Market Finds

Market Finds
Farmer's Market Bounty

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Culinary Chameleon

The simple question, "Where are you from?", has been a source of anxiety for me my entire life.  My typical response to this question has always been, "Uhhh not really anywhere".  For some reason, in my younger years, I felt gypped that I did not have a singular place to call home.  I was born in New York City to southern parents,  and moved about every five years from there on out.  My family lived in some wonderful places, New Orleans, Brazil, New England, North Carolina and the beautiful South Carolina low country. Each locale, rich with it's own distinct character and food culture.  But where was I from?

Fast forward to present day, and the question I am asked most frequently, now that I cook professionally, is "What is your favorite dish to cook?".  In the beginning, this inquiry stirred up as much anxiety as the "Where are you from?" question of my youth.  For some reason, I felt that if I was a true professional, I was required to have a set focus, a dish or distinct cuisine that I could focus all of my energy towards.  Some people devote their whole lives to perfecting one specific dish.  What was my dish?  What was my cuisine?  I often envied cooks and cookbook authors who's name evokes an immediate knowledge as to what their book or restaurant is about.  Flay, Batali, Child, Yan and Lagasse all have a culinary identity.  But what was mine?

Over the past several years, I have been focused on "healthy" or "better for you" cooking.  This is a nice large umbrella that can encompass my chameleon-like culinary tendencies.  One can take a classic, Brazilian, Creole, or Southern recipe and most often find some way to make it a bit better for you.  This is my passion and focus now and while "healthy" and "better for you" do not immediately conjure up a specific cultural identity, I hope it incites curiosity.  You never know if you will getting French, Brazilian, Creole or Southern influences in one of my recipes, but you can be assured, that there will always be something about it that is better for you.

This week I had the pleasure of teaching a Brazilian vegetarian class at The Cook's Warehouse, with my partner in crime, Chef Nancy Waldeck.  Alas, Brazilian vegetarian seems like an oxymoron, but truly it epitomizes the marriage of my love for multicultural cuisine and healthier eating.  My recipe for today is one that we prepared in class.  I have taken a decadent fried, meat and cheese filled Brazilian snack called a Pastel, and morphed it into a lovely baked, veggie filled treat that can be enjoyed guilt-free.

Baked Veggie Pastéis:

2 Cup WW Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 TB Unsalted Butter
1 TB Cachaça or Vodka
1 Egg
1 Egg White
1/3 cup Warm Water

1 cob fresh Corn, cut from cob
1/2 cup Tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped Hearts of Palm
1/3 cup finely chopped Yellow Onion
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
Step One:
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add butter, alcohol and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until incorporated.  Turn off mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.  Resume medium speed and slowly drizzle in warm water.  Mix until soft dough forms.

Step Two:
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle and wrap in saran wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step Three:
While dough is chilling, prepare the filling by placing all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step Four:
Roll chilled dough to a 1/8 in thickness.  Cut dough into rectangles that are approximately 3 inches x 6 inches.  

Step Five:
Place 2 TB of filling in center of dough and brush washer along edges of dough to seal.  Fold dough over filling and crimp edges with a fork.

Step Six:
Brush top and bottom of pastry with egg wash and place on a parchment lined sheet pan that has been brushed with olive oil.  Sprinkle a pinch of course sea salt on top of pastry and spray or brush with olive oil

Bake at 400 deg for 20-25 minute, until golden brown and crispy

Beautiful chopped veggies for the filling
A pizza cutter is an easy way to cut out your rectangles of dough

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on one end of the dough and rub outer edges with water, using your finger or small pastry brush

Fold dough over filling
Crimp edges with a fork to seal in the filling

Brush the top and bottom of pastry with egg wash

The finish product!
Make every plate something to be passionate about!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Super Salad

I had an amazing time last Friday, speaking to the Sixty-Plus group at the Piedmont Hospital in Fayette County.  For this engagement, I was asked to talk about anti-cancer foods and demonstrate a couple of recipes using these items.  Since my allotted time was relatively slim, I needed to pack as many cancer fighting foods into one dish as possible.  To break down healthy eating into its most basic form, know that if you are eating a rainbow of colors (and I am not talking about Skittles or M&M's here), you are eating healthfully.  In addition to thinking about color, I needed to include some of our major talking points for anti-cancer eating and combine it all into to a beautiful and palatable dish. Below are some of the ingredients we use on a regular basis in the healthy kitchen, all of which are included in my Super Salad recipe.

Garlic:  Fresh garlic is at the top of the list of anti-cancer foods.  Always use fresh garlic and allow it to sit for several minutes after grating or chopping it.  This will allow the anti-inflammatory allinase enzymes to activate, which in turn increases the health benefits of the garlic.

Turmeric/Healthy Oils and Black Pepper: Turmeric is a native Indian spice with a beautiful golden color and an earthy smell.  This spice, when used in conjunction with a healthy oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Canola Oil), and fresh cracked black pepper, increases the bioavailability of its active ingredient, curcumin.  Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory.  A teaspoon of turmeric can easily be added to sautéed vegetables or salad dressings, without compromising the flavor of your recipe.

Capers and Red Onions:  Both of these foods contain high levels of a flavonoid called quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs contain vitamins and add a beautiful pop of color and freshness, without adding a lot of calories or fat.

Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, faro, sorghum, spelt, kamut, amaranth, freekeh and teff are all examples of whole grains.  These grains are filling, easily digestible and chock full of antioxidants. Most of these grains gluten-free.

Tomatoes: Not only do tomatoes come in a variety of colors, they are high in the nutrient lycopene. Lycopene is especially important for prostate health.

Red Peppers: Red peppers also contain lycopene and have more vitamin C than an orange.

Low Fat Dairy Products:  Naturally lower fat dairy products like feta and parmesan cheese are great sources of flavor.  Because these cheeses are stronger in flavor, you can use less of them.

Lentils/ Beans:  Both of these foods are wonderful sources of non-animal protein and very economical.

Pomegranate Molasses: This is nothing more than reduced 100% pomegranate juice and a great way to add some extra antioxidants and sweetness to a salad dressing.  Pomegranate molasses can be found at Whole Foods, Cooks Warehouse, Buford Highway Farmer's Market, DeKalb Farmer's Market and Cherian's Market.

Super Salad:

For the Salad:

1 cup of your favorite whole grain, uncooked (quinoa, faro, kamut)
1 cup of lentils, cooked according to package directions
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup dry packed sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red onion**
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
3 TB of capers, drained and rinsed
1 cup of fresh chopped herbs, I like a mixture of dill, parsley and basil
1 oz of crumbled feta
5 oz box of arugula


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (local honey can be substituted)
1 grated garlic clove (a microplane grater works best)
Sea Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.

Step One:
Cook you chosen grain according to package directions.  Grains will have different cooking times, but in a pinch, a good rule of thumb for preparing these items is the 1-2-3 method. i.e. One cup of dried grain + two cups of liquid = 3 cups of cooked product.

Step Two:
Combine all of the above items, except the arugula in a large bowl.  Drizzle with salad dressing and toss gently to combine.  Serve on top of a bed of arugula.

Salad will keep well in the refrigerator for three days. Serves 4-6.

** Soaking raw red onions in a small bowl of ice water for about 5-10 minutes will take a lot of the sting out of the onion, making it more palatable.  Just drain the water off before you add the onions to your salad.

I love this salad recipe, but more importantly, I love sharing the knowledge I have accumulated over the past few years, working with healthy chefs and dietitians at all of the Thomas Chapman Family Wellness Centers in the Piedmont Hospital network.  How can you not be passionate about what is on your plate, when it is so healthy for you?  Enjoy!