Category Archives: Vegetarian

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi & Recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard SeedsThe best way to describe food writer Simran Sethi is to say she is more telegenically inclined and far more accessible as a writer than Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Michael Ruhlman. Of course, it’s a subjective opinion; Pollan is probably the most famous, but Simran Sethi’s book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: A Slow Loss of Foods We Love might push her over the top. Part memoir, travelogue, and science, published last year – and due for a paperback edition in October, she has become the food expert who teaches us how to be food experts along with her.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

Complete with flavor wheels which detail profiles of beer, chocolate, wine, and bread, her book is a discussion about how we only eat about 30 types of foods, which are harvested around the world. This is leading to “mono-crops” and loss of other edibles that we should be eating. Did you know the banana that we eat from our local grocery store, the Cavendish, is only one variety? According to Ms. Sethi and the World Banana Forum, there are more than 1000 varieties of the fruit. And of that number, we consume nearly 48 millions tons.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Simran Sethi interviewing wheat farmer Gyanni Singh outside of Amritsar, India.

Sethi’s is no stranger to journalism or the world of food. Her broadcast career began as senior correspondent for MTV News India in Bombay. At one time, she was the environmental correspondent for NBC News with contributions to The Today Show, CNBC, and MSNBC. She has written and hosted shows for The Sundance Channel, PBS, and Treehugger.com on sustainable environments and ethical markets. Her research knowledge is vast; she is an expert at telling a compelling story.

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
The Golden Temple during Karah Prasad preparation, Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer grappling with dropping water tables in Punjab, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Halwais preparing Karah Prasad at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Donated wheat for Karah Prasad in the Golden Temple kitchen in Amritsar, India.

 

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds

However, she decided to write a book on food, one of her favorite topics. She says, “We celebrate through food. We mourn through food. There is nothing that affects us more than our food. In writing this book, it was incredibly humbling to travel to some of these places and see its origins. I wanted to go deeper and teach the world through the lens of food.”

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Wild coffee flowers held by farmer Tebeje Neguse.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee seedling held by Simran Sethi in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Coffee blossoms from the afromontane rainforest in Kafa, Ethiopia.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Farmer Vicente Norero on his cacao plantation in Balao, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Fermenting and drying cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Close-up of harvested cacao, Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since age 14.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite foods are the ones cooked for me.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Whole milk for coffee, seasonal fruit, local eggs.

What do you cook at home?
I assemble. Pasta and greens, bread and cheese, egg on anything.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cider.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds wrote a cookbook that played off their Queens, NY supper club called Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party. I have never wanted to cook as much as when I am reading (and re-reading) that book.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
This gigantic pan I got when I appeared on the Martha Stewart Show. It was the audience gift but I begged.

Your favorite ingredient?
Salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Turmeric

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Cook

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Well-raised pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms

Chef you most admire?
Most? Tough. Floyd Cardoz, Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Heather Carlucci.

Food you like the most to eat?
Avocado on home-baked bread with a little Penzey’s Turkish seasoning sprinkled on top.

Food you dislike the most?
Fast food.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None and none.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

i8tonite with Food Expert Simran Sethi and recipe for Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds
Sweet Potatoes With Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Aloo)

3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small red chili, thinly sliced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes until they are just slightly undercooked, 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Add oil and mustard seeds to a medium skillet over high heat. Fry seeds, periodically shaking pan, until seeds start to pop. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Mix in potatoes, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook, stirring infrequently, until a crust forms, 10 minutes more.

4. To serve, garnish with cilantro and chilies, if using.

 

PHOTO: STACEY VAN BERKEL FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Simran Sethi profile photos: Cem Ersavci for Dumbo Feather

India, Ethiopia, & Ecuador photos: Simran Sethi

 

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Disclosure: Sethi is a PR Client of co-editor Brian Garrido.

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and Owner of STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger Recipe

22i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger RecipeWith a deep breath, I called…a vegan chef. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised by the endless laughter we shared, and gained a new appreciation for a plant-based diet. But I get ahead of myself….

Rooted deep in the St. Louis food and wellness scene, chef Caryn Dugan is STLVegGirl, a plant-based nutrition and culinary educator with a simple mission, “A Plant on Every Plate™.”

Caryn notes that the A Plant on Every Plate concept is not judgy or difficult, but an easy way to incorporate healthier eating at your own pace. She says, “Eating only plants is not only eating something green – beans, grains, seeds, even cocoa beans (think chocolate!) – plants come in all different forms. However, greens are the most nutrient dense foods. You can be so creative with eating what comes out of the ground. It’s the most healthy way to live, nourish, and thrive.

Caryn adopted a plant based diet in response to tragedy; in 2008, cancer took her father at an early age and ten weeks later, tried to take her. In response to her diagnosis, she searched for an answer and found one in the growing body of literature supporting a whole food, plant-based diet to bolster our natural immune system. Adopting a vegan diet herself and beating cancer, she sought to share her knowledge to help others.

In 2011, Caryn studied in Washington, DC, under the direction of Neal Barnard, MD, at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) Food For Life program, becoming a certified instructor. Bringing this knowledge home, she teaches immune boosting, plant-based cooking classes at the Cancer Support Center of St. Louis for the benefit of others who have, like her, met cancer at the door.

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger RecipeCaryn went on to form STLVegGirl, LLC, St. Louis’ first fully plant based entity providing cooking instruction, personal cheffing, and catering services, regularly appears in cooking segments on local television morning shows, and teaches cooking classes in many locations around the St. Louis area.

What I love most about Caryn’s approach to cooking and teaching healthy eating is that she’s not the Vegan Police. Instead, she inspires us to incorporate nourishing, healthy foods into our lives. And when I asked for her best tip for someone wanting to move toward putting a plant on every plate, she said, “start with whatever you already have in your fridge and pantry, because those are going to be the most familiar foods to you. Don’t make it hard on yourself. Make the food you already like, and veganize it.”

She started slowly herself, moving from a microwave and frozen-meal diet to learning and researching – and teaching – how nourishing, healthy foods can change your meals – and your life. She worked hard on gaining certificates and education because she didn’t want to lead people down the wrong path with her work – she wants them to learn, eat, and say, “WOW! That was totally worth my time and my money.”

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger Recipe

Perhaps our loudest laughs came from learning about her biggest pet peeve – the phrase “Vegan Food.” Caryn said, “It’s just food!!! It’s just real food. It feeds into that view of vegan as unattainable and hippie. Just because you change what’s on your plate doesn’t mean you have to uproot your entire life. You’re just using real food…not food that is processed, crazy, or something you can’t say or spell. This can be very simple stuff.” Indeed.

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger Recipe

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since 2008.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I enjoy seeking out the new food trends and then making them into plant-based dishes.

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger RecipeWhat do you always have in your fridge at home?
I’m often trying new recipes for a TV segment, cooking class, or to post on my website, so you’ll typically find random ingredients.

What do you cook at home?
If I’m not in work mode – I usually one-pot meal our nights. You might call them kitchen sink nights: open the fridge and freezer and start pulling things out and throwing them in a large pot. You’d be amazed at how many recipes have come out of nights like this.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The one who wants to learn.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The one who has no time for “rabbit food.”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine!

Your favorite cookbook author?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My husband bought me a NHB Knifeworks Chef Knife for Christmas and I LOVE it!

Your favorite ingredient?
It varies, right now I’m using a lot of tahini paste and dates are high on the list too. Adding one more: fresh rosemary from the garden – does anything smell nicer?!

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Eggplant

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean the stove

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I love experimenting with making the perfect veg burger

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Tofu

Favorite vegetable?
Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes tie for first place

Chef you most admire?
Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows

Food you like the most to eat?
Veg Burger

Food you dislike the most?
Mushy eggplant

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No ink

Recipe: The New Summertime Burger

i8tonite with Professional Plant-based Culinary Instructor and STLVegGirl, Caryn Dugan & New Summertime Burger Recipe

2 1/2 tablespoons ground flax
5 tablespoons water
1 cup shredded sweet potato (one very small sweet potato)
8 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced pinch of sea salt
1 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cooked chickpeas (if from the can, drain and rinse)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2-3 green onion stalks (green part only), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt & 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups whole oats

Mix the flax and the water together in a small bowl and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or until it begins to become gelatinous (this will be your “egg” and act as a binder).

Wash, but do not peel the sweet potato. Shred it by using a hand grater or run it though a food processor using the shred blade.

To a large non-stick pan, add the sweet potato, red onion, and mushrooms. Over medium heat and stirring often, allow the vegetables to cook down. Once they begin to soften, add in the garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Transfer to a food processor. Add the black beans, chickpeas, parsley, green onion, sunflower seeds, spices, and flax/water mix.

To a blender, add one cup of the oats and grind down until it is a coarse flour.

Add the flour and 1/4 of the whole oats to the food processor with the rest of the mixture.

Pulse the mixture until well mixed, but not blended or pureed.

Making the burgers

Transfer to a large bowl and add the rest of the oats.

Mix well with your hands and taste. Adjust spices to your liking.

Cover and refrigerate the mixture for an hour up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375-F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Patty up your burgers. I made mine about 3″ in diameter and 1/2″-3/4″ thickness.

Bake for 18 minutes on one side, flip and bake for another 10 minutes.

NOTES:

These can be made into sliders or meatballs; remember,you’ll have to adjust your cooking time down the smaller the patty.
You can either refrigerate the mixture or patty up the burgers and and refrigerate them – either way, be sure to cover them.

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon Noodles

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon Noodles Chef Kathy Fang is the daughter of one of San Francisco’s legendary chefs, Peter Fang of the House of Nanking. To the uninitiated, those who have never eaten Chinese food in Shanghai or one of the major Asian-American urban hubs such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Vancouver have probably eaten the domestic version normally laden with excess soy sauce, oils and fried. Shanghai food mixes a variety of regional Chinese cooking, primarily because the twenty-four million inhabitants  come seeking work in the big city. Street carts characterize the cuisine – eat and run – such as steamed buns, scallion pancakes, and a variety of rice balls. Each morsel can produce bold, complex flavors if placed in the correct hands – such as Chef Fang. Even today, more than twenty-five years later, queues are outside the first Chinatown located restaurant with far-flung travelers, guidebooks in hand, ready to dine on Fang’s Shanghainese-type eats.

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon NoodlesAlong comes his daughter, Kathy Fang, who is every bit her father’s progeny but personifies the new generation of chefs, realizing that there is more than just the kitchen to cooking. After working in the corporate scene, the younger Fang decided to follow in the family’s footsteps, learning about European cooking techniques at a premier local culinary school. Together, in 2008, the father and daughter team opened Fang Restaurant, an elegant establishment focusing on the Chinese regional foods, but with a more refined, gastronomic approach.

“I’m very blessed to be around my dad and parents,” states Ms. Fang about working with her parents and father. “My dad can be very stubborn but we work together many hours of the day. Ultimately, we have a very loving relationship inside and outside the kitchen.”

Last year, Ms. Fang, was a winner on Food Network’s Chopped, the broadcast cooking competition show which places four chefs against each other with the hopes of winning ten thousand dollars. Ms. Fang, a petite and attractive woman, beat three burly Caucasian men. She says of winning, “Now, we get customers, mostly female, who come into Fang. They say, ‘I was rooting for you all the way against those guys. It was great to see a woman win.’ “

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon Noodles Ms. Fang’s future is bright as she continues to cook with her father at their eponymously named gourmet hall. Outside the kitchen, though, she is branding herself as a culinary leader with My Fangalicious, her website and family recipes. Her hopes are to become the next Martha Stewart with a “branded wok” and other gastronomic items like her Caucasian predecessors. As her clientele has attested, it’s good to see diversity in the food mix, so all people can be included in the conversation.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

 How long have you been cooking? Since I was 6 years old

What is your favorite food to cook? Pasta

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon NoodlesWhat do you always have in your fridge at home? Eggs, hot sauce.

What do you cook at home? Asian and Italian food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I’m lucky in that a lot of our customers come in to Fang knowing to trust the chef. I love customers who come in with an open mind to try new things to eat.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Customers who finish their meal and then tell you afterwards they didn’t like it. If you don’t like it, mention something right away. I feel like any restaurant would apologize and offer to make something different for you. Just be up front in the beginning, and we would be more than happy to make any changes for you.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine to wind down at home or when having dinner. Cocktails for a night out, a gin martini to be exact.

Your favorite cookbook author? David Chang. I love how he weaves his own story into the growth of all his restaurants. You learn about him, his restaurants, and his recipes all in one book.

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon Noodles
Sesame Chicken

Your favorite kitchen tool? This may seem weird but my electric kettle at home. I’m obsessed with it mostly because it heats up to boil so fast. I boil water for tea, water for boiling pasta, water for blanching. I also heat up soups using the kettle because it’s so fast. I just let it go, brush my teeth, work on my computer and then it shuts off after it boils. I also boil eggs in there in the morning.  For the cost and how often I use it and in so many different ways, it’s really one of the best little kitchen tools I have.

Your favorite ingredient? Soy sauce (I grew up eating this and I can’t imagine my cuisine without it)

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon Noodles
Fang, lower dining room

Your least favorite ingredient? Lemon pepper. I always think it has this weird fake element to it. And I never understood why you wouldn’t just use fresh lemon or citrus and freshly cracked pepper.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, Chinese, and Japanese

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? I know it’s an overused vegetable and it seems like it’s that overly popular girl at school that everyone seems to talk about, but KALE is truly one of my favorite vegetables. For one, I’m a health nut, so any vegetable that I find healthy, I like. But aside from that, I find kale super versatile. I buy in big amounts because I can go through it all week. I can bake kale until it’s crisp like chips, I can sautée with eggs in the morning for breakfast. Kale works well in soups and stews. It also makes great salads if done right.  And finally toss it in smoothies to get extra vitamins and fiber. There are just so many ways to eat kale!

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon NoodlesChef you most admire? Grant Achatz, Dominique Crenn, and Thomas Keller.

Food you like the most to eat? Sushi

Food you dislike the most? Natto

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None.

 

Recipe: Pesto Udon Noodle Salad

i8tonite: with San Francisco Chef Kathy Fang, Fang Restaurant and Pesto Udon NoodlesServes 2.

Make fresh pesto by blending fresh Italian basil, 2 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoon grated parmigiano reggiano, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 4 tablespoon high quality evoo, and salt. Taste and set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil (or use electric kettle) and pour the hot water over packaged udon noodles. Separate the noodles and let sit for 1 minute and stir.  Remove from water and run under cold water.  Set aside.  Dress the udon with freshly made pesto and plate. Slice some grilled chicken breast or roasted chicken and top the udon with it. Mozzarella balls and cherry/grape tomatoes are a great addition to this dish, as is a generous sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano.

  • The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn Grits

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsIn September 2015, Chef Scott Simpson, along with his partners, opened the seafood restaurant, The Depot in Auburn, Alabama. It’s the  newest dining establishment in a town which is also home to the well-known University of Auburn. Overall, the southern enclave, although small compared to larger urban areas, is home to more than sixty thousand individuals, mostly employed by the liberally based higher learning institution.

It’s a far cry from the Southern California beaches where Simpson grew up and many of the global culinary regions where his chef skills were perfected. For more than a decade, Simpson worked at the JW Marriott, first in Palm Springs and then, cheffing at the property in Quito, Ecuador. He joined Capella Hotel Group, luxury hotelier, as the opening chef for many of their new global properties. He skillfully crafted menus for the room and boards’ restaurants in Mumbai, Bali, Mexico, Singapore, the Caribbean, and domestically, in the United States south including Washington D.C, Virginia Beach, and then to Auburn. At each global stop, Simpson acquired cooking nuances used in each cuisine.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsSimpson says of The Depot, “It’s not Auburn’s normal cuisine. The area hasn’t had global food, so our objective was for the eating experience to be educational yet still be identifiable as having Southern roots.”

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsHoused in a former train station, The Depot was reincarnated as a restaurant, a Southern hospitality showcase to its Victorian birth and former life as a transportation hub. Original black and white tiled floors have a polished sheen, a massive shining chandelier dusts a warm glow over the tufted, leather booths and wooden tables. It’s breathtaking food hall for Simpson to display his virtuosity, skillfully turning the former rail station into a delicious seafood brasserie. From the menu descriptions, there’s an international traveler and culinary master manning the stove, with the flash fried cobia wings served with a buffalo buerre blanc, blackened amberjack with a hoppin’ john risotto, short rib osso buco with an ancho demi glaze. Each item plucked  is an ode to the Deep South combined with an international flavor.

With The Depot under Simpson’s adroit cookery talent, Auburn may have a destination restaurant to rival any of the big cities. Luckily, for the college town, Simpson is calling it home.

CHEF QUESTIONNAIRE (with a nod to Proust): 

How long have you been cooking?  Since I was 8. I have a picture of me on a chair so I could reach the stove and first cooked an omelet.

What is your favorite food to cook? Super fresh Seafood (It’s also my favorite NOT to cook – nothing like a delicious crudo or sashimi).

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsWhat do you always have in your fridge at home? Kerrygold butter, fresh garlic, cilantro, Hass avocados, lemons. Local farm eggs, cooked rice, raw tortillas, an array of international condiments ,and at least 3 distinct varieties of cheeses and some Albarino chilling.

What do you cook at home? “Somma Pasta” – I like to open my fridge and make a simple and spontaneous some-of-this and some-of-that dish. I love making creative pasta dishes. I received formal culinary training in Florence, and pasta is always a comforting and quick dish to make.

What marked characteristic(s) do you love in a customer? Adventuresome diners eager to step outside their norm and willing to trust me to introduce them to a new flavor or dish. Sharing guests who have enough appetite to keep tasting and tasting and sharing dish after dish at their table. AppreciativeI love customers who understand this is my artwork, I crave feedback and comments, I am always waiting to hear their honest assessment of the dish.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsWhat marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? I confess I am disappointed in those guests who come in, smile, and say “everything was so wonderful and delicious,” and then terrorize you later that week on Social Media.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? We use clear square Cambro’s in the restaurant to be more space efficient and reduce potential breakage. At home, my wife and I like more eco-friendly, Pyrex style glass containers. They don’t get scratched from scrubbing or stained from a curry or a Spicy tomato sauce.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine: I spent a lot of my life working in restaurants with amazing wine cellars. I am totally spoiled and have a strong appreciation for the pleasure of wine with food. Plus, I’ve never read a Bible story of Jesus changing water into anything else but wine.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsYour favorite cookbook author? I really respect the meticulous research and commitment to the authenticity of chefs like Rick Bayless or Marcella Hazan. Many other chefs throw all that out the window in order to market a gimmicky twist. Many longstanding recipes and techniques are the way they are for a reason.

Your favorite kitchen tool?  Tasting spoons.

Your favorite ingredient? I think Garlic is delicious in most anything and the same for a squeeze of fresh lemon…and never underestimate the difference a great sea salt like Maldon makes.

Your least favorite ingredient? Sugar!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Waste something.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsFavorite types of cuisine to cook? I really enjoy cooking Latin inspired dishes. Certainly I remain humbled by true Indian Cuisine. Still I try to satisfy myself with a semblance of Indian cooking I enjoyed there while working with some of the very best Chefs in all of India.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? I love them all, but beef is hands down what I most often crave – after fresh seafood. I start salivating when I see a tender juicy medium-rare steak. Fewer things are more satisfying than slicing into a perfectly cooked piece of properly aged, high-quality, well-marbled meat.

Favorite vegetable? Super tough question! Frequently I incorporate exotic mushrooms, or eggplant, which enhances many dishes. Also, I enjoy a very simple side of Sea Salt Maple Roasted Carrots that we pair with our Pecan Brown Butter Trout. Right now, I’m featuring some delicious Malabar spinach, rainbow chard, and Red Mustard frills, which are fresh and seasonal here in Auburn, Alabama.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsChef you most admire? I admire Jamie Oliver, simple pure style of cooking, his obvious, passionate enjoyment of cooking. More importantly, he aspires to more than selfish glory or feeding his own pocketbook – he puts his popularity and voice to much better use.

Food you like the most to eat? I enjoy bold spicy flavors. The cuisine of the Sun and Sea.

Food you dislike the most? Unauthentic, “mis-prepared” or ruined ethnic specialties.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? My art is all edible.

 

Recipe: Chef Scott Simpson’s Blue Corn Grits

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn Grits

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 qt. water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons mascarpone
  • Crumbled artisan bleu cheese to taste

Preparation

1. Bring salt and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Whisk in grits, and cook, whisking constantly, 45 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of the pot.
2. Return to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. (For a looser consistency, whisk in 2 to 4 Tbsp. water halfway through cooking.)
3. Stir in butter and mascarpone until fully melted. Garnish with artisan crumbled bleu cheese and serve immediately.

The end. Go eat.

(All photos courtesy of The Depot)

I8tonite: with Friends, Team Changes and Mashed Cauliflower

Courtesy of Apatow Productions
Courtesy of Apatow Productions

I was watching “Bridesmaids”, the hysterical friends and relationship comedy with Kristen Wiig.  Though the movie is heavily based on deep female friendships, there is a poignancy — that as a gay man with a multitude of amazing women comrades I can identify — that underlies the relationships. In one side-splitting scene, and there are so many, Melissa McCarthy’s character visits Wiig’s Annie, who is feeling sorry for herself. Her baking business went belly-up. She’s lost her apartment because she doesn’t have a job, lives with her mother. Her car is a junker. The only thing she isn’t doing is entering rehab. Basically, she’s hit rock bottom. But McCarthy, with her robustness, throttles Wiig’s character, by knocking her upside the head, proclaiming, “I’m life. Is life bothering you?” And yes it is…,.and it’s not going away, like McCarthy in the scene.

Six years, ago it was like that for me. A 14-year relationship went into the toilet. My business tanked. My ex-partner in business and in life, well — turned out not to be such a significant other. Broke. No home. No car. And starting life again past the age of forty. After leaving everything behind in San Francisco– including the dog – (heartbreaking), I retreated to Los Angeles and to my best friends: Shelley, Lulu, and Bonnie. There are also my dear friends such as Kim, Pat, Sophia, Margot, Barbara, Kathy, and Jenny – many of whom I have known since the beginning of my career — but the pattern for me is women. With a couple of exceptions, such as my oldest friend Sean, John and former therapist Peter, these women, plus many more (Tanya, Annie, Myra, Myrna, Linda Chester, Katherine Lape, Julie, Charlotte, Teryann, Rita, Beverly, Katherine, Christine, Beth, Janet, Penny, Sharon – I know I’m forgetting someone. Forgive me if I am as the list is lovingly long) have been my salvation. My family. My friends. My confidantes.

I know the fairer sex isn’t all peaches and cream. There are some women I would never want in my corner: Lizzie Borden, the female half of Bonnie and Clyde, and Sarah Palin to name a select few.

Overall, the ladies in my life have been strong, resilient and loving. (This is what my memoir is about: a series of personal essays on the women I have loved as a gay man.)

Jessie with Mallard Cottage's chef Todd Perrin - site of one of my favorite meals this year! St. John's, Newfoundland
Jessie with Mallard Cottage’s chef Todd Perrin

With all that said, in less than five months – I can’t believe it – i8tonite.com has grown as a site to roughly over 10,000 unique visitors per month. I can’t keep up with its content and rapid growth. So, I have brought on Dr. Jessie Voigts to become my collaborator, co-publisher, and co-editor to assist in the endeavor. Another great feminine presence – to keep my ass moving forward.

Jessie has another site called Wandering Educators. There she is Queen Bee, holding court amongst her loyal subjects discussing the importance of travel in education.

Cauliflower by Liz West.
Cauliflower by Liz West.

Mashed Cauliflower: This holiday eating season, I baked up cheesecakes, biscuits, breads, assorted pies, and cakes. Now, I need a sugar and flour respite and some weight loss. I’m getting older, and it doesn’t come off as fast as it once did. Additionally, I’m 49. I want to look good as I hit that mid-century, I want to look Daniel Craig-splendid, all sinew, and muscle, one more time before I hang up the Speedo. Not for anyone else…..but for me, and Nick.

I made this dish, and I may never ever go back to mashed potatoes again. (I love potatoes!) It held the pot roast gravy perfectly and was luxuriantly delectable. Who cared that there wasn’t a spud in it? And it’s low carb.

To Make: Boil a head or two of chopped cauliflower, minus the outer leaves, along with several garlic cloves. Cook until it falls apart. Strain. While, the vegetables and garlic are still hot, add a dollop of cream cheese (don’t argue), grated parmesan or asiago. Use an immersion blender to puree. Add some chives. Serve this puppy with anything. Game-changer.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: Patrick O’Malley, North America’s Coffee Man & Holiday Espresso Martini

Patrick O'Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Patrick O’Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Where do you think North America’s leading authority on coffee is located? Seattle? Portland? Boston? New York? San Francisco? If you guessed Tempe, Arizona, you could win Jeopardy. On a small street, not far from Arizona State University and the nationally known brewery Four Peaks, is Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Italia, a roastery creating some of the country’s most sublime caffeine brews. In a warehouse full of beans and leaves, O’Malley, the leading national authority on coffee and possibly tea works, lives and breathes caffeinated beverages.

O’Malley is unique as he is the only trained individual in the United States and 43rd in the world, allowed to teach Specialty Coffee

Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Association of Europe’s certification. Matter of fact, mostly Europeans train – with a smattering of Americans — at his International Barista Coffee Academy where they learn every facet of making the perfect cup and cupping. He educates students on a specially created espresso machine that he – along with five of the world’s leading coffee authorities — and Sanremo, the Italian high-end coffee manufacturer produced. O’Malley’s students are much like him, fans of the brew and owners of cafes throughout the world such as Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey, although some do come from the States to attend.

According to O’Malley, his hardest test was passing the Q certification – the system by which all coffee is graded. He ranks number 1043rd in the world out of a little over 3500. “It was harder than a sommelier’s test,” he notes.

Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith
Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith

The good thing for global coffee lovers is O’Malley opened a European-like café in April called Infusion Coffee and Tea. They just have to travel to Tempe.

In i8tonite’s Food People Questionnaire O’Malley talks about his love of soup, dislike for tofu, why he loves butchers and how to create a caffeinated martini, a new tradition for the holidays – sort of like egg nog except with caffeine. Heh.

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Wow. Good one. I would have to say my potato and leek soup because that’s what brings the biggest smile to Bugs. (Devin, my daughter.)

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Butter, white wine for cooking and garlic. My go to base for sauces.

O'Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.
O’Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Adventurous people who will gladly try anything once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? If they won’t even try something; how do you know if you don’t try it?

Beer, wine or cocktail? Guinness, Hendriks tonic and fresh cracked pepper. Its stupid good.

Your favorite cookbook author? Anthony Bourdian.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything where I need to make a sauce. I love making a sauce.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood or tofu? NO TOFU. I love meat. All meat. Even entrails sometimes. They are the best bits.

Favorite vegetable? Beets.

Chef you most admire? Locally?? No way I can answer that we have so many in this town (meaning Phoenix and the surrounding communities) that deserve to be named. I have to go with my Mom. She was a baker but could cook very well. She raised 6 of us (5 boys, 1 girl and Dad) on not a lot but we ate like kings. Her liver and onions was the best you will ever have.

Food you like the most to eat? Just about anything placed in front of me, but I am a soup guy for sure. So soup.

Food you dislike the most? Tofu.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, because I get to try new food.

Who do you most admire in food? Butchers. I love to watch them break down an animal that people can take home and eat, it’s cool to watch a good one work.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Every one of our customers’ restaurants. I rarely dine at a place unless they are an Espresso Italia customer, our accounts are our family.

Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.
Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Treviso, every time I arrive, Carlo, the owner of Sanremo espresso machine factory takes me directly to L’incontro. They have an appetizer bar that opens like a clam’s shell, once open its full of some of the best seafood and pure goodness ever.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Nope not one, I don’t follow trends. It’s just not who I am. I have never had a desire to have one, and if I did I don’t think tripe or liver would look good on my arm. LOL.

Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Martini 

Martini: Photo by Edsel Little
Martini: Photo by Edsel Little

Espresso made with Infusion Push blend (blueberry, lime and chocolate profile) or if you can’t find it any espresso will do.

Vanilla Vodka 1oz

Chambord .25oz (or any good quality raspberry liquor)

 

Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Look out! It’s yummy.

 

The End. Go Eat.

 

i8tonite: with “Food Person” Victoria Granof and Recipe for Chickpea Soup

Victoria Granof
Granof. Courtesy of Granof.

With work published in T: Magazine (New York Times Sunday Magazine), Vogue, Bon Appetit, The New Yorker and many more  beside such acclaimed photographers as Irving Penn, Steven Klein and Annie Leibowitz, you would assume that we would be talking about Gisele, Naomi or Kate. In fact, we are talking about, Victoria Granof – whom I’ve personally dubbed the Madonna of the food stylists. Why the comparison? Like the entertainer, there isn’t anyone like Granof. She took food styling to innovative heights using her art and culinary background to convey the editorial or advertising message.  She’s everywhere. (Vogue, Bon Appetit, the New York Times? Who are we kidding – she’s worked for all the mighty publications on multiple occasions.) Lastly, she’s good. No matter what you say about Madonna, she made us dance and sing and gets paid for it – Granof makes us look at food as beauty, edible and artistic – and gets paid for it.

Purse CakeHaving studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Granof has been a pastry chef, cooking instructor and chef in her hometown of Los Angeles before she became a food stylist. Cherry Bombe, a print publication devoted to women and food did an in-depth profile about Granof and food styling, working with photographers and staying at the top of the food chain.

Currently, Granof published Short Stack editions cookbook with the ingredient of chickpeas. (You get to test a recipe below). Short Stack cookbooks are ingenious collectors’ item that highlight one ingredient.  The mighty food stylist was asked contribute to the growing series oeuvre accompanied by likes of Chef Virginia Willis, Liquor.com’s editor in chief Scott Hocker and Jessica Battaliana, editor of San Francisco’s Tasting Table.

Photo Courtesy of New York Magazine
Photo Courtesy of New York Magazine

As we chatted over the phone for the introduction to i8tonite’s newly developed “Food People Questionnaire”, — which was created specifically to interview her and people in the food industry not in front of a stove —   I could hear deep affection for her son, Theo, who played in the background, admiration for Irving Penn, the first big photographer and love of her job. (C’mon, she gets to play with food.) As far as food people go, Granof is many things besides a food stylist – she is an artist, observer, food lover, inventor, and inspirational.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire):

 Times New YorkWhat is your favorite food to cook at home? Duck confit.  I make a huge pot when the weather cools, and eat it all winter long — with red cabbage and apples.

 What do you always have in your fridge at home? Yogurt, greens, milk, anchovies, miso and a jar of tomato paste covered in oil to keep it fresh.

 What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? I’m completely in love with anyone who pauses to regard their food (even better – to close their eyes and let the aromas waft up!) –  before they begin eating.

Sonia Arrison What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? POOR TABLE MANNERS!  Also can’t stand anyone who salts their food without tasting it first.

 Beer, wine or cocktail? Never beer, always wine, sometimes cocktail.

 Your favorite cookbook author? Mary Taylor
Simeti.

 Your favorite kitchen tool? Tongs.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Cuisine Mènager, Sicilian, and Ukrainian.

VG00055 Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? You forgot beans!  And seafood! I love a good steak about once a month, pork if I’m down South, tempeh rather than tofu and chicken only if it’s been cavorting outside and not in a factory.

Favorite vegetable? The kabocha that I smell burning as I write this!

 Chef you most admire? Massimo Bottura.

 Food you like the most to eat? Anything with tomatoes, lemon and salt.

 Food you dislike the most? Cheese and lamb.  Yes I know – blasphemous – but true.

 What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Salsa dancing and flea marketing!

Bon Appetit 2 Who do you most admire in food? Mothers and fathers who feed their children well.

 Where is your favorite place to eat? My friend Monica’s table.  Which is now at her restaurant, Nickle Diner, but it still feels like you’re eating at her home.

 What is your favorite restaurant? Cafe Katja in New York, during Asparagus Week.  They do a whole menu based on white asparagus.

 Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I have the sun (with the face of Pele, the goddess of fire) on one ankle and the moon (from the Mexican lotería card) on the other.  Not food exactly, but I remember stopping at a shave ice truck in Kauai right after getting the sun tattoo done and having a shave ice with coffee, condensed milk and whipped cream.

Chick peas

RECIPE: Dead-Easy Chickpea Soup:  

Chop a peeled onion and boil it in a pot with 6 cups water, 2 tsp. ground fennel seed and 2 tsp. salt for 10 minutes. Take a stick blender to it while you slowly pour in a cup of chickpea flour.  Simmer another 5 minutes, and finish with 1/3 cup of good olive oil.  Do NOT skimp on either the salt or the olive oil.  Serve it in bowls topped with sautéed greens and aleppo pepper flakes.

The End. Go Eat.   

Note: All photos were styled by Victoria Granof.

I8tonite: Charred Broccoli with Lemon and Asiago

I discovered Charred Broccoli with Lemon and Asiago absolutely tasty. Tasty enough that there aren’t leftovers the next day.  I now believe roasting is the best thing for anything even broccoli which I like but isn’t necessarily my go to. So, when in doubt — roast. (My new motto.)

I discovered the recipe in “Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals, From Our Restaurants to Your Home”, compiled by Union Square Hospitality Group’s Culinary Director, Michael Romano and written by Karen Stabiner, with a forward by Danny Meyer, chef and owner of the just mentioned company. (Yes, Danny Meyer of Shake Shack fame.) I briefly worked for him as a waiter at Union Square Café back in the late eighties. Written in 2013, the cookbook’s recipes are staff meals from his restaurants that are part of the said conglomeration. These establishments include some of the Big Apple’s gastronomically acclaimed: Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, The Modern and others. (Sadly, Union Square Café will be moving from its current space of 30 years to another area of Manhattan due to high rents.) Traditionally, staff meals are served at the beginning of the dinner shift and end of lunch.

El Teddys. Courtesy of I Loved New York

Truth be told,  taking all the romance out of the cookbook, along with the “familial” sappiness  — the  staff meals that we were given before or after our shifts came from leftovers that didn’t sell – too much chicken, Bibb lettuce getting ready to turn, fresh pasta that needed to be boiled so it didn’t go to waste.  Working at the now defunct Soho Kitchen & Bar (SKB), we were served pizzas and salad pretty much every staff meal.  The kitchen quickly needed to use up any dough from the day before and replenish with freshly made.  The salad was at least a couple of days old but it was still had a good crunch going on. At El Teddy’s, torn down in 2004 — we were allowed to eat any of the appetizers such as chicken achiote, machaca or steak arrachera burritos, any of the salads or the quesadillas which included huitlacoche (corn fungus), nopales and a puerco.  We could order as much as we wanted as the back of the house had already made the dishes with fresh ingredients for that day’s clientele. (We were eating yesterday’s.) At the Cajun/Mexican fusion of How’s Bayou – it was mostly leftover fried chicken, jambalaya, gumbo, day old enchiladas, reconstituted black beans, red rice and sometimes something green. (Not complaining about any of this. It was free food and truly delicious. The pizza at SKB was some of the best I had. I learned a lot about life, cooking, drinking and made some of the best friends ever while working in restaurants. I loved it.)

This brings me back to this recipe and cookbook…yeah, I don’t think any of the staff at my restaurants would have eaten this as “family meal”. It would have would have been sitting under the heat lamps drying out…but now that I’m older and definitely stockier — it’s pretty stellar stuff.

Charred Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of broccoli cut into trees with stems. Trim off about two inches from the bottom.
  • ¼ olive oil.
  • 2 lemons.
  • Several dashes of red pepper flakes.
  • Italian hard cheese such as asiago, pecorino or parmesan. Two to three cups grated.
  • Maldon salt, fresh cracked pepper. (Okay, you can use kosher….but I love the Maldon stuff.)
  • ½ cup of Panko bread crumbs.

Let’s make this puppy:

Preheat the oven to 450 – 475 degrees. Toss the broccoli, olive oil and breadcrumbs into a large bowl coating the broccoli really well. Spread into a single layer onto a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, charring the ends of the broccoli but not burning them.

While the broccoli is cooking, zest the two lemons into a large bowl and add the grated cheese stirring well until mixed.

Once the broccoli is cooked, toss the broccoli in the bowl mix with juice of a ½ a lemon. Serve.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: with Raw Food Chef Diana Stobo, The Retreat Costa Rica and “Naked” Mac-and Cheese.

thai-lettuce-wrap Food has transformative powers. There is no denying it. It can make you feel better but it can also make you feel terrible. That’s what makes Chef Diana Stobo’s story – a tale in eating naturally — fascinating. After attending Cornell University with a degree in the culinary arts and food chemistry, she had a career as a food professional. It was at that time, Stobo topped the scale at 247 pounds while she was pregnant with her twins. Once giving birth, she found the medications she had used to become pregnant – via in-vitro –they had perpetuated serious health issues. Furthermore, she states on her website and YouTube channel, that her weight was a proverbial yo-yo throughout most of her life. She is now a fit mother of three and defies age categories with her glowing taut skin, lean frame and healthy chestnut hair. She pulled this feat by transforming her diet and becoming a “vegan raw” chef. She now writes about her transformation and how she maintains it with her book such as Get Naked Fast and Naked Bliss. Matter of fact, the Southern California-based entrepreneur has fashioned a mini-empire discussing how she became fabulous and fit.

Recently, Stobo opened up The Retreat Costa Rica situated in a mountain area 45 minutes outside of San Juan, the Central American’s country capital. It’s a hotel – nay, a retreat — to provide calming sanctuary, yoga and amazing food. The secluded and verdant town of Altos del Monte is her backdrop, while Stobo’s fitness and food philosophy become realized with farm-to-table dining and daily yoga sessions. It provides visitors the opportunity to slow-down and experience the beauty of the country as well as quench the desire to become healthier through fitness and eating. All the food is provided by local farms including the meats and seafood. There are a variety of food menus – omnivore, carnivore and vegetarian — for guests to choose from and yes…there is even wine.

As I’m witness to my own family and their eating habits – my mother and stepmother are both severely diabetic — food can be quite toxic if not consumed with clarity, wellness and appropriately. There are all a variety of ways to be healthy and consumers need to be find the best fit for them.

_C9G5527

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl.  My mother and I would make specialty cakes, very decorative and festive.  I remember one cake where we crystallized grapes and created a sugar crystal sculpture on top of a shaved coconut cake.

What is your favorite food to cook? Well, I am truly an artist, so many of my items need to have an art form, so baking and chocolates were my go to when I was in my early years,  but now, I play with healthier version of everything- so making classic food with a healthy twist is my favorite go to now.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?  I tend to have tons of produce, greens and fruits, almond milk (home-made of course), Kefir, green juice that I make fresh and tons of condiments.  I’m sort of a grocery store addict, I love finding new condiments that add punch and flavor to a new dish when cooking on the fly.

What do you cook at home? I’m a simple eater but love throwing dinner parties.  So when it’s time to party, anything goes.  Again, I tend to take the classic home-style favorites and give them a healthy or what I call “naked” twist.  Naked means substituting classic dairy, wheat, and sugar, with healthy alternatives.  I just made ribs, with mashed yams, sautéed spinach with shallots and honey glazed carrots last weekend.  What was new and unusual is that I made a broccoli coleslaw using cashew butter as the cream base instead of mayonnaise.  Everybody loved it.

thai-lettuce-wrap
Thai Lettuce Wraps

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? The unwillingness to try something new.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Openness to new things.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex- Glass ONLY!

Beer, wine or cocktail? Tequila or bust!  And, only the best.

Your favorite cookbook author? I can’t say since I don’t follow cookbooks.

Your favorite kitchen tool? An 8” chef’s knife. (Global)

Your favorite ingredient? Goat cheese and coconut milk.

Your least favorite ingredient? Soy sauce.

 Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Grate cheese ….. and dishes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? From all regions and international cuisines, I call them component meals.  Making several different flavors and layering them on top of each other to make the perfect dish.   Imagine Sprouted Quinoa Moussaka with Bean Béchamel, or Butternut Squash Lasagna, layered with Pine Nut Ricotta, Pistachio Pesto and Sundried Tomato Puree.  I’m just making this up but you get the idea.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? None of the above.

Favorite vegetable? That’s a tough question, because I am a vegetable lover all around.

Chef you most admire? Jamie Oliver- not because of his food, but his message.

Food you like the most to eat? Totally embarrassed, but I love Mexican food. (It’s) mostly the beans —  but what can I say, it’s the ultimate comfort food.

Food you dislike the most? I’m just not into meat.   Once in a while I crave it, but really- it’s not my thing.

 How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  Not a one.

Naked Mac and cheeese

“Naked” Macaroni & Cheese

Diana Stobo says of this recipe, “I’m a lover of rich sauces so a good, old-fashioned macaroni and cheese is at the top of my list as a decadent and delicious treat. If you like “mac and cheese” like I do, I know you will be delighted at this “Naked” version my daughter affectionately named “mac-a-faux-ni”. The butternut squash adds a bit of sweetness as well as creaminess. The macadamia nut butter and coconut milk provide a richness and the ghee gives it that buttery taste. The rest is magic.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heaping cups of butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 12 ounce package Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta elbows (or any gluten-free pasta of your choice).

For the topping:

  • ¼ cup walnuts, pine nuts or sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (optional)

Directions:

In a 4-quart pot, prepare pasta according to package directions. Cook al dente, strain and run under cold water to immediately stop the cooking process. Pour cooled pasta back into the pot.

In a medium saucepan over the medium heat, melt ghee and gently sweat the squash, do not brown. Add sea salt and coconut milk, simmering uncovered for 10 minutes. Carefully pour hot squash into blender and add macadamia butter, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Blend on low with the machine’s center cap lid removed to release the heat while blending. Slowly increase speed until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Pour mixture over pasta and stir.

This can be served immediately with topping sprinkled over the macaroni or baked in a 350 degree over for 15 minutes until browned.

The End. Go eat.

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Southern chef Hugh Acheson is the cooking star of the moment…albeit one who is humble and has a really good sense of humor. He proclaims on his website, “To Athens, (Acheson) is the guy who owns those restaurants, has one eyebrow, a wife far better looking than he is and two young children who are the apple of his eye.”

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette
Photo Credit: Emily B. Hall

And yes, with humor, there is always a modicum of truth but Acheson isn’t just the chef with one eyebrow, a beautiful wife and children and the guy who owns those restaurants – four to be exact — in Georgia which include his newest, The Florence (pictured above), the National, Empire State South and the one that started it all, 5 X 10. The Canadian-born but Southern food adopted Acheson is the chef who published an award-winning James Beard cookbook “A New Turn in The South” and won the prestigious award from the culinary organization for “Best Chef, Southeast”. In addition to these impressive accomplishments and many more, he has been awarded Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” (2002), StarChefs.com “Mentor of the Year” (2012) and his town newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, presented him with “Restaurant of the Year”.

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette. Photo by Emily B Hall
Photo credit: Emily B. Hall

Currently, Acheson is promoting his book “The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits” (Clarkson Potter, 2015) which showcases his love of vegetables, his family and cooking in the Southern with simple and easy to use recipes.

If you don’t live in the Atlanta/ Savannah, Georgia area, you have the potential of meeting Mr. Acheson in Los Angeles. He is cooking as the “All Star Chef” – along with “Local All Star Chefs” — Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – for the James Beard Foundation’s “Night of Culinary Stars” on November 6, 2015. On November 7, he will be signing copies of his cookbook as well as demo-ing recipes at The Grove’s Sur La Table.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

 

Chicken Arugula with Buttermilk Dressing. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

What is your favorite food?

Carrots.

What do you always have in your fridge?

Feta, carrots, eggs, prosciutto.

What do you cook at home?

Roast chicken with gravy and rice.

What marked characteristic do you despise in your customer?

Everyone is different. I rarely despise anyone.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?

Adventurous eating.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?

Pyrex.

I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Beer, wine or cocktail?

Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?

Paula Wolfert.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

A bench scraper.

Your favorite ingredient?

Farro.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?

Dishes, just like everyone else.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?

Middle Eastern.

Chef you most admire?

Mike Solomonov.

Food you like the most?

Middle Eastern.

Food you dislike the most?

None.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?

Six. One radish is the only culinary one.

Early Egg in The Hole. From I8tonite: with Chef Hugh Acheson featuring Butter Lettuce Salad with Feta, Radish and a Dill Pickle Vinaigrette

Recipe: Butter lettuce salad with feta, radish, and dill pickle vinaigrette

Clean the lettuce. Dry and set aside.

In a blender, puree 1/2 a dill pickle and then add two tablespoons of cider vinegar and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Season with salt. Crumble some feta and slice some radishes, and then add those to the lettuces, lightly torn up to the size of your mouth. Dress to your taste. Toss well. Eat.

The End. Go Eat.