June 13, 2012

ImageRemember when saying you were a “V” just meant that you were not worldly? Never felt the love of another person or were a square. I think back to the John Hughes epic tale of dentition on a Saturday morning in a library. A character cast of Freaks, Geeks, Jocks, Loner, Preppy, and the late great Mr. Gleason playing the asshole teacher. The cast sits around and discusses the shortcomings of their life. Imagine if that same group of actors had the same conversation today, it would be a longer list of failures and disappointments. Imagine a reunion Breakfast Club what a shit show; the cast of Real Housewives would display more class. Wow a shit show indeed! But I digress…spoiler alert Claire is a [Gasp?!?!] Virgin! Now, almost 30 years later there is a “V” word that creates as much and as many issues among the ill-informed; if you are  va…va…Vegan!!!!

To eat meat is natural; to not eat meat is a choice. This does not mean that meat eaters will not love Vegan fare. I see it as I get to whore my taste buds around to many different dishes. I am a fan of the flesh; but a lover of flavorful dynamic meat-free food. Vegan-Curious…well yes I am. Does that make me a bad person…Maybe but you can kiss my ass! For me, experimentation with my food is always exciting. Cooking vegan always proves a trip worth taking. Anytime I can practice my craft and take ordinary ingredients and make fabulous table fare is a challenge I am always up for.

My most recent adventure came about because of an invitation extended to a vegan friend of mine. I love to cook for Deb because it forces me to work on an aspect of my craft that I do not address every day. Not to mention that Deb is an eager “V” to sample my table fare.

So you ask, what did I cook for my favorite vegan? The theme for our dinner was a bar-b-que to welcome in the summer season. We had black bean burgers, potato salad (with a vinegar based dressing), wild rice salad, grilled asparagus, and corn on the cob with an olive oil truffle salt.

Try this awesome bean cake recipe that tastes killer on a crostini bun with grilled asparagus and fresh avocado.

Peppadew Bean Cakes

2 Cans Black Beans

1 Can Garbanzo Beans

1 Can White Beans

3 cloves Garlic; smashed

¼ sweet onion; minced

¼ cup Peppadews; diced

1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic

2 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

2Tablespoons Peppadew brine from jar

Drain and rinse all beans of nasty can fluid. This works just as great with dry beans that have been pre-soaked. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it has the consistence of wet sawdust and little pebbles. Pull out half and finish pureeing the hell out of the beans. Mix the mushy mix with the wet sand looking beans to create a magical ground meat look. To patty the bean mix, line a sheet pan with tinfoil sprayed with olive oil to ensure the patties do not stick. Utilizing a round cookie cutter the appropriate size to fit your buns press mixture into the round form, remove the form and repeat until all of the mixture is used. Brush the tops of the patties with additional olive oil and bake 350 degrees until the outside starts to turn golden brown, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy the va…va…Vegan experience, I do!

Gardening for the Apocalypse

Gardening for the Apocalypse

July 15, 2012

Zombies, Flooding, and Polar Shift…OH MY!  Do I believe that December 21, 2012 will be the last day on Earth…no…not sure…perhaps? But what I do believe is that as a country we have seen some major screw-ups in the monetary realm. Food prices are through the roof! Ok let me rephrase … gooVine ripened tomatod healthy food that is not filled with shit from some factory that is concerned with profit margins. Fresh veggies that have not been engineered in some lab, but grown in fresh air and sunlight and picked when ripe and at their peak flavor and have the most nutrients.

Let’s see if I can give you an example: Hell yes I have an example! If a lab creates a plant that will kill a bug when eats it what do you think that same plant does to a human body. Yes, yes…I know I am a chef not a scientist; in fact an artsy fartsy chef that believes food should be that of quality not bulk. Oh, I can hear it now…”But LJ you have worked with big business, you promoted [insert]! Yeah I may or may not have, but what I can say is I make choices in my life, what and where I eat. I never roll up to a speaker and yell my “Faux Food” order as someone nukes it into a recognizable form.

By controlling whom I spend my money is an important statement as I buy food. I believe local is best! You have a choice; but remember if as chefs (and consumers) as we support the local farmer they in turn are more likely to eat at our restaurant. Some of you may feed the top of the food chain with the corporate manufactures of food; but for the rest of us the little old lady that grows 75 tomato plants and only needs one maybe the person you buy from. She may come in for a cup of soup from those tomatoes that you bought from her. That’s what I call making the world go round!

I have ran kitchens, so I get food cost and know how difficult it can be to make budget and buy local this is why I garden (and of course in case of the zombies!).

When was the last time a big food purveyor came to you with that days cut lettuce? Or a bucket of fresh still warmed from the sun raspberries? This makes a different in your food flavors. We (I include myself) have been trained that a gassed tomato tastes just fine. This is sad! A real vine ripened tomato is magical. The texture to flavor is so vastly different. Plant a tomato in a bucket if that is all the room you have; but do yourself a favor and understand where your food comes from!

Meat had a face and I am good with that; but I have had people tell me they never thought about the killing or the butchery of the meat. Really, where have you been?!?!? We have become lost as eaters and we must understand food from the roots (pun absolutely intended). I know not everyone is able to kill the animal or butcher, but please understand that someone has to do it. Take the imitative to find out where your food comes from, and thinking the local big box supermarket isn’t the answer.

One of my favorite things to grow is tomatoes. My grandma was an avid gardener and grew tomatoes and cucumbers. She had lots of flowers too. My passion for playing in the dirt started as a boy in her backyard, but my love of watching something grow and then turning it into delicious table faire took longer to understand. Grandma nurtured my understanding and love for gardening just as she did with her garden and showed me how significant growing my own food was to my life.

In honor of my Grandma and perhaps the Apocalypse here is a quick and easy dressing. Use it on your fresh greens or as a marinade, either way the fresh and vibrant flavor will have you licking your lips.

Fire Roast Tomato Vinaigrette

2 Whole Tomatoes; medium to large and spray oiled

1 Tablespoon Minced Shallots; onion is ok as well

1 garlic clove; smashed and mashed

½ c. Balsamic Vinegar

½ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil; the greener one

Kosher Salt to taste; 2 t

Black Pepper to taste; ½ t

Fire up the BBQ and place oiled tomatoes over medium heat. Let the tomatoes blister and blacken turning as they cook for even flavor development. When skin is slipping rinse under cool water until clean. If a little of the blackened skin remains, that is ok; but too much and it will be bitter. In a blender or food processor or whatever is close at hand, blend everything, but the olive oil. As machine is running add your oil slowly. When combined taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use however you want, but most importantly, enjoy!

Rites of Passage

Rites of passage, why do they matter and why am I pondering
them? And what the hell are they? The ever helpful internet tells us that a rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologist what social hierarchies, values, and beliefs are important in specific cultures.

Well I really don’t give a shit about anthropologists, but food is so connected to the specific cultures and traditions of a kitchen that it is no surprise that during the season of graduations I would be pondering not only my personal rites of passage but those of my students as well.

Some of the rites of passage I’ve lived through and that are popping up in my mind like flashcards are…

  • My first special personal moment, if you you know what I mean
    The first time I snuck a peek at my dad’s playboy
    My first boilermaker
    The first time I got to experience the finer attributes of a female
    When I got my own playboy subscription (which is now a collection)
    Killing an animal that could kill me
    Jumping out of an airplane
    My first rush on the hotline
    Graduating from college
    My first wedding
    My first divorce
    My second wedding
    The birth of my daughter
    The day I failed my CEC test
    The day I passed my CEC test
    The first time I stood in front of my class
    Speaking at graduation as a faculty member

I could go on and on but what I really want to talk about is the rites of passage for my students. With graduation this month and our pinning ceremony the night before, I have found myself celebrating the achievements of my students. As a teacher, nothing makes me prouder than to see, firsthand, their rites of passage.

As students progress through my program their rites of passage may look something like this….

  • Survived 105…learned knife cuts without losing a finger
    Made mayonnaise without making anyone sick
    Made it through 115….understanding the importance of mother sauces
    Delivered a perfect tourné
    My first artisan bread
    The first time I was able to make fondant work
    Discovered the importance of world cuisine
    Butchery…who knew I could take a whole animal and turn it into table fare
    The first time I made a classic dish and had Chef tell me it was perfect

As my students leave graduation and head out into the culinary world, I wish them all the best in their new chapter of life and may they recall their culinary rites of passage with the pride and honor they deserve.

And have a little fun too.