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Thursday, March 8, 2012 02:55 am

Pro chefs’ good eats

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Chef-Instructor Denise Perry demonstrates the proper technique for cutting a whole salmon.
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE
One of the best things about writing for the Illinois Times is getting to meet people.  That’s never been more true than while I was working on this week’s cover story.  Everyone at LLCC’s Culinary Institute was helpful and friendly, from the administrative staff to the students.  Teaching chefs Denise Perry and Kate Almengor weren’t only helpful, they were also generous enough to share some of their best recipes and the stories behind them.    

Denise Perry’s Grilled Salmon with Tomato Olive Relish
 “I often prepare this salmon and its fresh relish topping in summer when I don’t want to turn on my stove!  The relish is bright and flavorful, cuts the salmon’s richness nicely, and uses produce that you may have growing in your garden.  The relish also pairs nicely with chicken.”

For the relish:
  • 1 c. quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 c. pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 T. finely diced red onion
  • 3 T. capers, drained
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh marjoram, oregano, or basil
  • 2 T. finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

For the salmon:
  • 2 lbs. salmon, cut into four portions
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Combine the relish ingredients in a bowl and let stand for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors. Brush the salmon with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill to your desired degree of doneness. Top each portion with the relish and serve. Serves 4.

Denise Perry’s Moroccan Keftas (Meat Balls in Sauce)
“This recipe came from my husband’s aunt, who’s traveled extensively. We received a tagine from my sister when we married and began seriously hunting for wonderful ways to use it. (A traditional Moroccan earthenware cooking vessel, the tagine consists of a shallow bottom with conical lid; like American casseroles, it’s not only a term for the vessel itself, but also preparations cooked in it.) The keftas are scented with the traditional warming spices associated with Moroccan food.  The bulgur pilaf has a nice nutty flavor, and is easily prepared.”

(Variation: ground lamb is often used to make keftas in Morocco; it can be substituted for the ground beef, as can a mixture of the two. – JG)

Moroccan Keftas (Meatballs)

For the Keftas:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 c. finely minced onion 
  • 1 T. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly, then sauté a tablespoon to taste-check the seasoning. Form into walnut-sized meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until they are cooked through – about 15 minutes.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

For the Sauce:
28oz. can diced tomatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 T. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 c. finely minced onion
Salt (optional)

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, sauté the onion and spices in the olive oil until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the tomatoes and their juices and cook for 10 minutes.  Check the seasoning; depending on the saltiness of the canned tomatoes, you may or may not need to add salt. 

Add the reserved meatballs to the sauce and cook until they’re heated through. 

Serve with bulgur or couscous.

Bulgar:
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small chopped celery stalks
  • 1 large or 2 small chopped carrots
  • 1-1/2 c. bulgur (cracked wheat, available at Food Fantasies and some grocery stores.)
  • 3 c. beef stock OR 3 c. water and 1-2 tsp. beef bouillon (Perry prefers the Better Than Bouillon brand)

In a large saucepan with a close-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables, stir to coat them with the oil, and sauté a few minutes until they’re softened. Add the bulgur, stir to combine, and sauté a few minutes more.  Add the beef stock or water and bouillon, stir to combine, and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan and turn off the heat.  Let stand for about 15 minutes.  The bulgur will steam and absorb the liquid. Serves 4 - 8.

Kate Almengor’s Bananas Foster Chocolate Bread Pudding
Though Almengor was happy to share one of her best recipes, she says, “ It’s a bit overwhelming to go through my mind’s recipe Rolodex and pick one!  It’s almost like having to pick your favorite child!  Ha!”

 “The first that comes to mind, and one that’s sure to impress, is my Bananas Foster Chocolate Bread Pudding.  Shortly after starting culinary school, I was asked to headline the dessert for a friends’ special valentine dinner.  All fifty guests knew I’d started becoming a “professional pastry chef” and eagerly awaited the meal’s finale.  Out came the warm, spongy rich chocolate bread pudding, topped with rich cinnamon ice cream and bathed in a sweet pool of caramelized bananas.”

 “This dessert can be fancy or simple. Cut slightly warm bread pudding into rounds and serve with perfectly scooped, pre-frozen ice cream balls, surround by the caramelized bananas and top with a couple chocolate shards; or simply spoon out the pudding, top with ice cream and smother with bananas.  Either way, this dessert is sure to win you a chef’s title, even if for just one meal!”

Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • 2-1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2-1/2 c. whole milk
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 lb. white bread

Combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan.  Heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 1 minute.  Add the chocolate and stir until it is melted and completely blended in, then add the vanilla. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then gradually beat in the warm chocolate mixture.

Cut the bread into large cubes and place in a greased 9x13 inch pan.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the bread, making sure all the bread is coated. Let stand, refrigerated, for 1 hour or longer, so the bread absorbs the custard mixture.  If necessary, push the bread down into the pan once or twice after the mixture has had time to stand.

Bake at 350 until set, about 30-45 mins. 

Cinnamon Ice Cream
You can make homemade cinnamon ice cream, but a great trick is to buy good quality vanilla ice cream, let it soften for 5-10 minutes at room temperature in a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment and mix until smooth, add cinnamon to your liking, then refreeze.  It creates a homemade texture that takes just 10 minutes to prepare!

Caramelized Bananas
  • 8 medium-small firm bananas, peeled
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. dark rum, or orange juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cut bananas in half lengthwise and slice into thirds. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and lay the banana slices on top, cut side up. Cook undisturbed for 20 seconds, then add rum (or orange juice) and cinnamon. Cook for 10 seconds, then turn bananas carefully and cook for 45 to 60 seconds more, basting with the pan sauce. Divide the bananas between the dessert plates, drizzling the sauce on top. Serve immediately.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.
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