Marie's Kitchen -- My favorite foods are made with LOVE


New Year’s is the oldest of all holidays, and New Year’s resolutions date back more than 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. Our one-day celebration pales in comparison to their 11-days. What we do have in common, though, is the belief that a new year is an opportunity for a fresh start and a new beginning.

Marie Cook: Marie Cook with Steakhouse’ 26 chef, Steve Hagen. Hagen is a Johnson and Wales culinary arts college graduate.Marie Cook with Steakhouse’ 26 chef, Steve Hagen. Hagen is a Johnson and Wales culinary arts college graduate.Just remember: There’s no value in resolutions unless you put motivation behind them. I’d like to hear about your resolutions and your ability to stick to them. The most common New Year’s resolution, of course, is actually a combination of three:

(1) Lose weight;

(2) Exercise more;

(3) Eat healthier.

Dave Bennett, class instructor and personal trainer at World Gym at 2 Town Road in Ocean View, advises clients to eliminate the word “resolution” from their vocabulary.

“When my clients call them goals instead of resolutions, the success ratio increases,” he said. He also suggests reducing portion sizes, the number of snacks you consume, scheduling mealtimes and sticking to them, and making proper food choices.

“You can still enjoy the foods you love,” he said, “by choosing all things in moderation.” He encourages clients not to eliminate all carbohydrates from their diet. “By eating good carbohydrates, you increase your metabolism which facilitates weight loss,” he said. “Eat right, work out, and move!”

According to Dr. Donald D. Hensrud, preventive medicine and nutrition specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., “Good carbohydrates are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other substances that promote health. Variety and portion control are keys to a healthy diet, and excluding or severely limiting one food group — such as carbohydrates or fat — isn’t a proven answer to long-term health.”

Good carbohydrates include, but are not limited to: fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, beans (especially garbanzo, kidney and soy beans and lentils), oats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, seeds, broccoli, spinach, peas and raw mushrooms.

I visited Steakhouse 26 Restaurant in the new Millville Town Center and spoke to Chef Steve Hagen, a Johnson and Wales culinary arts college graduate. Steve was just 16 years old when he first took a job that required cooking; after that, he was hooked. He praises his mentor, Greg Peterson, for providing encouragement, and instilling in him a passion for cooking.

Even though he works long hours, Hagen knows he’s fortunate to make a living doing something he’s passionate about.

“I get to see results every day. I’m also given great flexibility in the dishes I prepare,” he said. “Seafood dishes are my favorite; I enjoy working with a variety of fish. And it’s rewarding when patrons compliment my creations.” With a menu that changes daily, Hagen’s flair for creativity has plenty of room for expression.

He knows that many of us will be adding more fresh salads to our New Year’s menus. One of his favorite salad dressings is Maple Walnut Vinaigrette. He gladly shared the recipe.

Chef Hagen’s Maple Walnut Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

p 1 cup walnuts, puréed

p 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

p 1/2 cup maple syrup

p 1 cup blended oil

(90% canola, 10% extra virgin olive oil)

p 1 shallot, finely minced

p 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

p Salt and pepper to taste

p 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

p 4 teaspoons baking soda

p 5 cups all-purpose flower

p 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

p 1-1/2 cups raisins

Method for Maple Walnut Vinaigrette:

Using a blender or food processor, mix the puréed walnuts with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. While you’re processing, begin adding the blended oil and continue to add it while the machine is running; the mixture will begin to emulsify. Combine the minced shallot with the chopped parsley, add this mixture to the blender and continue to process until everything is well integrated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 2 cups.

One of my goals for 2007 is to add extra servings of fish to our weekly menus. Some of my friends say cooking fish is too difficult, but the following recipe for Citrus-Marinated Fillets is easy enough for beginners. I hope you’ll try it.

Citrus Marinated Fillets

When buying blocks of frozen fish, make sure they’re solidly frozen and that the package sides are straight, not curved in or out. The package should be tightly sealed and show no signs of frost.

Ingredients:

p 1 pound fresh or frozen fish fillets

p 1/3 cup water

p 1/3 cup lime juice

p 2 tablespoons honey

p 1 tablespoon canola oil

p 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

p 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method for the Citrus Marinated Fillets:

Thaw fish, if frozen. Separate fillets or cut into 4 serving-size portions. Place fish in a shallow pan. For marinade, combine the water, lime juice, honey, canola oil, dried dill weed, and salt. Pour marinade over fish portions. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours; turn fish occasionally.

Preheat broiler.

Remove the fish from the pan, reserving marinade. Place the fish on the greased rack of an unheated broiler pan, tucking under any thin edges so the fish will be uniform in thickness and cook evenly.

Broil fish 4 inches from heat until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. (Allow 5 minutes for each 1/2 inch of thickness; if fish pieces are more than 1 inch thick, turn halfway through cooking time.) Baste fish often with reserved marinade during broiling. Brush fish with marinade just before serving. Yield: 4 servings.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions (or goals) is to use your slow-cooker more often, here’s an easy recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken.

Slow-Cooker Chicken

Ingredients:

p 4-pound roasting chicken

(you may substitute parts)

p Salt and pepper to taste

p Onion salt to taste

p 3 tablespoons butter, melted

p 1 teaspoon dried tarragon

p 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

p 1/3 cup dry white wine

Method for Slow-Cooker Chicken:

Wash and dry chicken, and sprinkle inside and out with salt, pepper and onion salt. Put chicken in cooker, breast side up, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parsley and tarragon. Add wine. Cover the slow cooker. Cook on high for about an hour, then turn to low and continue cooking for 8 to 10 hours, until chicken is done. Yield: 6 servings.

Two years ago, when my husband and I were in France, our tour guide gave me a recipe for Tien. Tien is actually the name of the casserole that it’s cooked in, but she didn’t call the recipe anything else. In the little shop where I purchased my dish, the owners didn’t speak English and my French was worse than rusty. But the word “tien” did the trick. They showed me several and I bought a beauty. Of course, this dish can be prepared in any casserole — glass would be pretty, because of the colorful layering. The listed ingredients provide enough for two layers, but save a few tomato slices for the top.

Stella’s Tien Ingredients:

p 4 large tomatoes, cored and sliced thick

p 4 medium-size green zucchini, slicked thick

(do not peel)

p 1 large purple eggplant, sliced thick

(do not peel)

p 1-1/2 large white onions,

peeled and sliced thick

p At least 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

p Salt and pepper to taste

p 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence

(or Italian seasoning)

p Juice of two fresh lemons

Method for Stella’s Tein

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 2-quart ungreased casserole, begin the first layer by arranging tomato slices in a circular motion. Continue with a layer of zucchini slices, then eggplant slices, and onion slices. Repeat for the second layer. Top with tomato slices. When layers are complete, pour extra virgin olive oil over all and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the Herbes de Provence with the lemon juice and pour evenly over the casserole.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until caramel colored; serves 6 as a side dish.

Serve this dish with all kinds of meat and chicken, or for vegetarians it’s great just with bread and buttered/Parmesan pasta.

Helpful Hint: I’ve seen many hints for identifying hard-cooked eggs from raw ones in your refrigerator — everything from adding balsamic vinegar, or food coloring to the cooking water to color the shells. But my frugal nature says that’s wasteful. All I do is spin the egg on the counter. Hard-cooked eggs spin very fast; raw eggs spin very slowly.

Kitchen Equipment: My rice cooker is getting old and too much rice was sticking to the bottom. I now spray the bottom and sides of the rice cooker bowl with non-stick spray before adding the rice and water. It works.

(Editor’s Note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, c/o Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, Delaware 19970; or by e-mail at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by Coastal Point.)