steamy kitchen

Review: The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

As a child I remember watching evening news footage of what the media referred to as “boat people.”  In reality they were Vietnamese and Thai refugees fleeing the violence in their homelands.  Whether they were running from the Red Menace, a tyrannical government or just tired of having their rice fields carpet-bombed I do not recall.  I do have memories of people on makeshift rafts swamped by waves and Coast Guard choppers and the older generation with their whispered-apprehension about our new neighbors.

A sizable number of those refugees and subsequent generations now call the Gulf Coast home.  The trepidation felt by those older and supposedly wiser than me has since been replace by admiration.  Sure the newcomers look different and their native language is . . . well, foreign, but they have an amazing work ethic and if there is one thing folks on the Third Coast appreciate it is hard work.  Plus their food is exciting!

Though a wok cooker-er from way back, I have done very little with Asian food professionally.  Recently, I had decided to make chicken lollipops with a Thai peanut sauce for a catering job.  I tried to duplicate flavors I had experienced at some of the great Thai restaurants in the area.  It tasted right to me, the rest of the staff loved it but I was still worried.  What if an expert on Thai food were at the wedding?  Each time I do a job like this my reputation as a chef is on the line.  I had to make sure my Thai peanut sauce was right so I whipped out my laptop and shot a quick Tweet to Jaden Hair.  In less than 140 characters she let me know I had it right.

That’s Jaden for you.  That’s why she is so beloved in the food-blogging, cookbook-writing, TV-demo’ing world.  A peaceful spirit is always lurking beneath her bubbly exterior.

It isn’t often that I get to review the work of someone I consider a friend.  Consequently I always worry that I can aptly separate friendship from the task at hand.  In this case, however, I do not have to.  When great chefs like Martin Yan and Ming Tsai praise the Steamy Kitchen Cookbook then I can rest assured that the recipes are technically sound.  And when renowned food writers like the Washington Post’s Kim O’Donnel and Michael Ruhlman give it their approval then is it safe to say the prose is sound as well.

So with objectivity no longer an issue I’ll jump right to what I love about Jaden’s book.  It teaches while it entertains.  Though Jaden was born in Hong Kong, the is not a Chinese cookbook, it is an Asian cookbook featuring flavors from Korea, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and yes, China.

One lesson is that different cultures in Asia have vastly different cuisines.  Japanese is not Chinese.  Chinese isn’t Korean.  Another lesson that all Americans need to learn is that stuff on the steam table at the Red Dragon Buffet is far from being Chinese food.  It is American food.

steamy-kitchen-cookbookThe Steamy Kitchen Cookbook has 101 authentic or inspired Asian recipes.  It also boasts the most entertaining cookbook introduction I have ever read.  Damned clever, in fact.  And for you picture gawkers, Jaden is big into food porn, too.  Quite the accomplished food photographer, she has packed the 160 pages of the book with tons photos bursting with color and allure.

Jaden makes her home in the Tampa area with her husband, kids and a covey of culinary cohorts.  She can be seen working her gastronomic magic on TV shows like the nationally syndicated Daytime TV Show and NBC’s Today Show.  You can also just drop by the blog that started the whole Steamy Empire by clicking HERE.  Oh, yeah, buy the frickin’ book!

Review: Good Bite Weeknight Meals – Delicious Made Easy

The folks at are obsessed with their “delicious made easy” mission. They feature America’s leading food bloggers and famous faces from the food world who share definitive recipes and good bite bookcooking inspiration. Their rotating cast of contributors includes Aarti Sequiera, (Aarti Party, The Next Food Network Star); cookbook author and star blogger David Lebovitz; and entertaining superstar Sandra Lee (Semi-Homemade), who offers up seasonal cocktails and chic entertaining tips. Series include:

  • Real Fast Food, where top food bloggers create easy weeknight recipes that feature five ingredients or less and can be made in 15 minutes or less. We want to show you how easy it is to put real, fresh and healthy homemade food on the table every night.
  • Web’s Favorite Recipes, which serves up the recipes American’s crave. From “Mac and Cheese” to “NY Cheesecake” we give you road-tested versions of these crowd-pleasing favorites.
  • The Made Easy series finds the fastest, simplest path to delicious across a growing list of food categories from budget dinners to holiday entertaining.

Above all, Good Bite is the place for home cooks to get inspired, and engage with their favorite food talent. GB debuts new videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (sometimes more often too!).  And now they have a cookbook.

Good Bite Weeknight Meals compiles 120 recipes for quick and delicious family dinners from sixteen of the web’s most popular contributors.  Some of these folks are good friends of mine and some I respect from having seen their work over the years.  This book is a greatest hits of the best food writers around today.  It’s a must have.

Includes contributions from:

  • Andrea’s Recipes – Andrea Meyers
  • Weelicious – Catherine McCord
  • Southern Plate – Christy Jordan
  • White on Rice Couple – Diane Cu and Todd Porter
  • Simply Recipes – Elise Bauer
  • Steamy Kitchen – Jaden Hair
  • Picky Palate – Jenny Flake
  • Dinner with Julie – Julie Van Rosendaal
  • Kath Eats – Kath Younger
  • Our Best Bites – Kate Jones and Sara Wells
  • Laura’s Best Recipes – Laura Levy
  • Recipe Girl – Lori Lange
  • No Recipes – Marc Matsumoto
  • Coconut & Lime – Rachel Rappaport
  • Gluten-Free Girl – Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern
  • Matt Bites – Matt Armendariz

Review: Aarti Party

Well it has been one week since fellow food blogger Aarti Sequeira was named The Next Food Network Star and now her show is premiering.  That’s not a lot of time, except when you consider that Aarti actually won months ago.  The poor dear has had to keep that bottled up inside so as not to ruin the show.  Next year when it is me Had it been me, I might have to sprint to the observation deck of the Empire State Building and scream it for the entire eastern seaboard to hear.  I mean it is truly a life changing event.

Aarti Sequeira Aarti PaartiBut now the dream has been fulfilled; it’s reality’s turn.  I brace myself for the first ever Aarti Paarti.

NEWS FLASH: Aarti Party has already been renewed for a second season.  Read more HERE.

Right off the bat it is clear the judges made the right choice.  While the other contestants were hoping for their own cooking show, Aarti was born for it.  She is so natural in front of the camera.  It is refreshing after enduring some past winners who, even years later, still are painful to watch.  Congratulations, judges, you have finally picked your second Next Food Network Star.

Watching the first episode the one thing I was struck by was that this is only the first episode.  The grace and energy of the host made this seem like a show that’s been on for years.  Aarti’s Indian spin on everyday American foods is just what was needed to introduce this amazing cuisine to the last country to give it a fair shake.  Sequeira pulled off the menu to her first show without ever mentioning the word that sends Americans running for the hills, Curry.

Here’s some of the new things that Aarti taught us in the first episode about Indian food – kale used instead of lettuce in a salad can be tossed in the dressing and stored in the frig without breaking down. . . for days.  And did you know that in India they have their own version of ice cream?  It’s called Kulfi and it is actually richer and denser than our ice cream.  The best part – no ice cream machine!  I have got to start experimenting with Kulfi.  With the exception of Guy’s Big Bite I have never had an NFNS winner compel me to try anything before.

Aarti Paarti kicks off the block of recent NFNS winners’ shows and after watching her it is startling how much smoother she is than last year’s winner Melissa D’Arabian whose show follows Aarti’s.  Melissa is pleasant and amiable but still seems like a home cook who won a cooking show in a contest while Aarti comes across as a seasoned pro.  If future episodes are as good as the first it will eclipse many of the tried-and-true franchises.

After several days of indecision the network has decided on a spelling for the name of the show.  It was originally Aarti Paarti then Aarti Party, then back, then back again.  It looks like Aarti Party is the final answer.  Episode 2 was even better than the premiere.  Gone was the nervous giggle that was the only negative about episode 1.  Two episodes in and she has still not mentioned the dreaded C-word, curry.  The next four episodes would have to be tragically bad to not justify a second season especially since they are still producing episodes of Big Daddy’s Kitchen.

In episode 3 Aarti made an Indian-inspired pulled pork sandwich with mango BBQ sauce, an amazing citrus/green apple cole slaw and a chocolate-ginger pudding pie. You can come out from under the bed, America, there’s still no Curry among the ingredients.  The menus through the first three episodes have demonstrated exactly why Food Network needed this show, because most people’s opinion of Indian cuisine are completely wrong.

Aarti is so polished and natural on camera that it is hard to believe she actually had to enter NFNS to get a show on Food Network.  It just shows you how out of touch Food Network is with what is happening on the Internet.  There are lots of web-based hosts that need to be added to the FN line-up to replace some of those interesting-for-a-second-dull-for-a-decade shows that bog down a lot of their programming. If given proper venue it is a certainty that most viewers would prefer Average Betty to Sandra Lee or Jaden Hair over Paula Deen.  They might even find room for a certain Wannabe TV Chef.

Aarti Paarti airs in the customary time slot reserved for the NFNS winner, Sunday 12/11 CT.  Right now this seems like a great time slot but in three weeks it will be up against the NFL where it will get hammered regardless of how good it may be.  If the show isn’t well received (like most NFNS winners) then they can hide it in this time slot until people forget about it.  If it does well (Guy’s Big Bite) it will move to a better time slot.  Even though the winner shoots six episodes they really only get three to prove themselves.

Aarti was nice enough to post recipes from the inaugural episode and here is one of them.  The rest are available at the Food Network web site.

Sloppy Bombay Joes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Small handful shelled pistachios, about 1/4 cup
Small handful raisins, about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced
1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact (don’t chop it up unless you like things spicy!)
Kosher salt
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup half-and-half
Small handful chopped fresh cilantro (soft stems included)
4 to 6 hamburger buns

Begin by making the sauce: Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a little. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile for the turkey, in large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of oil. When shimmering, add the pistachios and raisins. Cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios toast slightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of oil, and warm until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds, or until some of the sizzling subsides. Stir in the onions and bell pepper; saute until softened and starting to brown. Add the serrano pepper. Saute for another couple of minutes, seasoning with a little salt. Stir in the turkey, breaking up the big lumps. Cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, your sauce should be ready. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the turkey. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Once the turkey is cooked and the sauce has thickened a little, remove the serrano pepper (unless you want to eat it whole, like my Dad does!). Add the honey, half-and-half, pistachios and raisins. Stir through and taste for seasoning. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Toast the buns, fill with the turkey mixture and serve. Eat (with your hands!) and enjoy!

NEWS FLASH: Aarti Party has already been renewed for a second season.  Read more HERE.  Check back later this week for my exclusive interviews with runners-up Tom Pizzica and Herb Mesa.

Aarti made a beautiful and humble post to her blog, also called Aarti Paarti that gives a brief glimpse into her life the moment her victory was announced to the world.  Read it HERE.

So, those of you who watched the show, what did you think?  Leave your comments below.

Sloppy Bombay Joes

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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