JEWELS FROM THE ROVING STOVE

From VIP entrances in Versace to service entrances in my apron

  • Julie Anne Rhodes

If You Can't Stand The Heat

… get out of the kitchen, or in this case TV show. While the rest of my house resembled the North Pole (my poor friend Cynthia, wrapped in cashmere, teeth chattering, on photo duty) from the a.c. blasting, I was melting in my slightly cramped kitchen taping Food(ography) for the The Cooking Channel with both ovens blazing, stove fired up, and hot lights glaring.

Julie Anne Rhodes on Food(graphy)

I did prove to myself I had the professional mettle to withstand the heat while loving every sweaty second of the experience.

Jewels in a marathon prep session

The segment is about being a personal chef in L.A., so I prepared double batches of Asian Orange Chicken with Spicy Orange Broccoli, and Orange Scented Rice, Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup, Marinated Salmon seared in a Black Peppercorn Crust with Lemon Couscous & Asparagus with Peas, as well as brownies for the crew in a marathon cooking session the day before. Well, I had to show them how we PC’s roll!

Being my usual personal chef tornado in the kitchen

In addition I prepped two swap outs, and all the ingredients for three run-throughs of Crispy-Ginger Tofu Lettuce Wraps, and Five-Spice Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Hoisin Ketchup.

One batch of demo ingredients

Warning: my poor little dishpan hands didn’t have time to make it to the manicurist, so please divert your eyes, and concentrate on the gorgeous food.

As is always the case in TV land, the crew were running behind schedule on the previous segment in Culver City (not that far, but L.A. traffic is always such a joy on Friday afternoons). The director’s pending flight back to New York meant everything had to be done quite quickly. That added a little pressure to perform, but they were all so delightful to work with that my nerves soon disappeared – a really top notch crew.

Annnnnnnnd action!

I was enthralled by all the little details I learned from working with them, and how differently this show is taped compared to the straight forward cooking shows I’ve worked on before. I thrive on lashing out into new territory, so bring it on!

Eating up a new challenge

Many thanks to CBS Eye Too Productions for such a great opportunity. There is an added perk too, I’ve always loved knowing that my personal chef approach to cooking helps bring my clients’ families back around the dinner table again, but for once my refrigerator is full of yummy food at the end of a long day’s work. It’s so nice to get a break from cooking for a few days, and know that I can get dinner from fridge to table in as little as five minutes. Have you ever tried the personal chef approach?

Crispy-Ginger Tofu Lettuce Wraps

When Tatjana and her friend Leah gobbled these lettuce wraps up before I could cool the recipe long enough to store it, I knew I was onto a winner. This scrumptious, low-carb, vegan dish can also be adapted for you meat lovers out there – just substitute ground pork, turkey, or chicken for the tofu, but be sure to cook the meat until it is no longer pink.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons peanut oil, divided

1 package firm tofu, drained well, and crumbled (see note below)

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup carrots, shredded

2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 can water chestnuts, (8-ounce) drained and chopped

3 tablespoons peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce, plus more for serving

1/3 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 head lettuce, separated into leaves

Directions:

1). Heat 1 teaspoon of peanut oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the crumbled tofu and brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the tofu onto a plate and set aside.

2). Add the remaining peanut oil to the same pan, and heat for 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, Cook until fragrant, stirring well, about 1 minute. Add the shredded carrots, mushrooms, and green onions, stir well and cover for 2-3 minutes to soften. Stir in the water chestnuts.

3). Add the peanut butter, and stir until melted and mixed in, about 1-2 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, stirring frequently. Add the tofu, and stir gently until sauce is incorporated and all the ingredients are coated nicely, another 1-2 minutes.

4). Take a lettuce leaf and drizzle with hoisin sauce (optional), then top with a spoonful of crispy ginger tofu.

Serving Suggestions: Lemon Basil Jasmine Rice or Five Spice Sweet Potato Fries.

Variations: Try with ground pork, turkey or chicken instead of tofu. In addition to browning – make sure the meat is cooked through, until it is no longer pink.

Note: The trick to getting a ground meat like texture from the firm tofu is to freeze it, and defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Small crystals will form during the freezing process that create little caverns in the tofu when defrosted and drained. Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid before cooking.

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