SOJ Chef Demo 08.11.12

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This week at the South of the James Farmers’ Market cooking demo, Chef Sam Baker cooked fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables as the morning went from damp and dreary to warm and bright. With grey puddles underfoot, Chef Sam shopped the market and found some cool fish and shrimp as well as some vibrant tomatoes and large mushrooms. He quickly got to work on the tilefish from Barham Seafood.

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The spicy seasoning on the fish helped heat things up as the rain clouds teased us with an off-and-on light drizzle. The Chef explained that tilefish is a rare treat, as he seasoned it with tarragon, cayenne pepper, curry powder and sea salt. As the fish cooked in a pan, Chef Sam cozied up to some mushrooms from Haas Shrooms.

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After sautéing the mushrooms with some red onion, a splash of water and a bit of salt, Chef Sam stuffed them with Goats R Us dill chevre and pan seared tilefish, then topped them with pan roasted tomatoes and a sliver of fresh Asian pear.

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The stuffed mushrooms paired well with the weather, as the market had a certain damp earthiness that morning.

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After the Chef completed a couple of demonstrations, the clouds parted and the sun came out.

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Shoppers with dogs on leashes and children in strollers showed up. Iced coffee sales spiked for the morning. As the market steamed up, Chef Sam decided it was time to put the shrimp on.

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For his next act, Chef Sam made zucchini and yellow squash boats, complete with shrimp “passengers.” He made a barbecue sauce for the shrimp by reducing a pot of tomatoes and peaches with a splash of water to a thick sauce, then adding some Empress Farm habanero blackberry jam. I tasted the sauce and it was out of this world! It had a great balance of sweet and spicy. After bathing in the sauce, the shrimp hopped aboard zucchini and yellow squash boats stuffed with sautéed zucchini and red onions.

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The shrimp were a big hit, and it was cool to see that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was picture worthy!

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For the final demonstration, Chef Sam made a vegetarian pasta dish that was bursting with fruit ingredients. He used Bombolini Pasta’s herb ditalini as a base. Over the pasta, the Chef layered some seared Asian pears with ground black pepper. These were incredible. If I had been left unattended I would have eaten the whole plate before the Chef could assemble the dish. I was so happy that Kyle had picked up a bag of these pears while shopping that morning! I had plans for a pear pizza and watching this come together got me in the right mindset to pull it off.

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In addition to pears, the pasta dish featured sautéed zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and a tomato peach marinara sauce. This fantastic sauce included tomatoes, peaches, red onion and basil. Some of the plates were topped with a dollop of dill chevre to mix in.

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Whether it was stuffing mushrooms, filling zucchini halves, or packing flavor into a sauce, Chef Sam made sure that every dish was full of flavor and fresh produce. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, summer is the best season for packing in a lot of flavor with little effort. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chef Sam creates for the rest of this season, and what he has up his sleeve for the Fall. Come find out for yourself at the South of the James Market, every Saturday, eight to noon.

Thank you to Barham Seafood, Bombolini Pasta, Drumheller Orchard, Empress Farm, Goats R Us, Haas Shrooms, Norma’s Produce, Rocking F Farms, Saunders Brothers Orchard, Victory Farms, Walnut Hill Farm, and all of the other featured market vendors for providing this week’s fresh and tasty ingredients!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad

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Recently, a very fortunate set of circumstances resulted in the creation of my new favorite summer salad dish.

  • I wanted to make something at the beginning of the week to pack for lunches for the rest of the week.
  • I needed to make sure I had protein, veggies and some carbs in my lunches.
  • I had made my dinner plan for the week and I had an abundance of fresh vegetables leftover, with no plan for how to use them.

The veggies in question were half of a head of orange cauliflower from Pleitez Produce, and a bunch of green beans from Walnut Hill Farm. The lunch setting: lunchtime in the break room. The weather: outside, warm all week with a slight chance of thunderstorms; inside, temperature could range from “balmy” to “beginning of the next ice age.” The goal: build a lunch that fills me up but doesn’t make me feel like I’m reversing all the health karma points I have racked up this week in my workouts.

Based on the temperature, I knew I wanted a cold dish, but with a little kick to keep me warm just in case my office felt like a meat locker this week. I decided to combine my old favorite, Whole Foods’ cracklin’ cauliflower, with a pasta salad to give it a little more oomph. I chose pearl couscous (or Israeli couscous) because I love the texture, but you could substitute the grain or pasta of your choice. Quinoa would be my second choice for its superfood nutrition benefits. I used roasted cauliflower, blanched green beans, fresh tomatoes and roasted chickpeas for the mix-ins, then dressed it all in a curry vinaigrette. You could throw in whatever veggies you have on hand.

I have definitely found my new favorite pasta salad! I can’t get enough of this stuff. I think the dressing is what really makes this salad special. The roasted chickpeas don’t hurt. Mmmm. And (bonus!) this is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Just in time for summer barbecue season.

Scroll past the recipe for a Gardenology update!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad (serves 4-6 as a meal, 8-10 as a side dish)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pearl couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 Tbsp oil (olive, coconut, or vegetable)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, or half of a large one, cut into florets
  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of green beans, snapped and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas together with the 1 Tbsp of oil, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. I added my 1 cup of couscous to 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, then reduced heat, covered, and cooked for 10-12 minutes. Pour out of pan and into a large bowl. Let cool.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Then remove green beans from hot water and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. While everything cools, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together curry powder, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil until combined.
  6. To the large bowl of couscous, add cauliflower, chickpeas, and green beans. Toss with the dressing. Add halved tomatoes and stir until combined.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

 

In other news, I have some green beans in my garden! Here are some gardenology progress photos:

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The first harvest was nine green beans. If I don’t get another thing out of this garden all summer, at least I can be proud of the nine green beans I grew from seeds. Never mind that that achievement probably requires the skill of a third grader. I am a remedial gardening student, okay?! It’s the little things.

For more BYOBB (bring your own brown bag) lunch ideas, type BYOBB into the search bar.

Lighten up a Classic Comfort Food: Mexi Mac & Cheese

Sometimes you get a craving for comfort food. You know what kind of food I am talking about – cheesy, creamy, fluffy, delicious, made-with-love-and-an-extra-helping-of-butter comfort food. Everyone has a different food that is the culinary equivalent of a warm embrace. Mine is cheesy mashed potatoes. Yours might be macaroni and cheese, or pork BBQ, or fried pickles. Whatever your comfort food is, it is probably not on the light side. These dishes tend to be indulgences that should be enjoyed in moderation. But I want to have them all the time! So the next best thing to a traditional comfort food is one that has been lightened up a bit so you don’t have to feel so guilty for eating the leftovers a few nights in a row.

For this lightened up version of Mac & Cheese, I used a recipe from Eating Well as  the base, then put my own spin on it. I like to call it Mexi Mac. Not to be confused with Sexy Sax, which is a completely different thing (NSFW?). I loved the addition of cottage cheese. The tart flavor played well with the sweet corn and mild heat of the green chilies. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

Mexi Mac & Cheese (serves 4-6 as an entree and 6-8 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, canned (and drained) or frozen (and thawed)
  • 1 can ( 4 ounces) chopped green chilies
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a 2 quart or 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, corn, and chilies.
  5. Cook pasta for 4-5 minutes, or until not quite tender (it will continue to cook during baking). Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well.
  6. Add dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
  7. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Have you ever made over a comfort food to be healthier? Now is a good time to do it, while you are sticking to your New Year Resolutions. I think a bowl of this could keep you from falling off the wagon for at least a few days. 😉

Summertime

It might not technically be summer for a few more weeks, but lately it has felt like summer in Richmond. The festivities of Memorial Day weekend combined with the sweltering temperatures has made everything feel just a little more relaxed. Time seems to move more slowly as the mercury rises, and I plan my days around simultaneously soaking up the sun and keeping cool.

Yes, this sure does feel like summer.

I have been making nearly perfect pasta salads lately thanks to this fantastic article: Five Steps to Perfect Pasta Salad. I highly recommend that you read this before your next cookout or potluck meal.

Mediterranean Pasta and Veggie Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb pasta (I used Bombolini Pasta’s dill shells)
  • 1/2 lb broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (I used miniature heirloom tomatoes)
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 large or 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp chopped black olives
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta
  • 2 tsp fresh basil, chopped
  • dressing of choice, to taste (I used TJ’s Greek feta dressing)

Preparation:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and pour out onto a cookie sheet to cool.
  2. Steam the broccoli florets, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and let sit to cool.
  3. Combine tomatoes, garbanzo beans, cucumber, onions, and olive in a large mixing bowl.
  4. When they are cooled, add the pasta and broccoli to the bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Add the olives, basil and feta only when the other ingredients are completely cooled, and stir to combine.
  6. Slowly add the dressing to the bowl, while tossing to coat the other ingredients. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for a few hours and serve cold.

I served this with TJ’s falafel (so easy) and locally made tzatziki sauce. It was perfect for a warm evening on the porch.

Fresh Pasta Two Ways

Remember how I couldn’t resist the fresh pasta from Bombolini at last weekend’s SOTJ Market?

I did a little search on the internet and discovered that fresh pasta should be used within 3 days so I knew I had to get cooking. This was not the healthiest adventure I’ve had, but it was oh so delicious.

The temperature dropped about 15-20 degrees between Thursday and Saturday. I don’t handle drastic temperature changes very well so I found myself fighting a headache all weekend. When I got cooking on Sunday, I was craving comfort food.

When I used to get migraines as a kid, my Dad always made me cheddar mashed potatoes when I woke up from my headache-induced naps in my cool dark bedroom. A big bowl of starchy cheesy potatoes was all it took to get me feeling like myself again. So it’s no mystery why I crave pasta or potatoes (with a generous dose of cheese) when I am feeling a little under the weather.

With that in mind, I got to work on the stockpile of noodles in my refrigerator. With the pound of dill shells, I cooked a cheesy pasta by making a béchamel sauce with a dash of cayenne and then melting in a combination of colby, cheddar, and monterey jack cheeses. I cooked the pasta in boiling water for two minutes and then added it to the cheese sauce. After seasoning with salt and pepper, I served it alongside swiss chard sauteed with white beans, onion, and fresh heirloom tomatoes, and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I wanted to make a nice pasta salad to take for lunches at work this week, so with the twist of spinach fettucine, I made cold pasta salad with the following mix-ins:

  • diced green bell pepper
  • white beans
  • diced heirloom tomato
  • diced cucumber
  • garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

It turned out very good, despite it being an unconventional pasta shape for salad. I was even able to share some of the fettucine with some friends to get a second and third opinion. There were second helpings all around so I called it a success. I was happy that my comfort food was able to create a bright spot in someone else’s day.

And now that we are back to highs in the mid-nineties, I am feeling much more like myself. Whether it was the return to normal temperatures or it was the shells and cheese, I will never know. But it’s good to be back!

Farmers’ Market 08.14

I had some things still left over from last week’s trip so I went to the market on Saturday with the intention of going easy on the vegetable buying. How do you think I did?

You know what? I’m okay with this. I figure there are worse possible manifestations of my self-control issues. And come on, how could I resist this fresh pasta from Bombolini?

And these plums from Agriberry

In the market loot this weekend:

  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes (including some heirlooms)
  • Eggplant
  • Golden zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Spinach fettucine
  • Dill pasta shells
  • Plums

The weather has been a little cooler this weekend and I am loving it. There may be a homemade soup in my future. For now, I am off to enjoy this overcast Sunday by putting in a few hours in the office (boooo…) and then a few more in the kitchen (yayyy!).

While I get cooking, I suggest you hop over to Brandi’s blog to check out my guest post on barbecue seitan tacos. It was a delicious experiment that I hope you enjoy!

Farmers’ Market 07.31.10

What a beautiful day! This week I visited the South of the James farmers’ market with Kyle and my parents, who had made a special trip to Richmond just for my birthday. I think Mom and Dad were impressed with the size of our market and the variety of things offered there. We saw plenty of fresh fruits and veggies but I tried to hold back from buying too much because I still had some leftovers from last week.

Leftover produce:

  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini and 1.5 yellow squash
  • 3 or 4 potatoes
  • 1 handful of raspberries

Leftover prepared:

  • 1.5 loaves of zucchini bread
  • 4 cups of kale-potato-parmesan soup

I gifted my parents with one loaf of zucchini bread and threw the squash and zucchini in with some fresh pasta and tomatoes from today’s market.

Here is what I picked up at the market today:

Tomatoes, peaches, tomatillos, poblano peppers, and fresh black pepper linguine

Kyle is officially moving in this weekend so I think the size of my market purchases is about to increase. I am no longer alone in tackling the pile of fresh local produce every week! I have a feeling Kyle will do his part very well.