Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Southern Hospitality

There are perhaps a thousand-and-one reasons to like The FCI, but one I particularly enjoy is the afternoon chef demos.

They provide a rare opportunity to meet a variety of chefs and food industry professionals, watch them cook, and taste their creations. I enjoy seeing the unique approaches to food and cooking, interests, and personalities of our guest chefs and presenters.

You may find yourself listening to the stories and insights of a cookbook author, a top-talent chef, or a cheese importer. But all presenters share some commonalities: their pursuit of excellence and their passion. It's fun to be able to watch and interact with them in an intimate setting. And tasting isn't so bad either. Curiosity may have the better of me in this instance. I can't say I have ever passed up an opportunity to taste.

And this week, the students had the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the tales and tastes of the South via The Lee Brothers.

I have one sibling, and we're about as thick as they come. You peanut butter and jelly or salt and pepper or ketchup and get the point. And so, I found myself intrigued with this sibling duo beyond their cookbook and catalog ventures.

Easy and casual in their manners, Matt and Ted churned out interesting and tasty dishes along with a whole raft of engaging stories about the South, cooking, their experiences, and professional tips and inside information valuable for any wannabe writer or cookbook author. Perfectly charming, their love of Southern life and cooking and the thoughtful way they have gone about sharing it was more than winning. We watched Matt and Ted grind their own grits, braise some oxtail, cook collard greens with chiles and chorizo, and toss together a beautiful salad of cabbage, limes, and roasted peanuts. And it all tasted delicious.

If you prick your ears at the mention of buttermilk pudding cakes, frogmore stew, pimento cheese potato gratin, or sweet potato pie, you'll definitely want to check out their cookbooks. Oh, and did I mention their latest book, Simple Fresh Southern, was nominated for a James Beard Award? Winners announced in May. Good luck, boys! We'll see you there.

Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts
adapted from The Lee Brother's demo at The International Culinary Center

Winter salads can be just as vibrant as June's blowsy, lazy salads, if you use a little creativity. Pretty 'red' cabbage—more of a purple if you ask us—and green cabbage can be wilted with salt and a simple peanut and cumin dressing. The resulting slaw-salad has a brisk tropical feel from the fresh bits of lime (a perfect winter fruit if there ever was one) and a satisfying crunch. The cabbages can be speedily shredded with a food processor and salted a day ahead of time for quick assembly on the day you intend to serve the salad.
Serves 6
1/2 small red cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)
1/2 small green cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 bunch fresh baby spinach, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons (about 4 cups, loosely packed)
1 lime, segmented
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)
1 tablespoon Dijon or other salty prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, toss cabbages and salt. Place cabbage in a colander set over a bowl. Let drain for 2 hours.
2. Discard salty water in the bowl. Rinse and dry the bowl. Place cabbage inside. Covered, salt-wilted cabbage will keep refrigerated for a couple of days.)
3. Add the spinach to the cabbage and scatter the lime segments over the top. In a medium bowl, whisk the juice, mustard, and cumin. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. Toss the salad with the dressing. Add the peanuts. Season. This salad is best served immediately, but leftovers will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.

No comments: