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Living Well

The Beauty of Roquefort

The French have such a beautiful relationship with cheese.  America has certainly grown to love cheese as well!  While there are literally hundreds of cheeses, many of which are native to France, Roquefort is one prized cheese of France.  Many people consider blue cheese and Roquefort cheese to be one in the same but that just isn’t true.  While there are quite a few differences the main one is that blue cheese is made from cow’s milk and
Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk.  In 1961, it was made official that a cheese could only be classified as Roquefort if it was aged in the caves of Mont Combalon in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in France.

Roquefort is one of the 3 greatest blue cheeses in the world alongside Gorgonzola and Stilton.  It holds a strong clean flavor with saltiness opposite to that of the sheep’s milk.  Its texture is damp but will still crumble and melt in your mouth.

We recently featured Roquefort on the menu for a wedding at a private estate.
It was among some other delicious cheese and fresh fruit for an appetizer course.

A few ideas for enjoying Roquefort in your home is to spread it on a fresh sliced crustini or serve it crumbled in a nice summer salad.  If you would like more suggestions on how to incorporate Roquefort into your personal kitchen, send us an email at info@ayschef.com.

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The Herb Series – Rosemary (the last in this series)

The last in our Herb Series is rosemary. An herb that most people are very familiar with, rosemary is native to the Mediterranean area. A very pungent herb whose leaves can be used both fresh and dried, rosemary is high in iron, calcium and Vitamin B.

Lucky for those of you with an herb garden, rosemary grows similar to a weed. It is actually used for its beauty in landscaping in addition to its many uses in the kitchen. Rosemary has an old reputation for improving memory, but there is not scientific evidence to substantiate these claims. We do however know that rosemary is a great asset in the kitchen. Simply hold the stem and run your fingers down the stem in the opposite direction of the leaves. Give it a quick chop and place it into your dish.

Here is a recipe from Chef Jean-Philippe that shows how to use rosemary in your own kitchen.

Rosemary Marinated Grilled Swordfish with Citrus Sauce

1 lb Swordfish cut in 6oz portions
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 red skin baby new potato
2 branches Fresh Rosemary
4 cloves Garlic, sliced
6 oz herbs salad
2 oz orange juice
2 oz lemon juice
2 oz grapefruit juice
1 Tbsp Sugar
3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Tomato
¼ Ginger
Salt & Pepper

Marinate the Swordfish with Olive Oil, 1 branch rosemary and ½ of the garlic for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Grill it until it’s cooked but don’t overcook it; it should be moist and juicy. For the Sauce make a caramel with sugar and water; when it reaches a nice golden color add sherry vinegar, reduce heat. Add all citrus juice, diced tomato, bell peppers and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake baby new potatoes in a sheet pan with the other ½ of the garlic, 1 branch rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper.

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The Herb Series – Tarragon

It’s time for tarragon, the fourth star in our Herb Series. Also known as Dragon’s Wort, tarragon is native to a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere including Europe, Asia and much more. When adding tarragon to your home garden it is best to purchase it as a plant as it can be difficult to bring up from seeds. Being a perennial it is most likely to go dormant in the winter. Good thing for us in California, it thrives well in hot sunny areas with little watering.

French tarragon is considered best for the kitchen and is considered to be one of the four fines herbes in French cooking. Tarragon can be used both fresh and dried; however, when using the fresh form it’s best to used sparingly as it is much more pungent.

Utilized most in dishes highlighting seafood, poultry, eggs, vegetables and sauces. The following is one of Chef Jean-Philippe’s favorite recipes using tarragon.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Arugula, Tarragon Lemon Vinaigrette

 

  • 2 lb Green Asparagus
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 4 radishes
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 spring onions, diced

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. fresh tarragon, sliced
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground Pepper

 

Heat the grill. Peel the asparagus and cut the bottom. Place in a small sheet pan and add extra virgin olive oil, mix well. Cook on the grill for 7 minutes, until tender.

For the Vinaigrette, place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well.

In a platter, place Arugula and Mache Salad, add spring onion and radishes. Next to the salad, place asparagus. Pour the vinaigrette all over. You can garnish with fresh herbs.

 

 

 

 

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The Herb Series – Thyme

A member of the mint family, thyme is the third installment in our 5 part Herb Series. Thyme is a very common herb used in dishes with meats, soups and stews. It is a great source of iron, manganese, Vitamin K and dietary fiber.

Thyme can be used in both fresh and dried manners. However, when using fresh thyme, it must be used quickly as it does not hold well after being picked. Along those lines, thyme actually retains more flavors in dried form than most other herbs. Thyme is slow to release flavors so unlike other herbs that should be added at the end of cooking, thyme should be added during the cooking process to fully extract its flavors.

When adding thyme to your herb garden, be sure to store it in a hot sunny location with well-drained soil. Thyme can survive through a drought so don’t be shy about growing it in a desert home. Try taking some of your home grown thyme and use it in this great recipe from Chef Jean-Philippe.

Broccoli Soup

  • 3 lb Broccoli, shopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Leek, sliced
  • 2 large potatoes diced
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive Oil
  • 5 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp butter

In a large stainless steel pot heat up 1 tbsp. of olive oil and yellow onion, leek, broccoli for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, fresh thyme, pinch of sea salt and water or vegetable stock. Bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked. Put in a blender with 2 tbsp. of butter. Taste and add sea salt and pepper if necessary. Serve in a soup bowl with stems of broccoli florets.

 

 

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Farmers’ Market

I know you have heard us say this before, but we can’t stress enough the importance of quality ingredients. We say it constantly because it’s true, and that is why we do all of our shopping at our local farmers’ market. The farmers’ market gives us the opportunity to know where our ingredients come from, speak directly to the farmers, and always provide the best quality.  Every week Chef Jean-Philippe goes to two different farmers’ markets, one here in Thousand Oaks and one in Santa Barbara.

One of the great things about shopping at a local farmers’ market is that you will always be provided with ingredients that are fresh and in season. For example, right now we are in the peak of artichoke season. Just look at these beautiful artichokes that were at the Thousand Oaks farmers’ market.

Not only is a farmers’ market great for the ingredients, but also because the farmers are selling directly to you they are able to provide these quality items at a price less expensive than the grocery store.  There is a great selection; you can find everything like fresh herbs, vegetables, fruit, homemade breads, fresh seafood and lots of other items depending on the season. You can also visit the Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association booth for lots of information on the vendors and seasonal items. For more information visit www.vccfarmersmarkets.com.

Come and visit the Thousand Oaks Farmers’ Market every Thursday from 2pm-6pm at the Thousand Oaks Mall east end parking lot. If you have any questions please send an email to dianna@ayschef.com.

 

 

 

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The Herb Series – Dill

The second post in our Herb Series is all about Dill. I have found that dill is one of the herbs that are underrated. Originally from Eastern Europe, some people stay away from using dill because it has such a strong scent and flavor, but when used properly dill, or dill weed, can add a deliciously bright flavor to a dish. Utilized mostly in dip, herb butter, soup, salad and fish recipes, dill is best used when it is freshly picked.

The best way to do this is to grow dill in your herb garden at home. Dill is one of the easiest herbs to plant and harvest. It is best to plant dill in the warmer winter months. If you decide to grow dill in a pot, be sure to use a deep one to allow its roots to flourish.

Once it is ready for harvest, grab a sprig or two while you are cooking. Freshly chopped dill in a dish can bring such a bright, fresh flavor that is unlike anything else. Dill is great to throw in a summer salad with just a squeeze of lemon juice.

We have a delicious dish from Chef Jean-Philippe that will show you how to use dill in your own kitchen.

Fresh and Smoked Salmon Mousse on Baguette Crostini

  • 8 oz. Fresh Salmon (poached)
  • 4 oz. Smoked Salmon (fine sliced)
  • 1 Shallot (diced)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low-fat Greek Yogurt
  • 3 oz. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Dill (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley (chopped)
  • ½ Lemon Juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and chill for few hours. Served on Baguette Crostini.

 

 

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The Herb Series – Basil

This is the first of 5 articles that will be posted known as our Herb Series! We will be doing a short article on each herb individually and pairing it with a delicious recipe from Chef Jean-Philippe.

BASIL

We will be starting our Herb Series with one of my favorite herbs to cook with… Basil! There are a few different types of basil but the most common type is sweet basil.

Basil is native to India and Persia but it is very easy to grow basil in your own home. A member of the mint family, the leaves can be used fresh or dried.  Coming from the Greek meaning “king” or “royal”, basil was always held in high regard. Basil is a great source of iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C.

It is very easy to grow basil in your own home and have it at your fingertips anytime you want to cook. Basil thrives in warm, sunny areas and can be planted in a pot and kept on a sunny windowsill.

Chef Jean-Philippe has developed this recipe that uses fresh basil, now you can make this at your home or have it on the menu at your next event catered by AYS. Enjoy!

Farmers’ Market Yukon Gold Potato Salad

  • ·         1 lb. Yukon Gold New Potatoes
  • ·         2 Persian Cucumbers
  • ·         6 Cherry Tomatoes
  • ·         2 Shallots, diced
  • ·         10 Greek Olives
  • ·         1 Fresh White Corn on the Cob
  • ·         3 Small Balls Mozzarella Cheese
  • ·         ½ Handful of Toasted Pine Nuts
  • ·         Handful Fresh Basil, julienne
  • ·         Balsamic Vinaigrette

Blanch the potatoes and the corn, let them cool. Cut all the vegetables the same size and mix in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette, fresh basil, salt and pepper, toss well and serve in a platter.

 

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10 Ingredients to Always Have in Your Pantry

When setting up your kitchen there are a few items that should always be at hand. Having the essentials makes it very easy to cook from scratch. With these 10 items you will always have a base to start a meal from!

1. Olive Oil: preferably extra virgin olive oil. This ingredient is used in a variety of dishes from salads dressings to marinades or just put a little bit on top of grilled fish to compliment the flavor.

2. Kosher Salt: I love kosher salt because it has wonderful flavor and contains no preservatives and it has a less salty taste than iodized salt.

3. Garlic: by far one of my favorite ingredients. Fresh garlic can be used in so many ways including salad dressings, in a rub, to infuse oils, with pasta, meat, salad, vegetables, fish and meat.

4. Eggs: can be utilized in breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eggs can be a meal in themselves, a base for a soufflé or a key ingredient in baking.  I only use organic or cage-free eggs.

5. Vinegar: I prefer sherry vinegar but whatever you like is fine.  Vinegar is a key ingredient that can be used in many dishes such as a base for vinaigrette that can be for salads or vegetable dishes.

6. Onions: onions are great because they can be manipulated into so many different flavors.  They can be used raw, to flavor a stock, or cooked slowly to create a delicious sauce or soup.

7. Hot Mustard: the most commonly used hot mustard is Dijon. When used correctly hot mustard can add just the right amount of spice to a dish.

8. Flour: a necessity in a French kitchen as a staple ingredient for baking.  I use whole wheat flour, or mix it with regular flour, when possible.

9. Sugar: also a key ingredient in baking.  I also use natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup when possible.

10. Peppercorns: I like to use mixed peppercorn with a good grinder (like Peugeot).

Having these 10 ingredients is a great way to start building a well-stocked kitchen.  Here’s an example – to make your own vinaigrette, mix one part vinegar for three parts of olive oil with 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of Dijon mustard.  Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk together.  Voila!  In 2 minutes you have a delicious, preservative-free fresh dressing.

If you would like a kitchen consultation from Chef Jean-Philippe just send us an e-mail through our website or call AYS Catering at (805) 966-4574.

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A Relationship With Food

We all know that food is imperative to our survival, but how we eat and what we eat are simply bonus questions. Humans are the only species to put so much time and effort into eating, it’s like it has become a sport.  We associate food with memories, holidays, special events, celebrations, coping with stress, etc. Through all of this there are those of us who have taken that relationship to a whole other level, we have made it our whole lives including our work.

In order to work in the food industry, you have to have a certain respect for food. Here at AYS chef, food is the most important part of our team.  Chef Jean-Philippe will stress over and over the importance of quality, fresh ingredients… and he’s right. Think about it, when was the last time you knew exactly what was in your food and where it came from? It is a refreshing feeling to sit down with a meal where all the ingredients were purchased at a local farmers market from a farmer within miles of your home. The treasure is in the peace of mind to eat without worry of preservatives, additives, and faux flavors. To eat a steak and truly taste the flavors of the meat. To enjoy vegetables that actually taste like vegetables, not like the butter they are covered in. So much of today’s food is meant to hide the true flavors of the ingredients behind butter, salt, and sauces. I invite you to take a trip back in time where the ingredients held the respect they deserved. Where a seafood dish tasted like the fish, where a pasta dish is cooked al dente and the starch is left in, where a salad holds all the flavors of the season.

This is what I believe quality food is. When we provide you with a meal, it comes with peace of mind. You will see us walk through the door with a basket of fresh ingredients purchased from a local farmer at the market. We handle all of our food with the respect it deserves, and at the end of the day… you will taste the difference.

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French Intern now working with AYS Chef

Antoine Sangan

Antoine Sangan, a Master’s Degree student in Marketing at Université de Paris, has joined the AYS Chef team for a marketing internship. Antoine has developed a newsletter concept for AYS Chef that will be launched in May. Antoine is trading his marketing knowledge for learning about healthy eating from the AYS staff. He is getting back into running and enjoys the Southern California weather and shopping.  We are glad to have Antoine as a member of the AYS Team!

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