Last year, I had the honor of meeting Chef Homaro Cantu and sampling my first bite of molecular gastronomy at Moto. As part of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) group, I had the incredible opportunity to have this private tour and tasting experience with fellow foodies. Chef Homaro Cantu graciously welcomed each of us to his restaurant along with Chef Richie Farina.
I will never forget the miracle berry tablet “flavor tripping” experience. Chef Cantu was a visionary and saw the potential of this West African berry to alter the taste of food in a positive and sustainable way. This berry tablet can be used to help chemo patients tolerate the taste of food. It can change the sour taste of lemons into something sweet. I remember the pill melting on my tongue. We were then asked to take a big bite of a lemon. My fellow foodies were amazed at the transformation of taste. I however tried not to make a scene after biting into my lemon. Apparently, I am one of the very few people whose tastebuds aren’t affected by the miracle berry.
It was also fascinating to visit the kitchen and the indoor MotoFarm. In the kitchen, Chef Farina caramelized biodegradable packaging “peanuts” for everyone to try as Chef Cantu mingled with our group. I shall always remember his kindness.
Chef Homaro Cantu was a shining star in the culinary community. Chicago and the world will miss him. If you would like to donate to his memorial, here is the information:
Cantu Children’s Trust, 1555 Sherman Ave., Box 177, Evanston, Il. 60201
Savor the day!.
Are you a cancer fighter? Survivor?Or perhaps a caregiver? If so, I hope these recipes will be a helpful resource. Nourish is my word for this year. As a three year breast cancer survivor, I want to reach out and help nourish others who are facing the battle. Food is an important part of this journey. Recently, I prepared a meal for 30 friends in my community’s Soul Survivors group. This was my menu:
Wellness Warrior, A sip of strength for the day, fortified with spinach, kale and antioxidants.
A Date to Remember, A delicious bite of nutrition, with dietary fiber, tannin, Vitamin A and minerals. Recipe inspired by Chef Fabio.
Savor the Salad, Romaine lettuce mixed with healthy tidbits of empowering ingredients.
Zucchini Cappellini d’Angelo Marinara, Spiral zucchini sautéed with olive oil and topped with fresh Marinara sauce.
Chocolate Chia Power Pudding, A mouthwatering dessert with Almond milk, dark chocolate and nutrient absorbing chia seeds.
Wellness Warrior: In a blender, mix frozen berries, spinach, kale, slice of fresh ginger, and coconut water. Cheers to a healthy start to a meal!
A Date to Remember: (this recipe was inspired by Chef Fabio’s recipe for Prosciutto wrapped dates). Gently slice a date and stuff with a mozzarella pearl. Roll the date in Himalayan salt and place on baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese melted.
Savory Salad: Clean and Chop Romaine lettuce. Add veggies and berries of your choice. My favorites include: blueberries and raspberries, sweet peppers, sliced olives, multi-color carrots, red onion, pressed garlic, and sunflower seeds. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar. Salt and Pepper to taste. Toss and serve.
Zucchini Cappellini d’Angelo Marinara: This is a dish from my heart to your home. It’s easy to make and a healthy addition to your journey. Instead of pasta, you can actually make zucchini pasta with a spiral slicer. 1 1/2 small zucchini per serving. For the Marinara Sauce, which I like to call Savor the Day sauce, use two diced tomatoes of your choice. (If possible, try to use fresh tomatoes. Always look for the lowest sodium content if you are using canned tomatoes). In a sauté pan, sweat several cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add tomatoes and simmer until tomatoes turn pink and tender. Add a shot glass of white wine and a shot glass of red wine. Salt and pepper to taste. I recommend using Himalayan salt. Simmer for a few more minutes and pour over a bed of zucchini pasta.
Chocolate Chia Power Pudding: Chia seeds make a great addition to your diet. Chia seeds absorb essential nutrients. Try making your own almond milk. If not, you can use almond milk from the grocery store. If you wish to make your own almond milk, here are the steps:
In a Ball jar, soak raw (unsalted) almonds in water (preferably spring water) overnight in the refrigerator. ( 1 cup almonds to 3 cups water). The next day pour out water and fill Ball jar with the same ratio of fresh water and then put almonds and water into blender. Pour blended mixture into a nut bag or through strainer to get rid of pulp. Pour the skimmed liquid back into the blender and add 2 tablespoons of Madagascar vanilla, 2 tablespoons of organic coconut palm sugar, and 2 tablespoons of organic cacao. Blend this mixture and pour into small containers. Put 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into each small container and stir well several times before refrigerating. Pudding should be ready within two hours.
Savor the day!
(A special thank you to: Lynn Gentile for helping me prepare and design this meal, Chrissie Mena for hosting the event and Melissa Palmer for starting Soul Survivors. An additional thank you to Wickstrom Ford for covering the cost of ingredients for the meal)..
Favorite line: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”
Oscar nominated Whiplash was gripping and heartbreaking to watch as Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons) verbally abuses his music student, Andrew in an effort to elicit the top performance. Today’s pairing of food and film was inspired by the scene in which Andrew’s uncle waves a spear of asparagus during dinner and declares that playing sports has greater value than playing the drums.
Cher Eric Lanlard, one of my favorite chefs, has a wonderful recipe for Spring Green Tart in his fabulous cookbook Tart It Up! The asparagus spears actually reminded me of drum sticks so that makes this recipe even more appealing. I even made my very first pastry crust for this dish. If I can do it, you can do it! Enjoy the festivities of Oscars and please follow me on twitter @mcsweeney as I tweet from Vanity Fair Social Club #VFSC. Take a moment and savor the day!
Spring Garden Green Tart
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cooking time: 50 minutes
butter, for greasing
all-purpose flour, for dusting
about 3/4 quantity (11 1/2 oz) flaky pastry dough (page 10)
7 0z green asparagus, ends trimmed
1/2 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup fresh lava beans
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter a 10 1/2 x 8 inch rectangular tart pan, 1 1/4 inches deep. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the pan. Lightly prick the bottom with a fork. let rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 5 minutes, or until cooked but still firm. Remove with a slotted spoon and refresh under cold running water. Repeat with the peas, cooking them for 3 minutes, then the lava beans, cooking them for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350º F.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the yogurt, cream, wine, and finally the fresh herbs. Beat well to blend, then season with salt and pepper.
Cover the bottom of the pastry shell with half the Parmesan and arrange the asparagus, peas and beans over the top in an attractive way. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the vegetables – it should come right to the top and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until set and golden.
Favorite line in movie: “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
Have you seen Boyhood, one of the 8 nominees for Best Motion Picture of the Year? This wonderful movie was filmed in increments over 12 years and depicts the childhood and adolescence of a boy whose parents are divorced. How fascinating that the same actors and actresses star in these roles through the timeline of the film. It was also intriguing to observe the changes in and interactions with technology throughout the years, too. The kitchen table also plays an essential role throughout the movie. As with most families, life happens over a meal. Many ordinary moments and major milestones take place in the heart of the home. A moment that seizes Patricia Arquette’s character is the shocking experience of her second husband’s drunken rage at the kitchen table as he throws dishes at her children and screams, “I hate squash!” Thankfully, she and her children leave this dangerous situation and pursue a life without domestic violence. That scene is the inspiration for the dish I am pairing with Boyhood, Chef Art Smith’s Zucchini Lasagna from his cookbook Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort. (Recipe Below). This layered dish features, sliced zucchini and yellow squash, ricotta in addition to a scrumptious fontina cheese sauce. After sampling this dish, you will want to shout, “I love squash!” and lovingly share this meal with friends and family at your kitchen table. Follow me on twitter @mcsweeney and #VFSC. I will be tweeting at Vanity Fair Social Club from February 16 – 22 with delicious tidbits to pass along. Meanwhile, please share your thoughts about food and films. Which movie do you think will win Best Picture? Savor the day!
Zucchini Lasagna Serves 8
Lasagna made with zucchini is just as satisfying as lasagna made with meat and a whole lot better for you. We put this on the menu at Joanne Trattoria, the New York restaurant opened by Joseph and Cynthia Germanotta in which I have an interest. Their famous daughter is Lady Gaga, who enjoys this rich, cheesy casserole as a special treat.
For the roux: 1 stick unsalted butter 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the cheese sauce: 1 quart of whole milk 1 pound fontina cheese, grated Salt
For the lasagna: 3 large zucchini 3 large yellow squash 3 cups ricotta cheese 3 large eggs, beaten ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 teaspoons onion powder Salt and freshly ground black pepper 8 ounces dried lasagna pasta sheets (9 sheets), cooked
For the garnish: ½ cup chopped fresh basil
METHOD To prepare the roux: in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour while cooking over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until it comes together. Set aside and let cool.
To prepare the cheese sauce: In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer and slowly add the roux while whisking. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes over medium-low heat, whisking continually. Add the grated cheese, about ½ pound at a time. Continue to whisk until all the cheese is added. Taste for desired salt.
To prepare the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F Slice the zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into ¼ inch thick pieces. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, parsley, Parmesan, and onion and garlic powders. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a 9×13 inch lasagna pan, place 1 cup of the cheese sauce. Lay 3 lasagna sheets over the sauce and spread ½ cup of the ricotta mixture over the zucchini. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients, ending with 1 cup of the cheese sauce spread over the assembled lasagna. You will have still more cheese sauce to serve alongside the lasagna. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until lasagna is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces.
ASSEMBLY Warm the cheese sauce just prior to serving, and spoon some on each plate. Place a piece of the lasagna over the sauce and sprinkle with the basil..
Favorite Line in Movie: “However bad life may seem, while there is life, there’s hope.” Wasn’t the Oscar nominated movie, The Theory of Everything fascinating? This biopic of the theoretical, cosmologist physicist, Stephen Hawking, enlightens the audience about black holes and quantum physics, while providing the stark reality of living with a neurodegenerative disease, ALS. In addition to Hawking, a true star that shines is his ex-wife, Jane (portrayed by Felicity Jones). For several decades, Anne meticulously and lovingly cares for Hawking. The constellations of caregivers in this world provide such positive light! So which food shall we pair with this film? The scene that inspired my recipe choice was a conversation during a meal. In an effort to describe to dinner guests
what exactly Stephen Hawking does, Jane explains the theories of physics with a pea and potato. The pea represents Quantum Theory, i.e. the set of laws that govern the small components of the universe. And the potato represents the theory of General Relativity which governs the large components of the universe, i.e. planets and stars. In order to discover the theory of everything, Hawking has tried to combine the two; yet, he has not perfected this theory. However, Chef Carla Hall has perfected the delicious combination of peas and potatoes with her easy to make recipe for Curried Potatoes and Peas from her cookbook Carla’s Comfort Foods. http://www.amazon.com/Carlas-Comfort-Foods-Favorite-Dishes/dp/145166222X Copyright © 2014 by Carla Hall from CARLA’S COMFORT FOODS published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Chef Stephanie Izard’s Apple Soup with Tarragon Yogurt. Favorite Line in Movie: Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine. The Oscar nominated movie, The Imitation Game is the compelling story of Alan Turing and the incredible Turing Machine he invented to decode the Nazi’s Enigma. Ultimately, Turing and his team are estimated to have saved 14 million lives by helping to shorten World War II by two to four years. In the movie, Turing is a bit socially awkward. When his colleagues ask him if he would like to join them for a sandwich, he states, “No. I like soup.” Keira Knightly’s character encourages Turing to engage more with his co-workers, and one day he brings apples for everyone. Therefore, I thought the perfect film and food pairing for this movie is Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s recipe for Apple Soup with Tarragon Yogurt! After making this delicious dish, I now have a new favorite soup. It’s easy to make, and the fennel really adds flavor. Please follow me on twitter @mcsweeney as I work and tweet during Oscars week in L.A. with Vanity Fair #VFSC. I would love to hear your thoughts about food and film. Savor the day!
APPLE SOUP WITH TARRAGON YOGURT By Chef Stephanie Izard Ingredients: 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil 1 1/2 teaspoons butter 1 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped fennel bulb 3 garlic cloves, minced 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled and thinly sliced Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup white wine 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth 1 1/4 cups apple cider 1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon 1 tablespoon milk 1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Sweat the onion, fennel, and garlic by cooking them until the onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes. 2. Stir in the apples, season with salt and pepper, then add the wine. Simmer to reduce the liquid by half. 3. Meanwhile, cook the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it thickens, whisking periodically to loosen the little bits of browned cream that will impart a nutty flavor. Once it’s reduced by half, set it aside for later. 4. Once the apple mixture has reduced, add the broth and cider and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the apples and fennel are tender, about 1 hour. 5. While the soup is simmering, whisk together the yogurt, tarragon, and milk until evenly blended and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed. 6. Once the soup is ready, puree it with a tabletop or immersion blender until smooth, then pass it through a fine-mew sieve to remove any chunky bits. Of course, if you don’t have a sieve and don’t mind a slightly chunky soup, you can skip this step. 7. Transfer the soup back to the soup pot, whisk in the cooked cream, and season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup among bowls and top with a dollop of tarragon yogurt to serve..
Favorite Line in Movie: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” (A note on the dressing room mirror).
Let the food and film festivities begin as we count down to the Oscars! Have you seen Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)? This complicated yet captivating movie effectively captures the struggle of Michael Keaton’s character to reclaim relevance by starring in a New York theatrical production in an effort to shed his super-hero-box-office-hit persona, Birdman. How fitting that the setting for the play within the film mainly takes place in the kitchen! Alcohol is the dominant ingredient in the movie. However, Riggin (Michael Keaton) tosses a chicken from his refrigerator in an emotional scene onstage. Yes, I am sure you notice the irony of Birdman throwing away poultry. And perhaps it is a bit of a subtle foreshadow. So what is the perfect pairing of alcohol and chicken? Chef Fabio’s Drunken Chicken, of course! Here is the recipe below. And please follow me on my twitter handle @mcsweeney. This week I will be working and tweeting at Vanity Fair Social Club in LA (#VFSC) and will provide lots of delicious tidbits on food, fashion, film and social media trends.
Which movies did you enjoy?
Savor the day!
By Fabio Vivian
Fabio’s Italian Kitchen (page 181)
- – 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- – Salt and pepper
- – 1 tsp. paprika
- – 1 tbsp. flour, plus extra for dusting
- – 1⁄2 cup olive oil
- – 1 tsp. dry oregano
- – 1 lb. pearl onions, trimmed and peeled
- – 6 cloves garlic, halved
- – 3 cups white wine
- – 1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock, plus a bit more on hand just in case
- – 2 sprigs tarragonDirectionsSeason the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika, then dust it with flour. Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan, add the oregano, and brown the chicken on all sides, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.Add the onions to the pan with the chicken drippings and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, and when the onions begin to caramelize, add the garlic and cook until it is golden brown.Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom with a flat wooden spoon. Put the chicken back in.Add 1 1⁄2 cups of the chicken stock and the tarragon and bring the mixture to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook, turning the chicken pieces over a few times, until cooked through, about 30 minutes. The meat should come off the bone easily when pulled with a fork. If necessary, add more stock as the chicken cooks to keep it from frying out or frying.Take the chicken out of the pan again. Remove the tarragon sprigs and add the remaining tablespoon of flour. Whisk the sauce until it has no lumps.Put the chicken back in the pan and cook for 2 more minutes.
What a delight to have a recent Kitchen Chat with Margarita Carrillo Arronte. She is one of the world’s premier authorities on Mexican cuisine, and I affectionately call her the “Julia Child of Mexico.” Cactus Paddles or “Nopales” provide a delicious addition to any meal. [Read more…]
There is an emerging trend in the culinary world guaranteed to open up a whole new world of flavor possibilities. Chefs all across the country are starting to use tea in both sweet and savory dishes as a new and interesting way to add flavor to their dishes.
I recently caught up with Chef Instructor Austin Yancey of Kendall College to talk about the use of tea in cooking. He said tea, which is basically dried leaves, can be used in much the same way chefs use herbs and spices to add flavor to their dishes. The challenge, though, is matching the right tea with the right dish. Anyone using tea in a dish must understand the nuances of what temperatures get the maximum flavors from each tea. Getting the temperatures right and matching tea with the right ingredients is essential to having a successful tea inspired dish.
Kendall College recently held the first ever Napoleona Tea challenge hosted by Chicago Gourmets at the College. The contestants had to prepare a four-course dinner featuring tea in every dish. I tasted some of the dishes from the finalists and was amazed at the flavor the tea brought to each dish. I certainly hope Kendall College makes this challenge an annual event.
Using tea can be as simple as marinating meat for grilling with tea. So if you are looking for something new and different to add flavor to your old recipes, consider adding tea as an ingredient to your dish. Make sure to do your homework first but adding tea to your dishes can be a source of new and wonderful flavor possibilities.
To hear my Kitchen Chat with Austin Yancey, log onto http://kitchenchat.info/925/kitchen-chat-chef-instructor-austin-yancey-from-kendall-college-interview/ and as always, Savor the day!