Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple Summer Potato Salad

I have a client who I routinely do cooking demonstrations for, as well as cooking classes. Wednesday, they called to ask if I would come to their location, and do a cooking demo for 8 people, while they entertained clients. Happily, I moved a few things around on my agenda and sat down to write a menu.

To me, cooking in the summer is all about what's fresh, available, and quick. Life moves quickly and summer is even speedier, so I don't like to spend too much time stirring pots and washing dishes. I went to the market and selected some really nice ribeye steaks, and then shopped the produce section. For a side, I wanted something simple, refreshing, and colorful. I noticed that there was a bag of really attractive potatoes - a blend of red, Yukon Gold, and purple. The colors were bright and always make for an appealing plate presentation, so I decided to go with a potato salad, dressed with vinaigrette, and garnished with smoked bacon, grape tomatoes, scallions, and Maytag blue cheese.

I make my own vinaigrette, utilizing what's in my pantry (I always keep Dijon mustard, red wine & cider vinegars and olive oil), and if I have fresh herbs, I add those too. In this case, I had chives, so those were incorporated. If you do not want to make your own vinaigrette, you can purchase a vinaigrette that you like, and use that instead. If the vinaigrette you selected off the shelf isn't all you had hoped for - doctor it up to suit your tastes!

If you're organized, you can pull this meal off in under 45 minutes. The great thing about these types of potatoes is that you don't have to waste time peeling them. If you decide to use purple potatoes, cook them separately so that the Red Bliss & Yukon Gold's don't discolor. This salad can be enjoyed cold, hot, or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Simple Summer Potato Salad

2 lbs. potatoes (Yukon, Red Bliss, etc.), washed and cut into halves or quarters

8 oz. good quality bacon, cooked and drained, then crumbled
3 - 4 oz. Maytag blue cheese, crumbled

1 bunch scallions, washed and sliced on the bias
2 c. grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half

Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt & pepper to taste

Cover the potatoes with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until they are fork tender. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the bacon. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towel, then crumble and set aside.

Slice the scallions and tomatoes. Set aside.

Prepare the vinaigrette.

Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until all of the ingredients are evenly dressed. Serve with chicken or beef.

2 tablespoons sherry or cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the shallot and Dijon mustard. In a thin, steady stream, whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Don't forget to visit our website, and our facebook page for photos and tutorials.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Simple Summer Shortcakes

I LOVE strawberry shortcake. AND, I'm an un-refuted, unapologetic food snob (especially when it comes to dessert). This week, I wanted to take advantage of the berries I had picked up (blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry) and make something special.

The thing about shortcakes is that they're a simple dessert, and lots of times, recipes for shortcake are COMPLICATED, because the way they're written is based on the pastry method (stay tuned for a future post about that), which is typically used to make biscuits, scones, and pie crust.

In my opinion, using the pastry method to make a simple dessert like a shortcake, especially in 100 degree heat (and don't forget to add the radient heat of your oven), is the wrong way to go about things. I prefer to make a simple drop biscuit, using the muffin method.

The muffin method is used, most obviously, for muffins, but also for crepes, pancakes, waffles, etc. The idea behind the muffin method is that you mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then bring them together in one bowl, folding the wet into the dry until they JUST come together. Don't worry if there are still a few lumps in the dough - I promise, it will be alright! Over-mixing will result in a heavy, dry, unappealing biscuit, so resist the urge to over-do it.

I found a recipe on a while ago (and don't start me on their recipes - they are just as wrong as any other website, but 38 times more complicated). Their method was correct, and, for the most part, their ingredient ratios were ok, but the oven temperature they recommended was WAY too hot. Here is my adaptation of their recipe. Feel free to make adaptations to mine (like adding the zest of an orange or lime, more sugar, etc.)

Simple Sweet Drop Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tb. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt

8 Tb. butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup chilled buttermilk

*2 Tb. butter, melted to brush on the tops of the biscuits
*1/4 cup granulated sugar to sprinkle on the tops of the biscuits.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, and set aside. In another bowl, combine the 8 Tb. of butter and the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold gently together with a rubber spatula.

Spoon onto a parchment lined sheet pan, brush with additional melted butter, and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake at a 450 degree oven until golden brown. Watch them very carefully.

For more information regarding the recipe, as well as instructional photos, visit our facebook page at

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

If You Can't Take the Heat....

Summer's here in full bloom and the heat index makes chilly fall weather seem like it's more of an impossibility, rather than just right around the proverbial corner. In weather like this, it seems that the last place anyone wants to be is in their kitchen.

The good news is that you can still prepare something light and delicious tonight without spending a lot of time behind the stove. I have always really enjoyed entree salads. I love to have a big bowl of bright, fresh, carefully tossed greens, studded with vegetables or other ingredients and a protein to round it out nutritionally and to keep me full.

Pan bagnat is one of my favorite French recipes to prepare. It is a traditional Provencal sandwich, and is very similar to a Nicoise salad, served with baguette (two of my favorite things). You can prepare the sandwich with fresh tuna that has been seared, which really takes the sandwich up a notch in sophistication, but, traditionally, it is enjoyed with best-quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil.

I love to eat this sandwich with some additional fresh vegetables, so, feel free to take whatever vegetables you have left and make a side salad at accompany it. To be quite honest, many times, I don't even bother to make a sandwich out of these ingredients, and instead, I make a salad, then enjoy it with torn baguette. The thing that I love about cooking is that the recipe is just a guideline, so be creative and prepare it however YOU will like to eat it.

Pan Bagnat
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 baguette, approximately 16 to 18 inches long
12 ounces canned tuna packed in oil or water, drained and crumbled
1 small green pepper, sliced into rings
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 tomato, thinly sliced


In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the olive oil. Whisk until an emulsion forms. Set aside.

Slice the baguette horizontally into 2 pieces. Tear out some of the soft bread in the center of each side, making a slight well in the bread. Place the tuna, green pepper, red onion, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and tomato on the bottom side of the bread in that order. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables, top with the second piece of bread, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

To learn more about why the recipe recommends to enjoy the sandwich at room temperature, visit Themethodschool Facebook page, for additional tips. You can enjoy the sandwich cold, if you prefer.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grilling 101 - Beef

Picking up where we left off, today's lesson is all about everything you need to know in order to grill beef like a pro! Now that you've learned how to prep your grill for ultimate performance, it's time to learn the important keys to grilling beef perfectly each and every time.

Necessary Tools:
- 2 sets of sturdy tongs with long handles
- a clean container for fully cooked food
- a stiff grill brush for cleaning grilling surface
- an old towel, wrapped into a cylinder and tied with butcher’s twine for oiling grill
-neutral oil (like canola or vegetable) for oiling grill surface
- an instant read thermometer (digital are easiest to read)
- a pastry brush or mop for basting

- pre-heat grill, preferably with 2 heat zones – one for searing items and one for longer, slower cooking or finishing
- on a gas grill, set dials at medium-low heat on one side, and medium-high heat on the other side
- for charcoal grills, start coals together in a large pile in the center; when white hot, use tongs to push ¾ of hot coals to one side in a thick layer; leave remaining coals in a thin layer on the other side to create 2 heat zones for proper cooking
- clean grill grates thoroughly with brush, scraping off all bits of burned on food, charcoal dust or residue
- wipe grates several times with oil-saturated towel cylinder, closing lid between each wipe down to maintain heat
- season beef with salt and pepper on both sides and sear on hotter side of grill for about 30 seconds to 1 minute; gently lift meat off surface of grill and turn ¼ turn to create cross-hatch markings; continue to cook for another 30 seconds, then turn meat over and repeat on second side
- when beef is seared on both sides, move to cooler side of grill to finish cooking with the lid closed
- boneless beef cuts will cook more quickly -- in an additional 7 – 12 minutes after initial searing; bone-in beef pieces will need to cook approximately 15 – 20 minutes after initial searing; whole chickens will take approximately an hour to cook completely when placed on the cooler side of the grill
let meat rest in a clean container, covered loosely with foil, for 5 – 10 minutes before serving to maintain juiciness.

Instant Read Thermometer: A Chef’s Best Friend – Learn to Cook Foods Perfectly with this invaluable tool!

Beef –
Rare 120 - 125
Medium Rare 125 - 130
Medium 140 - 145
Medium Well 150 - 155
Well 160 and above (not recommended)

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Cutting Edge- Cook Like a Chef

I know that this post was supposed to be about grilling, but, sometimes, you have to help a cook in need. A a friend emailed me, asking for advice about knife care and sharpening. His concern was that he had been using a stone to sharpen his knives (recommended), and that he wasn't seeing results. Sympathetic, I shelved today's continuance from the Patch & Oakland Press blogs about grilling, and will pick those up again in a couple days.

Lets be honest, cooking can be quite a bit of work. It's a lot more work when your knives have gone into disrepair because of the lack of routine maintenance, or ineffective methods used for routine maintenance. To Bill's credit, he's in the know about a lot of things that some people might not yet be aware, being the foodie that he is. Buying a good quality knife isn't enough (although, it is very important), a new, sharp knife won't stay that way forever, so learning how to properly care for it is crucial.

There are a few things you will need in order to sharpen your own knives at home. A few kitchen towels, a two-sided sharpening stone, a sharpening steel, and mineral oil are the basic supplies you will need at hand. A sharpening steel is used to hone the knife and will not be enough on its own to keep your knives as sharp as they should be. Use a steel to realign the blade each time you use the knife. A sharpening stone should be used to sharpen the knife (I sharpen my knives every couple of months). Mineral oil (DO NOT use any other kind of oil!) must be used to oil the stone prior to sharpening it.

To get started, lay a kitchen towel on your counter-top, and place the oiled stone (oil both sides), coarse side up, on top of the towel. This will keep the stone from sliding around, making it safe for you, your counter and your knives during the sharpening process. Using a 20 degree angle, run the knife blade in a long swipe across the stone. Repeat 15 times, turn the knife over, and do the other side.

Turn the stone over to the fine side and repeat, doing 15 -20 swipes on each side of the knife. Oil the stone as needed. Wipe the blade with an extra towel as needed. Test to see if the blade is sharp by using a piece of paper or, even better, a tomato. If the knife is not sharp enough, repeat the steps above (both on the coarse and fine sides). Wipe knives off and store on a magnetic strip, in a block, or in a sleeve.

Do not use electric knife sharpeners and NEVER allow anyone, even a professional, to grind your knives!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you'd like to know where to buy a sharpening stone, see photos, etc., take a look at Themethodschool facebook page,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tricks of the Trade - Grill Like a Pro

Grilling is one of my favorite cooking methods because it's quick, and also delivers a unique flavor to the food (especially if you use charcoal), that cannot be replicated with another cooking technique. When done correctly, a grilled steak, piece of chicken, or even vegetables are irresistible! When done incorrectly, grilled foods can be not only a disappointment, they can be dangerous!

How many times have you been to a picnic when the person behind the grill is serving food that has been charred on the outside and raw on the interior? Not only is this unappetizing, it can be hazardous if the food isn't cooked thoroughly. Over the next few blog entries, we will cover the grilling basics that will have you grilling like a chef in your own backyard.

First and foremost, routine maintenance of the grill is extremely important. A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to keeping flames under control and keeping your food from sticking to the grates. Make sure you have a sturdy grill brush, and use it before and after grilling (sometimes, you might even need to use it as you grill). Also, take an old kitchen towel, roll it into a cylinder, then wrap with kitchen twine to keep it bound together. Dip this in canola oil and use it to oil the grill (use tongs to do this) so that you can keep your newly cleaned grill grates non-stick. Repeat as necessary.

Be sure to have enough propane, charcoal, etc. in order to ensure that you won't run out and have to make an emergency stop to the hardware store! It's always a good idea to keep an extra stash in your garage, shed, etc. to avoid such an inconvenient emergency.

Second, you will need an instant read thermometer (unless you're very confident in your ability to test perfect doneness visually). Undercooking is, of course, dangerous, but overcooking is another way to ruin a meal. An instant read thermometer will give you precise results, ensuring a perfect protein each and every time.

Next, plan ahead for the right number of tongs, spatulas, platters, etc. Make sure to use the right utensils (raw and cooked) so as to avoid contaminating cooked food with the utensils you used to turn raw food.

Last, be sure to let the proteins rest so as to keep them as juicy as possible. Cutting into meats without resting them first will cause the juices to run out, leaving you with dry steaks, chicken and chops.

Our next blog will focus on specific tips for grilling beef, along with a recipe. Prep the grill today in anticipation for an awesome cook-out tomorrow!