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Jewish World Review
Nov. 14, 2007
/ 14 Kislev 5768
Busting your stress with food therapy
By Steve Petusevsky
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Just as many stressed-out people go see a therapist to get through the hard times, chefs seek food therapy to counter the pressure of cooking in a restaurant kitchen. Most of my friends in the industry take some time off to work out their angst by cooking for fun.
Much like stand-up comedians working out new material in front of an audience, we cook for nonpaying guests, family and friends to get honest feedback, or simply to work off excess energy.
Trust me, if you know any cooks or chefs socially, you are assured of some great meals at least a few times a year when the heat is on.
And that's what I did this past weekend: pure and simple food therapy.
I woke up early and didn't make a list or menu. Instead I decided to improvise buying what looks good and cooking everything from scratch. I begin at the natural foods market for some specialty produce items, many of which are organic. Then I go to my Italian grocer for ethnic items, and finally my regular grocer for staples.
I also find a great local farmers market that has some incredible produce from Latin America and the Caribbean. I fill my car with bags I schlep into my kitchen.
I lay them on the counter and marvel at their colors, shapes and variety.
I lock myself in the house, take my phone off the hook, turn off my cell phone and hook up my iPod. Blasting everything from Brazilian jazz to reggae to New Orleans funk and jazz, I realize my musical tastes are as eclectic as my food interests.
I open a bottle of sauvignon blanc and create dishes with no boundaries. I make up each course as I go along and have a great time not worrying about table No. 6 or how much the daily sales are. No general manager standing over me and no diners asking for the best table in the house.
After all, this is my house, and this is all about the food.
Here's the menu I created: spicy sweet potato and okra gumbo; spinach, leek and asiago burgers; whole-wheat pasta al forno with roasted eggplant and banana peppers; a salad of shredded Japanese-style cucumber, daikon and Easter egg radish (red, white, purple and pink radishes all in the same bunch); gorgonzola mashed potatoes; and a very decadent fettuccine with black truffle oil and basil.
I also made some rolled stuffed salmon.. This is fun, valuable therapy and produces some wonderful recipes for both friends and readers.
What happens to all the food? Make it, and they will come. There are plenty of people that evening and the next day, volunteering their taste buds and empty wine glasses.
That's just what I need too. A non-paying audience to practice on and to appreciate my efforts. That way any complaints can be handled by saying, "Thank you for your opinions. Your money will be promptly refunded." Here's are some of my favorite recipes from the day's fun.
SPICY SWEET POTATO GUMBO
You can omit the okra if you are not a fan. I used fresh, but you can substitute chopped frozen okra. Dried spices are added at the beginning of the cooking process and fresh whole sprigs of thyme are added late in the process for maximum flavor. In place of orzo pasta you can use any small shape or break angel hair up into 1-inch lengths before cooking it in the soup.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 quarts vegetable broth
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen okra
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, left whole
- 8 scallions, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt, to taste
Heat the oil in an 8-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, jalapenos, dried thyme and paprika and saute 3 minutes to lightly brown the vegetables.
Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add the sweet potatoes, okra, bay leaves, pasta and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 35 minutes until the potatoes and pasta are tender. Remove from the stove and add the scallions and lemon juice. Season with salt. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Per serving: 108 calories, 10 percent calories from fat, 2 grams total fat, .27 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams total fiber, 6 grams total sugars, 17 grams net carbs, 3 grams protein, 779 milligrams sodium.
JAPANESE CUCUMBER AND DAIKON SALAD
This is not really a salad, it's more like an arrangement of raw vegetables drizzled with oil and vinegar. It is crisp, refreshing and full of Asian character. I used a very unusual bunch of radishes called Easter egg radishes, because they are red, white, purple and pink, all in the same bunch. You can simply use red radishes instead. Daikon, or white radish, can be found in most supermarkets, natural food markets and Asian markets. It is usually sold in 12-inch lengths. Black sesame seeds are found in Asian markets, but you can use all brown if you want.
- 1 cup red radishes or Easter egg radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 cup peeled and thin-sliced white radish (Daikon)
- 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, leaving stripes and thinly sliced
- 4 scallions, very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
Arrange the sliced radishes and cucumbers attractively on a large plate. (If you have a black plate, this salad looks really great on it.)
Scatter the scallions over the top. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over all. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over all. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes. Scatter cilantro over the top and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Per serving: 52 calories, 82 percent calories from fat, 5 grams total fat, .51 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, .51 gram total fiber, .38 gram total sugars, 1 gram net carbs, 1 gram protein, 78 milligrams sodium.
This is fun, valuable therapy and produces some wonderful recipes for both friends and readers.
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Steve Petusevsky is the author of "The Whole Foods Market Cookbook". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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