Category Archives: Tips

Yummy, Dirty Leeks

Leeks are grown in sandy soil.  Most tutorials talk about slicing a leek lengthwise, removing the root and dark green portions, and rinsing the exposed portion under water.  This is appropriate if you’re grilling or roasting the halved leek as a dish in and of itself, but a much CLEANER and very easy way to clean leeks if they are an ingredient is to fill a bowl with cold water, slice off the root and dark green, cut the leak in half lengthwise, then lay the cut sides down on a cutting board and slice through the leeks at 1/4 to 1/2 inch intervals.  Dump the slices into the water and swoosh around with your hands, let them sit and settle, then gently lift out the floating leeks and see all of the dirt at the bottom of the bowl!    If you’re sauteeing you can just lay them on a towel or paper towels to drain; if they’re going into a soup or stew just dump them right in – the extra moisture won’t harm a thing.  Here’s to “clean eating”!  For more tips and tidbits you can subscribe to Lula’s blog here.

The Value of Saffron

 macrosaffron_flower

By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and more expensive than many precious metals…this is due to the fact that saffron must be hand harvested from a special fall crocus flower.  Each crocus flower only produces 3 stigmas (strands of saffron), and it takes over a quarter million strands to produce a pound!

Saffron has been around multi-tasking since about 1000 BC – as I wrote in a previous post – it used to be scattered on the floor of gathering halls and theatres in Greece and Rome to help cover the “scent” of humans :).  Other uses are medicinal – as with most yellow and red foods, it’s really good for you!

As far as food goes…saffron is prized for its honey-hay like flavor and aroma, and of course, the golden yellow color it produces with just a pinch into any sauce, rice, soup, etc.  Buy your saffron in tiny amounts in whole stamen form.  The ground stuff isn’t nearly as good as it has more stuff from the flower to make it weigh more.  If you just can’t bring yourself to spend the $$ when a recipe calls for saffron, try substituting turmeric (VERY good for you).

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses saffron in bread, soups, stews, risottos like our Saffron and Orchid Petal Risotto, and even desserts!  Have you tried saffron in a dish?  Tell us how you liked it here !

Make your own Herbed Vinegar!

app Baba Lula Ganoush

Wanna be fancy?  Wanna “look” fancy at your next get together?  Pick your vinegar:  Apple Cider, White, Wine, or Rice …let’s stop there and keep it simple.  Add 3 tablespoons fresh herb or mixture of herbs of your choice (mix a couple and make it a “house” vinegar”) for every quart of vinegar.

Don’t use ground herbs or spices because the vinegar will get cloudy.  Store it at room temperature, with a lid on, making sure your herbs are covered in the vinegar.  It will be ready in 24 hours, and after you use some, you can top it off again with the same original vinegar.  Just make sure your herbs stay covered.  If you’d like, you can remove the herbs after a couple of days.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses our Tarragon Vinegar to make pickles that we put in several recipes ( see pic of our Baba Lula Ganoush garnished with them!)

Vinegar is a preservative, but it does have its limits.  The word itself is derived from the French “vin aigre” meaning  “sour wine”.  Don’t use more than around 3 tablespoons of your herb mix per quart because too much foreign “matter” can result in food poisoning.  Happy Creating!

What do Toothpaste and Tomato Paste have in Common?

The way you can squeeze every bit out of the tube…these days there are quite a few condiments in tubes that look a lot like toothpaste.  Whatever you call it – the “toothpaste winder” or the “tube squeezer”, you can use it for the condiments just like you would on a tube of toothpaste!  Frugal, anyone?!?  For more tips and tidbits  like these you can subscribe to Lula’s Blog here.

Some Lent Learnin’

Entree Curried TilapiaLula’s Curried Tilapia

So, for lots of us (and the grocery stores) fish is in store for the next few weeks – and I want to give you a helpful tip to keep your at home fish from being tough and dry.

Fish (any kind) contains ALOT of water and has a very loose protein structure that makes cooking fish a delicate process.  You just don’t want to over cook fish, because fish, more than any other protein, has dramatic “carry-over” cooking.

What is carry over cooking?  Well…you follow instructions when roasting meet to “let it rest” to re-absorb juices, right?  Well, it’s also finishing the cooking process right there on the counter.  That’s why most cookbooks/instructions tell you that medium rare is 130 degress…but they tell you to pull your meat from the heat at 125 degrees.

Same for fish, and funnily enough, when you cook your fish at a higher temperature, the carry over cooking is much more dramatic (ex. salmon at 250 degrees reaching a 125 temp will raise another 7 or so degrees sitting on the counter for 5 minutes, but salmon cooked at 450 degrees to 125 will raise another 27 degrees after 5 minutes!!  SO…..UNDERCOOK your fish at a LOW temperature and let it rest just like you do meat, and you’ll have moist, flaky, perfectly done fish!!  You’re welcome.  -Lula

It’s Rhubarb Season!

I love Rhubarb.  Every year I make a big batch of Raspberry Rhubarb Preserves and use it in various applications till it’s all gone (usually end of summer).  Sometimes though, I run across Green Rhubarb, and because I use it in savory applications as well, I researched a bit about this “twin” (think of it as a fraternal twin) – it only lacks the anthocyanin pigments which gives certain rhubarb its red hue.  This pigment is flavorless so there’s no difference in taste between red and green rhubarb (sour!!).

…AND I’ll say it again…DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!  Do not try to cook the leaves or eat them raw – they are not innocuous like beet greens – they are poisonous to the point of DEATH!!!  If you’d like occasional tips, fun facts and cooking info click here!

Let’s Ramp it Up!

 Lula will be foraging in the Red River Gorge this weekend for these lovely delicacies…a bit early but hey!  we’ve got Global Warming!!  Ramps are also called Wild Leek, Wild Garlic, and/or Ramson, and are a member of the onion family that sprouts in early spring in woodlands all over the world.  Bulbs AND leaves can be used raw or cooked.  To me, they are reminiscent of a blend of chive and garlic.  Yummy!!  So…you’ll be finding them all over fun menus where creative chefs dwell – and you won’t need to ask “what’s this?!?” – Lula has already educated you!!  For more fun tips like this one, subscribe to my blog here .

Happy Valentine’s Day! Is Cabbage the New Kale?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cabbage’s reputation has been transformed from peasant fare to superfood. It’s the new kale.    With the “fermentation rage” going on, I thought it might be a great time to prime you on the varieties of cabbage.

If you believe everything you read about the health benefits of this brassica, you should be eating it every day. For a start, it’s high in vitamins A, B, C and K, full of fiber, iron and potassium and said to have cancer-preventing benefits. If that isn’t enough, it ranks as the vegetable with the fewest amount of calories or fat (at a mere 25 calories per 3.5 ounces.) Oh, and it’s cheap.

Cabbage is extremely versatile. You can use it in stir fries, sautés and braises, with meat, poultry, fish or all on its own — think corned beef, sauerkraut, kimchi, coleslaw, soups, braises, raw, pickled and more.   You can find Lula’s tasty, beautiful appetizer (above) Brown Sugar Rubbed Pork Loin on Black Bread with Braised Cabbage and Apples here.  You can stuff cabbage leaves or use them raw as a natural container for sautéed vegetables or meat.

Cabbage Varieties To Know

Green Cabbage – Green cabbage is the most basic and common of cabbages. Use it in salads and slaws, stir-fry it, or slow-cook it in soups and stews to bring out its essential sweet nature. Look for heads that feel heavy for their size (which can range from softball to almost basketball size,) with tightly packed, moist looking leaves. Green cabbage can be used raw in slaws and salads and holds up to all kinds of assertive, strong flavors.

Red Cabbage – Red cabbage looks like green cabbage except, well, it’s red. Red cabbage heads tend to be a bit smaller than the green ones but look for tightly packed, moist-looking leaves and heads that feel heavy. Red cabbage is delicious thinly sliced in salads like slaws or can easily be cooked. The rich color of red cabbage offers a concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, as well as antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory properties.

The only downside to red cabbage is that it can turns an odd blue color when cooked. Add vinegar or a touch of lemon juice when cooking to avoid blue food!

Savoy Cabbage – Savoy cabbage is also known as curly cabbage. With ruffled, lacy, deeply ridged leaves, these cabbages are gorgeous and tasty. The tender leaves tend to be more loosely layered and less tightly packed than green or red cabbage, although it can be used in much the same way — raw in salads, stir-fried, braised or added to soups and stews. Because the leaves are so tender you can use this cabbage a wrap for rice dishes or stir fried meat.

Napa Cabbage – Napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage, has a different look than other cabbages. It has long light-green leaves and white stalks that appears more lettuce-like with a mild flavor that has a bit of a spicy, almost peppery kick at the end. Great for pickles, kimchi, stir fries and salads.

Bok Choy – Bok choy has a mild flavor most often used in stir fries, but is delicious braised and used in simple preparations. The cabbage flavor is subtle.

No matter what type you buy, look for cabbage heads that are firm, shiny, feel heavy for their size and, except for Napa cabbage, have tightly packed leaves. While you don’t want bruised or beaten-up vegetables, you can peel off and discard the outer leaves, so they need not be pristine.

Cabbage will keep best refrigerated, and will last several weeks.   If you insert cabbage into your diet on a regular basis, the “rumble in your tummy” will dissipate in only a few days and the nutrition is worth it!

A Note From Chef Lori

A Valentine’s (or any other amour) appetizer – our Heart’s Afire 5-Spice Quail Breast in Puff Pastry with Wilted Winter Greens and Apricot Mustard.

Click here to visit our website!

 

A Slice of Lemon, Please

Next time you order iced tea and the waitress asks, “With Lemon?” do yourself a favor and say yes.  If you make iced tea at home, a slice of orange will do almost the same good as the lemon, with a slice of lime coming in third.

Researches at Purdue University say adding the citrus slice helps you absorb far more of the antioxidants in tea, whether it’s green tea or black.

Citrus fruit is wonderful for you in many ways.  Lula’s for Lunch… and More! Catering incorporates citrus fruit into MANY of our dishes, sometimes overtly, and sometimes you’ll never even know it’s there!

lemons'nlimes

De Arbol Chiles (Cayenne)

Ground Cayenne comes from the De Arbol Chile – which is found in abundance in New Mexico.  I’m currently reading a book about chiles (yes, there are whole BOOKS written about chiles!), and it made me remember a time long ago when I traveled to New Mexico and experienced many things for the first time.  I was so excited about the chile wreaths and decorations they make there that I purchased one and brought it back home to Cincinnati.  I hung it in my catering kitchen.  It was beautiful!  A couple of months later, I noticed what appeared to be “fruit flies” but smaller, one at a time, floating around the house.  A swat here, a swat there, no problem!  But within days, they were getting in my eyes, and crawling up my nose, when I walked into the kitchen.  I called mom.  They know everything, right?  Well, if they don’t, they care enough to find out.  After 2 or 3 calls back and forth after she consulted with friends, and alot of questioning, it turns out the chile wreath had been the host of thousands of microscopic eggs, which hatched and became fleeting residents of Cincinnati Ohio.  The remedy:  freeze the wreath.  It was winter by then so I just set it out on the back deck overnight and voila!  Problem “debugged”.  Wreath rinsed and back in place for all to enjoy!  Moral of the story: rinse your chiles before eating – even if you’re not a caterer!! – Lula