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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chefs-In-Training Get The Skinny On Fats

It's week number three of Natural Foods Chef Training and Chef Jennifer Brewer is tackling the sensitive subject of fats. We quickly learned that the choices of oils are many but decisions are best made based on cooking temperature to maximize health benefits.

Obviously, the whole food versions are preferable and less is best when it comes to heat. We also compared the refined and unrefined versions of several oils as in the next picture. Notice how much darker the unrefined sesame oil is on the left compared to its refined counterpart on the right. Unrefined is always the best choice unless your recipe dictates high cooking temperatures. We learned that the healthiest oils are also the most fragile so they need special packaging and often refrigeration to maintain their quality. Just like their food counterparts the closer to their raw natural state the better.

As always class begins with an array of fresh, organic ingredients. It's a six course menu tonight and we will be using a variety of oils to create a complete meal featuring two entree level dishes.

1. Appetizer - Flaxy Crackers & Hemp Seed Olive Tempanade
2. Salad - Field Greens with Creamy Flaxseed Dressing
3. Entree #1 - All Purpose Asian Marinade with Grilled Salmon
4. Entree #2 - Spicy Orange, Cilantro & Cumin Grilled Tempeh
5. Side Dish - Balsamic Marinade with Roasted Vegetables
6. Dessert - Chocolate Avocado Tart with Raspberry Coulis

The tip of the evening for me was a nutritional heads up about one of my favorite spices, garlic. Jenny said to allow raw garlic to sit for ten minutes before adding it to a recipe in order to activate its photochemical compounds.

And now...Dinner Is Served!

Breaking our crackers into bite size pieces was really fun. And I had no idea how much oil is packed into an olive. We added only spices, capers, lemon juice and hemp seeds to make the perfect dip.

Our local wild caught salmon was primed for oven roasting after a bath in the Asian marinade loaded with fresh ginger, soy sauce and garlic.

Sliced Tempeh was so simple but turned into a tasty grilled strip that even a true carnivore would enjoy. The spicy orange, cilantro and cumin marinade made the flavors just snap.

Another surprise for me were the roasted vegetables. The dark color of the balsamic marinade deepened their color but they were definitely not overcooked. It was a barrage of contrasting textures ranging from the tender eggplant to the very crunchy beets.

Our final act was a chocolate dessert but with a twist. We used avocados in our tart to add sweetness and the many lower cholesterol benefits of its monounsaturated fatty acids. Adding to the goodness and flavors were walnuts, dates, cranberries and coconut. Jenny's last minute substitution for raspberries with a fresh orange reduction made a perfect drizzle.

The End. (Until next week of course!)

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