Saturday, April 28, 2012

Navy culinary specialists compete in seafood cookoff

NEW ORLEANS (April 20, 2012)-- Navy culinary specialists took part in a cook-off as part of Navy Week New Orleans, one of several events scheduled for the Navy-wide War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration. The events included a series of city visits by the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Operation Sail beginning in April 2012. They will conclude in 2015. New Orleans is the first and the last city visit in the series. 
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Solrosita De Perio, assigned to the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), garnishes a judges dish at the LA Seafood Cook-Off.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class DePario purchases food for the cook-off.

Johnny Blancher, right, cook at the Ye Olde College Inn, shows Culinary Specialist 2nd Class De Perio how to prepare a dish for presentation to the judges.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Preston Paglinawan.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetable barley salad

Over my tenure as the chef at the recovery house, I've looked for ways to introduce new foods into the diet of the residents. This often means bringing ideas to the table from beyond standard institutional fare. I enjoy showing the residents that there is more to life than casseroles, processed foods and canned vegetables.

Since I first introduced brown rice unannounced two years ago, healthy whole grains have replaced about 60 to 75 percent the processed grains. Most of the sandwich bread is made from whole wheat. And I buy whole grain pastas when possible.

While I prepare a barley soup on occasion for the lunch meal, barley has never played a big part in the menu. I recently purchased several one-pound bags at the market (my supplier only offers large quantities). I plan to offer a number a barley salads and side dishes to the residents over the coming months.

The residents enjoyed a barley salad with julienne strips of carrot and zucchini at lunch today. Barley salad is a simple salad combination that can be used to create any number of flavor combinations. Use the recipe as a starting point, exchanging ingredients and adjusting flavors to suit.

You can go in any direction that you desire. Nuts add crunch and boost the salad's nutritional appeal. And who doesn't enjoy the rustic goodness of feta, Gorgonzola or bleu cheeses? You create a salad that brings the best garden produce to the table when one of these cheeses are pared with garden fresh grape tomato halves and fresh basil..

Any variety of vegetables can stand in for the carrots or zucchini. Try julienne strips of fennel or sweet peppers (multiple colors, of course). Other options abound, like radishes, spinach or corn. Even fresh peas would liven the salad. Just use your favorite produce in roughly equal amounts as listed in the recipe.

The residents enjoyed the salad. I plan to add it to the growing list of salads at the home. They should see it every week or two. It may never be the same, as I often use salads to showcase the fresh produce I buy at the local farmer's market. Once the market opens for the season next month, I'll prepare vegetable barley salad often.


I enjoy the barley salad on a bed of mixed salad greens with a extra drizzle of the vinaigrette. I prepared a vinaigrette with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar for the recipe today.

1 pound barley
4 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 pounds zucchini, julienne cut
1 pound 4 ounces carrots, julienne cut
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 (4-ounce) jar capers, drained and rinsed
2 cups vinaigrette (prepare your favorite)

1Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt and barley; stir and cover tightly. Cook on low heat until barley is tender and all water is absorbed, about 40-50 minutes. Rinse under cold to cool barley; place in large bowl; refrigerate until ready to mix salad.

Mix vegetables and barley. Mix vinaigrette into barley and vegetable mixture. Adjust seasoning; refrigerate for 2 or more hours to blend flavors. Makes about 4 quarts. Serves 25 (1/2-cup) portions.

Friday, April 20, 2012

So many restaurants

By Penny Welch

We are beginning to get settled from our move from Texas back to Idaho. The Boise area has certainly expanded during our years away. Since getting married and until now, we have lived in rural areas with few options for dining out.

One observation we've made here is there are so many choices for eating out that one could choose a different restaurant every day for weeks on end. All these establishments would not stay in business very long if they had to depend on our visits. Filling all those restaurants all the time must mean that many people are choosing to eat out quite frequently.

When we were traveling, there was no option other than to eat out. We soon realized that dining out was quite expensive; and, sometimes not very enjoyable due to waiting to be served, noise, and even disappointment.

We became anxious to start cooking for ourselves again; not only to save money but also to enjoy our own home-cooked meals. We still derive a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in preparing delicious meals for our enjoyment.

Don't get me wrong. We, too, enjoy eating out once in awhile and having someone else wait on us. But, for us both, eating out has always been for extra special occasions, usually for the purpose of a celebration. We just can't get used to the idea of eating out as an everyday experience.

And with just a little planning, a trip to the store, and a visit to our pantry, we can prepare wholesome and delicious meals that are more enjoyable and cost far less than regularly dining out.

Cee Dub and Penny Welch recently returned to their native Idaho after an extended residency in the Texas Hill Country. They frequently travel throughout the West as ambassadors of Dutch oven cooking. They sell Dutch ovens and outdoor cooking equipment through

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rock Bottom Boys

I discovered the local music act, the Rock Bottom Boys, at the Peddler's Fair in the town of El Dorado this morning. The quartet has successfully transformed rock standards from The Who, Janice Joplin and Steppenwolf into modern rackabilly hits. With the addition of a five-string banjo and washboard, old rock-n-roll hits, like "Born to Be Wild," the band has introduced a fun genre of music of the 60s and 70s to new generations.

"Armed with tried and true hits from bands like the Rolling Stones, Kinks, Queen, ZZ top and many more, their vocal interpretations turn even the hardest rock tunes into great group sing a-longs," explains the band's Facebook fanpage. "Having cut their teeth playing California Fairs & Festivals, they've honed their sense of Humor, Showmanship and Versatility to offer a great Entertainment value to any venue."

You can find the Rock Bottom Boys performing at county fairs in California each spring and summer. The band's website contains tour information.

A musician shouted, "Camera," as I aimed my camera at the Rock Bottom Boys. It took a couple seconds to register -- the band was posing in the middle of a song.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pan seared fish fillet with lemon caper sauce

I serve fish on the dinner menu three times each four weeks at work. Its popularity varies from month to month as residents come and go from the program. One month, they eat all 25 servings. The next I can't give it away.

When fish is on the menu, many residents go out of their way to tell me how much they hate fish. Sixty to 75 percent will not eat a baked fish fillet, even when I pare it with tarter sauce. Serve an oven baked breaded fillet and around 80 to 90 percent of the residents will eat it. (Safety considerations prevent me from deep-frying at work.)

I find the secret to boosting acceptability is to prepare fish in new and interesting ways. Until last October, I baked the talapia fillets. To increase the popularity of the fish, I dredged thawed fillets in seasoned flour. I browned them in several skillets and transferred the fish to waiting hotel pans.

I went to work on a quick pan sauce after placing the fish in a slow oven. I sweated minced shallot in one of the skillets, then reduced chicken stock and lemon juice over high heat. To finish the sauce, I tossed in capers and a bit of fresh chopped parsley. The sauce was poured over the fish and served.

Given the unique population that I work with, 100 percent of the residents may never like fish. I come close with pan seared talapia with lemon caper sauce.


Use flounder, sole, haddock, perch, grouper or talapia fillets for this dish. If desired, thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry.

25 (5 to 6 ounce) Fish fillets
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced shallot
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 ounces capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

If frozen, thaw fish under refrigeration. Dredge fish in mixture of flour, salt, paprika, cayenne and pepper. Set fish on a wire rack to let flour coating set. Saute until golden brown in oil, about 3 minutes each side. Place in two 12x20x2-inch hotel pans.

Sweat shallots until softened. Add lemon juice to skillet; shake pan gently and cook 3-5 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened. Add capers and parsley to sauce; shake skillet to combine and pour over fillets. Serve at once or place for a short time in uncovered hotel pans in 250°F oven until service.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A camp cook's theme song

The Marty Stuart Show on RFT-TV featured Western musical act Riders in the Sky last night. Near the end of the 30-minute show, Marty introduced the quartet's last song.

"Well, thank you. You know, Marty, anybody who's watched a western movie or seen a TV show, look carefully," responded Ranger Doug. "There's always a cook and a sidekick. Gotta be. It's in the union rules. We've had one for 34 years. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce to you our cook, our sidekick, Side Meat."

"Upright 'bunkhouse' bassist'" Too Slim came out on stage. "Howdy folks. Oh mighty fine, boys, mighty fine," quipped Too Slim, thinly disguised as camp cook Side Meat. "I've been out back there cookin'. I'm doin' the caterin' for the show now."

The band performed "I've Cooked Everything." This was the first time I heard the song. Set to the 1962 Hank Snow tune, "I've Been Everywhere," the chorus goes like this:
I've cooked everything man,
I've cooked everything man
I've made them cowpokes sing man
I've made that dinner bell ring man
I've got plenty more hash to sling man
I've cooked everything
Listen to the YouTube video. It's time I selected a theme song for "Round the Chuckbox. How 'bout "I've Cooked Everything"?

Video description: "Riders In The Sky @ The Downtown Nashville Public Library, August 2010."

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Forming a rye bread loaf

Chefs in a baking workshop learn how to roll rye dough into loaves at Christian Chefs International conference at Canby Grove Camp, Canby, Oregon, with Chef Jim Krieg. Chef Jim is a former baking and pastry instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Portland.

Working with challah dough

Chefs in a baking workshop practice molding challah dough into loaves at Christian Chefs International conference at Canby Grove Camp, Canby, Oregon, with Chef Jim Krieg. Chef Jim is a former baking and pastry instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Portland.