Saturday, July 30, 2011

To live and fry in L.A.: USS Lincoln Sailors compete in cooking contest

LA Celebrates First Ever Navy Week:

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Luciano Marano, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

LOS ANGELES (NNS) -- Culinary Specialists assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) competed against students from the Los Angeles Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in a cooking contest, July 26, as part of the Los Angeles Navy Week.

"I couldn't have picked a better team for this event," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jonathan Yates, the Lincoln team leader and a native of Greenville, N.C. "They're all great chefs, and that's important because in our world there's a big difference between cooks and chefs."

Each team was instructed to plan and prepare a breakfast menu to be judged by three randomly selected Sailors. Yates, as well as Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Jimmy Nguyen, Culinary Specialist 3rd Class (SW) William Felix, Culinary Specialist Seaman Adrian Flanery and Culinary Specialist Seaman Jeremy Pierre were voted the winners of the cook-off by a panel of their shipmates.

"Cooking has always been a tradition in my family," said Pierre, a native of New Orleans. "We're here today in our house; we couldn't let ourselves lose."

"It's a real pleasure to be here," said Le Cordon Bleu Chef Instructor Michael Shane, himself a prior enlisted Mess Management Specialist 2nd Class, which is what Culinary Specialist were called prior to the name change. "Our guys cook the same way as these [Navy] guys. There is definitely a chain of command in the kitchen; it's really the same job."

The challenge was broadcast live from the ship's galley as part of the daily "Good Day L.A." news program.

"This is the biggest cooking challenge I've ever been in," said Yates. "We're cooking against an actual culinary school, and a great school at that. Bring on Bobby Flay. I'm ready for a throwdown!"

The winning menu consisted of spinach and feta cheese omelet, cheese and bacon breakfast potatoes, steak, a peach tart and orange/pineapple juice.

Navy Week is an opportunity for the officers and crew of the visiting ships to help the Navy showcase the quality of its personnel to local citizens. Lincoln's participation in L.A. Navy Week will demonstrate to area leaders and the general public that the Navy remains an effective and vital tool of national defense and a viable career opportunity for young men and women.

The Navy conducts approximately 20 Navy Weeks each year, reaching out to communities across the country to showcase for Americans the investments they have made toward their national defense.

Participating in L.A. Navy Week 2011 are Lincoln, guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90), mine countermeasures ship USS Champion (MCM 4), Carrier Air Wing 2, and personnel from Carrier Strike Group 9, Maritime Expeditionary Security Group 31, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 3 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 1.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is in Los Angeles between at-sea training and certification periods ahead of a deployment scheduled for the end of the year.

Seagoing hockey pucks

Things have changed since my seagoing days. It looks like Seaman Zannone is panning frozen cookie dough, affectionately known as "hockey pucks" in the trades. Into the 1970s, almost everything was scratch-baked at sea.

ARABIAN SEA (July 25, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Elizabeth A. makes gingerbread cookies in the bake shop aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on its first operational deployment conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Smevog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Satueed bok choy

I introduced baby bok choy to the residents at work last night. Flavored with ginger, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce, they ate almost the full 2-inch hotel pan.

For 25 servings, briefly saute fresh minced ginger in a mixture of canola & sesame oils. Add cabbage in batches and saute until wilted, but not browned. Five bunches of baby bok choy will feed 25 persons. Transfer cabbage to waiting 2-inch hotel pan.

Combine 1-1/2 cups chicken stock, 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar and 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce. Pour over cabbage in hotel pan. Cover and place pan over medium heat. Gentle simmer for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. I like to cook the cabbage so the stems are tender but crunchy.

I plan to serve bok choy again. At $1.50 per bunch from the mid-town Sacramento Farmer's Market, the vegetable (also known as Chinese cabbage) will be featured on the menu through the summer.

Next time I may toss the baby bok choy in garlic, olive oil and kosher salt. After roasting in a 450-degree oven until wilted and crisp-tender, a drizzle of lemon-basil vinaigrette, it'll be ready to serve.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Notebook advise from Twitter today

During my lunch today I participated on a discussion about culinary degree programs on Twitter, co-hosted by @chef2chef and @nella22. After brief introductions (Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters), @chef2chef asked, "How many of you out there are considering a culinary program and which one?"

I'm not looking to enroll in culinary school this late in my career. I'd concider one if I could set the clock back a decade or two. When I was looking for work two years ago, I found many companies require a culinary degree. "All of my clients who pay high high salaries list culinary degrees a must have," added @RACulinaryJobs, a "chef, culinary and restaurant recruiter."

About 20 minutes into the chat, @chef2chef asked, "For those of you already culinary trained, what advise would you give to a culinary student in their first year?" Search out and accept every opportunity to learn you craft, replied @nella22. Her comment included cooking demonstrations and culinary tours.

I added my input: "Be ready to learn. Self study & constant reading have helped me grow beyond institutional food. Be curious & carry a notebook." @chef2chef echoed my advise to carry a notebook. "My friend studied journalism, and I caught to his notebook habits!" added @chef2chef.

I have advised my readers to keep a culinary notebook since beginning 'Round the Chuckbox in 2005. I find that the 200-page school composition notebook is best suited for use in kitchens, where spills stain and dirty hands leave grease spots. Save leather-bound books for other pursuits. (See an article titled "Recipe use suggestions" for my thoughts on notebooks.)

"Notepads are a must, love that advice!," said @nella22. "If you don't write it down or doodle it, it's gone!" "Exactly!" responded @chef2chef. "My notebooks were always roughed up from being carried everywhere!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sausage and chicken gumbo

SeabeeCook: Made the best chix & sausage gumbo last night at work, considering I'm CA born & raised. Next time maybe seafood.

Original Tweet:

Sent via TweetDeck (

Sent from my Samsung Captivate(tm) on AT&T

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Southwest succotash

Succotash is one of those vegetable combinations that doesn't garner confidence in my ability to inspire the residents at work. Aside from a couple off-handed remarks about Sylvester the Cat (known for countering Daffy's "You're despicable" with "Sufferin' succotash"), most had never heard of the dish.

Until I watched a video of Chef Bob Vaningan preparing succotash for Good Day Alabama last week, the only succotash I had ever cooked was a mixture of corm and lima beans. In the five-minute segment I learned that succotash can be much more. Chef Bob uses a variety of vegetables to boost the flavor of an otherwise mundane vegetable dish.

Chef Bob sautes diced onion and green bell peppers for a minute. He then tosses fresh lima beans and black eye peas into the skillet. After the beans are hot, he adds freshly cut corn and halved grape tomatoes. Once the tomato softens in the skillet, he flavors the succotash with fresh chopped thyme and a splash of olive oil. (Click for Chef Bob's recipe.)

I prepared succotash at two different venues yesterday. As often happens, I bring lessons from a dish that I prepared home with me. I prepared the succotash with frozen lima beans, frozen whole kernel corn and canned pinto beans at work. I used just enough tomatillos and poblano chiles to give the succotash a flavor boost without overpowering the corn and beans.

Since I had originally planned to test the dish at home, I already had the ingredients on hand. Even though the dish at work was good, I enjoyed the home version because I used corn that was freshly cut from the cob. The fresh corn gave the succotash a sweet, succulent quality that I didn't get from the version with frozen vegetables.


For best results, cut fresh corn off the cob for this succotash.

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
2 poblano chile peppers, diced small
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 pounds cooked pinto beans
2 pounds cooked lima beans
1 pound tomatillos, diced
2 pounds whole kernel corn
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, poblano chiles and garlic and saute several minutes until vegetables begin to soften.

Add pinto beans and lima beans to skillet. Continue cooking, stiring frequently, until beans are heated. Add corn and tomatillos and continue cooking until tomatillos break apart. Add 1 or 2 cups water if needed to keep succotash from drying out.

Season to taste with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Stir lime juice and cilantro in before servings. Served about 25 (1/2-cup) portions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Working on Southwest succotash

Steven C. Karoly (@SeabeeCook) has shared a Tweet with you:

"SeabeeCook: Workin' on SW succotash at work - saute onion, garlic & poblano, add pintos & limas, finish w corn & tomatillos, season w cumin & lime juice"


Sent from my Samsung Captivate(tm) on AT&T

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dutch Oven Cooking from Texas parks

Here are three videos on Dutch oven cooking presented the Texas Parks and Wildlife channel on YouTube. The descriptions are from YouTube.

Spice up your next camping trip with dutch oven cooking. This video introduces you to Dutch oven cooking and how to care for your oven. For more information about Texas state parks, including free Dutch oven cooking classes, visit

A Dutch oven makes campfire cooking easy! This video demonstrates some basic one pot meals: chicken stew, beef stew and a pot of beans.

You won't believe what you can cook in a dutch oven! Jazz up your campfire meals with quiche lorraine, cornish game hen and peach cobbler. This video demonstrates how.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Anniversary walk in South Lake Tahoe

Debbie and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of our wedding on Sunday. We marked the occasion by spending the afternoon in South Lake Tahoe. After an enjoyable lunch at The Getaway Cafe in Meyers, we did some window shopping in Stateline.

Later, we drove up Highway 89 to visit one of our favorite Tahoe haunts. The area surrounding Taylor Creek features a fascinating array of forest trails, beaches and historic venues. With many spring flowers still in bloom, we idled away the afternoon. It was the perfect spot to relax and soak in the scenery.

Large fields of lupines caught my eye on our drive to Taylor Creek. Soft purple flowers on tall racemes seemed to blanket both sides of the highway. I thought the flowers would grow closer to the lake.

When we turned onto the beach access road, I expected to find lupines within easy reach of the parking lot. Instead, mountain mules ears -- past their prime in the beaming Lake Tahoe sun -- and Indian paintbrush flourished under the tall stands of Jeffery Pine.

Possibly crowded out by sage and tall grasses, I figured that this wasn't a prime lupine growing area. Debbie and I strolled along the wide path to Kiva Beach. Debbie massaged her toes in the warm Lake Tahoe sand while I snapped several pictures of the lagoon.

She was content to bask in the soothing rays in the late afternoon sun. I walked through the forest on my hunt for photographic subjects.

After a respite, Debbie and I walked along the trail to the amphitheater. The cool evening air refreshed us as much as the slow pace of our stroll through the forest. We admired the majestic Jeffery Pines in quiet solitude.

I had hoped that our walk away from the lake would bring us closer to the elusive lupine wildflowers. As we came near the picnic area next to the amphitheater, I we turned off the main trail. This one would take us back to the parking lot.

Then I saw something that told me I should soon locate beautiful lupine bushes. The soil changed as we hiked. The rocky soil became more evident as the trail led us away from Taylor Creek and the lake.

Then I found a large patch of bush lupine. Set among a grove of young pine trees, the flowers enjoyed the last rays of sunlight of the day. While I last studied biology some 30 years ago, the lupines seemed to thrive under the thick layer of dead pine leaves.

I was soon on the ground taking pictures of my beloved lupine. While Debbie walked ahead, took a dozen photographs like the one below. We enjoyed a wonderful day. Lunch, a couple hikes and a chance to photograph my favorite part of South Lake Tahoe.

The best part of the day: I was able to enjoy it with my wife of 30 years. lists some 142 species within the Lupinus genus. According to Sierra Nevada Natural History, bush lupines are likely Lupinus albifrons and its many subspecies.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Roasted red pepper ranch dressing

Like my daughters, the residents at work are die-hard devotees of ranch salad dressing. The use it as a dip for vegetables, crackers and French fries. Many residents smother their salad with the dressing, which negates the healthy effect of a tossed green salad.

The addition of roasted red pepper gives commercial ranch dressing a big flavor boost. Add more red pepper for a more pronounced flavor. While this dressing isn't a true low-fat dressing, it only contains around 140 calories per tablespoon. You won't need as much dressing with loads of extra flavor.

To prepare the dressing, combine 3-1/2 cups ranch dressing, 1 large chopped roasted red pepper (about 5 ounces), 8 chopped green onions and 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley in blender bowl. Blend to form a smooth consistency. Makes about 1 quart.