Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Black Thumb Plants a Garden: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

With Chef Nancy tasting and touring through South Africa the last few days, I had some time to tend to some of the projects on my seemingly never-ending personal to do list.  One of my favorite activities this week was planting my container garden.

Anyone who knows me, is most likely in shock to hear that I actually enjoyed doing anything involving gardening.  My yard is hands down one of the worst in the neighborhood, and I have never owned a house plant that did not meet a swift and brutal demise under my care.  I can't get into tending flowers or plants, but there is something about planting vegetables and herbs that excites me.  With proper watering and adequate sunlight, these plants will grow into something edible.  Something that will hopefully serve as an inspiration for a delicious recipe.

This year I planted three types of basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow peppers and squash.  My son helped me do the planting and lucky for me, he likes to take ownership of the watering duties. I'm looking forward to watching my little container garden grow this summer and hope that there will be something to show for our efforts.  I will be keeping my fingers crossed and hope that this will be the season that turns my black thumb green.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New York Inspirations: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

The beginning of this month found me in New York City for my first ever, International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. Chef Nancy and I were lucky enough to spend seven days in the Big Apple, seeing the sights, attending the culinary conference and of course eating.
It was beyond exhilarating to be around people who share the same passion for food as I do. It was nice to be surrounded by chefs, food bloggers and cookbook authors who take as many food photographs as I do, and who also find it a necessity to discuss what's for dinner, when lunch is not yet through. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store. It's not hard to feel this way when you are sitting three feet away from the legendary Jacques Pepin. Or, when Sara Moulton takes the time to chat with you in the hallway.
What a great week of networking, inspiration and tasting a myriad of delicacies, from the great melting pot that is New York City. Out of everything I ate on this trip, it was perhaps one of the most simple dishes that got me the most excited. It was an asparagus and soft boiled egg dish, that I enjoyed as a first course at L'Ecole, the student run restaurant at the French Culinary Institute. The asparagus was perfectly blanched and served with crispy pancetta, lightly fried asparagus shavings and topped with a gorgeous soft-boiled egg. In my opinion, the epitome of spring.
I rushed to make my own adaptation of this dish as soon as I returned home. My version is the bottom photograph, and L'Ecole's original, pictured above. Try this asparagus as a first course or a light lunch with some crusty bread to mop up the golden egg yolk.
Roasted Spring Asparagus:
Serves 4 as a first course
1 Bunch of thin Asparagus, washed and trimmed of fibrous ends
1/2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1 thin slice of Proscuitto
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1/4 cup Parmesan and Herb Panko Crumbs
4 Eggs, either Soft Boiled, Sunny Side Up or Poached (your choice)
Step One: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a foil-lined sheet pan, drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and lay in a single layer on pan. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, until asparagus is cooked through, but not charred.
Step Two: Place prosciutto slice in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook prosciutto for 6-8 minutes, turning twice, until crispy and browned and some fat has been rendered. Remove prosciutto from pan and allow to cool before crumbling.
Step Three: Spray the pan with prosciutto fat with a light coating of olive oil spray and add the panko. Stir panko constantly over medium-high heat until crispy and browned, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat an set aside.
Step Four: Prepare eggs in your preferred style.
Step Five: Divide asparagus evenly between four plates. Top each plate with an egg, crispy prosciutto and panko*. Serve immediately.
* There may be some panko leftover, which can be reserved and used for another occasion.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lentil Trail Mix?

I love lentils - don't you? Imagine my surprise when I discovered that lentils can be roasted and included in a yummy trail mix. Browsing through the Food Hall at IACP, I stopped at the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council's booth. (How's that for a catchy name:) They handed my a small cup full of trail mix, and to my surprise both lentils and dry split peas were part of the delicious snack. I couldn't wait to get home and share them with Dietician and friend Shayna Komar - and I have been playing with the basic recipe since then! Here's my latest and greatest take on the mix:

Lentil Trail Mix

4 oz Yellow Split Peas, 4 oz Green Split Peas, 4 oz Red or Brown Lentils OR 12 oz of any combination

4 oz Pumpkin Seeds OR Sunflower Seeds

4 oz Roasted Chopped Almonds

4 oz Golden Raisins

4 oz Chopped Dark Chocolate (at least 60%

Step One If using the split peas or BROWN lentils, soak them in water for 1 hour. Cook for 30 minutes and drain well. Roast for 10 minutes at 375F.

Step Two For red lentils, just soak the lentils in water for 1 hour. Drain well and roast for 15 – 20 minutes at 375F.

Step Three Combine the roasted peas and/or lentils with the remaining ingredients. If you used salted nuts or seeds, you are ready to serve. Unsalted nuts you just need to toss lightly with sea salt and serve.

*** Make sure to roast the lentils completely - until they are crunchy. And cool the mixture well before storing. If not, your mix will quickly become soft.