Did you know that today is Food Day???
Ok so what does that mean, right? Food Day is a movement devoted to pushing our nation towards healthy, affordable, sustainable food for all. Food Day is an acknowledgment that every year hundreds of thousands of people die prematurely as a result of the unhealthy food that they put in their body. 57% of adults are obese. One in five NYC Kindergarteners is obese. Our lifestyle is also destructive to our environment. I really believe it is time for us to make a change.
One of the reasons that I am so passionate about teaching people to cook is because eating at home gives us the control over what goes into our bodies. When I was growing up in Texas, my family of five sat down to eat dinner together every night. My mother was a very good cook and because of her I have carried with me the importance of eating three balanced meals a day. Cooking for ourselves, and teaching our children to cook for themselves, is one of the best things we can do for our health. I am so grateful that my parents instilled this in me and I hope that I inspire others to take control of their lives through food.
In honor of Food Day, I will be volunteering with Les Dames d’Escoffier, a mentorship group for women in the culinary profession that I have been a member of for many years. In collaboration with Wellness in the Schools, we will create a cooking demonstration at PS 98 in Manhattan and talk to parents about shopping for groceries that are nutritious and affordable. I’m looking forward to it!!
Take this Eat Real Quiz and see how Real your diet is!!
If you need ideas for Real Food recipes, my cookbook, Flavors, is packed full! This one, Grilled Shrimp, Fennel, and White Bean Salad, is one of my favorites….
Ingredients for the Salad:
- ¾ pound dried white beans (cannellini or Great Northern), picked over (see Note)
- ½ onion, peeled
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- ⅔ cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup minced fresh sage leaves
- ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
- 3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Purée, see recipe below
- 4½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons Tabasco Pepper Sauce
- 1½ pounds (about 30) medium-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 large fennel bulb, about 1 pound, fronds reserved, trimmed and diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups wood chips, preferably mesquite, optional
- 2 large sweet peppers, ideally 1 each of red and yellow, cut into quarters
- 1 bunch red leaf lettuce
Ingredients for the Roasted Garlic Purée:
- 1 very large head of regular (not elephant) garlic, about ¼ pound total
- 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon herbes de Provence, crumbled
Grilled Shrimp, Fennel, and White Bean Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette
- In a bowl, cover the beans with cold water and soak for at least 4 hours or overnight for convenience.
- Drain the beans. In a large pot, cover them with fresh cold water. Add in the onion half, crushed garlic cloves, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Tightly cover the pot, lower the heat and cook the beans, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 30 minutes (bean cooking times vary widely; add additional boiling water and continue to cook the beans until tender if necessary). Remove from the heat and cool the beans in the water to room temperature. Drain well, removing the onion, garlic, and herbs and transfer to a large bowl.
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
- In a food processor, combine the cold-pressed olive oil, sage, oregano, garlic puree, the vinegar, Tabasco and 1 teaspoon salt. Process until thick and fairly smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- In a shallow nonreactive dish, stir together the shrimp, with 1/3 of the sage and oregano vinaigrette, reserving the other 2/3 for later use. Cover and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.
- On a sheet pan, mix together the diced fennel, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper. Place in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes, until slightly golden and cooked through.
- Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill (medium-high). When the fire is hot, distribute the wood chips if you are using them. Position the grill rack about 6 inches above the heat.
- Lift the shrimp from their marinade, reserving the marinade, and slide them onto 4 or 5 flat metal skewers. Lay the skewered shrimp and pepper quarters on the rack. Cover and grill, turning the shrimp skewers once and basting them often with the marinade, until it’s used up and the shrimp are just cooked through while remaining juicy, about 4 minutes. Turn the peppers 3 or 4 times and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, so that they are evenly charred. Transfer the skewers to a cutting board and place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Slide the shrimp from the skewers.
- Mince the fennel fronds; there should be about 3 tablespoons. Rub away the burned peel, stem and core of the peppers and cut them into thin strips. Add the shrimp, peppers, fennel and fennel fronds to the bowl with the beans.
- Pour the leftover 2/3 of the vinaigrette over the contents of the bowl and toss. Adjust the seasonings. Serve within an hour or so of completion, spooned over a bed of the greens.Note: The shrimp can be broiled or sautéed if desired, as well as cooked on a stovetop grill pan, and the peppers roasted indoors by your preferred method. The fennel could also be used raw, and would be perfectly delicious. Alternatively you can use canned beans to substitute for the dried beans, using about 4- 4 ½ cups of canned beans in replacement. For variation, toss in a handful of small, unpitted green olives, such as picholines.
Roasted Garlic Purée
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- With a serrated knife, cut off the top quarter of the garlic head, exposing the cloves inside. Set the garlic head on a 9-inch square of heavy duty foil and partially draw up the sides. Lay the rosemary sprigs atop of garlic. Drizzle the wine and the olive oil into and around the heads of garlic. Sprinkle the crumbled herbs over all. Enclose the garlic tightly in the foil.
- Set the packets on the rack and bake until the garlic inside the peels is very tender, 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool the garlic to room temperature.Makes about ¼ cup.