Monday, January 30, 2012

Bargains, Baba Ganoush and Bloggers: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Last Friday, Chef Nancy and I had the opportunity to travel to Birmingham, AL for a training session sponsored by Food Blog South, called "Honing Your Edge", conducted by Media Trainer Lisa Ekus and Chef Virginia Willis.

In our excitement and haste to get to the meeting on time, we completely spaced out on the fact that Birmingham is in the central time zone. Having a couple of idle hours during a day, is not a position we often find ourselves in. Fortunately, the good people of Alabama built an outlet mall on the outskirts of town, which was announced by billboard that seemed to suddenly appear at almost the exact moment we'd realized the time change. Our shopping extravaganza yielded bargains of the practical and not so practical kind. A chef always needs new cookware from Le Creuset, but perhaps not a sequined clutch or a pair of platform stilettos from the Coach and Nine West stores.

So with our trunk load of bargains, we continued west, in search of a parking garage close to out meeting location and perhaps more importantly, a place to eat lunch. Our good fortune, continued when we found one of each with relatively no problem. We parked the car and popped into a little place that caught our eye, called Makarios Kabobs and Grill. We feasted on a "sampler for two". As you can see from the picture, bottom right, that it was more like a "feast for four". The highlight of the meal was the baba ganoush, which is a roasted eggplant dip.

Normally after such a filling meal, one would be ready for an afternoon nap, but not us. With satisfied tummies, we arrived at our session on time and spent the rest of the afternoon surrounded by creative people who love to write about, talk about and take pictures of food. It was a pleasure to be in a room filled with such enthusiastic people and to have the opportunity to listen to and learn from a pair of seasoned veterans. I think Nancy and I both left the training session filled with new ideas and inspirations.

I have channeled some of that energy from the weekend, into my own version of baba ganoush, pictured above right. I hope you will enjoy this delicious eggplant dip and always remember to take the time to Taste and Savor!

Baba Ganoush:
2 large Globe Eggplants
1 head garlic
1 TB Tahini
1 Lemon, zest and juice
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper

Optional Garnishes:
Chopped Fresh Parsley
Seeded and Chopped Tomatoes
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Chopped Kalamata Olives

Step One:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use a fork to poke several holes into the skin of eggplant and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cut the top off of the head of garlic and wrap in foil, with cut side facing upwards. Place on the sheet tray along with the eggplant and bake both items for 40 minutes. Once eggplant and garlic have cooked, remove from oven and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.

Step Two:
Scoop flesh from the eggplant with a spoon and place in a food processor. Next, squeeze the roasted garlic from it's skin into the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse until you have a slightly chunky puree.

Remove mixture from food processor to a serving tray or bowl and sprinkle with desired garnishes. Serve with pita chips or crudite.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not Your Average Supermarket: A guest post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

I have always been fascinated by grocery stores and markets of all types. When I travel to a new city, state or country, inevitably one of the stops on my travel itinerary is a trip to a food store or open air market. I will buy a bottle of mineral water or a chocolate bar, simply because the label is written in a foreign language. I often get teased by people who know me well, that I have more photographs of food than of my children. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find that there was a local market overflowing with more foreign language packaging and photo-ops than I could have ever hoped for.

Being a proud inhabitant of the outskirts of metro Atlanta, I had never had the opportunity to visit the Buford Highway Farmer's Market prior to several weeks ago when Piedmont Cancer Wellness sponsored a tour of the store. I was fortunate enough to take a V.I.P. tour of the market with our generous and knowledgeable tour guide, Bill Schroeder. We spent an hour in the abundant produce department and were allowed to taste some of the exotic fruits and vegetables. This visit also led to an opportunity for Chef Nancy to teach a healthy cooking class in the market's new teaching kitchen.

Our first class was this week. We were able to do all of the shopping right there in the store and prep and serve the food in the store's kitchen/classroom. It was a great pleasure to meet some new people and share a healthy menu with the class participants and cooking assistants, River and Marquis, who are pictured above.

I hope that a trip to the Buford Highway Farmer's Market in Doraville will find a place on your upcoming travel itinerary. I assure, that you will not be disappointed with the selection of fresh produce, baked goods, seafood and world of international food products.

Buford Highway Farmer's Market

5600 Buford Highway Northeast

Doraville, GA 30340

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Easy Exotic: A Guest Post By Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Each week I realize how blessed I am to have a job that allows me the opportunity to work in the culinary arts, alongside a chef who's knowledge far exceeds my own and who is willing to share that knowledge with me. No matter how much I think I know, the amount still yet to be learned is staggering. I cherish the chance to taste and cook something completely new and exotic to me. I had this opportunity last week when I helped Chef Nancy prepare for an African Spices cooking class. Prior to the class, my experience with any type of African cuisine was minimal at best. The menu consisted of an African Spiced Veggie Stew, which was shared in the Friday Four last week and a Moroccan Fish Stew made with a marinade called chermoula. I absolutely fell in love with this marinade. Chermoula is typically North African marinade that is most often used on fish, but would taste great on any type of grilled meat. If your weeknight schedule does not allow time to assemble a complete fish stew, the chermoula marinade can be whipped up in a food processor in a matter of minutes. Coat your seafood or meat in the chermoula and allow to marinate for at least thirty minutes. Serve the grilled or broiled meat on top of couscous. This is a simple way to add a little exotic to a quick week night meal.

Chef Nancy's Chermoula:
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Tsp Sea Salt
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Turmeric
2 TB Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Packed Cilantro
3 TB Olive Oil

Place the garlic and salt in a food processor, pulse to coarsely chop. Add the cumin, paprika, lemon juice, cilantro and pulse to coarsely chop. Drizzle in the oil while the processor is on. This enough marinade for two pounds of meat or seafood.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sweet! A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

As much of a salad fanatic that I am, I must admit that my intake of healthy greens dropped way down during the holiday's. Luckily, all it took to get me back on track was a couple of days back at work in the Cancer Wellness kitchen.

We almost always have a salad for lunch and I love having the freedom to create something new from the ingredients on hand. I always challenge myself to add in as many "better for you" ingredients as possible. This week, I had some sweet potatoes leftover from another recipe and decided that sweet potato "croutons" would be a great addition to the Latin inspired salad I had prepared. Sweet potatoes are packed with nutritional value and easily adapt to many different flavor profiles. For this salad, I seasoned my croutons with cumin and smoked paprika, but any desired combination of herbs and spices could be used, depending on the theme of your salad. Perhaps, rosemary and thyme for mixed greens with a classic french vinaigrette, or garlic and coarse sea salt for a Caesar. Get creative and let your salad ingredients and spice cabinet inspire you.

Sweet Potato "Croutons":

1 large Sweet Potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice

1/2 TB of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss sweet potato cubes with the olive oil and spices and spread in a single layer onto a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crispy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add to your salad.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Healthy Comfort for the New Year: A Guest Post By, Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

The new year is upon us, and I, like many of you, am trying to bounce back from the holiday season into a more normal and healthier routine. Unfortunately, the unusually cold weather we have had the past couple of days has made me crave something comforting and warm, rather than a cool, crisp salad and a lean protein, which is my norm. I decided that a bowl of chili was what I needed.

Typically, I make chili using lean ground turkey, but decided instead to make a vegetarian chili. My goal, was to make the dish as hearty as my normal chili, but to amp up the nutritional value and keep the fat to a minimum. In addition to the veggies and beans in the chili, I used a product that Chef Nancy introduced me to from Trader Joe's called Soyrizo. It is a soy-based chorizo flavored protein. Typically, I am not a huge fan of meat substitutes, but this soyrizo has a nice texture and great flavor. My family did not even know that it was not real chorizo sausage.

The chili tasted great the first day, and even better the second time around, once the flavors had a chance to mix and mingle in the fridge overnight. I topped the chili off with a sprinkle of 2% cheddar, non-fat Greek yogurt, cilantro and chopped scallions. This is a mild tasting chili that should appeal to all palates, but if you are like me, try it with a splash of your favorite hot sauce. Try making a batch for dinner this week or save the recipe for a Superbowl party. Enjoy all the warming comfort, without all the guilt.

Comforting Vegetarian Chili:

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small Yellow Onion, chopped

1 12 oz package of Soyrizo, removed from casing

1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1 Orange Bell Pepper, chopped

4 TB Chili Powder

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika

2 Tsp Garlic Powder

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

2 15 oz cans, Red Kidney Beans,drained and rinsed

2 15 oz cans, Pinto Beans,drained and rinsed

1 28oz can, Fire Roasted Tomatoes, diced

1 12 oz bottle of Light Beer, I used Miller Lite

Non-Fat Greek Yogurt, optional

Shredded 2% Cheddar Cheese, optional

Chopped Cilantro, optional

Chopped Scallions,optional

Hot Sauce, optional

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add onion and peppers. Stir until softened, but not browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add Soyrizo to pan and stir to break up the mixture into crumbles. Add spices and stir to combine, before adding the beans, tomatoes and beer. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about and hour. Serve in individual bowls with desired garnishes. Serves 4-6.