Thursday, October 22, 2015

Valerie, Marilu and Yotam - Two Celebrity Cooks And A Chef


Two celebrities have new(ish) cooking shows on The Food Network and one fantastic real life chef has a new book out.

I happened upon Valerie Bertinelli, because one of her dishes sounded really interesting. It’s funny how just giving something a new name makes it seem…well, new. I had never heard of “Cauliflower Steaks” until I saw her new offering on The Food Network.

Everybody loves Valerie Bertinelli from that long ago sitcom with Bonnie Franklin. Quick! What was the name of that show? Oooh, I need a minute. Family Ties? No. Who’s the Boss? No.
I completely forgot. OH, it was One Day At A Time. Oh well…

Anyway, this is nifty. The idea is that you cut 2, or possibly 3 if it’s huge, thick slices from the center of a cauliflower. That gives you “steaks”, which are roasted in the oven with the usual addition of olive oil, salt and pepper. Basically it’s roasted cauliflower, but in a slab.

It’s great for a main course type of thing for veggie lovers. Valerie tops it with pine nuts and yellow raisins. But depending on what else you’re making, anything goes. I’m thinking it would be good with polenta and tomato sauce. Or how about making curried vegetables (without the cauliflower) and serving those ON TOP OF the cauliflower steak with yellow rice?  Here was my effort. I was being cheap and tried to get 3 steaks out of one normal sized cauliflower. Don’t do that. Go for it and cut it THICK. 

And, PS, I've made this several times and when you cut the cauliflower properly, I like it cooked longer than the 25 minutes Valerie says. In fact, I turned down the oven to 400°F. and cooked it another entire half hour and it came out great. 

Valerie suggests making a cauliflower crusted pizza out of the remaining cauliflower. Now THAT idea has been around for a while. I do like her recipe though, because it’s relatively low in cheese and she uses only one egg. But I steam my cauliflower first (Valerie’s is raw) and there's no taste of cauliflower in the finished crust…which is a good thing. I wonder if hers tastes more cauliflower-y. Also Valerie doesn’t mention that the crust comes out like a thin vegetable omelet, not that there’s anything wrong with that...

By the way, after I looked into it a bit, there are a mere 609,000 results for Cauliflower Steaks on Google. I guess it’s like the time I thought I had invented Carrot Vichyssoise. I actually DID, though. It’s not my fault that scads of people had the same idea before me, including the world famous Four Seasons. What’s important is that IN MY MIND it was a totally new idea to add carrots to vichyssoise. Sooo I’m willing to give Valerie credit for the Cauliflower Steaks, even if more than half a million people thought of it before her.

Marilu Henner is very cool with her amazing memory, so I thought her cooking show might be fun. Imagine never having to write down every little variation you make to a recipe. You just remember! I’m not sure if it really works like that, but she is an enthusiastic cook (AND person).

The only bad thing is that as I was watching, there was a promo for Patricia Heaton’s new cooking show. Here I am with one celebri-cook and they’re pitching yet another. It makes me feel like a chump that I’m falling for this. However, it does follow that professional performers would do a good job on a cooking show (provided they know how to cook, of course). They can play to a camera and an audience and keep things moving. And I’d like to think that it’s hard to fool folks if you really can’t cook.

Back to Marilu. It appears that the show is filmed in her real house. (Her countertops are those small square tiles that people like to rip out because the grout is so hard to clean, but they do look festive.) I like Marilu’s idea of “modular cooking”. She makes lots of bits and pieces that people can put together as they like.

Apparently, her signature breakfast dish is crepes. Interesting. This may sound strange, but I have never made (or HAD) crepes FOR BREAKFAST. My favorite crepe recipe is an old Julia Child one that I always serve for dinner. You make a bunch of crepes and you get two (or more) contrasting savory fillings ready – often made from leftovers. Chicken in a mushroom sauce and sautéed peppers in a tomato sauce are two good examples. You layer the crepes in a medium soufflé dish, alternating the fillings. Then you cover the whole thing in a beautiful bring-it-all-together béchamel sauce – adding cheese if you want. Bake it and serve it in wedges. It’s really divine and there’s no reason you couldn’t serve it at brunch. I just never have.

Marilu has two good looking crepe pans ready, so that’s promising. She makes the batter in a blender and uses it immediately. Oy, it really should sit overnight or at least a few hours. As Julia taught us, the flour absorbs the liquid and then swells and softens the mixture. The crepes turn out lighter and tenderer. (More tender?)

Marilu says to make the crepes on the thin side. (At The Cordon Bleu, we were told our crepes had to be thin enough to read our love letters through.) Marilu seems to pour in way too much batter and doesn’t twirl the pan quickly enough to thin them out. They do look nice in the end, but they aren't that delicate. She IS feeding a house of young men, though, so I would imagine a thicker crepe is not going to offend them. She also makes turkey bacon, which looks completely factory-fabricated. I always go for either totally real bacon or totally fake bacon. If I’m not going make the real stuff, then I love this fake bacon. (It will be in some refrigerated section or other in your supermarket.)

It's REALLY GOOD. And I often make it in the microwave. It looks as fake as turkey bacon, but it tastes really bacon-y! And no animal had to be involved in its production.

With the crepes, Marilu serves chicken sausages, jellies and her fake bacon with bananas and little mandarin oranges. Oh, and warm syrup. The guys love it all.

Marilu touts her guacamole. I’m wondering if there’s some special spin to it. But I bet it’s really good. Why? Because it has exactly the same ingredients as mine, just in different quantities. Here’s her recipe for guacamole.  My guac recipe comes from the fabulous World Food Café cookbook. It’s not mine to give here, but please email me for the recipe.

All in all, I like Marilu’s recipes. She’s entertaining and pleasant to watch, as is Valerie. They’re not breaking a lot of new ground here, but I’m happy to have learned (as half the planet already knew) about Cauliflower Steaks. And I really do have to try crepes for breakfast sometime…after resting the batter though.

Yotam Ottolenghi has a new book out, which he talked about on CBS This Morning. It looks stunning. He co-wrote it with the head chef of his NOPI restaurant in London, Ramael Scully. I love fusion cuisine and what I find fascinating about Chef Scully is that his own personal history is an exemplification of that. He was born in Malaysia and grew up in Australia. His father is Irish and Balinese and his mother is of Indian and Chinese heritage. Wow! What a combo!

Apparently, one of things that Ottolenghi counseled Scully about was the number of elements he put on the plate. Ottolenghi told him there were too many. Well, with THAT varied a culinary pedigree, it’s easy to imagine Chef Scully wanting to include components from the many different traditions he was familiar with. He did winnow down his dishes and engage in a very beneficial collaboration with Ottolenghi and their efforts resulted in this book.

Listen to the name of this exciting dish:
Quail With Burnt Miso Butterscotch And Pomegranate And Walnut

Wowee! I want that. But could I really make it myself? I’ll let you know when I get my hands on this gorgeous book. For right now, I’m happy to know that such intriguing combinations exist in the world of food.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

Great to see you back on the blog! So many comments to make:

(1) Sadly, I'll never be able to forget that awful One Day at a Time show, but for a nice reason -- my mother's maiden name is Anna Romano, the name of Bonnie Franklin's character on the show. Sadly, I couldn't stand Bonnie Franklin, which makes it tough...

(2) I'm not surprised that actors are good on camera, but I am surprised when they can do stuff extemporaneously, since I'm not sure many of them ever do anything that's unscripted (even off camera, for that matter). I imagine a cooking show is a stretch for many of them, even if they can cook well.

(3) My uncle who is part Swedish showed me how to make his version of crepes for breakfast when I was about eight years old. Haven't had them in years, but they are delicious!

(4) I know what you mean about thinking you invented things, happens to me all the time. But if you haven't seen a recipe like it before, you did indeed invent it! Just not first.

Enough - happy to see you're back on the ether!


Sue said...

Hi Tom,

How could anyone hate the sweetie pie Bonnie Franklin, especially when she was named after your mother?!! (I actually don't remember ever watching the show, so maybe she was annoying...)

Yeah, you're probably right about unscripted things being tough for many actors. For all we know, every quip is carefully written and rehearsed.

Ahhh, Swedish crepes! Those would be good any time of day!

I like your attitude towards inventions. As long as I think it's new, it IS! (To me anyway...)