The Moveable Feast Food Blog

The Moveable Feast is a Personal Chef Service that serves the Hampton Roads area of Southern Virginia. This blog is an extension of my web site and will go into more details about food and any food service industries. Any pictures and or recipes that are published here are all the property of The Moveable Feast unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My newest favorite kitchen tool is...
A ball peen hammer. I kid you not. It is such a useful tool, that I am seriously considering having it the kitchen gadget drawer.

The chain grocery store where I work did some shuffling of products a few months ago and it was shuffled practically in front of my face. I am addicted to this stuff and have loved it since I was introduced to it. It comes in many shapes, forms, colors and countries. I have eaten the "garden" variety for years. As a child I was unaware there were other choices. Having gone to culinary school, I found out there were other kinds that I could love and have been ever since.

What is this mysterious stuff that I am so enthralled with? Well it's a common thing that causes many heated discussion and is blamed for many a health problem. People try to eliminate from their diets, while I am sampling new versions. Are you curious enough now? It comes in black, pink, white, brown and probably more I have not yet discovered. Peppercorns you say? NOPE.
Drum roll please.....

Yes, it is the dreaded S word...SALT.

I grew up with a father who loved it dearly and I can't remember a meal that he didn't pour some on everything at the dinner table. He was a heavy smoker so I am guessing that the longer he smoked the more dead his taste buds were. So he has to up his daily dosage of it to taste anything. I have vivid memories of a small pile of salt on a plate with a freshly washed green onion on the side. Get ready for dad would lick the end of the green onion and dip the freshly wetted end into the salt pile and eat the onion. Being the good daughter I was, I copied that behavior. To this day every now and then, I dip for the memory of my father. I will say that he died of Leukemia and not high blood pressure.

After going to culinary school, I discovered there were other salts out there that I had not conquered with my little green onion trick. I graduated to this stuff...

I really thought I had found salt Nirvana when someone introduced me to this stuff. The ritual of sprinkling it over my food, gave me this weird chefness satisfaction that I did not understand. I loved it so much that I bought myself a "salt pig" and started sprinkling my favorite kosher salt from that at home. If that wasn't bad enough, I got others hooked on my addiction. Others that live with me have now developed the careful sprinkling habit over their food too.

As if that wasn't bad enough....I did a vertical tasting at a chef's conference with my friend Kathy. She showed me new treasures I had never seen and I thought I had died and gone to salted heaven. Who knew there were so many? Then I bought other salts to add to my collection. This was next... My habit is getting out of control. Everyone warns me this is a habit I must give up. But why? I have great blood pressure and until they tell me to stop, I must keep going.

So now my interest is totally peaked and I am mad about this stuff. So mad that I read this book. Now how nuts do you have to be to read this; about as nuts as the rest of us that put this on the New York Times Best Seller List. Now how's that? Okay, I don't have every salt that I should but I am still working on my collection. Fleur De Sel is not in my arsenal of yet, but it's on the short list.

Back to the ball peen hammer. This is what I have been driven to in my pursuit for the most wonderful seasoning in the world. The store moved all the Pink Moroccan salt right in front of where I work. It's like a chocolate addict watching a bar of their favorite chocolate sit on a shelf in front of them all day long without getting to smell it, or touch it, and you can forget getting a bite of it. So being the addict I am, I broke down and bought the little salt mill filled with the smallish grains of pink Moroccan salt. I took it home and used it on my food as I was smitten. It was putting talcum powder on your food. It was so light and salty. I used less of it because it was very salty. Those little holders only hold so much. So I bought the larger box that had hunks. And I mean hunks. You should have seen me trying to make those hunks smaller; thus the ball peen hammer.

I know how silly I must have looked with a plastic zip bag on the kitchen floor with three or four hunks of pink salt and beating the day lights out of them. I had to have them smaller so they would fit into that new salt grinder. I have now officallly lost my mind. Okay, so you see how huge those hunks are? The ones on the front of the plate are the ones I beat to a pulp to get them into that grinder in the back. It worked and I am back in business. So now I am trying to decide if the ball peen stays in the kitchen drawer for more salt emergencies or not. See what foodies do. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fennel is the NEW Cabbage
Yesterday I did my monthly demo at my local Fresh Market. My regulars were pleasantly surprised at trying a new vegetable; fennel. As far as I can remember, I had never eaten any fresh fennel as an adult until I stumbled upon a great recipe for a fennel and tomato tart. I made it for some clients and they loved it. I got over my fear of trying a new vegetable and was truly happy that I had tried something new. For some reason, fennel and tomatoes baked together seem like a marriage made in veggie heaven.

While my pictures are not perfect, I was told over and over that the recipe for the Cilantro Fennel Slaw was a surprise that was wonderful. They said it was a nice summery use for the vegetable. So here are the only two pictures I had time for and the link for the two recipes I made at the demo. The first recipe was for Halibut Skewers with a Chili Citrus Sauce.
I know that's hard trying a new vegetable. I am not a picky eater but sometimes trying something new is not easy. So if you know or try fennel and you don't like it, you can use regular green cabbage for the slaw recipe. If you want to go one more step further with the slaw, trying chopping up some fresh Roma tomatoes and adding them to the slaw. It's a great summer slaw! So get out there try something new!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What I did on my summer vacation

What I did on my summer vacation

I know that I have been very neglectful of my food blog. I have really been putting more effort in to my knitting blog, but I am back and ready to be a better food blogger again. Work has taken up so much of my time that at the end of the day all I feel like doing is plunking down in front of the idiot box and knitting my cares away. Knitting has taken the place of standing in front of the refrigerator and eatifood, golden beets, Loews hotel, personal chef, Philadelphia, Strawberry Short cake, USPCA 2007 conferenceng the days trouble and stress away.

I am lucky enough to get to pow wow with the some fabulous people once a year in mass. It's the annual United States Personal Chef Association conference. We go to some place new each year and this year we went to Philadelphia. I have to say that I wasn't exactly thrilled to be going there after having lived pretty close to there years and years ago. I remember it was a pretty dirty and unappealing place for me. Going back there after years of absence, was a real treat. So much has changed and so much has been cleaned up. I was pleasantly surprised and even more so with the food that the city had to offer.

This is the view from the 26th floor of the Loews hotel. At night it was even more impressive. I am a bit leery about high buildings since Sept 11, but it was just fabulous. I want to brag on the Loews hotel for a moment before I start talking about the food we at.

I don't do as much traveling as I used to but when I do travel I always notice customer service. I am not a cranky, bitchy, demanding guest. I want a clean room, clean bathroom and good air conditioning. Being a middle aged female, air conditioning is MOST important. The Loews hotel met all of those criteria and more. I have never had such wonderful customer service from the top to the bottom of the employee chain. This is how great the customer service was. My friend J and I were walking down the hallway and there was a maid vacuuming the hallway. She stopped vacuuming once we started to walk down the hall towards her. I told her that we didn't want to stop her from doing her job and she said she didn't want the noise of the vacuum cleaner to interrupt our conversation. Now who does that?? I was impressed. What can I say. I vacuum here and if you are in my way, I will plow you over to get my work done. Yes, I know I am not in the hotel service industry but it just stuck out in my mind at how much work Loews puts into their customer service. I have numerous impressions (all wonderful) about their customer service. Everyone was eager to please and they did. If you are ever in Philly and want to stay someplace where everyone and I mean everyone is friendly, spend your travel dollars at the Loews hotel. Okay enough of the commercial.

Now on to the food. We ate three lunches at the hotel but I only managed to eat at two of them, but boy were they good! Since I am a meat eater who has some Vegan and Vegetarian clients I eat meatless once a year at conference. I want to see what is out there in the commercial food world that is being massed produced. I sadly did not get a picture of my lunch but it was a roasted vegetable risotto with a garnish of sauteed Swiss Chard. I thought it was pretty good. I am kicking myself for not getting a picture but I have about 80 others of the food we ate. I have to say that hotel food at a more upscale hotel have improved ten fold and they set some pretty mean tables! Even though I didn't get the glamour shot of the Vegetarian entree, I did get a shot of the salad. It was really nice and was really tasty too. There were greens with a nice light dressing of some sort and about three cubes of red beets and then the same with the golden beets. Beets seem to be gaining popularity everywhere in the last few years. I am not a huge beet fan only because I have never gotten over one experience with them as a child. As a chef I have to be more open to foods both for myself and my clients. So I have been trying more and more beets. I have even got a few red beets growing in my garden here at home. Truly the picture does not give the presentation justice but you get the jest of it. Lovely menu tents were posted at every meal. I did get this one but who can read this. If you can from the photo, you have better eyes than mine. The vegetarian entree is at the bottom of the page. Everyone else had fish. But this next shot really had my attention focused. This was Loews version of Strawberry shortcake. It certainly worked for me! It was just sweet enough to satisfy my wicked sweet tooth. The sliding amber colored item on the top of the cream is hand spun sugar. I just love those kinds of little details. They had to make about 300 of them. Not such a small detail when it's your job to make them, but I sure appreciated the person who did because as soon as I got this shot, that baby was being crunched down on!

Over the next few weeks I will post more about what and where I ate in Philly. I could not get some pictures of the food due to lack of lighting, but I did try. So I am back and will try to have more enthusiam about my food blog again. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I had some down time!

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