Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chef Vanity

When you are a personal chef, you pretty much work solo in different client homes.  You run your own business, and don't necessarily have co-workers to bounce ideas off of.

Unless you are fortunate enough to find some folks with similar interests, whether they are currently cooking for clients, or just dazzling friends and families with their food.

And while it's always nice to connect in the cyber world, it's even more fun when you get to see some of those smiling faces in person.

There's always a lot of food, plenty of wine, a little business shop talk, a trip to a fabulous farmers market or local food find location, and so much laughter that my sides usually ache for days afterwards.

And if you happen to be following us down the road and notice a car full of laughing, gesturing, happy people, odds are you'll look up and see a little bit of chef vanity marketing.

It's good to have friends that understand you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tremont Farmers Market Demo

I like fruit.  I probably don't eat nearly as much as I should.  Probably because I just don't get that excited about supermarket fruit.  Local, in season fruit though, look out, I will make a pig of myself.

Do you remember the first time you bit into a juicy, ripe peach as a kid, and the sweetness just washed over you, while the juice ran down your arm (and your chin)?

This evening I was invited to do the chef demo at the beautiful Tremont Farmers Market, where I encountered my first local peaches of the season.

The nice folks at Wolff Farms provided me with some ripe seconds for my demo.  As I strolled the market and saw the beautiful heirloom tomatoes and fresh opal and green basil at Por-Bar Farms, inspiration struck.

Peaches, beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil....sounds like a delicious salad to me.  Maybe a little raw corn fresh from the cob.  A little olive oil and lemon balsamic vinegar.  What about some Lemon Zest Grass-Fed cheese?  Yes, yes, yes!

So with purchases in hand, I set to work, while taking in the bustling market.  Unlike the Akron area markets, the Tremont market is in a bustling city neighborhood.  So it soon fills with families, with kids and dogs in tow, folks on bicycles, spilling into Lincoln Park, which is sort of in the heart of the neighborhood, which also has a playground full of happy kids.

After I chopped and dressed my salad, I decided it needed a little more color and crunch, so I added a couple of cucumbers.  So here is another fresh, easy, refreshing, fun summer salad that you can whip up in no time without heating the kitchen.

Fresh Corn, Peach, Cucumber, Heirloom Tomato, Basil Salad

2 ears of fresh corn, shucked, silk removed, cut from cobs
2-3  ripe, fresh peaches, peeled and diced
3-4 ripe, firm, heirloom tomatoes diced
handful of fresh basil (I used a mix of green and red), cut in chiffonade
2 small cucumbers, diced
lemon zest flavored grass-fed cheese, shredded (optional)
Olive Oil
Lemon Balsamic Vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
salt and pepper

Combine fruit, veggies and herbs in a large bowl.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar to taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss and taste to check seasoning; adjust if necessary.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Raw Beet, Red Raspberry & Mint Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

As a frequent guest in the "What's Cooking at the Market' tent of the Countryside Conservancy farmers markets at Howe Meadow and Stan Hywet, I really enjoy surveying the market, gathering some beautiful ingredients, and quickly creating something fresh and tasty for sampling.

I try to convince people that farm fresh ingredients don't require much dressing up, and that you don't need to follow a recipe, but I get asked often for the "recipes", so I am documenting them here. 

It was about 92 degrees in the shade yesterday afternoon, and although I adore the propane fueled camp stove/oven the market sets up, it was way too hot to even consider firing that up yesterday afternoon.

For my first recipe of the day, I gathered:  A bunch of cilantro, an ear of corn, and a large cucumber from Maize Valley Farm,  a small head of cabbage, and a yellow zucchini and tender broccoli side shoots from Red Basket Farm.

I small diced the cuke, then the squash, scraped the kernels from the corn, and shredded some of the cabbage, and tossed it all in a large bowl.  I added some roasted onion and cilantro olive oil from the Olive Tap, and a sprinkling of white balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Tossed in some chopped cilantro. Voila, instant Farmers Market Slaw

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any veggies you have/like and vary the flavoring by using different flavors of oils and vinegars, and change up the fresh herbs.  I made a second version which included some tomatoes donated by Maize Valley Farm, and I added some smoked paprika.

For something really different, I took advantage of the gorgeous red and black-red raspberries from Huffman Farm, a nice large bunch of red beets from Red Basket Farm, and the tastiest bunch of fresh peppermint from Breezy Hill Farms and created the following salad, which got a lot of thumbs up, a few tries by non-beet lovers, and a few 'that's interestings'.

Raw Beet, Red Raspberry, & Mint Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette 

1 bunch of fresh red beets, peeled, and cut into thin julienne slices (I small diced at the market to facilitate filling those tiny sample cups) *Wear gloves when handling beets or prepare to frighten people until the stains wear off 

1 small basket (half pint) of fresh red or red-black raspberries, gently rinsed and dried on a towel

1 small bunch of fresh mint, stemmed and chopped

few pinches of sugar, to taste

Raspberry flavored vinegar, or white wine vinegar

Light olive oil or canola oil (walnut oil would be awesome too)

Put beets, berries and mint in medium bowl. Sprinkle with sugar.  Combine equal parts of oil and vinegar - start with a few tablespoons of each, and gently toss to coat, being careful not to smash the berries.  (You can add the berries after an initial toss).

Taste and adjust seasoning - add more sugar or dressing if necessary.

I bet this would be extra tasty with the addition of a bit of fresh chevre or feta from Lucky Penny Farm.  I may just test that theory when I do a similar demo at the Tremont Farmers Market on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

File It!

I have spent many snowy, winter hours carefully cataloging recipes I put on my personal chef client menus, want to try, favorites, etc. into software programs only to have them crash and eat all of my hard work.  (Mastercook in particular wasted about 2,000 recipes worth of my time).

So I as un-eco-friendly as it is, I have my clippings, print-outs and other scribbles filed by ingredient, with some sub filing for cuisine, canning, making cheese; whatever makes sense and I can remember what I filed it under.

However, the files long ago outgrew the tiny two drawer cabinet I bought a Target, along with some baskets I hung some of the files in.  It was driving me nuts trying to find the files, which weren't exactly in alpha order.

So my neighbor put an old filing cabinet on the curb.  A little beat up, and missing the folder racks.

So:  Filing Cabinet curb-shopped from the neighbor:  Free

Can of Diva Green Spray Paint to de-ugly it:  $3

4 packages of new rails from Office Max:  $70 (is that the biggest rip-off you've ever heard of for a couple of pieces of cheap metal with screws in it?  Uh-huh. But I was in too deep by then, but yes, I was thinking you could have bought a used filing cabinet with $70 with rails in it!)

Finally getting all of my recipe files in one place, in order:  Priceless

And while I was at,  I Diva-fied my shopping cart.  My West Side Market friends are gonna get a kick out of this:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Eating Through the Ithaca Farmers Market

I LOVE the Ithaca Farmers Market!  There are so many beautiful fruits and veggies, flowers, and ready to eat foods.  Here are some of things I ate on my trip last weekend:

We had the #7 - it was awesome!

Check out the size of these beautiful kohlrabis!
Pig Dog from The Piggery, where I also scored bacon, salami, and pulled pork.