Dying over Decades
April 18, 2018
Letter To My Younger Self
May 10, 2018

Value Your Food/ Ingredients Matter

Peeling to the core of my profession, I sell food for a living; however, to people like me and the many with whom I work, food is more than just eating to live.  We sell stories of makers, products of locality and the romance of fermentation.  Our customers love it and we do too!  Selling quality food is one of the easiest jobs in the world because you can be completely genuine about the excitement for a product while selling it simultaneously.  I care about the ingredients and products I sell because I love them and eat them every day.  In the following blog, I expand upon just a few thoughts that may help you eat better in the context your daily routine, but to me the two most important axioms are these: Value your food / Ingredients Matters

Dump the Ranch

The local spring greens are percolating back into the market, which inevitably inspires people to eat a deliciously crunchy and crisp lettuce salad.  However, all too often, these delicately sweet flavored Bibb lettuces and Baby Romaines are all but suffocated underneath the weight of a waterfall of ranch dressing, changing a beautiful kaleidoscope of green and red colors to a mundane white amorphous mass.

The options to this problem are countless, but it is going to take a step out of your comfort zone and a nod to your adventurous side.  The easiest solution is very simple.  I like to use 1 Tablespoon of a delicious wine vinegar and combine it with 2 Tablespoons of Oliver Farms Pecan oil.  Season with salt and pepper and you have a delicious vinaigrette that accentuates the flavor of the green while maintaining its natural integrity.  If you want to get a little more bold, add some fine diced shallot and garlic along with some fresh herbs from the garden.  However, for the most simplistic of solutions, pick up a jar of a tasty vinaigrette, but for the love of all things green, put down the ranch dressing.

 

You are a better cook than the 16-year-old working at the fast food restaurant

I have worked in the food service industry for many years across many different fields.  I have worked in fine dining in downtown Chicago, as a food buyer for a quick casual concept, and now as a retailer.  There is one thing I can guarantee without a doubt.  You are a better, more conscientious cook than the 16-year-old working the local fast food joints.  Regardless of the limited depth or breadth of your cooking knowledge, you can at least become a one trick pony in TECHNIQUE.  Learn how to do one technique really well.  I would suggest learning how to braise as it can transform almost any protein into something delicious and substantial.

To braise a protein, you simply brown the meat along with flavorful aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, garlic).  Add a liquid ¾ of the way up the meat (wine or beer and stock (I’m not calling it bone broth, it’s stock)).  Season, cover and place in a 350 degree oven until tender.  This technique can be used on a whole chicken, pork shoulder, chuck roast, lamb shank or any of the value cuts of meat.

Once you master this technique, it is ubiquitous across cuisine.  Add some Indian spices and coconut milk to the braising liquid and you have a delicious alternative, or add a can of San Marzano tomatoes and you have a rich tomato-based sauce.  Regardless of what you use, it will be undisputable how much better it is than any take out or fast food you could buy.  Trust yourself and eat at home.

 

Leftovers

In my job, I have the opportunity to talk with so many different people with different perspectives of food and food preparation that I feel I have acquired a sizable arsenal for cooking.  That being said, there is nothing in the food business that puzzles me more that when someone tells me, “I don’t eat leftovers.”  WHY?  You either like to waste food or money, either way, I don’t get it.  I’ll give you a couple quick menu ideas based upon a Sunday chuck roast to help eliminate wastefulness.  In my opinion, the beef chuck roast is the ultimate expression of beef.  It is hearty, delicious, unctuous, a veritable United Nations of versatility and when cooked correctly an absolute palate stunner.  The best part about it is the only way to cook it wrong is to not cook it enough.  Simple as that, if it is still tough, cook it longer.  It will always become fall apart tender.

So you had your Sunday chuck roast, what should you do with the leftovers?  Here are a couple very quick Monday night dinners that will bend around your work-soccer-dance-gymnastics-piano-baseball schedule.

Braised Beef Lettuce wraps

Heat up some of the shredded chuck roast with part of the braising liquid.  Add a low sugar Teriyaki like Kentuckyaki sauce.  Place the beef on top of a leaf of fresh Bibb lettuce from a local grower like Happy Hydros and top the beef with any number of your favorite raw sliced toppings (carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, peanuts, cashews, jalapeño, orange segments, etc).

Braised beef pasta with broccoli, mushrooms and Parmigiano

Heat some of the shredded chuck roast with the braising liquid.  Add ¼ cup of water to facilitate the heating of the meat.  Add a handful of fresh broccoli and mushrooms.  Simmer until broccoli is tender.  Add your boiled noodle to the beef and vegetable mixture.  If you are gluten free for health reasons or by choice, there is a great option made by Rustichella that can substitute for a wheat pasta.  Toss everything together and add a handful of freshly grated Parmigiano.  Served with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.

It only takes 15 minutes to transform those leftovers into a whole new meal and feed you and your family something delicious while saving money on the drive-thru.  And if either of those seem like too much, simply heat up the leftovers and eat the same meal again.  Stop throwing away good food and money.

I know as I write this I can think of the many times I slip into old bad habits.  Grabbing a burger is just so easy and ranch is really tasty.  For me, I often look at eating a snack as a “is it worth it” game.  When looking at an open bottle of ranch or a soda and trying to decide if I should consume it, I think of the workout that morning at Results Personal Training, and ponder did I pick up all of those heavy things to consume this?  Sometimes the answer is yes, but most of the time it is no.  Either way, pay attention to the quality of your ingredients, eat right and cook at home.  Your palate and health will thank you.

Nick Heineman

Look’s Market