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© 2018, Chef Alison Negrin, all rights reserved. Website designed by Linda Hansen, PaperlessVA.com

Contemplative cooking

October 28, 2016

Perhaps it’s because it’s autumn, a cooking season that I love and a time of year that lends itself to introspection, that I write this blog.  I am now officially a “home cook” as my current roles as an instructor and chef consultant do not provide me with the opportunity to cook with a team in a professional kitchen, where we produce food for many, impress and delight with our skills, and don’t do our own “washing up”, that my role as a professional chef did. 

 

I find this solo cooking endeavor quite different from the collaborative process that I have been engaged in for over 30 years. I also feel a need to continue to grow, as an artist, a chef, a human being, and a craft person.  I want to avoid becoming stale and continue to inspire myself to “morph”, “ferment” and share as elders should. 

 

Which brings me to my soup recipe today.  I happened to have purchased two types of cauliflower at different times in the last week.  One white, and one pale orange.  I made a delicious and simple cauliflower soup with the white cauliflower and used some of the orange cauliflower in an autumn Kraut-chi ferment with cabbage (recipe below). 

My husband saw the remaining orange cauliflower on the counter and asked me why I didn’t use it in the cauliflower soup.  I thought about it, reflecting on the two-toned result that any professional chef would jump at the opportunity to create.  And then I thought, “Well, why don’t I make it for us at home?”  I reflected on the fact that many home cooks enjoy preparing the elaborate recipes I had always reserved for work and since I no longer have this outlet at work, why not cook this for my family (of 3)?

 

I prepared the colorful soup (recipe follows), and tackled many other projects in my home kitchen today. And I suddenly realized that my surge in energy came from the students I taught yesterday in a fermentation class.  Thank you, students!

 

I am certain that we chefs of a certain age must be more creative to find work that inspires and engages us, but find it we must.  It is imperative that we continue to hone our craft, share our stories, and continue to stay creatively alive.

 

 

2-toned cauliflower soup

Number of Servings: 8-12

Portion Size: 6-8 oz.

 

Ingredients

1 head yellow cauliflower florets

1 head white cauliflower florets

2 cups sliced celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup butter

2 small onions, sliced

10 cups water

1 tsp sherry vinegar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

 

Instructions

You will be making 2 separate soups so you will need two small pots.  Melt half of the butter into each pot and add half one sliced onion to each. Sauté the onion on very low heat for 10 minutes or until translucent.  Add the celery and garlic to each of the pots and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.  Add the white cauliflower to one of the pots and the yellow in the other.  Add 5 cups of water to each pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until cauliflower is soft.  Do not cook for longer than 30 minutes as the sweet flavor of the cauliflower will dissipate with prolonged cooking.

Process each soup in a blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Pour the white cauliflower soup into the bowl and swirl in the orange.  Be creative!

 

Click here for FREE Printable Recipe

 

Autumn Kraut-Chi

 

Ingredients:

2 large heads of cabbage

1 bunch green onions

4 tbsp unrefined sea salt

1 ounce kombu, soaked in water and then sliced

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup orange (or white) cauliflower bite sized florets

1 cup daikon radish, grated

4 tbsp minced garlic (or more!)

4 tbsp freshly grated ginger (or more!)

2 tbsp freshly grated turmeric root

2 tbsp fermented fish sauce

¼ cup fresh red chilies, chopped or 4 tbsp Korean chili powder

2 tbsp sugar, optional

 

Directions:

Peel 2 large leaves off of the cabbage heads. Core and chop cabbage into 1-2 inch squares. Slice the green onions, using most of the green parts. Combine all of the vegetables with the salt in a large bowl. Knead and squeeze the vegetables with your hands for until juices are released.

Combine the garlic, ginger, fish sauce and chilies and massage into the vegetables in the bowl. (Wear gloves!) Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature to draw out more liquid.

Pack the kraut into a clean 1-gallon crock or glass jar. Place the reserved cabbage leaves over the top and push down into the liquid. Make sure the liquid covers the kraut completely, or add a little water until it’s fully submerged. 

Cover the crock or jar with a tight-weaved cloth or coffee filter secured by a rubber band.  If using an airlock lid, remove the plastic cover and add water up to the line.  Snap the cover back on. It has holes to allow the gasses to escape. (You can purchase airlocks here at Amazon)

Let your ferment sit out on the counter in a warm spot out of direct sunlight for at least 3 days, up to 30 days depending on how sour and complex you want it to be. The cabbage leaves on top are an extra layer of protection against mold, but don’t stress too much about mold. Just throw those leaves away if they get moldy.

Taste the Kraut frequently after several days until it reaches your preferred flavor and texture.  At that point put a tight lid on the container and store in the refrigerator for 6 months up to 1 year.  If using an airlock, seal the jar by removing the airlock and sealing with the mini storage cork.

 

Click here for FREE Printable Recipe

 

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If your restaurant or institutional foodservice operation is looking for a consulting chef to assist in assessing, planning and/or implementing recipe changes to modernize your menu, improve quality, boost flavor or increase environmental sustainability, please contact me here for a free 30-minute consultation.

 

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