Great Chefs: Alice Waters and Chef Skip

Those of us who adore food owe a debt of gratitude to great chefs like Julia Child who brought fine cuisine to the ordinary household with wit and congeniality. (See more below on the amazing Julia Child from her friend Chef Skip of Santa Barbara) Our copy of "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" has been gone through cover to cover, but I can't eat classic French food every day.  Don't get me wrong--I love butter! But, I've always struggled to keep my weight down and her sauce recipes are so delicious that I have trouble eating small portions. Fortunately, I LOVE homegrown organic vegetables and my Japanese heritage genetically hardwires me to love seafood and fresh ingredients. I turn to Alice Waters for the synthesis of my passion for growing my own food, supporting local farmer's markets and optimizing my nutrition. Alice Waters dedicates herself to teaching people about  food sourced locally and grown in an environmentally sustainable way. She is the co-creator of California Cuisine and is the Vice President of Slow Food which envisions "a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet." Over the years Alice has garnered countless awards and accolades, including James Beard Foundation awards for Best Chef and Best Restaurant, lifetime achievement awards from Bon Appetit, plus she is listed is as one of the top 10 chefs in the world by Cuisine et Vins de France. Read the excellent 60 Minutes article on her philosophy and achievements.
I used an Alice Waters recipe as a springboard for a salad to include handpicked fennel and avocados from my garden and fresh red leaf lettuce from the farmer's market. I also like my salads a bit tarter, so increased the vinegar and lemon juice. Alice Waters is the co-creator of California Cuisine and co-founder of the Slow Food movement promoting homegrown and locally sourced organic food, so I think she would approve. This avo, grapefruit and fennel salad turned out to be mouthwateringly good, full of wonderful contrasts in texture and flavor.
(see here for a description of Alice Water's Chez Panisse Cafe and a recipe for Halibut Tartare or here for a recipe for Alice Waters beef stew)
1 ruby red grapefruit
1/2 head of red leaf lettuce
1 green onion
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 avocado
2" fennel stalk
fresh ground pepper
Peel the grapefruit and separate in half. Peel down the side membrane of an end segment. Then using a sharp paring knife, cut the base of the grapefruit segment away from the outside membrane. Continue with the rest of the grapefruit, then set aside. Wash and spin lettuce and tear into bite sized pieces into large salad bowl. Cut the avocado lengthwise in half and remove the pit. Cut lengthwise slices inside the skin, then carefully remove the skin so the pieces are free. Slice the fennel stalk very thinly. Set the avocado and fennel aside. Slice the green part of the green onion into 1/4" pieces and put into a mortar with the vinegar. Grind the green onion into the vinegar and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Mix well. Spoon some of the dressing onto the lettuce and toss, using the amount of dressing to your preference (I used half). Taste and sprinkle with additional salt if desired. Plate the salad, then place the grapefruit and avocado slices on top. Sprinkle with the fennel slices, then spoon a bit more of the dressing over the top. Grate fresh black pepper as the final touch. Serves 2 as an entree salad. Pair with a chilled glass of the 2008 Vina Ventisquero Yali Winemaker's Select Sauvignon Blanc.

From Chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse—Berkeley, CA
 Published online by StarChefs
Yield: 6 Servings
    •    6 small heads curly endive
    •    1 large shallot
    •    2 Tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
    •    1 lemon
    •    1 orange
    •    Pinch of salt
    •    2 grapefruit
    •    3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    •    3 avocados
Wash and spin dry the curly endive. For this salad, use only the blanched hearts and save the green leaves for cooking greens. Peel the shallot and dice it fine. Macerate it with the vinegar, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and orange juice, and a pinch of salt.
Cut away the grapefruit peel, all the pith below, and the membrane around the grapefruit flesh. Then cut the sections free, carefully slicing along the membranes. Peel a little lemon and orange zest and finely chop enough to make about 1/4 teaspoon of each. When you are ready to assemble the salad, whisk the olive oil into the shallot mixture. Add the orange and lemon zest and taste. Add more olive oil or lemon juice if necessary. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pits. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocados into lengthwise slices about the same size as the grapefruit sections, keeping the skin on. Scoop out the slices with a large spoon. Toss the curly endive and grapefruit sections in a bowl with about two thirds of the dressing. Taste the salad and add more salt if necessary. Arrange on a platter or individual dishes. Distribute the avocado alongside the endive and grapefruit, season them with a pinch of salt, and drizzle the rest of the dressing over them.
WEEK #10 Culinary Arts Class:
In a gorgeous bend of the road in Santa Barbara's hills, Chef Skip--Don Skipworth--and his partner have built an oasis of Asian beauty. The grounds are laced with stone paths, lined by towering bamboo, that weave through through a compound of Japanese ryokan inspired buildings. Julia Child's cat was at the top of one of the Japanese gates, meowing and accepting head rubs; Chef Skip inherited the kitty when his dear friend Julia Child passed away. He is a chef, consultant, educator, and writer with a generous heart who has welcomed Culinary Arts students to his home for the last five years to share his vast knowledge and regale them with his stories. Inside the main residence is a cook's dream--a palatial kitchen with two islands and miles of counter space. Outside is a barbeque grill large enough to cook a side of beef. We were awestruck, but Chef Skip immediately made us feel at home--providing us with refreshments and bringing us to his table to ask each student in turn about their background and their dreams. He could have been speaking about himself when he described Julia Child as being totally without pretense or egotism and having a great sense of humor. His passion is for Asian food and we soon were busy chopping and cooking ribs, chicken thighs, drumstick "popsicles" and stir-fry. We learned so much that it isn't possible to detail everything within this post, but his knowledge of cuisine and technique is so vast that he had tips on technique for every detail of prep and cooking.
For example, he showed us how to read the bubbles that come out of the end of wood chopsticks when they're plunged into cooking oil in order to gauge the temperature and how to skin a chicken but leave the wing and breast intact by using only five quick cuts. I had heard of a "mother sauce"--a broth flavored with the Chinese 5 spices, which include all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. It is made with Chinese cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger and ground cloves and used over and over--storing in the refrigerator or freezing between uses--and accumulating the flavors of the foods cooked in it. We had chicken thighs simmered for an hour and the taste was wonderfully complex and unique! I've often noted that the best indicator of a good meal is complete silence as the diners are absorbed in the experience of savoring a meal. That was definitely the case here, our chatty group of twelve became suddenly quiet when we sat down to consume our meal; our senses were completely engaged. I hope to obtain some recipes, including the chicken "popsicles" which involve a deft method of preparing wings similar to frenching but better, then frying them in a light tempura-like Chinese batter and dipping them in flavorful sauce.  I will post them if I can. I'll end with an anecdote: Chef Skip remarked to Julia Child one day on her fame as a cultural icon. She replied, "Well, I don't know about being an icon--but it's great to get the good table at restaurants!".

1 comment:

  1. Sounds so good.. Yumm! Veronica Jover


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