Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Matthew Kenney Academy Level 1 - Week 3

Week 3 has been announced as the “heavy” week, full of pastry and sweets. And in some ways it lived up to the expectations. Monday started off right away with making chocolate chips, a pretty exciting recipe. I´ve been using raw cacao nibs for anything I needed chocolate chips so far, and frankly, I personally still prefer this due to health reasons, but from a culinary aspect, 

the chocolate chips that we piped on dehydrator sheets in order to let them dehydrate to get this chocolate chip consistency are much more refined and great for use in cookies, which we made later that week, as well as ice cream sundaes or as deco for many other desserts and cakes.

The chocolate chip cookies we made with them later that week are yummy, very gooey, chewy, soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, a little sweet for my taste, cause they have a lot of maple sirup in them, so if I made them again, I would replace some of that with water and/or alternative sweeteners such as Lucuma, Maca or Yacon syrup, but the consistency and look was great.

Other sweet treats, we made that week were chocolate truffles, basically made from raw cacao powder and butter, agave, vanilla and salt and then we got to get creative in rolling them in different coatings, so I chose pistachio black salt, cacao nib coffee bean, maca chocolate coffee powder and goji bee pollen cacao nib and chipotle coatings. All turned out really nicely and look great on the plate.

We also got to make sweet crepes, made on a base of mangoes, bananas and flax with a fruit lemon filling. At home I then tried another filling, which I actually liked much better: almond butter, bananas, cacao nibs and a little splash of lime juice.

More excitingly for me, in the same week, we got all down into using probiotics and fermentation and coconut yoghurt parfait, nut cheeses as well as Kefir was on the menu. The yoghurt parfait was a simple blend of coconut meat, a few cashews and probiotics, fermented overnight to create a thick, rich and tart yoghurt cream, which we got to taste at the end of the week with our buckwheat granola, made from sprouted buckwheat, seeds, dried fruit, cacao nibs and maple syrup. The nut cheeses were prepared blending a thick nut paste with probiotics, which was then fermented in a strainer at room temperature for 48 hours. I have already blogged about my own nut cheese production previously and you can read about this here.

Fortunately, in order to lighten up this sweet and nut intensive week, our instructors sneaked some light lunch recipes in, in order to provide us with some balancing nutrition. Monday´s lunch was a pleasantly light zucchini pesto noodle dish, Tuesday, we made a delicious zucchini avocado radish and mint salad and my winner of the week was Thursday´s heirloom tomato gazpacho with a basil lemon sorbet, light, crisp, slightly spicy, this was a real refreshing soup full of flavor despite a sparing use of spices. 

Our creative spirits were summoned when we finally got to flavor our nut cheeses. This was probably the most exciting exercise of the week. Everyone loves cheese and the lookout for soon being able to taste “real cheese” made from nuts lifted everyone’s creativity to new heights and all students dished out amazing flavor profiles. There was star anise, raisin and honey cheese, chipotle maple and nutmeg (which reminded Twilla of McDonalds... ?? :o), jalapeno lemon zest and “goat cheese log” with a lavender, lemon, pepper black lava salted crust besides many other exciting combinations. Friday was the big cheese tasting day, when we artfully arranged our handmade cheeses with an amazing garlic bread we had prepared earlier that week, as well as fruit and veggies. I also prepared a little relish from pomegranate, pistacchio, black molasses, black pepper and balsam vinegar. After our big tasting we all went home with pleasantly filled cheese bellies ;)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Matthew Kenney Academy Week 2

Week 2 of the Level 1 Course of the Matthew Kenney Academy Chef Training turned out to be no less exciting than the first week of it. In fact, my excitement level and heartbeat spiked, when I came into the class room Monday morning and saw boxes full of young coconuts. Yey, my week was saved :) Young coconuts are my favorite food. Young coconut water turns out to be the most nutritious water on the planet. Full of electrolytes, this water is a natural isotonic beverage, great for when you work out a lot. When I am in Bali, working for my retreats, this is all I am drinking the entire day! Moreover, the water is so close to the human blood that it can be used for blood transfusions, when you don´t have your blood type available and therefore it is used a lot in 3rd World countries. The meat of the young coconut is simply delicious. It contains coconut fat, which is a great fat for your body, containing enzymes to stimulate the fat burning mechanism. Now, each of us got to open a whole case of 9 coconuts of this wonder food. That week seemed to be promising :)

Of course, we got to make good use of the coconut meat right away and started our production with delicious cilantro coconut wraps, essentially it is the meat of the young coconut blended with cilantro and spinach juice and spread out thinly on dehydrator sheets to create paper thin wraps, which after dehydration can be used for delicious dumplings or as ravioli or tortellini wraps. 

I had made those in different variations before, but never with that filling, which we got to make the following day and which is absolutely delicious and one of my favorite dishes at the restaurant: Kimchee dumplings. 

For that we blended our now fermented Kimchee with some tahini, tamari, agave or coconut nectar, a bit of extra chilli for sipice, filled the dumplings and shaped them in little pyramids and topped it with some ginger sesame foam! Beautiful to look at, healthy, because full of good probiotics and really really tasty!

With the rest of our coconut meat, we got to make ice cream! YES, my favorite treat ever :) AND we got to make up our own flavors, starting from a yummy vanilla bean base, that consisted just of plain coconut meat, cashews, vanilla, agave and salt. 

Coconut Bliss is my favorite store bought ice cream here in the States and I have been dying to try one of their new flavors I saw on their website: Mocha Maca, just to find out that, because of a current shortage in coconuts, they are not producing that flavor at the moment. What a bummer. So, what else would I do then creating that flavor on my own :) I took the base, added a Tablespoon of Maca, a tablespoon or lucuma and a tablespoon of coffee extract and wow... Gabrielle made a mean chocolate coffee ice cream and when we tasted them together, we decided, we just made the ultimate ice cream flavor duo and our first ice company shall have the maca mocha choc swirl as the featured flavor :)

Now, one of the most exciting things in ice cream making was using the Paco Jet. This machine takes anything frozen whips and by whipping air under it, transforms it into a light and fluffy cream. If you have an extra 5000 $ to spare, this is the appliance to get for your ultimate ice cream experience.

During the rest of the week, we made two more very exciting dishes: Tacos and Pizza. The Tacos are my new favorite. A wrap, made from flax, corn, chipotle and a few other ingredients it filled with a slightly tart cole slaw, guacamole, pico de gallo and for spice, jalapeno peppers plated on a brush of a tart coconut and cashew sour cream garnished with black lava salt. This dish is refreshing, hearty with the right amount of good fats from avocado, coconut and flax seeds, as well as satisfying and so tasty. It is one of these dishes that are everyday comfort food and when plated the right way can be served in a fine dining environment. My winner of the week!

The pizzas were exciting as well. The crust was a given recipe from the academy recipe book, but we got to experiment with our own toppings. So, I made up a marinated spinach with orange juice, maple sirup, olive oil, pepper and salt, mixed in some pine nuts, capers and diced yellow squash and dehydrated it for a while to make it soft and give it a cooked texture. I also sliced some pear in thin ribbons and coated them in olive oil, black salt, pepper and porcini mushroom powder to get in that mushroom flavor without adding the actual mushroom. My base tomato sauce, I enhanced with some black kalamata olives, olive oil and figs. The result was a very tasty marinara pizza with wilted spinach and hints of porcini mushrooms. 

The week finally ended with mystery Friday. We didn´t really have more things in our recipe handouts to cover, but we actually made the delicious, fresh and nutritious seaweed salad we haven´t done in week 1. 

Coming back from lunch, we were given the challenge: A mystery basket, containing a selection of different veggies, 1 nut of choice, one acid of choice, 3 spices of choice and one oil of choice. Teaming up with a new partner, Gabriele and I came up with a red beet cacao and mesquite caviar served on zucchini linguini in a pistacchio pesto. A little risky of an approach, this dish did not win the competition, however, it was very fun to prepare and worth a try to end the week with some unusual combinations of flavors and textures.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween Special Dinner at Matthew Kenney

After this amazing first week with so much delicious food and so many fun recipes we prepared, we got the chance to attend a special 4 course Halloween Menu, prepared exclusively by chef Shawn, one of our instructors. 

It was a beautifully designed menu with very funky names for the courses and even our waiters got creative and dressed up in style.  

It started off with a Bottomless Poison Ginger “Slime”-aid followed by a delicious and light Bone-chilling carrot & onion soup. The appetizer was the Ghostly Porcini-Pesto Mini Tombstone, basically a slice of pizza bread, topped with delicious pesto and a truffle mushroom cream, so delicious, I had 3 pieces of it.  

The main course was a very innovative seasonally inspired new take on the classical lasagne technique we just covered in class during week 1. Instead of layering zucchini pasta slices with the classical marinara, pesto and macadamia cream combination, we would find lightly marinated, crunchy green string beans covered in a deliciously rich and flavorful mashed pumpkin cream: The Sa´squash´ & Green Goblin Lasagne. This was my favorite! The perfect fall dish, because the pumpkin made it grounding and a very comforting meal, creating enough warmth and heat in the body to leave you satisfied. 

But it didn´t end here: The Treat was a Webbed Creepy Crawler Tart, basically a layered chocolate orange tart, very nice, chocolaty, sweet, with a tang from orange zest. We left with full bellies and it felt like a real treat, no tricks ;-) Thanks Chef Shawn!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Matthew Kenney Academy: Level 1, week 1

Last Saturday, Oct 22, I left buzzing New York City where I had spent the previous two and a half weeks to catch a plane to the Mid West. Now you might wonder, what motivates me to leave a city like New York to move to Oklahoma City for 2 months and there is probably only one destination that can fully justify this decision: The Matthew Kenney Academy, where I am attending a two month certified raw chef training.

I have been waiting for this for a long time and have been very excited about this opportunity to abandon my own business for a couple of months and be a student again. Matthew Kenney, the founder of the academy, has a classical training in culinary arts and has published many books. I have been following his work for a while already and been making many recipes from his great book Entertaining in the Raw. Finally getting the chance to spend two months at his academy is very exciting. One week into the training, the excitement is still holding up. After arrival, I headed straight up to the Academy and met up with 4 of my co – students to check out the space and have a nice first dinner. The five of us pretty much sampled most of the menu. As starters, we had the sushi, a beautifully presented roll, with avocado sashimi artfully rolled on the outside, I only missed the outstanding black garlic soy sauce from Pure Food and Wine´s outstanding Maki Rolls! Further, we sampled the red beet carpaccio “sous vide” which was less exciting, and the Kimchee Dumplings that are absolutely outstanding. Kimchee cashew filling wrapped in black and white coconut wraps, very light, healthy and delightful!
The main courses featured signature beet gnocchi on pesto and hazelnut cream as well as fermented cashew cream filled tortellini on a cream of spinach with red pepper reduction. Both of them are a hit and every Italian would devour them with great pleasure not missing the “real” thing! The outstanding desserts included a chai sampling (with various chai spiced mousses, a ginger layered cake and ice cream), pistachio nougatine, a rich pistacchio cookie cake covered with chocolate ganache and served with a bittersweet orange marmalade and candied orange rind, and last but not least, the signature tiramisu, served with a dollop of a white chocolate cream and a very nice and light coffee foam. We were all very pleased with our first experience at the Academy and meeting the super friendly staff.

The first five days of class weren’t any less exciting. We started out making a lasagne and Matthew Kenney personally taught us some knife skills and gave a great introduction on the first day of class. After class, my coffee cravings hit (yes, I LOVE coffee and it is ok to have coffee as a raw food chef ;) , so I ordered a mocha shake, which they don’t have on the menu. After the staff was struggling with my request to get a shake with the right texture and consistency, Matthew himself went behind the bar and made me a real decadent mocha shake from fresh pressed elemental coffee, their homemade chocolate ice cream, young coconut and almond milk. So yummy, and I was really impressed and flattered by his initiative and availability. I don´t think there are many places on this planet where a celebrity chef like Matthew would take time to cater for a special request of one of his students!

Day 2: Ravioli – thinly sliced red beets, marinated and filled with e cashew terragon cream and served on a yellow bell pepper sauce. Beautiful colors and taste combination.

Day 3: Hand Tuber Nori Rolls, filled with Ginger Almond Cream, Vegetable Julienne, sprouts and bok choi, served with mango coriander chutney, exciting, since I have never rolled nori like that before, easy, beautiful to look at, light and delicious.
Afternoon was Kimchee time and we got to make our own batches of Kimchee, which I have also never done at home before. Kimchee is a fermented Korean Cabbage dish. It is spicy and laden with healthy probiotics to help cultivate that healthy intestinal flora and therefore boosting your immune system. It´s my favorite condiment!

Day 4: SMOOTHIEEEEE, my favorite favorite food. Not only did we make a delicious berry bee pollen smoothie with our own freshly blended almond milk, but we also got in hand a building block road map for creating smoothies from the different base components. That was the most exciting part for me. Up to now, I have made smoothies just by throwing things together, and they always taste great, but I never came up with a formula of component groups, add-ons and their quantities in order to create a smoothie. More exciting even, on day 5 we got to make our own smoothie by applying this base scheme and... it worked!! I made a delicious cherry choco maca smoothie, using 1,5 cups of frozen cherries, ¾ of a frozen banana, ¾ cups of almond milk, 1 Tablespoon coconut nectar, 3 teaspoons cacao nibs, 1 teaspoon bee pollen, 1 teaspoon spirulina, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, 1 handful of fresh spinach and 1 pinch salt. Super healthy, highly nutritious and mega gooooood!!
For lunch, we made phad thai from zucchini noodles and other veggies that we enjoyed with the tamari maple candied almonds we dehydrated the previous day. Not as yummy as my usual phad thai, I still enjoyed the dish a lot, especially after mixing in some left over mango chutney from the previous day.
In the afternoon, we finally prepared Kale Chips, a simple recipe, because you essentially coat de-stemmed kale in a cheesy cashew bell pepper sauce and then dehydrate it until crispy. I just never made it myself before, and it´s SO much better of a movie snack than popcorn or potato chips (which I never eat anyways). 

Day 5: Sushi

After our exciting smoothie experiments, which I have already talked about above, we “traveled” to Japan and got to roll our own sushi, made with jicama rice. Yippih, I got to use jicama again, which I learned to love so much on Bali. This potato like root vegetable is juicy and starchy at the same time and lends itself perfectly well for making a nice sticky sushi rice, besides many more raw food applications like those amazing “Jicama Fries”, we served with Burgers at the Yoga Retreat on Bali.
Since I have already made sushi so many times and know well how to roll it and make delicious rice and fillings, I wanted to challenge myself and try the avocado sashimi on the outside of the roll, just like they serve it in the restaurant. And voila, I was very pleased with my first try :)

The first week ended with making a nutritious Kale Salad to feed us through the weekend. I passed a beautiful first week, full of great recipes, amazing people and moments and delicious dinners as well as drinks at the bar of the Academy. Week two looks promising, stay tuned :-)