First of all, I am generally as up front honest as can be.
But the other day, I had a wonderful, positive time tricking people into learning how to eat more healthfully. It was not subterfuge, really. The cooking class was listed as Main Course Salads, and I composed the menu description and the recipes for maximum curb appeal. Green Tea Noodles in Edamame-Cilantro Pesto on a Bed of Watercress, Topped with Wasabi-Ginger Panko Crusted Tuna, Roasted Beets and Grapes with Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese (Recipe below), things like that.
It didn’t say Crown Roast of Veal or anything.
20 people came and had an exceptionally good time-and I have taught a lot of classes. Some hit, some miss, most do well enough. These folks were genuinely happy with me and my food. In fact, I got one of the best compliments I have ever gotten. The words themselves were too over the top to repeat (with any modesty) but the source, an older fellow who never cooks, was dragged along by his wife when someone else canceled, and whose son is a chef, was the type who usually sits scowling through the entire proceeding. Instead, he was engaged, loved the food, and came up to bestow a big compliment.
The subterfuge on my part, hidden by showing these people a good time, inspiring them to cook at home, and feeding them well, was that I taught them to use very little of the animal foods that they hold so dear. Yes, again, I have slipped low-meat, high vegetable fare into people’s lives without their really signing up for it.
Along the way, they got lessons in handling greens, emulsifying dressings, and a side order of veg propaganda. Isn’t this what teaching is all about, or should I hold back on extolling antioxidant rich plants? Isn’t teaching people how to make 4 ounces of chicken into a crispy garnish for a meal for four a service to humanity?
In these times we live in, sometimes taking the message to the other side, cloaked in deliciousness, is the kindest thing I can do for them. Isn’t it!
Roasted Beets and Grapes on Arugala with Pistachio Chevre
8 small baby beets
2 cups red grapes — stems removed
8 ounces chevre cheese or cashew cheese — chilled
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup pistachio nuts — chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme — minced
1 large egg or 2 Tbs arrowroot whisked with 1/4 cup water
1/4 large granny Smith apple — finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — julienned
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
5 ounces arugula — washed and dried
1. Preheat oven to 300. Toss grapes in a small baking pan with a drizzle of olive oil, roast for 20 minutes, cool. Peel beets and put in another baking pan with oil, cover with foil and roast with grapes, then raise the heat to 400 for 20 minutes, more, until beets are tender. Cool.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the granny smith dice, ginger and apple juice to a simmer, and cook until reduced to a syrup. Cool. when cool, whisk in lemon and olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. If too sour, add a pinch of sugar or maple.
3. Mix panko, pistachios and thyme in a plate. If using chevre, cut each log of cheese in 6 slices, then dip in egg, then pistachios. Chill completely. If using cashew cheese, form in 6 balls and dip in arrowroot-water slurry, then coat in pistachios.
4. To serve, spread arugala on a platter or individual salad plates. Arrange beets around the edges and pile grapes in the center. Heat oil in a large skillet until very hot, and quickly fry the chevre disks over medium high heat. Drizzle the dressing over the salads and place the hot cheese on top, serve immediately.