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Former White House Chef Shares Recipes

You think you have trouble deciding what's for dinner? Imagine cooking every night for the president of the United States.

Walter Scheib was executive chef at the White House for 11 years.

Hired by Hillary Clinton in April 1994, he stayed on through the first administration of George W. Bush, leaving in February 2005.

As part of the latest "Culinary Inspirations" series on The Early Show Wednesday, Scheib shared some of his favorite, easy recipes for spring from his new book, "White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen."

It's part cookbook, part memoir.

Each recipe is accompanied by a story, offering an up-close look at the first families and life in the White House. But if you're looking for "dirt," don't bother with this book.

Of course, heading the world's largest kitchen also means preparing meals for all the dignitaries at state dinners, and Scheib's book has stories about those events, as well.

RECIPES

Sizzling Steak Fajitas

1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium beef stock
1/2 cup dark beer
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for oiling the grill
1/4 cup sherry
2 tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers (remove the seeds for less spicy fajitas)
2 tablespoons very finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chipotle puree (see box, page 80)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus 8 to 10 sprigs for garnish
1 1/2 pounds flatiron sirloin or well-trimmed skirt steak
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and separated into rings
1 large red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 medium poblano peppers, seed and stem removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1. In a medium glass bowl combine the stock, beer, 1/4 cup oil, vinegar, jalapenos, garlic, 2 tablespoons lime juice, cumin, coriander, chipotle, and chopped cilantro and stir them together. Transfer half to another medium glass bowl. Put the steak in one bowl and toss to coat with the marinade. Put the onion and peppers in the other bowl and toss to coat with the marinade. Cover both bowls and refrigerate for 3 hours.

2. When ready to cook and serve, preheat a grill or grill pan to high and lightly oil the grates. Remove the beef from the marinade, brushing off any marinade solids (discard meat marinade), and grill the meat until medium rare (135F); time will vary based on thickness and cut of meat, but will take 4 to 5 minutes per slice for the sirloin; 2 to 3 for the skirt steak. Transfer the meat to a cutting board.

3. Remove the onion and peppers from the marinade, reserving the marinade for use in the next step. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook the onion and peppers until lightly charred but still crunch, 3 to 5 minutes. While they cook, slice the meat across the grain 1/4 inch thick, reserving any juices.

4. Assemble and serve the fajitas: Transfer the sliced meat to the cast-iron pan, and toss with the onion and pepper. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the marinade and any meat juices to make the pan sizzle, and finish with a squeeze of lime.

5. Serve the steak, peppers and onion right from the pan, setting it on a hot pad, with the tortillas, condiments, and cilantro sprigs.

For more of Scheib's recipes, go to Page 2.

Grilled Chicken Breast with Lemon Pasta and Broccoli

For the chicken

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each)

For the broccoli

1/2 pound broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 lemons, halved

For the pasta

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
8 ounces dry pasta of 12 ounces fresh pasta of your choosing, cooked al dente according to package instructions and drained
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Marinate the chicken: In a small baking dish or other shallow, dish, stir together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken in a single layer, turn to coat, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 10 to 20 minutes. (You can prepare the broccoli and pasta while the chicken is marinating.)

2. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill for grilling, letting the coals burn until covered with white ash, preheat a gas grill to medium-high, or preheat the broiler.

3. Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through (the juices should run clear when pierced with a sharp, thin-bladed knife). Cooking time will vary based on the power of the grill or broiler and the thickness of the chicken, but should be bout 4 minutes per side. Keep the chicken covered and warm until ready to serve.

4. Steam the broccoli: Pour about an inch of water into a small, covered saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Put the broccoli in the basket and steam, covered, until al dente, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the florets.

5. Transfer the broccoli to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze the lemons over the broccoli to taste, catching the seeds in your hand. Keep covered and warm.

6. Finish the pasta: Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and simmer to reduce for 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta and cheese and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep covered and warm.

7. To serve, present the chicken, pasta, and broccoli family style from their own plates, bowls or platters, or divide among four dinner plates.

Fresh Tuna and Olive Salad

1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 lemon wedges
1 sprig fresh marjoram
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 pound skinless fresh tuna, trimmed
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced pitted dry-cured black olives
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of the celery, 1/4 cup of the onion, the carrot, bay leaf, white wine, lemon wedges, marjoram, thyme, and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid is simmering, and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Gently lower the tuna into the liquid and poach until just done, 12 to 15 minutes. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the tuna from the poaching liquid and set it aside to cool. Once the tuna has cooled, break it up into large flakes.

3. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine mesh strainer set over another pot. Discard the solids. Bring the strained liquid to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup and almost syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

4. In a large bowl, combine the tuna, remaining 1/4 cup onion, red pepper, olives, oil, parsley, lemon juice, hot sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the reduced cooking liquid. (Discard the remaining cooking liquid.) Mix gently but thoroughly, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Use as a sandwich filling or as a salad component.

For more Scheib recipes, go to Page 3.

Minted Pea Soup

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups shucked fresh peas (about 1 1/2 pounds in the pod)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup thinly sliced leek, white part only
1/4 cup diced Spanish onion
4 cups homemade or store bought low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves plus 4 sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Add the peas to the salt water and blanch until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the peas and transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their color. Drain again.

2. Melt the butter in heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek and onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.

3. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the peas for garnish, and add the rest of the peas and the chopped mint to the pot. Simmer for two minutes.

4. Using a handheld immersion blender (or working in batches with a standing blender), puree the soup until very smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl.

5. Stir in the cream and the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt. Pre-heat gently before serving. (If you prefer to serve the soup chilled, chill the soup by setting the bowl in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice water and stir to cool the soup as quickly as possible. Stir in the cream and lemon juice after the soup is chilled.)

6. To serve, ladle the soup into four bowls. Garnish with the reserved peas and the mint sprigs.

Pan-Seared Sea Bass with Saffron Risotto and Caponata Sauce

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 skinless black sea bass fillets (4 to 5 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Saffron Risotto (recipe follows)
Caponata Sauce (recipe follows)

1. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the lemon juice, garlic, and oregano. Set aside.

2. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook 3 to 4 minutes-until seared-per side. Remove the fish to a plate, and brush with lemon sauce.

3. To serve, spoon about 1/2 cup of risotto onto the center of each four dinner plates. Place a fish fillet on top of risotto. Ladle the Caponata sauce around fish and risotto and serve

For the caponata sauce:

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced eggplant
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced Spanish onion
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup diced plum tomato
1/2 cup homemade or store bought low sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoons capers
1 1/2 tablespoons halved, pitted, thinly sliced dry cured black olives
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the eggplant, celery, onion, and garlic and sauté until the ingredients are tender, 4 or 5 minutes.

2. Add the diced tomato and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Blend the contents of the pot with a handheld immersion blender or in a standing blender. Pulse a few seconds at a time, just until the sauce is chunky. If using a standing blender, return the sauce to the pot.

4. Stir in the capers, olives, and basil, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep covered and warm until ready to use.

For the Saffron Risotto:

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped leek, white part only
1/4 cup diced Spanish onion
1 tablespoon very finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon very finely chopped garlic
1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
Pinch of saffron threads
5 or 6 cups homemade or store bought low sodium chicken stock, simmering in a pot on a back burner.
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Melt the butter in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek, onion, shallot, and garlic and sauté until translucent and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the saffron and 2 cups stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed by the rice. Continue to add stock in 1/2 cup increments, cooking and stirring, and adding more only after the previous amount has been absorbed. Continue until you have used all of the stock, 25 to 30 minutes total cooking time, or until the rice grains are al dente and the risotto is still a bit soupy.

3. Fold in the goat cheese until it melts into the risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chelsea's Chocolate Chip Cookie

Makes about 24 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing cookie sheets
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two cookie sheets.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together, add to the mixture, and blend well, then stir in the chips.

4. Place the dough in 2 tablespoon portions onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between the cookies.

5. Bake until lightly golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool briefly in the pans, and serve warm or at room temperature.