Herbs, spices, & seasonings continued

As mentioned before, the main purpose of this blog is to share with my students and to continue their experiences in being in the Captains Table kitchen at OCC. Obliviously the main goals for the classes are to learn and become better cooks, but also to have fun, and for a brief period forget about everything else going on around the world and just focus on the food.
So if you are following this blog and are not yet a student, no worries, hopefully you’ll find something on here to enjoy and hell, maybe even learn a thing…I appreciate any support and promise to make it worth your time…so here, enjoy some pics!

Photobombs are welcome…even encouraged!


Usually after a short introduction, I like to break everyone into groups, and let them have at it…


Add a little kick to your caramel!
We added a teaspoon of ground clove to this ordinary caramel sauce, and it completely elevated the flavor to another level. Along with balsamic basil strawberries, and cardamom spiced walnuts, served over vanilla bean ice cream of course.


Have an over abundance of rosemary?
A great way to use up extra is to make skewers out of them.

In this case we marinated some shrimp, and threw em on the grill!


Chimichurri is definitely one of my favorite condiments. With all the fresh herbs, the kick of the chilies, and the bite of the vinegar, you can’t go wrong!
Slather it on eggs, cheese, fish, salads, and my favorite flank steak…


Another dish that embodies flavor is Jamaican jerk chicken. Utilizing both fresh and dry seasonings, along with its sweet, sour, and spicy notes, it’s a no brainier being featured in this class. I like to use chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on of course. Typically you would want to marinate this overnight, to let the flavors really develop. You can use boneless, skinless breasts if you want (although I don’t recommend for selfish reasons)
It’s okay though because the marinade will give you that extra flavor, as well as breakdown the muscle tissue in tougher cuts of meat, which are the two reasons we use marinades…

A few tips
Start the chicken on a hot grill and finish in the oven, the chicken will stay moist. Always cook chicken to at least 165 degrees internally, don’t focus on the time, although they’ll take about 20-25 minutes.
Always let your meats rest about ten minutes before slicing. You want the juices to rest, not bleed out everywhere.
Finally, if you have old jars of spices, old being more than a year…throw them out! They’re no longer worth saving. Every time I visit home in Nebraska I always find little containers of spices tucked way in the back of the pantry, god knows how long they’ve been back there, I’m sure some of them are probably older than me…keep your dried spices as fresh as you can folks!

Let’s eat!
After a couple of hours in the kitchen and growing tired of hearing my voice, the groups are finishing up and well, are getting hungry.

Here we go!
Shrimp and rosemary skewers, sun dried tomato/ oregano and maître d butters, caprese and pesto, jerk chicken, flank steak with chimi, roasted herb potatoes, and ice cream…not bad for two hours….


The verdict?



I think they liked it…
Well done guys!


Herbs, spices, & seasonings

Keeping in pace with the abundance of the summer season, it’s a perfect time to gather up a bunch of fresh herbs and local produce. A lot of home cooks are so thrilled when they get to their local farmers market and see all of this great stuff. With all the excitement they fill their baskets on impulse, race home and can’t wait to start cooking…and then they get home and realize they have no idea what to do with half of this stuff…
Let me offer a few ideas that are both simple, delicious, and don’t take much time to prepare at all.


Traditional basil pesto
For me nothing pairs better with summer tomatoes than fresh basil. Making pesto is an easy way to get the most bang for your buck when it come to basil. This is a pretty standard recipe and can be interchanged with many other herbs. Spinach, arugula, cilantro, even kale can be substituted. Nut allergies? Or don’t want to shell out the cash for pine nuts…no problem, you can omit them all together or sub with almonds, walnuts, pecans, just don’t forget to toast them briefly to really elevate the flavors.
This recipe will make about 2 cups of pesto.
Here’s what you’ll need; keep in mind the measurements are based on weight, not volume, except for liquids.
Food processor,
4 oz of fresh basil leaves
5 oz pine nuts, lightly toasted (put nuts in a sauté pan, dry, over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until you smell the aroma, quickly remove)
1oz garlic, minced
8 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the pine nuts, parm, and garlic, purée in food processor until a paste forms.
Next, add the basil. Pulse until the basil breaks down and mixes into the garlic paste. Try not to overwork the basil. Our goal is a bright almost neon green color, over mixing will cause the natural oils to leech out of the basil.
Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor is going. The stream will help the olive oil incorporate into the pesto, making it emulsify. Finally add a little kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

I love to drizzle this on a simple caprese salad, or like in the picture, caprese skewers, with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.
Fresh peaches can also be used in place of tomatoes.


A brief introduction

Just what the world needs…another blog about food. So I may be a tad late to the party, but here we are, and don’t worry I come bearing delicious gifts, as I learned a long time ago never show up empty handed, always bring something to share…to be honest I’m not one into talking about myself, whenever I log on to any social media site I’m much more comfortable being a wallflower and get lost in the posts of others, sure I’ll put up something from time to time that I deem is worthy.
The point of this blog is to share not only my experiences, but the experience of those who are a part of my life. I am a chef. Cooking is my life. To be brutally honest it is all that I know. Even as a kid growing up in Nebraska, I knew it was what I wanted to do. So in the coming days, weeks, and (god willing) months, I will be posting about cooking classes, past and future, events and experiences at OCC, and anything else I can get my hands into. Seeing as I’ve never blogged before, I accept it as a fun and rewarding challenge. Thank you for stopping by, come back anytime…
-Chef Bryce Benes