Cooking and Catering Blog | Chef Chic, Tucson

5 Winning Combinations of Spices and Herbs

August 28, 2017

Ever wonder how restaurant chefs and personal chefs make your meals taste so good? Have you begun to suspect they’re sprinkling some kind of secret, magic ingredient on everything?

The truth is that with the right combination of spices and herbs, you can transform any dish from plain and boring into complex and elegant. There are certain spices and herbs that pair well with different kinds of dishes or create ethnic flavor profiles. And that’s what today’s post is all about—using spices and herbs to make your next meal a restaurant-quality hit!

A Few Tips

  • Choose fresh herbs over dry ones for better flavor and aroma.
  • Think of herbs and spices as two categories: herbs are generally the leafy part of the plant, while spices are the seed or root. Coriander, for example, is a seed, while cilantro is the leafy part of the same plant.
  • Briefly toast your spices in a hot, oil-free pan for an added depth of scent and taste.
  • Don’t forget to save a few leaves of your herbs of choice for garnish once the dish is finished.

5 Winning Herb & Spice Combinations

  1. Rosemary, sage and thyme make a great poultry seasoning. You can play with different amounts of each herb. Be sure to discard the stems and finely chop the herbs before adding them to chicken or turkey.
  2. Chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika is a combo you can use in everything from chili to burgers to potatoes. Add garlic and onion powder for even more flavor. Don’t like spicy food? Try a mild chili powder, which will impart flavor without adding spiciness.
  3. Ginger, lemongrass and coriander are a trifecta reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Add lime juice and fresh cilantro leaves to round out the vibrant smell and taste of these wonderful spices.
  4. Basil, oregano and thyme form the base of many Italian seasoning blends. Summer savory, rosemary and marjoram make great additions as well. Use the blend in anything from homemade tomato sauce to eggplant lasagna. 
  5. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger can become an all-purpose pumpkin spice seasoning to use in lattes, chai and baked goods. Don’t forget to add a pinch of cloves and allspice.

Spice Up Your Weekly Meal Plan

Let Chef Chic inspire your daily menu with a wealth of perfectly spiced dishes to enjoy. Check out our sample menu of prepared meals, or contact us to set up weekly meal service.

Fresh Ways to Eat Eggplant (Including a Client Favorite)

August 22, 2017

Eggplant is one of those seasonal vegetables that can be a lot more diverse than you might think. Cultures around the globe use it in their cuisines, including the Middle East, Italy and China. Called aubergines in England and France, eggplant has earned its place in a multitude of savory dishes. Its rich purple hue, ability to grow in a variety of climates, and mild flavor make it one ingredient you can’t afford to pass up this summer.

How to Make Eggplant: Our Top Menu Picks

Sure, you may have had rollatini or eggplant parmesan, but here’s how to make eggplant in some unique, fresh ways. From family-style meals to stylish canapés, these 3 eggplant dishes can become elegant centerpieces or complements to your summer menus.

Summer Eggplant Parmesan: Our take on eggplant parmesan is not breaded or fried—it’s simply baked like lasagna. To make it, we layer eggplant slices with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. We then bake it to yield a cheesy comfort food that celebrates the tastes of summer. This one is a Chef Chic client favorite.

Baba Ganoush: We take party appetizers and dips to the next level with this Roasted Eggplant Dip from Bon Appetit. It makes a smoky, irresistible dip for pita chips, crostini or sliced veggies. We like to style it up by adding chopped olives, herbs or pomegranate seeds.  

Chinese Spicy Garlic Eggplant: Highlight eggplant’s more delicate flavors by steaming it, not frying it, in this Chinese Spicy Garlic Eggplant recipe from Saveur. If you’re hosting a dinner party serve it as a light appetizer. Or, let us prepare it for you as an elegant weeknight side. It’s the perfect dish to enjoy with sautéed chicken and white rice.

Don’t Let Eggplant Season Go to Waste!

Buy eggplant while you can—its different varieties are available through late September. Once you know how to make eggplant in new ways, you’ll never get bored of this vegetable again. If you’re not feeling up to the task, we love to put upgraded twists on classic dishes. Ask us to add eggplant to your personal chef or catering menu before the season is over.

5 Surprising Wedding Trends for Fall

August 14, 2017

We’re all about creative food here at Chef Chic, and that’s especially true during wedding season. Lately we’ve noticed a few surprising wedding trends in our conversations with catering clients. From apple pie to locally-crafted menus, we love seeing all the ways our brides and grooms are thinking outside the box.

Getting married this fall? Here are our top 5 wedding trends to spice up your special day this season:

Celebrate Hometown Pride: Food trends have been going beyond the standard salmon, beef and vegetarian fare and featuring local favorites instead. Incorporate seasonal ingredients and regional dishes into your menu. You can even give party favors from a neighborhood gourmet shop.

Say ‘Bye’ to Open Bar: No need for a full bar when you can serve wine paired with your menu. If you’re having a sit-down dinner, let guests choose from a red or white variety that’s perfectly matched to their meal. Or, offer a wine pairing with each course so guests can sample a variety of wines with their dinner. Chef Chic can help you select the best wine to serve with your food.

Make It Mini: Everyone loves a cocktail hour, and offering one-bite canapes is a great way to feed your guests in style. Try mini carnitas tacos with margaritas, bacon cheeseburger sliders with beer, or pita and hummus bites with Greek wine.

Ditch the Layer Cake: Breathe new life into wedding cakes by opting for flavor over presentation. A more rustic look is a welcome change from the overly sophisticated fondant cake of the past. And it’s tastier, too! Or, nix the cake altogether in favor of other sweet treats: churros and melted chocolate, donuts and caramel sauce or pie and ice cream (especially fun in fall, when apples make the best pies).

Personalize It: These days it’s all about your own style. No matter if you want to keep it casual or traditional, large or small, your day should reflect your personality. Forget any of the conventional pieces that just don’t seem to fit or serve you. Want a morning wedding with brunch rather than an evening dinner? Go for it!

Put These Wedding Trends (and More) into Your Special Day

Let Chef Chic make your day one to remember this fall with exciting wedding trends, creative catering and personalized touches to match your style. Contact us to book our catering services or to learn more.

Our Picks for a Late Summer Food and Wine Pairing

August 7, 2017

Summer is the perfect time to host a food and wine pairing event. With so much fresh produce to work with, especially in late summer, there are endless options to choose from when creating a seasonal menu.

Opting for a cocktail party with appetizers and small plates gives guests a chance to sample a variety of foods without gorging on a heavy meal. It also provides an avenue for sampling lots of excellent wines. As an added bonus, you can mingle and chat with friends as opposed to being seated in one spot all night.

Here at Chef Chic, we specialize in designing customized menus—and helping you select the perfect wine to complement each offering. 

Presenting Our Late Summer Food and Wine Menu

To give you an idea of what to expect from a summer food and wine pairing, take a peek at our sample cocktail menu options and their accompanying wines:

Artisan pimento cheese and bacon crostini with Raymond 2014 Signature Series Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

Wilcox peach, goat cheese, arugula pesto and crispy prosciutto crostini  with Buena Vista 2013 Sparkling Blanc de Noirs (Carneros)

Mexican shrimp cocktail with avocado with Wattle Creek 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Anderson Valley)

Mini pizzas with caramelized onions, pears and blue cheese with JCB No. 12 2015 Pinot Noir (North Coast)

Raspberry chipotle meatballs with DeLoach 2014 Forgotten Vines (Zinfandel)

Beef wellington bites with Wattle Creek 2013 Cabernet/Shiraz (Alexander Valley)

As you may have noticed, we’re featuring late summer fruit like peaches, as well as refreshing Mexican fare like shrimp cocktail. Arugula, raspberries and avocado round out this seasonal celebration.

Plan a Memorable Food and Wine Pairing

From engagement parties to birthday parties, Chef Chic is available to design a one-of-a-kind food and wine pairing for your late summer/early fall affair. Contact us to talk about the details and reserve a date for your special event!

Spice Up Your Dishes: Hatch Chile Season Is Here!

August 1, 2017

If there’s one food we particularly look forward to seeing every summer, it’s the Hatch chile. The season is short for these green chiles—about two months—but we love seeing people crank the giant black roasters at farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores starting in late July and early August.

We recommend buying a large box or bag of chiles and freezing them to enjoy all year long. There’s nothing better than reliving the taste of late summer in the middle of winter!

Did You Know?

  • The Hatch chile gets its name from the village of Hatch in southern New Mexico. Hatch holds an annual chile festival every September to celebrate the abundance of these particular chiles that grow in and around the village.
  • Red chiles are in season from September-October—later than the green variety.
  • Hatch chiles vary in spiciness. You don’t have to abhor the thought of spicy food to enjoy the mild chiles, which are still bursting with smoky flavor. Just be sure to ask about the heat before you make a purchase.

Reasons to Enjoy Hatch Chile Season

Hatch chiles are prized for their flavor and texture, but there are several comparable varieties of chile available. What’s labeled as “Hatch green chiles” may actually be grown in Texas, Arizona or other parts of the Southwest. Anaheim peppers are very similar, and several regions in New Mexico and Colorado grow their own chiles that taste nearly identical.

In short, don’t get too upset if you can’t find bona fide Hatch chiles. Many others will do.

How to Use Hatch Chiles

At Chef Chic, we add chiles to many of our Southwestern-inspired recipes for personal chef clients and catered events. From pork chile verde to our artisan mac ‘n cheese with bacon, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some other ways to spice up your meals this Hatch chile season:

  • Mix chopped green chiles, potatoes, chorizo and Pepper Jack cheese with scrambled eggs to make a spicy baked breakfast frittata.
  • When making your next batch of enchiladas, swap out the red enchilada sauce for green chiles. Just add a few sliced or chopped chiles to the inside of each tortilla.
  • Throw finely diced chiles into the mix when making chimichurri, then use as a topping for steak or as a dip for tortilla chips and veggies. It goes well with everything!
  • Don’t limit your chiles to meal time—think dessert, too! Try this recipe for Green Chile Mexican Chocolate Mousse from the Hatch Green Chile Store in New Mexico.

Want More Spice in Your Life?

Let us help! Chef Chic offers catering and personal chef services that feature elegant, flavorful recipes and seasonal ingredients. Contact us to ask about adding green chiles to your menus and enjoy all that late summer has to offer.


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