Monday, March 31, 2008

An Author Talk in Shakopee

On Saturday I gave a presentation at the Scott County Library in Shakopee. They had e-mailed me about being videotaped and I agreed but then forgot about it. I was reminded as we got out of the car and a man with a video camera preceded us into the building. I think it went well but you do feel differently when a camera with a red light is focused on you! It will be shown on cable in Shakoppe and I am getting a copy so I'm hoping Edina will run it, too.

Fortunately when I had spoken at the Edina Library last spring, I had written good notes. As I reviewed my notes, they brought back many memories. Like when my published suggested a needed a writer for the copy (My response: No! I'll learn to write better. ) and another, once again from my publisher ,"I sold the business!".

Well, I did learn to write better, after going through the manuscript three more times. And the new publisher was great but I can't describe my feelings at first. I felt abandoned. As I read the headnotes, there were many happy memories- especially of my mother, and my family and friends and what they taught me about consumers- and recipe directions!

I'm finishing up a recipe project and finalizing my cookbook proposal for "Cooking for Two" this week but will post a recipe later. Pat

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Southern Mediterranean Cooking

Monday night I went to the Edensia Cookbook Review at the Barnes and Noble near my house. My daughter is working in Minneapolis this week and she went with me. We both liked the caponata they served although it is different from mine. It had raisins which added a sweet note.

Edensia cookbook review was started by Kim Ode, a food writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Monday's topic was the Mediterranean Diet. One of the presenters was Brenda Langton, a local restaurant owner and chef who is known for her committment to local, fresh and organic foods and healthy eating. She founded the Mill City Farmer's Market ( She reviewed "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden and loved the book. Randi Roth who has been cooking southern Mediterranean foods (mostly with Paula Wlofert's books) and using a tagine ( also talked about how basic and simple this diet is. I'm now going to try charmoula, a Morrocan sauce and marinade, on fish- maybe halibut now that it's back in season and learn more about this cuisine. Check back for the recipe!

Oh, yes. Next month's discussion is on baking basics. Of course I'm going to talk about "Baking Basics and Beyond" but thought I'd also review "Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook". Her style is much more elaborate than mine and not very basic. Although the books are ususally shelved together, she's not my competition! It's April 28 at 7 P.M. at the Barnes & Noble in the Galleria, Edina.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

KARE-11 Appearance

On March 4, I was featured on Showcase Minnesota. The clip will be available for a short time, so view it soon.

They have posted my Cinnamon Streusel Muffin recipe, but you can find it here:


Streusel Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly spray 12 cups in a standard muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Streusel Topping
Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.

Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center of the flour by pushing ingredients out toward sides of bowl.
Combine milk, melted butter, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir only until the flour is moistened even though the batter is not smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Divide batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of streusel over each muffin.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out dry. Cool slightly and remove from the pan.
Run a small metal spatula around edge of each muffin to loosen it, and lift gently from the pan. Serve muffins warm with butter or jam.

BAKER'S NOTE: For muffins, I prefer spraying the muffin cups instead of using paper liners because the muffins usually stick to the paper.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Muffins are at their best served warm from the oven. Any uneaten muffins can be wrapped and stored at room temperature. I reheat them in the microwave before serving.

Copyright 2006, Baking Basics and Beyond

Friday, March 21, 2008

Serving Fish Twice a Week Has Healthy Benefits

My article from the Spring edition of The Best of Times:

Food experts agree that eating fish twice a week is an important part of a healthy diet because of the many benefits it provides. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids present in fish reduce the risk of heart attack, the build-up of plaque in arteries and the incidence of strokes in people with cardiovascular disease. Possibly its most important effect is reducing the risk of dying from a heart attack. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been significant in reducing hypertension and preventing cancer. In addition to being high in omega-3 fatty acids fish is high in protein and naturally low in fat. Salmon, tuna, halibut, rainbow trout, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies contain significant amounts these healthy fats. Salmon, which is readily available has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish can be contaminated with PCB’s and heavy metals such as mercury and lead that occur as pollutants in water. Pregnant woman, women of child bearing age and children should limit their exposure to heavy metals because they can cause birth defects and slow development, but most health professionals agree that for the older population benefits outweigh risks. As with any food, moderation and variety are the best approach.

Adding Fish to Your Diet

It’s easy to add fish to your diet since its available fresh, frozen or canned. Mild flavored fish easily picks up other flavors. Try substituting a mild flavored fish such as tilapia for a boneless skinless chicken breast in a favorite recipe but be sure to reduce the cooking time.

Fresh salmon has a flavor that requires little enhancement. Farmed Atlantic salmon is what is usually served in restaurants. Many people prefer wild Pacific salmon because it has a more distinctive flavor. Salmon can be served simply with a little fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon.

Tilapia is a mild flavored fish, perfect to serve with a flavorful sauce. Halibut is moist and meaty with a mild flavor.

Canned tuna can be found in most pantries and is perfect for a tuna salad sandwich or a summer pasta salad. Experts recommend buying light tuna, not albacore, because light tuna has lower levels of contaminants.

Buying Fish

Your best guarantee of fresh high quality seafood is to find a fishmonger that you can trust. Educate yourself by asking lots of questions. Ask for the best fish available and recommendations on how to prepare it. Fresh fish should have a mild briny odor but no “fishy odor” and have a firm and elastic, not mushy, texture. Fresh fish should be displayed on crushed ice and kept well chilled.

Fish fillets are cut lengthwise from the fish and are usually boneless but may contain a few thin bones that can be pulled out with pliers. Steaks are cut crosswise and contain the backbone but are a good choice for grilling because they are easier to handle.

Because fish can be flash frozen at sea, frozen fish that has been vacuum packed can be a good choice. The term F.A.S. stands for “frozen at sea” and ensures the excellent flavor and texture when cooked. Select packages that have no evidence of freezer burn and show no evidence of previous thawing. Always thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator to maintain the best texture.

Quick and Easy

Fish cooks quickly and can be prepared simply because of its natural flavors. Mild flavored fish are often interchangeable so purchase whatever is freshest. Most fish can be cooked with the same methods used for boneless skinless chicken breasts, but require less cooking time.

Because fish cooks quickly it is easy to overcook. When it is cooked too long, it becomes dry and tough. A good guide to perfectly done fish is to broil, grill or sauté it about 3 to 5 minutes per ½-inch thickness. As the fish protein cooks it changes from translucent to opaque. Lift a small portion near the center of the fish with a knife—it should be opaque but not dry.

Salmon and tuna are often served “rare” in the center but this is a matter of personal preference. Always ask in a restaurant how the chef serves the fish and state your preferences. At home, just cook it 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Because fish contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to provide many healthy benefits, it makes good sense to serve fish twice a week. Keep frozen fish or canned tuna on hand so readily available. Experiment with different kinds of fish and try new recipes and you’ll see how easy it is to take a step toward better health.

The appearance of tender pale greens stalks of asparagus in the supermarket is always one of the first signs of spring. Fresh halibut, available from March to November, starts to appear about the same time. Select a thick piece of halibut so it isn’t overcooked when it’s baked. This recipe is easily doubled- double the ingredients and bake two packets

Halibut and Asparagus in Parchment

Makes 2 servings

8 stalks asparagus
1 (8 ounce) halibut filet, about 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon white wine or water
2 lemon wedges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus stalks and place them in a microwave safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and microwave on high 1 ½ to 2 minutes. By precooking the asparagus it will be cooked tender crisp when the fish is cooked.

Place a 15-inch square of parchment paper on a baking sheet and fold in half. Place the halibut along the fold and cover with the asparagus. Sprinkle with the shallot, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dot with the butter and add the wine. Seal the parchment by folding the edges together several times. It’s important that you get the packet sealed so that the fish can cook in the steam inside.

Bake 18 minutes or until the paper is puffed and browned. Remove the packet from the oven and open carefully, allowing the steam to escape. Check the center of the halibut to be sure it’s cooked through. If it isn’t place the packet back in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Divide in half and garnish with lemon wedges.

SELECTING AND PREPARING ASPARAGUS: Select crisp pale green asparagus with tight firm buds. It will be fresher of it is stored with the stalks in ice. Whether you prefer thin stalks or fatter stalks it is important that they are uniformly thick. To prepare--just snap off the bottoms of the stalks and rinse well. I usually peel the bottom of fatter stalks but this is just a personal choice.

Autumn Apple Pear Tarts

Tart apples and sweet pears bake under a flaky crust in a perfect fall dessert for two. I have baked this using only apples but I like the sweet-tart flavor combination from both fruits. I’ve also added a handful of dried cranberries on occasion. Use an apple variety recommended for cooking such a Gala, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty or Granny Smith. My favorite pear is the D’Anjou because I like the texture, as it’s not as soft as a Bartlett. Frozen puff pastry shells are the perfect size to cover individual tarts. After removing two shells from the package you can refreeze the remainder.

Makes 2 tarts

2 puff pastry shells, thawed (from a 10 oz. package)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 D’Anjou pear, peeled, cored and sliced
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place the oven rack in the center. Roll each pastry shell out to a 5½-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. (Thaw the shells in the refrigerator.)

Combine the apple, pear, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Mix gently until the flour is thoroughly blended. Divide the mixture in half and place in two 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups.

Center a pastry over each dish and press firmly to the edges. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and cinnamon and cut 3 slits in each to allow the steam to escape. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. I also test the fruit with a fork to be sure that the apples are tender.

Serve the tarts warm with a little ice cream if you are feeling indulgent.

MORE ABOUT PEELING AND SELECTING FRUIT: I don’t feel like I have to have every gadget out there but last summer I discovered a “soft fruit peeler”. It looks just like a vegetable peeler but has a serrated blade and is perfect for peeling pears, peaches and tomatoes. I now consider it an essential!!

A pear is ripe if it gives slightly when you gently press on the stem end. Because pears ripen from the inside out if the pear is soft to the touch it is too ripe. Pears can be used before they are fully ripe as they soften in baking.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair 2007,

Wild Mushroom Tart

Dinner in front of a blazing fire is one of my favorite cool weather activities. Especially during this busy time of year, I try to take time out and have a quiet meal by the fire with someone special. This rich and earthy tart makes a light meal when served with assorted greens tossed that are tossed with a simple vinaigrette or a complete dinner when accompanied with a perfectly grilled filet. Crème fraiche is similar to sour cream and has a unique tangy flavor and adds a silky richness to the filling. Spoon any remaining over a warm fruit dessert or cobbler.

Serves 2

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold butter
Pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 shiitake mushrooms, stem removed, sliced
2 ounces cremini or portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 dried porcini, soaked in hot water, chopped
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
¼ cup crème fraiche
1 egg yolk

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. with an oven rack in the center.

Place the flour, cold butter and salt in the bowl of a mini-processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the sour cream and process until the mixture comes together, about 10 seconds. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour. Divide dough in half and roll out each half on a well-floured work surface to a 6-inch circle. Fit each into a 4-inch tart pan, pressing dough firmly up the sides of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a small skillet and add the shallot. Cook over medium heat until tender. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon butter and mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are tender and liquid has evaporated.

Add the vinegar and scrape to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the crème fraiche and egg yolk in a small bowl and mix well. Spoon into the tart shells. Add half of the mushrooms to each tart. Place the shells on a small baking sheet.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the filling is set.

MORE ABOUT MUSHROOMS: Dried porcini mushrooms can be expensive but they keep indefinitely and add amazing flavor to any dish - just reheat in hot water before using. Shiitake mushrooms must have their woody stems removed before chopping because the stems do not soften with cooking. Break the stems off close to the cap. I never use water to clean mushrooms because they can absorb the water- just brush off any dirt with moist paper towel.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair 2007,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Little About Me...

Pat Sinclair is a food consultant with over 20 years experience. Her first cookbook "Baking Basics and Beyond", published by Surrey Books, has been presented the Baking Cookbook Award for 2007 by the Cordon d’Or- Gold Ribbon Award International Annual Cookbooks and Culinary Arts Program.

Throughout her career she has worked for high-profile corporate clients who target American home bakers such as Land O’Lakes, General Mills and Pillsbury. She was the recipe editor for two Pillsbury Classics Cookbooks and also one for Land O’Lakes.

Pat has played a major role in the production of several community cookbooks, including “Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome” and "Cooking with KARE- KARE 11 News". "Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome" was the 2000 Midwest Regional Winner in the prestigious Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards. As the food editor of this cookbook, Pat incorporated changes to the recipes as a result of kitchen testing. Pat also made the decision as to which recipes from over 450 were to be included, named the chapters and arranged recipes in the chapters.

Pat is currently teaching cooking classes in the Twin Cities at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Mothersauces, and Byerly’s Cooking School. Her emphasis is on recipes that are easy, fast and practical for the home cook.

Pat holds a bachelor’s degree in Food Research from Purdue University and a master's degree in Foods from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.