Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Chef Meredith Adams grew up near her father's farm in Snow Hill, North Carolina, and learned early to respect the land and all it supports. For her family, dealing on the local level was a way of life.
"My Dad was an independent hog farmer," she notes, "always giving back to the local economy."
Independent and competitive herself, Adams is one of few female executive chefs in the region with a partnership stake in a fine-dining establishment. And lessons she learned growing up form the foundation of her Mount Pleasant restaurant, Eurasia Cafe & Wine Bar.
A proud member of the Certified SC Grown Fresh on the Menu initiative, she stocks her kitchen with produce from more than a dozen Lowcountry and regional farms. Pork and cattle come from pastures in North Carolina.
Adams' entrée into the culinary world began at Johnson and Wales University, where she eventually traded studies for an opportunity to work in the kitchen of the AAA Four Diamond Award winning restaurant, Todd Jurich's Bistro in Norfolk, V.A.
She is also an accomplished show horse trainer and rider, a diver, has managed a herd of Black Angus Cattle, and competes in bill fishing tournaments every year.
Chef shares a dish that showcases the prolific sweet potato, a vegetable that speaks to her Snow Hill roots - her Dad worked closely there with Bobby Ham, the largest sweet potato producer east of the Mississippi.
Her award-winning recipe can be adapted for the vegetarian palate by substituting vegetable stock for chicken stock, or made vegan-friendly by using only vegetable stock as the liquid base. The milk and cream can be replaced with more stock but the soup will taste less rich. Without the honey and truffle, adding sherry gives the soup a seafood-bisque quality and 6 ounces of crabmeat or cooked, chopped shrimp may be added. The cooled soup may be frozen and reheated in the microwave.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt, pepper and sugar and cook until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, stock or broth, milk and cream. Cook with bubbles just forming on the surface.
Remove from the heat and puree the soup until smooth. This can be done in the pot with a handheld stick (immersion) blender or in a blender or food processor. (If using a blender or food processor, strain the soup, puree the solids and add the hot liquid back slowly in small batches, pulsing between each addition.) Adjust the thickness by adding more stock, milk or cream. Add sherry, if desired, stirring to combine.
Serve in individual bowls drizzled with truffle oil and honey and garnish with chives, if desired.
Makes six 8-ounce servings.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Chef Jeffrey Robinson looks at unused space and envisions squash blossoms and pea shoots. A locavore before it was a movement, he can’t recall ever living in a home without a few acres of vegetables, planted and tended by his Dad.
“As soon as we’d move in, he’d tear up the ground with a rototiller,” notes Robinson, executive chef of the Charleston Marriott’s Saffire restaurant. “My father’s garden supplied us and many of our neighbors.”
The Ohio transplant fully appreciates South Carolina’s long and fruitful growing season. Under his tutelage, Saffire became one of the first restaurants to participate in the Fresh on the Menu initiative. Determined to have his own production garden, and undeterred by the constraints of the nearly 350-room hotel property, Robinson has taken urban farming to its logical extreme.
After conversations with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture about what to grow, Robinson put in the first seedlings last winter – watermelons, squash, leeks, onions, and herbs. The initial plan called for planting in a fleet of boxes atop the hotel roof, but this was abandoned because irrigation was an issue.
With few other options available, Robinson, whose innovations inside the restaurant have won numerous corporate accolades, took his inventive approach outside – commandeering any nook or cranny on the hotel perimeter that looked as if it would support life.
Ornamental flower planters along walkways, lush poolside burms, and green spaces bordering the hotel parking lots now share space with thriving young vegetables, bringing new meaning to “local sourcing” at the restaurant and new inspiration to his kitchen staff.
“Everyone, especially the younger kids in the kitchen, thinks it’s really cool,” says Robinson, whose culinary career includes apprenticeships under Certified Master Chefs Hartmut Handke and Victor Gielisse. “When you’re on the line preparing the ingredients, it’s fun to know where it all comes from – you have more respect for it.”
Robinson likes to let his house-grown ingredients speak for themselves, in simple preparations, with no more than three concentrated flavors. He shares a recipe for a pasta dish showcasing ripe, heirloom tomatoes that requires minimal cooking - a summertime must-have!
Sunday, August 7, 2011
1 pound heirloom tomatoes, ¼" dice
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the diced tomato for garnish at service. Toss remaining tomatoes with the salt & sugar. Set the tomatoes in a strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. Press tomatoes gently every 30 minutes or so to extract the liquid for roughly 2 hours. Soak the shallot rings in the buttermilk milk for 1 hour. Drain the buttermilk from the shallots before tossing the rings in flour. Shake off excess flour and fry at 350 degrees F till golden brown. Season the shallot rings with a pinch of salt as soon as they are lifted from the oil. Heat the ravioli in simmering, salted water till warm, strain, place ravioli in bowl. Ladle the room temperature tomato broth over the ravioli. Garnish with the pepper, scallion, parsley & reserved diced tomato. Serves two as an entree.
Split Creek Farm Goat Cheese
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Chef Nate Whiting learned to respect all things green as a youngster, working at the side of his grandmother. Whether helping out in her vegetable garden or simply picking dandelions from across the road - he was a child who loved his vegetables.
Whiting's culinary fate was sealed when his Dad recruited him to wash dishes at a local eatery in his hometown of Rochester, New York. He realized that "he just wants to be in the kitchen", and followed his passion to the former Charleston campus of Johnson and Wales.
Now executive chef at Tristan, Whiting's path has taken him to some of the country's top kitchens - Peninsula Grill, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and Maestro in Washington, D.C.
In 2008, he left his post as executive sous chef at The Dining Room at Woodlands Inn for a chance to travel to Italy and study at the renowned cookery school of Da Vittorio, a Relais & Châteaux property in Bergamo.
"I told them it was one of my biggest dreams to go there and cook," he recalls. "I'd worked on getting over there for years."
Whiting says he learned some of his favorite techniques at the culinary school. "It was a great experience."
The chef shares his recipe for a simplified version of the Caprese Salad served at Tristan. The dish showcases heirloom tomatoes picked at their peak.
For the tomato oil: in a blender at low speed, mix the tomato paste and the vegetable oil. Run until the oil turns bright red, and the blender hopper is warm to the touch (10-15 minutes). Drain the oil through a strainer, and then hang it in a coffee filter.
For the tomatoes: take a hand-held propane torch. On a fireproof surface (like a sheet pan on a stove top) blister the tomato skin with the torch’s flame. When the tomato is black all over, run the skins off with a clean towel. If torch is not available, blanch tomatoes and peel off skins.
To complete the salad: cut the tomatoes into attractive shapes (exactly how will depend on which tomatoes you used - get creative). In a bowl, toss them in a little oil, a little vinegar, some sea salt, and some cracked pepper to taste. Arrange them decoratively on a plate, and drizzle a little more dressing from the bowl around them. Add a twist of pepper, garnish with the little basil leaves, and you’re done!
If you want to dress it up a little bit, you can add some croutons, mozzarella cheese, balsamic vinegar, parmesan, or whatever else you want, but all you really need are great tomatoes, simple dressing, salt, and pepper.