3-30 Minute Meals: Coconut Macaroons

Last night I had the privilege of teaching my 3-30 Minute Meal class to 16 fabulous individuals at the Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina.

We talked about basic cooking techniques, great meals you can make quickly, basic grilling tenants, and then finished up with some coconut macaroons (inspired by a Cook's Illustrated recipe). If you missed this class, or want to check out others I am teaching this quarter, click here.

Coconut Macaroons

1 cup cream of coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3 cups sweetened flaked or shredded coconut

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with the parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Whisk together the cream of coconut, corn syrup, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Combine the unsweetened and sweetened coconut in a large bowl; toss together, breaking up clumps with your fingertips. Pout the liquid ingredients into the coconut and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Form the cookies into loose haystacks with your fingertips, moistening your hands with water as necessary to prevent sticking. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.

4. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets until slightly set, about 2 minutes, remove to a wire rack with a wide metal spatula.

Shiso Ume aka Japanese Plum Paste

Last night, against all better judgment, I had a few of Joel's co-workers over for sushi. Two were in town from California and one is married to an amazing Japanese cook. Needless to say, one of our distinguished guests far trumped my knowledge of sushi in the kitchen. Had I remembered this when I originally planned the menu, I would undoubtedly have cooked Italian or French or Ethiopian or Thai or...

Anyway, most of the sushi turned out well and one in particular I loved. (No pics, sorry guys.) My Caprese-style-Halibut cones were super easy and a great use of our summer veggies. I mixed diced sushi-grade halibut, chopped cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt and lemon. I rolled this mixture up in nori cones with rice and served with a dipping sauce and wasabi.

The best roll of all was thanks to my out-of-town guest Matt. He brought me a gift of Shiso Ume, which is a Japanese plum paste. It comes in a bottle that looks a lot like wasabi, except it's purple. Trying it alone it has a very tart fruity flavor. As a "closer" roll, I made cucumber rolls with sesame seeds, rice and quite a bit of this paste. According to the box, the ingredients are: Japanese Plum Paste (not helpful), Cucumber, Beef Steak Plant, Xantahngum, Alcohol, Water, Lactic Accid, MSG and Natural Flavor. It was so delicious and very refreshing. Now I just need to find some in town...

Matt showed me some cool ways to make half-rolls and I shared with him how to cool sushi rice off fast with a blow dryer. Though while very awesome, would be totally not approved in his own kitchen. ;)

Have any signature rolls or great sushi tips of your own?

15 Minute Meal...Beef Tenderloin, Sauteed Spinach and Corn on the Cob

Sunday I stocked my kitchen with about 30 pounds of veggies from the Farmer's Market (baby eggplant, Asian eggplant, apples. rhubarb, peas, beets, peppers, spinach, corn...). This week I am doing my best to cook my way through them. Last night I made a dinner in about 15 minutes, nothing remarkable, but thought I would share it with you in case you find any of these tips handy.

My recommendation is to turn on all pans at once to speed up the cooking. Turn on the broiler, put the pot to boil and throw butter and garlic in a large pan for the spinach. By the time you have shucked the corn, washed the spinach, and wrapped the bacon around the tenderloin, you will be ready to get cooking!

2 4 oz Beef tenderloin (or fillet minion or any tender cut of meat)
2 pieces bacon
Salt and Pepper

Heat broiler to high. Wrap bacon around trimmed tenderloin pieces and secure with toothpick. S&P top and bottom of tenderloin. Place 3-4 inches below broiler and broil for 4-5 minutes on each side or until done. (Keep an eye - and a thermometer- on these guys as they will cook differently depending on how thick they are and how hot your oven is.)

Corn on cob, shucked
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold corn. Cook 5-6 minutes or until corn is al dente when poked with a fork. Remove from heat and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

1 lb spinach (I used Chinese Spinach, pictured)
3 TB Butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
Salt and Pepper

Heat butter and garlic over medium heat until butter is brown and garlic is soft. When other items are ready, throw in spinach, salt and pepper, and cook 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove from heat, reduce butter/water mixture until sauce-like. Pour over spinach.

Chinese Spinach is a hardier, spicier spinach that I had never used before. It held up really well in the saute pan and kept its form while adding a nice zing to the sweetness of the corn and the smokiness of the bacon.

Tip for the day: Research shows that washing a bag of pre-washed spinach can actually introduce more germs and bacteria than were in the originally pre-washed bag. (Cooks' Illustrated). So it really is pre-washed!

What delicious meals have you made in a jiffy recently?

On Cooking Octopus and Making Beet Salad

Ever since we moved to Minnesota ten years ago, I thought the advent of spring deserved a celebration. It comes upon us so quickly here that I never get around to actually planning a welcoming spring party. However, this year, I was a bit more proactive.

I have realized recently that as I am not working in a kitchen, or taking culinary classes (rather I give them) and watch no food tv, that the only source of inspiration I have is from my cookbooks and friends.

So why not cook some recipes from these famed coffee table culinary authors? I assembled a daunting menu that I was sure would challenge and perplex myself as well as some of my guests. Octopus Terrine, Carrot Terrine, French Baguettes, Crackers, Smoked Trout Spread, Roasted Beet Salad, Chicken Liver Mousse, Ceviche, Candied Citrus Peels and Fruit Tart.

All of these were completely brand new recipes except the mousse. I tried new cooking methods, used new ingredients and combined foods in ways I hadn’t tried before. Most of my inspiration began with chefs such as Keller and Aureole, but I quickly realized that many of their ideas on paper didn’t really translate well in the kitchen.

The most fun I had was with the octopus terrine, which absolutely would not have worked out if I had followed the recipe. I did however, manage to cook it in simmering chicken stock for about 20 minutes watching as it turned from a gray jellyfish consistency to a firm purplish-red bobbing creature.

I think the biggest hit was the beet salad. I am not a beet lover, in fact I loathe them, or did. Which is why I decided to make them. I will share my recipe here with you:

Beets Micro greens (or baby spinach)
Goat cheese
Bacon crumbles
Truffle Oil
Olive Oil
Salad Dressing

Cut root end off of beet and place on top of kosher salt in a square of tin foil. Pack three beets at a time (or two if they are large) in the tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 2 hours or until a knife inserted into the tin foil feels like it is cutting through butter.

Let cool, peel and slice thinly (wearing gloves). Layer on a plate. Toss greens with salad dressing (below is one option) and top beet salad artfully. For a full salad, place greens underneath beets. Garnish with toasted walnuts, pieces of goat cheese, bacon crumbles or lardons and finally drizzle with truffle oil and olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper for good measure.

Dressing: In saucepan reduce 1 cup of port and 1 cup of wine with 2 chopped shallots by two-thirds. Slowly stir in one cup of olive oil, juice from ½ lemon, and 2 tablespoons of balsamic (more to taste). Season with salt and pepper.

Joel's Favorite Lunch

For those of you who hate beans, this blog is not for you...and I know you are out there. This blog is devoted to disgustingly healthy eaters who love fresh veggies for lunch. At least once a week I make Joel a salad we fondly refer to as "Bean Salad". Should you have a better recipe title, I am all ears.

Basically the salad consists of the following ingredients and is delighfully yummy:

- Black beans
- Cilantro
- Tomato
- Minced Garlic
- Avocado if you have it
- Protein optional (canned tuna, seared raw tuna, or cooked and cooled beef or chicken...)

- Olive oil
- Dash of red wine vinegar
- A bit more of balsamic vinegar
- Squeeze of lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste

What is your favorite lunch?