Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Chef Obsessed with Food - "Naturally"

Every chef has a love affair with food. We have the awakening – a knowledge that there is more to life than eating to live, or eating food that’s “just ok”. Then, there’s the exploration phase, eating, tasting and cooking all different types of foods and ingredients. Soon, courtship, the world of professional cooking is exciting and emotional. Once swept into the scene, we’re all but done for, addicted to the adrenaline, the heightened senses, the romance, the dance; now we’re committed.

The honeymoon phase begins, everything is as intoxicating as the scent of fresh vanilla beans and good quality bourbon. As we pass through the honeymoon stage, we settle comfortably into our relationship with our career and then… some of us might get a little restless. There’s nothing “wrong” per se, but there’s the inkling that there’s something “more”. Foods we haven’t tasted, ingredients we’ve never seen up close, meals we haven’t indulged in. Curiosity is piqued and we often start looking at other options, having grown tired of what we’ve relied on to satisfy our palates and senses up until just then.

The thing about food is that it’s all been done before. I’m always appalled to hear chefs refuse to give “their” recipes to other chefs or their well-intentioned groupies. It’s as if these chefs think they’ve really invented that particular dish themselves. Last I checked, none of them were named “Careme” or “Escoffier”, which means, with very few exceptions, no one’s recipe or cooking technique is actually original.

All of that aside, I, myself, find that I tire of certain cooking techniques or only eating a certain range of foods, and have ventured off into what some consider the “fringe” aspects of the culinary realm. After a trip to the now defunct Capital Poultry, I found myself an instant vegetarian. Once meat-free, I gradually went vegan. At about that same time, I ceased eating cane sugar products, and instead used sweeteners like maple and barley malt syrups, agave nectar, etc. (avoiding honey, though, since it is technically not a vegan food). After about 3 years of this, my lifestyle was derailed by a month’s long craving for a corned beef sandwich, and it has taken me 5 years to get back on the veg-friendly track, which I am happily 95% on once again (I eat a limited variety of seafood).

Once again, I’ve found myself in a restless exploration phase. Tired of preparing the same types of foods, I long to learn more about whole grains and to reacquaint myself with natural “cane-free” sweeteners – even better – explore the culinary world without “white foods”. Chefs are one part scientist, one part artist, and two parts obsessive. With all of the natural and sustainable foods on the market now, I am curious to develop recipes that are healthful, delicious, and “whole”. Think whole grain dinner rolls, fruit crisps with seeds and oat flour, and even transforming some of my favorite “refined” treats into something more nutritious and full of nuance.

My culinary philosophy has always been about eating “real food”, nothing “processed”, and this is just a continuance of that ideology. Sure, cane sugar is natural, but anyone can make something delicious with cane sugar or white flour. The real challenge I’m taking on is making irresistible foods with some of the homelier ingredients we find in the grocery store.

After some tinkering around in the Mirepoix Cooking School kitchen (our very own “test kitchen/laboratory” I’ve come up with this Blueberry Crumble recipe we’ve enjoyed this week. This recipe still uses some cane sugar derivatives, but none of them are refined white granulated sugar. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry mixture:
2 lb fresh blueberries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2tablespoon finely grated fresh lime zest
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup. Sucanat

1/2 c. oat flour or whole wheat flour
1 1/3 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 c. Muscovado sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
½ c. pumpkin seeds, toasted
½ c. canola oil

Method for the blueberry mixture –
combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix to just combine. Do NOT use frozen blueberries in this recipe! Set aside and prepare the topping.

Method for the topping -
Combine all dry ingredients together with a fork until uniformly moistened. Add oil and mix.

Place the blueberry mixture in individual ramekins or a 8X8 casserole dish. Top with the crumb mixture. Bake at 350 until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

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Blogger stevemelling said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 19, 2010 at 9:53 PM 
Blogger stevemelling said...

I enjoyed your blog. I found it through a Facebook link to an Oakland Press article. In addition to being a great chef and a fine public speaker you are a very good writer. I like cooking shows but I have never found reading about cooking to be interesting, but I really enjoyed your articles. Just wanted to let you know,keep up the good work.

May 19, 2010 at 9:59 PM 

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