Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vegetarian St. Patricks Day

This is the first year in a LONG time that I have not had the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage, which I love. Actually I love corned beef hash which is more of the next day leftovers my dad has brilliantly made every year and passed on his recipe to me. Sweet creamy sauce, onions, potatoes and salty corned beef; a winning combination in my eyes.

Trying something new and somewhat Irish ended out as a hit and a dish I can make over and over for a side. At my job Whole Foods they started selling a few weeks ago Potato's Colcannon. At Whole Foods they used Kale I did a little bit of research and found that traditionally this has red potatoes, cabbage, leeks and onion. I also found some recipes that said it has bacon, buttered greens (which is pretty much any green such as kale, chard, collard, etc cooked in butter) The potatoes are cooked first, then you cook the leeks and onion in butter and add the cabbage. Once everything is hot and cooked you mash them all together. TA-DA fancy Irish style mashed potatoes. I wanted something with a little bit more oomph to it. I did some more web browsing and found this recipe :

I prefer Yukon gold potatoes anytime I make mashed potatoes, they are so buttery on their own that I think you don't have to use as much butter in the mashed potatoes. I left out the cabbage, simply because I forgot it when I was at the store. I cooked the leeks and onions down in butter, clove, salt and pepper till they were almost caramelized. The recipe calls for mace which i do not have in my house so i so thats why there was cloves. I par-boiled the broccoli in super salty water to be sure the broccoli stayed green and then finished it off with the leeks and onions. I mashed up the cooked potatoes with with some yogurt (instead of sour cream) a little bit of milk, maybe a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. I tried to keep most of the salt, pepper and butter in with the leeks and onions. I mixed in with the potatoes the broccoli mixture trying to keep the broccoli pieces as whole as possible then topped the entire thing with lots of sharp cheddar.

My dinner guest loved it! A comment was made about the extra spice in it, but all in all it is a side dish that can be repeated over and over. Plus it is way easier then making a potatoes Au gratin with broccoli or greens. Slicing potatoes thinly is a pain in the butt! Except now I have a mandoline and all things are way easier to slice thin.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Love Salad

Two months ago I did a cleanse for my whole body that was more or less vegan, gluten free, and majority raw. I made some amazing salads and salad dressings, but the one that stands out the most to me was the grapefruit, avocado and watercress salad. I bought a 10lb bag of grapefruits a week before I started this cleanse and I was barely eating them. I did not want them to go bad so I researched some grapefruit ideas and this salad was a combination of two recipes I liked the most. First with the grapefruits I peeled them, trying to get as much of the white stuff from the peel off. This part is bitter and I didn't want to add it into my sweet refreshing salad. Then I pretty much just tore the grapefruit apart making all the pink insides into small little pieces that were beautiful and hot pink! Then I sliced up an avocado into pretty decent sized cubes. I added watercress to give the salad a little bit of a kick. Watercress is so good for you and barely eaten on anybodies table. It has a mild peppery flavor and is great to add to any type of salad mix that you are using.

I then made an orange dressing with extra virgin olive oil, I have two bottles of Extra Virgin olive oil; one for cooking and the other for salad dressings. The one for dressings or drizzling over things is a little bit more expensive just because when serving olive oil raw you want it to taste good. When making dressings I generally us a 3 oil to 1 acid (vinegar, wine, lemon juice, orange juice, etc). When using a juice I usually add a little bit more just so the flavor is a little bit more overpowering than the oil. To keep my dressing from separating I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the flavor mixes well with citrus and vinegar without taking over the whole flavor of dressing. To spice it up a little bit I added some fresh dill, a little bit more than a teaspoon of honey for sweetness, a clove of garlic, some crushed red peppers, and of course Kosher salt and some pepper to taste.

Before serving the salad my "dinner guest" stuck their hand into the grapefruit and had no problem telling me that the grapefruit was a little tart. I obviously smacked their hand away and told them to wait until the whole salad is together before making judgements. Once the rest of my dinner was ready (Stuffed bell peppers with brown rice, toasted pine nuts, basil, corn, shitaki mushrooms and then drizzled with some homemade pesto was the main dish) I put the very chilled and dressed salad on the table and my "dinner guest" dug in. Once dinner was over and no salad was left I received a whisper in my ear, " The salad was perfect you should make this for salad every night. The sour grapefruit was perfect with sweet avocados, whatever the lettuce you used, and the dressing is my new favorite salad dressing. Don't forget the recipe!"
I'd call it another stepping out of the box dinner success.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meat in the USA

Right now in my life I have decided to not eat meat. I still very frequently cook meat for my dinner guest because two weeks after we decided to not eat meat I got the complaint "I'm eating meat again, my stomachs been bothering me I know it's because we haven't been eating meat!" I would by NO means call my self a vegetarian, I am not grossed out by meat, nor do I judge people who eat it.

My background with the vegetarian thing is very strong. My mom's family is from Alaska and one of her sisters has been a vegetarian my entire life. Growing up my sister and I went to Alaska every summer for the month of August, when I was 10 I went by myself to go to summer camp. The summer camp I went to was in Fairbanks so I stayed with my Aunt who is a vegetarian. She does eat fish, as does my entire family because we have people in our own personal family that make a living off of the fish industry in Alaska. My uncle even helps supply a co-op that sells to Whole Foods. I never even new what farm raised fished was until I went to culinary school.

I pondered this issue very seriously for a month or so after the trip and decided on a family road trip in the middle of Kansas where there are not many vegetarian options that it was the day I would be a vegetarian. I kept it up for 6 years then stopped. Bagel dogs (made with kosher all beef hot dogs of course) were my downfall. I never particularly ate a lot of meat my mom is more of a chicken and fish cook, with an occasional "steak and martini" night.

In culinary school you take a food safety class that teaches you about food born illness and all sorts of other safety and sanitation tips. The one thing that always stood out in my mind was the fact that most food born illness do not come from the product to begin with, but actually the conditions that these products were raised in. It is knowledge I have always had and known, but never really payed much attention to until I was living in Italy.

The 10 months I was there I never heard of a salmonella outbreak or somebody getting sick from salami that wasn't cooked right. The restaurant I worked at cured a raw pork loin in equal parts sugar and salt for 7 days, rinsed the salt/sugar off than pan seared the outside. They than thinly sliced the pork which was pink as pink could be and served this as an appetizer cold. Not one reported illness from this pink pork. In Italy it is small scale farms. People buy their meat fresh everyday from the butcher and shop for produce in the market each morning or afternoon. There was no imported cheese at the equivalent to a super market "Iper." Almost everything came from the local area or just Italy in general. I learned the true meaning of fresh!

After watching "Food INC." I decided that I could not bring myself to support one of the largest industries in the U.S. Not only are the animals treated horribly but the people that do these jobs are treated almost the exact same way as the animals. I cried from start to finish of the movie and decided that if I couldn't keep a dry eye watching the movie I should not be eating meat. According to the Whole Foods meat department they check out the products that they buy and visit the farms to uphold the quality standards of Whole Foods. I will prepare meat for my dinner guests and my cooking show, but only organic with pasture and friendly raised signs all over the meat . I also will not call myself a vegetarian because when I go out to eat dinner and somebody says "this is the best (enter meat item here) I have ever had" I will not hesitate to try it. Just a standpoint I have reached right now because I don't have the heart to watch animals or people being treated unfairly. No discrimination against meat just the big corporations that run the meat industry here in the U.S.