Gluten-Free Pink Lentil Encrusted Halibut

14 04 2012

A couple of nights ago I decided to treat myself to a home cooked meal. I went to Whole Foods and picked out a pristine piece of halibut, some fresh peas and leeks (seasonal spring veggies), and fingerling potatoes. It might sound surprising, but when you cook professionally for others all of the time it seems like you are never have the time to enjoy the fruits of your own labor. How counterintuitive? If you ask most cooks what they eat for dinner on a weekday, if they are alone, the answers are often pathetic: pizza, Chinese, Ramen noodles, cereal, a stiff vodka martini, or simply nothing. As professionals, we are trained to cook and care for our customers first. Consequently, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

With that being said, the dinner I made Thursday night was a treat! Not only because I was eating something healthy and delicious, but also because I discovered a new way to think about cooking fish. My initial plan was to bread the halibut, using the standard breading procedure of flour, eggs and bread crumbs, sear it in a pan to crisp up both sides and finish the cooking in the oven. This is my “go-to” way to prepare simple crispy fish.

Instead, I started thinking about different ways I could get the same crispy result by substituting breadcrumbs with a gluten-free option. I thought it would be nice to add some vibrant color to the fish so I went through my pantry and found the perfect substitute “breading” solution: pink lentils! I knew dried lentils would be way to hard to use in their whole form so I took out my spice grinder and ground up the pink lentils, spiced them up with some salt and fresh orange zest, and suddenly I had great breading substitution. Instead of using regular flour I substituted garbanzo bean flour and I was ready to go!

Ground lentils are only one example of a gluten-free “breading” option. Other ingredients you could use include red quinoa, millet, toasted and ground nuts (pistachio’s would be great), cornmeal/polenta, ground wild rice and much more. I challenge you to let your imagination run wild and try a healthier gluten-free “breading” option for your next meal.

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San Francisco Inspiration

13 01 2012

This week I took a trip down memory lane and had the opportunity visit old friends, incredible restaurants and the fabulous farmers markets in San Francisco and Berkeley.  After living in the Bay Area for almost four years, I knew I was in for a treat, but I was surprised by the overwhelming nostalgia and appreciation I felt almost every moment of my trip.  San Francisco is not only one of the best food cities in the entire world, it is truly the place that transformed me from a passionate foodie to a chef.

While my pace and cooking skills advanced in San Francisco,  the most important skill I learned was how to create menu’s with seasonal ingredients.  Believe it or not, in Chicago I had never worked with kale, Meyer lemons, satsuma tangerines, tarragon, parsnips, turnips, dandelion greens or frisee before stepping foot in Boulettes Larder (my first San Francisco restaurant).  I had no idea that restaurants had menu’s that changed on a daily basis depending on farmers produce.  I couldn’t understand how a chef could see produce at a market and simply be inspired to put unique flavor combinations together and make a new menu.  It’s something that is hard to explain and just happens to those cooks that live and breathe food.

On Saturday night I went to Nopa, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco.  I choose this restaurant because it embodies the quintessential San Francisco restaurant experience with its consistent use of local ingredients, incredible hand-made cocktails, an exposed kitchen, wood-burning stove and a long community table.  One of my friends ordered their pork chop and I jealously stared as he ate the luscious meat with crispy onions, fingerling potatoes in each bite. The next morning I hit up the Ferry Building Farmers Market to buy produce for a dinner party I was hosting at my friend’s house in Berkeley.  In true San Francisco style, I walked into the market having no idea what I would be cooking that evening.  I knew I would let the ingredients inspire my decisions.

Here’s a little clip of how I choose what to make for dinner:

I got home extremely energized from my wonderful experience at the market and cooked all afternoon.  My friend went to the fish market and picked up a 4 lbs. of fresh cod that I decided to poach with olive oil, Buddha’s hand, orange rind and white wine.

I used my inspiration from the Pork dish at Nopa to roast fresh turnips, spring onions and fingerling potatoes in the oven to give contrast in texture and color to the buttery fish.  I must say, the meal turned out delicious because it was made with the best ingredients around a lot of love!