Category Archives: Culinary Education

Sesame, From Tahini to the Arabian Nights

For a lot of Chefs, their first encounter with sesame seeds probably came with a “jingle” that went: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a…”

And you know the rest.

https://youtu.be/jSmAibfvCeU

Big burger and chips on the table

Of course, later in life, you learn that the LEAST of what sesame seeds can offer to the culinary world…

Is a topping on a bun.

But the fact remains that at one time, the vast majority of the sesame seed crop of Mexico went directly to McDonalds for toppings on their famous hamburger buns.

You still see sesame seeds on some bakery products in the United States but our country is nowhere near the leading importer of sesame seeds, nor its uses.

Sesameis a flowering plant grown in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods.

Sesame is thought to be the oldest oil-seed crop known to humanity and has one of the highest oil contents of any see and world production of sesame seeds in 2018 was 6 million metric tons.

Golden sesame

Interestingly, the top exporters of sesame seeds are India, Burma, Sudan Tanzania, China and Pakistan and India.

The top importers of sesame seeds are China, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and Israel.

From a nutrition perspective, eating sesame seeds have many “potential” health benefits and was once thought to have mystical powers, as first mentioned in the command “Open sesame!,” used in the Arabian Nights tale of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

Albeit a poorly remembrance of the actual command, which was, “open says me”, (which opened the secret cave’s entrance), “Open Sesame!” made its way into common expression anyway.

Many studies have extolled sesame seeds virtues since, due to the numerous vitamins and minerals they contain. The health benefits of sesame seeds seem almost endless. A few highlights include claims such as reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, bone health, type 2 diabetes, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, other studies say that you REALLY love sesame seeds in order to see any significant results from eating sesame seeds.

Like handfuls a day.

With a rich, nutty flavor, it’s no wonder that sesame seeds are used as garnishment and in foods all over the world.

From toppings on breads to thickeners in soups and savory dishes, sweets and coffee-like drinks with exotic names like: ”Benne”, Wangila, Chikki, Halvah, Goma-Dofuand and in Za’atar, there’s no shortage of recipes and spice blends that use this diverse seed.

But perhaps the most well-known food product that uses sesame seeds is Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds and a key ingredient in the classic dip, Hummus.

Hummus, the Turkish word for mashed chick pea, is one of the oldest (prepared) foods, dating back to ancient Egypt.

There was time, that if you loved hummus, you’d probably only find it in a local specialty store, or hidden somewhere in the back aisles of one of the more popular national chains.

Today, it’s one of THE most popular dips in America.

You can of course buy Tahini to make your hummus but it’s SO easy to make and tastes infinitely better so why not make it yourself.

The recipe is below but you can watch it being made right here!

Tahini

Makes 3 Cups

1 Cup                        Sesame Seeds

¼ to 1/3 Cup             Olive Oil

  1. Place the sesame seeds (by themselves), in a frying pan or skillet on medium low heat, stirring often until the sesame seeds begin to lightly color and give off a toasty aroma.
  2. Remove the seeds from the heat and fully cool.
  3. Place the seeds in a food processor and blend until a paste is created.
  4. Add the olive oil in 2 or 3 stages, scraping down between each addition.
  5. Blend until the desired smoothness is achieved.

Classic Hummus

Makes 3+ Cups

2 – 16 oz Cans                  Canned Chick Peas

1 to 2 teaspoons                Garlic, Fresh, Chopped

1/3 Cup                              Tahini Paste

½                                        Lemon, Freshly Squeezed Juice

3 TBSP                               Olive Oil

1/3 Cup                              Cold Water (Or More as Needed)

1 tsp                                   Sea Salt (or Kosher Salt)

1/4 tsp                                Hot Sauce (Tabasco or Other)

  1. Drain off all liquids from the canned chick peas and rinse well with cold water to remove all of the canned juices.
  2. Add chick peas to a food processor using an “s” blade attachment.
  3. Add the fresh garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice and olive oil.
  4. Blend on medium then high speed 1 to 2 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You want to make this paste rather smooth before adding the water.
  5. Begin adding the cold water in 2 to 3 steps, blending each time and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. The resulting hummus should be smooth and creamy looking and easily hold its shape when mounded.
  6. When you feel you have the consistency you want, add the salt and hot sauce and blend one last time for 15 to 30 seconds.

To the recipe above, once finished, you can blend in, OR add other ingredients, as toppings. These are a few of our favorites.

Tarragon, Bearnaise and Beyond…

If there was a Mount Rushmore of herbs, tarragon would certainly be a strong contender.

Its glossy, slender leaves and highly aromatic, licorice/anise-like flavor, (with a bit of peppery, mint finish), is unmistakable in any dish it’s used in.

And for good reason.

Tarragon is one of the key components of the French herbs mixture known as “Fines Herbes”, which “classically”, consists of: tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives.

Some say that tarragon provides an elegant addition to so many recipes, from salads, almost ANY protein, and numerous soups and sauces as well.

Others say that it’s licorice flavor makes it a “love it, or hate it” herb. Much in the same way that some people feel about cilantro.

But make no mistake, this herb is a star among the many who know that tarragon is an essential herb in any kitchen.

The most common tarragon used in cooking is the French variety, which pairs brilliantly with chicken, fish, and in egg dishes.

With the addition of garlic and shallots, it’s also remarkable in compound butter used as a garnish over char-grilled beef steaks.

Additional varieties of tarragon include Spanish/Mexican and Russian.

But perhaps the MOST widely known use for tarragon is in the classic sauce, Bearnaise, which is a derivative of Hollandaise sauce. It’s often used not just once, but 3 times within the recipe. First as tarragon vinegar, the second, as part of the tarragon reduction, and lastly as a chopped garnish.

Each form of tarragon, introduces its own unique contribution of flavors which meld together so completely in the final sauce.

The French love this classic herb, but it’s also popular in other countries around the world, and used in salads, stews, soups, pickles, pastries and even soft drinks!

It’s also an herb which can be used in the same dish both dry and fresh as BOTH uses take on their own unique flavor properties and truly complement each other in the recipe. Such as is the case with sauce Bearnaise.

Dry VS Fresh

Tarragon’s oils intensify during the drying process.

When using dry tarragon versus fresh chopped tarragon in a recipe, the usual substitution ratio is 1 tsp dry to equal 1 tablespoon of fresh.

When you mention the word, “tarragon” nearly anyone would immediately associate it with “Sauce Bearnaise” and for that reason, it’s a good recipe to share with you here.

Bearnaise is one of 5 “Grand Sauces” that all chefs and devoted cooks learn to make early on. It’s also one, that non-professionals are told is just too difficult to even attempt.

Hollandaise sauce is made from only 4 basic ingredients, but it’s the 2 main ingredients (egg yolks and butter) that can give you real headaches if you don’t to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Here’s how you avoid the headaches, and to show you, we’ll make an average-sized recipe of Bearnaise sauce.

Start by making the tarragon Bearnaise reduction which you will add to the Hollandaise sauce once it is finished.

Set this reduction aside, THEN begin your Hollandaise sauce.

Bearnaise Reduction for Hollandaise Sauce

2 TBSP                      Dried Tarragon Leaves

1 TBSP                      Chopped Fresh Shallots

¼ Cup                        Cider or Tarragon Vinegar

¼ Cup                        White Wine (nothing too sweet)

¼ tsp                          Cracked Black Pepper

  1. Simmer these ingredients together in a small saucepan until reduced to a wet paste. Be careful not to burn it!
  2. Set it aside and NOW begin your Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes about 1 Cup

  1. Before you begin to cook your egg yolks, in a microwave on the defrost setting, melt 1 ½ sticks of butter until the fat separates, and then skim off that clarified butter and reserve.
  2. Squeeze the juice from a half lemon and reserve.
  3. Choosing the right bowl and saucepan to make your hollandaise is super important. You want about a small-to-medium-sized saucepan and a mixing bowl that nests within the saucepan, leaving at least an inch of space from the bottom and an inch or so lip at the top. This way, you can easily lift the bowl in and out of the pan as you cook your yolks.
  4. Put only a half inch of water in your saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You should have a space between the bottom of your mixing bowl and the water, and that will mean your egg mixture will be cooking gently over the steam and not directly on the water.
  5. Place 2 egg yolks in your mixing bowl, and for each yolk, a half egg shell of water–in this case 2 half egg shells worth.
  6. This step will help you to cook your egg yolks into a “pudding.” Place the bowl over the simmering water, and using a whisk, beat the egg yolk mixture on and off the steam heat (about 15 seconds each round). This method will take a bit longer to turn this raw mixture into a thickened egg pudding, but it will also prevent your mixture from cooking too fast and turning into scrambled eggs.
  7. When the egg mixture is sufficiently cooked, the whisk will create tracks in the mixture. This will let you know it’s time for the next step.
  8. Remove the water from the saucepan and lay a damp kitchen towel or paper towel over its mouth. Replace your bowl and nest it in snugly. This neat trick will allow you to do the next step more easily.
  9. This step gets everyone in trouble now, but if you just take your time, there’s NO reason you should ever have a problem. You’re going to make an emulsion here by SLOWLY–and the key word is SLOWLY–adding the clarified butter to the cooked egg “pudding.” That means whisking somewhat briskly while adding the clarified butter in very small amounts, especially at first.
  10. Start by drizzling in less than a tablespoon; don’t dump it in all at once. Drizzle it in a thin stream. Once that is incorporated, add another, the same way.
  11. After the 3rd tablespoon, you’ll notice the mixture is getting thicker. Now is when you begin to whisk in a bit of your squeezed lemon juice–about a teaspoon. Continue alternating butter and lemon juice until they’re both used up.
  12. The hard part is over, now all you have to do is add the tarragon mixture you made earlier. Whisk it in briskly and season with a pinch of salt if you like.

Of course, tarragon is one of THE most popular herbs sold at the Red Goose Spice Company. We stock the French variety and is available in any size container or bulk box you prefer.

Are Bay Leaves REALLY Necessary?

It comes up as a topic in kitchens all the time.

Are Bay Leaves REALLY necessary? Or are they just a time-honored tradition?

Do we stock them on our shelves, then put them in our recipes because they truly add a valuable flavor? Or, because the recipe says to.

Are they worth the effort? The cost? Do they make a difference at all?

Would anyone really notice if they weren’t there?

To that point, there are Chefs who would argue that adding Bay Leaves to most (if not all) recipes is like putting flowers on a grave.

They don’t do much for the deceased, but it makes you feel good that you did it anyway.

Is that true? Or, are they turning a blind eye, (or palate), to the fact that Bay Leaves are a legitimate, “go to” seasoning herb?

Granted, Bay Leaves, added to a recipe, aren’t going to bludgeon your palate, like say for instance, oregano or rosemary can.

Generally speaking, Bay Leaves DO add a subtle, but ever so noticeable background nuance, when added in the correct proportion to the remaining seasonings and ingredients in your recipes.

It might be likened to adding vanilla extract to a chocolate recipe. You only “seem” to taste the chocolate, but the vanilla is there lurking just below your taste perception of it, melding into the homogenous whole and rounding out the flavor.

You couldn’t admit to actually tasting the vanilla but you might likely notice its absence if it was omitted.

The chocolate wouldn’t quite taste the same.

Much is the same for Bay Leaves, especially when added to a medley of other more prominent herbs and spices in a recipe.

Could it be that the lack of their flavor contribution is more a factor of the lack of adding the necessary amount to be noticed.

What are Bay Leaves and how are they used?

Bay Leaves come from the Bay Laurel plant, which is classified as an evergreen and grow in warmer climates.

DRIED BAY LEAVES

They can be purchased and used fresh, dried, whole or ground. You can also purchase fresh leaves and dry them yourself, which typically takes about 4 weeks. From there, it’s best to store your newly dried leaves in a zip lock bag away from light and excessive heat.

FRESH BAY LEAVES

Most recipes which use Bay Leaves are for stocks, soups, sauces and stews. All of which are generally slow cooked which bring out the herbaceous aromas and flavors in Bay Leaves, that most would compare to oregano and thyme with just a hint of mint and spice.

From a use perspective, Bay Leaves should be added at the beginning of the recipe to allow the maximum amount of time for the leaves to release their flavors into the liquid. Much like making tea.

Unlike many herbs and spices which are actually consumed while enjoying the dish, whole bay leaves are removed from the finished recipes and discarded, leaving behind their contribution of savory goodness melded into the liquids.

Factoids:

  • Worn as a woven leaf “crown” to signify honor and success by Emperors, Olympian athletes, poets and scholars, laurel, the name of the plant, worked its way into our everyday vocabulary.
  • Upon successful completion of a 4-year college degree, you earn a baccalaureate, which translated, is: “berries of laurel,”
  • And the supreme honor of Poet Laureate, to someone who composes poems for special occasions.

There are 2 distinctive types of Bay Leaves.

  1. California (Which are mostly sold fresh and which are more potent). If using fresh Bay Leaves, use about half the amount the recipe calls for.
  2. Mediterranean (Which are sold as dry whole leaves or ground). These are the “standard” Bay Leaves in almost every kitchen.

Other popular varieties of Mediterranean Bay Leaves come  from West India, Indonesia and Mexico.

The current inventory of Bay Leaves at The Red Goose Spice company is a marvelously aromatic one sourced from India.

So, what conclusions can be drawn?

Bay Leaves, when still volatile, used in recipes correctly, and in their recommended amount, certainly add a distinctive flavor and aroma that only Bay Leaves can offer.

The key, is volatility as many kitchens use this herb so infrequently that it has lost much of its potency when called upon.

The Red Goose Spice Company recommends that you to buy Bay Leaves in whatever quantity necessary to use your inventory within 12 months of purchase to maintain their unique flavors and maximize their herbaceous contributions to your favorite dishes.

They’ll do a lot for your recipes make you feel good at the same time.

How Herbs de Provence Came To Be

Herbs and spices are simply amazing. Each one of them has a history and a story all their own.

Singularly, historians can trace back the origins and uses of nearly each and every herb or spice we use today, going back thousands of years

Commercially produced herb and spices blends however, are a much more recent thing. Often, the bi-product of convenience. Curry Powder is a good example.  (See Red Goose Blog: Curry in a Hurry)

From ancient times, until a few centuries ago, you pretty much had to buy each and every individual herb or spice you used in your dishes. There were no “blends”.  When it came to making a recipe with multiple herbs and spices, you pulled them all out of your pantry, added each one to your dish or ground them together in a mortar and pestle in whatever proportion you desired.

No Chili Powder, no Curry Powder, no “Italian” Herbs Blend, no Herbs de Provence.

Even if you love to cook, there are a couple of down-sides to making your own blends.

Besides needing to have all the individual components available (and fresh), each and every time you make a blend, there is the likely lack of consistency of flavor every time you make it.

As a result, herb and spice blends are, generally speaking, a very good thing. And each has a history all their own.

Take Herbs de Provence for example, one of the more unusual herb and spice blends.

Everyone loves a good story. This one however, doesn’t date back to ancient times.

Its name and the popularity of Herbs de Provence isn’t attributed to some famous French Chef, but rather to a popular American Celebrity Chef, who lived in France for a time and wrote one of the most widely known, and used, cookbooks on the planet.

Julia Child and her best-selling, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961.

This wildly successful book, considered by many to be one of the most influential cookbooks ever published, included a sauteed chicken dish using an herb and spice blend she named: “Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence”.

The rest, as they say, is culinary history.

The usual suspects (plus one)

Before blends, and before Herbs de Provence had an “official” name, those who enjoy preparing the regional cuisine of Southern French needed to have these classic herbs and spices always at the ready, most of which, happen to be cultivated in Southern France. They are: Oregano, Thyme, Savory, Rosemary, and perhaps some Fennel, Tarragon, Bay Leaf, or Chervil if you are making one of the more unique blends.

There wasn’t, (and still isn’t), a “true” recipe for the exact  proportions of each ingredient in Herbs de Provence however the earliest “recipe”, believed to be its ancestor, used nearly equal parts of just 4 herbs. Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary and Savory.

So, you just started there.

This blend, you might notice, lacked the one spice that everyone now identifies it by, and that is, lavender, which Southern France’s is famous for, and which both the locals, and tourists, love.

Lavender

It started to appear in later adaptations of Herbs de Provence and then became quite popular, especially in America.

Lavender gives Herbs de Provence its uniquely perfumed aroma, it’s alluring taste and adds a hint of French romance to what otherwise would be a blend which could just as easily be perceived as Italian.

A dish using Herbs de Provence is unmistakable in any recipe it is used in.

However, as the Herbs de Provence blend became more popular, even those in a professional kitchen, had to keep ALL of these individual herbs and spices in their pantry AND fresh, and then measure them precisely each time to obtain a consistent result. Oh, and by the way, lavender seeds aren’t exactly cheap, so unless you’re making this blend a lot, why would you want to have lavender seeds in your pantry?

Kind of a pain.

As expected, it didn’t take long for the purveyors of herbs and spices to seize the opportunity to provide various versions of an Herbs de Provence blend to both the retail and commercial markets.

So, just how is Herbs de Provence used?

Herbs de Provence is extremely versatile. It pairs well with chicken, pork, lamb, fish, vegetables, on salads, salad dressings, even omelets!

Recipes using Herbs de Provence include cooking methods such as sauteing, braising, grilling and roasting. It can be uses as a rub before cooking, added to a liquid or sauce during cooking or even as a topping to a salad or pizza.

Classically, beyond proteins, it pairs well with tomatoes, olives and olive oils, cheeses, root vegetables and many Mediterranean dishes which its why you’ll often see it used in Ratatouille, Tapenades and rustic vegetable stews. You’ll also find it gives off a remarkably fragrant smoke if you moisten it and sprinkle it over coals while grilling.

Whether you currently use Herbs de Provence in your cuisine or, you’d like to explore the amazing versatility of this amazing blend enjoyed by so many foodies on BOTH side of the “pond”, The Red Goose Spice Company has a marvelous version available for immediate delivery to your kitchens.

As Julia Child would say as she ended each and every one of her TV shows…”Bon Appetite!”

 

American Culinary Federation Thanks Red Goose for Its Support

American Culinary Federation acknowledges Red Goose’s second annual top-level sponsorship of its Master Chef Exam

The American Culinary Federation announced today that one candidate for its Master Chef Certification successfully completed the rigorous nine-day exam to earn his Certified Master Chef designation. Timothy Bucci, of Lacroix, Louisiana, advanced through all eight required competencies to earn his CMC designation.

ACF thanked Red Goose Spice Company for its top-tier sponsorship of the exam and noted that this was the second year in a row that Red Goose provided this level of support.

Chef Dan Lowry, founder of Red Goose, said how “pleased everyone at Red Goose is to be able to participate in this important event, and we hope to continue our support of it for many years to come.” Chef Lowry is also an instructor in Culinary Arts at Detroit’s Macomb Community College. “I’ve always believed in the importance of formal culinary education. I think it gives students a broader perspective and deeper understanding of many aspects of the cooking sector. It qualifies them at a higher level for almost any kind of food service career. I would say 90 percent of Red Goose employees have graduated or are enrolled in some form of culinary program.”

Established in 1929, the American Culinary Federation is the premier professional chefs’ organization in North America with more than 17,500 members in over 150 chapters nationwide.