Sprouts and Microgreens.

Recently I been introduced to the nutritional value of sprouts and micro-greens when I did a vegan culinary try-out for a potential job. I had the opportunity to meet an amazing entrepreneur and pioneer in growing sprouts in Europe   Angelica Furstler .

With Angelika I learned that beansprouts and micro-greens “hold the most nutrient-rich values and are the least expensive super-foods in the world. They are a true brain-food , “legal doping” for sports people, effective rejuvenation for body and mind and are an intelligent investment into your health and total well-being” .

Sprouts are the stage of the plant between germination and micro-greens.

Micro-greens are: ” any green vegetable or herb that has edible leaves and is harvested at the coteleydon growth stage — the stage when the first set of true leaves sprout. Its the stage after the sprouting when the first two visible leaves appear and it is harvested at the 2-4 first leaves.

Bean sprouts and micro-greens are the KEY for a truly holistic nutrition for everyone no matter your dietary restrictions of preferences.

A plant is loaded with essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, etc.)  at the sprout and micro-green stage and will use most of the nutrients and energy to grow. In other words, we can benefit at the highest level when eating plants in these first two stages of development.

I quickly decided to take this new knowledge seriously and scheduled  personalized training with Angelika on how to grow sprouts on the yacht and she also guided me throughout the entire purchasing process. I always had a green thumb and I really thought everyone in the yacht could benefit from the delicious nutritional value of fresh living foods  and I could grow it my self in a very small space at any destination we visited.

The guest I normally cook for reach out to me for my specialty in dietary restrictions and looking for healthier ways of eating or loose weight with a diet that supports their active life. It was natural for me to include sprouts and micro-greens in my menus and dishes, green juices, sauces, soups, salads, side dishes… They are always fresh, delicious and beautiful. They are also an amazing garnish for any dish and make any plate look gorgeous… but they are much more that a garnish they are a complete super-food and as Angelika says: “They have magical supernatural powers”.

When the yacht arrived in St Maarten. My order of seeds and trays was waiting for me at the marina. I started growing sprouts hydroponically immediately; seeing results right away was so rewarding and exiting and last but not least: No mess.  Because they require only minimal sunlight and space to grow, I could grow them in my galley, allowing me to control the seeds I grow, the amount of water, amount of crops and I have easy and immediate access to them and I can incorporate them more readily into my guests daily diet, increasing their vegetable consumption.

Then I saw an ad on a local Facebook group from Shannon Bates an ex yacht chef that has her own business in the island growing and selling micro-greens in the island. She provides yacht chefs with super fresh, organic and hand picked micro-greens that are beautiful, full of flavor and packed with nutrients.

“The nutritional profile of each micro-green depends greatly on the type of micro-green you are eating. Leafy greens are a good source of beta-carotene as well as iron and calcium. Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and chard are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin”.

The organic  micro-greens that Shannon Bates provides are not exposed to as many pollutants as commercially grown varieties. Because she has greater control over their growing conditions, such as exposure to pesticides and the type and quality of soil used, therefore you will have fewer added  environmental toxins in your food. Shannon Bates grows micro-greens that

I can not grow on the yacht because they need soil to grow and soil can get quite messy on a yacht. These fabulous micro-greens are:  Amaranth (My favorite because of the color), basil, radish, arugula, cilantro,  parsley, dill ….lemon bomb (another winner because of the intense lemony flavor like lemongrass). They are all flavoring and “delish” and once I have used them before I can not have the same results with out them.

Below please see some of the photos I had the chance to take during a recent charter where the guest opted for a healthy vegetarian/ pescatarian diet.

I’m looking forward to introduce sprouts and micro-greens more and more to my creations and encourage everyone to benefit from all their nutritional value!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Who needs butter?

In a continued search to become a better and well-rounded chef I always look for opportunities to improve my skills through training in cookery, nutrition, ingredients, techniques, equipment etc.

During the summer cooking for European, Russian and Arab guests I developed the need to include in my menus flavor pairings that would bring my guest back to their cultural roots when they taste my food. I decided then to take a cookery class in a very prestigious school the UK that would give me hands on training on traditional European stocks and sauces.

In this blog I can only share photos of the dishes we created, and although it is impossible to share flavors through writing I am always available to cook for you any dish per request.

I have to point out that the school is excellent, the instructor chefs and their teams are very dedicated and the cooking tricks and tips were worth it.

But, it was quite an experience to find that half of the group in my class maybe even more was as shocked as I was of the amount of butter and cream used in the recipes.

The majority of my clients reach out to me looking for healthier ways of eating and personally, I have chosen to replace dairy in my dishes for much healthier options that are not associated with Cancer, Osteoporosis, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Lactose Intolerance, Vitamin D Toxicity, Obesity etc…

Therefore, I foresee quite a bit experimenting with ingredient search and replacement in my future to continue delivering healthy nutritious meals that have nothing to envy these “traditional” version that you find photos off in this blog.

Your ideas or suggestions are welcome and appreciated please post in the comments box below 🙂

Chef Mena

Mexican feast for a crowd of vegan chefs on a special night

The night after a very talented group of chefs and I completed our Vegan Gastronomy training in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) we decided to get together for a tasty Vegan Mexican Night, Tequila and a good laugh.

Mexican food is everyone’s favorite no matter your country of origin and can work very well in a plant-based diet. For example, corn tortillas contain no oil and are free of Gluten, help with digestion, heart issues and blood pressure problems. The use of complex flavors in sauces and specific ingredients makes Mexican food so unique and different from other world cuisines.

I recommend using fresh ingredients to get full benefits from the nutrients and avoid GMO’s and preservatives and also adjust the chili to your personal preference.

I decided to create this post to share with You the recipes we cooked that night.

Please enjoy the recipes below, try them, experiment and share with us your results and suggestions to make them better. Please write in the comment box at the lower section of this post, we all would love to learn from your experience. And If you have any questions or doubts please ask away : )

 

Mexican Feast
Mexican Feast

Mexican Menu – Vegan:

  1.  Jen’s tofu chile relleno
  2.  Jen’s Avocado cucumber sauce
  3.  Healthy Sour Cream  – Vegan
  4.  Easy Mole Sauce – Vegan  Note: For a vegan version we replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Also, any semisweet baking chocolate is a good substitute for the chocolate.
  5.  Mexican Empanadas: Dough, Empanada filling seasoned with Mexican Spice Blend.  You can fill your empanadas with  anything you like. For our filling we sauteed mushrooms, corn and leeks seasoned with Mexican Spice Mix (Equal parts of Dry Oregano, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder, Paprika and Cumin. You can leave out any of the ingredients but Cumin and chili powder are essential. Mexican is not Mexican without them).
  6. Mexican Tortilla and toppings. The process looks harder than it is. I use any pan  to press on the tortillas with my body weight and make them real thin and the toppings can be  any traditional salsas and guacamole. Don’t forget the cilantro a key limes! Once you taste freshly made corn tortillas you would never want to buy store made.
  7. Creamy Lime and Avocado Tart

 

Enjoy, Mena

Jen’s Avocado Cucumber Sauce –Vegan

Avocado and Cucumber Salsa.png

Ingredients:

1 cucumber (Peel skin leave seeds)

1 avocado

1 garlic

Lime juice

water to thin it

salt

cilantro (Opt)

jalapeño (Opt)

Directions:

Blend ingredients until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate before serving. Make this sauce before everything else and place in refrigerator so it can be served cold. Keeps good for about 2 days. It’s a great companion for any Mexican dish.

Jen’s Tofu Chiles Rellenos –Vegan

Jen’s Tofu Chiles Rellenos –Vegan

Chile Relleno

Servings: 15

Allergens: For a Gluten Free version replace Flour tortillas for Rice Tortillas.

Ingredients:

15 Anaheim Chiles – 1 good per filling

15 Flour Tortillas or Rice Tortillas

2 lbs for 15 – Medium Tofu- (Trader Joe’s with Pink label)

Olive Oil

1 cup Nutritional Yeast

2 T Soy sauce (Taste for flavor and depth. Don’t want it to taste like soy sauce)

Pinch Granulated Garlic

Salt to taste

Frying Oil

Directions

1. Clean Chiles. Slice open and clean out some of the inside seeds and veins depending on how spicy they are you can completely clean them out.

2. Roast the Chiles at 240C until they are blackish without burning them. Keep an eye on them.

3. Place them in a paper bag to sweat them so the skin comes off easy.

4. Peel the skins off

5. Warm each tortilla and make it pliable

6. Place tofu on a big bowl and hand mash it with a potato masher. Season the tofu with soy sauce, Nutritional Yeast, granulated garlic, olive oil and S+ P. It has to look like a ricotta cheese not too creamy. Set aside

7. Lay Chile pepper on the tortilla and top with tofu and roll it up tight like burrito and fry it like a Chimichanga until crispy.

8. Serve crispy and hot with Jen’s cucumber sauce and pico de gallo. Also good cold the next day.

Note: This recipe was created or adjusted by a friend of mine and she allowed me to use it and share it. Try it! Its delish!

I would like to come up with a proven GF version of it and avoid the frying to make it more healthy…but I don’t know how to get the crunchy result without frying it in step 7.

“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

gelling agents

As a chef that wants to cook healthier food using healthier ingredients I decided to try a product that was not derived from animal products to change the texture and consistency of a liquidy mix.

I was surprised to find out how many  gelling and thickening agents are available to us and my question of course was: which one should I use?. Well the answer was simple: It depends on what I was using it for.

There are many of these “consistency changers”:

 

gelling agents more

Some of the list above act as  “gelling agents” and others act as “thickening agents” for water-based liquids like juice, nut milks, soda, coffee, stock, etc) and they are all called Hydrocolloids .

“Modernist chefs are using a broader array of hydrocolloids in order to give foods specific textures, thicknesses, and appearances at different temperatures, acidity levels, and concentrations” (Matthew Johnson, 2011) and each one has different uses depending on how they react with different components. In essence, they are a food additive used to change the state of an ingredient that otherwise would be in liquid form.

Cool. It looks that I need to add a new shelf to my galley for these “Magical Powders”.

I decided to try two of them, compare them and blog about it. So here we go:

Today I’m just blogging about my cheffing experience with Gellan and Kappa.

Kappa comes from a red algae and has been used since the 15th century and has E number  E407 is classified in Europe as an Alginate and Gellan comes from the fermentation of microorganisms found in the tissue of the lily plant. Gellan was initially identified to replace Agar in the late 70’s. Gellan has E number E418 and is classified as a Natural Gum.

Both, Gellan and Kappa are mixed cold and activate with heat, both withstand heat and conserve their shape, so they can be served cold or hot, neither one resists freezing process and neither one works with too saline or too acidic solutions.

Both can be used to make hard and cold/hot gels with a little difference in consistency and texture. Out of all the gelling agents Gellan produces the hardest gel and can even be shredded. Kappa achieves a firm gel while Gellan achieves a flexible gel but sort of grainy and broken. Kappa allows a clean cut that Gellan doesn’t. Gellan stands higher temperatures than Kappa (Up to 70oC or 158oF).

Kappa needs 2 gr per Liter (or 200gr de liquid/3gr Kappa) and Gellan 5g/Liter for soft gelling and 13gr per Litter (or 250 gr de liquido/4.8 g de Gellan). Color of Kappa is transparent Gellan is yellowish so it changes a bit the color of the final product.

Kappa can be used as a thickener as an stabilizer in a wide variety of products, vegetable milks, low calorie drinks, shakes, sauces, ice creams and yogurts. Kappa can be used to make pearls with a syringe or to make a thick puree from a liquid or a hard gel as a final product.

Gellan is good for hot gels like broths and flavorful pulps. Kappa is good to cover a dish, a product or a preparation with a dense sauce that would not slide down to the plate and will stay on the food.

I made a couple of plant based cheeses and split the mix in two. I added Gellan to one and Kappa to the other one. (Soon Click here for recipe)

ChefMena-Vegan - Mallorca Vegan - Gelling Agents- Ximena Olds-2

I found that both reacted quickly within half hour so I recommend to use them to speed up a process that would normally take longer. I needed to use more Gellan to achieve similar result so I feel safe to say that Kappa more economical because you need less of it to get similar result and in fact Gellan is the most expensive Gelling Hydrocolloid found in the market at the moment. The color or taste of the mix didn’t change lots.

Now here is the catch: The majority of a total of 14 people that tried each of my cheeses preferred the consistency achieved with Kappa. The consistency of the mix with Gellan was grainy and separated which wasn’t as pleasant as a hard flexible like gelatin consistency with Kappa. Today, is over a week since I made the test and I have a bit of each and in the refrigerator and both are conserving well and taste exactly the same as when they where freshly made.

I hope you find this info encouraging to try magical powders and if you pair Pistachios and pears and let me know how it goes writing in the comment box below! Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps to become a Vegan Chef

 

Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy Mallorca : First Week of School

In my search of expertise in a variety of culinary fields I found a school in Spain that actually teaches “Veganism”. How cool is that? While on heavy charter season when my only quiet time away from the yacht is my provisioning time. I quickly looked up the Academy’s content. Flashes of whatever I was looking for at the moment come to my mind: Sabor (Flavor), use of ingredients that not only are good for you but that are delicious , future of modern cuisine, use of ingredients that are traditionally unknown like algies and fungai and training in the use of Modernist Cuisine techniques, advance flavoring techniques and instruments like Molecular Gastronomy. 10 minute facebook call with Manuel Lynch (owner and director of Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy) and bam Im sold.

 

A couple of weeks later I’m sitting in class. Reading about nutritional values of nuts, omami, Caisen, Neu5GC, Glycemic index. Making gelified spheres and it didn’t take long to realize that I am immerse in not just a cooking class but my entire way of doing things and life style might be about to change entirely.

 

So. I decided to blog about my transition and constant discovery of interesting facts that I had no idea about. For example, the consumption of one egg a week is as bad as smoking 2 packs of cigarettes…(will probably end up blogging about interesting facts soon just because they are so interesting).

 

The first homework included writing an overview of myself and to describe why I wanted to pursue becoming a vegan chef and what the outside world should know about me. Wow. Ok. This is very complex and I decided to leave it blank until I had time to elaborate a bit.

 

I hope to be able to complete that homework for schooling purposes sometime soon but I feel this is clearly the start of a journey that at this moment I don’t know where it is going to take me to. All I know is that I don’t have plans to open a vegan restaurant, I don’t have plans to teach veganism, I am not here for religious reasons and I can go on. What are my reasons for being here then? What am I in search of?

 

Evidently I am here to learn. I am looking for knowledge and I am an open notebook full of pages to be filled. I want to be able to cater to my vegan guest/clients and serve them a delish vegan dish that is not only highly nutritious but delicious at the same time. I have tried numerous vegan recipes in the past but they have been a hit or miss. Sometimes they are amazing. Sometimes I have to mark them down so I never attempt again. Even though I’ve noticed that my vegans ( I will refer as vegans to gust, clients or crew that are vegans) eat them anyway because they are healthy not necessarily because they are flavorful. So I clearly know that I am looking for tasty flavors and consistency. What else? I am looking to learn about non traditional ingredients, different forms and shapes, modern equipment and how to operate it.

 

I’m sure my search and objectives are going to transform as I move forward in class but at this particular moment I come to realize that being a Yacht Chef that caters to non vegan guest and/or crew throws me into a “content” dilemma in my professional website.

 

I am looking to become a Vegan Chef in the Yachting World for my vegans and my non-vegans might even enjoy it! Next step, and pretty soon, probably this weekend will be to take a closer look to the content in my website and how to present Vegan Menus next to or close to Menus and photos of dishes that are non vegan.

First post in my new culinary site

Chef Mena Cover

Welcome to my site. Here you will find a few general sections:

PHOTOS: A gallery of my creations.

CV: Private section for my future employers.

SERVICES: What I do

TESTIMONIAL: Feedback from people that I have cooked for, comments, suggestions…I would love to hear from you!

BLOG: This is the fun part. Here I write about food travel, my latest obsessions (ingredients, random ideas, Vegan, Gluten Free, Molecular Gastronomy etc ) or whatever else I’m in the mood for.   Pretty much everything goes here. Lately my theme is edible flowers like Hibiscus and Lavender.

MENU IDEAS: When I design Menus for my clients I tailor to them to their preferences and dietary requests. They are completely personalized and private. In this section I will display a few examples.

CONTACT: Here you will find where you can reach me.