Tag Archives: cauliflower

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceA little more than two years ago, Chef Jennifer Russo opened The Market Restaurant + Bar in Phoenix’s burgeoning Arcadia neighborhood. The restaurant with a neighborhood vibe is reflective of Russo’s use of Arizona-grown produce, dairy, and meats in both her catering and brick and mortar. More importantly, Russo’s growth as a decade-long successful caterer to a full-fledged restauranteur is an indicator of the quality of chefs and restaurants being developed out of the forty-eighth state. The Valley of the Sun, known for safe, corporate restaurants, is literally hungry for independent chefs.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

Born in New Jersey but raised in Arizona, Russo has long been cooking. She started learning some of the family secrets with her father’s grandmother, who emigrated from Italy. As a teen, Russo’s passion for cookery led to a variety of food schools in her Scottsdale-area home but eventually – at the age of twenty-one – became a San Francisco transplant at one of the city’s noted gastronomic institutions. Russo says, “I waited to go to school so I could learn the cocktail classes. I wanted to be of legal age.”
After graduating, realizing the expense of living in the City by the Bay, she returned to The Grand Canyon state and worked with two venerated Sonoran desert chefs continuing her epicurean education. It began with Vincent Guerithault of Vincent’s on Camelback, which led her to a sous chef position with Mark Tarbell at Tarbell’s.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceAfter working the line for years, Russo’s knees needed medical recuperation which led to the founding of her catering company. As her enterprise grew, so did the demand for her wares; clients would constantly ask when she was opening a restaurant.

Now, with a young son and several decades of operating her businesses, Russo has become as renowned as the gentlemen she worked with in Phoenix.

Below, Russo shares recipes for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce, Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs, and Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

Chef Questionnaire with a nod to Proust:

How long have you been cooking?
For as long as I can remember. But as soon as I could get a job, I started prep cooking @ Lewis Steven’s Catering Company at the age of 16.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love working with proteins and seasonal veg.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Beverages…Let me be honest, wine and water.

 

What do you cook at home?
I don’t get a chance to cook at home since opening The MARKET restaurant+bar. It seems silly to dirty my kitchen at home, especially when I can do that at work. But if I am cooking at home we go pretty big. As long as someone brings the dessert. You don’t want me making dessert.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The excitement they have for the food, wine, and cocktail menus. It makes it all worth it when they love it!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they share their negative thoughts on social media. I’m here a lot. Just tell me to my face and I will do everything in my power to fix it.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I seem to have a lot of items in delis.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
I love cookbooks from restaurants, so anything Thomas Keller is high on the list. I like how visual they are. But if I had to choose one go to, it would be Julia Child’s Mastering the art of French cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceYour favorite ingredient?
That’s not possible. Flaky salt.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Peanuts * I’m allergic!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peeling things

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean. So everything…

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms, if I had to choose one

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child past, Thomas Keller present

Recipe: Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

INGREDIENTS
Three 8-bone racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each), trimmed of all fat, bones frenched
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of one lemon
1 cup Pinot Noir
1 garlic clove
1 thyme sprig
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 425°. Season the lamb racks all over with coarse salt, pepper, minced garlic, & lemon zest. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet; both skillets should be ovenproof. Add 2 of the lamb racks to the large skillet and 1 rack to the medium skillet, meaty side down. Cook the racks over moderately high heat until well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the racks and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the skillets to the oven and roast the lamb for 15 to 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 120°or rare and 125° for medium rare. Transfer the racks to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the medium skillet over high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the wine into the large skillet and add the garlic and thyme. Set the large skillet over high heat, add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine and boil until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the garlic and thyme sprig. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper and strain the sauce into a warmed gravy boat.

To serve, cut the lamb into chops and arrange 3 chops on each dinner plate. Pass the Pinot Noir sauce at the table along with a little coarse salt for sprinkling on the lamb.

Recipe: Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

INGREDIENTS
Two 2-pound heads of cauliflower, cored and separated into 2-inch florets
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mashed potato
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
Salt
Pepper
Chives, chopped

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower florets until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well. Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, to dry it out.

In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream with the butter and bring to a simmer over moderate heat just until the butter is melted.

Working in batches, puree the cauliflower and mashed potatoes in a blender with the warm cream mixture; transfer the puree to a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and chives.

Recipe: Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs

INGREDIENTS
12 pearl onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound baby peas, blanched
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

METHOD
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearl onions and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact.

In a medium, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the pearl onions and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and simmer over moderate heat until the peas are tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the mint and chives, season with salt and pepper and serve. When plate is complete,  garnish with roasted cauliflower florets and fresh mint.

 

The End. Go Eat. 

Photos: Joanie Simon

I8tonite: with Friends, Team Changes and Mashed Cauliflower

Courtesy of Apatow Productions
Courtesy of Apatow Productions

I was watching “Bridesmaids”, the hysterical friends and relationship comedy with Kristen Wiig.  Though the movie is heavily based on deep female friendships, there is a poignancy — that as a gay man with a multitude of amazing women comrades I can identify — that underlies the relationships. In one side-splitting scene, and there are so many, Melissa McCarthy’s character visits Wiig’s Annie, who is feeling sorry for herself. Her baking business went belly-up. She’s lost her apartment because she doesn’t have a job, lives with her mother. Her car is a junker. The only thing she isn’t doing is entering rehab. Basically, she’s hit rock bottom. But McCarthy, with her robustness, throttles Wiig’s character, by knocking her upside the head, proclaiming, “I’m life. Is life bothering you?” And yes it is…,.and it’s not going away, like McCarthy in the scene.

Six years, ago it was like that for me. A 14-year relationship went into the toilet. My business tanked. My ex-partner in business and in life, well — turned out not to be such a significant other. Broke. No home. No car. And starting life again past the age of forty. After leaving everything behind in San Francisco– including the dog – (heartbreaking), I retreated to Los Angeles and to my best friends: Shelley, Lulu, and Bonnie. There are also my dear friends such as Kim, Pat, Sophia, Margot, Barbara, Kathy, and Jenny – many of whom I have known since the beginning of my career — but the pattern for me is women. With a couple of exceptions, such as my oldest friend Sean, John and former therapist Peter, these women, plus many more (Tanya, Annie, Myra, Myrna, Linda Chester, Katherine Lape, Julie, Charlotte, Teryann, Rita, Beverly, Katherine, Christine, Beth, Janet, Penny, Sharon – I know I’m forgetting someone. Forgive me if I am as the list is lovingly long) have been my salvation. My family. My friends. My confidantes.

I know the fairer sex isn’t all peaches and cream. There are some women I would never want in my corner: Lizzie Borden, the female half of Bonnie and Clyde, and Sarah Palin to name a select few.

Overall, the ladies in my life have been strong, resilient and loving. (This is what my memoir is about: a series of personal essays on the women I have loved as a gay man.)

Jessie with Mallard Cottage's chef Todd Perrin - site of one of my favorite meals this year! St. John's, Newfoundland
Jessie with Mallard Cottage’s chef Todd Perrin

With all that said, in less than five months – I can’t believe it – i8tonite.com has grown as a site to roughly over 10,000 unique visitors per month. I can’t keep up with its content and rapid growth. So, I have brought on Dr. Jessie Voigts to become my collaborator, co-publisher, and co-editor to assist in the endeavor. Another great feminine presence – to keep my ass moving forward.

Jessie has another site called Wandering Educators. There she is Queen Bee, holding court amongst her loyal subjects discussing the importance of travel in education.

Cauliflower by Liz West.
Cauliflower by Liz West.

Mashed Cauliflower: This holiday eating season, I baked up cheesecakes, biscuits, breads, assorted pies, and cakes. Now, I need a sugar and flour respite and some weight loss. I’m getting older, and it doesn’t come off as fast as it once did. Additionally, I’m 49. I want to look good as I hit that mid-century, I want to look Daniel Craig-splendid, all sinew, and muscle, one more time before I hang up the Speedo. Not for anyone else…..but for me, and Nick.

I made this dish, and I may never ever go back to mashed potatoes again. (I love potatoes!) It held the pot roast gravy perfectly and was luxuriantly delectable. Who cared that there wasn’t a spud in it? And it’s low carb.

To Make: Boil a head or two of chopped cauliflower, minus the outer leaves, along with several garlic cloves. Cook until it falls apart. Strain. While, the vegetables and garlic are still hot, add a dollop of cream cheese (don’t argue), grated parmesan or asiago. Use an immersion blender to puree. Add some chives. Serve this puppy with anything. Game-changer.

The End. Go Eat.

I8tonite: Gratineed Cauliflower with Parmigiana -Reggiano

20151003_180219I was in a yet to be opened LA restaurant at a friends and family tryout. It’s  a common practice among well-financed restaurants –  a testing of the waters before media reviews and the paying patrons type of thing.  Invited along with some media, local chefs, restaurant bon vivants and a few Los Angeles gadflies my fellow dining compatriot who was actually the invitee. I was along for the ride. We had met over several bottles of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay, Russian River at the Four Seasons Los Angeles years before.  (One of my favorite — I used to drink it like water back in the day.) As we sat there eating the comped food — testing and trying – I was disappointed. I mean, I know it was free – and had I been paying I would have sent some of it back. (The waitstaff was tipped on the bill that we would have been charged.) There was too much sauce on everything, the squid had been broiled too long and the flatbread – which used to be known as pizza — was a blackboard with artisanal toppings.  Seated at the next deuce to us, were the lovely husband and wife team of one my favorite LA eateries. My dining companion, the unnamed couple and I were talking amongst ourselves about how the best food is sometimes the simplest.  It doesn’t always need the sauce or maybe a little less of the herb; perhaps the watermelon radish pesto needs to evolve into something less. As we chatted about how disenchanted with the food we were, the phrase “keep it simple” kept popping up. Matter of fact, the female half – she was the pastry chef — of the cooking couple said, “Always take one thing away.” (Famed fashion designer Coco Chanel said that about dressing but it works for food just as well.)

Simple. It’s something that the famed chefs Alice Waters references in her cookbook, The Art of Simple Food; Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes – a series of cooking instructions for his college-going son on the essential twelve recipes – and Marcella Hazan, the Queen of Italian home-cooking who said, “What you keep out is as significant as what you put in.”

I try and apply this to my everyday life now – what I keep out is as significant as I put in.

(October 1 was Ms. Hazan’s second anniversary of her death. I didn’t know her but I’ve cooked from her books often.  This recipe is adapted from her Essentials of Italian Cooking and is dedicated to her.)

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets. Keep the rest for a vegetable or chicken stock later on.
  • 1 – 2 grated cups really good parmigiana-reggiano.
  • Half stick of unsalted butter
  • (Optional and my suggestion: A clove or two of garlic, several dashes of red chili flakes and parsley).

Let’s make this puppy:

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. While that gets nice and toasty, boil a large pot of salted water. Once the H2O it’s roiling and toiling, throw in the cauliflower and cook al dente – about 10 minutes. (It should have a little bit of a bite.) Drain in a colander.

Take a baking dish which will go from oven to table. Using the butter, grease up the dish liberally. Add the florets packing them in tightly. Dot with more butter and cover with the cheese. (This is where I slide in some garlic and sprinkle lightly with the chili flakes. You don’t have to – it just adds a little to the final product.) Place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes until the cheese is a browned and beautifully crusted.

Chop some fresh parsley, throw on top and serve.

You can also do this with ramekins so you serve individually. That’s up to you….isn’t it amazing what you can do with three ingredients?

The End. Go Eat.

Dinner at Mark’s

There is nothing like being with friends. Then, there’s nothing like being with friends and eating. Lastly, there’s nothing like being with friends, eating and laughing as we like to do when you sit down over homemade Indian dinner of Mulligatawny Stew, Spicy Pan Fried Cauliflower and Eggplant with Red Peppers.

Eggplant with Roasted Peppers
Eggplant with Roasted Peppers

It’s a connection that we don’t find so much as when there is a waitperson hovering around asking you what you want to eat. At someone’s house, after drinks are served, which you normally pour for yourself after inspecting each label, you walk into the kitchen and peer into the savory-smelling pots, asking, “What’s this? It smells so good!”

I’m blessed that I have friends who love to cook and share their food with me. I do think it’s truly a gift. Someone has taken the time out of their schedule to shop, slice and dice, and serve something made by their hands. It’s an emotionally soul-satisfying experience, kicking back and gossiping, talking about our latest trials and tribulations as being in their home or mine. It’s an intimate exchange between people and honestly, I’ve never ever had a bad meal at someone’s house. I really can’t say that about a restaurant.

Oven Roasted Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower
Oven Roasted Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower

Mark’s Indian Oven Roasted, Spiced Cauliflower & Potatoes

YOU WILL NEED:
1 (or 2 small) cauliflower, cut into florets
lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

COOKING:
TO start: Place a shallow baking pan on rack, while preheating oven to 475°F. You are getting the pan hot to begin roasting the vegetables.

Then, mix: Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Continue with rest of ingredients: While vegetables are oven-roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes.

Let’s finish this puppy: Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.