Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Healthy Living, Healthy Drinking!

Even I have to admit that more often than not the specials that I produce delve into the realm of decadence that could make even Guy Fieri shudder. The reasons sound off more like a recipe for a coronary than a biography: a German-Irish chef born in the Midwest but with strong southern influences, who studied French cooking fundamentals at the Culinary Institute of America, and who now pushes the envelope of the whole "Fat is Flavor" concept to the limits (you just wait until my Guanciale is done curing - maybe then I'll push the limits over the edge!). Alas, sometimes even I succumb to an idea that is delicious without leaving you feeling guilty for splurging on a night out.

To be honest, it is hard not to come up with something healthy this time of year, and with the quality of produce that comes from this region, you could throw five random vegetables at a brick wall and end up with something tasty.

I went with a different approach...

In today's economy it can be tough to offer an expensive ingredient such as seafood, but I was able to formulate a dish featuring Ahi Tuna at a reasonable price without sacrificing quality, so I seared the steaks in a cast iron skillet just enough to brown the sides without overcooking the tender meat inside. The great thing about a cast iron skillet is very little oil is required to cook with due to the fact that a properly "seasoned" pan is as non-stick as any Teflon pan, but without the chemicals.

Fish has always acted as a blank canvas for me - a medium of great potential from which to build from, but tuna has the great attribute of being able to be paired with either hot or cold accouterments, and in light of our local "heat wave" (I'll use the phrase loosely for my East Coast follower's sake), I went with the latter.

I started by pureeing the sweet flesh of yellow watermelon and thickening it without heating in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit, yielding a soup with a silky texture that is both bright in color and flavor. I finished the soup by adding finely diced cucumber, bell peppers and seeded jalapenos for a little zing, completing what I like to think of as a unique form of gazpacho.

Though not overbearing, the sweetness of the watermelon needed something to balance it out in order to complete the dish, so I tossed julienned sour green apple, bitter radicchio and shaved scallions with a vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil, ginger, garlic, white scallion and Chinese Black Vinegar - an aged vinegar made from rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, and spices that is deep and complex in flavor yet much lower in acidity than most vinegars, creating a dressing that not only bursts with flavor, but contains half the fat of a traditional vinaigrette.

Finally!! Something I can enjoy for myself while staving off the guilt until the impending slap in the face from my doctor after my next cholesterol test!!!

~ ~ ~

This week's cocktail was also inspired by our recent warm temperatures - another concept built on Light 'N' Bright flavors (pun intended), but unlike the childhood toy, heavy on the booze!

So for this week's "Equalitini" I went with a medley of Passion Fruit puree, Guava Rum, and Vanilla Vodka!

As with every version of the "Equalitini" sold this month, $2 will go directly to help fund lawyers who fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians. I can't think of a better excuse to drink!!!

And on another note: this cocktail actually outsold our Regular Tuesday half priced bottle wine night special this week!!

I read that recent studies have found that it was actually better for you if you had two drinks a day, but with healthy food and great causes like these, why not make it three!!!

With Love,