Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week Five at FoodWhat?!

What We Eat

At FoodWhat, we know how to eat! Every day we cook up something nutritious and delicious to keep us energized throughout the day! Always loaded with vegetables, always homemade, and always enough to go around.

Our meals taste great, and once a week a guest chef joins us in the FoodWhat kitchen to show us how the professionals do it!  These guests give us a chance to learn the tricks of the trade and how restaurants turn everyday ingredients into mouthwatering dishes. For example, Chris LeVeque of El Salchichero will be joining us later in the summer to help us learn more about meat dishes!

This week, Beverlie and Kirsten from Chaminade Resort and Spa joined us. As the executive head chef of the resort’s dining establishments, Beverlie continually creates new and exciting dishes using fresh and local produce and meat. She has worked in various parts of the state and even owned a restaurant in Japan! Her inspired mind and taste buds landed her a spot on the list of top five chefs in Santa Cruz. Needless to day, working with Beverlie and Kirsten is quite the opportunity!

The menu du jour was polenta topped with a choice of meat sauce or vegetable sauce. Side dishes included sautéed vegetables, sliced bread with bean dip, and a rosemary vinaigrette salad. And for dessert? Homemade strawberry shortcake! Knowing a spread like this requires a lot of time and work, we got busy right away!

Josh started up the polenta! A few crew members weren’t sure what polenta exactly was. Beverlie explained that the Italian dish is simply cornmeal boiled until it has a porridge-like consistency. Josh kept a close eye on it, stirring it and adding water as needed to create the perfect thickness.

Meanwhile, Chris, Crystal, and Keyah hopped on making the shortbread. First, they mixed all of the ingredients together to make the homemade dough. Once the dough was ready, Crystal and Chris rolled it out to a thickness that would become a perfect balance of crunchy and soft, while Keyah starting chopping up the berries. 

Kayla was on bean dip duty! She pureed the beans with some olive oil to get them to the perfect texture. With a few herbs and spices added into the mix, the dip had the kick it needed!

With the shortbread in the oven, Crystal continued working on the strawberries. Planning to cook the berries down, she added a touch of sugar to the bowl to create a sweet, jelly-like topping.

Damien, Derek, and Nellie worked on a salad of FoodWhat freshly harvested lettuce and radishes with homemade rosemary vinaigrette!

Selena, Chris, Connor, and Derek chopped up chard, squash, broccoli, and other colorful veggies. As the pile of ready-to-cook veggies started to grow, Gaelen began sautéing the mixture. Pretty soon there were so many veggies needing to be cooked that Keyah and Chris jumped in to help. With this system, pan after pan of delicious vegetables were served up and ready to be enjoyed!

 In the midst of all of this cooking, Beverlie reminded us of a very important rule in any kitchen: clean as you go! She emphasized the importance of keeping the workspace clean to ensure the cooking process runs as efficiently as possible, to make sure flavors aren’t mixing when they shouldn’t be, and to keep things sanitary!

The shortbread came out of the oven just in time to cool off. Perfectly golden brown, these small cakes were a visible success. Connor took on the challenge of moving the cakes from baking sheet to plate.

 As the cakes were cooling off, Crystal was busy mixing up some homemade whipped cream! Crystal’s biceps now understand the love and commitment required for making such a delicious topping with fresh ingredients.

 With the meat sauce already made, Derek prepared a veggie sauce as an alternative using fresh produce. Served with the polenta, this sauce would provide a heaping amount of nutrients in addition to the sautéed veggies but with a different flavor and texture to keep our taste buds satisfied!

The last step was to cut up the bread. Selena got to slicing up small pieces to enjoy with our bean dip.

And so the meal was complete! This was the first time trying polenta for most of us and it did not disappoint. The filling, textured cornmeal was delicious with the sauces and was further complemented by each of the side dishes.

And of course, the strawberry shortcake was a great way to top off the meal with a little sweetness!

 The lunch was not only healthy and delicious, but a blast to prepare with so many hands on deck! Days like this have inspired some crew members, such as Diante, to consider culinary arts as a profession. We thanked Beverlie and Kirsten for all of their help and we look forward to seeing and learning more from them this summer...

To learn more about our delicious meals, check out our recipes!

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