What happens when you cross a Paleo food-blogger with a fresh-cooking Master Chef finalist?
An entire day’s worth of foraging at the local farmer’s market. Epic brain storming about what to make with what’s in season. A string of hours spent washing, cutting, cooking and then finally, eating. Six beautiful courses, all using fresh, organic ingredients.
On Saturday, I teamed up with my good friend and Chef, Adrien Neito, to create a seasonally-based dinner that is healthy, nutritious, and most importantly, delicious.
Adrien Neito is a Southern California-based chef and the 2nd-place finisher in Season 2 of Master Chef. When he’s not traveling the world on food-related adventures, he is cooking up a storm in Ventura, California. He loves to use fresh, organic ingredients with the least amount of processing as possible. He believes in preserving the quality and nutrients of the food we eat.
He is involved in numerous culinary projects, including hosting food tastings and 5-course dinners for local wine bars, menu-planning for restaurants, helping local food trucks become established, and teaching group and private cooking lessons.
|Chef Adrien Neito
Our main objective was to use fresh, in-season vegetables from our local Farmer’s Market to create healthy, Paleo and Vegan-friendly dishes. One of our goals was to preserve as much as the nutrients in our food as possible, and only cook the foods that we needed to. We created a six-course dinner, and all of the meal was 100% Organic & non-GMO! Two of the four dishes were raw and Vegan.
I was a photo-maniac while we’re prepping and cooking. The bright, vivid colors of the vegetables really came alive in the photos. The majority of the time I keep it simple when posting photos and recipes. This time, I’m going to give justice to the extensive work that goes into creating dynamic, healthy, and fresh meals.
Disclaimer: I will probably forget some details, as it was a whirlwind of cooking. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post. I will do my best to guide you through our recipes. We did a lot on the fly, so this is not an exact outline of how to make the meal for yourself at home. Use it as a guideline, source of inspiration and rough step-by-step for eating healthy and in-season!
Seasonal Recipes with Chef Adrien
First Course — Squash and Heirloom Tomato Soup
Second Course — Vegetable Salad, Gremolotta, and Herb Sauce
Third Course — Pork Belly
Fourth Course — Bacon Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Gorgonzola Cheese and Dates
Fifth Course — Salmon Cheeks
Sixth Course — Roasted Bone Marrow with French Bread
What You Need
We picked the vegetables at the local Farmer’s Market that were in season and looked good. Feel free to be creative with your own dish and substitute vegetables as you like.
Vegetables: Squash (assorted), squash blossoms, heirloom tomatoes, leeks, parsley, red carrots, radishes, brussel sprouts, arugula, dates, eggplant, serrano peppers.
Spices: Salt, pepper, garlic, and Japanese Condiment Togarashi
Fruit: Figs (the larger the better, and find the ones that are soft to the touch) and lemon.
Carbs: 1 French loaf (you can also use a paleo or gluten-free, dairy-free or soy-free bread of your choice).
Protein: Pork belly, Nitrate-free bacon and Salmon cheeks.
Dairy: Gorgonzola cheese (you can also use goat cheese or blue cheese)
(Note: We purchased all of our meat and dairy from a local organic, 100% grass-fed and non-GMO butcher).
* * *
You want to make sure everything is in it’s place before you start cooking. You’ll thank yourself later. Group your vegetables and proteins in the same area, with everything you need out and measured (if need be).
Wash your veggies. Trim the ends of the carrots, leeks and radishes (save for later, you’ll use them). Soak in water in separate bowls.
Separate your herbs and set aside.
You can make this recipe basic like as directed below, or you can add extra vegetables to this dish. Not pictures, we roasted squash, cooked and cut down artichokes for their hearts, and also roasted eggplant. If you feel up for it, do this as well on the side.
Also, if you’re using frozen vegetables, make sure they are thawed and at room-temperature.
* * *
First Course — Squash and Heirloom Tomato Soup
Step 1: Cut a medium-sized squash in half and line it on a baking pan. Scoop out the insides. Set your oven for 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on top. Lay over a couple of sprigs of thyme, and Adrien added his favorite spice from Japan called Tugarashi. Place squash in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until the center is soft. You will be using the meat of the squash to add to the soup later.
Step 2: In a large pot, sauté the tops of the leeks (which you will use the rest for later), heirloom tomatoes, thyme, sage, and chopped squash blossoms. You will be using a technique called “wilting” for these vegetables, which means cooking it down. This will be the base for your soup. The tomatoes help add water to the dish and concentrate the flavor. Every time you throw in a new vegetable into the pot, toss a little salt in for good measure. Adrien noted that salt helps extract moisture, which further concentrates the flavor. Last, slice a serrano pepper and add to taste.
Step 3: Cook until the leek tops are gently falling apart. Then add water, and the insides of the cooked squash. Let simmer on low for another thirty minutes.
Step 4: Use a hand-held blender to create a creamy, rich texture for the soup. Serve alone or with homemade croutons.
Second Course — Roasted Vegetables, Vegetable Salad, Herb Sauce, and Gremolatta
We used the vegetables in several different ways. One important skill Adrien encouraged was to not waste anything. Meaning, for example, carrots. Most people cut the tops off and simply throw them away. They are actually nutritious, edible, and can be used many different ways
. We blanched our carrots, radishes and brussell sprouts together.
Step 1: Blanch the red carrots, radishes and brussell sprouts. Blanching is the process of cooking your vegetables for a short amount of time on high heat, and then submerging them in ice water. This technique helps the vegetable retain its crispness, increases the flavor (especially in carrots, makes the outsides sweeter!) and enhances their color. Bright food = eye catching and appetizing! Zing! You only submerge them in the boiling water for a couple minutes until you see their color deepen.
Don’t forget to have your bucket of ice ready!
Take them out after a few minutes in their ice bath. Add more ice if it melts before they cool.
For the carrots: Once blanched, use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin and set aside. Then leave them whole. In a small pan, lightly fry them with a little bit of olive oil and salt. Set aside for now. You will use the skins for a vegetable salad later.
For the brussell sprouts: Cut off the ends, and “un-layer” them. This should create a little bowl of leaves, like the photo below.
Add the carrot shavings and set aside!
For the radishes: First, let’s take a moment to appreciate how BEAUTIFUL these radishes are.
Finely chop the radishes and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Mix in fresh lemon juice, garlic and the parsley.
This will be one of the topping choices for your dishes.
Side note: Adrien told me that radishes with butter, salt and pepper on top of bread (or alone) is a common breakfast food in France. I was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted!
A trick to keeping your salads fresh: Adrien told me that if you pull the salad to the edges of the bowl, it will allow the liquids to drain to the middle and will not wilt the leaves.
Third Course — Roasted Pork Belly
This is one of my favorite types of meat. It’s tender, has an incredible amount of flavor, and is pretty much un-cut bacon, sooo….I’m in love. Obviously. Pork belly is often used in sandwiches or roasted whole with vegetables.
This is the easiest recipe to follow of this bunch.
One important thing to remember when cooking pork belly is to set it on something which it can drain. You can save the fat and use it later. Remember, waste not!
Adrien poured olive oil on the pork belly, and topped it with a few sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. And a little pinch of Togarashi. If you notice, we cooked it at the same time we cooked the squash! Saves time and space. And clean up!
Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until it’s nicely browned. Should take around 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, cooking time will vary.
We also baked artichoke hearts alongside to go in with our vegetable salad, this is optional.
It should look something like this when finished.
Fourth Course — Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Figs
Oh, I love this recipe. I love anything wrapped in bacon, really. So when Adrien told me he wanted to make bacon-wrapped figs, and stuff them with gorgonzola cheese and chopped dates, I pretty much bowed down to him right then and there. AMAZING. So easy. So delicious. The fruit really complements the savory flavor of the bacon, and the gorgonzola adds a nice rich texture.
To make the wrapped figs, it’s really very simple.
Slice the figs in half. Stuff them with a mixture of gorgonzola cheese (or any kind of cheese you want) and chopped dates. You could even toss in chopped walnuts or another kind of dried fruit.
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees, or until they are cooked fully and lightly browning.
Then, wrap in bacon and sewer with a toothpick.
They should look nice and cooked when finished 🙂
Fifth Course — Roasted Bone Marrow With Gremolotta and French Bread
Anthony Bourdain was the first person to ever make me want to try roasted bone marrow. In one of my favorite recipe books, The Last Meal, Anthony Bourdain claims that his “last meal” would be roasted bone marrow and parsley on top french bread. It seemed a little gross at first, but once I eventually tried it, I didn’t care. Bone marrow is no better than eating animal meat. And, again, with our attempts to “Use The Whole Animal,” this falls perfectly in place.
Step 1: Line the bone marrow face-up on a pan. Set the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly toss with salt, pepper, thyme, lemon zest and Togorashi
Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until lightly golden.
Gremolatta: This dish is a traditional condiment made using parsely, lemon and garlic. This is going to be the topping for your vegetables and on the Bone Marrow with French loaf dish.
Get out your blender. If you have a Vitamix or Ninja (or any strong blender) this will work well. Throw in your washed arugula, parsley, crushed garlic, a little lemon, and olive oil. Adrien tossed in some red peppers for fun, too 🙂
Sixth Course — Salmon Cheeks
Adrien and I were checking out a seafood vendor at the Farmer’s Market. They had salmon cheeks at a decent price. Look! Gills still attached and everything!
He roasted them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon in the broiler at 400 degrees for around 11-14 minutes until crispy.
Now….to put it all together.
I forgot to take a picture of my bowl of soup, so go ahead and put your soup where you’re serving the plates.
Roasted Vegetable Salad
Put all of your roasted vegetables, vegetable salad, and any other chopped vegetables you have into a large bowl.
Pork Belly & Salmon Cheeks
Slice the pork belly and serve it alongside your roasted salmon cheeks. Adrien made a simple ponzu to go along with it.
Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley On Top French Bread
I loved this picture so much, I’m adding it again. Don’t forget to slice and toast your bread!
This piece of bread looked like Texas 🙂
Here is the final, beautiful, and delicious plate (soup and bone marrow not pictured):
I want to send out a HUGE thank you to my friend Adrien for teaching me how to make so many new recipes, especially ones which I can share with YOU! Please leave me any comments or questions you have, and let me know if you recreate any of the dishes! I would love to hear from you all!
Which brings me to my final, and most important question to you– the reader.
What are your favorite fall season vegetables? Have you ever tried any of the recipes above? If you were to re-create them, how would you do it?