Value Your Food/ Ingredients Matter
Peeling to the core of my profession, I sell food for a living; however, to people like me and the many with whom I work, food is more than just eating to live. We sell stories of makers, products of locality and the romance of fermentation. Our customers love it and we do too! Selling quality food is one of the easiest jobs in the world because you can be completely genuine about the excitement for a product while selling it simultaneously. I care about the ingredients and products I sell because I love them and eat them every day. In the following blog, I expand upon just a few thoughts that may help you eat better in the context your daily routine, but to me the two most important axioms are these: Value your food / Ingredients Matters
Dump the Ranch
The local spring greens are percolating back into the market, which inevitably inspires people to eat a deliciously crunchy and crisp lettuce salad. However, all too often, these delicately sweet flavored Bibb lettuces and Baby Romaines are all but suffocated underneath the weight of a waterfall of ranch dressing, changing a beautiful kaleidoscope of green and red colors to a mundane white amorphous mass.
The options to this problem are countless, but it is going to take a step out of your comfort zone and a nod to your adventurous side. The easiest solution is very simple. I like to use 1 Tablespoon of a delicious wine vinegar and combine it with 2 Tablespoons of Oliver Farms Pecan oil. Season with salt and pepper and you have a delicious vinaigrette that accentuates the flavor of the green while maintaining its natural integrity. If you want to get a little more bold, add some fine diced shallot and garlic along with some fresh herbs from the garden. However, for the most simplistic of solutions, pick up a jar of a tasty vinaigrette, but for the love of all things green, put down the ranch dressing.
You are a better cook than the 16-year-old working at the fast food restaurant
I have worked in the food service industry for many years across many different fields. I have worked in fine dining in downtown Chicago, as a food buyer for a quick casual concept, and now as a retailer. There is one thing I can guarantee without a doubt. You are a better, more conscientious cook than the 16-year-old working the local fast food joints. Regardless of the limited depth or breadth of your cooking knowledge, you can at least become a one trick pony in TECHNIQUE. Learn how to do one technique really well. I would suggest learning how to braise as it can transform almost any protein into something delicious and substantial.
To braise a protein, you simply brown the meat along with flavorful aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, garlic). Add a liquid ¾ of the way up the meat (wine or beer and stock (I’m not calling it bone broth, it’s stock)). Season, cover and place in a 350 degree oven until tender. This technique can be used on a whole chicken, pork shoulder, chuck roast, lamb shank or any of the value cuts of meat.
Once you master this technique, it is ubiquitous across cuisine. Add some Indian spices and coconut milk to the braising liquid and you have a delicious alternative, or add a can of San Marzano tomatoes and you have a rich tomato-based sauce. Regardless of what you use, it will be undisputable how much better it is than any take out or fast food you could buy. Trust yourself and eat at home.
In my job, I have the opportunity to talk with so many different people with different perspectives of food and food preparation that I feel I have acquired a sizable arsenal for cooking. That being said, there is nothing in the food business that puzzles me more that when someone tells me, “I don’t eat leftovers.” WHY? You either like to waste food or money, either way, I don’t get it. I’ll give you a couple quick menu ideas based upon a Sunday chuck roast to help eliminate wastefulness. In my opinion, the beef chuck roast is the ultimate expression of beef. It is hearty, delicious, unctuous, a veritable United Nations of versatility and when cooked correctly an absolute palate stunner. The best part about it is the only way to cook it wrong is to not cook it enough. Simple as that, if it is still tough, cook it longer. It will always become fall apart tender.
So you had your Sunday chuck roast, what should you do with the leftovers? Here are a couple very quick Monday night dinners that will bend around your work-soccer-dance-gymnastics-piano-baseball schedule.