Magazine gives Kudos to ReMARKable Palate Podcast!
Chef Mark named Executive Chef of The Gilded Fork Test Kitchen.
A Kumquat Primer:
Recipe: Sauteed Chicken over Wilted Spinach with Kumquat Sauce

Featured Website: The Moveable Feast

Featured Song: 'Souvenirs", Katy Stephan.

Theme Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sulivan.

Sauteed Chicken over Wilted Spinach with Kumquat Sauce

I adapted this from a recipe I found in Gourmet magazine. I was in possesion of some beautiful kumquats, and needed a recipe to use them up, so I chanced upon this one. It turned out wonderfully, and is a great winter citrus recipe.


6 kumquats
2 shallot
4 boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
6 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
8 cups packed spinach leaves


Thinly slice the kumquats, removing seeds. Slice the shallots. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and melt the butter. When foam subsides, season chicken with salt and pepper and saute, 5 minutes, until golden brown. Turn chicken and saute on second side until cooked through, another 4-5 minutes. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Cook shallot in remaining butter, until softened, about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over shallot and cook for another minute or so, until the sugar melts and starts to caramelize. Do not stir. Once the sugar starts to caramelize, add the kumquats, water, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Simmer until the sugar dissolves completely, stirring regularly. Add parsley, and season to taste with salt. Simmer until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Remove most of the sauce to a small bowl, and add the spinach to the remaining sauce, until just wilted.

To serve, divide spinach between the plates, and top with chicken, spooning sauce over the chicken.

4 servings

New Year, New Focus

Welcome to 2006! I'm back in New York City full time now, and ready to hit the ground running in 2006 with a renewed focus. I'll be back in full swing posting here, as well as adding new podcasts.

As you may have noticed, my writing for The Gilded Fork has started to increase. I am actually pleased to announce that I will be taking over the Executive Chef mantle for the website, running the Test Kitchen. You will also start to hear Jennifer Iannolo as a regular feature on the podcast. She will be contributing a short segment each show expanding upon her daily meditations that you see on The Gilded Fork website.

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