Archive for Tips

And Now, a Word About Farmer’s Markets (and a $21 Challenge!)

I know, I know.  I “ooh” and “aah” about my Farmer’s Market all the time, and you’re like, “Get over it, Punky.  JEEZ.”  So, I thought it would be good to show you why I’m so emotional.

"Vat ah BAAAAGEN!"  (Say it out lound like my Jewish grandfather and it'll make sense.)

"Vaht ah BAAAGEN!" (Say it out loud like my Jewish grandfather.)

I used to be just like you.  That is, if you are the kind of person who goes to the occasional farmer’s market, heads straight to the pastry table, buys a scone or an apple turnover, and then heads-out, overwhelmed by the whole experience.  I FEEL YOUR PAIN, YOUR ISOLATION, YOUR FEAR.  Punky knows, believe me.

BUT!  What I’ve discovered, is that my love of cooking grew with my trips to the farmer’s market, because the farmers themselves would tell me what to make with their produce!  How to bake a butternut squash, what a kumquat is, where you can put dried fruit, etc.  (That sounded dirty, but anyway.)  And the more I go, the more my mind opens and my IMAGINATION ignites, to the point where I’m creating flavors in my head and then seeking them out on the tables.  Sometimes I simply pick something up, a sprig of cilantro, a blood orange, an ear of corn, and just by smelling it, my gears start to turn.  (And I’m sure all the farmers appreciate my nose on their products.)

There is also, of course, the financial benefit to shopping at a farmer’s market.  This week I only had $21 on me, so I decided to see how much I could get for it.  A $21 Challenge!  The picture above shows you my bounty, going clockwise from bottom left, and with prices on the ones I remember.  (Some are by weight and I can never keep it straight):

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Napoleon Dynamites! Plum Tomatoes, Seasoned Breaded Egglant, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Fresh Basil

Yes, you heard me right.  These scrumptious layered belly-pleasers are called Napoleon Dynamites and almost EVERYTHING you need to make them comes from your local Farmer’s Market!  Need I say more?

The big version...

The big version...

The small version...

The small version...

 I am still trying to find the best way to “plate” these things – they’re downright messy once you get to presentin’ ’em.  But believe me, they make BEAUTIFUL COLORS inside your mouth!  We have here breaded, seasoned eggplant, layered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh leaves of basil, garden vine tomatoes, PESTO, and if that all wasn’t enough, baked chopped WALNUTS on top!  I know.  I know.  Dynamite, eh?  Come with me… Read the rest of this entry »

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Punky Chef recommends…

So I thought I should make a page of recommendations for other (real) chefs, websites, and restaurants you should check out.  These people *actually* know what they’re doing, and they do it so wonderfully, that the word MUST BE SPREAD!

1. Dan Barber – An incredible chef and very nice guy who went to my high school, Dan Barber has made a big impact on the restaurant world, not just by being talented, but by incorporating local farming into his cooking and raising awareness all over the country about eating local and organic.  Eat in his restaurants.  Praise be to the Barber. Read the rest of this entry »

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PunkyChefPunky Chef say:

I, your trusty Punky Chef, have a new friend to introduce to you: Let’s call him Wino Mike! (Because it rhymes with “DynoMite” and I love that, and it’s my blog, so there.) Wino Mike owns a wonderful wine store called Storyteller Wine Co. in Portland, Oregon and has agreed to be our punky semmolier here and give us some great recommendations for certain dishes. So, always keep an eye out for the Story Teller icon, and now… Wino Mike, TAKE IT AWAY!

Dynomite WinoMike!WinoMike say:

Hello Punky Chefs!  Glad to be  here.  And for my first trick, I will suggest a wine for the Mexican Free-Range Chicken Soup, described in the previous post. Read the rest of this entry »

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Overall TIPS before you start…


Okay, just to summarize what months of watching cooking shows has taught me, here are some TIPS and below them, a good basic TOOL LIST and GROCERY LIST to get you on your way, my lovely chefs!

Ah likes me a big knife, people! But seriously, the better and sharper your knife, the less likely you are to hurt yourself because the less you will actually have to WORK to cut things. Why slave over an onion, changing hands, changing angles, slipping the blade on tough skins and slitting your wrists, when you can just use the sharpness of the knife to do the work for you? Knives are not cheap, but do yourself a favor and make this your one big investment in your new chef career! You can skimp on the mixing bowls (dollar store), silverware (Target), cutting boards (charity thrift shop), and pans (re-used take-out containers), but DO NOT skimp on your big knife!

When you watch the cooking shows and you see Ina (my love) and Rachel and Lidia turning on the burners and throwing in the garlic, while simultaneously chopping the vegetables and chicken, it’s like fine art – a ballet for the eyes!  Ahh, how they multi-task!!  BUT, do not be fooled.  Until you can chop and prep QUICKLY, I suggest always doing all the chopping and peeling and prepping BEFORE you turn on the heat and start to cook.  Then you can breathe easily while you’re cooking, because everything’s ready when you need it!


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