Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chemical warfare

This was one of my least favorite activities during my 20 years service in the U.S. Navy Seabees ...

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (March 25, 2009) -- Lt. Cmdr. Ferdinand Herrera fastens a chemical, biological and radiological suit for Culinary Specialist 1st Class Victor Rojas during a recent Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 field exercise. The exercise focuses on controlled tactical training scenarios demonstrating the battalion's primary mission to support real-time ship-to-shore operations in a hostile environment.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Morales.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ideas for stuffed zucchini

Zucchini is one of those summer vegetables that multiply like weeds. Plant a couple plants in the garden and you're soon rewarded with bushels of the summer squash.

You harvest much more than you can eat. At first your friends welcome the fruit, but soon run when they see you coming. Most quickly tire of the vegetable unless you know 101 ways to cook it.

I plan to purchase a box of zucchini every week or two this summer for my camp job. Since the kids and staff will only eat so much in salads, I need to work on ideas to use the zucchini. My creamy zucchini basil soup will help use up several pounds and as will zucchini bread.

While I often peruse cookbooks and magazines, I get more ideas while watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. It's amazing how your brain can take in an image in a flash and process it into a collection of ideas.

Tonight's idea came as I caught a lead-in to one of the segments on Guy Fieri's weekly show on the Food Network. In a three-second glance, the chef lifted a stuffed zucchini from the baking dish and set it on the plate.

My first though was to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the meat on both halves. Almost any filling -- especially vegetarian -- will work. I can either bake the halves or put them back together and bake the zucchini whole.

I figure that I can also hollow the squash out with a long, thin tool and stuff them with a piping bag and plain tip. Here are several stuffing ideas that I came up with while watching the show:
  • Softened cream cheese with Parmesan, garlic and hot sauce
  • Sauteed spinach, crimini mushroom and bread crumbs
  • Sauteed onion, garlic and chopped zucchini pulp folded into seasoned bread crumbs
  • Filling for stuffed bell peppers (usually rice)
  • Any pizza ingredients (meat or otherwise)
I'm not sure if I'll have to parboil the zucchini yet. It should be a simple dish that can be prepared with a bit of elegance for hungry campers and staff. And, as you can see, stuffed zucchini is easily adapted to a vegetarian entree.

What are your ideas for filling the summer vegetable?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grilled portobella mushroom caps

Earlier this month I reported on Tyrone's working job interview. He is currently looking for work as a chef in the California Bay Area.

After spending the last year and a half directing kitchen operations on the African Mercy, Tyrone moved to the San Francisco Peninsula, where his wife was recently employed as a nurse.

Tyrone was chef for the 499-foot hospital ship, where he fed a crew from 30 nations. His wife, Stephanie, worked on the ship as an operating room nurse.

His first interview consisted of an all-day demonstration of his culinary skills. The venue -- kitchen and dining room of a Stanford University residence hall -- gave Tyrone a chance to demonstrate his culinary skill to house managers and residents.

Tyrone walked into the "kitchen like I had always been there, checked in vendors and the laundry man, started prepping and cooking after getting oriented with the kitchen." His main test came as he cooked lunch and dinner for the house residents.

Large grilled portobella mushroom caps complimented roasted chuck bottom round on the dinner menu. The less carnivorous residents enjoyed a meaty vegetarian alternative to the red meat entree.

I asked Tyrone how he prepared the portobella caps. I figured his explanation would help me add one more vegetarian dish to my repertory for camp this summer.

"I was prepared to make my own marinade when I spotted some ginger-balsamic vinaigrette in the pantry," explained Tyrone.

After breaking the steams off and cleaning the steak-sized mushroom caps, he submerged them in clean water. "I don't buy that mushrooms soaking up all that water theory," said Tyrone.

A bath in the marinade for two hours imparted flavor from the ginger-balsamic vinaigrette. He stacked the caps upside-down in a large see-through container. The caps "held (the marinade) like saucers," said Tyrone.

Tyrone then baked the portobellas in the oven before giving them a quick sear on the flat-top griddle. The sugars in the marinade carmalized as mushrooms sizzled on the griddle.

A final drizzle with reserved mushroom juices added a last-minute burst of flavor for the portobellas as they waited for hungry diners in the chafing dish.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pizza night at sea

Looking back at my seagoing days in the 1970s, the cooks rarely made fresh pizza dough. Most of our pizzas on the USS Stein (DE-1065) were made using pre-baked pizza shells, either purchased frozen or prepared by the ship's baker.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 20, 2009) Aerographer's Mate 3rd Class Leah Katz, a member of the 3&2 Association, and Culinary Specialist Seaman Recruit Brandi Porter prepare a pizza aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for a pizza night sponsored by the 3&2 Association. The 3&2 Association is an organization comprised of 3rd and 2nd class petty officers that strive to make a positive impact on the crew by holding events like pizza night. Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 are underway conducting a sustainment exercise in the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. Navy photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Kennedy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A pot of beans

I love beans. I can't say it any better than that.

But I haven't always had this love affair with beans. Growing up in the California's San Joaquin Valley in the 1960s, beans came in two forms -- canned re-fried beans on Taco night and my mom's Boston baked beans.

Despite her professed dislike of beans, my mother made a mean pot of baked beans, the kind bathed in a slow oven for hours. I don't think she's made them in a decade or more.

I didn't discover the true world of beans until I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1970. Then it took two years until I advanced in my career as a Navy cook to the point where I could cook in the pots (coppers to the Navy cook).

Even then, my bean education wasn't complete. Chief Brown, the engineering department's leading chief on the U.S.S. Cocopa, instructed this young seagoing cook in the ways of pinto bean cookery one lazy Saturday morning when most of the crew had slipped ashore for liberty.

Born and raised in the South, Chief Brown wasn't going to let this inexperienced cook ruin a pot of his favorite legume. At this point, a man who normally found in one of two places -- in engine room babying the tugboat's four large 16-cylinder Alco locomotive engines or fishing off the fantail in port – had become the Cocopa's master chef.

The chief, dressed in a set of Navy-grey coveralls, stepped into the galley and checked the water level in the beans. He propped his khaki chief's cap on the back of his head and scolded me.

Beans don't cook without water, the chief barked. Most of the water had evaporated from the pot. My theory on bean cookery -- pot beans should be crunchy like green beans -- didn't set well with the man.

My bean cooking technique has improved since that long summer in the South China Sea. I learned to cook beans (along with many other comfort foods) for the crew.

Today, I love to eat a basic pot of beans, one seasoned with chopped meat from a ham hock, sweet onion, cumin and Old Bay. They're the perfect accompiment to almost any meal.


Substitute pinto, pink, red or black beans for pink beans. Adjust cooking time to the variety. Pinto beans will take 1-1/2 to 2 hours while red and black beans take about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Substitute chopped meat for ham hock if desired.

10 portions for the home kitchen:
1 pound pink beans
1 small ham hock
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Crushed red pepper, to taste

50 portions for the camp kitchen:
5 pounds pink beans
1-2 pounds chopped meat (ham hock, ham, bacon as desired)
2 pounds chopped sweet onion
4 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
4 teaspoons dried oregano
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Pick over beans, removing discolored beans and foreign matter. Wash beans thoroughly and drain.

Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil in stockpot and boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cut heat and soak, covered, for 1 hour.

Add onions, ham hock and seasonings. Do not salt beans until you taste the broth after the ham hock has cooked about 15 to 20 minutes.

Reduce heat and cover. Simmer 1 hour or until beans are just tender. Add more water if necessary to cover beans.

Five pounds of beans makes about 7-1/2 quarts and serves 50 (1/2-cup) portions.

NOTE: This recipe uses the quick soak method. If desired, use the traditional method:

Step 1 - Pour cold water over the beans to cover.
Step 2 - Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight.
Step 3 - Drain beans and discard soak water (cold water starts the rehydration process slowly so beans will appear wrinkled after soaking).
Step 4 - Rinse beans with fresh, cool water.

From the Northharvest Bean Growers Association: Soaking softens and returns moisture to dry-packaged beans, and reduces cooking time. Soaking also makes beans easier to digest by breaking down the oligosaccharides -- the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence.

During the soaking process beans will rehydrate to at least two to three times their dry size, so it is important to begin with a large pot. A longer soaking time (up to four hours) allows a greater amount of gas-causing properties to dissolve in water, making beans more easily digestible. After soaking, rinse and cook beans in fresh water.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My summer job search continued

As I briefly announced on 'Round the Chuckbox Monday, I have secured a summer job at a camp in Eldorado National Forest. I couldn't have been more blessed in my job search, one that took much of my time this winter.

Although it's too early to reveal the camp's identity, it's among the handful of camps located within a two-hour driving distance from my Diamond Springs home. Of those nine or ten camps, I'm only aware of two that were looking for a chef for the 2009 season.

My search for a summer job stretches back to late 2006, when I signed up for summer and year-round job alerts from the American Camp Association. Looking ahead to my eventual retirement, I initially wanted to gauge the availability of summer jobs in the Western U.S. I learned the location of every camp near by home in the process.

My initial focus was toward summer jobs. I intend to continue my current off-season employment for the next two or three years. Ultimately, I'd like to secure a job as the chef for a year-round camp and conference facility.

I was prepared for an extended job search. Since this was my first experience in a segment of the food service industry that's much different from the experience listed on my resume, I didn't know what to expect.

I was prepared to convince potential employers how this chef would translate 30-plus years military and corrections experience into the camp setting. (We can talk more about this process if there's interest.)

The first thing I did after retiring in August was to post my resume on two camp staff websites. I used the ACA job search service and CampStaff.com. While I used other sites in my search, these two suited my needs because they offered periodic email job alerts. I was able to tailor my search to the six-state region where I was willing to work (California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington).

I learned long ago that you can't depend on the job finding you. You have to go to the job. In the seven months since my retirement, I only had two contacts from camp directors. The first came unsolicited from a camp direct in Wisconsin. He found my name on the ACA forums.

The other contact came from CampStaff.com. I have good reason to believe that the contact would've led to a summer job had I completed the application process. I didn't complete the process after my interview because I was offered the local job.

Although I don't have anything to compare my job-search experience to, I can say that you can't depend on resume boards. While a contact may lead to one or more interviews and a job, my experience shows that you have to be proactive in your job search. That means doing your own searches, emailing camp directors and submitting a well-prepared cover letter and resume, and filling out the application.

I continued my job search until I signed my contract early last week. In all, I submitted seven applications to five camps in Northern California and two out-of-state camps. It's interesting to note that it was the last three applications that resulted in interviews. Of those, I participated in two telephone interviews. I canceled the third because I had accepted the job.

Next time we meet, I'd like to talk about the four summer camp websites that I used to locate job leads. I can also address how I prepared myself for a change from large-volume feeding to the camp setting.

More to come ...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma cooks take top culinary team

U.S. Marine Corps photographs by Pfc. Jerrick J. Griffin.

The U.S. Marine Corps Culinary Team of the Quarter Competition had a Mardi Gras celebration theme and each team had to prepare a full-course meal while maintaining that theme. The winners were awarded embroidered chef's coats, gold medals a plaque and a two-week trip to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma's team came in first place and the team from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms came in second. Camp Pendleton, California hosted the competition.

Tamara Zoria, 40, Vista, Calif., and Andrew Rude, 29, Fallbrook, Calif., food service cooks for Sodexo inspects the ingredients for the competition.

Cpl. Jacob R. Ballard, 21, Coventry, Rhode Island, a food service specialist from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, chops tomatoes at the competition.

Pfc. Ja’Lisa C. White, 19, Dallas, a food service specialist from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, watches as she cooks her Jammin’Jambalaya for the competition.

Pfc. Ja’Lisa C. White, 19, Dallas, a food service specialist from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, prepares the chicken for her Jammin Jambalaya at the competition.

Cpl. Austin J. Nelson, 21, Midland, Michigan, a food service specialist from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, serves food at the competition.

Cpl. Jacob R. Ballard, 21, Coventry, Rhode Island, a food service specialist with Marine Corps Air Station Yuma watches as people served themselves at the competition.

Top six culinary tools

I posed this question on the Christian Chefs Forum last Friday:

If you can only carry six culinary tools, what would they be? I'm looking for hand-held tools, not pots, pans, skillets, etc.
My thought was to canvas chefs who customarily carry the tools that they can't work without. These are chefs who have a lot of experience walking into poorly-equipped kitchens.

Like a carpenter who brings his own tools to the jobsite, these chefs compensate by carrying carefully selected tools that make the job easier. It's frustrating to walk in a kitchen -- especially one that you'll only use for one or two meals -- and find out that there are no tongs anywhere.

I have a personal motive for asking the question. Last week, I accepted a job at a summer camp. Since camp will be covered in snow until April or May, I can't run up and check out the kitchen. Even though the camp is located close to my home, I may not be able to do so until the day I report.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the camp is located two miles from road's end. I have to be ready to carry the tools that I can't be without on my back.

Anything that I take must fit into a small boat (along with personal baggage, Bible and books, camera, etc.). I have to be ready to shuttle my gear into the camp over a two-mile long trail.

Here's my list:

  1. Knives--I never leave home without my knife roll; it includes French, slicer, bread and boning knives plus a steel
  2. Tongs--I use tongs for everything: pick up food, stir a saute or sweat or baste chicken breasts in a skillet
  3. Dough cutter--Outside of tongs, this is the best all-around tool; I use it for scraping, cutting dough, picking up chopped vegetables, etc.; it can use as a spat in a pinch
  4. Digital thermometer--A necessity; every chef should own one or more quality thermometers
  5. Scoops or dishers--I love dishers and keep a bunch in my utensil drawer at home; essential sizes include #8, 12, 16, 24 and 30; they're good for portioning out meatballs or cookies and can be used to measure ingredients in a pinch
  6. Whisk--I rarely find a decent whisks in kitchens
Three chefs responded to my inquiry. Ira and Tyrone both said he'd carry a chefs knife, steel, tongs, wooden spoon, thermometer and immersion blender. These are common items, many are on my list as well.

Bryguy's list was tailored to his cooking style. He included a French knife, vegetable peeler, pastry bag with star tip, spoon, whisk and food processor.

The immersion blender is a necessity if you make a lot of sauces and dishes with pureed ingredients. Even though I could consider it a nice-to-have tool, I probably won't need on this summer.

Tyrone suggested he'd carry a cutting board. That made sense because you want to protect your knives. What better way to do so than with a cutting board that fits your needs. For seven years I carried my heavy Boos block to FC Camp.

Since I drove and could back my truck to the kitchen weight wasn't an issue. I may not be able to take it this year. I suspect that the camp kitchen will have more than one cutting board.

What are your top six culinary tools? Please consider your list and report back by leaving a comment. I'd like to hear what others have to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A working job interview

By Tyrone

The ultimate job interview is one where the potential clients sample your work. In the case of Tyronne, the residents of the Xanadu Co-Op at Stanford University ate the product of his labor. It's a situation where the manager and clients can pass judgement on your work.

You see, Tyronne "interviewed" for the job of lunch and dinner chef last Wednesday. His account, re-printed below, describes his process and menu for the day.

Unfortunately, he was told today that the job was given to another chef. The good news is that he may have a second opportunity in September when the chef plans to leave the job.

My job interview/try-out went well today! I went in and just started working in the kitchen like I had always been there, checked in vendors and the laundry man, started prepping and cooking after getting oriented with the kitchen. Later in the day there were a few casual introductions then they left me to work.

Miguel the hasher was none committal about how I was doing, but by the afternoon he was hoping I would come back. I am not sure what the process exactly is, and who (or how many) have to decide and approve. But they told me I would know by the end of the week, then the guy said, "And hopefully it's good news too!"

He really had some questions for me later, and during lunch time I went out and talked to a few of the students in the house. I got compliments from the main guys I was in contact with and a few of the students who ventured their way past or through the kitchen. It was a good day.

I had a few problems that cost me some time, it had to do with the food order. So I just re-adjusted and put out good food anyway.

Lunch: Lemon-caper chicken, roasted artichokes with lemon-caper sauce (vegetarian option), grilled mixed veg (broccoli, red-yellow-orange peppers, red onion), Jasmine rice, and a fresh fruit mix (apples, kiwis, strawberries) with a yogurt-honey sauce and granola topping -- salad bar everyday too.

Dinner: Was going to do petite beef tender medallions (terse major), BUT the beef was chuck bottom round. so, I made a rub, seared it off, finished in the oven and sliced it thin like roast beef. To me that was the only guarantee I know the meat was going to taste great and not be tough to chew.

I then grilled portobella tops (ginger-balsamic) for vegetarian option, herb coated and baked small reds (potatoes), roasted beet salad (red and yellow) with roasted garlic vinaigrette topped with feta, and I made honey wheat rolls, and also jalapeno cheddar bread.

I got my meals out on time, 12 pm and 6 pm with a break between 12-2 pm, so you work 8 hours -- but I actually worked a little more during the lunch and dinner time after getting the meal out -- to finish some things up, but that's to be expected in a foreign kitchen first day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Crown of old men

Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.
--Proverbs 17:6
After raising three children, our daughters have blessed Debbie and me with three wonderful grandchildren.

Being away from them most of the time can be difficult at times. Since it's always a challenge to encourage them to visit us, we travel to the Bay Area to see the children every two months.

I look forward for the times when I can see them sitting in the pew, learning to workshop God with respect and honoring His name. It gives me a smile when I watch them them holding their hands together during prayer or singing in a loud voice, "Who will follow Jesus, who will make reply, 'I am on my Lord's side, Master here am I'?"

These are times that bring a tear to my eye ...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Your chance to be named top camp cook

I found this item on the Siskiyou County (California) Visitors Bureau website: "The Top Camp Cook competition offers a new barbecue as the top prize ...." It sounds like Syskiyou County is serious about its camp cooking.

According to the entry form, aspiring Top Camp Cooks have six hours to prepare their best dinner entree for the judges. Once cooking starts at 10 a.m., all food preparation must be done on-site.

The entry form doesn't limit the type of allowed cooking equipment. It only says, "No open campfires allowed." Barbecues and open pit fires can be used. I'm sure the even will see a variety of modes, like Dutch oven, open pit, smokers and grill.

All flames must be extinguished ("Flame out, heat off") by 2 p.m., when judging starts A special award will be given for the most unique cooking devise.

The event will take place this Saturday, March 14, 2009, at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The fairgrounds is located at 1712 Fairlane Rd., Yreka, CA 96097. The phone number is (530) 842-2767.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Chickpea patties revisited

My sister wrote me earlier in the week and requested a chickpea patty recipe for the home. Although I sent her the recipe that day, I wanted to post the recipe so others wouldn't have scale it downward.


My local supermarket carries 22-ounce packages of garbanzo bean flour. I found Bob's Red Mill brand, along with 20 to 30 other types of flour and whole grains, in the natural grains aisle of the market.

1-1/2 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, mix chickpea flour and dry seasonings. Gradually whisk in water until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Switch to a spoon and stir until mixture pulls away from pan bottom and mounds in center of pan, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in green onion and parsley.

Using an oiled #24 disher, quickly scoop mixture onto an oiled sheet pan. Press each dough ball flat with lightly oiled fingers. The patties will have the appearance of a cookie. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Saute patties for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Turn and repeat.

Makes 12 or 13 patties. Serve 2 patties per person. Use as a substitute for chicken on the menu or as a stand alone menu item.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Adjourn to pie, 2-1/2 years later

I first talked about our tradition of "Adjourning to pie" to the meetings of the directors of the El Dorado Western Railway in October 2006.

Regardless of the scope of discussion or extent of disagreement, the board meeting always adjourns to pie. A slice of pie and cup of juice has a way of placing us at ease. It allows us to relax and turn our attention away from the business of running a railroad.

Each time my turn to bring pie comes around, I usually bake two of my favorite pies--chocolate cream and pecan. The link takes you to my October 5, 2006 blog and chocolate cram pie recipe.


This recipe comes from the fourth edition of Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen (link takes you to Amazon.com). The is recipe makes 2 (9-inch) pies. I find a mixture of half light and half dark corn syrup makes the best pecan pie. Use brown sugar if you desire a darker color and stronger flavor.

14 ounces granulated sugar
4 ounces butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound 8 ounces whole eggs (about 7 to 8 large)
1 pound 8 ounces dark corn syrup (about 17 fluid ounces)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
10 ounces roasted pecans

Using the paddle attachment at low speed, blend sugar, butter and salt until evenly blended. With the machine running, add eggs a little at a time until they are all absorbed. Add syrup and vanilla. Mix until well blended.

To assemble pies, distribute pecans evenly in pie shells. Fill each pie shell with approximately 1 pound 12 ounces syrup mixture.

Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 40 minutes more, until set. Cool thoroughly. Cut into 6 or 8 slices as desired.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Chickpea patties

There's one reason why I continue to read Sunset magazine. I've found few problems with the recipes it prints. They are well-developed and come to the plate with exceptional taste.

Over the past year, I've found several vegetarian recipes that I can use at camp this summer. They include asparagus and prosciutto strata, baked chili rellenos and pepper-potato fritatta. While I haven't published my renditions of these recipes yet, you can locate my vegetarian recipes by clicking here.

I made the patties for my mother's birthday last week. She enjoys dishes like this, especially when she found out that it can be used as a substitute for chicken in almost any chicken breast or sandwich recipe.

I found that you have to work quickly while the dough is still hot. Otherwise, the dough will crack and break apart as you form it into patties. Two cooks may need to work together when forming large quantities.

I sauteed the patties in a cast iron skillet in a light coating of olive oil. This gave them a golden color and boosted the flavor. The patties have a nice nuttiness about them that complements the cumin and cayenne.

Don't overdo the spices, however. You want the nutty flavor from the garbanzos to predominate.


My local supermarket carries 22-ounce packages of garbanzo bean flour. ). I found Bob's Red Mill brand, along with 20 to 30 other types of flour and whole grains, in the natural grains aisle of the market. Red Mill also markets a 25-pound bag for commercial applications.

28 ounces chickpea (garbanzo) flour (about 5-2/3 cups)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
10-1/3 cups water
1 cup chopped green onion
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large saucepan, mix chickpea flour and dry seasonings. Gradually whisk in water until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Switch to a spoon and stir until mixture pulls away from pan bottom and mounds in center of pan, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in green onion and parsley.

Using an oiled #24 disher, quickly scoop mixture onto an oiled sheet pan. Press each dough ball flat with lightly oiled fingers. The patties will have the appearance of a cookie. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. (Or use the lightly oiled griddle.) Saute patties for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Turn and repeat.

Makes 50 patties. Serve 2 patties per person. Use as a substitute for chicken on the menu or as a stand alone menu item.

Reseasoning a skillet

I've had a bare spot on my cast iron egg skillet for some weeks. It all started when my son broke my egg-making rule: Never cook anything but eggs in an egg pan.

Since that time, a 2-inch round hole in the seasoning has plagued my omelets. A vigorous scrub was the only way to clean cooked-on egg and cheese from the skillet.

Despite my attempts to nurse the wound back to health, the spot grew. Each time I made an omelet for my son, the egg tore and cheese leaked onto the cast iron surface.

While scrubbing with a green pad seemed the best way to removed the cooked-on cheese, it only made the problem worse.

I though of a fix this morning while cooking my son's second favorite omelet (cheddar cheese--his first is pepper jack). After cleaning the skillet, I spread a light coat of oil on the skillet baked it on a medium-hot electric burner.

I wiped the skillet with a clean paper towel every 10 minutes over the next hour. And to keep from burning the seasoning off, I turned the burner down to medium-low (a setting of 3 to 4 on my dial) after about 15 minutes.

My strategy worked ... partway, at least! I cooked a cheddar-broccoli omelet (with a sprinkle of Old Bay) after the skillet cooked for an hour. The egg stuck to the pan, but came free after a gentle nudge with a rubber high-temp spatula.

After I cooked my omelet, I cleaned the skillet with a clean paper towel and set it back on the burner for another hour. The once shinny spot is now much darker. While not as black as the rest of the skillet, the wound will heal after a few more seasoning sessions.