The thrill of being invited to participate in a three-day adventure at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, California branch is about as good as it gets. Especially if you’re a self-taught home cook. And the experience exceeded every imaginable expectation I had. How on earth did I get there?
For years, I worked side-by-side in Advertising with funny, talented, adorable people who made it a pleasure to come to work every day. One of the most memorable Art Director / Copywriter teams consisted of two men who were not only wildly good at what they did, they brightened the room with their wit and personality. Fortunately, we did keep in touch when Facebook entered our lives. That’s how I know Dave Mangan. And that’s how I got to the CIA.
Dave now runs his own agency, a tight ship that creates strategies, digital design, advertising, p.r., and social media platforms—in short everything that Advertising has become. “Let’s share your story and show your value” is its promise. It’s called TeamKM and you can read all about it at www.teamkm.biz. KM is Kevin Mangan who just happens to be a dog. Not just any dog, Dave’s dog. But I digress.
One of Dave’s clients is The Wheat Foods Council. It’s a national non-profit dedicated to wheat-based foods and a source of science-based information on wheat. As you can imagine they have their hands full in this Gluten-free age. Glutens are proteins found in barley, rye and wheat. At its most severe, a gluten allergy leads to celiac disease which affects 1 in 141 Americans. Gluten sensitivity affects another 5 percent of the population. But you’d hardly know it from those rows and rows of gluten-free offerings in our supermarkets. Since there’s gluten in beer, French fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups, it’s led to a lot of shelf space. But without a celiac disease diagnosis, going gluten-free isn’t necessarily recommended. The National Celiac Association itself warns that gluten-free foods are often nutrient-deficient, often with added sugar and fats to make them more palatable. Whole grains are rich in vitamins, iron and fiber. And it should come as no surprise that there are wheat grains that are low in gluten. That’s precisely why the Wheat Foods Council invited 14 chefs from all over the country to the glories of the CIA.
“Our goals in bringing chefs to the CIA are twofold. We want to give this group a chance to discover new ways to think about wheat foods in a collegial and challenging kitchen experience. And we hope that they will take what they’ve learned back to their own kitchens and create interesting menu items for the thousands and sometimes millions of diners they influence” Dave Mangan wrote. The influencers they chose were one intriguing group. There were giants in fast food and fast casual dining. There were representatives from restaurant groups and hotel kitchens. And there were a group of chefs whose menus influence thousands of people several times a day. These were the Executive Chefs of University Dining Services. And one of them provided us with one of today’s recipes. I wish I had room for the complete output these men and women put together. Inventive, flavorful foods that they seemed to produce out of thin air and the incredible pantry at their disposal. When it came down to picking one, I had to be ruthless in my editing. And so I chose Karl Bendix’s great gluten-free salad.
Karl Bendix is in charge of Residential Dining Services at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It’s the flagship of the Colorado State University system. With an enrollment of 33,877 students, both resident and non-resident alike, Karl runs a wide range of venues and services to meet the dining needs of everyone on campus. I chose Karl’s dish to feature because he’s not only a hell of a nice guy, he’s a superb cook, the recipe is fantastic and, to top it all off, I sous- chefed for Karl when he was making it. I even got to name it: Sonoran Wheat Berry Salad with Purple Barley, Root Vegetables, Pine Nuts and Kale. It’s a perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, and slightly spicy.
The “True Tuscan Panzanella Salad” was my own pride and joy. And it is decidedly not gluten-free. I got assigned to make it and I was very pleased with the results. It would have been difficult to go wrong given the quality of produce I had to work with, including some heirloom tomatoes I couldn’t wait to eat. There’s just about everything you could imagine in this salad from onions to bell peppers to fennel bulbs and Kalamata olives. You can go wild with this recipe and if you don’t have all the ingredients nobody who tastes it will ever know. The trick I learned from Master Chef, Tony Seta, whose guidance was invaluable all week, was to tear the bread into 1-inch pieces, and not to cut it into neat little one-inch squares. The rustic quality of the bread captures all the flavors of the dressing. So here’s to Chef Bendix, The Wheat Foods Council, the CIA, Chef Seta and Dave. And here are the recipes:
Sonoran Wheat Berry Salad with Purple Barley, Root Vegetables, Pine Nuts and Kale
Crunchy, sweet, mildly spicy and enormously satisfying.
- 6 oz. Farro Wheat
- 6 oz. Sonora Wheat
- 6 oz. Purple Barley
- 2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1 large Yellow Onion
- 1 Crimson Carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1 Yellow Carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1 cup Pine Nuts, toasted in dry pan
- 8 oz. Baby Kale
- Fresh Cilantro, leaves only
- Fresh Basil, cut into a chiffonade
- 3 oz. Dried Blueberries
- For the Dressing:
- 3 oz. Rice Wine Vinegar
- 3 oz. Apricot Preserves
- 3 oz. Sweet Chili Sauce
- Step 1 Cook the grains is rapidly boiling salted water until they are just al dente, about 20 minutes. Cool grains.
- Step 2 In a large non stick skillet saute the diced sweet potatoes and carrots until they are golden. Cool the vegetables.
- Step 3 Place the vegetables in a large bowl.
- Step 4 Add the pine nuts, the baby kale torn into small pieces, the cilantro leaves and the basil.
- Step 5 In a small bowl, blend the rice wine vinegar, the apricot preserves and the sweet chili sauce until smooth.
- Step 6 Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and fold in. Serve.
True Tuscan Panzanella Salad
This is a magnificent salad filled crispy croutons and beautiful vegetables in a tangy lemon-y dressing is bound to be front and center on buffet and picnic tables
- For the Croutons:
- 8 cups Ciabatta or French Bread or hard rolls torn into 1 inch pieces
- 6 tbsp. Olive Oil
- Sea Salt to taste
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper to Taste
- For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/2 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 1/3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Small Capers, drained
- 1/4 cup Lemon Zest
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 8 cloves Garlic, minced.
- For the Salad:
- 2 cups Red Onion, sliced thin
- 12 Fresh Ripe Italian Plum or Heirloom Tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 Red Bell Peppers, julienned
- 2 Yellow Bell Peppers, julienned
- 2 cups English Cucumber, sliced thin
- 2 medium sized Fennel Bulbs, sliced thin
- 1 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted
- 1 cup Fresh Basil, torn
- 1/2 cup Fresh Oregano leaves
- 1/2 cup Fresh Fennel leaves
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 4 oz. Shaved Parmesan to garnish each portion over the platter
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Step 2 Toss the bread pieces in olive oil, coating the bread evenly. Salt and Pepper to taste and then place the croutons on a baking sheet and baking until crisp.
- Step 3 Prepare the dressiing in a large stainless steel bowl. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, capers and garlic and blend well. All to stand for 20 minutes and then slowly incorporate the olive oil. Adjust the Salt and Pepper.
- Step 4 Add all remaining ingredients to the stainless steel bowl except for the shaved Parmesan cheese.
- Step 5 Place on a platter, top with the Shaved Parmesan and serve.