Friday, August 17, 2012

New Roots

I have been fortunate enough to be able to donate my talents to an organization called NEW ROOTS that provides produce shares at a very small cost to people in under served areas like Old Louisville and the West End of Louisville.  Twice a month for as little as $12.00 people in the neighborhood and surrounding areas can purchase a huge share of fresh produce and fruit.  The woman responsible for organizing and keeping this program running is Ms. Karyn Moskowitz.

To say Karyn is passionate is a huge understatement.  She is a bulldog for social justice, food justice and serving a large part of the Louisville community that is greatly overlooked.  It is incredibly easy in these times to feel like outreach and participation is just something of the past.  And it can be difficult, it requires commitment and just showing up, which as involved with our own lives on a daily basis can attest can be the biggest challenge of all.  But the reward of getting outside your comfort zone and exposing yourself to new opportunities and people, well, it makes me smile and I can use all the smiles I can get.

I have a budget of $30.00 to fill in the gaps to round out a menu for about 60 people, sometimes more, each time I do a Chef Demo.  I've always come in on budget and I've cooked some great simple food that the neighborhood really loves.  One woman called me the "Slap yo mama Chef" because it was so good it made you want to well.... Slap yo mamma!  Here is a sample of what I cooked for them.  I hope you'll try it for your selves.

Curried Sweet Potatoes

3# Sweet Potatoes
2T Curry Powder
Olive Oil
2c. Whole Milk or Heavy Cream

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

Prick Potatoes with a fork and roast in the oven on a sheet pan till they are fully cooked and soft.  Aproximately 45 minutes

Scoop interior of potatoes into the bowl of a mixer

Heat the Olive Oil in a saucepan big enough to hold the milk.  Add the Curry Powder and gently cook the spices in the oil.  Add the milk or cream and bring to a simmer.

Slowly add the hot liquid to the potatoes as you mix them to the consistency you prefer.  Add Salt and Pepper to season them to your liking

Hot Tomato and Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers
2-3 medium sized Roma tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic (minced)
4 tablespoons olive oil (or to taste)
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 fresh chilies, (either jalapenos or fresnoes your choice)

Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into small pieces; place in bowl, add all remaining ingredients and stir.
Refrigerate for an hour while all flavors come together. Add more of above ingredients to suit your taste.

Summertime Corn Chowder

2# Fresh or Frozen Corn Kernals (fresh is best)
1 Large Onion (diced)
3 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
Olive Oil
6 oz Bacon (cut into strips)
¼ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1# Diced Potato (Yukon Gold or another Waxy Variety)
Fresh Parsley
Milk or Heavy Cream

Cut the corn off the cob and use the back of your knife to scrape down the cob and get as much “corn milk” out of it as possible.  Reserve the cobs

In a stock pot heat a Tablespoon of Olive Oil and fry your Bacon until it’s crispy.  Remove ½ the Bacon and reserve for garnish

In the remaining bacon fat and oil sauté the onion and garlic until just soft (no color) and then add the thyme and corn with it’s milk.  Allow it to cook out a little bit and then put your corn cobs into the pot.  Just barely cover the whole thing with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a strong simmer and allow it to cook for about 30 minutes.  Remove the cobs and add the potatoes and milk or cream.  Cook until the potatoes are tender and the mixture had reduced and thickened slightly Season with salt and pepper.

Remove a small amount of the soup and puree it in a blender to make the soup’s texture a little creamier.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and bacon.

Squash and Zucchini “Pasta”

2# Zucchini and Squash (cut into “ribbons” on a mandolin or with a vegetable peeler very thin)
¼ cup Chopped Parsley
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
Parmesan Cheese to taste
Approximately 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Blanch Squash and Zucchini ribbons in salted boiling water for a few seconds until they soften slightly.  Plunge into ice water to stop them cooking and drain them on a sheetpan with paper towels.

Heat a sauté pan with the Olive Oil and add the Squash and Zucchini, toss to coat them and add the thyme and parsley.  Season to taste with Salt and Pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Plate immediately and serve.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summertime = NOODLES

When it gets this hot my thoughts turn to noodles.  Specifically Asian Noodles giant bowls of Vietnamese Bun with grilled pork and thin delicate Rice Vermicelli teeming with mint, basil and cilantro and topped with Nuoc Cham full of chilies, lime juice and fish sauce.  This salad is cooling and fresh, filling and affordable!   

Or Cold Soba Noodles from Japan chewy and earthy.  They are made out of buckwheat and have a fantastic nuttiness to them.  When topped with a dash of Sesame Oil, Nori and Sesame Seeds and then dipped into a cold broth made out of Dashi, Soy Sauce and Mirin.  This is the simplest most soul satisfying dish around.  

Have you heard how eating chilies when it's hot outside actually helps to cool you down?  It's true!  And when it's a billion degrees I always think of curry.  This time by way of Thailand and a fantastic green curry and coconut milk soup with sliced chicken and wide fat rice noodles, the scents of lemongrass and galangal (a member of the ginger family) in this fantastic dish are purely transportive.

Then there is Udon.  Fat slippery chewy wheat noodles from Japan.  It's a bit of an obsession of mine, Udon and Ramen both.  My Broth usually takes 2 days and is rich with both pork and chicken.  This is not a diet dish rather, it is a rich full on assault.  A dish you will eat till you think you're going to pop.  It's topped with slow roasted pork, poached egg, nori, fish cake, chili powder and anything under the sun you can think of.  It's a bowled up buffet suspended in a rich broth steaming hot.  It'll do you right!  Udon seems to be more of a cold weather dish for me.  But waxing about noodles the way I am, it just seems unfair to leave them out.

Most of these dishes are surprisingly easy to make and are a great way to use up any leftovers you might have in the fridge (last night's chicken anyone?) and all of the noodles cook in mere minutes and can be done ahead of time and refreshed with a little cold or hot water depending on how you're eating them.  Rice noodles especially are a fantastic addition to anyone eating a Gluten Free Diet.  Take a look and give them a try.  It's the perfect time.