My Favorite Foods

When people find out I’m a chef, just about the first thing they ask after “where?” is ” what do you cook?” The “where” part is easy: wherever you pay me to cook. The “what” part is a lot harder, because I cook all kinds of things. I love food, I love experimenting, and I love fun combinations. But, the backbone for all of these things are basic ingredients, and that’s what I am going to talk about today: my favorite single foods. I’ll be doing my favorite herbs later this week, too.

-Greek Yogurt. Full-fat only, please, and homemade whenever I can! Great alone, as a replacement for sour cream, in all kinds of soups, in any dish (especially Indian) that calls for yogurt,  mixed with chocolate and berries as ice cream.

-Red bell peppers. Sweet, crisp, and flavorful, they only get better when roasted.

-Onions. Forget baking bread. You want me to buy your house, just saute’ some onions.

-Local, pastured beef. Rich, flavorful, needs very little seasoning.

-Squash, especially local squash from the cellar in the middle of winter!

-Heirloom tomatoes from the garden. Tomatoes from the store are useless. Tomatoes only taste like tomatoes if they’re heirlooms, grown to full ripeness, and harvested at peak.

-Fresh Chevre. Oh, so creamy and good. Plain, topped with herbs, stuffed into pasta, spread on a cracker.

-Kale. Raw, wilted, topped with bacon dressing or walnuts, stuffed with chickpeas.

-Olives. Good quality only! Stuffed, plain, roasted (with grapes..yum!).

-Cannellini beans. Creamy wonders. Great as dip, in a casserole, bean bolognese, stuffed into ravioli.

Farm Fresh Eggs. Rich, delicious wonders.

-Cranberries. Tart, delicious little balls of flavor!

-Fresh peaches. Because really, how can you not like peaches? Local, heirloom!

 

This list isn’t exhaustive–I have a LOT of favorite foods. But, it’s a start. Got any favorites?

 

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7 responses to “My Favorite Foods

  • iasmindecordoba

    My husband’s favorite phrase is “Food! My favorite!” and I echo that sentiment. We are decidedly not in a food-poor area and have considerable choices, so picking any one favorite is incredibly tough. What do I love? Roasted garlic from my former coworker’s farm (he grows dozens of varieties) on a baguette from Vic the Bread Man, a sassy little Italian guy at the market whose family has been in the bakery business since Detroit was founded. Carrots, fresh from Noah’s farm in Brown City (best must in the state!). Winesap apples from the ladies at Busy Bee Orchards who don’t laugh at me when I tell them I need a half bushel so I can make a dinner where apples are in every course. Cheese from Mr. Yoder. Milk from Harley at Thomas Creamery. Short ribs from John Henry. Pickles from McClures. Mustard from Charlie at Charlie’s Ballpark Mustard. Maple syrup from Gerry…

    What it really comes down to is the relationships that I have grown with people where I shop. I love being able to talk to them every Saturday morning. I love that Vic the Bread Man is called exactly that. No one calls him Mr. *whateverhislastnameis*. I love that they call my herb vendor “Uncle George” because of how long he’s participated in the market. I love everything about the people. I care about their lives, their families. I carry their business cards wherever I go (no joke; I have two card cases in my purse).

    So while I love food and certainly have foods I gravitate to, I don’t think I’d love it half as much if I didn’t know my farmers. Friendships make food taste better.

    • shwankie

      Gaylin, I am right there with you. Knowing my producers makes much of my food and drink far more special, and much of my enjoyment is the story, the person, behind whatever I am eating or drinking. Thank you for that wonderful reminder!

  • Stacie

    Shawn, I have better luck making nonfat Greek yogurt than full-fat. Maybe you can give some advice? It seems like I have way, WAY too much whey (say that five times fast!) when I make full-fat yogurt. It seems almost wasteful! I do reuse the whey in other recipes like bread, waffles, etc. but there is so much I can never use it all. But when I make yogurt with skim milk, there is much less whey to deal with. I wonder if the bacteria “work” better in a non-fat environment? What’s going on, do you know?

  • Stacie

    I’m using pasteurized. (I live in a state where raw milk products are illegal.)

    • shwankie

      The bacteria actually work really well in full-fat, so it’s not that. Well, sort of…

      Part of the answer is the same for either type of milk, which is that fat contains a lot of water. So, the more fat, the more water you’ll get out of it as it curds (and making yogurt is a process of curding). Depending on the fat content, you’ll get some additional whey with either raw or pasteurized. I don’t get much difference in the amount of whey whether I use full-fat or skimmed raw milk, but there is a small difference.

      The second half of the answer doesn’t apply to raw milk. Pasteurized whole milk is composed differently than raw, so it curds differently, even making yogurt. The milk is first skimmed, then superheated and treated, then the fat is added back, often along with powdered milk fats to increase the fat content. So, the overall water content of full-fat milk is often substantially different than that of skim milk, and the amount of water that “unbinds”, for lack of a better word, in full-fat pasteurized milk can be different than in skim, and can result in more whey. Also, the bacteria process different types of sugars in the milk, turning it into yogurt. They may not process the sugars in the full-fat milk as well, I suppose, since powdered milk sugars aren’t the same as raw milk sugars. So, the more of it added into the milk, the less will get utilized. Though, to be fair, that’s just a theory.

  • Stacie

    Wow, Shawn, that was an awesome explanation. Thanks! I have never fully understood what the big deal is with raw milk being so dangerous. (Our state allows people who own cows/goats to use raw milk for their own family consumption, but not to sell.) But the law is the law, so I gotta deal with it, eh?

    Someday my husband and I would like to keep a dairy goat or two, but it’s not feasible right now. But “someday” will hopefully come sooner, rather than later! Thanks again for explaining it all to me.

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