This post marks my first entry in Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog contest. The contest is a 10 part challenge to determine the “Next Food Blog Star”, with some bloggers eliminated after each qualifying round. This post is meant to satisfy the first challenge of the competition which is for me to define for my readers “who I am” as a food blogger. Now I’m not much of a grandstander, and don’t have it in me to try to SELL you on why I should be voted a “star”, but I absolutely believe in the mission of my blog, and hope that the brief introduction and post below give you a good sense for what we’re all about here at “Oui, Chef”. You can learn more about me and Project Food Blog by clicking on the contest widget to the right of this post. Voting for the 1st round entries starts on Monday, September 20th, and I’ll be writing a follow-up post in a few days describing how you can follow the competition, and vote me through to subsequent rounds if wish. Thanks!
Those of you who have been with us for a while here at “Oui, Chef” have gotten to know what we’re all about, but for those of you new to our little site, the story behind this post provides me an excellent opportunity to share with you our raison d’être.
The idea behind “Oui, Chef” came to me after I had read an article by Jamie Oliver on his efforts to improve the school lunch programs in his native England. As I contemplated his efforts, I started spending some time thinking about what it was that I wanted to teach MY kids about food, cooking, and how to feed themselves well in an environmentally responsible way, and the seeds for “Oui, Chef” were sewn.
I started to wonder why, among all the things we work so hard to teach our kids, cooking isn’t even on most people’s radar screen. We teach them to dress themselves, clean their rooms, wash behind their ears, and say no to drugs, but how many of us really take the time to teach our kids how to cook, and how to make responsible choices about what it is they put in their bodies? Now I’m not talking about “cooking” microwave popcorn or pre-packaged mac and cheese here, I know a boat load of kids that have microwave skills light years beyond mine. I’m talking about cooking real food, understanding where this food comes from, its effect on their health, and how the way it is grown and brought to market impacts our planet.
“Oui, Chef” now exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my kids a few things about cooking, and how their food choices over time effect not only their own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, passing on established familial food traditions, and maybe starting some new ones. My desire in the end is not just to enhance my young sous chefs’ culinary skills, but to advance their level of environmental awareness, and broaden their palates as well.
Each post you’ll find here on “Oui, Chef” touches on at least one of these points, either by introducing the kids to unfamiliar cuisines, teaching them a new cooking technique, or illuminating the nutritional and environmental consequences of our food choices; but I have to admit that it is a rare one that can tag all the bases.
Every now and again however, the stars align, and fate tosses us the seeds of a post that does more than just offer the kids a chance to hone their cooking skills on a new recipe, but one that gets them to think about their connection to place, and what impact their food choices make on the planet at large……the girls enjoyed an adventure earlier this summer that did just that.
Peyton and Muppet had the good fortune recently to spend some time at the fabulous Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, VT. They were residents there for a week, enrolled in a “farm camp” where, in addition to sleeping under the stars, the girls got to try their hands at real farm work. They tended the gardens, milked the cows, made their own cheese and ice cream, and perhaps most memorably (at least as far as Peyton is concerned), had a say in which out of a handful of young lambs would be sent to slaughter.
Ouch…..yes, you read that right.
Much of what the camp attempts to do is to connect kids to the land and their food supply. They pick and cook their own vegetables, drink milk from the cows on the farm, and eat beef from cattle raised on the land. As you might imagine, from time to time a decision must be made as to which animals are to be brought to the slaughterhouse, and while the kids didn’t witness the inner workings of that particular reality of food production, they did come eye to eye with a young lamb about to be sent off to the abbatoir, and in fact, learned exactly how the farmers choose which animal to send.
The exercise was certainly an impactful one for our girls and while there were no scary dreams about the demise of the lamb, it prompted Peyton to contemplate her food sources in a way she hadn’t before. After much soul searching, she left farm camp determined to become a “pescatarian” (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard the term before either), which basically means that she’ll eat vegetables, fruits, fish and dairy, but has sworn off all other meats.
Needless to say, her decision has prompted the two of us to do a little research into what types of proteins we can rotate into her diet in place of the meats she’ll no longer eat, and while the rest of us haven’t given up meat, we are looking to put more seafood centric dishes on the table in order to keep things a little simpler at meal time. One of the first new recipes we discovered was this one from The Wagamama Cookbook , it was a huge hit with our omnivores and pescatarians alike…..do give it a try, we think you’ll love it!
For those of you that have never heard of Wagamama before, it is a restaurant chain that originated in London, and has since expanded to all corners of the globe, we even have one now in Boston. They are modelled after Japanese ramen stalls and offer a wide range of Japanese inspired dishes built around rice, noodles and fresh vegetables. While a number of their dishes do contain red meat, many are vegetarian or seafood based, and therefore offer an excellent source of culinary exploration for our newly minted pescatarian.
Cheers – S
- 12 raw, peeled shrimp
- 1 small zucchini, cut into 1” slices
- 1 orange pepper, trimmed, seeded and cut into 1” chunks
- 6 thick scallions, cut into 1” chunks
- 6 button mushrooms
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons ebi kuzu kiri sauce (see recipe below)
- 4 ounces soba noodles
- 4 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
- Large handful of beansprouts
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a little salt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 wooden skewers soaked in water for 2 hours
Ebi Kuzu Kiri Sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- juice of 3 limes
- Thread 2 shrimp on each skewer, alternating with 1 piece of zucchini, 2 pieces of pepper, and 2 pieces of thick scallion, 1 mushroom and 1 tomato (we also added some chunks of tomatillo that we had laying around, they were great). Brush with the ebi kuzu kiri sauce. Preheat the grill or griddle pan and cook the yakatori, 3-4 minutes, turning frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through.
- Cook the noodles in a large pan of boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes, drain thoroughly. Toss the noodles into a large bowl with the finely sliced scallions, beansprouts, garlic, salt and sugar.. Heat a large wok, or heavy bottomed frying pan over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Add the noodle mix and stir-fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to 2 plates, top with the grilled yakatorii, and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
Ebi Kuzu Kiri Sauce
- Heat the sugar and fish sauce in a small pan until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool and com bine with the oyster sauce and lime juice.
Peyton threading the Yakatori skewers for the grill